28th January 1945

Snow very deep.  Horses and carts working silently past the church.  Spent a wasted but delightful day.  Could not force myself back to Wisbech, and after a delightful breakfast with the Sissons, went shopping for them and then heard Mrs. Sisson talk about a scandal on the Colchester bench, about a young girl being sent to a home for prostitutes.  Cr. Maurice Pye is concerned, and Miss Jose Blomfield.  Mrs. Sisson apparently sent a report to the Home Office in her capacity as a Child Guidance officer, and there is a great to-do.

At 12 cycled over to Sherebourne Mill.  In Pound Lane saw Moorhouse’s men carting muck, with 4 horses, 3 of them Suffolks, moving slowly and the snowy fields under the grey snowy sky.  As I turned in at the drive gate, a boy was driving cows over the ridge of the hill, his cries of “hup! hup!” very clear in the cold silent air.  Mrs Belfield and Penelope were there.  She has recently come back from Paris, where she was with the Admiralty.

Joy very kindly gave me a drink of milk, (now such a luxury to me) and a small pot of home-made marmalade to take away.

Home to tea, stayed talking for a couple of hours, went over to speak to dear Mary Ralling, left at 8, having said ‘goodbye’ to Father, and went once more to Holly Trees.  Apparently Poulter’s relations with Hull get worse.  A long and rather pointless discussion, in which I emphasised my willingness to come back, and he urged me never to do so while Hull is there.  In these discussions I always begin to feel a rising resentment against Alderman Blomfield – had it not been for his stubbornness, I should never have left my home.  Yet is that really true?  Was it not time for me to have gone in any case?

Back to Boxted at 11 p.m. and went to bed, hoping for a quiet night.  Few ‘planes about, and an occasional explosion, one sufficiently near to rattle the windows.

27th January 1945

Bitterly cold, and more snow in the night.  Feel excited at the prospect of going home.  Put in an hour and a half at the office, caught 11.10.  Changed at March, and while carrying my cycle up the bridge steps, felt a hand helping me.  Turned to find a tall, handsome woman with dark hair, about 30, in a fur coat.  Thanked her, and chatted a bit, and then travelled to Cambridge with her.  Train from March 30 minutes late, so we had plenty of time to talk.  Another change at Ely, and the next train so full we had to travel in the van.

She told me her name was Margaret Coulter, and she is a farmer’s wife from Elm.  Mentioned that her husband is a Conscientious Objector, but if I didn’t mind, would I please call?  Said I didn’t mind in the least, in fact I admired him, and that I certainly would.  She sounded very bitter about the war.  Among other things told me that A.R.P. organisations were to be improved and increased, as “the Government don't know how far the Russians may go.”  This was said by the Norfolk County A.R.P. Controller at a recent meeting of A.R.P. personnel at Elm.

In the carriage at March was an American, who started talking about cows in California, whereupon Mrs. C. rather startled the whole coach by explaining that she was on her way to Cambridge to collect a bottle of semen which was being sent express from Oxford from a Jersey bull – her husband is trying to build up a pure bred Jersey herd, and is much in favour of artificial insemination, in spite of the fact that the nearest suitable registered bull is 100 miles away, and the fact that each service, including a vet’s fee of £2.2, costs him £5.  Was there ever such madness?

Much talk in the train between the American on the (to him) unsatisfactory state of English milk production.  Left the charming lady at Cambridge, after giving her coffee, and caught the Colchester train.  Very late in leaving, over an hour late, because there was no engine.  Another long wait at Bartlow.  A railway guard got in, coming back from March to Easthorpe.  He had been up to March for a train which had been cancelled because there was no engine, and so was on his way back.  We got talking about the present decay of the railways which he blamed upon “the higher-ups” and the enormous amount of troop trains going through with men on leave from Europe.  

Got talking about farmers.  Said he had a bit of land of his own at Kelvedon.  Complained that the War Agricultural Committee had never paid him for a ditching scheme, so I got his name – Taylor – and promised to make enquiries.  He said that rockets were now falling very commonly in the Chelmsford area, but nothing very near his house so far.  There was also a warning for ‘divers’ last Thursday night, but nothing came his way.

Very little snow on the ground south of Sudbury, but very cold.  The sun was setting in a clear golden sky.

Colchester at last at 5.  Hurried through the dusky familiar streets, the roads quite clear of snow, home to tea.  Father seemed very well, although he hadn’t shaved today as he thought it was too cold – he still washes and shaves in cold water.

Stayed a couple of hours, and then went to Holly Trees.  Poulter glad to see me.  Poulter says he thinks Hull will bring his eldest daughter into the Castle as soon as she leaves school, and he also thinks that Mrs Slaughter, who is doing a good deal of amateur archaeology, will also come on the staff.  

In course of conversation he said that he was now quite unable to find a Morant’s “Colchester” anywhere in the building, so, when I said this was ridiculous, we went down to the Muniment Room to show him one.  The place was in a terrible state, books and papers thrown about all over the floor, Wire’s Morant lying twisted and warped with its cover torn off.  

Told me various local stories – a short while ago, a boy of 15 was arrested outside Holly Trees, carrying a loaded revolver and a bomb, tied to his belt with string.  Somebody passing by saw the bomb under his coat and went down to the police station to tell them.

Left just before 9, hurried through dark and crowded streets (lights in High Street and North Station Road, nowhere else) and went out to Lt. Rivers.  The Roses were only moderately well, the baby very ill again, and the lovely Siamese cat is dead.  Carter was there.  Much general talk, but oddly enough no war talk, and we did not hear the 9 o’clock news, which is unknown in Lt. Rivers.  A few distant explosions from time to time, but no ‘divers’.

Home to Woodside at 11, and so to bed in the front room, after a glass of milk and cake.

26th January 1945

Still very cold, and the snow lying solid.  Girling, whom I dislike, came over with some bills, but refused to tell me anything about the business side of the Museum.

Woodgate phoned to ask me to lunch on Sunday, but refused as I am going to Colchester.  Should have gone tonight but the train was very late, and as we stood shivering under the glaring white moon I became very nervous, and decided not to go until daylight tomorrow.  Went back to the lodgings to tell Mrs. Shepherd who was absolutely furious.  Then went to an address I had seen in the paper, a Mrs. Lynn, Hereward Road, a cul-de-sac near Norwich Rd.  Offered me a room which was only accessible through her son’s bedroom, and there is no bath, in fact the only tap is in the kitchen sink.  Declined politely.  When I mentioned Colchester, she said she lived there 40 years ago, when her husband was in the army.  She had a house in Butt Road, and said that at that time Sims Reeves the singer lived round the corner in Essex Street.  He must have been a very old man.  

Crept to bed at 10 o’clock, very cold and not feeling very well.

25th January 1945

Bitter, black cold.  Misery, but a pleasant day full of surprises.  Soon after 10, a charming young woman came in, dark and handsome, in a fur-coat, blue slacks.  Said she was a writer and wanted information on the Fens for a new book.  Apparently married to a Frenchman in the R.A.F. – spoke of the anxieties she suffers when he is over France on low bombing attacks.

One of the bakers here uses the old fashioned “hansom” type of 2-wheel carts.  Very ugly type, and would imagine not very convenient for delivery work.  Two have been converted to pneumatic tyres, and look even worse.

Letter from Captain Folkard today, to say he is leaving the War Agricultural Committee at the end of this month.  Very glad I left when I did, as I should certainly not have stayed after him.  Don't know who is taking over, but I expect Maidstone will.

Fog coming up this evening.  Went across the Park to tea at old Edwards’.  Groups of shivering Italians standing at the Park gates, children sliding on the frozen canal, people hanging over the bridge, faint blue mist towards the river, the white snow, dogs leaping and barking, the whole scene looking remarkably like Brueghel.

Poor old Edwards rather depressed, but we had a cheerful tea party.  After tea went round to the Old Market to see little Dorothy Ellis.  Met Miss Morgan, another Welsh teacher from Gwent, very pleasant.  A Mr. Stevens, Grammar School Master, came in with his wife, an extraordinarily loud woman.  Talked about dancing in the Corn Exchange and that sort of thing.

Unfortunately, the landlady, a Miss Fletcher, came in and was so rude that all conversation came to an end and the party dissolved.  Went to the cinema to see “Champagne Charlie”, quite well done.

Got back to the Crescent at 10, and was grudgingly offered supper which I refused.  Good mind not to come back here after the weekend.  Really must make efforts to get somewhere else to go.

24th January 1945

Bitterly, icy, cold, and a thin fog. Dawn at 10 to 9, and Mrs. Shepherd began nagging at me again.  No hot water, and the tea much too strong and stone cold.

To office at 9.30, much to Caretaker’s disgust.  She said very pointedly that Mr Edwards never came in before ten.  However, on the desk a letter from Inverness, from dear Ann.  She’s been ill in bed for a week.  Wants my photo, but have no such thing as far as I know.

Looking through boxes in the Library this morning.  Found a beautiful deer-skin jacket, Cree Indians, Canada, and a grass skirt, rather oddly labelled: Nubian Woman’s Girdle collected by Mr Algernon Peckover, c.1865.”

Coming back from lunch met Girling, in top hat, long heavy black coat and “spats”, and ebony stick, going to a funeral at the church.  Museum Square full of opulent looking cars, and the passing bell tolling.  Stream of top-hatted black figures hurrying over the frozen snow towards the Tower arch, where the white surpliced choir were waiting. 

Dark very early today.  Work in office until 9.

23rd January 1945

More snow in the night, a few ‘planes flying through it.  Wrote to various people to say I will be in Colchester next weekend.  Moved a few things in the Museum this morning.  Dreadfully cold day.

Slight thaw set in, but traffic, horse and motor sliding about in all directions.  Odd how few milkcarts there are in this town, and hardly a single coal trolley.

Set off to go to a Workers' Education Association lecture tonight, but was tempted to go to a cinema and did, then wished I hadn’t.

This evening came across half a dozen youths, with hair as long as girls, chatting in the public lavatory, which they apparently use as some sort of club.  Dance on at the church hall tonight, horrid wailing music and drunken shouting until midnight, then much noise of cars leaving Museum Square.

Soon after I went to bed, about 11, Mrs. Shepherd got up, went downstairs, and turned the lights off at the main, to stop me from reading in bed.

22nd January 1945

Up at 8, snowing steadily.  Poor breakfast, egg bad again.  The Irish waitresses talking about passports to Ireland, and how to smuggle money in their skirts.  My bill came to £1.14.6.

Town had an arctic appearance, people hurrying about silently over the snow.  Managed to get a haircut.  Snow stopped, and sun came out.  Bought some paints and brushes.  Several horse vehicles about, coalcarts milkvans and greengrocers. Hozell & Sons have neat 4-wheel carts for milk, and so do Peterborough Co-op.

Set out at quarter to 11, sun shining on crisp snow.  Several interesting buildings at Eye, and a good windmill in working order.  Thorney at 11.25, Guyhin 12.15, and had some cider at the “Chequers”.  Reached Wisbech at ten to one and went to lunch.

At office found letter from Fisher, enclosing £23 for Robin, from £5 notes and £3.  How I wish I had never sold him.  Did very little this afternoon except look at books in the Library.  What a delightful life this is, or would be were it not for the caretaker, whom I dislike intensely.

Went out to tea at 4.30 with the teacher, Dorothy Ellis, then walked with her to Walsoken and along the Nene almost to Walton Dam, under a cold bright moon.  Haze over the river, flowing quick and silent, and a train on the opposite shore.  She comes from Leeds.  Took her back to her lodgings at 8, and then went to office until 9, when the caretaker came up to ask me how much longer I should be, as she wanted to go to bed, so with regret over to No. 3.  How I loathe this little house.