17th April 1944

Felt dreadfully ill.  Awake all night.  Seems hard luck that on a night free of raids I could get no sleep.  Coughed for hours on end.

Dull and cold, but had a haircut first thing, before going to Birch Hall.  The town seemed empty and lifeless.  Did nothing at the office except Committee stuff.  Birch all afternoon but not such a long meeting as usual.  Got away at 5.30.  At tea, Joanna did not show up at first, but I suddenly saw her come out of her room with a plate and saucer, and go to wash them in the bathroom.  She waved her hand to me vaguely, and looked rather worried.  I wondered if she had had bad news, but at last she walked round the gallery to speak to us, and said in a very despondent manner that she was going away “for a month”, to take her baby to her mother-in-law in Berkshire.  I wonder if the Chairman has had a tip-off about something and is getting her away?  She seemed to be quite upset about it.

The only thing of any note mentioned at the meeting was the matter of Layer Breton Hall, which the Chairman brought up, and was very indignant about it.  This house was requisitioned by the Writtle people about 18 months ago, to use as a hostel, and was taken in a very high-handed manner which caused a lot of ill feeling.  Since then hundreds of pounds have been spent on it, and now, when it is almost ready, the Executive have decided that they don't need a hostel there after all.  Naturally, the blame for this scandal is laid against the District Committee, who had nothing whatever to do with it.  It is now suggested that the place should be used for workman’s flats, for which it is most unsuitable.

Got some more photos from Gall today, copies of a dozen taken in 1908 or 1909 for Moore & Roberts by old Stutter.   Quite good – High Street, St Botoloph’s, Lexden, Middle Mill etc.

To Holly Trees this evening.  Poulter told me that the money box at the Castle has been opened again during the past 10 days, twice.  No action is being taken.  There seems little doubt it is being done by someone inside, and Hull is now wondering if it is old Simon, the firewatcher, the last person I should have thought of.  Hull has also found a considerable number of the electric bulbs in the office have been stolen, and dud bulbs put in their place.  The office is always kept locked, but there is a key in the bookstall downstairs.  Only Butcher has a key to the bookstall, but of course it would be easy for him to leave the place open for Harding, whom Poulter suspects very much.  I wonder what Hull would say if he knew that I still had a key to the place?  Hull left the lights on in his office again last Friday and locked it, and as Butcher was not there in the evening the night duty men had to remain in darkness all night, with the mains off, as being the only way to put the light out.  He has done this literally dozens of times during the last 2 or 3 years, and nobody has ever said a word to him about it.

Still no letter from Mary Hulbert.  Don't know whether she ever received mine, or whether she does not want to reply.  Feel ill with worry, and wonder whether or not to send a telegram.
Rain tonight, at 11 o’clock.

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