18/07/44 I got a letter from you this morning. I won’t go to London if it undermines your feeling of security about me. Probably the thing will stop soon now and then it will be all right to go. Jan and Dave have gone and Anni and Haschi arrived. Anni is so very sweet and unruffling. I can even bear flying bomb stories from her.
T. has gone back to school but R. is here. She is awfully good and amuses herself all day. I brought some of her lesson books back and she just took them of her own accord and sat working at them. Now she is painting. She makes her own bed every day and peels the potatoes and knows where everything is. Thomas is awfully sweet too at the moment. This is a very disjointed letter but I’m helping Rose with her arithmetic which she had after all done all wrong. (She dared to argue with me about who knew what 49 from 63 left – she or me). Anyway this is only meant to tell you that I won’t go to London and I love you very much and I wish you would come home soon and I haven’t any news.
18/07/44 All the windows are out of the Wood House but the War Office are dealing with it. Darling I got a letter from the War Office which began “I regret to inform you….” and then went on about the Wood House. Can you imagine?
19/07/44 Not much news. The Nora business is now decided because she has got a job at Stratford Hospital. This suits me down to the ground. We are on the best of terms – she came to tea yesterday.
24/07/44 We started cutting oats today on Pat’s advice. After they had cut 4 acres I went down and stopped them because I really didn’t think they were ripe enough. I don’t know whether I am right. Since that was written Pat has been and said we should go on cutting but he had 2 farmers with him who said we would be better in bed. So you pay your money and take your choice. I’m in a hurry to get this off now.
26/07/44 I got a letter this morning posted by Gerry Duke. You don’t give much news about the Order of the Patriotic War.
1) Is it now official? 2) Can you wear it yet? 3) If not how did you hear about it and can I go round boasting or is it a secret? Personally I think it’s the most impressive thing that’s yet happened to either of us. I regard it (possibly wrongly) as a passport to Russia if we ever want to visit there after the war. And I also regard it as exclusively chic from an English point of view. I shall always boast of it wherever I go. By the time you are back you won’t be in uniform any more. You will have to take to wearing a white tie and orders for the opera. Actually you are getting quite a little string. Probably there will be something or other for this current show and if so you will have 4.
I’m awfully disappointed you don’t come home at all. I fully believed you would. And I can see now that it’s not going to be very likely at any rate during the present phase. And I miss you very much. I miss you now in the everyday things I would like your advice about.
We went again to Hamlet last night. It is really wonderful. I wouldn’t mind how often I saw it and I do wish you could see it. 6 Camembert cheeses arrived this morning.
29/07/44 We were cutting oats yesterday. I drove the tractor. I haven’t driven it with the binder before because I always thought there was some difficulty. However, it’s dead easy so I shall do it in future.
31/07/44 Bos rang up the night before last and asked himself and 4 other people to tea yesterday. In the end they didn’t arrive here until 8 o’clock so I gave them supper instead of tea. It was jolly good. Pat was here too so there were 7 and they had scrambled eggs, plum tart and cream, cake and ginger biscuits which I had made from Emma’s recipe, Camembert cheese and lettuce, beer and coffee. I think Bos took rather a chance because he made the others come 10 miles out of their way and it isn’t everyone who can stump up food for 5 people without notice.
I’m not in particularly good spirits but that’s physical. I’ve been kept up too late and talked to too much for too long. The Combine is here and is being put together now. It’s going to be a God awful nuisance because it’s too wide for any of the gates.
03/08/44 I wrote today but I forgot to tell you the following rather endearing conversation. I asked Susan (her niece) what she was going to do when she grew up and she said she didn’t know.
Rose – I do
Me – Do you? What?
R – I’m going to have this farm.
T – No you’re not ‘cos I am.
Me to T – Would you like to have it?
T – Yes.
Me to R – Would you?
R – Yes. And I’m going to.
Anni – You’d better marry a farmer Rose. Then you can both have a farm.
R – No. ‘Cos this is the best farm.
Me – Why do you think so?
R – It’s got pear trees on
Me – But hundreds of farms have pear trees on.
R – Not great big trees like that one with lots of little pears on. I love lots of little pears.
T – (Who had appeared not to be listening) I’ll send you some every summer.
Sometime soon after this I wrote in a children’s writing competition for the Farmers’ Weekly. It was a story about sitting at the top of a big pear tree and seeing the view all around. I won a prize. I always assumed it was my brilliant writing that did it, but of course it may have been my literary connections.
03/08/44 I’m having the most dreadful time and I don’t write to you or get your tobacco or anything. I’ve got Michael and Susan (nephew and niece) here and I’m nearly going mad. Both of them are an eye opener about how good it is to bring children up on a farm. They can’t find anything to do here although there are always about 6 children playing in the barn, tractors going in every direction and dogs and cats, etc. They only want to go to the cinema in Stratford
I went last night to the merchant of Venice with Pat. We have all become Shakespeare fans.
Jack home a couple of days on leave.
06/08/44 The Berkeley, Berkeley Street, London W.1. (leave)
Just a line to tell you it’s not too bad. I was a shade depressed when you left because it’s so much worse when a long day stretches before you with nothing to do and a tiresome train journey at the end of it. But I soon cheered up and stayed in bed for a bit and now am downstairs filling in the morning by writing to you and then Peter. It’s now 11.40. I think I shall stay here till lunch then lunch at 1 o’clock and then walk to the Savoy Hotel which has a bookstall to see if I can buy anything to read in the train. The hotel bill was £5/8/6 and I suppose my lunch will swallow the rest of the last £. I’ve just had a long talk with the clerk who agrees with me that in spite of the Government claiming a small rise only in the cost of living owing to their having pegged a few foodstuffs, there is really an inflation of at least 100% and if you allow for the poor quality of material and service which money now buys very considerably more. Still that’s not very interesting.
Well it’s nice not to have any news to tell you because I’ve so recently seen you. Every minute was lovely and worth at least twice as much exasperation in trains and boredom in hotels and I do hope you felt so too.
10/08/44 Bob Kyzer has just rung up so I know you got back all right. Looks like you’ll be in Paris before the end of the month.
p.s. Send as much as you can of that thick chocolate you said you didn’t like. When we work late I’m too tired to get supper and a piece of that and a glass of milk vitaminises me until morning.