24/2/42 On Saturday I got a message that Carling wanted to see me and found him looking rather white and wanting to know if it was true I was going to manage the farm myself and was only waiting till the threshing was over to tell him. I said there was some truth in the first part, none in the second, and he and Mrs Carling had better come down and talk to me.
He blustered a bit at first, but I stood up to that and said if he wanted to conduct the conversation in that tone he could, but he would get a month’s notice and nothing else. He came off it at once and she was a miracle of intelligence and tact throughout. The upshot of the interview appeared to be that they were so anxious not to go that they would do absolutely anything I wanted rather than have to. This left me undecided. If he would behave quite differently and really make an effort to teach me what I want to know etc and take orders better I should probably do better to keep him, as undoubtedly the other way would be an appalling worry tho’ much more fun and also I might lose a lot of money if I made a mess of it. I told them I would think it over and let them know in about two weeks. I should think it would almost certainly end in my keeping them if only for six months or so.
In response to this and similar letters Jack wrote:
How I loved the letter I received yesterday — your outburst on Carling and its immediate success and your thinking it back to the Mandelbaums and all the rest of them. It’s very hard on you, because these softnesses are all my fault, and, tho’ I may in many ways have been a good influence on you, I’ve helped you to forget your native toughness a bit. However, now you’re getting it back, which is all to the good.
I have absolute confidence in you, and anyway am fully prepared to crash as long as the preliminaries are fun. You know my views. I want you to do the farming, not a bailiff.
28/2/42 I am depressed and low and hate life. I think the almost decided decision to go on as before with slight differences is the correct one, but it takes all the kick out of life again for me.
2/3/42 I had a fourteen page airgraph yesterday (only one page missing). In it you give me a lecture about getting depressed and losing initiative and impress on me how important the farm is. This was really very timely, as I think I have begun to lose my sense of proportion. Mr Stewart was over to-day and I put to him all the pros and cons of the Carling case. He was quite decided I ought to keep C but insist on really learning and on getting my own way when I want to. He said directly you came back we could manage the farm ourselves, because you would be the man in the house and if you killed a cow with the wrong dose you would be the boss entitled to. I think this is very sound and I am going to do it.
6/3/42 I got back from London and the BBC last night. I think my broadcast was really good. Now to get it straight, I don’t mean wonderful. It was short, only 600 words, and factual so there was no scope for being wonderful but I think it was good. On the preliminary run-through Green, the producer, said “It’s excellent”. Then, after I’d finished, Vincent Alford, who produced me before and fancies me a tiny bit, and who later took me out to lunch, came in and said to Green “Well, if you knew the whole series was going to be like that you’d be a happy man.” Then I got a wire from Diana De La Warr saying “Congratulations on excellent broadcast”; and then Mr S rang up and said everyone at Moulton had listened and thought it “quite uncommonly good”. Add to that the fact that I also thought it quite good.
7/3/42 I simply do not know what to do about the children when Molly goes. I’ll never get another girl because now they are all in war-work. If I send them both to the village school they won’t learn a thing. I do feel that, as they ought both to be reasonably intelligent, they ought to learn to read and write early enough to get a good start with the rest. It is all rather depressing. Let me know what you think about the village school.
We both went to the village school for a time, but I immediately contracted scarlet fever and Thomas impetigo, so my mother was somewhat put off the idea. Eventually Thomas went to a ‘prep’ school in Henley-in-Arden, weekly boarding, later to Summerfields in Oxford as a boarder. The health of the poor in those days was much worse than now and so the risks of constant illness were real. I went to Swann’s Close school, a delightfully progressive establishment, in Stratford as a weekly boarder when I was about 6 (ie in 1944).
About the Carlings. We fixed it up very nicely. I am going to learn to milk and to drive tractors and set ploughs etc. They were both really nice and of course the whole episode has proved very useful as a shake-up for them. I shall find it much easier to get my own way in the future.
9/3/42 I have had an idea for a book on socialism and agriculture. It is very exciting because, tho’ I chucked the idea after I wrote to you, as you should know by now, I have now taken it up again. It is most interesting to see how close your ideas are to mine in many respects and also to compare the differences. Your conception is really a plan for agriculture which could be written by someone with absolutely no political background. Mine was to start with a definite political bias, and to read, etc, with a definite eye to the facts which go to prove my case which is now beginning to formulate itself as a belief that agricultural property, either in Britain or anywhere else, is impossible without world socialisation. I don’t mean, simply, well cared for land. I mean that both ends of the thing should be right. That is, that food be well produced by efficient and prosperous farmers but also that it should be properly distributed and eaten by all mankind.
At the moment (prewar) agriculture is neglected, but the cheap food policy which caused the neglect does not feed the people. British agriculture produced before the war one third of the nation’s food requirements and Stapes and others have estimated it could produce a half. But half of what? Half of the food of a nation in which 60% of the population is undernourished or half of the food of a properly fed nation? However, having read your letter, I am now inclined to think you are right. If one approaches the subject with a perfectly open mind, the facts are almost certain to prove one’s case without any necessity to use bias or to start to prove something and it would be the best way round. I have written to the Times for four books to-day ….