Children; War news; fire at the farm

Frankie suffered from depression with mood swings, but could usually work her way out of it. She liked tough people and I was always tough – to the point of being impossible. She says at one point, “Rose is a vile child. I could eat her”. Thomas was a more delicate flower, sensitive and often brought to tears. She had more trouble with this and although she loved him the pressure and worry of the farm and the war made her more impatient with him. Their relationship deteriorated a little over the years. In this photograph I am confident,  looking challengingly at the camera. Thomas has a slightly reserved and less confident shadow across his face.

Thomas and Rose Donaldson standing by the car. Depression
Thomas and Rose standing by the car

7/11/41  The children are amusing. Their characters are so different. We were pulling mangolds today. T works hard but never stops talking. Then Rose arrives and with a portly gesture of defiance and provocation, pulls two mangolds out of a row we were not working on, throws them at my head and walks off. But they are both sweet and charming with each other. Thomas looked out of the door this afternoon and shouted “John, tell my baby sister to come to tea!” I do wish you could see them.

13/11/41   It is a year to-day since I saw you. I do think it is wonderful that I should have got thro’ a whole year.

Landgirls clearing mud in WWII
Thomas working with the landgirls clearing mud

16/11/41   The pigs and poultry keep me hard at it. Thomas comes with me. He is tall now, you know, and very boyish, and he is awfully sweet and twists my heart with his desire to work. But he never stops talking for one instant, and all about nothing. I’m sure he would drive you mad. Did I tell you about his saw? He had a toy one and he sawed so earnestly with it that I bought him the smallest one I could find, which is still pretty big and heavy. But he saws like mad with it, very often all day, and brings in wood for the house. Molly is going to get married next month, but she has found rooms in the village so she will go on with the job

18/11/41   I have just got a cable and an airgraph. You are sweet to be proud of me. The Airgraph I had this morning says you have been in Suez a week and are busy and happy but gives no details. YOU MUST GIVE DETAILS, you blockhead. I must say in some ways you are the most unsatisfactory husband one can have. I must quickly add you make up for it in other ways. Nanny went this morning. I really love her, but I’m glad she’s gone in spite of having to get my own supper and fill my hot water bottle because she gives me no peace in the evenings.

20/11/41   To-day we heard the news of the attack on Libya. I wonder how it will go. I am almost sure that the Marshall Arthur Coningham must be a man known to his friends as Mary Coningham ( and if so I knew him very well and he was the first man I was ever seriously in love with, at the age of 12. No-one over 12 would be seriously in love with him as he quite mad and odd in a way. See if you can find out if he is a New Zealander and wears his hair en brosse. If you ever get near such grand people introduce yourself, as I couldn’t know him better. Tho’ the war is odd. I would never suggest your introducing yourself if he wasn’t in his present position. But he is awfully nice and frightfully brave. He brought down God knows now many aeroplanes in the last war.

Your description of hearing my broadcast was thrilling. I am glad you heard it because one of the things which influenced me to do it was the thought that it would be such fun for you if you could hear it. The Carlings come back to-morrow thank Goodness.

21/11/41    This morning at about 7 o’clock I was woken up by Nora who said that Gypsy Hall was on fire and the flames were shooting into the sky. I knew that the telephone on the farm was out of order so I had to decide whether to go up to the farm or down to the village to telephone the Fire Brigade. I went to the back of the Eighteen Cottages. All I could see was a very small light which flickered occasionally, so I went up to the farm. Highman was in charge (Carling is still away) and with the aid of a stirrup pump he had got the fire out — thank God I bought the stirrup pump. We employ a mental defective as cowman — quite nice and efficient, but slow and defective. He had gone to fill the tank of the engine with a 2 gallon can of petrol in one hand and a lamp in the other. As he poured the petrol the fumes ignited from the lamp. He was so frightened that he dropped the 2 gallons of petrol and ran, thereby adding a good deal of fuel to the flames.

The whole engine is burnt out and the cows will have to be milked by hand until I can get it all renewed which will be God knows when. What had happened was this. The whole of the cowshed is wired for electric light, including the engine room, but as the boys used to leave the light on Mr Clever Carling removed the bulb. I hold Carling entirely responsible. How can he be so stupid as to go off on holiday leaving a mental defective wandering around with a bicycle lamp? I have the unpleasant job of ticking him off when I see him to-morrow fresh from his holiday.

24/11/41   I HATE the children’s hour in the winter. I LOATHE playing Snap with everybody yelling and I DETEST reading gloomy children’s books.

Nobody sympathises with you more than I do for missing the children’s youth, but you are lucky to miss all this. I shall have to do it every day for at least four months now. It’s enough to drive anyone away from home. Thomas has developed this new trick of indulging in angry tears about everything. To-day at tea he said “whenever Mrs Butts went to Stratford Manning asked her to bring him something.” I said that was like other people I knew. T immediately burst into tears and yelled at me “Yes, but you never bring anything”.  I bundled him out of the room. I’m sure one should treat these psychological difficulties quite differently, with great patience, and wait for him to grow out of them. But I’m not bloody well going to. I’ve seen Daddy indulged all his life and I’ve seen Harry Sackville, whose tempers were very much indulged as a child, grow into a spoilt young ass and anyway I like to enjoy my meals in peace and I’m not going to have them spoilt by having to indulge Thomas all the time. What do you think?

28/11/41    I am rather shocked at times by my generally rather suicidal  mentality. I use the word figuratively. But, for instance, when Nora came to tell me about the fire at G.H. I had no spontaneous reaction but rather the feeling “O well, let it burn. Nothing could be bloodier than life is now anyway.” That is an exaggeration but in a way describes my whole attitude to life. There is one factor in relation to G.H. and the fire that is that I am always thwarted of responsibility there. My attitude is, I suppose, “O, Well, the men will look after it.” I am more than ever determined to have a small farm after the war. I want the children to have fresh food and I want them to grow up in an atmosphere which demands effort and initiative from them and in which they constantly see everyone at work and since a farm gives all these things I want always to have a farm.

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A Woman's War