Good War news; bad news on the Farm

13/08/44  The children have gone to bed and it’s cool in this lovely east room and it’s the first peace for ages – since in fact supper in bed at the Berkeley.  2 things – one I’ll try for the cigarettes but for the first time since 1941 there appears to be a cigarette shortage.  Reason – they are all being sent to Normandy.  So it looks like you’ll have to send them to me.  I can’t remember what the second thing is.  But darling if I fail to do the things you’ve asked me to, forgive me for a short while because it really is a bit much here.  O I know, I’m madly excited about the lunch at the Soviet Embassy.

Isn’t the war news wonderful.  And by the time you get this it may be even more wonderful.  That’s what’s so exciting.  Lovely things happen and there’s always the feeling there may be even better round the corner.
War news: July 3  The Russian city of Minsk is retaken by Russian troops, and 100,000 Germans are captured.
July 8  As a U.S. taking of Saipan becomes certain, hundreds of Japanese civilians commit suicide rather than surrender. Allied B-29 bombers can reach Tokyo from Saipan, thus the capture of the island will be a turning point in the Pacific war. The Tokyo government collapses within 2 weeks.
July 20
  An assassination attempt on Adolph Hitler, planned by some of Hitler’s generals, is unsuccessful.

August 25   Paris is liberated by Allied French troops, after four years of German occupation.
16/08/44   Frank Sykes sent me his book with a rather sweet inscription.

“To Frankie Donaldson whose book I should rather have written.”

25/08/44   Frank Sykes’ book is the best I have yet read on farming.  I am reading it now and I shan’t send this copy to you because it’s got an inscription I’m proud of and I don’t want it lost but I’ll try and get you another as it will do more for your education than anything else I’ve read and in my opinion knocks Henderson silly as it deals with things of wider and more general application and implication – not just a special method of making money by working yourself to death.



There was a distinct style to farming books published by Faber and Faber. See also Henderson: The Farming Ladder.
29/08/44   I think I have decided in my own mind in the last week or so what it is I want out of life.  I will tell you that first because it explains so many other things.

I want a farm and I want some work.  But I never again want to cry from over exhaustion in the middle of harvest nor do I want to lie awake at night wondering how the devil I am ever going to get us through all the things we have got to get through – even if the lying awake is caused by hysterical over-tiredness as much as by the inherent difficulties.  Then I want beautiful and reasonably convenient surroundings – on of course a simple scale – and I want a nice pony to ride and books to read and I want to be able to play the gramophone and write when I feel like it.  In return for this I am prepared to work quite hard but hard in a reasonable way, not hard in a totally unreasonable way, grinding away until I am silly.  Then again I’m tired of hearing the children say “Mummy I suppose you wouldn’t have the time to take us bathing.” and always having to answer “NO.”  They won’t be young and sweet for so much longer and I don’t want to spend all their summer holidays turning them out to amuse themselves because I haven’t got time to do things with them.

Now in the last years I’ve not only worked extremely hard but I think if we sold out now I would have made a few thousand pounds.  My idea is as follows.  If I could get into a more amenable farm I should say to you as follows: this is my contribution.  This is our home and I am prepared to work hard enough to see that it provides us with the home, the milk, butter eggs, vegetables, cars, telephone bills, etc.  But I’m not prepared to work any harder than that.  That is to say if the farm is going to be worked to its ultimate capacity and is not merely to provide a house and a background you are the one who’s going to do it because I’m not.

In conclusion two things.  I feel I have found out that the proper way to live is on a farm.  But I am quite sure that it’s no use living on a farm where it’s a struggle.  But it leaves you, as before and as you ought to be, the breadwinner.  So put that in your pipe and smoke it.  You’d either have to earn the children’s education, etc., etc., on the farm or somewhere else.  Because I’m not bloody well going to.

31/08/44   I had a very sweet and gay letter from you.  I don’t exactly take the Friday week line, but I would if I didn’t think that Hitler and co will go on saving their own lives at the expense of thousands of German lives as long as they can.  Even allowing for that all the evidence seems to suggest that it ought to be over before the winter.

Now I’ve just had a shattering blow and I feel indescribably depressed.  I went to the accountants this morning about the accounts.  I said to the man who wasn’t Burgis himself who usually does our accounts because he is away on holiday, “Have you arrived at any figure yet?”  He said “Yes, but it is looking like a loss.”  We then went through the various points he was doubtful about but none of my replies made it any better.  Now I simply can’t understand any of it and there may of course be a mistake.

Anyway however you look at it I seem to have made a hell of a mess of everything and there’s no thumping profit anywhere that the income tax wouldn’t take.  What shall we do?  The point seems to be that if I can’t make a profit now when prices are good I never shall.  So what?  Darling I really am worried sick and I do wish you could get back to discuss it.

Gosh I am depressed because you see our overdraft is so fearfully big and even the harvest which is coming in isn’t going to put it nearly right and if I feel that I am doing badly it is really too destroying on top of everything else.  Because it simply means I am an ass.  And I work terribly hard and am thought to be not an ass and the whole thing is so confidence destroying.  I simply don’t feel at the moment that I can ever get over the fact that I’m not really doing nearly well enough.  You see I’ve spent too much on the farm itself and there’s no way out of that if I’m really not earning the money to do it with.  O damn and blast.

I’ve just had a long talk with Pat and in the way people always do we’ve succeeded in talking the accounts into looking better.  Taking Burgis’ later figure of about £400 profit and then saying that in that year we stood £300 worth of bills from the year before.

It’s now pitch dark so I must stop.  But I’ll get a clearer picture soon and let you have it.  And in the meantime please don’t discuss it with anyone as I am so frightfully crestfallen and I don’t want other people to think I’m a dud – at any rate until I am 100% certain I am.

02/09/44   Well, then, about here.  I have decided to take the risk and I have let Margetts know that though I should be glad to hear of any exceptional chance that might arise in the meantime, the farm will be officially for sale in the spring and not now.

What I am perfectly prepared to believe is that I used all the profit on improving the farm.

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A Woman's War