Another lovely morning. How much is this fine weather appreciated. Took 6 eggs in for Poulter. Went down to Mersea with Nott. North Farm looks very well now, with the yard full of bullocks, and new thatch on the roofs. Wish I could spend more time down there. Mrs. Johnson gave me a dozen eggs and 4 packets of chocolate. Can't understand how she comes by so much. Had to hurry back, and could not go down to see the new horses. Called on the harness maker at Abberton, to ask if he would like to make a contract to repair all our harness, but he refused, saying he had enough work already. It is almost impossible to help these men. (We bought 10 more sets today, from the Bury dealer).
Home to lunch, then to stables. Suddenly decided to cycle to Fingringhoe. Very pleasant ride. Called on Grubb, to find her in as big a muddle as ever. Old Blackie looks very bad, and can hardly eat now. He will never see another spring. The younger horses looked quite well, and ought to be broken into harness, but Grubb is too feeble to attempt it.
Cycled back by Rowhedge, and then along the river-wall. I don't know how many years it is since I was that way. The small drifters being built in the Rowhedge yards, and the
Church showing up round the bend of the river. A train came along from tower of Wivenhoe Colchester, the white smoke showing up against the steep fields behind the line. How many hundred times have I travelled that line to and from Walton and Frinton? I remember the first holiday we spent there in 1919, after the last war. How long ago. Never again, I suppose.
And so along by the Sewage Works, cattle on the marshes, every now and then a concrete pill box, sea birds wheeling and crying. The ancient barge wreck still sticks out of the mud near Old Hythe meadow. At the Hythe, a steam boat called “Spirality” unloading coal at the Gas Works. One of the crew was cutting a man’s hair at the stern. Got to
just after 5. Sparling’s nice cob came trotting down with the bread van. Hythe Church
Home to tea, then got rations, fed Bob, and went up to
Culver Street for supper. Went into Holly Trees at 8. No sign of Poulter. An alarm just before 9, which I had half expected to come. I felt anxious more than frightened. Went over to the Castle. There was a searchlight south of the town, but no planes or guns to be heard. Many cars and buses going up the street, all with very bright lights.
The woman who always comes into the Vaults from
Queen Street was there, just inside the gateway, talking to one of the firewatchers about the hopelessness of the British defences. She said the Germans were much better defended than we were, and were always bringing down British planes, “and how many do we bring down? Three!” (Referring to the two raids on Wednesday – Thursday). The man agreed, and said “They can do just as they like over here, it seems.”
I waited in Wheeley’s Passage, which I feel sure ought to be the safest place in the building, and examined again the joint between the Roman and Norman work. I remember being shown it by A.G. Wright, some 20 years ago, never thinking of the circumstances I should one day be looking at it. The air of the vaults has a queer smell, and reminds me of those long nights in 1940. Funny that I should be more frightened now than I was then, as it is always assumed that one becomes hardened to danger as time goes on.
The all-clear came before 9.30, and I was glad, as it would let the old people at home go to bed peacefully.
Went back to Holly Trees, to find Poulter had come in and had gone to bed. How he can calmly go to bed on the top floor in the middle of an alarm I do not know. Old Septimus Alexander, 70 years old, goes up onto the roof every time.
Poulter seemed rather better. The surgeon told him this morning that the growth was reacting slightly to the rays, and that his chances had improved. We had a general chat. He told me that the Tube disaster on Wednesday was at Bethnal Green. Must have been a tremendous panic.
I have recently been hearing faint noises, especially when sitting in the Muniment Room, like people talking very quietly. Most curious. Ghosts?