5th January 1945

Another tremendous racket in the early hours, when a commercial who had been to a fireman’s dance came in a bit tight about 4am.  Much chatter at breakfast about this, speculation among the other inhabitants of this place as to what anybody can find to do in Wisbech until 4am.  

Brilliant sunny morning, but freezing.  Horse-drawn lorries coming along the South Brink loaded with potatoes, the horses unshod.  Noticed that they did not slip on the ice going up over the bridge.  Must enquire as to what proportion of the Fen horses go without shoes.

Spent the whole morning in the Library, repairing Roman pottery, then after lunch moved a few books about and became thoroughly tired out.  Had to go out on cycle, looking for a sweep to come and see to the boiler.  Found him at last in a tiny alley called Russell Street, all early 19th century cottages of yellowy brick, with pantile roofs.

Miss Thompson brought word that old Edwards is in bed with phlebitis, so I went round at tea-time to see him.  He seemed very cheerful and resigned to stay in bed for several weeks.  Felt very sorry for him.

Back to the Museum at 7, and went through every drawer and cupboard in the office, not having had time to do this before.  Found all sorts of extraordinary things, - magnificent “scrap book” of Nene River, compiled by a man named Oldham, profusely illustrated.  Excellent piece of work, containing most valuable records – MS of “The Monk”, by Lewis, - Third Canto of “Don Juan”, dedicated “with the Author’s Compliments” – series of plans of all the defensive earthworks in Cambridgeshire, by a Revd. Dorling.  Felt overwhelmed and quite depressed at such a mass of material.

Meant to write letters tonight, but this job took until 10 o’clock.  Then back to hotel, beneath brilliant stars, and the noise of high flying ‘planes.  The moon will rise soon, so I don’t suppose there will be any divers tonight.  Street lamps gleaming on the snow, and light glowing in the windows in the Crescent and Ely Place.

Just at the corner of Castle Square, three French sailors came running and sliding on the icy road, whooping and shouting.  They had no hats, and seemed a little drunk.  One of them, a petty-officer, fair-haired with a cheerful, pleasant face, came up to me and asked in tolerable English if I could tell him the way to the “Toc H” Canteen.  I replied it was round to the left, and seeing him rather puzzled added “au gauche, Monsieur,” to which he laughed and said “Ah, c’est bon!  Il parle français, ce garçon! Tres bon!”

I said “Mais non, seulement un peu, et mon accent est très mauvais, je sais.”  They all laughed and ran away, shouting something in French which I could not understand.  Strange to talk French in a little Fenland town on a cold still winter night.  Wonder where their homes are.

Went in, wishing that I had somebody to talk to.

Been thinking about the divers the other night.  There seems no doubt that the one which I saw fell about 4 miles the other side of Peterborough, and it certainly seemed to me to pass 2 or 3 miles south of Wisbech, coming more or less from the N.E.  Lining this up on the map, it would appear that it might almost have come in near Hunstanton or even Cromer, and may have been wrongly directed.  Hope such mistakes don't often occur, or I shall regret that I ever came here.

Have noticed that divers often come in pairs.  Wonder if they are carried two at a time, slung under the wings of a ‘plane, rather than one under the fuselage, as we are told in the Press.  Mrs Saltmarsh said today that she saw a bomber this morning which appeared to be carrying something very like a flying bomb, and that she had “heard” it was intended to use these things against Germany very soon.  Yet we know, and never cease to repeat that they are “cowardly”, “useless”, and “of no military value whatever!”  Mrs Saltmarsh also said she had heard in a letter that a rocket had fallen near Reading.

Mr Girling came in today to get me to sign an agreement of my appointment here, which I did.  One clause specifies that I am bound by 3 months notice on either side.

Listening to the talk among commercials in the lounge tonight, I learnt that potato clamps are known as “graves” in the Fens, and as “pies” in Yorkshire.

Bed at 11.30.

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