EJ Rudsdale on Twitter from 3 September 2019

30th April 1944

Lovely warm summer day.  The Boxted orchards are a wonderful sight, a mass of blossom.  Cuckoos calling in the Plantation all morning. 

Went to Lawford this afternoon to tea at Sherbourne, as Joy had asked me.  At the top of Jupes Hill found Moorhouse and his little son trying to catch a pony.  He called to me to help, and by a simple stratagem I was able to catch the pony at once.  Everybody very pleased.

Lovely tea at Sherbourne Mill.  Was shown the new calves and the new petrol driven grinding mill which has been put in the basement of the old mill building.  Most useful.  Bought 6 eggs for Father, then left to call at Dedham.  Jack Penton was at Sissons, and we all sat in the garden for an hour.  Major Inde called, and a Sergt. Merrill of the US Army, whom Sisson had met in the “Sun”.  He was most amusing, Mrs Sisson asked what he was, and he replied “Technical Sergeant Merrill, but just call me Phil!”  She said “Will you have a cigarette, - Sergeant?” and he answered “Well, if it’s all the same to you ma’am, I’ll just light up my pipe.  You see I’m practically British!”  I had to look away or I should have laughed.
Left at 10, and cycled to Boxted in the cool quiet evening.  Not a ‘plane in the sky, but enormous bombers began to go over between 10.30 and 11, under the clear moon.  Nightingales singing everywhere.

29th April 1944

Dull again, but warm.  Two Suffolks rolling the field behind the house this morning.

When I got to the office found everything in an uproar, so slipped home for a few minutes.  Miss Payne said Father seemed a little unwell, and complained of pain round his heart. Annie Ralling is no worse, but her mind is wandering.  While there found a form which had come to me from Writtle, addressed to me as the occupier of Bourne Mill, and enquiring (a) am I occupied full-time on this holding? and (b) if not, what other work do I do?  This is signed by Thingood of the Labour Department, who has known me personally for three and a half years.

Up town this afternoon, shopping and Library.  Called at the Castle, and found Mr. Middleton, the radio speaker, talking to a large crowd about gardening.  Sounded very dull to me.  Arranged to take the “rat-lady” out to supper tonight.  Went home to tea, and stayed an hour, then back to Holly Trees.  Saw a card from Christopher Hawkes, announcing that he and his family have returned to Fitzroy Terrace permanently.  Curious thing to do at a time when more and bigger raids are expected on London at any moment.  

Took the “rat-lady” to the café in Culver Street and then went for a walk through the Park and along to Partridge’s, strolling in the quiet evening.  Then we went back to Holly Trees and sat on one of the seats for an hour or so, until it became too cold.  Left her at 11.30, and said goodbye, as she is going back to London tomorrow.

Noticed a Home Guard sentry patrolling under the railway bridge at North Station.  So far as I know they are not yet stopping people from coming into the town, and there are no signs of any particular military activities.

Planes were flying over tonight in formation, the wing-tip lights glimmering like little coloured stars.  There was a new searchlight on, somewhere in the Horkesley direction, beyond the Plantation.

In the “Essex Telegraph” this week is a piece of the vilest hypocrisy I have ever seen.  It is stated, in order to show how religious the Americans are, that two Yankee airmen spend their time between air-raids sitting in a cathedral “near their camp”, praying, and recuperating their depleted strength for the next effort.  It would of course be hard to say whether the English or the Americans have destroyed the most churches and cathedrals in Europe, but to print such rubbish as this is an insult to the public.  One only hopes that both British and American airmen will agree to leave unharmed any cathedrals near German aerodromes, so that their enemies may have the same opportunities for quiet contemplation, before coming over here to bomb schools in mistake for factories.
Boxted at 1a.m.  Had to walk most of the way, having no lights.  Beautiful warm night.

28th April 1944

Hundreds of ‘planes going over between 4 and 5 in the morning.  So difficult to get more than a couple of hours sleep nowadays.  Late up.  Dull, and rather cooler.

Chairman came in this morning, talking about Home Guard duties.  Saw Mary Ralling today, and she talked about Annie.  Poor dear Annie.  She was so very kind to Father that day last November, held his hand, put her arm round his shoulders, made him tea.

Went to Holly Trees, and Poulter insisted on introducing me to a most charming young woman in charge of a stand at the Castle show, illustrating rat destruction.  Made quite a hit, so went back and asked her out to tea.  She came, and afterwards we went to the ‘Playhouse’, and saw quite the worst film I have seen for years, something about Russia, but there was a lovely Walt Disney cartoon to make up for it.  Afterwards we walked up to Sheepen Farm and back to the town, and had a coffee in one of the milk bars.  She was staying at the “Lion”.  Talked about Ministries – Ministry of Food seems every bit as bad as the Ministry of Agriculture.  She is charming, knowledgeable and witty.  Have not enjoyed a talk so much for months.

Hervey Benham put an extract from my journal in the Essex County Standard tonight, about the Clacton ‘plane crash 4 years ago.  It was anonymous of course, but made me uncomfortable to see it, particularly as it was slightly changed.  In his editorial notes he quotes a gloomy entry from his own diary.
Boxted at midnight.  Planes.

27th April 1944

There was an alarm at 5 o’clock, so Miss Bentley said, but I did not hear it.  Have been most fortunate in not hearing alarms.

Sent in Royal Observer Corps forms.  Went out to see Sier, who said the Birch Hall MSS are most interesting, and went through several with me.  When I got back set Daphne to make a typescript copy of the whole thing, particularly Gray’s notebook.

Called at the “Standard” Office and saw Mary Ralling who at last admitted that Annie is dying.  Did not know what to say, and there is nothing I can do.  All we hear about now is the wonderful “health-schemes” that are being prepared, yet there is no means of helping an old woman dying in pain, nor even the means to get somebody to do the housework or help to nurse her.  Mary can now be getting only about an hour’s sleep every night.

Back to office early after lunch, and saw Watt’s beautiful mare go sailing past at 2 o’clock, on her way home, coat and harness shining in the sunlight.

A circus on the Recreation Ground, for three days.  Went along this evening to have a look at it.  A few dirty motor caravans, a few tents, a “big-top” of green and white striped canvas, two or three ragged old pie-bald horses, a few tiny ponies on which children were being given rides at 3d a time, and a sad little donkey.  The prices of admission were 3/6, 2/6 and 1/-.  Big crowd lining up, although there was over an hour to wait.  The whole set-up looked forlorn and cheap.

Apparently these people are allowed to erect their show at the Recreation Ground as part of the “holidays-at-home” attractions officially sponsored by the Town Council.  Before the war, no really good circus, such as Mill’s, would be allowed to do such a thing.

Saw Marjory Purser there.  She looked worn and tired, and was obviously in the family way.

Went  up to Old Heath to see a man about getting a schoolboy for agricultural work, and heard all about the stupid obstructions of the Education Committee.  Then to Bourne Mill, and sold my scythe to Gibbons for 7/6.

To Boxted at 8, and listened to the radio – “Itma”.  Copied out more of Gray’s notes.

The District Officer says this man Maidstone was appointed Deputy District Officer yesterday.  He is only about 30, and the Chairman is alarmed in case he should turn out to be a Conscientious Objector, “because if he is, I’ll have nothing to do with him.”

“Dig for Victory” Exhibition in the Castle, for three days.  Did not go, but hear that the collections have been roughly handled by a gang of men from the Depôt.  Marshall, Park Superintendent, is in charge.

Noticed a small pit in Mersea Road, by the Abbey Wall, about 150 yards from the S.E. corner, dug for a gas main.  At that point there is no footing to the wall whatever, and clean sand shows about 9” under the present surface.
Hazy tonight, and the young moon rising red through it.  Sound of nightingales and aeroplanes.

26th April 1944

Brilliant morning, but cold.  ‘Planes going out in hundreds from 6 o’clock onwards.  As I cycled up Military Road, saw Maisie Farmer, with a bright yellow scarf round her head.

Snowball came in and discussed the possibility of holding some sort of agricultural show in August, under the auspices of the Committee.  A good idea, and I showed what enthusiasm I could, but where shall I be in August?

Had to phone to Cuckney, the so-called “Director of Education”, about his refusal to release a schoolboy for agricultural work.  He informed me in calm and precise tones that the Borough Education Committee were not falling in with the Ministry’s scheme, as they did not feel that it applied to town schools.  He is just the type of bureaucratic official who delights in willful pigheaded obstruction.  A perfect fool.

This afternoon a Miss Lane called from West Bergholt, a pleasant little girl of about 18.  I remember her mother several years ago acting Lady Macbeth in the play which was performed outside the Castle.

Left early, and went to Mrs. Pat Green’s to see a friend of Mrs Sissons, Miss Walshall, who is interested in farming.  Turned out to be a prim young woman of about 23, who apparently has some sort of work in connection with the R.E.C.I. Research Department.  Found myself committed to take her to tea at the Regal, which I did at a cost of 4/9.  Then showed her Sheepen Farm.  She was very intelligent, but extremely dull.  Made me envious by saying that she is going to a job in Dumbarton in June.

Lovely evening, and magnificent views across the Colne Valley.  Had to go home to take £15 for Father which I drew for him today.  He is gradually eating into his deposit money, but I don't see that it matters, providing he is happy.  Found letter from Proudfoot at home, giving me release from the shelters so filled in enrolment forms for the Observer Corps.
Boxted at 10.  Landing lights on, and ‘planes flying round in the dusk, red and green lights on their wing-tips.  Nightingales singing loudly in the plantation.

25th April 1944

Colder, with a N.E. wind, cloudy at times.  ‘Planes streaming over the house soon after 8, bombs hanging below them.  

At the office found a telegram from Mary Hulbert – “Pony not required – Hulbert”.

Handed in at Shrewsbury at 3 o’clock yesterday.  Walker must have done it for her, and did not even bother to do it in the morning, although she works in the very building from which they are sent.  This is a bitter disappointment, and I can’t imagine what is behind it.  Am I to take it as a snub?  Or is it merely an ordinary telegram, condensed as economically as possible?  The one I sent cost 2/2.  When I left they were friendly as if 14 years had never passed, and I quite thought that they had been genuinely pleased to see me.  It seems that I am quite incapable of understanding the simplest thing in human relationships.

Heard today that a ‘plane crashed during the night at Langham, not far from Severalls Hall.  It was a Canadian bomber; coming back, and appears to have been shot down by a German, trailing it back from the Continent.  Several people heard it falling, and some say that they heard the sound of machine gunning.  The thing was smashed to pieces, and all the crew dead.  Parts of the engine fell near some of the aerodrome huts.  On Saturday last, an American ‘plane crashed near the “Shepherd & Dog” when taking off, but the pilot was not hurt and the bomb did not explode.

This morning saw Sier about Col. Round’s MSS, and he promised to look through them.  Then went to Proudfoot’s office and spoke about my release from the Castle shelters.  He ‘phoned the police, but there was no-one there who could help, so he said he would have to let me know.  
Took Daphne to tea, then to Holly Trees, and spent evening there, writing letters and talking to Poulter.  Boxted at 10.30.  Reading and writing.  Planes about, and heard guns in the distance about 1am, but there was no alarm.  London I suppose.  Bed at 1.30. 

24th April 1944

Much colder this morning, and cloudy, but ‘planes going out very early above the clouds.  Called at Holly Trees but no letter from Mary Hulbert.  Tried to work out when the telegram may have been delivered – perhaps not until today.

Got Daphne to list my negatives – 79 of them, and posted them off to All Souls to the National Buildings Record.  Later wished I hadn’t done it.  First time I have deliberately deprived Colchester Museum of anything of mine which it ought to have had.

Wrote to the Bank today, and asked them to transfer about £80 to current account, leaving only £100 on deposit.  Can now settle debts and draw £20 any day I like.

Tea at Last’s.  Saw Diana with some of the Repertory Company.  

About 6 the clouds drifted away and it was a brilliant evening.  A huge mass of 4-engine bombers flew over the town very low, heading homeward.
To Holly Trees until 8.30, working on Round’s Castle papers, then to Boxted, writing letters, tea, etc.  Not many planes about. 

23rd April 1944

Brilliant morning.  It is 16 years ago today that I first began work at the Museum.

Went to Dedham this afternoon, by Langham Lane.  At the top of Blackbrook Hill I suddenly noticed, away across Kiddles Farm, the gleam of the sea beyond Mistley, where the tide was full.  Have never seen it like this before.

Mrs. Sisson seemed glad to see me, and we had tea in the garden.  Went to the river in Mill Lane to collect some river weed for her tadpoles.  Brought away all my negatives, which I am sending to Oxford
Back to Boxted, lovely quiet evening.  Haze coming up, and no ‘planes about.  Somehow feel more sensible after visit to Sissons, not so wild and impetuous. 

22nd April 1944

Fine and warm.  Cuckoos started at 7 o’clock, quite unperturbed by ‘planes rushing over very low. 

Sixty years ago today was the great East Anglian Earthquake.  My mother remembered it very well, as she was 16 at the time, and a pupil-teacher in a little school in Osborne Street

Feeling vague and nervous all day.  Quite determined to leave Colchester.  Went to see Alderman Blomfield this afternoon, to show him Charles Gray’s manuscripts.  He was interested and agrees that they should be in the Muniment Room.  I insisted that at all costs they must be in the custody of the Town Clerk, and not of the Curator, to which he agreed.  When I left, I thought little do you know that you will probably get my resignation in a few days time.  He told me that Sir Gurney Benham was now very feeble indeed, and it is most unlikely that he will ever come out again.  Wonder if I ought to go to see him.

Sent off a telegram to Mary Hulbert, to ask if she wants the pony.  Perhaps this will make her reply to the letter.

To library, and then home to tea.  Left at 6 for Dedham, by way of Ardleigh Park.  

At Dedham found Sherman’s locked up, and wondered if Sissons’ were away.  Saw Major Inde walking down the street, and then went over to Lawford, but arrived at a bad moment, as there was a supper party about to begin.  Stayed only a moment, and left feeling very flat.  Hate to call and then feel I am not wanted.  Rather colder tonight, and some thin clouds.

21st April 1944

Brilliant day, warm and sunny.  Saw nine horses going to plough between Woodside and Severalls.  Not so many ‘planes going over as usual.

Saw Poulter tonight, and he told me that Dr Henry Laver’s scurrilous diary has been destroyed by Marshall, the solicitor, on Mrs Lyon-Campbell’s instructions.  Marshall read it out to her, and then burnt it page by page.  Marshall’s knowledge of Colchester families must now be very considerable.

When I got back to Boxted tonight I found that Miss Bentley had mended a bad rent in my mackintosh and had patched one or two other things for me quite without my asking and without expectation of payment.
Very dark tonight, but the new moon comes tomorrow.

20th April 1944

Warm and sunny, all sign of rain gone.  Plenty of ‘planes about, as usual.  Papers full of “invasion news”.  Hervey Benham has a very gloomy editorial in the paper this week, implying that some dreadful disaster lies ahead.  Probably right.

Meeting of Labour Sub-Committee at the office this morning to “try” recalcitrant Land Girls.  The Chairman sat with Macauley and Craig, exactly as if he was on the bench.  I took minutes, as if I was Clerk to the Justices.  It was all very amusing, but rather pointless, as they have no power whatever to inflict any punishment on these girls, and nothing will be done except to send a few more reports to Writtle, where they are never read.  However, the Chairman enjoyed himself immensely, and after it was over amazed me by leaving a bundle of Castle papers for me to look through.

These consist of various abstracts from Charles Gray’s title to the Castle lands, together with Gray’s own pocket book, in which he gives the dates when various work was carried out on the Castle.  Some of these notes have been published by J.H. Round, but not all.  They are scattered throughout the book in no particular order, and I transcribed the whole lot at once, so as to keep a proper record.  The building of the “wing” in 1748 must refer to the west wing of Holly Trees.  Showed them to Poulter tonight.

Felt oddly nervous, as it was a beautiful evening, with high thin clouds drifting slowly from the N.W., so went off at 9 to wander about as long as I could.  Cycled to Stratford St Mary, met a policeman just on the corner, who turned and chased me on his cycle, as I had no lights.  I made no effort to get away, as he was too near, and by being very polite got out of the trouble easily.  He never asked for my identity card.

Walked to Higham.  No beacon flashing, but I could see another one, red and yellow alternately, somewhere near Stoke by Nayland.  Few ‘planes going out.  Cycled along the lane over the marshes, and sat by the little ford for a time.  Just past Langham waterworks the sirens wailed out over Suffolk.  Could not make up my mind what to do.  It was now nearly midnight, and I was afraid of meeting police.  Sat down under a hedge as some ‘planes came over, and tore my mackintosh on barbed wire.  Nightingales singing, and signal searchlights flashing in every direction.

Went on and walked past Lt. Rivers.  How mad the Roses would think me to be, if they knew I was outside their house at past midnight.  Walked on through the orchards, past the village, down the lanes to the ‘Queen’s”.
Went through the footpaths from Harrow Corner to Horkesley Plantation.  Saw the searchlights to the north following what was presumably a German but none of the dozens of ‘planes flying across took any notice.

19th April 1944

Sure enough, an alarm about 2am, but nothing happened.  Good many planes flying about all night, but heard no bombs or firing.

Thick fog at 7 o’clock, and an enormous number of ‘planes flying out above it.  Never known them to do this before.

Fog cleared, and it was a brilliant morning, quite warm.  Saw the boy, Death, drive up to the house opposite the office with a load of coal, and old Sir Hugh Walmsley going up town with his shopping basket.

Telephone from the Royal Observer Corps this morning, for me to see one of the officers, Claydon.  Offered to come down here this afternoon, but I thought I had better go to the HQ in Lexden Road instead.  Went up at half past one, and ran slap into Hull on the doorstep.  Felt an awful fool.  He grinned at me, very feebly, and went into one of the rooms.

Was rather shaken to be told that girls are now being put on the out posts, but don't think there are any at Gt. Horkesley.  Now have to see the police about getting release from shelter duties – forgot all about that.

Went to Holly Trees tonight.  Poulter showed me a fine silver coin from the Park, which Hull identified as a Republican.  Thought it very doubtful, so checked it in Colven, and found it to be a “restoration” coin of Galba, Obv: 10M CAPITOLANVS, Rev: VESTA, quite rare.  Extraordinary that Hull should make such a mistake, as he used to be so good with Roman coins.

Back to Boxted at 9.  Came over very cloudy at 8, and steady rain began at 11 o’clock.  Miss Bentley told me that she heard by phone today that the Brompton Hospital (See Daily Telegraph, 19.5.44.  Was this perhaps Edmonton, not Brompton?  Perhaps Miss B. heard wrongly) was hit during the raid this morning.  It is mentioned as “a London hospital” in the evening papers, and from the account given it would seem that about 12 people were killed there, and very serious damage done.
Curious to think how one’s life depends on the weather.  Last night – fine, bad raid.  Tonight – wet, all quiet.

18th April 1944

Very little rain last night.  Thin hazy cloud this morning, then a brilliant sunny day.  Felt better, cough not so violent.

Talking to Culley, Pests Officer.  He told me that his warreners were always having trouble with keepers, who would tear up rabbit snares wherever they found them.  Arnold’s man at Layer Marney has done this.  Yet dozens of acres of wheat have been destroyed down there, all by rabbits.  Another thing he told me was that when Lake, the Chief Pests Officer, is on Committee land, he always tears up any snares which have been set by Committee workmen, as he considers such snares to be “poaching”.  

Wasps and flies have begun to come out, and a chestnut tree in Winnock Road has leaves on it nearly 4” long.  At Boxted the fruit trees are a mass of bloom.  If there are any late frosts the damage will be terrific.

Saw Hervey Benham this evening.  Spoke of Mary Ralling.  He is very dissatisfied at the way she is neglecting her work [at the Essex County Standard] so as to look after her sister.  I told him what I knew about the business, but it was a horrible conversation.  There is something very dreadful in having to imagine “Miss Ralling of the ‘Standard’” as an unsatisfactory employee, as if she was a careless typist.  Wonder whether she has to rely on the job for a living.

To Holly Trees again, and had a long talk with Poulter about future policy, etc.  It was on the tip of my tongue to tell him I did not expect to be concerned in any future policy at the Museum, but I thought better of it.

When I came out, there was a very drunk American in High Street, who accosted me with “Hey, fella!  Which is the way to the camp?” I said “Which camp?”
“The camp, y’know, the ‘drome.  Which way is it?”
I said “Do you mean Langham?”
“I dunno, somewhere near Ipswich”.
I directed him to Ipswich Road, and left him wandering unsteadily in the middle of the road.

Lot of ‘planes flying out to sea, carrying riding lights.

At Severalls, saw an American truck on the footpath with no lights, while girlish squeaks and giggles came from within. 
Brilliant stars tonight.  Fear there will be a raid.  Papers full of “invasion” theories.  Hear that the Duke of Gloucester was in the town yesterday, inspecting troops.

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.

16th April 1944

Felt very bad this morning.  Cough terrible and very sick.

Rained hard all day, but went over to Dedham as I had decided in my own mind to do so in any case.  Went by Langham Lane, by the side of the aerodrome.  Vast quantities of bombs lying about, and several ‘planes standing with bombs ready fixed.  Nothing flying, but as I went by Birchwood Corner several ‘planes came in from the east, flying very low but still partly obscured by drifting cloud.

At Dedham found that the café was shut, apparently for good.  Great disappointment.  Went on to Moorhouse’s, but he was out.  Back to Dedham, against head wind, and called at Sissons’.  Mrs. C.B still there, and felt myself de trop.  However, put some photos away, had a cup of tea and left quickly.

Lucky to meet Moorhouse by his buildings at the end of Pond Lane, and settled one or two points on which we needed his advice.  He showed me his bullocks, a lovely lot of shorthorns, but I could not appreciate them as I ought, the rain falling harder than ever, and I felt so bad.

Back to Boxted at 6, churchbells ringing across the dreary fields in pouring rain.  Assured of a quiet night, thank goodness.
Reading Halliday Sutherland’s “Finnish Journey” in which he mentions the phantasmagoria.  Most interesting, and I know exactly what he means.  When coming back late at night I frequently see the most extraordinary shapes, great animals, houses and buildings which do not exist, etc.  One night recently, on Boxted Straight Road, I suddenly saw what appeared to be a huge ruin, with a line of Gothic arches of great size.  As I approached nearer it gradually resolved itself in to a row of council houses.  I remember many years ago, when quite a child, cycling through Donyland Woods one sunny afternoon, and seeing through the trees what appeared to be a large Elizabethan house, with exposed timbering.  I turned towards it, believing it to be some house I had never seen before, but of course it was pure illusion.

15th April 1944

No rain this morning, but very foggy.  ‘Planes began going out soon after 8.  Called at home, and was delighted to find that Father never heard the sirens yesterday, only the all-clear, so he never got up.

Willows at Bourne Mill all bursting out green. Rain began again this afternoon.

Saw Hervey Benham, and talked about ‘Essex Review’.  Don't think that anything will come of it, but it’s a delightful idea.  While I was talking to him, at the Culver St. Gate, the Mayor came by, with the Borough Engineer, the Borough Treasurer, the Town Clerk, the Chief Constable, and several gentlemen looking like Civil Servants, and I understand that a tall rather florid looking man walking with the Mayor was Col. Llewellin, the Minister for Food, who has been all over the town today inspecting the British Restaurants and the emergency feeding arrangements.  They all went into the new Public Library to see the Food Control Office people, and then went to lunch at the Town Hall.  Don't know what is behind this, whether it is merely a routine visit of the Minister’s or whether there is something special behind it.

Back to Boxted early tonight, glad of the pouring rain, which ought to guarantee a quiet night.

14th April 1944

Fine, sunny, and warm.  Miss Bentley said: “Did you hear the sirens? Just on a quarter to two.  I heard gunfire a long way off.”  But I had slept through both alarm and all-clear.  Wonderful!  How strange not to hear it when the siren at Mile End is less than 2 miles away.  At Higham the Ipswich siren used to wake me sometimes.

Great excitement at the brothel over the way this morning – one of the numerous babies fell out of the bedroom window, about 15 feet, but was not apparently very much hurt.  Polly Browne and Mrs Smith rushed over the road, and there was a rare to do.

Now stated in the press that over 600 French people were killed at Lille last Sunday.  These vile outrages are committed without any comment in our allegedly “free” press.  I see that the Americans have had to pay 1,000,000 dollars compensation to the Swiss for bombing Schaffenhausen in broad daylight, but the wretched French, who are every bit as neutral as the Swiss, get nothing.

Rain began about 6, and kept on quite hard until after 8.  Hope it will be a thoroughly bad night. 

In the Essex County Standard this week is a photograph of a wedding at Lawford, at which the two little Nichols children were bridesmaids.  This was headed “Queen’s Relatives as Bridesmaids” and the account stated that the similarity between the Nichols children and their distant relatives, the two Princesses, was remarkable.  As I believe the relationship is that the children’s aunt (Mrs Nichols' sister) married a Bowes-Lyon, a distant relation of Queen Elizabeth, any resemblance would be pretty remarkable.

Notice that the fire danger seems to be lessening, no doubt thanks to the tremendous efforts of firemen and fireguards.  Until recently there were posters out all over the place saying “A Thousand Fires a day are Helping Hitler!”  Now new posters are out which simply say “There is a Fire every Two Minutes – Help to Prevent Them”. As there are 1440 minutes in a day, these means 720 fires, an improvement of 280.

The Essex County Standard this week is also making a great point about the demolition of Middle Mill, to my mind wrongly.  Very little of the existing building is old, and the larger part of it was built after about 1905.  The whole of the machinery except the wheel was destroyed by the Corporation about 10 years ago, and the amenities of the place have been so altered in recent years there is nothing left to make a fuss about.  However, Alderman Blomfield and Duncan Clark are to examine the place next week.  It is very typical of Colchester methods to allow a good place to be destroyed piece-meal, and then to kick up a row at the very end, when it is too late.

Called today at a little cycle-repair shop at St. Botolph’s Corner, opposite the ‘Prince of Wales’, and was much struck by the pathos of the old man who owns it.  His little stock was carefully protected from the sun by sheets of brown paper, which he removed to get me a bottle of oil and then replaced with great care, and I thought how sad it seemed, that in his old age he should have to rely on selling these odds and ends for a livelihood.

Still raining hard.  The weather has broken at last.  Not a sound of planes anywhere.

13th April 1944

Still warm and sunny.  Birds singing very loudly soon after 6.30.  Small attack on London last night, but nothing in this district.

Went up town and met Hervey Benham.  He asked if I would take on the Editorship of the “Essex Review”.  How delighted I should have been a few years ago.  I could make it a fine thing, with editorials on the current affairs in Essex, especially with regard to archaeology, town-planning, amenities, etc., exposing the evils of Borough Engineers and Town Councillors.  Then give the book an entirely new make-up and a new cover and get articles from every part of the county so as to spread the local interest and secure the maximum number of readers.  Plenty of illustrations, of course, and sell it in every town and village of any size.  We could also include reviews of local plays, books and good films.  But what’s the good, when I shall probably be away from here long before another number appears.  Suggested Rickwood, who I’m sure could do it well enough to keep up the present standard.

Brilliant sunshine all day, and ‘planes going over in droves.  Took Daphne to tea in Culver Street, and as we were going in saw dozens of heavy bombers coming back, glittering in the evening sun.

This afternoon a company of soldiers came past the office, marching back to the barracks from the ranges, all singing and whistling the “Marseillaise”.  Wonderful tune.

There was a fire at Old Heath Laundry yesterday evening, but not much damage done.  Daphne and I went down to look at it, but there was nothing much to see.  It was in the last remaining of the old buildings which escaped the bombs in 1940.

Called at the Holly Trees for a few moments, then to Boxted, to see Whiten at Homedale, and then to Lt. Rivers.  The baby has been ill again, and Dodo is very worried.  The Pickard boy is worse than ever.  He showed a curious side of his nature the other day, when he wrote a very good pacifist poem.  Even Stuart, who can’t bear him, admitted that it was quite good.  He is only eleven.

Had to leave early, as they all wanted to go to bed.  It is one of my grievances now that I can't find anybody who wants to sit up all night and talk.

There was a thick haze, and I had hopes that it would be a dirty night, but by 11.30 the stars were glittering bright and clear.  Walked through the back lanes to the “Queen’s [Head Pub]”, and then through the foot path at Harrow Corner.  Got lost among the fields, but found Horkesley Plantation, and followed the edge of it until I came to the line of aerodrome light poles, which I know run just past “Woodside”.  Dragged the cycle through hedges and pushed it under fences.  Wonderful feeling to be quite alone in the dark fields, under the stars, nothing to be heard but the sound of a distant train or the rustling of little creatures in the hedges.  Once an owl flew out of a tree, and whirred away into the plantation, hooting.  At last reached the back of the house in time to hear midnight striking, very faintly, from Mile End Church.  Wished it had been later, as the moon does not rise until 2 am.  How mad anybody would think me, if they knew I was wandering about the fields in the middle of the night. 

12th April 1944

Another brilliant day, fine and warm, all sign of rain gone.  Wind backing towards S.E.  In the early morning there was quite a thick fog, but it soon cleared away.

Wrote to the Adjutant of the Royal Observer Corps tonight, asking for an interview [to work on one of the outposts].

Still thinking about going [to Shrewsbury].  Nothing from Mary Hulbert yet, but of course there has hardly been time.  Went into my finances again, and although I am afraid I owe between £40 and £50 (including income tax, £33) my balance is pretty good, and absolves me from money worries for at least a year.  Went to the library tonight, and worked out a route to Shrewsbury, in case I had to cycle there.  Roughly 200 miles, so could do it in 4-5 days.

Lovely still evening, very quiet until ‘planes began night flying about 9.30.  All the landing lights were on at Boxted, looking like the lights of a town as we used to see them.  Planes cruising about very low, red and green lights glowing like coloured stars.

Nice little paragraph in the ‘Evening News’ tonight, stating that paper bombs have been dropped on Baghdad by Iraqi planes during some sort of ‘war weapons week!’  General  Nuri al-Said is recorded as saying “These bombs are a reminder of the air-raids suffered by the people of Britain, and of the hardship and suffering caused”.  One would have thought that the Iraqi needed no such reminders, considering the sufferings caused to them by the RAF in the 1920s.  Many of the senior officers of the service, who now organise the bombing of German and neutral cities, went through their early training out there when they had the exquisite satisfaction of dropping high-explosive bombs onto Arab villages and tents, knowing that retaliation was impossible.

William Scawen Blunt, in his diaries, shows how our Prime Minister has been able not only to achieve his early ambitions but to go far beyond them in this direction, when he records that Churchill told him (21/10/1912) that the Government “would be obliged to take some action against the Mullah, (in Somaliland) not an expedition, which was too expensive an affair, but they would send aeroplanes to drop bombs into the Arab camps.”  He then went on to describe how his regiment had speared the wounded Dervishes at Omdurman.  Blunt says “How like his father!”

Miss Bentley’s sister is up from Hove on a visit.  Strictly speaking she has no business to come into this Defence Area at all, but no attempt is being made to stop people yet, either at Liverpool St or at Colchester Station.  Told Miss Bentley that is was improbable that she would be troubled unless she attempted to get her ration book changed, and this is unnecessary as she has brought her rations with her.

Felt nervous tonight and expected an attack.  Sat up until the moon rose at 1a.m., but nothing happened.  Few planes about, and signal searchlights.

11th April 1944

Fine, warm.  An enormous number of ‘planes flew out soon after 9, quite low, flying due E, and came back about half past 11.  Strange to think what misery their pilots have no doubt caused in that brief two and a half hours, during which I was writing, talking, answering the telephone, etc.  We think our allies are awfully clever, but shall we think this sort of thing so clever if the Germans can get enough ‘planes to answer back?  They ought to be able to do so by next year.

Some rain at times, and I had great hope that the weather would break, but it turned into a fine, clear, summer evening.  Saw a mad woman, dressed like a nurse, walking slowly down East Hill, talking loudly and angrily to herself.

Went down to Bourne Mill, and saw people feeding the swans.  There are seven now, two old and five young, and the pond is remarkably clear of weed, better than it has been for years. One old bird chased the young ones, surging through the water like a battleship.  Some of the young ones flapped along, wings waving, and literally walking on the water as they went.  Several children, aged about 12-14, watching, all of whom referred to the birds as “ducks”.

Got Weymouth’s “A Psychologist’s Wartime Diary” from the Library.  Most extraordinarily naïve and childish for such a person.  If I thought mine was as poor as this I would destroy the whole lot.  How can a supposedly intelligent man write such piffling rubbish?  The scathing remarks on Stalin make amusing reading compared with the papers of today.

Only heard on the 9 o’clock news that the RAF had made the “heaviest attack of the war” last night on railways in France.  Hope this will not mean a return raid tonight.  The moon does not rise until midnight, but perhaps the Germans don't bother to revenge attacks on France.

10th April 1944

Easter Monday
Brilliant day, warm and sunny.  Not the slightest sign of any more rain.  Spent the morning writing, then went in to Colchester for lunch, but found all the cafes shut.  Made do with coffee and sandwiches at the milk bar.

Went into the office this afternoon, and cleared up a few odd matters, then went home to tea.  Miss Payne said Father had been rather seedy on Saturday, and had complained of his legs.  She wants Dr Rowland to have a look at him.

Back to the office, and wrote a long letter to Mary Hulbert.  Asked her help if I go over to Shropshire again, and suggested I shall throw up everything at Colchester and go for good.  After I had posted it, decided to see Duncan Clark and talk to him, which I did, but it was a failure.  He told me that there was not the slightest chance of getting rid of Hull, but at the same time was full of optimism and new schemes for the Museum after the war.  Could not get him to see that there is no place in such a museum for me.  Hull would behave so that would be impossible for me to work.  Mentioned various things that are missing – Colchester Prints, Wire’s Morant, etc. but felt, as I was telling him, as if I was in the wrong.  Cannot talk to either Duncan Clark or to Alderman Blomfield as I used to do to the old Doctor [Laver].

Duncan Clark mentioned that he had schemes for the Museum Committee to publish papers on Colchester archaeological material – as if they ever would!  Also mentioned that he would like to get Sisson on the Committee in place of Rendall, who cannot last much longer.  Excellent, if it can be worked.

Fell into an animated discussion about all this, but came away and soon felt flat and depressed.  It is all talk.

Went to the Rallings’ with 6 eggs for Annie.  She is very bad, and suffers pain all day.  Mary looked worn out, but keeps up a gallant, cheerful, front.  What a terrible thing this is.  Annie lies in bed all day, with the house locked, waiting for Mary to come home to feed her.  She refuses to see anyone.  There seems to be absolutely nothing that we can do.

To the stables, and found Hampshire just back from Hadleigh with his little pony, very happy and rather drunk.  Emphasised that he and I “cottoned on wonderful well”, and were “the same as if we were brothers”.  To the Mill and fed the donkey, then to Holly Trees for an hour.  Did not tell Poulter about my talk to Duncan Clark.

Walked back to Boxted, taking as long as possible, waiting for the moon to rise.  As I was going through Mile End, one of the Borough ambulances drove away from a little cottage.  The dim light was on inside, and I could see figures crouched over someone who was lying on a stretcher.  Outside the cottage was an old man, talking to one or two women, obviously neighbours.  One said “She’s gone with her, hasn't she?” and the man replied “Yes, she’ll stay with her for a bit.”  Then the woman said “How will the others get back?”
“Oh” he said, “they’ll take a taxi” (if they can find one not taken already by the Americans).  I wondered if it was his wife who had been taken away, and thought of poor old Mother.

Soon after a policeman passed me, cycling slowly, an alsatian dog trotting beside him.  Thought I would go on the Horkesley Road, as he would probably go to Severalls gates and wait there, and I did not want to be stopped and questioned.  (I never registered at Boxted yet).

Just at the top of the hill a man going towards Colchester, also with no lights, called out.  “Look out mate, there’s police just along the road”.  Thanked him and decided to walk back to the fork after all, feeling very nervous and anxious.  Near the fork I almost walked straight into another policeman, standing quite motionless against a wall, and hastily said “Good evening” in what I am sure sounded a very guilty voice.  He replied “Good night” very solemnly.

A few yards past the Borough boundary a jeep with no lights was parked at the edge of the road, and I could see the figures of an American and a girl on the grass, while two more Americans were sprawled nearby.

A lot of ‘planes at night exercises, coming over with their navigation lights on.  The moon was just rising, a huge orange, and two ‘planes came over, flying wing-tip to wing-tip, navigation lights on, and besides this, two huge “head-lamps”, for all the world like a motor-car flying through the air.  Have heard of this device, but have never seen it before.  Some ‘planes were landing at Fordham.  I could hear them shutting off their engines and gliding in.

Very warm tonight.

9th April 1944

Easter Sunday
Wind veered from E. to S.W.  Warmer, and rain falling.  Very heavy shower about 10 o’clock but cleared up and the sun came out.

Went over to Dedham this afternoon, as had been looking forward to seeing Sissons all the week.  Unfortunately Mrs. S. had a very bad cold, so the visit was not a success.  Had tea at the café, went over to Sherboune Mill and collected some eggs.  Joy also had a bad cold and could hardly speak.  Lovely calm summer evening, but felt very nervous.  It is so long since there was an attack in this area that we all feel something must happen soon. 

From Dedham went on to Colchester to get supper, but everywhere was closed except the Milk-Bars.  Went into the one in Pelham’s Lane, and had a coffee and a cheese sandwich, then to Holly Trees for an hour, looking for material on St Botolph’s Priory.   Back to Boxted in the moonlight.

8th April 1944

Brilliant, warm, morning.  Went to Holly Trees, met Poulter, and we both went up to Craske’s old office in the High Street, to see if there was anything which might be of use to the Museum.  Saw Mrs. Craske, who is now winding up the business, and got a few odd things – a few more 1857 photos, Lexden Church, village, etc, but nothing fresh, the ox-roasting photo, and one of the Mayor and Corporation, 1879.  Also half a dozen 25” sheets of the Clacton area, which will come in useful, and a few Essex County Standards about 1863.  Somewhere Craske had quite a lot of plans of various building developments, but these have not yet come to light.  Mrs C. was very cautious about giving anything away, and young Cocker, Craske’s right-hand man, was watching everything very carefully.  The old man had a mass of information about the town, but I cannot find that he left any notebooks.  I remember that he told me once that he was instrumental in naming “King Stephen Road”, as the land on which it lays was in the hands of that King, but I have never found any reference to this.

Back at Holly Trees we found the Chairman, who told us that extensions were being built onto the Britannia Ironworks, adjoining the Priory ruins, and that considerable excavations were being made. So we went along there and found it was so – a large concrete building has been erected on the site of the choir of the church, destroying for ever any chance of excavating the complete plan of the church.  This scheme must have been passed by the Borough Engineer and the Town Planning Committee, yet we know nothing of this except what Alderman Blomfield discovers accidentally.

The curious thing is that practically nothing has been found except a few bones and there appears to be well over 3 feet of black soil with no sign of any walls or foundations.  I expected to see the bases of further columns of the arcades, but there is nothing.

It is a scandal that this work must have been going on for at least three months, and yet nothing was known of it.

This afternoon to the library and did some shopping.  Bought Vera Brittain’s “London’s Hour”, interesting but extraordinarily naïve.  Several minor errors too, such as when she twice speaks of the 17th century as being four centuries ago.

Had great difficulty in getting any tea; owing to the great crowds in the town, but finally got into Jacklin’s.

This evening went down to see Hampshire, and gave him his trap-licence.  Had a fresh pony there, a little black forest pony, with badly clipped ears.  I drove it down to the “Goat and Boot”, while Hampshire rode my cycle.  Met Pim Barbour, the dealer there, and he showed me a fresh cob he had brought down from Diss, an ugly little devil, called Cock Robin, who is reputed to be very fast.  He was driven down here by road, 56 miles, and the little black pony as well, so they said.  I think the pony belongs to Pim as well, and Hampshire is keeping it for him.

They both tried to sell me a new set of brown cob harness for £20, but we all went in the “Goat” and had a drink and there was no deal.

Had supper at Culver St. and then back to Boxted by 9.  Glass falling, and looks like rain.

7th April 1944

Good Friday
Dull day, and cold.  The office open, as were all Government offices.  Shops shut except grocers and fish shops.  Saw crowds of people lining up for fish early in the morning.  All the Co-op. carts were out on deliveries.

This evening went to Lt Rivers again, with young Pickard’s ration book which I took in to get him another fortnight extension.  Got that, but they refused to give him any more.   The Roses were rather depressed at his frightful bad manners, which seem to get worse rather than better.

Back to Woodside in the moonlight.  Sound of dance music from the aerodrome and several ‘jeeps’ rushing up and down the Straight Road, I suppose taking girls home.

6th April 1944

Foggy, wet and rather warm.  Miss Bentley said “What a horrid morning!”  Said “Yes”, but thought “no, Miss B, you are quite wrong.  It is a lovely morning, and I wish every morning and every evening would be like this for years to come.”

Cleared up late, and the sun came out.  Almond trees in bloom, and the hedges beginning to show green tips.

Saw Molly Blomfield at Scheregate today, looking most dreadfully ill.

Had supper at Boxted and Miss Bentley gave me an orange, the first I have had for some time.  Ate it dipped in sugar.  After supper went along to the Roses at Little Rivers to hear the radio.  At Boxted Cross saw a coal-black sheep with twin lambs, also coal-black.  The Roses told me that they were having a lot of trouble about young Pickard, as the authorities won’t allow him to come to live in the Defence Area.  There is as yet no sign of him losing his appalling American accent.

Bed at midnight.  The moon peeping through clouds, and a few ‘planes about tonight.

5th April 1944

Heavy, wet, mist this morning, after a quiet night. 

Noticed that the old “Sea Horse” Hotel in High Street is now being demolished, although why I do not know.  It was closed some years ago, and was bought by Kent, Blaxill & Co to extend their premises.  Strange that labour can be found for this sort of work, yet we can get nothing done on the farms.

Tremendous shower of rain when I was having supper in the café this evening, but did not last long.  Interesting notice has just appeared on an empty shop in Culver Street:

            “US Army First Aid
            Prophylaxis Station”

It is painted on an official American Red Cross sign.  What delightful people - such charming social habits.

Went round to see Diana as there was no show this week, but all she wanted to do was talk about her Texan, a large dull man of about 50, with whom she is having a very romantic affair.  She has now taken him to her people in Staffordshire, and is seriously considering going back to Texas with him after the war.  We understand that he is married, and some people say he is over 60, but it is impossible to tell with these weathered, hard-drinking men.  It all seemed to me to be very sad and depressing.

Fine night, brilliant moon.

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4th April 1944

Fine this morning, but some low cloud.  Mrs. Smith, who now comes to clean the office, is a professional “layer-out” of corpses, in which she takes a very great interest.  When she bought me a cup of coffee this morning she said: “Isn’t it sad about Mrs. Clubb?  Did you know her?” 
I replied: “Well, I know who you mean, but what has happened to her?”
Mrs. Smith: “Why, last Friday morning, she was a-cooking her husband’s dinner, and she came over all queer, so she went upstairs and lay on the bed and died there.  And when he came in at half-past twelve she was still warm!”  All this in broad Essex.  I made suitable remarks.  As a matter of fact I know the family quite well.  There was a boy who was at CRGS, (I believe he was eventually expelled for stealing) and a good-looking dark haired girl whom my Father taught at Hamilton Road.

This afternoon went up to the Cemetery about 5.30.  Mother’s grave has now been neatly turfed.  I want to get two oak crosses made, one for grandfather and grandmother Webb, and one for Mother.  Saw Mary Ralling up there, putting flowers on the family graves.  She did not see me.  Looked very ill and worn.  Her sister is no better, and she leads a dreadful life attending to her.  There seems to be nothing that we can do to help. 

Lovely clear evening.  Ald. Blomfield ‘phoned about some playbills which cannot be found, so decided to go to the Holly Trees.  Poulter full of all sorts of news.  He went up to the Royal Free Hospital last week, and was given a clean bill regarding his health.  He then discovered the horrifying business that the radio-department had in some way been mismanaged with the results that most of the staff are now afflicted with dermatitis from which it is not expected that they will recover.  He was told that one girl will lose her hands.  The department has now closed down.  This was the biggest radiological department in London, and treated an enormous number of cases.

Spent the whole evening at Holly Trees, until 10.30, going through material in the Muniment Room.  The place is in an appalling state of filth and confusion.  Wire’s copy of Morant and the whole file of the Colchester’s topographical prints are missing still, and no efforts are being made to recover them.  I gathered that Hull is accusing me of having had the prints.

However, managed to find the file of playbills which were wanted, although I don't really see why I should go to all this trouble when I have been treated as I have by the Museum authorities.

Left at 10.30 and back to Boxted under a glorious moon.  We are not expecting raids at full-moon any longer now, and feel comparatively confident.

2nd April 1944

Forgot that the clocks were advanced another hour, so that when I got up at 10 it was really 11.  Had terrible stomach pains about 5a.m.  It went off though about 9, and was able to eat a decent breakfast.  Delighted to hear it raining hard in the night, and it kept on all morning.

Had a much-needed bath and went into Colchester for lunch at the old home.  Heard that Mr. Cripwell was dead, and buried on Friday.  He was one of Father’s oldest friends, and they were both teachers at Barrack Street School 50 years ago.  I remember hearing as a child how his first wife, whom my Mother knew well, was dying of cancer.  It made a great impression on me.  We lived opposite the Cripwells at 63 Wimpole Road.  Annie Ralling is apparently no better, and will see no-one.  Cannot see what I can do to help, except to get eggs.

The rain stopped, so I went over to Dedham, but was disappointed to find that the Sissons were out.  Had a cup of tea with Mathews, her brother, who ‘pumped’ me gently as to what I had seen in Wales.  Told him very little.  Also talked about the possibility of exhibiting British domestic livestock at Whipsnade, perhaps in genuine farm buildings acquired for that purpose.  He is very enthusiastic.

Went over to Lawford and bought some eggs.  Saw the Conrans in Dedham Street, cycling towards Higham.  Dodo told me last night that Louis MacNiece, the author, and his wife Hedley Anderson, are now at the cottage with the Conrans. 

Clouds thinned, but the glass remains low.  Hope for more rain.  Called at Box House, Dedham, and Homedale, Boxted, to try to settle two very complicated queries which have been worrying me for some time, but with little success.  Folkard has no idea how these stupid and apparently insolvable queries irritate me.

Stomach better tonight, but decided to have no supper. 

In the Sunday papers it is reported that the Americans yesterday bombed the Swiss town of Schaffenhausen, in broad daylight, killing 30.  Yet they are said to be able to bomb a target accurately on the blackest night, in the worst weather.  Also recorded that the RAF have shot down an American ‘plane by mistake.

The Germans claim that they destroyed 140 RAF bombers in the last raid, and we admit to losing 96.  The papers now full of excuses for the disaster.

Light until after 9 tonight, the sky clouded and birds in Sprott’s Marsh singing in the thinly falling rain, with the moon showing as a pale yellow glow.