26/04/45 The Henderson Bros were a knockout. In the first place they were almost as amused and interested to meet me as I was to meet them. I mention this not only because of course I was pleased but also because it may have biassed me in their favour. The brother who didn’t write the book was a real charmer – sense of humour and all – and the one who did was infinitely less intolerant and non-conformist than I expected. The whole farm was like a toy farm, green paint and tarmac roads and as neat and tidy as a doll’s house. But the buildings weren’t exceptional in any way. The non-writer met us and said to me “Well I know all about you because I’ve read about you” so I said “Well that’s easy. I’ve read all about you.” Then later the other one said “Well I’ve read and enjoyed both your books and I must tell you there’s one thing I very much envy – your style.” So I said “But Mr Henderson I thought your book was so nicely written.” And Diana said “Look at the 2 authors – you ought to take a photograph.” And the other brothers rushed off and got a camera and took 2. I shall be fearfully pleased if it comes out but he was rather slow and we both made fearful faces.
As to the actual farming – I could see no evidence that what he said in the book wasn’t true and the farm certainly had an air which I have never seen on any other. He told me they carried 12 times the stock per acre, 7 times per man hour, and I’m not sure about these 2 figures but I think 9 times per capital invested and 8 times per valuation as the average for the district. I said “That seems to me to mean that you have no margin of error in war time. If you had even one crop failure you’d come rather badly unstuck.” He said “That’s exactly it. We can’t have anything like a crop failure.” You know it may be possible on 80 acres. They had one tractor and 25 acres of grass. That leaves 55 acres to cultivate. It seems to me that having built up fertility you could get round the 55 acres with one tractor even in the very worst seasons so that you didn’t have failures from being late or skimping cultivations as people on larger acreages sometimes have to do.
Then he told me that when Rob (Hudson, Min of Ag) visited them he asked them a lot of questions like this “If you could keep your wheat how much would you make?” And they could always answer immediately from reference to their books. I believe they probably answered accurately too because all the food, etc., is weighed and fed to an ounce.
The sugar beet land is the great problem here at the moment. It’s getting later and later and it won’t rain and we’ve done every known cultivation and we can’t get anything but knots and stones. I was seriously worried but Pat and Lilwell came over tonight and said theirs was much worse and Pat said Clyde Higgs told him he’d still got oats to get in. So obviously we aren’t doing any worse than anyone else.
The baby is now an absolute certainty. I’m still not the least interested in it but fairly resigned and I’m feeling rather better.
The news is wonderful but it could still be quicker for my liking. The Germans must have more of an army than we say if they can hold us so long on the Elbe.
03/05/45 First Thomas. I took him to Bruce (Dr Bruce Scott Williamson a Harley Street specialist and brother of ‘Dod’, the Peckham doctor and friend) on his way to London the other day and he was quite openly very surprised. He said “I didn’t expect him to look at all like this. I didn’t expect him to be that colour.” But after this he behaved with his usual gravity. I haven’t any faith in Bruce and he himself admitted that the child was a complete surprise to him. If we had followed his advice from the beginning he would probably look as Bruce expected him to look. But anyway let me know what you think about it. O gosh I do hate writing letters. I’ve really got a lot to say but this makes my back, wrist and head ache and gives me indigestion. Why the hell don’t you come home and save me all this trouble. Thomas had a lovely time in London – 3 ice creams, cinema and was very happy to go off to school. He is getting extremely good looking now his teeth are through. I had his hair cut at Trumpers and in his longs he looked awfully sweet. Everyone is always rather taken aback by his abrupt and rather ungracious way of talking.
08/05/45 V day. (Later known as VE day) It’s awfully funny how little excitement one feels about the actual day – I suppose because it’s been so long drawn out. But I have a deep feeling that one day this year you will now come home for good – which is something I can’t visualise or believe in, but which I am very happy to think about. The curious thing is that Molly and Gib are here and it’s really the first time they have stayed with us since the beginning. Together we heard Chamberlain announce it and Churchill end it. We are opening a bottle of champagne and then we are going to have a bonfire. The men will come and all the little boys in the village and the bonfire will be some hedge trimmings on the Pits and as they have been there for years we ought to get plenty of rabbits out too. I’ve got some beer to give them all to drink and Rose is home so she will stay up till 11 which will be very exciting.
Mrs Hig said this morning “Where’s your flag?” I said I hadn’t got one. So she said “Well you aren’t patronising the boss much!” So I said “How d’you mean?” Mr. Donaldson, of course. You aren’t patronising him much.” So I thought I’d better have a bonfire.
09/05/45 The bonfire was a great success. All the men drank a lot of beer and then we made an effigy of ‘old ‘itler’ out of a sack and marched up to the pits where we started a fire that burned for about 2 hours. All the little boys from the village were there and everybody stayed up late and it turned out to have been just the thing.
No other news really except I’m waiting to hear from you. It is rather exciting isn’t it – only so awfully difficult to believe. One is always saying things like ‘after the war’. But apart from anything else it’s so wonderful to think the actual fighting is over.
11/05/45 I am feeling very happy and also very well. It has been a change having amusing guests and I’m feeling particularly well and energetic. I’ve lost my figure entirely (2 months) but I haven’t yet got to the cumbersome stage at all. So I have a good excuse for never doing anything without yet being particularly incapacitated.
The weather is lovely though, our fortune depends on it raining soon and I have made some particularly delicious cream cheese.
The Birmingham Post says Four Years’ Harvest is the best of all the farming books – which I agree with
13/05/45 In the Daily Express this morning it says demobilisation will start on June 18th and Groups 1-11 will come out then. One can’t take too much notice of this because the Daily Express always likes to pretend knowledge no one has really got. But if it’s about right it sounds as though you might be out some time in July even without compassionate leave. I wish I knew for certain when you would come. It’s partly not being certain about things that make me apprehensive and easily depressed.
I’m feeling physically much fitter. I felt livery and apathetic for a couple of months. Now I feel pretty well.
You ask when harvest really begins. Well we generally start cutting the last week in July but usually there isn’t much pressure until about the first week in August. This year the corn harvest should be comparatively easy but we hope to start lifting potatoes at the same time and that will be the horror. Ideally you ought to be here by about the 18th of July to get the hang of things, etc., before it becomes a whirl. But I don’t suppose you’ll manage that. Anyway I should wait till there’s some definite news about demobilisation before you do anything because we ought to hear about that soon now. And by the way, don’t spoil the Russian job for a ha’p’orth of tar because once I know you are coming I can always put up with an extra week or 2 if it’s necessary and I want you to finish up well.
The toilet paper came two days ago. Thanks so much.
I’ve taken the line in my letter which I also take in my mind that you’ve got to get out by August and that’s all there is to it. I prefer to take that line. But of course I know if you can’t you can’t. And so this is the other side in case you can’t.
Mary may come in June. If she does that would at least be a help from the point of view of my living entirely alone here. If she doesn’t I don’t really know what to say about that side of it. I know all doctors, etc., think it impossible and fantastic but I do not know how to alter it. I’m not going to have any more landgirls. I’d sooner run any risk and I don’t see who else there is to get.
As to the farm. As long as we can keep the 4 Germans (prisoners) (which costs £10 a week but might be justified even on financial grounds) all I really have to do is walk round and give orders. I did a bit of sob stuff on Clyde Higgs the other day and he promised me that if anyone looked like taking them away he’d interfere. The only real risk then is something unexpected. And probably God looks after his own. He did last time because he sent Jane here just the one night I had the miscarriage.
In any case as you want the baby I’m putting the baby first. If anything goes wrong you’ll lose a lot of money but you probably won’t lose anything more valuable.