The close of the year brings no relief from hard work and depression

06/12/44   Darling – By the way Drousfield down the road who has our ex-cowman Metcalfe produced 50 gallons of milk from 28 cows while we produced 86 from exactly the same number and the lorry man says if it wasn’t for the churns at the top of G.H. it would be waste of time coming round this way.  All very smug.

17/12/44    I am quite serene about the pregnancy and not impatient as I was when you were here.  The answer to that is sleep.  When you came back you must promise me always to go to bed not later than 10.  You know I rather like it all if only people wouldn’t worry me.  It’s not my idea to be frightened really – people put it into my head.  I’m really prepared to be awfully tough and rather proud of myself.  And I’m definitely pleased about the baby in spite of it all.  The more people one has to love the nicer life is – though this one will have to work hard to be as loveable as Rose.

20/12/44   I’ve got the Brahms Violin Concerto on again because I always play things at least twice when I first try them.  I must tell you about me and music.  I’m a very uninformed listener – I never notice what instruments are doing what or anything about it – but it has suddenly become an absolute pleasure in my life.  I feel as long as I have that I can bear the rest of the day being rather beastly – though if I’m in too nervous a state I can’t listen with any pleasure – and when I am walking about the farm I think what I’ll play so that it comforts me for the rest of the day. It’s rather funny about music after all this time isn’t it?

24/12/44    Christmas day and I love you and you must be here next year and I shan’t sell the farm if the thing doesn’t work.  I shall write you the most frightful letters harrowing you to the backbone but I shall keep it till you come even if I have to have the baby on a tractor.  And I hope you got my letter cancelling selling Wood House because I think you really are right and we should wait to talk it over when you come.  But what does seem quite important to me is that you should come on leave really soon.  Then you can talk to people who know.  And also get the form here and have one last look at me before my figure is ruined for life.  So try hard for it.  I’m feeling flippant at the moment but I do actually think it’s rather important.  The children woke up 5 minutes after Father X came last night, thought it was morning and sat up and started to pull everything out.  2 writing pads he had brought them excited them so much that they came into my room at 2.30, 4, 5 and 6.15 to know whether it was morning yet.  So I feel all the better for that today.

28/12/44   I haven’t written much but it’s so absolutely charming here now there’s nothing to write about.  On Dec. 15 Ann left, on 22 the War Com. Withdrew the 2 hostel girls who had been working here and on the same day Joan got ill and left not to come back I think as she wanted to get away anyway.  On the same day Cyril got ill and hasn’t been seen since and on Dec 25th Bob the 14 yr old boy got drunk.  So now we have Price, Walden, Arthur and Highman.  By doing the pigs, poultry, sugar beet before breakfast and the other 4 doing nothing but stock we can just get through the stock.   Highman left the water in the car and a hard frost has bust it.  So we have no car.  I hate this place as I’ve never hated anything in my life.

The following email, received in January 2010, was 14 year old Bob
My name is Bob Evans, perhaps some older residents might remember me? My parents were Sam and Irene Evans ; they left Wales in 1926 during the depression at that time, they came with my brother John and my adopted brother Walter Farrer to live in no’s 1/2 the eighteen cottages where I was born in 1930. I attended the Wilmcote junior school at the age of five and remember the teachers being Mr Needham, Miss Moore and Miss Perry. My wife and I were married in 1955 when I worked for Mr Bob Ancell, we lived at Billesley before coming to live here in Adelaide Sth Australia 42 years ago. In two months time I will be 80 years young.


The children have been sweet but are rather exhausting and I personally think that if things don’t soon start to go the other way I shall be dead long before March 31st.  Anni and Haschi go tomorrow but I hope old Nan will come at least in about 10 days.  I am at the very lowest ebb tonight so don’t take too much notice of this letter.  But I give it 2 weeks to improve and if it doesn’t you’ll have to ask for compassionate leave if you want anyone or anything to be left.  It’s quite impossible for me to manage like this much longer.  However, they may improve.  At least Cyril and Bob will eventually come back and old Nan will come some day.  I’m so dreadfully tired.  That’s why I take such a gloomy view.  Life is just that shade too difficult.  However, it’s so bad it probably will improve.

28/12/44   I enclose the letter I wrote last night because though it is unnecessarily gloomy it nevertheless does give a picture of the state of things here – which really is too frightful temporarily – and I want you to know about it so that you won’t relax any efforts to get home.  The thing is I can only just manage when everything is at its best and when things then start to go wrong in this frightful way it is enough to kill anyone who is not pregnant.  However, things have improved slightly already.  First the War Ag. Sent 2 girls this morning and second I hear Cyril is thinking of coming for a short time this afternoon.  Bob, I suppose, will appear some time or other and the maddening thing is that though he’s only 14 and really almost entirely useless I can’t really afford even to tick him off as we can’t do without even his ridiculous pair of hands.  Then I am having a shot at persuading Joan to come back to do the pigs and poultry which will mean (if it works) doing them myself every weekend but I like her so much the best and feel she would be so much the nicest in the house I think it is worth it.  Anyway I feel sure things will improve now and we shall carry on all right.  But I’m getting fed up darling.  My life is too hard and I hate it.

You must come soon and you must take all the responsibility when you do come.  I’ll always help and advise and tell you where and how but I must get shot of all this toil and moil soon now or I’d rather be in a slum in London (I wonder).

There may be some news but all this is superimposed.  We had wonderful music.  Anni was very much struck by the musicalness of my nature.  She said to Haschi “Some crave oranges and some lemon juice.  But she craves orchestral music.  I’ve never seen anything like it.”  And she said she was absolutely fascinated to see what effect it would have on the embryo.  So what about that.  I think it’s most extraordinary myself because so sudden.  But jolly nice for you because I never held out any promise of anything like this.

All my love my darling.  I’m not gloomy today,

29/12/44   Things are better not because they are better (they’ve actually been infinitely worse all day) but because a) I feel better and b) I see a ray or 2 of hope for the not too far distant future.

The reason the day has been even worse than usual is that a vital part of the machine froze.  We couldn’t de-freeze it, had to wait for Gascoigne’s man and my beautiful and valuable cows, some of them giving 6 gallons, were milked at 12 noon and are being milked now, 7.45 p.m.

ayshire cow
Ethel, Frankie’s best cow

The reason I see more hope for the future is I have had several applications for jobs from girls and one is interested in the cottage.  That is the big thing.  If I could only get a really good milking girl into the cottage we could manage without one in the house once you appear and that would be worth anything.  Then as I think I told you I’m trying to persuade Joan to come back to the pigs and poultry (the woman in the village who boards her won’t board anyone else) and if both these things worked we should really be on clover with no girls in the house.  Darling I do absolutely love you and I write you beastly letters.

28/12/44   Evening letter – I’ve written some pretty awful letters reflecting over-tiredness, bad temper and to some extent Panic.  I can’t really help any of these and to some extent they are justified.  One gets so desperately tired when pregnant and there’s that awful thing of knowing quite well you ought to stop now and put your feet up and simply not being able to because the children something or other or the pigs something else.  With no-one to help there is really nothing but luck between myself and a miscarriage and I simply get frightened.  But this letter isn’t meant to be gloomy because I think things may improve now.  Cyril is back, and the 2 landgirls improve things a lot and if I can only get Joan back we shall then be only one milking girl short.  The real moment will be when Nanny arrives because before she goes again the children will be back at school and then at least there will be peace and quiet except at the weekend.

The war situation seems to be improving gradually, tho’ the whole thing is a stinker, isn’t it?  I do so hope it won’t interfere with leave.  But this letter is to tell you that things are very much better.

31/12/44   Darling I’m happy in an obscure way.  I seem to be changing inwardly very rapidly lately.  I hate the exterior of my life and wish for peace but inwardly I have great pleasures with my music and the anthracite stove, which keeps the dining room always warm and attractive, and my sitting room and the idea that Stuart Alexander Donaldson is going to be a black haired and rather ferocious genius.

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A Woman's War