19th September 1944

Only three hours sleep.  Felt ill, and vague, as if I hardly knew where I was or what to do next.  Could not keep still all day, or concentrate on any work.  Two amusing stories in the office from Culley.  One is that he was stopped in High Street yesterday by an American who asked him where he could change French francs, indicating bundles of them in his pockets and in the blouse of his battledress.  He said he had 15,000 frs, all won at gambling in France last week.  Culley advised him to try a bank.

The other story was about a new girl Culley took on.  He told her she had to have a cycle, whereupon she said “Good lor’, do I have to chase’m on a bike?” meaning the rats.  Culley said she was quite serious.

Dull all day.  Had no food until this evening, then had a good meal at the Regal.  Went out to Boxted, hoping for a long night in bed, but felt so bad I could not possibly settle.  Crept out and cycled to Nayland about 9pm and called on Phoebe Fenwick Gaye.  Didn’t seem very pleased to see me, but gave me tea and some cakes.  Stayed as long as I dared, about 10.30, then wandered out.  Dull, dark night.  Decided to cycle towards Sudbury, thinking that perhaps I might get there and call on H.J. Cape, [a teacher from Colchester Royal Grammar School] if not too late – might spin him some yarn about having a puncture – he asked me to call on him, anyhow.

After about 4 miles suddenly became aware of a cycle lamp following about 100yds behind in a persistent sort of way. Accelerated.  So did the pursuer.  Pedalled as hard as I could.  So did pursuer.  Whizzed round a sharp bend where the road is wooded, saw my chance, nipped into a gateway beside the wood and got behind a stack.  A second or two later the pursuing light shot past.  Waited.  The light came slowly back, and I was right.  He was looking for me.  He came very slowly past the gateway, about 30 yards away, but could see nothing but a vague dark figure.  Waited another few minutes, saw him return again, turn in the road, and then go back towards Nayland, as if giving up the chase.  Gave him a few minutes, then sped away in the opposite direction without any lights.  Odd that, although the man might have been a robber or even a murderer, I did not feel as alarmed by his dogged pursuit as I do of the purely blind “divers”.

Cycled as quickly as possible another 2 or 3 miles, then decided this was absurd, and that I must go back.  The night was black as pitch, and could see nothing but the white line in the centre of the road.  The sky was only a shade lighter than the land.  Turned to the left, and dodged down the lanes to Stoke by Nayland.  It began to rain.  Went on towards Nayland again, and then, half a mile short of the village, a covery of divers swept over behind me, hidden in the low wet clouds.  Rested for a few minutes behind a straw stack on Tendring Hall land, but no more came.  Getting very wet and cold, so went on through the village and over in to Essex again.  Along the bottom road, hearing Nayland church strike 3, rested again on the old stack.  Still raining, and heard a few faint sirens, far away.  A sign of dawn in the east when I woke from a doze, so went slowly up the hill and down the back roads to Boxted Cross, and so home, in bed by 4.30.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I understand that H J Cape was headmaster at Colchester Royal Grammar School from 1916 to 1937 and was keen to promote horticultural activities for pupils of all ages. He introduced horticultural shows to the school in the early 1930s and encouraged participation by other schools and also the general public.