Flying bombs; a question of Schools; Nora leaves

05/07/44   My darling – I got your letter of the 1st promising more Camemberts.

camembert cheese
Jack is back in France and sends cheeses

Of course they are wanted.  The first two weren’t ripe and I wanted to keep them but Dave said they were already past their best – that is not unripe but drying up – and would get worst from keeping.    Anyway now having heard from you I will keep the next ones until they seem ripe.  The others were very good in spite of not being ripe enough and much nicer than anything we have had for a long time.  Also if you don’t mind, it is a very nice thing to be able to give away occasionally.  I have promised Garlick one of the six.  He does a good deal for me and it is nice to be able to repay one’s obligations with something unusual.

I am rather sad that your leave visit has receded but as long as it comes off sometime it doesn’t matter so much.

Dr Anni Noll worked at the Peckham Health Centre in the 1930s
Dr Anni Noll, who worked at the Peckham Health Centre

Jan and Dave are staying for a fortnight and then Anni and Haschi are coming.  Although they don’t say so, I owe this unusually prolonged visit to the flying bombs.  The thing is I really rather hate people staying in the house for more than a couple of days.  You see what happens is that I am out all day on one thing or another and so when I come in for meals or in the evening naturally I have to entertain them.  But I don’t want to.  I want to read.  Also I would quite like to write a bit too at the moment.  And all conversations are so basically dull – flying bombs, how long can the Germans hold out, are the French pleased or cross to be liberated, does Anni really love Haschi or is it that she doesn’t and has to make up for not?  Who knows and in the final analysis who bloody well cares?  It may be that I don’t have amusing enough people to stay but I get more and more to prefer not having any people at all.  Not that I’m not fond of Jan and Dave.  I really am.

flying bomb is a manned or unmanned aerial vehicle or aircraft carrying a large explosive warhead, a precursor to contemporary cruise missiles. In contrast to a bomber aircraft, which is intended to release bombs and then return to its base for re-use, a flying bomb crashes into its target and is therefore itself destroyed in its attack.

I went to see Thomas this afternoon.  You know he’s got chicken pox.  He was quite all right, no temperature and very good spirits, but he looked pale and had dark marks under his eyes.  The matron said he looked worse than the others had done and I think one has to admit that if he is at all ill his heart does show itself.  Not that there is any worry.  He is quite all right, it just takes more out of him.  He was quite sweet.  He said “Is this rain really a bit much?”  And I said “Well, you see I’ve still got one field of hay out.” and he said “You haven’t.  Well I’ve been going round telling everyone that you’d got all yours in.”  He obviously felt very much let down.

07/07/44   I got letters from you in which you said you saw a flying bomb going for the German lines.  This is interesting because here there is a theory that if they are hit in the right place it turns them completely round and that our pilots are beginning to get the hang of doing this.  But I don’t know whether there is really anything in it.  People are making a pretty good fuss about it.

I think it must be pretty bad because people like Peggy who have never taken much notice of the blitz think it’s pretty awful.  Peggy goes to London, but she said “I shouldn’t go if I hadn’t got a good reason.”

11/07/44    I’ve bought you a gun I think. £70.  Pat says it’s a dream.  It’s my ‘Four years’ Harvest’ present.  Rose has got chicken pox so I’ve got Thomas home too for a week.  He looked pale and thin and I felt sad for him being at school so long.

Darling, I’m absolutely staggered by your categorical instructions about the flying bomb.  What makes you take that line.  You always agreed one should go up during the blitz and this is obviously a joke compared to that whatever people say.  I won’t go up till I hear from you again but I have a coat and skirt I want to fit and I want to get some electric light fittings etc., and I don’t agree with your instructions at all.  So let me know when you’ve thought them over.  I enclose letters from T.  The thing he has learned is the deaf and dumb language.  He was awfully pleased with your letter and recited your views on possible German collapse to everyone.

Robertson Scott, a writer on Nature and the countryside
Robertson Scott wrote an article for the Countryman edited by John Cripps

15/07/44   On Tuesday I decided to go and see old Robertson Scott about the article.  Then on Wednesday Thompson came down to take more photographs and insisted on going over to Peggy’s where was John Hare for dinner.  Then Thursday I had a hangover all morning and a lot of farm work to do and then in the middle of the morning Nora lost her temper and walked out.

First Robertson Scott.  He was very charming and I think I quite misjudged him when he came here.  There was no trouble at all about the article and by cutting here and there and changing a few things I think we succeeded in making it a very decent article, considering it wasn’t originally written in that form.  Cripps was there and Mrs. R.S. and they were all exceedingly nice.  R.S. is very ingenious and rather sweet about his views.  He says of some one “O he believes in nationalisation” as any one else might say “O but he is a very nice fellow” and he talks always in that rather innocent way.  When I left he gave me the clenched fist.  I think you would be rather amused though possibly only for a short time.

There was  a row with Nora who then said she was leaving. Mrs. Hig came the next morning and said “Nora is very sorry and she would like to come back” and I said “Well I’m not going to have her back.”

It’s really very sad and I’m on the verge of giving in all the time.  First Nora is really devoted to the children and in her own way to me.  Then of course she never believed in her wildest dreams that I wouldn’t have her back or she would never have said it.  Then she comes under the labour exchange and she is at the moment much more frightened than she need be about what they may do to her.  They won’t for instance whisk her off to London to deal with flying bombs which is one of her ideas.

Rose and Thomas Donaldson, children of Frances Donaldson
Rose and Thomas with Nora

Anyway I saw her this afternoon and I was very nice and just said “We’ve been together too long Nora.  You are always best when you don’t know people too well.”  And she said “I know.  I can’t help it.  It’s too much for me.  It just comes out and then I’m sorry afterwards.” which is the absolute truth.  And I said she must always regard us as her friends and come and see the children whenever she wants to and let me know if things really go wrong, etc., etc., but I stayed firm.

We went to Hamlet.  There is a Hamlet called John Byron who has made an enormous success.  I haven’t discovered yet whether it is a national success or only a local one but many people who know about Shakespeare have said he is the best for years.  Anyway I enjoyed as much as anything I have ever been to and I am going again when Anni is here.  I was rather bored at going.  I always think I don’t really like Shakespeare and it is a bit of a pose for me to go.  But I was really enchanted and adored every minute of it.  The season goes on until nearly the end of September.  I wish you might be able to see it.

(See Letters to An Actor playing Hamlet, by Christopher Fry)

Summerfields School Oxford
Summerfields Oxford

Then we went to Summer Fields to look at the school for Thomas.  Evans is really a charming man with a very good speaking voice.  The atmosphere was good and the boys looked really nice and happy and gay.  The matron was the most awful horror but everything else was nice and I think we’ve done moderately all right.  Thomas is definitely to go in January.  I talked to Evans about his being badly taught and backward and he took a very strong view about his not being able to read well yet.

Thomas was 8 years old so it was rather surprising that he could not read. He learnt quite quickly at Summerfields and came home with a joke: “There are 28 year olds at my school who cannot read (twenty 8 year olds)”. We thought that extremely funny .

He said he’d absolutely got to be able to read when he goes there.  So I’m going to do at least half an hour’s reading with him every day during the holidays.  The curious thing is that Rose can really read now.  She can read the newspaper to you and she hardly ever makes a mistake even with difficult words.  She was rather sweet this morning.  I was talking to Thomas and I said I would give him a present when he could really read.  And presently I heard Rose stumping about the house saying “It isn’t fair.  Mummy is going to give Thomas a present when he can read.  But I can read now and no one gives me a present.”

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A Woman's War