11/12/43 According to an article I have just read the place where you are (Italy) gets bombed pretty regularly. You never said anything about it? Is it true and how badly? Please let me know at once.
Thomas came home today with a large parcel. I asked him what it was when he got off the bus. “Ah” he said “you wait till we get home.” I said “Is it a surprise?” he was very mysterious and said it was jolly lucky because it was only because he was a weekly boarder and therefore able to get things home easily that he’d been able to bring it. When he got home he started undoing the parcel. There was miles and miles of newspaper and then out came what looked like a bit of plasticine. I said “O its plasticine”. “It’s not” he said indignantly “It’s clay.” he then brought out a lot of pieces and they looked exactly the same – like a piece of plasticine that had been held in a closed hand. “That’s a shepherd” he said “He’s kneeling. And that’s another one standing up. And that’s Jesus only he’s got a bit squashed. And that’s Mary only her head’s got knocked off. “ Is it funny on paper? It was really very funny at the time and we nearly killed ourselves not laughing because he was so pleased and would have been so hurt.
15/12/43 Hudson has let the farmers down by raising the minimum agricultural workers wage and not adjusting prices to meet it which he has always promised to do. There is a first class boiling row going on and N.F.U. branches screaming for his resignation and so on but apart from this I think that what with that and the Government’s refusal to announce a post-war plan confidence in agriculture is really very seriously shaken at the moment.
Today I had to go and give evidence for the Ministry of Food against my ex-cowman, McClegg. It was rather interesting. I hated going and was a shade nervous. Then the police came over and started talking to me and asked me whether I knew if there was anything against him. I said “I should be damned surprised if there isn’t”. Because he really is an outsize in bad hats and had put up as a defence that it was his wife who had done it and not him. So they asked me if I’d missed anything and I said no and they said “Are you absolutely sure?” and I said “No one on a farm can be sure. All farm workers are so fearfully careless one loses things all the time.” So they said “Well someone and we think it’s him is advertising some horse clippers and we thought they might be stolen.” So then I absolutely roared with laughter because I’ve been cursing Highman and Cyril for a fortnight because they couldn’t find some cow clippers and it had never crossed my mind that they had been pinched. So it looks as though I may have to trail off to Campden again some day soon and it also looks as though Mr McClegg may, through no real intention of mine, rue the day he started shitting about on G.H.
Sim(Feversham) is home and so are 100’s more. They’re pouring in. All except you. You really must do something.
I think my father wanted to come home as much as she wanted him to, but his personality was such that he would never dream of asking for a favour or wangling an advantage. Only when she became demonstrably ill did he ask for compassionate leave and come home briefly. He came from a family of religious and dedicated public servants and it was ingrained in him. I was never interested enough to find out what he was doing when he stayed away so long after the war ended, but I think it was to do with settling Europe after the fighting had stopped.
19/12/43 I want to get on with my book. The thing is it’s not very good but it’s now turning out to be reasonably easy. For ages it would not take a concrete shape chapter by chapter. Now suddenly I can see it as a whole and having delayed it so long it turns out there’s so much material it almost writes itself. This being so I want to rush through it in about 6 weeks before I change my mind again.
21/12/43 My darling – Nora has pneumonia which is a bit of a thing. I don’t know whether she’s very bad or not. Doctors are awful nowadays. They won’t come at all unless you telephone before nine – and how anyone with pneumonia living in a house where the two other inhabitants have flu can telephone before 9, I don’t know. Actually they are all very queer. The doctor came once, said she had acute flu, went away leaving a prescription which there was no one to get made up and never came back again. The sister who lives with her said (Mrs Higley) to me on the third day of this “She’s very ill and she sees things on the wall” but apparently thought it unnecessary to do anything about that. I rang up the doctor and said I was sure she had pneumonia and if he didn’t come at once I thought he was taking a very grave responsibility on himself. He came at once and got her into a hospital within a couple of hours. But it would be interesting to know what would have happened if Nora hadn’t been working for me. At what point I mean would Mrs Hig have done something drastic?
Before the invention of antibiotics pneumonia had a high chance of being lethal. The first antibiotic in Britain, used to treat Churchill on 2 occasions, was made by the British firm of May and Baker. The tablets were simply known as ‘M&B’ at about this time. Churchill is quoted as saying: “Dear Nurse, pray remember that man cannot live by M & B alone.” His doctors, Lord Moran and Dr Bedford, were also referred to as M & B. I am not sure whether Nora had M&B pills, but it is possible. ‘M&B’ was certainly a familiar phrase in my childhood.
I forgot to tell you I’ve ordered the electric light. It will cost exactly £500 – that is £330 to get it here and the rest for the wiring etc. I think it’s worth it and I think you would too if you’d lived in this cold and bathless house for long. One gets up to stone cold water in an ice cold house every morning and all day one wears two thick sweaters and very often a battle dress coat on top of that. It will be useful too on the farm and will add a lot of value to it – probably quite £500.
I’m reading a book Stapes has written called Disraeli and the New Age. He takes things Disraeli said and elaborates them to fit today. It is a trifle serious that I find myself disagreeing with practically every word either he or Disraeli says. I can see that Disraeli was a very great Tory but I don’t like Tories any better for being great.