10th February 1943

Lovely sunny morning.  Cycled in by 10 to 9, very pleasant ride. 

Went up to Wellesley Rd to see an empty house there, having got the key from Daniel.  Not really large enough for our purpose. 

Before we [ie - the Rudsdale family] moved to 66 Winnock Road early in 1918 I remember we came to see a house about three doors away from this one.  We went in with the agent, who had a little Yorkshire terrier with him, and I shut the little thing out in the garden.  I can see its pathetic little face now, and it was on my conscience for years.  All the time I was at school I wished we had taken the Wellesley Road house, as it was considered to be very common to live right down in the East end of the town.  I used to feel that sort of thing very keenly.

This afternoon Mr. Craig came in, and wanted me to go out with him to find two or three people whose names were on a list sent from the Ministry of Labour to Writtle.  This list consists of men of military age who have registered as farmers, smallholders or poultry farmers, and we are asked to check those in our area.  The bulk of them are of course well known, but a good many are doubtful, and these have to be seen by a Committee member.

First we went to see a man named Fisher in Brook St., registered as a market-gardener.  He lived in a decent new house by the footpath down to the Moors, but the whole place looked very untidy.  His wife came to the door, a dark woman, about 35.  She seemed to be only half dressed, and was clasping a kimono round herself.  When Craig questioned her, she said her husband’s land was in Ipswich Road.  No, she had no idea how large it was.  No, he wasn’t at home and he wasn’t on the ground, she didn’t know where he was.  Yes, he was out all day, every day, “dodging about.”  Better come after 6 to catch him.  It was horrible to see her startled expression – so obviously trying to gauge what we had come for, so determined not to give anything away where her man’s business was concerned.

Next we went down to Port Lane, to a piece of land, originally part of Scarlets, at the back of the Gas Works.  Two brothers named Smith have some poultry and vegetables there.  Only one of them was there when we arrived, feeding hens.  He was rather tall, weather beaten, with a sly look.  He was very suspicious at first, and Mr. Craig tried to worm out of him exactly what he did and as to where his brother was, but he would not say.  There was not a rod of the ground dug, and Smith admitted that the brother “sometimes” did work for other people.

I stood waiting, very cold, and rain just beginning, and felt more sorry than I can say for this poor fellow.  He was so obviously making a little living and nothing more, and will stand no chance whatever against the Ministry of Labour.  It is such a shame.

Back to office, rain becoming heavy.  Left at 5.30, and got rather wet cycling back.

Daphne told me today that she had been to the Ministry of Labour to see about another job, as she fears that after this month she may be conscripted.  She saw Miss May, with whom we had such trouble over Joanna last year, and without any hesitancy Miss May told her the whole story of what she regarded as a perfect scandal, and an example of “one law for the rich and one for the poor”.  There is no doubt that that case caused great annoyance and I believe it will be held against all of us if an opportunity offers.  The Ministry of Labour officials are remarkable for their small mindedness and their spite.

This evening writing, and mounting photographs.  I hope to get another dozen which Gale has been copying this week.  Still raining, and the wind is rising, howling through the leafless trees on the hill.

Today, the “Daily Express” publishes a garbled and unintelligible account of the attacks in Kent yesterday, making much of the machine-gunning of a passenger train.  On the next page they publish a photograph taken from an RAF machine in the act of doing exactly the same thing to a Dutch passenger train, while some private houses just on the other side of the railway are obviously about to be hit.  This of course is an act of extreme heroism.  Yesterday's events in Kent were German atrocities.  Is it possible that the British public swallow this sort of thing?

No comments: