11th January 1944

Up at 7.45, late.  Fine morning, hard white frost.  Bombers going out, dropping red and green flares.  The beacon was not on, but late last night they ran the motor without putting on the light.

Found I had a puncture, and took a long while to get in.  Went down to Mersea with Nott and called at Copt Hall.  Cecil Baldwin, who was with us, said as we went down the lane by the boarded cottages, “Do you remember when the Zeppelin came down here?  I was 12 at the time, and I was in bed fast asleep and knew nothing about it until next morning.”  This was Zeppelin L33, which was brought down at Little Wigborough in 1916.  CP

All the Abbott’s Hall horses had been brought over for numbering, so there were 7 there all together.  Little Robin, looking very like a miniature Punch himself, looked out of his box and hammered at me.  The big yard is full of cattle now, deep in straw.

It was now dinner time, so we went to the Wigborough “King’s Head”, and ate our sandwiches.  There was an old man in the bar called Foakes (a family which has been in those parts since the 14th century).  He works for Pickering now, and got talking to Nott and Baldwin.  He said he was born at Guisnes Court, and had come to Wigborough as a child of 4, seventy years ago.  For 50 years he lived in a little black cottage which was submerged by the Reservoir, and two months ago lost his wife “ – woke up one Sunday morning, found her dead in the bed.”

I asked him if he used to use flails – “Ah,” he said “that I did, many a time.  Last time I touched a ‘frail’ was at the Maldon Show.  They had ‘em there to show folks how that was done in the old days, so I went in and ‘thumped ‘em’ up and down a while.”

I said “Yes, I remember that time, I was in charge of that exhibit - ‘the Old Essex Farm' - at the Maldon  Show.”

Next we went down to Mersea Island, across the Strood with full tide sucking against the railings, rain falling fast, and went to Mortimer’s.  Numbered two horses there, and then had to go to the blacksmith’s, where the last horse was being shod.  A good little forge, belonging to Underwood, the last forge on the island now.

Back to Colchester, raining very hard, just in time to get a ‘phone call from Diana.  Went to tea with her at Last’s.  Then went to the old home, to find Father had moved back here, after being away for two months.  It looked funny to see him sitting in his old chair, while Miss Payne [the new housekeeper] was in Mother’s.  I hope she will be kind to him.  While I was there Mary Ralling brought in the “Gazette”, just as she always did every Tuesday evening when Mother was alive.  We shall never be able to repay the Rallings for what they have done.

Then back to office, glad not to be sleeping in the old house tonight, and mended puncture.  Got away at 7 in pouring black rain, and was very surprised to find the light on a Higham.  I saw the great sheets of crimson flame as soon as I had got through Stratford.  Why a beacon should be working on a night when no planes could possibly be out I do not know. 

I see my old friend G.A. Sutherland of Dalton Hall, Manchester University, is still protesting in the “Guardian” against the wicked crimes of bombing towns and cities on the Continent.  I spent a very pleasant week at Dalton Hall about 8 years ago, when I went for a course at the Manchester Museums.

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