5th March 1944

At last the wind has dropped.  Almost warm this morning.  Excellent breakfast at 9 o’clock, and then cycled slowly over to Spider Hall, Raydon, to see if the Miss Stoneys could let me have a horse and cart.  On the way saw Home Guards going to their morning drill, men digging in their gardens, children dawdling along to church.  The bells were ringing at Dedham, and Stratford, the gentle clanging drifting across the sunny valley, the pale blue sky full of fat white clouds, just as Constable used to paint it.

Had not been to Spider Hall since I was there with Poulter about 12 or 14 years ago, when we went to see the newly discovered wall painting.  As I went up the drive I saw the youngest Miss Stoney in a sheep pen with three lambs, the first this year.  In the farm-yard was a pea-cock stalking proudly, a flock of guinea fowl, several dogs and cats, and on a nearby apple-tree was a pure white cockatoo with a yellow crest, who gave frightful shrieks, interspersed with the remark “Hullo, cocky-boy!  Bugger the bird!”

Unfortunately there were no horses except a very old Welsh cob and a little pony which was lame, so they could not help me, but they very kindly offered to bring my books up to the garage by the roadside with their tractor.  They entertained me most kindly, and gave me an excellent lunch, after which we looked through paintings of cattle which Miss Stoney had done during recent years.  She had one of the old Foulness Ox, and several of the Duke of Bedford’s Park Cattle.  Talked about the wild Chillingham Cattle, which neither of us had seen, and looked through reproductions of Stubbs, Constable, and Munnings.  The house is very well kept, and they have an excellent library.

Was then shown all over the farm and the stock.  Saw the “scape-goat”, a handsome billy who runs with the cows.  I was assured that his presence had cured the contagious abortion which at one time was rife in the herd.  A very ancient belief.

Left at 3, and went through Lower Raydon to Valley Farm.  A heavy bomber came over very low, apparently flying in distress, while one of the crew fired red Verey lights.  It sank below the trees and seemed to land at Raydon Aerodrome.  Planes coming and going all day.

Down to Dedham, to tea at the café, then to Lawford with some washing.  Met Joy just above the farm, riding back from a visit to the Minneys’.  Went back to Sissons, and saw a beautiful book of Leonardo da Vinci reproductions, done last year by the Phaidon Press.  Magnificent.  Saw Cottee the taxi driver, who promised to bring the books down from Higham either Tuesday or Wednesday.  Two other taxi men refused.

Had a bath at the “Sun” and early to bed.  Cloudy.

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