From Annette to Parents (marked by LJT as Rcd 15-4-43)
18 Jan 1943
As this is, most disgracefully, my first letter this year, and I can’t remember the number of my last one, I have started the numbers again. There seemed to be a lot of things happening in the first week after Christmas, and then I went home on leave, and almost at once got a cold and a chill or a touch of gastric flu which has made me feel very low ever since, so I am afraid I have done nothing except huddle in front of the fire. I did not like to stay in bed last week because there were already two of us away with flu, and everybody else seemed to have colds, so that there was no risk of infecting them, but on Sunday Freddy Edwards returned, and yesterday I felt so much better staying in bed all the morning that I stayed in bed all day, and ate even less than I have been doing, and I think my stomach has now calmed down.
I spent a very pleasant Christmas with Uncle Bous and family. There were two friends of Pam’s over for the day as well, so Uncle Bous had five young ladies to escort to church, and by the time we were on our way back, three more acquaintances of Pam and Betty joined the party, one of whom pressed us all to go and have sherry at her house. We then had a very good dinner of turkey and plum pudding, with Algerian wine and still quite a varied dessert. All this was so filling that we wondered how we used to put away the still larger dinner of peace time.
On Mother’s birthday I went over to the Roscoes, and had still more Christmas food there, including a beautiful cake which Mrs R. had made with a tin of Australian butter I took over and all the dried fruit she had saved up. They told me about Lord Haw-Haw’s broadcast on Christmas Day, which was all about the British having to pull in their belts. We thought that the only tightening there was, was from the inside.
On New Year’s Eve I went to the revue got up by the Drama group of our club, which was really very good. For one thing they seem to be using a lot more people. At one time it was always the same small clique in everything, and a good deal of their topical references were so topical that they were really beyond anybody unconnected with the clique.
I took half a day off and went to Oxford with Irene. She had an appointment with her tailor and I wanted to get my first volume of ‘Figaro’. It was a miserable day, but we did not go to the pictures, as we thought we might, since there was nothing either of us wanted to see, so finally we just wandered round the bookshops and had tea before coming back, but I got my records, which are even more delightful than I remembered. I had a lot of money for Christmas, including your present, for which I thank you very much, and so I have ordered the other two volumes.
I put off going home until the Wednesday after the trip to Oxford, having been asked to go to a party by Sheila Legat. She and two friends suddenly decided to give one, and it was great fun. Although all three had a different set of friends, everybody was at least slightly acquainted, and we had dancing, with occasional silly games and singing, and very good refreshments.
On my way through London I went to Studio One and saw ‘Derrière la façade’, which was nothing outstanding, but quite a good film, and it is always nice to hear French. We went to the pictures twice while I was at home, to ‘Bambi’, which I did not like very much, but possibly I was soured by my various ailments, and to ‘Coastal command’, which I thought very well done and interesting.
It was nice being at home with Peg and Gavin there. Peg seems to be in pretty good spirits. It was a great pity about the baby coming to nothing, she was so happy about it.
Christopher Pringle came for the week end. He is training to be a naval wireless operator not far away, and seems to be a very nice lad. He must be a little older than Rosemary.
Besides this, all I did at home was to see the Watsons and the Pophams and one or two other people, and then Doris on the way back through town. She met Aunt (on her way back from a visit to Josephine) and me at the Army and Navy for lunch. She is back at work after being away with a poisoned thumb, when apparently it was touch and go whether she lost her arm. She seems to like her work very much, and it is most handy to the flat, being only about five minutes walk.
I am going to finish this off, although I fear it is a very dull flat letter to write after such a gap. I feel pretty well restored today, not at all queasy which is a great relief, because I was getting rather tired of it. Also it hardly seems worth while staying in bed when one hasn’t even meals to look forward to.
I got an airgraph when I got back. I am glad South Africa is to your liking, and am much looking forward to getting letters about it.
With much love from
From Annette (marked by LJT as Rcd 11.3.43)
1st February 1943
It is difficult to write letters the week I am on days, because Irene is in in the evenings too, and although I could, of course, write with a pen, I keep on putting it off. The one evening she was out this week was on Friday, when I was out too, at the Roscoes. The chief conversation there is now about Mary’s baby, which she discusses with a frankness rather like Peg’s. A very prim and proper friend of Barbara’s is coming to stay soon, and Mary says that she will then put on a smock and not say anything improper. It was a very fine day and we went for a walk in the woods, but other wise did nothing of moment.
The only other day off I had since I last wrote was one in bed, which cured my internal trouble pretty well, or did I mention it before? Anyhow, by the end of the week I was quite restored to health, and went for long walks with great energy. The weather has been ridiculously mild, and there have been some days which felt just like spring. Others have been wet and windy, but no colder. I went and dug up a row of carrots in my garden, which I had forgotten all about, but they are very nice in spite of that, also artichokes, which Mrs Evans says are no different from potatoes, which is a pity, and beetroot, which are not growing, but stacked under earth.
I have just been reading ‘I bought a mountain’, by Thomas Firbank, which was condensed in ‘The reader’s digest’ once, but I don’t remember noticing that he had a sheepfarm on the southern side of the Glyders. In fact, I think they left all the names out of the account. The farm house of Dyffryn must be very well hidden, because Ann and I couldn’t make out any buildings when we were on the side of Moel Siabod last year. There is an account of how the author and two friends did the walk of the 14 peaks over 3,000 feet in eight and a half hours. One of them came down from the top of Tryfan to the road in thirteen minutes, which sounds almost fantastic, but I suppose he would be frightfully sure-footed and just ran.
Ann has been ill with pleurisy, and is still away. I knew nothing of it until about ten days after I got back from home, because I very seldom ring her up, and it is not surprising to see someone here only after months if you don’t take any steps about it. I hope she is going on all right, but even an ordinary cold pulls her down a lot, she is so asthmatic.
We have just had letters from India just before and after the move to Uncle Harry’s house. I think it shows great strength of mind to sell so much, even thought it may be the most practical and economical thing to do. I am sure most people wouldn’t be able to bring themselves to do it. Of course, at the moment here there is every encouragement, not to hoard exactly, but not to get rid of anything, because however ancient, it is probably better than anything now obtainable, and possibly irreplaceable. This helps that deplorable instinct to keep things in case they come in useful some day. I was much struck by Adrienne Lattey, who had to leave Italy with hardly any of her possessions. She said she was so horrified to find herself so attached to all these material things that she left behind quite a number of things she could have taken. This she now regrets, in some ways, but she says it was a sharp lesson to her.
I went last week to see ‘In which we serve’, which I thought very good, and particularly because all the details were so exactly right. There was none of the sort of ‘Roses round the door’ effect of ‘Mrs. Miniver’, in spite of ‘In which we serve’ being in type a far more nostalgic sort of film.
I hope you are still finding life in South Africa agreable, and that Papa is picking up well. It is just as well you didn’t come home, from the point of view of diet; you may have heard on the wireless that we have not got to the pitch of being told about ‘the old-fashioned shell egg’, which annoyed me considerably the first time I heard it.
With much love
From Annette (marked by LJT as Rcd 31/3/43)
171 Buckingham Rd
12 Feb 1943
I have to thank Mother for two airgraphs, and some belated letters from India, and Romey for letters up to the 8th of January. Also very many thanks to Mother for the parcels sent off from South Africa, even though still in expectation.
I have been leading a very quiet life since my last letter. I did not have a day off at all last week, and this week I had Monday off, and merely did a cycle ride with the girl from the office who is, as it were, my opposite number on the other shift, and who, to my surprise, says she wouldn’t work with anyone but me, so that evidently I can’t appear to be as infuriated with her as I feel quite frequently. I am glad, because it is really only superficial infuriation, because she is really very nice and has a lot of good ideas. Unfortunately, our immediate boss has a down on her, chiefly because she is a member of the aristocracy, and her grandmother is Lady something or other, and she was a complete social butterfly before the war, whereas I should imagine he had to make quite an effort to get to Cambridge. it is a pity the way these prejudices seem to come in everywhere, like with our Mr. Wills, who clearly felt it so deeply not to have got a degree that he tended to count it against anybody who had, men more so, of course. I don’t think he minded us, but he did tend to take up as special pets the girls he thought were hardly done by because they had never been to a university. Or perhaps it was just because they were sweet creatures who didn’t argue, ‘Yes-women’ as Irene calls them. She is actually second-in-command of that section now, having been there the longest, and being extremely efficient, but she is one to argue far more than I am, although not as bad as Helen.
I told you, no doubt, that Irene is in this house, and that we share the front sitting-room. It is very nice to have company every other week, and yet a good thing that we continue to go entirely our own ways, with quite different circles of friends, because thus we don’t see too much of each other. In spite of being completely different in most ways, we have enough common interests for diverting conversation. As Helen puts it out literary tastes are much the same. Irene reads detective stories, and I don’t, but we share a fondness for historical novels, especially 18th century romances, besides having very much the same back ground of ‘good’ literature. Irene is a late convert to Kipling, and a most enthusiastic one, being especially partial to Pyecroft. Also she likes the same sort of music as I do, and is particularly fond of Mozart, so she was delighted when i started getting the records of Figaro, unlike the previous sharer of the billet, who only liked fruity Italian opera, and I had only one record she really likes, which was ‘Your tiny hand is frozen’, which I am quite fond of myself, but it is not at the top of the list. Which reminds me that I might get a record of ‘Adieu ma petite table’, which so annoyed Papa. But I shan’t get any more records after this last grand do, because they have started a system of having to exchange an old record if you get a new one, because of shortage of materials, and I have none I want to exchange.
I don’t believe I told you that Helen and I had a rise the other day to £275, which comes to a rise of about two bob a week, when you take off about half for income tax, and discount the reduction of war bonus above a salary of £260 a year, but it’s the thought that counts. I never realised until recently that equivalent grades in the different ministries were paid so differently. There is a tremendous disparity in some cases. A thing which annoys us occasionally is that people get taken on now at much more than we got at first, but of course wages have risen all round, and the only thing is to consider the parable of the labourers in the vineyard; I always did sympathise with the ones who had worked all day, not that I would compare us to them for having borne the heat of the day, but no doubt you take my meaning.
I never continued to tell you about my day off. We went to Woburn and had lunch at the Bedford Arms, first walking up the road to look at the big house, agreeing that the life of a rich nobleman in the 18th century must have had more advantages than most, in spite of the dirt and the smells that are now so frequently pointed out to us. It came on to rain after lunch, so I borrowed a mackintosh for my companion from the Roscoes. She was going to work, but I stayed to tea and supper. Mary was very happy, because Sandy, her husband, has arrived safely in Egypt. She had also just been given a lot of clothes for the baby, viyella nightgowns and such, which are now quite impossible to buy, so my offers to knit anything if she wants me to have been declined, which is perhaps just as well, because I must knit myself some socks. I have just finished a navy cardigan with a red border and cuffs, which looks very nice. I wore my green Australian set yesterday, with a yellow shirt, and Irene said I looked just like a primrose, and Helen said, quite independently, that I looked just like a daffodil. I thought Mother would like to hear that the colour is generally approved of.
Ann T. has just come back from five weeks away ill. She said she felt fine the last week at home, but does not really feel so well now she is back at work. I did not know that her asthma had been very bad on and off for some time. I should think it is probably the effect of working shifts in stuffy air.
We are moving into a new place next week. To our satisfaction, we are going to sit near the windows in a room, which anyway is sufficiently lit by daylight. I was going to insist on sitting by a window for myself, because then I hope I shan’t have to wear a shade, but I am glad it is arranged without any fuss. You may judge of the atmosphere in our present room when you hear that Nancy Bird, a non-smoker, went to the doctor about a persistent sore throat she had, and he said ‘You must give up all this smoking’.
I really am going to bed early tonight, as Irene is out, and there is no temptation to sit up gossiping, so conclude.
With much love from
From Annette to Parents (Marked by LJT as Rcd 11/3/43) Airgraph, typewritten in l.c.
To:- Mrs H.P.V. Townend
c/o Standard Bank
Highways: Gt Leighs: Chelmsford: Essex
22nd Feb 1943
I meant to sit down and write directly after tea, that is, at about 7.0, and here it is nine o’clock already. I was led away by the complete works of Lewis Carroll, particularly by ‘Selections from Symbolic logic’, which are rather fun to work out. Thanks to Mother for an airgraph written on Jan 18th. it really does seem to be the best way to correspond, although in some respects cold and distant, although why it should seem more so than an ordinary typed letter I do not know. I see in the paper that one is encouraged to write airgraphs rather than letters, because they take up much less space. I went to Oxford on Friday. It was a really beautiful day, and I did little but wander about. I think most places are much improved by having the iron railings removed. The place in Oxford that is most different is Rose Lane, where Merton New Building is set back from the road on the right behind a piece of grass, so that the lane is quite spacious instead of being narrow and shut in. You would no doubt be astonished at all the static water tanks that have sprung up in every open space, but they have come so gradually that we take them for granted. They were having inter-college trailer pump competitions, seeing who could get the hose out and working in the quickest time, and rushing about very busily. On the whole it is depressing going into bookshops now, which is really just as well. I didn’t mean to buy anything, but I fell for ‘War and peace’ in Russian, because it was an opportunity that will not come again. Not that I can or shall read it yet, as I can only get along very slowly with vocabularies, but I am becoming more hopeful. It is a good thing to go to a weekly lesson, because it makes me do a bit more. Irene and I mean to practice a little Spanish in the evenings, because she had an old Linguaphone book, and I have borrowed the records off the Watsons, but they had no book. We are usually very lazy of an evening, apart from darning a few stockings, as the time seems to pass so quickly in chat. Irene is on leave this week, so I am having a few people in to listen to the gramophone, who I don’t think would get on with her. I am going to the Drakes for the weekend, so Mrs Evans will have the house clear. It is quite a time since I have been away, but I was really waiting for Pam to say which weekend would suit her to go up to town, take Aunt to a show, and then go to Highways for the other day. it will probably two days off in the middle of the week, at the end of March, as we are soon going to have to start some sort of weekly report which will have to be done on Sundays, and I am requested to be there, as being a slightly calmer spirit in the matter of work than my colleague, who has been getting on my nerves this week, so it is a good thing I am going away. She keeps on telling me things I know already, at great length. But it is silly to feel irritated by it. Glad you are so well settled. Much love Annette
From Annette to Parents Marked by LJT as Rcd 14-4-43) Handwritten
171 Buckingham Rd
7 March 1943
Thank you very much for a lot of letters received this week, nos 42, 43, and 44 sent on by Aunt, one of which I had seen before, and the last of 1942, and first of 1943, describing life at the Gordons. It was very nice to have letters again after such a long time with only Airgraphs, which are all right in their way, but not so good. I meant to write a lot of letters this week, but I was so busy gardening, in fear that this fine weather would break, that I had neither time nor energy for much else. The weather hasn’t broken, in fact has got better and better, and hawthorn and rose trees are all in leaf, and almond blossom is out, in fact it is quite an extraordinary year.
Last week-end I was at the Drakes, and got some shallots, mint and garlic from Mrs Drake, which I have since planted, also I have sown some onions and broad beans, dug up artichokes, and done a fair bit of double digging, which no doubt ought to have been done in the autumn.
On Friday I went to Bedford to a BBC lunchtime concert, which I did not particularly enjoy. it was mostly modern music which i did not understand, the main item being a work by William Walton, full of bangs and crashes, which struck me as being mostly put in just to be different. I noticed that a man from here, a professional musician in peacetime, was there, so I asked him later what he thought of it, and he said that he thought all the modern composers are much too self-conscious and trying to be too clever, so I was quite interested to find mine wasn’t a solitary opinion. After the concert we sat by the river and looked at the swans, being most amused to see them get up and run along the water, finishing with a slide, in order to get quickly to the other side of the river. Yesterday i went with the Roscoes to see “Bambi”, which I saw before at home, and only went to again because it was a sort of party – I didn’t like it any better this time. I asked them if they would come to a show in London, but Mary and Barbara both declined as they are both expecting babies, and even though Ba’s has only just started, she feels very tired. But Mrs Roscoe said she would be very pleased to have a day out, although it is almost as difficult to get her away from her many occupations as it is to get Aunt. Mr Roscoe apparently can never be induced to go to anything. perhaps he would come out to lunch, though, when we go.
I must go up to town some time this month and see Mr Philps, who said come back in six months. i think I might kill three birds with one stone, see Mr Philps, go to a show and spend the night with Doris, and see Miss Millauro to get a new eye, having checked up that everything is all right. Curiously enough, Mr Roscoe has been seeing both Mr Philps and Mr Scott, whom I saw at Barts, because he will have to have an operation for a tumour at the back of one eye, which means that he will probably lose the sight. He was told that these two are supposed to be among the best eye-surgeons in the country.
I won’t go on to another page, because I have to go to work and shall have no spare time till tomorrow evening.
From Annette to Parents (marked by LJT as Rcd 3/5/43)
171 Buckingham Rd
24th March 1943
I seem to have extremely busy since I last wrote, and scarcely to have found time to write even short letters. Until last Friday the weather was so lovely that it seemed a sin to be indoors. I was digging in my allotment and planting things very busily, and then last week in the mornings I played tennis three times, very badly, but I only played about twice last year. Anyway, there was blue sky and sunshine and it was delightful to be out. On Thursday I went to the wood where there are usually such lovely flowers, but I didn’t find many, because the soldiers had camped in the wood during the manoeuvres which had been going on, and tanks had charged through and through it, from the looks of things, so I don’t think it will be much good this year.
The manoeuvres surrounded us for days. This place was held by French Canadians, and there were streams of military vehicles going up and down all the time. One night I woke up about 3.0, and there was such a row going on I had to get up and look, and there were, as it seemed, endless tanks coming down the road, looking most impressive outlined in the faint light. I was very glad that they were keeping to the road. Added to this noise, we were continually being bombed and machine-gunned by low-flying planes, as we supposed. We were sure we must have been wiped out in about two days, but they went on for over a week. We never heard who won the battle, in fact, one soldier told Mrs. Roscoe that nobody is ever allowed to win these battles, because it would cause bad feeling between the sides. However, out of the whole thing, we acquired a discarded tin, which is serving very nicely as a fire bucket.
It astounds me to think that it is a fortnight ago that I had a bout of fire-fighting practice. There was a compulsory one at the office, at which we were shown the various types of fire extinguisher for different fires, and how to work a stirrup pump, and then we had a practice for an ordinary fire, a bucket full of wood and stuff, a petrol fire with the foam extinguisher, and then how to deal with an incendiary bomb, with a demonstration of how it doesn’t go out however much you bury it in sand. From this I rushed off to my weekly Russian lesson (I am sorry, that wasn’t meant to be a pun), and after that I had a lecture on incendiary bombs and a stirrup pump practice, with the local fire fighters group. We all have tin hats, arm bands, and eye shields. The tin hats are the ‘Vicar’s wife’ sort, pale grey, with the lining threaded through with a piece of string. Irene suggested I should do it with a red ribbon, to make it really tasteful. A funny little man gave the lecture on bombs, but it was very interesting to hear how the different types are composed. He handed the case of the most ordinary sort, and it was dated 1936, so they were evidently laying in stocks then.
On Papa’s birthday I felt as if it were mine, because a lot of letters came from India, airmail ones posted from Bombay, and also the two parcels from South Africa, one of sweets and fruit and one of clothes. The sweets we are eating, and the fruits we are keeping for Ann’s and my projected walking week in the Lakes. The pink dress is about three inches too big for me, so I have sent it to Aunt, whom I expect it will fit, and it seems a pity to alter such a nice one. I have started to make the old zigzag stripe frock into a summer frock, which comes nicely out of the skirt. It was quite a job working out the pattern to get the stripes to fit, but I think I have got it right now. The other things in the parcel I keep with very great pleasure.
Pam, Betty and I are all going home for the weekend, as Peg and Michael are there. I hope it won’t be too much work for Aunt, and I think that anyway she will enjoy the party for a change. She is not coming to a show with us, as she has agreed to go to one with Uncle Bous when they are on their way to stay a fortnight later. We only fixed this up last week, for we all have different ways of getting a day off, and Pam works different shifts.
Yesterday I took Mrs. Roscoe to town to the theatre, as you requested. She was the only one who would come, as neither Mary nor Barbara feel fit enough, and Mr. Roscoe doesn’t like plays much anyway. i think Mrs. enjoyed it very much. We saw Turgeniev’s ‘A month in the country’ which was both pleasing and interesting. The morning we had spent buying Mrs. Roscoe a new hat, and my sweet ration, and having coffee and meringue tart at Fuller’s, and looking at books in Hatchard’s, and then we had lunch in a Chinese place, eating with chopsticks, which I was emboldened to do because she knew the proper way, even though the Japanese chopsticks are much smaller.
Already it is two days since I wrote this, so I had better send it off.
From Annette (marked by LJT as Rcd 31.5.43)
171 Buckingham Rd
4th April 1943
After an interval of about ten days cold and dul weather, we have suddenly got spring again. I suppose the flowers must have been out all the week, but it was only yesterday that I suddenly noticed them, not only primroses, daffodils, aubretia and such that have been out for some time, but pear blossom just coming on and flowering currant, and the hedges all looking quite green. Today the weather is the same, and I must go and do some gardening. I didn’t tell you, I think, of the sad interruption to the gardening. It was suddenly announced that they were going to build over our plots, just when everyone had got them dug and a lot of seeds in. We had expected that they might be built over some day, but why not announce it in January, when nothing had been started? It seems to me it would be an admirable thing if such a small thoughtfulness could be included in grandiose building schemes, or large schemes of any sort, not that this is grandiose, only some building for the Home Guard. Anyhow, I felt determined not to be done out of gardening, and I have acquired an allotment from the town Allotment Secretary, luckily a piece that has already been dug, not new grassland, so I have transferred all that could be, such as shallots, chives, artichokes, and have hastily sown a few things, but I must seriously dig it over and level it and put in a lot of things. It is a full-size piece, but I think I can manage it.
Pam and Betty and I all went home last week end, and had a very pleasant time. Peg was at home, but not Michael, who is on a commando course. We did not do much, except eat enormous and very good meals. We saw more eggs than we have seen here for months; here lately we have had one egg about every six weeks, and rather old at that. Uncle gave us six eggs each to bring back. Also I had a goats milk cheese, and Pam and Betty a box full of primroses and violets and some flowers out of the garden, which was looking very pretty. Peg had Dierdre, the wolf hound with her. Our dogs don’t care for her much, Brough particularly, but the cats take no notice at all. Aunt said that the first day she was there, Pim walked right over all her feet without the slightest concern. of course she is very good and gentle, but so big that if she wags her tail against you it feels like a large whip. She looks quite out of place in a small house, and also looks as if she had nothing to do, and was bored, because she can’t just poke about all day and busy herself as a small dog does.
On Monday I went to the dentist to get a chip filled in, and he found a hole too, so it was lucky I went. I found in Clark’s, which now has a sort of antique shop on the top floor, a pair of little Dresden china pots with comic birds and insects all over the, which I sent to Barbara and Graham Orton as a belated wedding present. Barbara said she was very glad to get something that wasn’t for the baby. She has had to leave work for a bit, because they were having the house painted, and it made her so sick she has gone to her parents-in-law at Reading. I don’t think she will come back to work. She was never very strong, and a day’s work alone makes her tired, let alone the tiredness from carrying the baby.
Ann has now got the Youth Hostels Handbook, and we have taken a quick glance at the map of the Lakes to see where the Hostels are. There are a lot open still, so that it will be quite easy to plan a route that will not be too tiring just for one week, when we are not in training. Luckily they all count as catering establishments, and so there is no difficulty about rations, and one can still get all meals there. Doing one’s own cooking might be quite fun, but not if one had to carry all the food around on one’s back. Of course, we do not intend to go till the beginning of June, but we shall want to book up some time before. Ann will do the planning of the route, because she knows quite a lot of the country already.
I had four letters from Africa last week, and also an airgraph written on March 10th, saying Mother had a job. One letter from Romey this month. I think some must be missing.
Much love from
From Annette to Parents (marked by LJT as Rcd 25/5/43)
171 Buckingham Rd
11th April 1943
I have been having a very domestic day, as Mrs. Evans has gone away for the week end, and Irene is working days. It is very nice to be left to potter about as we like. I asked Ann to lunch, most of which was left cooked, but I did make some soup, by the simple method of just adding some of every vegetable I could lay hands on to some spinach water from yesterday. Also we had spinach with the shepherd’s pie, followed by coffee and chocolates, as Ann didn’t fancy any baked pudding after working last night. Besides this my domesticity has only consisted of giving a lick and a promise to the sitting room, and clearing away and relighting the fire, but it is quite enjoyable for a change. Ann was at home last week, and she and Roger have produced an itinerary for our week’s leave, which I include, as it might be of interest. We see that the Pringles’ place, Guards, is very far down Wastwater, rather far out of the way for those on foot with not much time. We think we shall stay one night in comparative luxury at the Wastdale Head Hotel, and Youth Hostels the rest. If you have a map, which you may not, the only Youth hostel not marked is Honister Hause, which has only recently been turned into one. Several people who should know, including Mr Toulmin, say that the first week in June is the best time to pick on, if one can tell anything about the weather at all.
I have had this week an airgraph, telling about Mother’s job, and letter number three, also four letters from Romey, two of Feb., and two of March in one envelope. Many thanks for all. I feel ashamed that I write so seldom, when Romey writes as regular as clockwork, in spite of doing so many things that I feel quite wore out just reading about them. I never thanked Mother for the balck suit and two shirts, which will be very useful. I am leaving them at home, as part of my duplicate wardrobe. I even have a toothbrush there so that i don’t need to take one with me, but the bulk of my clothes is now here. I must send some back, because I hardly have room for them. I persuaded Aunt to keep the pink linen frock, which fits her perfectly, although, as usual, she was most unwilling. On the way back from the stay with pam and Betty, I took the thicker piece of cashmir stuff to the shop where Pam had hers done, to be made up. I hardly dare to say that it will cost 7 gns just to be made, but that is nothing out of the way now. Irene just paid 12 gns for a coat, and I said how extravagant, but a decent ready made coat (except utility ones, which have no tax) costs anything from 10 to 15 pounds.
I have done very little gardening since I last wrote, only putting in a row of carrots and beet. On my old plot, where they haven’t actually started building yet, the seeds are all coming up beautifully, and I am going to try and as it were skim off the leek seedlings into a box, because they are the ones I most care about, sad as it is to see them all doomed to destruction. We are going to have a great do, planting potatoes on the new allotment next week. it has to be pretty well redug, because I think the only idea of the man who had it was just to dig in thistles and such, which are of course sprouting a hundredfold.
Last Monday I spent the day at Leighton before going to work, as Gavin was staying there. it was a really beautiful day, and we spent most of it sitting in the sun chatting. Both Pam and Betty were working days, and Aunt Cecil was busy with her camouflage nets, so it was quite lucky I went over, although I suppose Gav would have left earlier in that case. As it was, he came to Bletchley with me, on his way to Northampton. He has made great progress in German, seeming able to read quite fluently, and to be acquainted with the greater part of the Oxford book of German verse, although stumped by some of Goethe’s more obscure poems, and by some of the modern ones, such as Rilke, who are difficult to understand anyway, even when one knows what the words mean. Gav seems to get on very well with the Baptist minister’s household, which somehow seems surprising.
Did I tell you that Annette Webster’s elder sister Nancy, is here? A nice person, if not so attractive as Annette. I took her over to the Roscoes on Thursday, when we both had a day off. I thought she would get on well, and I think she did. There was only Mary and her mother there, as Bar is away in Reading. Also Betty, who is only seen at meals, since she spends all her time like Romey did, at the riding school nearby. We came back after an early tea to see ‘The moon and sixpence’, which we much enjoyed, although I don’t know that it could be called a good film. I like George Sanders anyway, and thought he made a very difficult part fairly convincing. I went to the pictures the evening before, too, and saw ‘Nine men’, which I imagine gives a very accurate picture of the sort of conditions and adventures met with in the desert, all very simply and directly presented. i haven’t yet seen any American picture that seems to bring home the individual parts taken by people in the forces nearly so well as in these British films which are almost documentaries.
I am reading an excellent history of America, by a man called W.E.Woodward, ‘A new American history’, which I think Mother would like. It is very good at giving a broad picture, and not too technical descriptions of finance and economics, and yet giving a certain number of “1066-ish” details, which are what one remembers history by, after all. After that I shall read “The years of endurance” by Arthur Bryant, about the Napoleonic wars. Most novels are now rather a bore, I find, new ones, anyway. I read quite a lot of them, of course, but I must say I often find Russian verbs far more restful for a bedside book, in a curious way.
With much love
Projected Route of week’s walking tour in the Lake district
Train to Keswick, arriving about 5.30.
Walk to Y.H in Borrowdale, about 6 miles.
Day 1. Greenup Gill, - Far Easdale Gill – Lancrigg Y.H
Day 2 Grasmere – Easdale Tarn – Stickle Tarn – Mill Gill – Elterwater Y.H.
Day 3 (?Blea Tarn) – Pike o’Blisco – Hard Knott – Eskdale Y.H
Day 4 Over Burnmoor to Wastdale Head Hotel. Afternoon walk along top of screes, perhaps even walk to Guards if Peg and Michael are there.
Day 5 Via Great Gable to Honister Hause.
Day 6 To Hollows Farm Y.H in Borrowdale. Perhaps walk to Watendlath, or anything else we fancy.
Day 7 Walk to Keswick, train back to work at 4.0
From Annette to Parents (marked by LJT as Rcd 24/5/43) airgraph
171 Buckingham Rd
26th April 1943
Thank you for a number of letters which came in a bunch, the last from the fruit farm, and the rest from Cape Town, also for an airgraph, No. 7. I hope Papa is better now, under the treatment of the chiropractor. I have been very busy digging and planting potatoes, although the weather has not been quite so good this week as it was last, when we had three days that were just like summer, although it was clearly unnatural. I do hope now we don’t get any frosts to nip all the fruit trees that have come into flower so early. All the orchards and gardens are looking lovely. Things come out almost too fast, and the flowers are gone almost before one has time to enjoy them. I went to London on Tuesday with Sheila, and had my suit fitted. I think it is going to be very nice, with a short jacket and flared skirt, which I am glad I had, because the stuff is a bit soft for pleats. I will send you a sketch in a letter, or Sheila says she will take a snap, as she still has a certain number of films. In the afternoon we went to an exhibition in air of China, which had only a small section of Chinese things, and was mostly rather dull modern pictures, which made me feel depressed, rather like looking round Boots’ library. There was one room full of armour and weapons from the Tower, which I found far more interesting. We finished up the day by seeing John Gielgud’s production of ‘Love for Love’ which was delightful, and I thought exceeded expectation. I am going to the play again with Doris, on the way through to home at the end of next week. We are going to ‘Junior Miss’, Doris’s choice, which is supposed to be very funny. Aunt is coming to stay with Uncle Bous on Saturday and I have arranged to go over for lunch on Sunday. It is most fortunate that Mrs. Nealy has come to stay and can look after Uncle. I have just heard from Gavin that Alan Meredith has just come back after two years on the Gold Coast, and will possibly be visiting Oxford soon. I am keeping a day in hand so as to be able to go over at short notice, if possible, because I should like to see him again. A parcel came this week, with dried fruit and raisin chocolate, just the stuff to take on our walk, for which many thanks. Please do not bother to send parcels with clothes or such if they are at all short with you, because I, at any rate, have plenty, and would have more wearable clothes if I got through half the schemes for renovation that I think out. I was most fascinated by Romey’s account of what she hopes to do next year. I think it would be far better than coming home, and I must ask her not to cut short any account of her plans, which she seems to think will be boring. I am sorry to hear that the French records have lost their savour. I am still quite intrigued by the characters of the two main Russian speakers. One is very bumptious and full of himself, and also unkind to his wife, cross-examining her when she goes out shopping, and so on.
With much love from Annette
From Annette (Marked by LJT as rcd 5/7/43)
171 Buckingham Rd
11 May 1943
This week’s quotation is without doubt ‘Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May.’ which I found myself muttering at intervals during Saturday and Sunday, when I was at home, and the weather was horrid, with a beastly cold wind that blew leaves off the trees, and flowers off the chestnuts and laburnums. I went up to town on Friday evening, went to Doris’ flat and had tea with her before taking her to the theatre. We saw ‘Junior Miss’, which she had suggested, and it was quite funny, although not one that I much wanted to see. The pleasure of it was not to be compared to that of seeing ‘Love for love’, which I don’t think I have told about. That was John Gielgud’s production, perfectly delightful from start to finish, and much funnier than I had imagined it could be. Anyhow, I hope Doris enjoyed this other play. We came back and had supper at the flat, and somehow I didn’t go to sleep for a long time, although it is a very quiet street. It is rather fun sleeping within sound of Big Ben. I felt very bemused on waking, because I heard Big Ben strike seven, and then a minute or two later the siren went, and in the middle of that Doris appeared with a cup of tea, saying ‘Tunis and Biserta ‘have fallen’, which was so startling that I felt all mixed up for some seconds. It is quite amazing the way things have gone with such a rush at the end.
I went home by the 10.0 train, having no particular shopping to do, and did little the rest of the week end. i started to make a frilly blouse out of an old tussore frock and an old baby doll’s frock, I pulled clothes out of trunks, and put them back, I unpacked the last case of books, which have been sitting in a dark corner of the poopery since I came down, and put them in the shoe cupboard in our room, and I listened to various nice things on the wireless, including ‘The magic flute’ on Saturday afternoon.
Yesterday I came up to town early, and saw Mr. Philps at Bart’s. I thought I should see Mr. Scott, as Mr. Philps has been called up, but Mr. Scott is ill, so Mr. Philps has come back for a while. It was a bit of luck for me, because I had rather see Mr. Philps, as he did the operation. he very kindly saw me in the morning, not with the crowd of out patients in the afternoon, and was quite affable. he said the eye was quite all right, as I expected, and that it is now a good socket, and the graft inside is growing well. He then said ‘Have you stuck those eyelashes on?’, which was rather funny, because they have grown about twice the length they were before, since they were cut twice in quick succession. I have clipped the ends of those on the other eye, to try and get them to do the same. As he seemed to be in a chatty mood, I mentioned the fact that I knew Mr. Roscoe, who is now a patient of his. (I don’t know if I mentioned that Mr. Roscoe has a tumour at the back of one eye, they thought it was have to be operated on, in which case he would lose the sight. At the moment, however it is quiescent, and he only has to be under observation) So I was able to take Mr. Roscoe a message from Mr. Philps, which was another quite fortunate chance. I spent the rest of the time till my train rather aimlessly, partly because it was a filthy wet and gusty day, and partly because I had planned nothing, not knowing how long I should be at the hospital. I found at Peter Roninson’s some thread for knitting stockings, such as I have been seeking for some time, and had a nice lunch there too.
I shall not, of course, have to pay another visit to the doctor unless anything untoward occurs, which is unlikely, because I shall be careful to get a new eye about the size of the one I have at present, which is slightly smaller than the socket would take, but Mr. Philps said it would be as well not to put any strain on the lower lid for the present, at least.
I am afraid there has been a horrid gap in my letters. I have been lazy as usual, not making use of all the odd moments which I should employ for letters and mending and other jobs, and also I have had a sack of rapidly sprouting potatoes weighing me down. The digging and planting was very slow, because of the heavy soil and the quantity of weeds, but I did get it done the evening before I went away. The double summer time does give a nice long time for gardening. Gwen Dale has an allotment near mine. Otherwise they all belong to funny old men, or so it seems, and they are full of concern for us, stopping beside us and saying ‘Don’t you do too much, Miss. That’s hard work for a woman.’ So it is, but not too hard. We think they may be in some way almost jealous of their prerogative to dig.
Last Monday I had a delightful day. I had a wire from Gavin on the Saturday saying that Alan Meredith would be in Oxford till Wednesday, so I went over on Monday, as on Sunday I went to have lunch with the Bous family and Aunt, who was staying there. As I got out of the train at Oxford, I saw Ann ahead on the platform, so I caught up with her, and we arranged to meet for lunch, as she too wanted to see Alan. Gradually a party collected. I found Gavin in the Playhouse bar for coffee, and then we met Alan and Diana Athill, to whom he is perhaps engaged. This sounds obscure, and indeed I don’t know how matters stand, but she used to be engaged to somebody else, and yet went everywhere with Alan. She now has no engagement ring on, and seems altogether a much more natural person, where she used to be feverishly bright, so perhaps she has sorted out her life. Then there was Ann, and Roger Greene to complete the party. We gossiped over lunch till we were nearly thrown out, and sat in the sun in Trinity garden, trying to think of what Gavin and Roger, who still look like students, would produce in the way of local colour for the benefit of sight-seeing Americans. The best idea was for us all to get up and march about singing the Eton boating song, but in the end we did nothing. Gavin and Roger departed for tea, and the rest of us went to the Shamrock, and chatted there over tea till nearly thrown at at closing time (restaurants are no longer made to sit in, merely to eat in) and so we went to the Randolph and had a drink before Ann and I got a train back. It was a great pleasure to see Alan again. He is much taken with the Gold Coast, where he has been stationed, and is taking steps to go into the Colonial Service there after the war.
I am sure my typing is now much worse than Papa’s, but I do not practise and am unlikely to do so. Thank you for letters 10 and 11.
Your loving daughter
From Annette to Parents (Marked by LJT as rcd 8.6.43) airgraph to Mrs H.P.V. Townend c/o Standard Bank of South Africa Cape Town
171 Buckingham Rd, Bletchley, Bucks.
16 May 1943
Thank you very much for letters 12 and 13. I am sorry that Papa had such trouble with teeth as well as other things. It must be a strain remembering the instructions of the chiropractor as to how to sit, lie and so on, but I suppose it comes natural in time. I have little news but what i said in a letter last week, but I had better say it again, as this will no doubt be there first. The first item is that i went to see Mr. Philps on Monday, he being out of the army again for a short time, by great good luck. He pronounced my eye to be very satisfactory, as I expected, but of course I could not really judge how the grafted skin was going. Apparently it is growing well; this was the tricky point, as ordinary does not take very kindly to living with mucous membrane. The weather, which was so horrid last weekend when I was at home, has turned to summer, so that instead of wearing a jumper, a cardigan and a coat outside I have been lying around sunbathing in as little as possible, and I only wish it could be nothing, but this garden is rather overlooked. Mrs. Evans has just gone out to see the Forces and the Home Guard and the various youth movements parade, but I prefer the sun and drinking quantities of lukewarm tea. Which reminds me that I didn’t hear the church bells ringing this morning, as they were supposed to, but perhaps the wind was the wrong way. This is the third anniversary of the founding of the Home Guard, and it is just about the same sort of weather there was in May 1940. It is extraordinary to think that now we look up and see thirty, fifty, or more bombers going over any day, and of course quantities of other planes on and off, and it never occurs to us that they might be German, and this not only here, where we seldom saw German planes in daylight, but at home near the coast. We are on fire watching duty for a fortnight. If there is a siren at night we have to get up and report. I wish it were all run a bit more efficiently here. The woman in charge of this road will come and say there is a lecture or practice at 7.0 in the evening, coming round at 5.0 or 6.0 on the same day, which means that one is usually doing something else, and she then gets peeved because people don’t turn up. My new suit has come, and was generally approved at the office yesterday. It is the perfect weight for this early summer weather. I am afraid I must take Mother at her word and get Aunt to write the cheque for it, because I have had so much income tax taken off this quarter that 7 gns. would about clear my current account. Actually I hear that local tailors are charging about that now, so I don’t regret having gone to Bond St. Very many thanks for such a pleasing and useful get-up. I hear from Aunt that Mrs. Watson is dead, just when everyone thought she would manage to pull through. Aunt will miss her very much, because she was one of the few really congenial people in the village. I hope the girls will keep on the cottage, although they can only come occasionally. Much love Annette
From Annette (Marked by LJT as rcd 7/7/43)
171 Buckingham Rd
30 May 1943
No letters for some weeks, but an airgraph no. 10 from Mother yesterday, for which many thanks. It is nice to get answers or comments on things written about within immediate memory.
I have just been getting things ready to go away on Tuesday. I haven’t done any training in the way of long walks, as I have been so busy gardening when I have been out of doors, but I don’t think any of our days should be too strenuous. The whole matter has been left in Ann’s hands. We could not get in at the hotel, so that we shall probably stay one night at the Wastdale hostel, and two nights at Honister, from where we can either climb Great Gable, or go down to Buttermere, according to the weather. I have been lent a frame rucksack, which will be a great thing. In a way it is a nuisance that one has to add the slight extra weight of a sheet sleeping bag to one’s pack for the hostels, because they only provide blankets, but I think I have cut down weight sufficiently. I haven’t seen or heard of Ann for about ten days, so I trust she is all prepared to go. We shall be on the same shift tomorrow and can discuss final details then.
I have this week planted tomatoes, a lot of lettuces given me by a neighbour, to whom I gave some artichokes and cucumber seeds, and maize, marrows and cucumbers, of two varieties, ordinary ridge, which I bought in a packet, and four seeds of a Japanese climbing cucumber, given me by Lilah Watson. I got twelve tomato plants, which at present are looking very well. The lettuce I planted out yesterday, and there was a handsome sort of thundery shower early this morning, so they are sitting up quite well. Since Wednesday it has been hot again, after a chill few days over the weekend. I went away from here on Friday and did not get back till Sunday evening, and had taken too thin clothes, and caught a slight chill, which luckily was better by Tuesday. I was away so long, because I was on first aid duty on Friday night, and then went over to Leighton on Saturday, where I spent the night, and came back to work on Sunday, which was the cold day, and if I had known it would be so cold I would have borrowed a coat from Betty. On Saturday Uncle Bous, Betty and I went to Tring and had a delightful walk in Ashridge Park in the morning, came back to the ‘Rose and crown’ for lunch, and then went to the pictures, as it had come over cloudy. They had seen the film “The major and the minor” before, but didn’t seem to mind seeing it again, and the other film we could have seen was a war one, which Uncle Bous didn’t want to see. In the evening Helen Tarver (who was at St. Monica’s) came to dinner, and there was a great deal of silly but entertaining chatter. She works at a convalescent home for officers, and had a lot of amusing stories about her patients.
Since Wednesday we have summer again, and I have done some more sunbathing every afternoon, but I did do the useful of mending vests while so doing. Irene has gone on leave, so that Mrs. Evans will have the house empty for some days next week, which will no doubt be an agreable break. She now has a part time job, serving coffee at lunch time at our office, so that when I work evenings I get my own lunch. It is rather pleasant, being able to do just what I like, not that I can’t do what I like when Mrs. E. is there, but it is different.
Mary Sandison went to the Maternity Home for officer’s wives at Fulmer Chase about a fortnight ago, and her baby was born last Monday, a boy, and everything all well. He arrived only a day after schedule, and has really been a very good baby all along. he has been called Alec, and I suppose will still be called so, because he had to be called Alexander, like all his father’s family, and Alec is a new variation, his father being Sandy. Barbara has left the office, as she has not been too well, although she does not expect her baby till October. AT the moment she is away, staying with cousins, so that Mrs. Roscoe can have a complete holiday before Mary and the baby come back. The parcels for them and the Drakes have not come yet, but thank you very much for sending them. Chatham House, where Christina works, is moving back to London, and she is going to live at home during the summer. Veronica finishes her engineering degree this summer, and is going into some factory as an apprentice. it is a fortunate thing for her that there are now a lot of openings for women engineers, as she has always wanted to be one, but was very much discouraged before the war.
I suppose Romey will about be doing her finals, or are they earlier than in England. Helen Black and I were just thinking that we must mark our third anniversary here in some way. We came within a week of each other at the beginning of July. It seems quite extraordinary. I am glad now I did not leave in 1941. Some people get very fed up. I was talking yesterday to a girl who came about the same time, and she said she has been getting very restless, and thinking she ought to be doing something more active, and that we led a soft life, so I said maybe we did, but in our department at any rate, we could find more than enough work to do the clock round, and she said that she couldn’t work any longer hours, because it leads to such mental exhaustion, so I said ‘Well there you are! It isn’t really so soft if you get thattired, and why not take up gardening?’ All very silly really, but I am sure if she left, she would only be put into another office job. Moreover, she said she met somebody who had been a land girl, and now works here, because she found doing nothing but physical work led to such mental stagnation, and she felt she wasn’t pulling her weight as she might.
With much love
From Annette to Parents (Marked by LJT as Rcd Jo’burg on 13th June, Rcd 21/6/43) airgraph to Mrs H.P.V. Townend c/o Standard Bank of South Africa Cape Town
171 Buchingham Rd; Bletchley Bucks
30th May 1943
Dear Parents, Many thanks for airgraph no 10. I hope that the improvement announced by the chiropractor is genuine and lasting. I had not realised that there were Magills in South Africa, although I suppose you have mentioned it. How curious also to meet a Curry cousin. I had a letter from Lady Blandy, saying would I come round and fetch my things some time, so I wrote back and said that I was not in London, and wouldn’t be coming up, so would she be very kind and send them. A parcel arrived a day or two later with the things, and a day or two later still my letter came back, returned by the Post Office, with ‘Not known at this address’. The address was ‘Palace Mansions, Kensington’, which is a bit vague, but now I am quite stuck, because I have no idea where to write, and Lady Blandy must think me very rude for not acknowledging either her letter or her parcel. Can you give me an address that will find her? The clothes are very nice and will be excellent for next winter. i was getting to need a new tweed skirt, and the twin set is lovely, and will go with a lot of things. Ann and I set out on our expotition on Tuesday. I had been thinking of it as a long way ahead for so long that it comes as quite a surprise. I am now quite itching to be off. Did I tell you about the harvesting schemes, either part time, or whole time for summer leave? I shall certainly do some part time work near here, and I think it might be a good thing to do some for my summer week, as I shall take it late anyway, and the part time work would get me into training, as otherwise I think it would be foolish to plunge into a full time manual work. I am taking the raisin chocolate, and some raisins and dried fruit in my rucksack to supplement the lunch packets, so you may imagine some of your parcels being consumed on the tops of mountains. Annette Webster was here last week. Her sister Nancy works here now, and is a very good sort, but not with Annette’s charm. Nancy is known as ‘Two gun Jane’ in her section, so you may judge that she is a determined character. I have been very busy with small matters, but have done little of note, except for a day out with Uncle Bous and Betty, when we had a lovely walk in Ashridge Park, where the bluebells were not quite over. Some time I must walk right through and out and along to Ivinghoe Beacon, from where there must be a pleasant view. Pam had just come back from the Lakes. She stayed at the Britannia Inn near Elterwater, and although they arrived up there to find snow, they had lovely weather, the last few days almost too hot. Roses have been out everywhere for about ten days, also lupins, and everything has turned into summer, almost too quickly. One feels there will be a gap in the seasons, everything seems to come so fast on the heels of the last lot. I hear from Aunt that Chelmsford had a badish raid one night. Doris, too, says they have had unquiet nights again. She has had flu’, I am sorry to hear, but is now better. Your loving daughter. Annette
From Annette (Marked by LJT as rcd at “Elangem” Pretoria 10/8/43)
171 Buckingham Rd
13th June 1943
We had a wonderful holiday. It is amazing how much enjoyment can be packed into a week, when it is all one has. We were on the whole lucky with the weather, because we did not have too much rain, although not much sun, and it happened that where we had planned to stay low, it was cloudy, and where we had planned to go up high, we had fine views. Also we did not find carrying packs any great burden, and concluded that we had taken just the right equipment. Mother can picture me looking the same as when we were in Wales, with suede jacket, plus fours, and the same stockings and boots. One of the Aertex shirts, which were new in 1937, split down the side on this trip, and I was surprised to realise how old they are. Ann wears her ski-suit, and ski-boots with nails put in. We took skirts, to wear in the evening, and on the train, and if it were very warm, which it was not ever. Bathing dresses were the only unnecessary bit of our load, but they would have been needed if it were hot. We continually came to lovely pools in streams and said “That would be perfect for a bathe if we wanted to bathe”.
I will write the account of our travels under days, which is perhaps a bit bald, but less confusing. I presume the dear parents know the Lake District to some extent, and for the rest I hope that names and places will not be too boring.
Tuesday. June 1st. We arrived at Penrith about 6.0, and got a bus to Keswick, and then by good luck, a taxi with two other people out to Rosthwaite in Borrowdale, from where we had only about a mile to walk to Longthwaite Youth Hostel. We got there about 8.15, and were too late for dinner, which we had not expected to be kept, but had hoped might be. Many of the wardens are kind, and do keep dinner for late-comers, against the regulations, but the one at Longthwaite was an earnest young man, who looked worried, as if he didn’t think the butter ration would last the week, or that somebody would flout his authority. When came back through Borrowdale at the end of the week, full of health and spirits, I felt like turning off at Longthwaite, and saying “Cheer up, life’s not as bad as all that”. Perhaps the highest rainfall in England is too much for him. Altogether I was not too happy that evening. The hot water had had to be turned off, and it rained, and there was a jolly crowd singing in the common room. They were mostly cyclists, and we were most interested to see that the general costume for the girls was satin blouses, in pastel shades. Also they all slept in their woollen vests. No doubt they thought us uncouth in costume and immodest in our habits.
Wednesday. It was raining when we started, but our spirits were high. We intended to go by the shortest route, over Greenup, and down Far Easedale to Grasmere. However, as we found later, Greenup is a notable place for losing one’s way, being a lot of green cups and lumps, and we had not really adjusted our minds to the landscape and the inch-to-the-mile map, in the way one does after a little practise, and we went too far to the South, and arrived in Langdale, a most agreable place on what was now a sunny afternoon. We walked along the road for a bit, and then took a pleasing path through the bracken over Silver How, and enjoyed the prospect of Elterwater, Windermere, and then Grasmere and Rydal. The hostel at Grasmere is one of the oldest, an old farm house, with very scanty washing accomodation and rather small windows for the number of people in the bedrooms where one sleeps in two tiered buns. The dining-room is a whitewashed barn, very nice, and we had a great fire in the common room, where it was pleasant to sit, as the rain had started again. Ann and I were annoyed that there was one man who would start the inevitable singing, when everyone of quite a nice crowd was busy chatting. I suppose that to some the day is not complete without the raucous shouting of ‘Tipperary’ ‘Pack up your troubles’ and so on. it can be very nice, but to make it automatic is to spoil the whole spirit of the thing. We continued to chat to a very nice Canadian lad from Toronto, who was in the Tanks, and spent his leave in cycling to various beauty spots in England. he had got his warrant to Liverpool, and had come on his bicycle in two long stages to Grasmere, and wanted advice on what to see in two days, and also on what would be good things to do on leave in the future. He was such a contrast to a group of Canadians we met in the train, whose one idea of conversation was to make wisecracks, and whose one idea of a good time was to spend as much as possible in pubs. Most of the cyclists at Grasmere were of sterner stuff than at Longthwaite; no more satin blouses. We were much struck on the whole trip by the general good manners and behaviour of the young boys of fifteen to eighteen, who form the larger number of male visitors to the hostels at present.
Thursday. We made what can only be described as a long cut to Elterwater hostel, which is only about four miles by road from Grasmere. We went up by a popular path to Easedale Tarn, which is rather like the Welsh mountain lakes for bleakness, and we then scrambled on up by a stream to what was perhaps the Sergeant Man, where we had lunch with a fair prospect of lakes and mountains to the east. The bag of dried fruits from South Africa was really excellent for finishing off lunch. The hostel packed lunch is mostly adequate, four sandwiches and a small piece of cake. From Grasmere we only had three small dry sandwiches, although supper and breakfast were good and ample. After lunch we went up to High Raise, with one passing shower before a lovely afternoon, with clouds making beautiful patterns on the landscape, and then walked over to High White Stones, across a flat piece we thought would be horribly boggy, but it wasn’t bad. Altogether we had a wonderful clear view all round, and it gave me some more idea of the shape of the hills than I had had. It showed how the valleys run off in the centre as in a wheel, and we were in the middle of all the principal peaks, which showed up fine and clear. We continued to have good views all the way down the long ridge to Elterwater, meandering about over rocks and hummocks of grass, and getting a lot of sun, until we dropped down at Chapel Stile in Langdale and had a short walk through a wood by a fine rushing river to Elterwater itself. The hostel there is new, with a most pleasant woman for warden. We had hot baths, which were wonderful, and the best supper yet. At every place supper was three courses, soup, meat, stew, or such with two veg., and pudding. Breakfast was porridge, some breakfast dish and bread and jam. Mostly there was enough butter. I did not finish all the butter ration I took with me, and it was the same with the sugar. There was always plenty for the porridge, and neither of us took it in tea. We finished the day by a stroll to the other of the lake, which is more like a lake in a park than anything, and saw the sun go down beyond the Langdale Pikes, with wierd and stormy clouds, and yet further round the horizon there was blue sky and little white clouds above a pastoral landscape of buttercup meadows and low wooded hills, and then we looked right round the circle and there was a rainbow making the whole scene look like Millet’s ‘Spring’.
Friday. We had a sort of marching day, and were the whole time on a pony track, not going very high. I am sorry we did not go up Pike o’Bliscoe on our way, but we did not really see until we had passed below it that it would not have made a great addition to the day’s distance. We went up Little Langdale, which is soft and pleasant country, and got to Wrynose Pass by about 11.30. Here you leave the smiling valley behind and in one moment look over on the other side into a bleak valley, with only bare mountain sides sweeping down, and the river and the road, which winds away like a white ribbon to the top of Hard Knott Pass, about four miles away. We sat and ate chocolate at the top of Wrynose, and watched some cyclists pushing their bikes up the hill. On our way down we passed a girl wearing a thing flowered cotton shirt and shorts. It wasn’t that hot, and grew rapidly colder all day, but perhaps she had something warmer in her pack. We had a late lunch at the top of Hard Knott pass, with a view down the Duddon valley, and of course back up Wrynose Bottom, whence we had come. About 3.0 we descended into Eskdale. it started to rain, and although we had the fine rolling view over towards the sea, the high hills were covered with cloud by the time we would have seen them. On the way down we had perhaps the most notable incident of the day, in passing a pair of Beautiful Legs. There was a couple with cycles (this pony track, unlike many, has obviously been made up into a fair path not so long ago), and the girl was dressed in a cycling cape, with either a bathing dress or the shortest of shorts underneath, and her bare legs up to the thigh we were really lovely. Ann and I both found that we had waited until we were just out of earshot to comment on them, at the same moment. The rain was coming down hard by the time we had reached the valley, so we called at a farm for tea. A very jolly woman opened the door and in response to our timid enquiries said that she didn’t really do teas, but she would see, and the produced quantities of tea and cake and bread and jam. This passed the time pleasantly until we could leave for the hostel. They are not open till 5.0. We paddled along for about a mile, and then reached the best hostel of the whole lot we saw. it must be even newer than Elterwater, with a grea dining-room with French windows opening onto the valley, large airy bedrooms, six wash basins and two shower baths for each sex, which is luxury for 24, when Grasmere had two miserable basins for 30. Here also we had baths, and a very pleasant evening. There were only eight altogether. Apparently the Western hostels get empty towards the weekend, because most people make for home by Saturday, as they start their holiday on Monday still.
Saturday. it was still pouring with rain, and we were glad we had only planned to go to Wastdale over Burn Moor. We were well set up by potato cakes for breakfast. The warden, another nice, unworried sort of body, came in in the middle and said would we like another round of potato cakes, which were received with cheers, and we set off in very good heart. Burn Moor was amazingly bleak and dreary, with low clouds just sweeping over. We passed by Burn Moor Tarn, which has a shooting lodge beside it, which looked unutterably dismal and lonely. The rain cleared off, however, just as we got over to look down into Wasdale, and although the clouds hung low still over all the heights, there were patches of sun at times. We had lunch when we had a good view of the lake and the valley, another remarkable contrast to what had gone before. Our walk down the valley to the Nether Wasdale Y.H. was delightful. The young bracken, mixed with fine purple foxgloves, covered the short of the lake, and at times we went through little fir woods and looked at the water and the screes running straight down into it on the further side. The Screes are astonishing to see. We felt as if the seven maids with seven mops were badly needed to clear up the mess. On this day also we had tea, very kindly given by a harassed housewife at a somewhat scruffy farm, where we only turned in in spec. it was very stuffy, and I felt almost as if all the benefit were lost of the delicious breeze we had had in our faces all the way along. But the tea was refreshing, and we had then only about two miles to the hostel, another farm, where we were the only two staying, so we had lots of hot water, and bacon and eggs for breakfast. I forget where we first saw the sea. it could anyway be seen from Windsor Farm, which stands at about 700 feet, 400 feet up from Guards, which we visited, being full of interest in the place where the Pringles are going to build their new house. I had thought that there was an old house there, habitable, not just a ruin, not having realised that the family stays round about when working on the drive or the garden. it is a lovely place, and would be grand for children, with a crag in the garden one could climb up, and a fine rushing stream, with pools suitable for bathing. On either side of the stream by the gate were clumps of rhododendrons and foxgloves, in full flower. i forgot to say that the rhododendrons were lovely everywhere, when one got to habitation. We met a farmer near Guards who knows the Pringle family. He seemed tolerant of the house-buidling enterprise, but full of malice in general about tourists, saying “It’s all right now, but how would you like to live her all the time. you couldn’t stand it” So we said we were sure we could, with a little practice, although it was no hard extremely hard and difficult at times. Another thing of great satisfaction to him was that the ordnance survey map ends just at the end of Wastwater, so that people coming to the hostel run off the map about a mile too soon, and the sight of their discomfiture seemed to give him much pleasure. We had a Bartholomew map, which goes right to the sea, so he didn’t get this particular enjoyment out of us.
Sunday. It was rather a disappointing walk back up the valley, because the clouds hung low over the hills, after seeming to rise a bit the evening before, and I did not get the wonderful view there is up to the head of Wasdale in fine weather. We bore to the left round Kirk Fell and over Black Sail Pass, everything being covered in mist. We found a sheltered spot just over the pass, looking into the valley of the Liza, and had lunch. The weather cleared progressively during the afternoon, but we got no view of Gable and the higher hills, which must have been quite clear by 9.0 in the evening, because of course we were well over. We had a fine finish to our walk over to Honister with a clear view right down Ennerdale and also Buttermere and Crummock, which we looked at for quite a time. It was just as well we had not been able to get in at the Wasdale Head hotel, for Sunday would have been our day there, and we should have had no pleasure in climbing among the clouds. We got to the Honister hostel about 6.0, expecting to find great lack of comfort, but it was very good. it is an old quarrymen’s hut. The quarry has stopped working, although neat piles of green slates are still everywhere. The company has given the hut for a hostel. One pleasant thing is that the cabins only take one bunk each, so we had our own room although actually here there were only eight the first night, we two the only girls, and fourteen the second. The place is roughish, but there is an Aga stove for cooking, a boiler for hot water, which was plentiful, and a stove in the middle of the cement floored common room, which made it quite sufficiently comfortable. This is one of the hostels which are only open in summer. The warden was a youth of about twenty five or so, most efficient and a good cook, taking the cares of the hostel in his stride, and sitting down to eat with the hostellers, without any of the gloom of the equally young man at Longthwaite. The Honister one had a gramophone and some nice records, which was a great surprise. Also he had a black cat and kitten, most entertaining, but which unfortunately brought on Ann’s asthma a bit. I don’t know what these young men are, possibly conscientious objectors. This one had a frightful scar on his face, so he may have been unfit for service in some way. We did not get on to asking such personal questions, as it might be a bit awkward. Both nights at Honister we had very nice company, mostly walkers of the more energetic sort. There was one amusing north country lad from Bootle, who had tried to bring his bicycle over Black Sail pass, but had given up at the boulders in the path, and I don’t wonder, because although it is marked as ‘pony track’, I should think it would be quite a proposition for a pony in places. There were two boys of sixteen or seventeen, Scouts, and very self-reliant, choosing quite difficult ways up the nountains. There was an elderly couple with their daughter, doing easy days of cycling round Borrowdale, and much enjoying life. It is curious to compare the different types of people met with at the different hostels. After Elterwater we got right away from the cycling parties, and only met isolated ones like these. We had a perfect golden evening this first night at Honister, and were out up the road to the quarry, looking down on Buttermere, and watching the hill beyond it go gradually purple once the glitter of the sun was off the water. Over Helvellyn, seen on the other side of the pass where the hostel stands there were still the most fascinating rolling clouds. it was so lovely I could hardly bear to come in, and in fact did not until about 11.0. 10.30 is meant to be ‘Lights out’, but there were no lights out, and this warden didn’t bother much with times. I suppose in the big hostels, with crowds of people, they have to be much more strict, but in these remote ones they don’t bother much.
Monday. It was still clear in the morning, but we really should have left about 5.0 while the sun was out, because the sky was clouding over in a peculiar way all the time we were going up Gable. This was to be our great enterprise, on our day when we left our packs behind, but as we started from 1190 feet up, and the path was easy and not over steep anywhere we found ourselves at the summit by soon after 11.0, being the first up of the crowds (comparatively speaking) that arrived later. We spent about two hours on top, going all round and looking at every view. There was a weird haze for about an hour, which filled all the valleys and made the mountains stand out strangely as in a Chinese picture. The Helvellyn range seemed to stand up enormously high, suspended in space. Of course we got not vista to the Isle of Man or such, but all the hills were visible. We swung our feet over a precipice above Wastwater, and I pictured what it would have been like to see this view the other way on. The wind chilled the hands, but under the lee of a rock we were warm for lunch, and by the time we had finished, the haze had vanished, and everything stood out clear. We could see, not the sea, for it was the same colour as the sky, but the coast line away beyond Wastwater, and all the rocks on the Scafell range were standing out. By the time we got back onto Green Gable on our way down it began to spit with rain. As it was still so early in the afternoon we decided to go down and see Buttermere, and dropped straight down by a stream into Warnscale Bottom, leaping and slithering from one lump of heather to another, as we couldn’t follow the path at all. It was rather like the side of Tryfan. At the bottom we looked up, and were amazed to see the perpendicular route we had followed, but without packs to throw one forward it was easy. By now the rain was going across in great veils, and Buttermere, with a group of Scotch firs in front of it, and the hills sweeping up on both sides, seen in various tones of grey behind the rain, looked like a Japanese print. We tried the first house we came to for tea, and struck lucky, for we had boiled eggs, scones, rum butter, and two kinds of home made bread, not to speak of ordinary butter. Ann wrote ‘Teas’ against this house on the map, as it was so notable. The rain was sheeting down as we climbed back up the road to Honister, under the most horrid beetling crags. The road is new, and has a good surface, but is of course very steep in parts. There is at the top a notice saying ‘Cyclists are advised to walk’, so we asked the warden if he walked. ‘Oh no’, he said, he was used to it, and knew how to take the bends. He then described all the gruesome accidents that have happened since the road was built, rather like the Williams describing all the mountain accidents in Wales.
Tuesday. It was a dull morning, but we did not care, as we only had to to Keswick. Actually Ann decided to go quickly to Carlisle to see Rachel, who is at school there, and had concussion, but I booked at Keswick hostel for the night. Ann got the bus at Rosthwaite, and I went up in rain to Watendlath, where I was so amused at the farm advertising itself as the home of Judith Paris that i had some tea there, eating lunch out of the rain. I then went down the path by the very pleasing stream, turned off through the woods above Lodore, and arrived by luck on Shepherd’s Crag, from whence I had a lovely view up Borrowdale and right over Derwentwater to Bassenthwaite Lake and Skiddaw. The day was clearing and I was dripping hot by the time I had charged down through the woods to the landing stage to catch a launch, which I missed. I spent the hour till the next one looking at the Falls, which were no great shakes. I felt wild and strange among the respectable hotel guests and excursionists from Keswick. The trip to Keswick in a launch was lovely, a great improvement on the tramp along the road I thought I should have. In Keswick I bought postcards, and ran into a man who was at the Eskdale hostel, so we had tea together, at a table with an elderly and ardent ‘Fell walker’, who was full of interesting chat about the mountains. I ended up a very successful day (of which I had had not great hopes) by meeting two kindred spirits at supper, a brother and sister, the brother a climber of Welsh mountains, having been at Oxford, and now in the army, and the sister about to go up to L.M.H. We walked after supper a bit up the hill behind Keswick, and studied the panorama with map and compass. It was again a heavenly blue and golden evening, and by the time we had finished arguing about every peak in sight, the brother produced a little recorder from his pocket and played Tyrolese and other tunes until we really had to go in. The warden here was also easy-going, and we felt hungry, so we bought half a loaf off him, and ate bread and Bovril till well after 11.0. The Keswick hostel is an old hotel, standing on the river Greta, with a park beyond, and a view of Skiddaw, much nicer than I had expected. I had to get up early for the 7..42 train, but my head was so full of everything that I did not sleep for ages. However, I was awake in time, and had the man from Eskdale, who actually came from Flint, as a travelling companion as far as Crewe. in the first stage of the journey we were a tough crowd who had been practising in Jeeps all round the Lakes, ending up with an ascent of Skiddaw. They were very interesting, and in the next bit of the journey from Penrith we were with a lot of R.A.F. ground crew lads, going to Blackpool, all of whom were interesting to talk to, and we had great arguments about the merits of hills against flat country. They were kind and gave up biscuits and drinks from the mugs of tea they got free at various stations. There was no change between Penrith and Bletchley, which was good in a way, but meant that I had no chance of a drink, and the free tea is of course for the forces, so a mouthful from somebody’s mug was most welcome.
I hope I haven’t been too boring. It is difficult to know what to pick out, but anyhow it was a grand holiday. The fare was the most expensive item. The hostels cost a shilling a night, and the three meals, supper, breakfast, and packed lunch, come to three shillings, and of course one spends little besides.
With much love from Annette.
From Annette to Parents (Marked by LJT as Rcd Jo’burg on 7/7 and by us 14/7/43) airgraph to Mrs H.P.V. Townend c/o Standard Bank of South Africa Cape Town
171 Buckingham Rd; Bletchley; Bucks.
22nd June 1943
Dear Parents, Many thanks for an airgraph from Papa, written while Mother was suffering from a cold which I trust is by now forgotten, and for three lots of letters, which I have left upstairs and don’t know the numbers, but the last was of the first week in May. I have sent the long description of our holiday in the Lake district to aunt, who has no doubt sent it on by now. It is already a fortnight since we got back, and the feeling of flatness at having to come has gone. We had just got to the stage when we felt we could walk any number of miles, and had just got our feet and backs properly in training, and then had to come away, feeling fit to go up Sca Fell and Sca Fell Pike, and altogether to do more ambitious walks. The weather has been bad since I got back, and so I have still not got all my allotment into shape, but the evenings it was fine I have been out gardening till 11.0, when it is still quite light. While I was away the weeds seem to have grown several feet, but most of the vegetables have done the same. There is nothing very urgent to do now, as I have got my leeks planted out. Yesterday I went over to Wicken to see Mokes, Uncle Len, Aunt Margaret and Yvonne, who is going back to hospital in about a fortnight, and seems to be quite restored to health, after a rotten time. Uncle Len went into Buckingham to see a rheumatism specialist, who told him that he has osteoarthritis, which appears to be a form of rheumatism for which not much can be done, so naturally he was rather depressed. Mokes was practically confined to the house, because she had no shoes to put on, as they are all being mended or hurt her. I should like to find out some good shoe place in Northampton where they would either fit her or make her a decent pair of shoes. I bet she buys them at Marks and Spencers, as she does everything, so to speak, and is then surprised her clothes wear out, and she has not coupons left to buy more. I suppose it is no good talking, however. It was a wonderful fine day yesterday, and we sat in the sun all the afternoon, a good deal of the time half way down a haystack, that is, Yvonne and I did, having slid from the top onto a shelf, where it was so comfortable we stayed. Curiously enough, I don’t remember having done this since a picnic at Witham when were at Rosslyn House, and Uncle Toby took us in his car. I got very sunburnt, so it is perhaps just as well I am going to the pictures this afternoon, because it is a hot day again, just perfect with a few little white clouds about. Tomorrow I must garden again, and take some lettuce plants I promised to Margaret McClelland’s landlady, who is quite a gardening crony of mine. We exchange plants, and look at each other’s labours. Also she has said that I may use her machine any time I like, which will be an excellent thing. A very profitable acquaintance to spring out of the gift of a few artichokes from me. I hope the trip up country is having a good effect on health. Much love from Annette
From Annette (Marked by LJT as Rcd 39/43 at Mountain Inn)
171 Buckingham Rd
8th July 1943
Many thanks to everybody for letters. I just got Romey’s saying she has her degree, which she forgot to post. We all want to know if in Canada you graduate with lovely frilly frocks and great bunches of roses, as they do in America, if one is to believe the films. Romey, like everyone else who only sees from the papers what goes on here, seems to have the idea still that we are half-starved and dressed in rags. I assure her again that there is no need to have a conscience about us enduring hardships while you life on the fat of the land, because we are certainly not aware of it. It is of course strange, that as soon as anything disappears, like oranges, one does not miss it, and fruit is the only thing that I have ever even thought of missing, so that it is certainly a treat to go home just now, and wallow in fruit again; as regards anything else, it becomes a kind of grace before meat to say “Think of the starving British people!” when we sit down to a groaning board. An American said in a disappointed way to May Mac “You all look so much better than we expected.”, so she said with immediate tact “Well, you have helped us a lot” in case he was going to feel defrauded. She came to tea on Sunday, when I was at home, and was most entertaining about the American hospital in Joan Kielberg’s riding school, where she now works. Some time ago she refused to come to Aunt’s first aid classes, because she opened the book at ‘Nature of the vomit’ and was turned. She now spends her time taking down notes on X-rays, and samples of urine, and autopsies, and is thrilled with it all, insisting on telling us grisly details. She also told us how the doctors make ice cream in the lab, and I must say I wouldn’t mind having a little ice-cream again. It was stopped last winter, and hasn’t been started again this year.
Saturday was my third anniversary here, as also the third anniversary of Romey and John’s departure for Canada. It seems strange. I am very glad I didn’t leave eighteen months ago. Christina says that nearly all our contemporaries she meets, working in various ministries in London, are very bored, all except people in the Treasury, which seems surprising. Of course, a lot of people get bored with us, and clear out, but once you land up somewhere you like, you usually go on liking it. Pam and Betty also, in their quite different departments, say they remain happy. I went over for the night last week, and had dinner with them. We had a very silly evening, after listening to Churchill’s speech. Uncle Bous had heard the following ditty on the wireless;
Fuzzy-wuzzy was a bear,
Fuzzy-wuzzy lost his hair,
Fuzzy-wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy, wus ‘e?
So we spent a lot of time reciting this in every possible manner, and screaming with laughter every time, and then Sidney, Betty’s old bear, had to be fetched and told the poem, which I said was very tactless, because he has got very little hair left himself. I next remembered another verse that someone wrote up in one of the office lavatories recently
I wish I were a Teddy Bear
With hair upon my tummy.
I’d get into the honey-pot
And make my tummy gummy.
which had struck me as somehow being rather obscene at the time, but it fitted in well with the other. We then thought that it would be a good idea to keep a visitors’ book in the lavatory, because usually one forgets about it until the visitors have left. I am afraid the conversation at Uncle Bous’s usually seems to get down to this sort of level. I borrowed the next two books in the Barchester series of Trollope, which I find very pleasant reading, especially as I don’t mind leaving them at any time, and don’t get led astray into sitting up late to finish them.
I got tickets on Monday for the Sadler’s Wells production of ‘Figaro’ for Saturday week. Pam and Betty are coming up, Betty anyhow for the whole day, Pam possibly just before the show.
I have just written in my airgraph about the picnic lunches in front of the National Gallery. Anyone in uniform can get in, and anyone with some sort of a pass to show that they are doing war work. It is run by the W.V.S. and the food is excellent. Christina says that in the fortnight since they came to London she has met about one Oxford acquaintance per day. So many of them are working in Ministries round about. The day I was there I saw three girls whom I knew. I must go some other time and have lunch with Esther, who was busy shopping that day. Christina says that Esther has decided she is on the shelf, and that she said with reference to a book about the N.U.S. tours in Persia before the war “We shall all be too old for that sort of thing after the war. After twenty-five a woman really ought not to do such energetic things.” This quite seriously. So Christina said what rubbish, and that her mother was determined to go round the world after the war, and Esther said “O well, of course, your mother –“ So I said she should just see mine. It is odd that Esther should go on like this, with her Bolshevist views. I suppose it is Jewish tradition or something of the sort coming out; I should like to pick her up and shake her for being so silly, or else take her walking somewhere to show her she is not yet so old and fat as she thinks.
I seem to have written a lot of nonsense, with no proper news, but there is none.
With much love
From Annette to Parents (Marked by LJT as Rcd 27/7/43) airgraph to Mrs H.P.V. Townend c/o Standard Bank of South Africa Cape Town
171 Buckingham Rd; Bletchley
8th July 1943
Dear Parents, It is a disgracefully long time since I wrote. I should find time, but working nine and sometimes ten hours a day I just sit about and waste the rest of the time, instead of getting on with profitable things. Various things have happened – I have had a summons for riding without a rear light, I have been home for the weekend, taking Christina, and Sheila has invited me to go to Scotland with her again for a week in August. The affair of the summons was very silly. I couldn’t get the light to work, so finally at about quarter past twelve, I left, as all the cars had gone, and of course there were policemen standing at the bottom of the hill. They were very matey, and we took the light to pieces, and when put together again it went on quite all right, so I am sure I should not have been had up if complaints had not been lodged by our own drivers about cyclists riding without rear lights, so that the police were very full of glee at catching numbers of us coming back from work. It was altogether a very stupid business as my light has worked perfectly well ever since. The weekend at home was very nice, though short. I did not leave till after lunch on Saturday, as Christina could not get away till 4.0, and I thought I had better go with her, as it is a bit complicated to explain about buses and all. We got the 4.18, and were home just after 6.0, and had a most delightful idle time that evening and on Sunday. We ate raspberries, and picked gooseberries and loganberries, of which I brought a great box back to Mrs. Evans, with some blackcurrants that Aunt had no particular use for, all of which have made lovely jam and fruit pies. The roses at home had almost finished their first flowering, being a bit earlier than they are here, and it has been an early year anyway, but I brought some back too, and carnations, and mauve daisies whose name I forget. We had great fun playing our recorders, with Aunt playing the piano, all of us given to strange lapses at times, but we enjoyed ourselves very much, and Uncle was mostly out in the field anyway. Christina went up early on Monday morning, and I followed a bit later, and met her for lunch at the National Gallery war worker’s canteen, where we got a very good lunch, and sat outside on the grass to eat it. It was most amusing watching the passers by, and more amusing still to reflect on the strange sight of dozens of picknickers in front of the Gallery, where of course the iron railings have been taken away, as in all the squares in London. I think it is in most cases a great improvement. I had been considering going away again in September, and considering going harvesting, but had made no definite plans, and Sheila rang up last night, and said would I like to come to Scotland on August 9th, which fits in quite well with other people’s leave, so I think I will. It will be lovely to go to the sea again, and Sheila’s sister will not be at home, so I shall be company for her, altogether a very satisfactory arrangement. Much love Annette
From Annette to Parents (Marked by LJT as Rcd 14/9/43 Ansd 15/9/) airgraph to Mrs H.P.V. Townend c/o Standard Bank of South Africa Cape Town
Box 111, Bletchley, Bucks
7th August 1943
Dear parents, It is shameful of me to go on, letting day after day go past without writing even an airgraph, let alone a proper letter, when I know how you must look out for letters, when at this end, after about a fortnight without hearing, I go along to look in the pigeonholes about six times a day to see if any letters have come. By the way, I think my letter saying that the London box address is no longer to be used must have gone astray. The above or the billet address is the one to be used now. I fall into a lethargy when I get in, which is often not till after 7.0, and do nothing but eat and read some quite useless book, and then it is time to go to bed. last week we had real summer, when it was too lovely to do anything but eat the lotus except when one had to work, and this week it has been cold, grey and wintry, and I have felt queer inside and low in spirits, but I have been a lot cheered by finding out that a number of other people have felt the same and much worse inside. Also I am going to Scotland tomorrow with Sheila, to which I am now looking forward very much, after a period of indifference. I hope the weather is better there than here at the moment, although anyway it will be a great pleasure to see the sea and the rocky coast. i am taking my new skirt and twin set, and to provide for the other extreme, hopefully, the navy shorts and striped Joseph’s bosom which Aunt handed over to me. The only plan we have made so far is to get up early and pick mushrooms, which are said to be plentiful, but I hope we shall be able to take out sandwiches and so some good walks, even if there is no weather for lazing on the beach. Did I tell you about the day in London I had with Pam and Betty, when we both went to Studio One to see a French film, which was good enough, but not of the best, to my mind, and to the opera, to see ‘Figaro’, which was quite enchanting. I haven’t set eyes on any of the Bous family since, as I have now changed onto the opposite shift from Betty, because I now have to be on the opposite shift from Pat Loach. There are now no really kindred spirits on the shift I am on. There is nobody who can be as silly as she and Nancy Bird, so refreshingly silly. There is one girl who said, when I remarked how much I liked ‘Love for Love’, said she thought it was both vulgar and pointless, and didn’t mean anything. There was no more to say, because of course it has no point, if you reduce it to the absolute like that, but I should never have thought of applying absolute standards to a Restoration comedy. Since I went out with Pam and Betty I have done little. I went over to Bedford twice to see Helen in hospital. She has had her abscess drained and will have to go back later to have the appendix out. Irene and I have had people in to coffee once or twice, and been out for the same purpose, but apart from these mild diversions, I have, as I say, sunk into a lethargy. My tomatoes are doing fairly well, but otherwise the garden is neglected, it has been too dry to do anything. Much love Annette
From Annette to Parents (Marked by LJT as Rcd 17/9/43 Ansd 18/9/.) Airgraph to Mrs. H.P.V. Townend c/o Standard Bank of SA. Cape Town South Africa
Box 111, Bletchley, Bucks
23rd August 1943
Dear Parents, Thank you very much for another fat bunch of letters, which I have gone and left at the office, and so don’t know the numbers, but they included the one describing the trip to the National Park. It was also nice to get the picture of the rondavels, which must indeed be a rather inconvenient way of building if the weather is wet, but otherwise very pleasing. I hope to send you a few snaps soon, including one in colour which Mr. Legat very kindly took, of me dressed in the heather coloured outfit sitting among the heather. He had one reel of colour film, getting about fifty snaps on it, so it will be about an inch square. Sheila also took quite a number of snaps on the beach, so I hope to get a few prints of those. It was a very nice holiday, and it was lovely being by the sea. The weather was mixed, we had some lovely days, some medium dull, and one day of pouring rain, and high wind, which was worth it, because the waves were dashing up the rocks in a magnificent way. We bathed five times, and only did not bathe the other day, because we went for a long walk inland, and up the Bin of Cullen, from which we hoped to see the Orkneys, as one could do easily on a clear day. On our last evening there was a wonderful sunset, with red rays shooting up behind the purplish-black coastline of Caithness on the opposite side of the Moray Firth, and we made out from the contours of the hills that we see pretty well to John o’Groats, just standing on the moor above Cullen. This pleased me a lot, although I don’t quite know why it should. The day before the rain we happened to walk by the harbour and see some obvious visitors getting out of a fishing boat, so we made an agreement with the old man to go out that evening. We only caught one mackerel, but the experts were only getting three and four so we did not mind, and it was anyway great fun to be out in a boat again. it was a good bit smaller than the one we went in at St. Jacut, but the same style of thing. This was really the most exciting thing we did. other days the time was well occupied with walking and swimming, and in scouring the fields above the cliff for mushrooms, of which we had three enormous feeds, calculating that in all we must have had about three or four poinds worth, at the current price of 5 or 6/- a pound. I must add that there were six to eat them. I enjoyed the journey down. We had on the way up missed the Inverness train, and had gone by the somewhat longer route to Glasgow and across to Aberdeen, but we came back through Inverness, and had the fine trip through the Cairngorms to Perth, in daylight. Since I got back I have started to reread John Buchan’s ‘Life of Montrose’, while the Scottish landscape was still well in mind, and we had seen a considerable amount of it in our circuit. Yesterday I was at Leighton and saw Pam and Aunt Cecil, and arranged to come over on Saturday to walk in Ashridge Park with the girls, and perhaps go and see ‘Colonel Blimp’ at Berkhampstead in the afternoon. I plan to go home for two days on September 4th. Much love Annette
From Annette (Marked by LJT as Rcd 18/11/43)
25 Aug 1943
To my shame, I cannot remember what was the number of my last letter, and as I have already gone and put the same number twice running by not having noted it down, I put none, and will start again from September. By the way, there must have been at least one letter that did not get to Canada, because Mother acknowledged the ones Romey did not get. Anyhow, it is so long ago now, it matters little.
It is already a week since I got back from my summer leave, which already seems unreal, and already Pam and Betty and I are planning to spend our autumn week in the Peak district, hoping that the weather will still be reasonable in the second week of October. We have been recommended the “Nag’s Head” in Castleton as a good place to stay, with lovely walks, so I expect we shall try that, not knowing any other places.
Returning to this last week, I had a very pleasant time, not so delightful as in the Lakes, of course, but perhaps in a way that is a good thing, as not being so unsettling. In its own way, the Banffshire countryside is very pleasant, with funny little isolated hills, and pleasant wooded bits, and then others of moorland. There is one very nice stretch of heather just above Cullen, with a pretty little loch, or tarn, set amongst pine trees. We had the choice of two beaches to bathe, Cullen beach itself, where there are grassy dunes just above the sand, and we had fine sunbathing there one day, except that at least three dogs would come and bark to be played with. I told them firmly that I would not play unless they brought back the sticks thrown for them, but it had no effect. The other beach was reached by a rocky path at the foot of cliffs, a walk of about half an hour, or across the moor, and equally pleasing alternative in its way. Altogether we bathed five times, and found the water not too cold, and it was lovely to feel big waves smacking in, after only occasional swims in the rather weedy gravel pits here. A fisherman in the train said that the sea is unusually warm up north this year, in proof of which he said he went in in June, when he generally doesn’t at all, being used to woollen underwear, unlike us modern young ladies.
Sheila, her sister Joan and I spent some considerable time on the second beach looking for cowrie shells, and I picked up quite a lot of others, to identify if possible in the little “British shells”, recently out in the King Penguins, whose chief point is, of course, not science, but the pretty pictures. We also spent a lot of time looking for mushrooms on the cliff tops, and finding plenty in a most unlikely thistly field, so that we had three vast feeds of them. Another change in diet was the fish, of which I had more than I have had in years, for we had herring and salmon and haddock and kippers and the mackerel we caught ourselves.
It was a lovely evening when we went out fishing. We fell in with an old man who no longer fishes seriously and was quite prepared to take visitors out for an hour or so, so the three of us went. The boat bobbed up and down, and both Sheila and Joan felt queasy, but I did not in the least, which I was quite interested to discover. However, spirits were not damped, and we had a triumphal return to harbour, with Joan steering the boat neatly in, and our one mackerel proudly shown to Mr. Legat who had come down to jeer, or so his daughters said.
It was lucky we went out in the boat the day we did, for the next day the rain came down, and the wind got up, and the sea was dashing up on the rocks, and even the day after no boats put out, because the sea was still so high. At high tide the spray was pouring down over the front, or the sea wall, or whatever it is called in a small place, and small children were having a grand time running away from the waves, quite successfully, as none of them seemed to be getting wet. That afternoon Sheila and I walked up the Bin of Cullen, but the view to the west, which is the best one, was rather obscured by haze, not as good as when we were there before, and saw showers moving about the landscape and all the drifters putting out to sea. Some of these we saw, and also some ships coming in with barrage balloons above them. it was an odd effect to be in a dip in the fields, out of sight of the sea, and suddenly to see a silver balloon floating along above the skyline.
I told you in my airgraph about the photos. I hope to be able to get copies of the ordinary snaps to send Romey too, but of course the colour one will be the film itself. It will probably be ages before they come, anyhow, as any shops take so long about developing them.
On our way north we missed the Inverness train from London, and so had to take the later one to Glasgow, where we had about an hour before going on to Aberdeen. We had an excellent breakfast at a teashop, but Glasgow, from this slight impression, struck me as the dreariest place, nothing but long, straight, black streets. I suppose there are nicer parts, but we were in the shopping centre. I was sorry we had not time at Aberdeen to go out of the station, or to see Mrs. Butchart, whom I should like to have visited again. On the way back we came through Inverness, and it was lovely to see the real mountains again, even if only from the train. At Inverness we had time to walk around and go up to the castle, and have an enormous tea, with about six different sorts of scones. The café was full of people stuffing themselves with scones at quarter past three in the afternoon, so evidently we were not the only ones to appreciate them.
It was very kind of the Legats to have me, particularly as Mrs. Legat had recently had all her teeth out, and had not got her new ones, and was not at all happy about the whole business, so I felt it was particularly good of her to have a comparative stranger to stay. It amused me the way most of Sheila’s and Joan’s conversation consisted of argument as to which had said the other could wear what clothes. Joan, who is a gay young thing, apparently borrows all Sheila’s civilian clothes without the slightest conscience, if she feels like it, and the matter is complicated by the fact that Sheila does give her ones she doesn’t want, and after a year or six months it is difficult to remember what bargaining went on last time she was home. Joan is just about to join the WAAF, and we put on blasé airs and said it would be a very good thing, because then she might not jump up in excitement and look out of the window at every officer who went past, for as far as we could see, they were none of them particularly beautiful. I gather that the excitement is all put on, and that Joan had a devoted boy-friend in Glasgow, to whom she is equally devoted.
I thought I would do such a lot useful jobs when I got back, but one evening there was a fire practice, with real practice bombs, which we put out from behind the hedge, (Mrs. Evans and other local ladies evidently felt that this was most infra dig., all in the main road too.) another evening Ann came up, another I went to dinner at the Fountain, on Watling Street, with Bill Dobell, which was an unexpected treat, besides being a further sign that the men in the office regard us as human beings, not that Bill was ever anything but pleasant, but Helen and I were amazed, when we first moved in there, at the manners of most of them. Did I ever tell you of the struggle about the tea, in which, at last, I went round with the tea, saying “I hope it poisons you.”, which is not endearing, but at least shows that we didn’t think fetching the tea without a word of thanks for it was a gift of God to women for which they should be suitably and humbly grateful.
I had intended to go and see the Roscoes today, but it poured solidly all the morning, and now that blue sky is coming along I think it is too late. I have still Graham’s “History of Europe” (Fisher) which I hope he is not champing for.
The sun has come out, and everything is steaming in the heat, so I think I will go for bicycle ride, not having had much excercise since I got back. The harvesting idea tailed off somewhat. I gave in my name for part time work, but they must have got enough people, because the form brought round by the agricultural committee was never collected. I should have taken steps about it, but in a way I was quite glad, because I have been so busy there wouldn’t have been many hours for other work.
(handwritten addition to letter)
Thank you very much for all letters up to those of mid-July. I am a disgrace, letting so long a time go by without writing. I am always thinking of things to say, and then when it comes to putting it down I am possessed by a devil of sloth.
I like the sound of South Africa much better than Australia; is this reasonable, or just prejudice?
Your loving daughter
From Annette to Parents (Marked by LJT as Rcd 25/9/.) Airgraph to Mrs. H.P.V. Townend c/o Standard Bank of SA. Cape Town
Miss.A.Townend; 171 Buckingham Rd; Bletchley; Bucks 1st Sep. 1943
Dear Parents, Many thanks for airgraph 16. of Aug. 11th, which arrived today. At the same time there was a letter from Sir Frank Noyce, asking me to have lunch some time at the Royal Empire Society, which I should very much like to do. Actually it would have been very convenient next Mondy, when I come back from home, but it is a bit late to arrange it now, as he wouldn’t get my answer till Friday. Anyhow, I was thinking of going up to Town for my other two days off this month, to see Miss Millauro, and possibly to go down to Joyce’s for a night, as I haven’t seen any of them for ages. it is well over a year since I was last year, and Josephine is now not far off two. It is altogether incredible that Friday is the fourth anniversary of the war. We were considering yesterday the dismal outlook this time last year, and everyone was saying which moment of the war seemed the worst to them. Some said the fall of Norway, and some said Belgium, but most, including me, said when France gave in. That still seems so extraordinary that any other fantastic things do not astonish. I find I still have a strange time lag about events. When first I read of them in the paper, they do not sink in, because, I suppose, the papers make every little thing so important. For example, it is only now, when looking at the African coastline on the map, that I really taken in the wonderful turn of the tide at El Alamein. It is a pity that you cannot converse with the Italian servants. It would be very interesting to hear their views about Mussolini, but perhaps you have now got far enough with the dictionary to find out. I have done little. The weather has been on the whole bad. I went to see the Roscoes last Friday, but was persuaded against my better judgement to go and have lunch with Nadine at the “Swan” hotle, instead of having a scratch meal with Barbara and Mary. It was a good enough lunch, but I was not gay, and although I like Nadine except when she infuriates me, we have not very much to say to each other, really, and the hotel dining-room was dull and full of dull people. However, I had coffee and tea and plenty of silly conversation with Mary and Ba afterwards. Mary’s baby still goes on very well, and is fine, although not handsome. It is odd to see Barbara, who was too thin a little while ago, looking really portly. Her baby is due in October, just conveniently to take over Alec’s first lot of clothes. Mrs Roscoe I only saw for a moment in the street, but did not call in because she was busy baking. Betty, the other sister, who helps at the riding school as Romey did at Miss Kielberg’s, has passed her Higher well, and goes to Reading university next term, to study forestry or agriculture, I forget which. I have told Aunt to tell me if the house is too full for me to come, because I gather there are Peg and Gavin and two Neelys, not to speak of all the jam in Byways, and of course there is only one bed in our room. However, I have no real doubts of being able to get in somewhere. Last Saturday it poured, and Pam and Betty and I went to see “Colonel Blimp”, which I thought good, and sincere. Your loving daughter Annette
From Annette (Marked by LJT as Rcd 18/12/43
5th Sept 1943
As I warned last time, I am starting again from number one, and will endeavour to keep a proper record this time, and not be a snare and a delusion.
There is quite a large party here this weekend, and in fact all the beds in the house are full, both Peg and Gavin being here, and the youngest Neely twins still staying. Peg and I have been trying to encourage Brenda not to wear herself out running after Brian as she does, for she is very delicate, and yet will exhaust herself ironing and mending his clothes exquisitely for him, which services he takes as a matter of course. Gavin has got a new job, at a school in Barnet, which is satisfactory, as it seems to be a nicer place than the last one. Peg is having to go very slow, as there is again just a possibility of an infant. I do hope it will be all right this time. I don’t know whether the matter has been mentioned at all, but anyway you will have heard by airgraph one way or the other long before you get this, so I suppose there is no harm in mentioning it.
Yesterday was a beautiful hot day, and we sat about with as little on as possible, having really thought that there would be no more chance of it this year. I was so comfortable in sunbathing top that I could not be bothered to go up to the flower show in the afternoon, as most of the rest of the party did, as I had seen round in the morning when we took Aunt’s exhibits up, also the chair seat worked by Michael, which was put in under Peg’s name as he said it would make him feel bashful. He has done three, so we thought of putting them in under the names of Major Pringle, Commander Townend, and Flight-Lieutenant Pontaqueuel, which is Pim’s new name when he has a little drop of cocoa to drink in the evening. He rushes in when there is any sign of cocoa, having been introduced to these bad ways by Brenda. Gavin gave the surname, and I said he must be in the air force, as being the only service not represented in the family. Aunt made 17/- in prizes at the show, being almost the only person who put in any flowers. Everything is over so early with the dry weather, and it happens to be a very barren moment. The silly committee, although the show was to be in September instead of July, had not arranged any classes for tomatoes and other autumn things, so Aunt says she will probably go on the committee next year if asked. She refused this year because of being too busy with the jam centre. I do not mean to run down her achievements at the show, because she got a lot of the money for preserves, in which there were quite big entries.
Many thanks to Mother for the lovely pair of sheepskin gloves, which will be very useful. I suppose they are sheepskin in spite of the beige colour, or are they something else special. The animal for Josephine has a most curious expression. Brenda has just made a donkey out of wash leather, most skilfully, and seemed amazed to hear that such animals could be sold for large sums for the Red Cross.
I hope to have lunch at the National Gallery canteen with Christina and Esther, who is by now, I hope, in not quite such a mood of being on the shelf as she was last time I heard of her.
9th Sept. I came up by the 9.45 on Monday, with much regret, for it was another beautiful day, and tried to buy a bag for my bicycle, but could not, so in the end I got a basket at Gamage’s, quite a tough one, but 11/6 is a bit much, compared with say 4/- pre-war. However, I had to get something, because my old bag is falling to bits, and the other morning my knitting fell out and rolled about fifty yards before I saw it, and there I was, doing a sort of Ariadne act in the middle of all the cars coming to work.
I met Christina and Esther for lunch all right, and Esther was quite cheerful, but of course the Russians are doing so well it could hardly be otherwise, now I come to think of it.
Yesterday I went out blackberrying, and got lots in a wild patch about two miles up the road, but the day was somewhat marred by the fact that I ran a long splinter into my leg as I was getting over the fence to come away, and spent about three hanging round waiting for the doctor to take it out. It proved to be about two inches long, and had got right along inside, so she had to cut across at the end and hoik it out. It is not a bad cut, of course, but still a bit sore. This is really the only event in my life this week.
The news of the Italian surrender of course has filled everyone with wonder. Someone at work had a vague rumour at 5.0 o’clock that somebody had heard it on the American wireless, and of course it was all given out officially at 6.0, but I did not actually hear the news till midnight, when all the cheering and shouting was over. The Germans do seem to have managed things stupidly, to let their one more or less enthusiastic ally get to this pass.
Today it is wet, so it was lucky I got the blackberries yesterday. I think I shall go and see Colonel Blimp again, although it is a bit soon, but anyhow I had better keep my leg still as much as possible, and that is quite a good way of doing it.
With much love from
From Annette to Parents (Marked by LJT as Rcd 26/10/43) Airgraph to Mrs. H.P.V. Townend c/o Standard Bank of SA. Cape Town
Sender’s Address Miss A. Townend; 171 Buckingham Rd; Bletchley; Bucks. 2/10/43
Dear Parents, Many thanks for letters, numbers 28 and 30, received today. I am very sorry to hear that Papa is not really better, but hope for good news soon. I have sent a few French books, which I hope will provide passing entertainment, and anyhow they are as good as the old “Dame”. I did not imagine Papa would like any of the latest books, which are mostly lamentations on the fall of France. I have sent Romey a book also “British seamen” in the series called “Britain in pictures”, which has got some very pleasing prints and such in it. My only expedition of any sort since I was at home was one trip to London to Miss Millauro’s, which was not particularly successful. I do not at all like the eye she made. I said at the time it squinted, but she said it didn’t and would take a little time to settle in, being bigger than my present one, but the squint became worse. I think it is a bit too big, and to try and wear it would only repeat the errors of previous years. I had two appointments, and between them, from Wednesday to Friday, I went down to see Joyce, or rather I spent Wednesday night with Doris, and Thursday and the night with Joyce. I had hoped to meet Sir Frank Noyce, but unfortunately he was up in London on the Tuesday His next suggestion was next Wednesday, but that is in the middle of my leave, so have said that I will keep a day off in hand after that, so as to be able to fit in with any plans of his, if possible. On the Wednesday I went to see the “Lac des cygnes” in the afternoon. The Sadler’s Wells ballet have just got a new production of the whole thing, not merely the second act, as is usually done. I enjoyed it tremendously. They really do do the classical ballets well now, much better than three or four years ago, although even now, in the dances of the Corps de Ballet in the Swan Lake or Sylphides I do not think they come up to the Ballet Russe of Colonel de Basil. I had supper with Esther Trilling and her father, which was very entertaining, and then went to Doris’s flat, about 8.0, as she had been working late, till 7.30 and she insisted on another supper, and we then chatted, mostly about the peculiar people in her office. I went by an early train to Maidenhead, and was at Joyce’s soon after 10.0. Josephine I liked very much. She does not talk yet, but understands what is said to her, and seems on the whole to be of a cheerful disposition. She takes a tremendous delight in pushing her own pram along, and is very good at turning it in a small space, backing and going forward, as one would a car. Joyce went out in the evening, to some political meeting, and Frank and I talked, or rather, he discoursed on the present situation as viewed by a Marxist, very interestingly, and, I thought, not so dogmatically, as when we last met. I did not feel oppressed by the feeling of not being one of the Elect. However, all this is not matter for an airgraph, and anyhow, Rush has promised to save us somehow when the bloody revolution comes, even if we are members of the decadent bourgeoisie. Sorry, I must come to an abrupt stop. Much love Annette.
From Annette to Parents (Marked by LJT as Rcd 5/11/43) Airgraph to Mrs. H.P.V. Townend c/o Standard Bank of SA. Cape Town
Sender’s Address Miss A. Townend; Box 111, Bletchley; Bucks.
16 Oct 1943
Dear Parents, I seem to remember that I hadn’t told you any more about my proposed holiday with Pam and Betty except that we planned to go to the Peak District. We couldn’t get in at any of the places we tried, so I wrote to a farm at Goathland, in Yorkshire, where the Drakes went this summer, and we went there last week, and have just got back, after a very satisfactory time. We had one day’s rain, and then really lovely weather, so we were able to walk all day, and then come back to a comfortable sitting room with a fire in the evening. I meant to write a lot of letters, but in the end did nothing except sit in a dopy way and read silly books. The country was lovely, moors with pleasing wooded valleys in between. I do not know if you know the part at all, just inland from Whitby, where we went one day and found it very fascinating, as also was the little village of Robin Hoods Bay, where we walked on the way to Whitby. So we combined a number of things, open country, a sight of the sea, and the study of antiquities at Whitby Abbey and Pickering Castle. I will write a more detailed account of what we did tomorrow, when Irene is going to be out for the whole evening.
I have arranged at last to meet Sir Frank Noyce for lunch on Tuesday, and am much looking forward to it. I feel I know him already, after all the correspondence we have had. I had yesterday a very kind letter from Baronness Giskra, saying that as she had not heard if I have her first parcel, she has sent off another. I told you that Romey had solved the mystery of that parcel for me. I never thought of a parcel from New York as possibly being from Baroness Giskra, knowing she lives in Florida. I have got the colour photos from Mr Legat, which I will send off in relays, once I have shown them at home. He has very kindly sent all the lot he took, and they are really very good, I think, although as he says a bit over exposed.
I have written for the books by Gerald Heard, but Blackwell’s have not got them in stock, and are trying to get them. I think it ought to be possible as I see others of heard’s books advertised in the papers.
Barbara Orton’s baby arrived on Oct 4th, a boy who is called Gavin. That was the day before I went on leave, so I haven’t seen any of the family, or congratulated the proud grandmother, in the absence of the proud mother in a somewhat inaccessible nursing home. I have just had your airgraph of 22nd Sept. Many thanks for the birthday greetings, which are not far out, but not as clever as last year, when I got them actually on the day. Ann and I had thought of going to Woodstock to walk in Blenheim Park for a birthday treat, but we shall both be tied to the office in the absence of other people on leave, so it is postponed for another time. I must now write a line to Aunt for her birthday. I have not yet a proper present, but a little plume of Scotch feathers as a sort of birthday card. I suppose you will now be back in Cape Town, and hope you have got some nice place to stay.
Much love Annette
From Annette (Marked by LJT as Rcd 30/12/43
16th Oct 1943
I have just returned from a week in Yorkshire with Pam and Betty, after which I had better stay quiet for about six months, having had a very good variety of holidays this year. Walking is much the best method of using a week’s holiday, I am sure. One gets such a variety of sensations packed into each day that each one seems long in looking back. We constantly found ourselves saying “That village we went through the other day” and then realising that it was only the morning of the day before. I do not know if you at all acquainted with the moors round Whitby, where we were staying, so I will not describe our walks in such detail as I did the Lakes.
We stayed at a farm at Goathland where the Brakes were in August, and found it very comfortable and very cheap. We had our own sitting room with a nice fire in the evenings. I mention this because fires are not supposed to be allowed in the south till the beginning of November, and one girl from the office who stayed in Devon at a hotel said they shivered all the evening, which is a dreary way of finishing the day.
The first day it rained and we had a somewhat unsuccessful time trying to find a track marked on the map as going across the moors to Glaisdale, but the rain came down and we ended up in a sort of clayey mess where peat had been cut, with nothing but a dismal prospect of soggy looking heather interspersed with rushes, and no sign of a track, so we turned back, and made our way round by a shorter route. The moors are used a lot as shooting ranges and training grounds, so probably some of the paths have got overgrown, being but little used since the war.
For the rest of our time we had excellent weather, some days better than others, but on all of them the sun came out after a misty morning. The first fine day we determined to go to Robin Hood’s Bay and then walk along the cliffs to Whitbay and thence back by train. Altogether we must have done nearly twenty miles, which was really a bit much for the second day, when we were none of us in training. Pam got blisters on her little toes, which rather did her in for two days, and both Betty and I, although our feet survived well, felt rather as if we had strained both knees for some days, so that we felt like penguins when walking downhill, especially down the very long flight of shallow steps which leads down from Whitby Abbey. Robin Hood’s Bay, which I expected to find a horrid bungalow growth, is a most picturesque little village with a very steep and narrow street of high houses, with cobbled alleys off, which reminded us altogether of the village street of Mont St Michel, although of course this one was not filled with shoddy souvenirs. We supplemented our sandwiches with freshly baked sausage rolls and jam tarts from a small bakery, and then ate our lunch on the beach. We walked along the cliffs about seven miles to Whitby by a most pleasant path, arranged with stiles, presumably for coastguards, just above the sea. it did not strike me as a really pretty coast, the sandstone cliffs are rather dull and forbidding, but it was a lovely afternoon and the sea was a fine blue, and the colours of the fields a good contrast. Also the temperature was ideal for walking, as it was the whole time. We did not get to Whitby till nearly six, when it was beginning to be dusk, and had a most curious view of the town with streams of smoke going up from the river valley, and hanging in the still air. Our train was at 6.45, and we were fortunate to find a little shack still open, where we got a cup of tea, at my persuasion. I always have a slight feeling, I daresay quite unjustified, that Pam and Betty are so used to going to the Best Places that they do not think of going anywhere else.
The next day we walked South over the moors, and walked off the inch map that Rush had lent me, so that we really had very little idea of where we were going. We corssed a stream by some charmingly placed stepping stones, and got up onto a Roman road, which runs for a mile or so as just a rough track of stones and then runs into a small road, still used, which goes on for about five miles. I was amused by the notice stuck up beside the unused part of the road saying “Persons damaging this monument will be prosecuted”, when it was just a layer of rough stones on clay. I imagine it must have been recently excavated, and it is really very effective, winding over bleak moors for miles, and not relieved even by one of the wooded valleys which provide such pleasant relief to the countryside. The heather was all withered and dark brown, but the bracken, brown and with the sun shining on it, was looking lovely. We got to a little village by lunch time, and Pam’s feet were hurting, and Betty felt a bit tired, so they decided to stay and take the afternoon train from a funny little isolated station down in the valley, while I went on across the valley, and got across to the main Pickering-Whitby road, which also runs across open moors, and walked back to Goathland along it. There is so little traffic now on the roads that it is quite pleasant on main roads even, except for ones like Watling Street, where you still get numerous lorries and other commercial traffic. The moorland roads have got wide turf edges, very agreable to the feet, and I saw about four cars, and two milk lorries and a number of jeeps and such in an eight mile walk. it was fine and clear, and there were some lovely views, particularly from a hill where the road goes down very steeply and is called the Devil’s Elbow. I got a terrific start when I suddenly heard a bang and shells whizzing away, but I realised after a moment that the firing was well away over the moors, although I have never before actually heard the whistle of shells, except on the pictures. I got in about 6.0, not much after the others, and was in time to share the tea which Mrs. Mead had just made. I had meant to write letters and knit stockings in the evenings, but what with the natural dopiness after so much fresh air, and the difficulty of holding a book and knitting with only the light of a not very good oil lamp, in the end I merely read “The last chronicle of Barset”, finishing off the series of Trollope, which I have been borrowing from Uncle Bous. Although in many ways I don’t really think they are very good, I have been more and more engrossed as I went on, and feel quite sorry there are no more to go on with.
We had more or less a holiday from walking on Saturday, because of Pam’s feet, and went into Whitby, to do shopping, and look around. We were very pleased by the old church, which has a ridiculous white wooden gallery with twisted pillars and cherubs’ heads all round, set up against a Norman arch, and box pews with seats all round, and the owners’ names either painted or on a brass plate. We wished we could get in to a service on Sunday, so as to sit in one of the pews marked “For strangers only”. There were lots of tablets on the walls, of which I thought the most pleasing was in memory of Gerneral Peregrine Lascelles, who, amongst other things “At the disgraceful rout of Prestonpans was left deserted on the field”. I had forgotten that it was at Whitby Abbey that Caedmon lived. We looked at the Caedmon memorial. Visitors are not allowed into the Abbey, but of course one can look right into and through it over the wall. I though Whitby a very pleasant town altogether, with its narrow streets and old tall houses. We had lunch and tea there, both very good, and then Pam went by bus, and Betty and I walked about six miles from Whitby, and then were fortunate in getting a hitch just as the sun was going and it was getting a bit drear and chilly.
We did a fairly short round the next day, staying low in the valleys because of mist high up, although we were in warm sunshine most of the day. The principal event was meeting a major in a pub where we stopped for a cup of tea, who said he had killed a grouse with a pistol the day before. Pam was suitably admiring, but I had no idea that this was a particularly notable feat. The tank crews seem to enliven the time with a little grouse shooting. We were startled by a shower of shot coming over a hill when some grouse got up, and rather annoyed, because we had just passed the tank which must have sent it, and they saw us on the road, and in any case were shooting towards a field full of sheep and cattle. The pellets were pretty well spent, of course, but we were particularly huffy because that tank crew were not cheery like most of the troops one sees, but so sour-faced they couldn’t even raise a good morning.
The day after this one was quite incredibly lovely once the mist cleared away, clear and shining so that one could hardly believe it could last another minute. Betty had got very tired the day before, and so came by train to a station where Pam and I met her for lunch, and then came on with us. I don’t think she has done so much walking as we have, and anyhow Pam says that Betty does tend to keep going too long and then suddenly go flop. I think we took things a bit fast the first two days, which is difficult to guard against when one has so few. This afternoon we went a round which gave us a view of Whitby in the distance, with the Abbey standing up on the cliffs, and of the sea a long way out. There were anti-aircraft guns practising, making funny little puffs of black smoke in the sky. We were sorry when we had to lose sight of the sea, but the view of fields and moorland the other way was in its own way just as good. We got in lateish that evening, having been tempted by the wonderful light to make a longer detour than we had intended, and in the end came back by moonlight.
On our last day we took a train to Pickering, to look at the castle which was very interesting, although very little of the actual buildings remains, and then walked back about fifteen miles, although Betty again took the train from Levisham station after lunch. It was just as well because we took a path over the moor marked on the half inch map, which was all we had for that bit of country, and lost it, and came out too far to the east, although we got a fine view of the valley, and had to wade through about half a mile of heather, luckily not so so deep as it might have been, because most of it had been burnt recently. In 1940 and 41 apparently the Germans came over and dropped incendiaries all over the moors, burning large tracts, although what earthly good that would do I can’t think, as the damage done in such waste country must anyhow be comparatively slight, from the point of view of the whole war, although serious to the few farmers concerned. Anyhow, going through the heather really was tiring, especially as it began to be misty, and we were not sure of our exact position, although we knew where the railway was, and were not likely to lose our general direction. We got in about 6.0, and were very sorry to have to pack up ready to leave at 6.0 the next morning, in order to catch the 10.0 train from York. I was sorry not to see York, but trains wouldn’t really fit in, and so we got in a film in London on our way back, seeing “The adventures of Tartu”, quite crazy but great fun. It seemed odd, landing up in London after having been on a farm outside a small village, leading straight onto a wild moor. I liked the country very much, but not so much as mountains really. I think it was lucky we did not go to the Lakes or the Peak district though, as Betty does tend to get so tired. I hope the holiday did her good on the whole, and that she was not really tired. Pam and I seem to go about the same pace and to have about the same capabilities. It was just that her shoes, specially bought for walking, prove to catch the little toes on a really long walk.
With much love
From Annette to Parents (Marked by LJT as Rcd 30/11/43) Airgraph to Mrs. H.P.V. Townend c/o Standard Bank of South Africa. Cape Town
Sender’s Address Miss A. Townend; Box 111, Bletchley; Bucks, England.
2nd Nov 1943
Dear Parents, Thanks for airgraphs from both of you. I hope you have got a nice place to live for the moment. Thanks too for a nice birthday present, which I have not yet decided how to spend, but I daresay I shall get records in the end, in spite of various good resolutions. I went up to London to lunch with Sir Frank Noyce, and enjoyed it, because I found him very nice and easy to talk to, apart from his being a little deaf. he said he was going to write to you about the meeting, not that we discussed much. I was very interested in hearing about the various hairbreadth escapes from death of his two sons, especially the elder one, who is a very keen climber. As his daughter Rosemary is at school not so very far away, I enquired whether she was allowed out at all during the term, but apparently they are very strictly limited as regards outings. She intends to go up to L.M.H., so we had a certain amount of talk about Oxford. Altogether I enjoyed myself much more than I expected. Since then I have done nothing, but be very domestic as Mrs. Evans was away at Bournemouth for a week, leaving Irene and me to get our own meals. This I regard as the final sign that we are looked on as trustworthy and more or less members of the family. Irene did most of the cooking, at which she is quite good, and I was the skivvy who did the fires and the washing-up. The housework was confined to going over the carpet in the sitting room once, and doing the kitchen floor once, but the place still looked quite respectable in spite of this. We had people in to supper several nights, and played the gramophone, and I also had to play it when Irene was cooking for the next day, to keep her happy, so that I did very little letter-writing at all. Tuesday I had off, because Irene did, and it meant only getting one meal instead of two, because we cut out breakfast. I was very disgruntled, because it was the most filthy foggy day, following on a lovely one, and the only thing to do really was to go to the pictures, so we saw ‘The petrified forest’, which I see to remember seeing last as oxford with Mother.
I was writing this in the office, and had to stop first because I was seeing Elizabeth Parnell (who was at Oxford a year after me) for lunch, and then because someone else was using the machine, when I was going to finish off before leaving this evening. The official hours of work have been reduced from 54 to 51 a week, so one now has a comfortably virtuous feeling in staying on till 6.0. I like the small print of the first typewriter, but I hope it won’t come out too small in the print. Blackwell’s say that he Gerald Heard books are not obtainable at the moment, but I will try Foyle’s for second hand copies next time I am in London. They may have them anyway, because they have a large department of Religion and Philosophy, and are very good at getting things, although they charge very high for second hand foreign books, at any rate. I am very sorry to hear that Charlotte has had typhoid, and hope there are no ill effects. I suppose it is about time to write to H.D. and Winsome for Christmas. I have missed the bus the last two years. Which reminds me of a question I have been meaning to ask for years. Did H.D. deliberately not give Gavin and me 21st birthday presents, or did he just forget? I did not ask you in India, as I though they might see or hear letters.
With much love from Annette
From Annette to Parents (Marked by LJT as Rcd 29/12/43) Airgraph to Mrs. H.P.V. Townend c/o Standard Bank of South Africa. Cape Town
Sender’s Address Miss A. Townend; Box 111, Bletchley; Bucks.
10 Nov 1943
Dear Parents, I am actually writing this from home, having two days off. I have just been reading the airgraph to Aunt saying you have got a flat for the winter. It will be much nicer having a place of your own, where you need only have the company you choose to have. I mean summer, of course, still not having got the reversed seasons really into my head, especially as it is beginning to feel like winter here. It is lovely and fine, but the two days before I came away were really very cold. I came yesterday morning, because of the uncertainty of trains once winter starts, and also I didn’t was to miss my Russian lesson on Monday evening. In the end I was gladder still that I hadn’t come in the evening, because some people in the office got up a party to go the Monday evening hop at the new lecture hall that has been put up, and I enjoyed myself more than I have at any dance for ages, not that I’ve been to many, but there was pleasant company, a good floor and lively music, including two quick waltzes, which I had the good fortune to dance with somebody who can do them. Most dance bands seem to play so many slow foxtrots, and everybody goes around looking miserable, although I suppose they are enjoying themselves. Peg is still here, of course, and more hopeful about the possibility of a baby than for some time. She was rather depressed when I was last here, and no wonder. I told you Barbara Orton’s baby had arrived safely. I went over last week to see her and Mary, and found them both suffering from food-poisoning, so I proved quite useful in seizing either baby if the mothers were took sudden. I had to give Alec (Mary’s baby) one of his feeds, which I accomplished successfully, rather to my surprise. He is becoming quite human, and has nice pink cheeks, and laughs like anything if other people laugh. I like to see the way both those girls seem to take the babies in their stride, making as little fuss as they do about any other practical jobs. I was much amused when Mrs. Prouse, Mrs. Evan’s mother, said, when I told her I had been to see a friend who has a new baby “How sweet they are when they are convalescent”, and I thought of Barbara sitting there saying “Shut up, you brat. Doesn’t he look like a pig?” and so on. It is quite nice not to be expected to make fulsome compliments. I am afraid that the parcels you sent originally to the Drakes and Roscoes must have been lost, but Mrs. Roscoe was grateful for the kind thought. I took over the tin of butter out of my last parcel to her, for her to make shortbread, of which I am to have half. The second parcel from Baroness Giskra has arrived. it is most kind of her to have bothered. We have also got the stockings from Romey, which is also a most kind and thoughtful present. Peg and I have just been washing ours before wearing them. I haven’t bought any silk stockings for years, but I was beginning to think mine would start dropping to pieces. I have babbled too much and said nothing about the prospect of your getting passages. (airgraph runs off page)
From Annette to Parents (Marked by LJT as Rcd 21/12/43)
171 Buckingham Rd
16 Nov 1943
It has really been winter these last days. I have put on winter vests and started to wear stockings at last, chiefly because blue legs are not agreable, not because I find them much warmer than socks. Anyhow, until a week or so ago, I wore no socks even, and found my feet were quite warm. I wonder if this is due to their having more room to move about. I have also got out my thick coat, which is my school Sunday coat, and I really do appreciate the close weave of the tweed now. I have struck a bargain with Peggy, which is that she is to make me a jacket to slip on indoors out of a sage green woollen frock which I believe I got in 1938, and I will give her for a maternity coat the three quarter length pale blue coat that went with a frock, that may also be remembered. I am sure I should not get it done if I brought it here, the jacket, I mean. The trouble with all these renovations, which are really quite easy, is that they take up so much more time than making a thing out of new stuff, and certainly more thought. Irene and I are always sitting in the evening, and thinking of all the clothes we have, that would make up so well into something else. She is very energetic, actually, and makes pyjamas and blouses and such, entirely by hand, but she does not spend so much time going out, having no such standing activities as I have, which are, on Mondays, Russian, on Wednesday, Scotch reels, on Fridays, fencing, and neither the first nor the last are pursued with the proper single-minded devotion to make them profitable. We are having to pull up our socks in our Russian class, though, because now we have got well on in the grammar book, several people who know a lot more have joined in. It is nice, anyway, to have found a class at last where people are determined. Dina Pares and I sometimes reflect on the fact that we have outlasted three Russian classes little though we do. So many people seem to think learning languages is going to come by magic. We do but little work, but then expect small results. However, I feel, perhaps unjustifiably, that any day now I shall find I can read Russian. We have got a play to read, a modern one about the war, very thrilling, and useful because it is full of modern words.
It is Romey’s birthday tomorrow, and I forgot to send her a telegram; the one she sent me arrived so cleverly on the right day. I hope the book has arrived that I sent. I have thought what a good racket it would be for shops to take orders and pretend to have sent parcels and then not to do it. No doubt it is done by some. Which reminds me to thank Romey very much for the silk stockings, which are most welcome, seeing as how I have bought none for at least two years, and consequently expect any pair I put on, on the rare occasions when I do, to come atwo.
I have done no gardening this autumn. It is either too dark, or else it rains. As on Saturday and Sunday, when, after several days of clear frosty weather, including the two I was at home, it rained in a cold and horrible way all the time. Ann had promised me some cabbage plants, but it is too late now. Did I tell you that she and her two friends have been given notice to quit? The landlady had been very unpleasant on and off for a long time, and now they have to clear out, but Ann has found two rooms, where she will ‘do for herself’, in Bletchley still, and not stuck miles away, which she was afraid of. Also she is not going to work nights this winter, on account of her asthma, which is a good thing. It is not only the unnatural life, but the awful stuffiness in the offices at night that is particularly trying to her. We have moved into a room with a south aspect, so that it is a pleasure to go to work on fine days, and it is so big that the smoke is no affliction, in spite of there being one or two chain smokers. The last room we were in had a red cement floor, that sent up layers of red dust over everything, but now we have a black shiny one that can really be got clean.
There is a man in the office who seems to have a passion for reading dictionaries, and extracting choice phrases. I have got some of the better specimens he found in a Russian one, and in a Japanese one, neither of which were compiled, one imagines, by English people.
Russian: Give you sister a salute from me.
An experienced grasshopper.
He was suspected of privity to the plot.
He is two-handed with his dollars.
Revolutions are not made with rosewater.
(Written out like this, it looks like a modern poem.)
Japanese: Dog-legged stairs
To cry cupboard
His ears are well ramified
Squeeze yourselves a little, please.
This is like extracting the sunbeam from the cucumber.
I should enjoy pressing your hand, Madam.
His head is hide-bound.
To kick someone upstairs into the Privy Council.
He was beaten at cards and had his face smeared with ink.
Other verbs:- To take a malicious pleasure in teasing cats.
To reflect on oneself three times a day.
To weep for fun.
To fell trees secretly.
To try out ones new sword on a chance wayfarer.
and Hyakudo, which means, To worship a hundred times at a shrine for devotional purposes, walking backwards and forwards between two given points in its precincts.
Finally – Otto: a husband, the worser half; and Oniki: fatuous fires.
Any of these will, I hope, provide food for thought. They reduced us to such a weak state of mirth that we feared the wrath of the sober and quiet people next door.
Your letters nos 35 and 36 have just come. I am ashamed of my slackness when everybody writes so much to me, and I enjoy it so much. Romey is wonderful, the way she writes at such length, with all the multitude of things she does. It almost makes me tired to read about it. The trouble is that it takes so much time to collect ones thoughts for writing, although the writer in ‘Profit by my experience’ says otherwise, and perhaps rightly, for the moment hardly ever comes, and although I am always busied with many things, I am too lazy even to put down the trivial catalogue of them. And, of course, always with about four books on hand or waiting to be read because somebody else wants them back or has to send them to the Norwich Public Library, or some such thing. Reading is not often mentioned as a vice, and yet I am sure it is one. The article in the Reader’s Digest some time ago on ‘How to read more and read faster’, and if that wasn’t the title, that was what it was about, positively horrified me. I felt I was being swept away by an awful spate of more newspapers, more cheap magazines, more novels, battered with words, when what I want, and most people too, is to read better and consequently read less. As a matter of fact, I read comparatively few novels. Most of those reviewed in the papers sound dull or dismal, but there are far too many other tantalizing and interesting books. Joyce and Frank lent me one of the most interesting I have read for some time, a socialist work called ‘Time, the refreshing river’ by Joseph Needham.
This I found enthralling, ultimately, I suppose, because he is not only a scientist and communist, but a lover of literature as well. Silly, perhaps, to be interested because he quotes Auden and Lucretius and Middle High German, but I felt that here was ground I knew, and things that linked up politics and economics with things I know something about. They were the jam with the pill. Actually, I think the book has had some effect on Frank and Joyce in the reverse direction. That one of their prophets should enjoy literature and be very interested in history seems to have softened their life a bit. i noticed at once when I went to stay that they had ‘An anthology of world poetry’ among the communist tracts, whose undiluted presence I found most stifling last time. I think, anyhow, that it is not only Needham, but wider thinking and studying that has made Frank more tolerant. His reforming zeal is still intense, and he still thinks communism will be the millenium, but he does not regard politics as the be-all and end-all.
I take to the pen, because Mrs Evans has gone to bed, and I don’t want to disturb her. It is difficult to get the right shade of meaning into the words, but I at any rate found Frank and Joyce perhaps more human. Needham’s book I found reassuring, in that his vision of a Socialist world is not cheerless, with the impression of soulless efficiency and neo-lavatorial buildings with communal life and American cloth tops to all the tables, which is the impression I have got from some of the tracts.
All very sill, and of course there will be things to enjoy, always, but there must be many things that will go, and that should go. I don’t why I should suddenly think of Pam and Betty, but it is astonishing how out-of-date they seem when they talk about after the war. There never seems to be any question but that life will go on as before, with a nice house and two maids “and servants are so difficult”. Here again words are difficult, because I don’t wish to give an impression of shallowness and thoughtlessness. But to them I am sure, servants are still a race apart. Is it that they, Pam especially, have always lived at home or with rather rich people, all the sort of people who even now have little luxuries kept for them by the grocer, and can get bottles of wine now and then, and game from the estate. Very pleasant it is too, but in an odd way, when I go over there, I feel nearer to the people like Mrs Evans and other billetors that I meet when out to see friends, than I do to them. I think Pam and Betty still take many things for granted as an essential part of life which are quite possibly outmoded. But maybe not, and after all, no revolution has happened yet, and it probably wont do any good if it does. But Frank, with his ideal to work for (which incidentally is now not revolution at one fell swoop, but evolution, according to the new Communist Party Programme) is more alive than Pam, who has no ideas beyond doing what she did before, or so it seems.
Distasteful as it is to bestir oneself from the pleasant lethargy of living for one’s own pleasure, I am sure we shall all have to do something in the way of putting our hand to the plough. And I must say the prospect is distasteful, when one sees how a few people in a village cannot run a canteen without the most fearful rows. However, things must not be allowed to slide. I like the spirit of the remark in “South Riding” “If I’m to be a spinster, by God! I’m going to spin!”, although for myself, spinster or no, I have no real idea what the spinning is to consist of. Perhaps I seem as purposeless to Pam as she does to me.
Your loving daughter,
From Annette (Marked by LJT as Rcd 2/2/44 at Elgin)
27th Nov 1943
(letter smeared with carbon ink and typed in red over the top)
Sorry about this. I put the carbon in the wrong way round
I have just got back from a most delightful day in Oxford. Ann and I went over for the sole purpose of enjoying ourselves, and we succeeded. We went over in the morning, and booked a room for the night at a funny little flat kept by a Miss Sweeting, in Queen St., which is both more central and less gloomy than Wellington Square, where I have usually sought lodgings. Then we books seats for the theatre, as ‘A month in the country’ was on, which Ann hadn’t seen, and which I was glad to see again. The remainder of the morning we spent in Blackwell’s (letter goes into black type) wandering round. I had one or two commissions for other people, which I did successfully. One was to get a copy of Omar Khayyam for Maggie Britten, for which I first inquired in the Eng. Lit. department, but was told to go to the Oriental, where there was such a learned looking man that I felt Fitzgerald must be quite beneath his notice. however, I got a nice edition, without any of the horrid arty-crafty illustrations that seem to adorn most editions. i also got ‘A miniature history of the English house’ for Helen, a rather delayed Christmas present, I fear, and as for Romey, I haven’t got one at all, but it is silly to spend money now, unless one sees what seems to be just the right thing.
We had lunch at the George, where it is still very good, and not crowded, and then went out to Woodstock, as it was a lovely afternoon, and took a long walk in the Park, and read some of the inscriptions on the monument in the course of it. The leaves are all down, of course, but there were great drifts of beech leaves on the banks of the lake. We had tea at the ‘Roof tree’ café in Woodstock, and came back to Oxford about half an hour before the play. I enjoyed it all right last time I saw it, but this time I felt as if my eyes were suddenly opened, and i found it absolutely enthralling. Knowing to some extent what to expect, I was not this time put off by expecting a Russian play to be peculiar, and it strikes me now as one of the cleverest, and yet kindest plays I have seen. The most remarkable thing is the way all the characters are shown from the inside, and not just the main ones. They are all fundamentally nice and well-meaning, and yet one sees how they come to say and do the most mean and despicable things. We were sitting fairly far forward in the stalls, and I think I could see far more of the acting than when I went with Mrs. Roscoe.
We had dinner at the George too, as it was near, still open and again not full. When one queues daily for meals it is very nice to walk straight in and sit down. I generally contrive to go to meals at the office, so as to avoid the queue, but sometimes so many people have the same idea that there is a queue all the time.
We got up late yesterday morning, and parted for shopping; I went to Parker’s and got a little essay by Eleanor Farjeon for Christina for her birthday, and “The Specialist” that delightful disquisition on the art of building the usual “eight family, three-holer”, which I think will make a special appeal to Uncle, and which I don’t think he has seen. I have got for Peg for Christmas an old pomade pot with a picture on the lid of some cretinous looking children fishing for shrimps. Pat Loach and I bought four of these pots at an old junk shop in Bletchley, and apparently they really were a bargain, according to someone who professes to know, and that the dealer’s talk was not all eye wash, as we thought. I had not realised that these lids used to be printed like wood cuts and engravings are still, a series of ten or twenty, and then the block is destroyed, and apparently some are very valuable. Another thing I bought yesterday was really crazy, but i say it is my birthday present to salve my conscience, and that is “The tale of Genji” translated by Arthur Waley from the Japanese. I nearly bought it years ago, but said it was extravagant, but there was another copy sitting, so I got it. Anyhow, it will be well read. There is quite a fashion for oriental literature. Various people produce peculiar Chinese novels, which I find very difficult to judge, as any background is so completely lacking.
The next thing that happened was that I met Ann in Elliston’s, and she had finished her shopping, so we went into Taphouse’s, and listened to records, and she gave me for a birthday present three German dances by Mozart, which are most delightful and gay. Aunt says she will give me a record token for birthday and Christmas combined, so I think I will get “Il mio Tesoro” from Don Giovanni sung by Gigli, which Joyce Thompson, a friend of Irene’s, lent us for a while, but has now taken back. It is really lovely, and if he could sing like that I don’t wonder he was so successful with the ladies. And no carping at this on the grounds of logic, please, because that it just to express my feelings. We had lunch at the Kemp, where there of course, long queues now, but the food is still good, and the same woman runs it.
Having time after lunch before the train, we walked a long way round to the station, and went in to look at the crypt of St. Peter’s-in-the-East, which we had not seen. It is an air raid shelter now, so there is a light to switch on.
We chose the two best days of the week for our expedition, because otherwise it is grey and rains. I have been practising on the recorder again, having great hopes of getting someone to play with. A girl called Elizabeth Jones, who was at Somerville a year ahead of me, has turned up, and she plays the fiddle, but not so well as to be superior, and is also very keen on the recorder, so I have lent her one and a book of the words, and Nancy Bird, who knows I am no expert, says she will play the piano for us. I have several rather pleasing 17th century sonatas for recorder, violin, and piano. It is always rather a problem to get people to play with when one knows one is bad, because nobody will believe it, and even those who play really well, are always so modest, and then sometimes obviously a bit peeved when they find one was telling the truth about being bad. Just the same with games. No doubt, some people, always having been good, have no idea of how bad it is possible to be.
With much love