Convalescence; danger; 'Could it happen here?'

14/2/43  I am surprised how good a man Compton Mackenzie is. I have  been reading “North to West.   I didn’t know he was that kind of man. On the other hand, I found both books too long, diffuse and with too much in them for me to read without skipping. But I think I got the feeling of them and they are, I think, quite important books. All that part about Ireland and our behaviour, and the scene in Greece during a Turkish invasion.

It convinces me more than anything has done that it is no use saying “It can’t happen here” about anything. Apparently, from no more evil characteristic than the desire not to see or believe anything unpleasant (which we know to be a real characteristic), the whole English race allowed their statesmen, from no more devilish motive than the ordinary desire to preserve the Coalition Government, to behave with a violence and inhumanity in Ireland (and to condone the same violence in Greece), which can only be compared with some of the later demonstrations of the Nazis. But for Munich one might not be inclined to believe Mackenzie, but having seen the Tories willing to throw half Europe to the flames in order to preserve the Tory party, it isn’t difficult to believe that an earlier group of statesmen were prepared to see half Ireland and half Greece massacred to save the coalition Government.

In what a very unattractive way the history of statesmen repeats itself. However, it gives me an explanation of the behaviour of the German race which I have for long been looking for. As far as I can see the only difference between the Germans and the English is this. The Germans like regimentation. So if you want to be bestial do it in uniform. The English like peace. So if you want to be bestial make sure first that they have nice gardens to go to sleep in. And I wonder if, before God, it is a lesser crime to sleep than to march. It makes me very depressed and defeatist about the future.

Darling, I hope that you are all that I think you are. Because only so can life ever really get right again after the misery of these years. However, I’m sure that you are so it will be all right.

Thomas is a funny one. He is still such a cissy in many ways, but in others so very manly. Yesterday he decided to go shooting by himself. So he took his bow and arrow and, as far as I could make out, walked pretty well right round the farm. On his way home a cockerel chased him and cockerels can be quite nasty. But he turned round and beat it with his arrow. Every morning he comes into my room to brush his hair with two brushes I gave him. I wish he could read, and I wish you could see him. I wonder if we shall ever have any more children?

23/2/43   Thomas is going as a day boy to the school in Henley in Arden which I wrote to you about, but may go as a weekly boarder next term.

Brighton bombs 1943 WW2
Bombing of Brighton in 1943

3/3/43   Then the most difficult situation has arisen. I sent Rose for convalescence to Brighton last week because she was ready to go and Nanny was ready to have her, and my letter to you might have taken six weeks to arrive. This morning I got your cable. My first reaction was to bring her straight back. Of course people here have grown into a careless point of view. Peggy, for instance, has taken her children to London for six weeks. Anyway, I had a talk with Anni who thinks it a pity as Rose will hardly have settled to the change of air and would then have to settle here and then re-settle somewhere else. In any case I shall now leave her about three weeks instead of six and then fetch her back as I shall now fuss all the time she is away.

The term Brighton Blitz refers to German air raids on the British town of Brighton during World War II. The beaches were closed at 5.00pm on 2 July 1940 and were mined and guarded with barbed wire. Both the Palace Pier andWest Pier had sections of their decking removed to prevent their use as landing stages in a possible enemy invasion. The town was declared no longer to be a “safe area” and 30,000 people were evacuated.

Brighton was attacked from the air in 56 recorded bombings between July 1940 and February 1944.

Thomas Donaldson goes to school
Thomas ready for school

Thomas is sweet about his school which he loves. This morning he told me there was one boy who was best at reading and that he (Thomas) was second best. I asked who said so and he replied “the boy”. However it quite convinced Thomas. He said at lunch that some boy was a “titty-baby”. We all sat up and asked why and he said in a lordly voice “O, he’s always crying for nothing”. At which the whole table burst out laughing because if that is a “titty-baby” there never was a “tittier baby” than T himself. But you see he will learn to despise it from his contemporaries. He looks terribly sweet in his cap. I must take a photograph for you.

I had a letter to-day. You describe meeting Shearer. I used to know him when he was managing director of Fortnums, then later of Molyneux. You wonder why he left Cairo. The reason which is firmly believed here is that he was the Military spokesman who Randolph was thought to be and made everyone so cross by over-optimistic pronouncements and that he was relieved of his job.

I’m tired and have got a roaring cold and two of my best heifers have had bull calves and Highman took three days to do one day’s threshing so I must go to bed.

11/3/43   You tell about Shearer’s idiotic behaviour. I’m not surprised. He is very conceited and very much an ass, I have always thought. However, he has the reputation of being a great business man and was thought a lot of at Molyneux. I still think he is an ass.

The weather is lovely and in about a year from now we are going to start making a real fortune out of this farm. But no-one will ever have worked harder for it than I have I feel sure.

12/3/43   I’ve been tractoring. I must tell you what I was doing because it is highly significant. I was harrowing some winter oats, which is a normal thing to do in the spring (tho’ not often as early as this; we are having a wonderful spell of weather, which may break to-night, which would be a disaster) but in this case was also to prepare a seed bed for grass seeds which Highman was broadcasting behind me. Now the significant part is we were doing it on that field with a bank where I think some bullocks were when you first saw the farm, and which was the first turf we ploughed up when we came here. So for the first time the circle is completed and after three white crops the field will go back to grass.

harrowing a field
harrowing was used to lightly loosen the soil
seed broadcasting by hand
broadcasting seed by hand

Thomas is mad with excitement about a broody hen and some duck eggs which he has bought off me for the handsome sum of 5/- to be paid when he has sold the ducklings. A good deal for him if they hatch.

19/3/43   Pat was here this morning and I said to him “You know, I think, after about two more seasons with you, I’ll be quite a good farmer”. He said “I think you’ll be a very good farmer. I think you are a good farmer now”. I said “Do you really?” He said “Yes. I was talking about you yesterday and I said “It’s a curious thing. She knows exactly what to do. She only lacks confidence to do it without getting her opinion backed”.”. This was terrific praise from Pat who is north country and blunt and also thinks I’m too conceited already and so never gives me a good word. Rather exciting, isn’t it?

Frances Donaldson's bailiff, Carling
Mr Carling, bailiff




Life has changed so completely since Carling left. In those days I lived in a permanent state of semi-humiliation and semi-temper and I couldn’t get anything done in the way I wanted and I didn’t know any of the men. Now I am the “gaffer” and the king of this little world and I take it all completely for granted and only wake up now and then with a start of surprise at the whole thing.

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A Woman's War