Dealing with men; children; a budding authoress

Jack wrote from Palestine where he was taking some leave. It was impossible for him to make the journey back to England, so leave did not bring them together.

food rationing in England in the 1940s
Food rationing – counting the points

Frances Donaldson in World War Two5/5/41   Palestine sounds heavenly and I do wish I could have been there too. It is amusing that you should be in a place where oranges rot on the ground while I spend most of the winter scrabbling to get 1 or 2 a week for the children. Now I don’t even scrabble as there aren’t any in the length and breadth of England.




To-night I am feeling really rather distressed because I had a set-to with Carling. I began it wrong by being made angry enough to tackle him in front of the men which he hates and is really wrong. But in return he was sufficiently rude to me in front of them that I shall have to see him to-morrow and tell him I won’t take it, for the sake of future relations. I know by experience that for a woman dealing with a man and a fairly forceful one at that, it is no use burying the hatchet without having first ticked them off because they know it is a weakness and not a niceness on your part, and having got away with the situation they invariable presume upon that. Sometimes I hate having the farm just because of this sort of thing.

8/5/41   I am now waiting for Carling to come down and see me and, as you will imagine, I am in a slightly nervous condition. Last night we shot down 23 bombers over England.

Voila Carling!

Charming interview and everything o.k. Began with my saying I didn’t take that sort of thing and his saying no, he knew and was sorry afterwards. Ended with discussion of inferiority complexes of men trying to deal with women and vice versa. The interview has convinced me that at bottom Carling is a really good and nice man, so I shall find it easier not to be touchy.

News to-night of bombing of Suez Canal. I suppose it is as silly for me to worry about that as for you to worry about bombing the Midlands.

10/5/41   On Monday I am going to Birmingham; it will be May 12, six months ago bar 2 days since I saw you there for the last time. It has been in very possible way bloody, but I must say it doesn’t seem like 6 months. That is the only good thing. I wonder how many more 6 months we have got to get through? I am afraid about 3.

(It was actually 6 x 6 months till she saw him  – April 1944 -and 8 till he came home for good – August 1945)
11/5/41   Just heard the news which tells of bombing the House of Commons. I must say in spite of everything I find it difficult to believe in this kind of thing.

Hess landed in Scotland.

13/5/41   HOW ABOUT HESS?  It seems to me to be the most staggering thing that has ever happened. Of course there is always the chance that the Germans are right for once and that he is potty. Then there are a host of too-god-to-be-true suggestions such as that things are going badly enough for him to be the advance guard of the rats.  But I’m afraid this is too much to hope for. What I would give to be in the know over it!

(On May 10th, he took a Messerschmidt 110 and flew it solo to Scotland where he crash landed the plane.)
I was in Birmingham yesterday to meet mummy. A great deal of damage has been done since we were there. Everywhere you go you see burnt and demolished buildings.

I shopped for the children and bought 2 summer dresses for myself. Our summer clothes for all 3 cost well under £10. Good, eh? I must tell you about the lunch we had because it will give you an idea of food now. We could have had fish or meat or rabbit (this was at the Queen’s which as you know is the most expensive best hotel). I chose the rabbit because it was done with mushrooms and I thought sounded nice. Of course, I ought to have know better at the time of year and you couldn’t even cut it much less eat it. Mummy had the lamb, which was alright. She wanted a dark sherry but could only get a light. They produced a tray of sweets to choose from. There was stewed Rhubarb, an open flan and a tart. We said “What is the flan?” “Rhubarb.” “What is the tart?” “Rhubarb.” “What is the mixed fruit salad?” “Rhubarb and tinned plums.”

I asked for cigarettes, not because I thought I’d get any, but just to see. The waiter said they hadn’t seen a packet for 5 days. The position re cigarettes is that you can get them from your own shop (for me, Mrs Wheeldon) if you are lucky or have a pull, but otherwise you haven’t a chance of buying them anywhere. Also they have begun to favour men. I am told that in factories and in shops in towns they keep them for men and won’t sell any to women. Don’t you think that’s monstrous? I have cut my smoking to less than 10 a day — but because of the budget not because I can’t get them from Mrs W.

Mummy said to Rose this morning “Don’t say moost, say must”. Rose replied “Must, must Mussolini, Moosolini”, with a triumphant inflection on the last word. How’s that for 3 ½?

14/5/41   I don’t think this will be long as I am crying with fatigue having been threshing all day. It’s really gruelling and too hard to be much fun but the men are short-handed so it was essential.

A Budding Authoress

16/5/41   As I hope you will have heard both by cable and pc I had a letter from Dick this morning saying they would publish the book. Apparently it was Geoffrey Faber’s enthusiasm that had carried the day. This does suggest that it might be true that Dick doesn’t like it. It is much better this way round as Dick is the In-law.

I enclose Dick’s letter: (Dick de la Mare, Faber and Faber)

Letterhead of Faber and Faber, 1940s

‘My dear Frankie,

First of all I must tell you how very very much I enjoyed reading your book myself. It has got a delightful freshness about it which whets ones’s appetite afresh from page to page – my only criticism was one of disappointment that it wasn’t a little longer. It has now been read by two others here, one of them being Geoffrey Faber, who was enthusiastic, so the next thing for me to say is that we should very much like to publish it for you in the autumn.’

Rose is at this moment yelling upstairs in her bath like a thousand bulls and I could easily murder her. Rose has been like a maniac for the last 10 days and in this small house one goes nuts with it. However she is also very sweet. She has a mania for picking wild flowers, particularly cowslips. She picks them very carefully with long stalks — at this point I was interrupted by Nora who came for my help as she can do nothing at all with Rose. Rose had bitten her and thrown water all over her and she could not get her nightdress on. I went up and smacked Rose’s bottom as hard as I could. In spite of all the psychologists I can think of nothing else to do. All gentler methods have been tried for the last 10 days with no effect at all. To go back to the flowers, she picks them properly, brings them in, insists on their being put in water and flies at anyone who so much as damages one.

The new black dog Bunty is so sweet. I like her in a way I have liked no dog since I had the children. She sleeps on my bed and in all the best chairs. The kittens are also sweet, George, Georgina and Ginger.

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A Woman's War