18th February 1945

Up at 9.30.  Lovely warm spring-like morning.  Leisurely breakfast to the sound of the church bells merrily pealing.  Very attractive red-haired girl came in, with a Canadian airman.  Had lounge to myself after 11, and put on radio to hear the Welsh service.  Miss Jones came in, spoke about aircraft crashes.  Said there had been five in a week in and around the Fens.  The big RAF carriers are often seen going through the town, full of wrecked ‘planes.  Am beginning to wonder if the RAF will want the Observer Corps to be kept on after the war, to assist in locating crashes.

About 12 went to look out of the bedroom window.  Drum and fife band of the Grammar School Cadets came marching by.  A young girl on a sleek, clipped-out piebald came riding slowly along North Brink, across the bridge and down Nene Quay.  Then a milk cart with a rough cob, a tub cart, a dray, and a led horse tied behind it, all passed over towards Old Market, their hooves echoing in the Sabbath quiet.  The Nene was running sluggishly, like black oil, out to sea.  North Brink basked in pale winter sunshine, the Town Hall, with its handsome austere front of warm stone, with ugly black iron shutters over the window, fastened with large padlocks on the outside, inviting somebody to break them off with a hammer.  Near the main door a notice saying “Air Raid Shelter for 85 Persons”, and a poster screaming “Everybody should know about V.D.”  Another poster reads “Registration of Boys and Girls”.

Lloyds Bank, the “Hare and Hounds”, the “White Hart” (“Patronised by Royalty” – who?) stand quiet and silent without the least sign of life, and beyond the lovely row of houses, brick and stone bow-windows, flat windows, pilastered door-cases, pedimented door-ways.  As fine a row of Georgian houses as any in England.

A lorry full of WAAFs comes at great speed over the bridge and vanishes into the town.  On the right, towering over the shoddy shops beyond the bridge, to the jib of a big crane used in the river work, the roofs of warehouses, and further behind them the gasometer.  One large warehouse has a huge glaring inscription “H. Friend, Metal, Feather and Rabbit Skin Merchant.”

Two children on the far side of the river lean over the rail and spit into the water.  One little boy urinates against the corner of the bridge.  People are beginning to come out of church.

After lunch, cycled to Friday Bridge.  Met the piebald I saw this morning, and several other hacks, all ridden by girls.  To old Warby’s, Oldfield House, and saw his collection, which is very good indeed.  Almost entirely Romano-British material from sites in the neighbourhood, including a dozen or more stamps and a lot of decorated T.S. sherds.  Told me bitterly how Curtis Edwards had refused to accept his offers of pottery, and how, if he found them, Curtis Edwards would later throw the stuff away.  

While I was there, Dr Carlisle called to see the stuff.  A very pleasant man, but with a hard face.  Brought his little boy to see the pottery.  Warby showed him a spherical brown flint stone, well water worn, whereupon to my amazement Dr. C. said “you know that what is, don't you? It’s a gall-stone, they often dig them up in old churchyards, even bigger than that!”  Made no comment, being too astounded.

Left at 8, back to Wisbech, and went to the Swifts.  Met Argent, the engineer on the sewage work here, who lodges there.  He is a Colchester man, born at New Bridge Mill, and left there some 45 years ago.  Is related to the Paxmans.  His daughter Rene is a reporter on the Wisbech “Standard”.  Mrs. Argent was there, with bright red hair and an extraordinarily nice person.

Talking to John Swift, discovered that he once had two old aunts who lived at Wormingford, and a cousin of his married the Revd. Stanley Smith who used to be at St Botolph’s, while another cousin married Gerald Simpson of Hadrian’s Wall.

Did not leave until 11.30, and cycled hard under a brilliant crescent moon, but found myself locked out.  Knocked hard, but no answer.  Tried the back door, no answer, although there were lights in several rooms.  Went to the police station, and asked if I might ‘phone.  Mrs. Smith refused to answer that, either.  Police advised me to try all the windows until I found one open, which seemed curious advice for police to give.  Went back tried them all, but only the kitchen undone.  With great trouble squeezed through the bars, knocked something off a table, got wet paint all over my hands, only to find the kitchen door locked on the outside, so had to climb out again.

Back to police-station, but they refused further help or advice.  Went round to the Museum (it was now 1.00 am) found Penny at the Control Room, and got him to let me sleep in a bed in the old Town Library, which is kept made-up for the Controller, Ollard.  For this treatment at the “White Lion” I pay £4.4 per week.

While at the police-station, heard there has been a big robbery of jewellery at the “White Hart” across the river, stuff belonging to the land-lady, Mrs. Gosling.  The “Hart” is shut at 10.30, and if you want to be out later than that you have to ask permission, state when you will be in, and Mrs G. waits up for you.

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