1st March 1944

Two frightful bouts of pain during the night, but better in the morning.  Bright, clear day, with light N.W. wind.  Very cold.  Cycled in.  Saw two men at Ardleigh Heath, opposite Mary Hulbert’s old cottage, filling a corn drill, the horses standing with their feet in some cabbages, a vast area of smooth, black, harrowed soil behind them.

The office was filthy and full of smoke.  Felt depressed and ill.  At lunch time, saw a shallow trench opened along the E. side of the “Playhouse”, and picked up a few small Roman sherds.  Noticed that Rose’s café was shut.  Can she really be married, or was it only a stupid joke?  Made me feel both sad and frustrated, and when I went back to the office Snowball called me “Itma”, a name Rose often uses.  It made me go quite mad, so that I walked down the passage and gave a violent kick to one of the doors, splitting the panel and my shoe.  I was furious.  Rose Browne, Rudsdale's former girlfriend, married a soldier on this day 70 years ago.  CP

Tonight went over to Higham.  Called at the “King’s Arms” at Stratford, to see if I could get a room there.  The land-lady was not hopeful, as she thought the brewers would probably object.  It is a pleasant little place, and both the landlord and his wife seemed very nice people.  I gave her my name, whereupon she said “Well, I never!  To think your dear old dad used to teach me at Barrack Street nearly 50 years ago!”  She was a Colchester woman, and knew my Mother, and most of the Webb family.  We had a long talk, and I think something may come of this eventually.  It would suit me admirably. 

As I came out into the bright moonlit street, a sort of siren in the pumping station nearby gave a shriek, so guessed it must be a raid.  To the S.E. I saw faint searchlights, and clusters of rocket-shells bursting.  Strangely, could not hear explosions.  A plane came over, and circled over Raydon, but there was no more firing and no bombs fell.  Did not feel particularly nervous for once.  Went to Higham and did some more packing, then back to Dedham half past ten.  There were still planes about, but no sirens.

The landlady of the “King's Arms” gave me some amusing instances of illiteracy.  A man of 23, working at Langham Fruit Farm, was put in the army and his mother was very worried because he could not write to her, never having learnt.  The man himself was very scared at going away, as he had never been in a train.  When this story was told in the public bar, three or four other young men revealed that they had never been in trains either.  She also told me of a girl of 15 who could neither read nor write nor tell the time.  When it was necessary for her to do anything at a special time, a clock face was drawn, with the hands showing that particular time, and she was told to wait until the hands on the real clock were in the same position.

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