25th February 1945

Rather cold.  High clouds, and a lot of aircraft swimming about, very high and remote.

At lunch a party of four came in, a tall grey-haired man with glasses, wearing a tweed coat and cords, a dark woman, an obvious Fen farmer in breeches and a violent black and white check riding coat, and a Jewish man in a green jacket, blue serge trousers and thick horn-rim glasses, talking in a German accent.  The conversation was loud and interesting, the tall man and the Jew both apparently being something to do with the Agricultural Research Station at Cambridge.  Apparently they had been having some trouble or other with Engledow, father of the little wretch at Writtle, and one or other of them had either left or been dismissed.  The Jew kept talking loudly about “Sir Guy” who “never did anything worth doing”.  The whole  incident was a nice warning of the danger of talking too loudly in public places.

This morning, sitting in my bedroom, looked out onto the river and the Brinks.  A young girl came along North Brink on a bicycle, riding swiftly beside a black pony, clipped out, on which a tiny child was bobbing up and down.  The black and white nuns came out of Old Market, passing three Italians, who drew aside to let them go by and then stood staring after them.  A milk float appeared from the town, with a big smashing cob, head up, feet up, the name Hardy on the cart, going over the bridge and away along the Brink at great speed.  A good, well-made beast, but dirty and uncared for.

The American lorries came rushing over the bridge, then a pony trap, driven by a girl, came from Old Market.  In the distance was the sound of a very noisy band, bugles all off key, and along came a pathetic looking Boys Brigade, followed by a dozen children.  The noise was excruciating, and as they came down South Brink there seemed to be a sort of echo to the left, which increased until it revealed itself as the band of the Grammar School Cadets, marching full blast in the opposite direction.  It was an exquisite moment when both bands passed each other just outside the police station, the noise making the windows rattle.

Next over the bridge came a lorry with a dead blown bullock on it, one stiff leg waving above the side of the buck.  Then people appeared coming out of church and chapel, and the Cadets Band was dismissed just outside the Rose and Crown yard.  The river was running out swiftly, like thick grey oil, the tide-gauge showing 7 feet.  Another milkfloat, with a thick set brown cob turned into Old Market.  Quite a number of horses about in the town, but not a single smart turnout anywhere.  This morning when I went out to get a paper, a rough-looking man came riding out of Somers Road on a very useful looking Arab, unclipped and very dirty.  It played up at a noticeboard, but the man edged it past very expertly.  Looked like a good set of harness.

In the lounge this afternoon, conversation was about hanging this Welsh girl of 18, who was convicted with an American in murdering a taxi driver.  Everybody very anxious indeed that she should swing, particularly the old women.

Tonight called at the Swifts, and much pleasant chatter for an hour.

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