5th June 1942
Overslept. Up at 7.15. Stayed to breakfast at Lawford and then caught a bus at half past 8. Terribly hot. The bus was very full, schoolchildren, factory workers. I saw Lieut. Smygelski, one of the Poles near me, reading the life of Edward VII in French. The bus had no ventilation at all (no modern vehicles have) and the atmosphere was foul. I managed to reach
Colchester without getting a headache.
Prepared the agenda, and then had to rush down to Mersea to meet Fred Hodges, as Capt Folkard had to go to Writtle. I had to go on a bus, but was lucky to sit immediately against the open door, and so survived. This Fred Hodges, was, as a boy, living at Copford, and Capt. Folkard knew him well. About 10 years ago he returned to these parts in a very different state, and bought the house at Mersea which old Bacon built and which has the celebrated “wheel foundation” in the garden. He also owned the barn and stables, and was a great trouble to poor Grubb when she was there [running her horse riding stables], being an overbearing, bullying type.
As the Committee are now occupying the barn, Hodges decided to come down to settle various details, particularly about his beastly boat, upon which he sets great value. He is at present living 15 miles the other side of Exeter, but this distance does not deter him from telephoning to us right across England, two or three times a day if he wishes to. When I got to the Barn, Mrs. Johnson, the storekeeper, told me he had already ‘phoned twice, once from Bishops Stortford to say he had lost his way, and once from Stanway to say he was lunching with Harvey Cant and would be delayed another hour.
I wandered about the barn and stables, thinking of the countless sunny afternoons when I had driven into this yard, baited Bob, and eaten my lunch sitting on the hay. There are still a few pathetic notices in Grubb’s writing on the walls, and mysterious times, no doubt representing rides booked by various pupils – “Two at 2.30; one at 4pm.”
At last Hodges arrived, in an enormous American car with a gas generator on the back, accompanied by his wife, a rather subdued and faded blonde, and his chauffeur. Hodges himself was gorgeous. His lavender coloured suit was spotless, his buttonhole rose elegant, his yellow spats the last word. The moment he came in he took complete charge of everything and everybody, issuing orders right and left. I have never taken such a dislike to any man before. He told me what everything cost – money was the only subject of his conversation. The boat cost £1000, the steam yacht to which it belonged £200,000, his car £3,000, the gas plant on it £190, and so on. He was positively indecent. He spoke to his chauffeur and our workmen as if they were slaves and not very nice slaves either.
After he had gone, Mrs. Johnson, who is Irish and very talkative told me various bits of scandal which she thought I might like to hear. She sees a good deal of the Executive Officer and of Sadler, Capt. Skinner and various others from [the War Agricultural Committee Executive at] Writtle, as they are continually down on the island for the shooting, and use Mrs. Johnson’s cottage as a kind of headquarters. Mrs. J. seems to get endless quantities of chocolates, biscuits, and tinned food from Leslie [the Executive Officer], and is only too happy to give them away to anybody. She gave me six bars of chocolate today.
Joanna [Round] came along with her car, paying wages [to agricultural workers], so I went back with her, doing a round of Land Girls on the way. All the Land Girls looked very brown and well, although they do not seem to work very hard. We went to Fingringhoe, and I hoed weeds in the sugar beet for half an hour while I was waiting for her. Then we went on to Batteswick, where there was a very pretty girl named Cole, helping stack hay. (It was much too green in my opinion).
Got back to the office at 6.30, worked till nearly 7, then fed the pony and cycled out to Lawford. Called at Spring Gate, Ardleigh on the way, and had a chat with Molly Blomfield. She had been talking to her father, [Councillor Sam Blomfield] and said he was very bitter against
. But what good is bitterness? How will that help the Museum? Hull
Lovely calm, sunny evening. Pretty scene of children feeding a horse through a gate at Ardleigh as I came through.