A new sheep dog; a visit from Mary

21/5/43   Highman has got mumps, so I am left with only imbeciles, girls and a boy of 18.

Frances Donaldosn's sheep dog, 1943

23/5/43   I’ve got a trained sheepdog, a bitch. I wonder if you can have any idea what a pleasure this could be. I have been trying to get one for seven months (it’s ridiculous not to have one with all this stock), but they are terribly difficult to come by. This one — Meg — has saved me about ten miles walking in the two days she’s been here. Normally, when we move the sheep or round them up it takes me and at least two others swotting round every corner of the field and yelling strange war cries and then running like hell to head off lots that have doubled back etc. Now I go by myself and stand by the gate and Meg does the rest. Apart from the work she does there is a great pleasure in it. As a rule I get so much of the grind of farming and so little of these sort of things which are the pleasures. She is a very pretty bitch and one’s affection for a working dog is always of a quite different order from that for an ordinary dog.

herding sheep
Herding sheep with a sheep-dog
Frederick Lonsdale
Freddy Lonsdale, Frankie’s father and a well-known playwright

25/5/43   When I met Oliver at Adrienne’s he was interesting. He said the important thing was not anything we might or might not do, but whether the Russians could or could not hold the German drive. If they could, he thought we’d win this year, but if not it might go on for years. Bill Whitney had lately seen Daddy in New York. He said he was in great form but he thought he was broke. “I dined with him twice and both times the fact that I paid was gratefully received. Keep a cottage for him on your estate. That’s how he’ll end.” I can’t tell you what this does for me. I said “I’d rather he had died” and then had to spend the rest of the evening explaining it away. He has always been the one who paid, but Bill said he didn’t seem to mind and was happy so I may be wrong.

26/5/43   I’m getting abnormally lazy. I’m always complaining about the amount of work, but the truth is that for five or six weeks I haven’t done anything except mess around. I think I have to some extent worked myself out. Priestley once said that women liked to work very hard in short spasms and it should be arranged that they could. I think he’s right. Personally I can’t sustain the effort. Another reason is, this farm is impossible on present labour. One knows that whatever one does it will beat you in the end so one gives up the effort.

sheep dog
Meg, Frankie’s beloved sheep dog



I’m absolutely dotty about Meg. I must send you a photograph of the dogs and cats at GH. There are seldom less than ten cats of various ages and four dogs round the kitchen door.







17/6/43   Mary brought a very odd American and we had a terrific party. He knows everything in the world, including what’s wrong with England and the English. Rather intelligent in some ways, and distinctly amusing. I think he is a case of arrested development, as he does and says exactly what he feels, like a child. One night we decided to have a party, so we put the cob in the float and went to Aston Cantlow, the next village, with a very good pub. We didn’t do much when we got there except drink enough to be very gay and bring home enough whisky to make three egg nogs.


milk float
A milk float, normally driven standing up

On our way home we overtook Donne, who is an old man and rather a character who works on the farm. He was nicely drunk and we gave him a lift. He looked ruminatively at the cob and said “It’s a good thing she isn’t a kicker”. I asked why, and he said “You’ve got the traces underneath the breeching”. I said “It’s all right, Donne. We shouldn’t know even if we were sober”, which at the time seemed a spirited and dignified answer. Then when we got to the hill near GH Donne said we’d better walk. I said “There are two ways of getting up a hill. One is to walk and the other is to gallop. I’m going to gallop.” So we galloped up the hill and Donne took off his cap and waived it in the air yelling “That’s the way, Madam, that’s the way, Madam”.

Mary laughed so much she fell off the seat which is a plank from underneath us. I rose to my feet and continuing to gallop cursing Mary for not being able to hold her drink. At which she giggled all the more. And that’s how we arrived at GH.

So my reputation is either enhanced as a good sport or else it is gone for good and I shall remain forever as hopeless drunkard. I don’t care which because one must have some fun, but it is a bore always having to have it under the nose of this very curious neighbourhood. When we got home we made the egg nogs and then danced alternately with Peter. It suited us because he is a wonderful dancer, and neither of us could have managed more than every other dance.

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A Woman's War