Compiled by Victoria Washuk,
as written in the diary of her great-grandmother, Ruby Alice Side Thompson
Read by Amanda Meuwissen
Sunday March 3, 1940
Artie came home for the weekend, which meant arriving at eight-thirty p.m. on Saturday night, and returning to the Barracks by eleven p.m. on Sunday, which meant leaving here at seven p.m.
Anyhow, we’ve seen him! He’s very well.
Monday March 4, 1940
We received news from Harold. Kay gave birth to a nine and a half pound boy, January 17, 1940; baptized February 4, 1940 as Robert Anthony. Mother and child are both doing well.
Thursday March 7, 1940
Auntie Mary died this morning. Dropsy. Gladys was called from Plymouth yesterday. We met at Mother’s. Mother consented to allow Mary to be buried in the Brompton Cemetery grave, on top of Dad. The funeral will probably be on Tuesday next.
Tuesday March 12, 1940
I just got back from a trip to Boots, to change a book. It took me one hour. This is serious. I am very tired. Auntie Mary was buried yesterday, so I had another day in town, going first to the cemetery, and then on to Mother’s. When I got back here I was quite exhausted. It is noticeable that I have lost considerable ground, physically. It must be because of this long shut-in winter we have just come through.
In the late fall I was quite pleased with myself. I was walking well and much easier, and better than for a long time past. Now, this past week or so, as the weather moderates, I find I am walking very badly again, and feeling great fatigue after doing so. This won’t do, and I am determined to correct it. I will try to make it a habit to go out for a short walk every possible day. Of course I can’t walk in the wet any more than I can walk on the snow or ice, but every day it doesn’t rain I will try to go at least around the block. All last night I could hardly sleep for the ache in my limbs; for even my arms ached, from climbing in and out of buses, carrying bags, gas mask, etc. My legs ache today. I suppose they are the winter-long, unused muscles of the thigh, now called into action, rebelling. Anyhow, I am going to do something about it. I don’t intend infirmities to increase on me if I can help it. These damned family legs are a curse all right, but I’m going to work at defying the curse.
So, though I only wanted to lie on the sofa, I made myself go out this afternoon. Every step was an effort, and it took me one whole hour to go and come, and now I’m just deadbeat. I went out, and I’ll go out. I will walk.
Wednesday March 13, 1940
It is the defeat of the Finns. An armistice has been arranged between the Russians and the Finns, and the Finns have to accept the Russian peace terms. This is a major disaster. Both Britain and France were standing by, ready to send men, but neither Sweden nor Norway would permit passage of troops through their country, so Finland is obliged to surrender and to cede to Russia more than Russia asked for before the war began. Oh this beautiful world!
Thursday March 14, 1940
I woke to find snow falling again, and it snowed until noon. Selma telephoned in midmorning and asked could she come to lunch. I had to say yes, though I did not want her. She came, and stayed until nine p.m., and now I am absolutely tired out. She is the most completely boring person it is possible to come across. The next time she tries to plant herself on me like this I shall find excuses.
Friday March 15, 1940
At dinnertime Ted said he thought he would go and have an organ practice before coming in to tea, so I took the opportunity of a long afternoon to go to the movies. We haven’t been to the pictures since New Year’s, because of the bad weather and the blackout. So I went to the Ritz and saw Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins playing in a version of an Edith Wharton story, The Old Maid.
After we had tea, Ted said, “I’ve a man coming to see me about something private at half-past seven. You might leave us alone, will you?”
I saw Ted let in a man in a very loud check overcoat and bright orange scarf. I thought it was someone about a house, or perhaps a “knight”, and left him to his men’s talk. The fellow stayed a long time until nearly nine and then Ted came to fetch me into the parlor, very exhilarated. He didn’t tell me the man’s name, but he said, “That’s a funny case for you! There’s a man, born a Jew, but never brought up as one. In business in this town he heard me talking somewhere, knew I was a Catholic, telephoned to ask, could he come and have a talk with me, and wants to know whether I think he ought to become a Catholic. Nice, isn’t it?”
“Very. Is his wife a Jewess?”
“No. Married to a Protestant. His wife turned Catholic some time ago and now he feels attracted to the church. Wonders what he ought to do about it. Got a son up at Cambridge. Good business. Gosh! The subjects we’ve been talking about!”
I didn’t say anything more. What would be the use? I reconsidered the glimpse of the man I had caught in the hall; a smallish, elderly man, loudly dressed, and with a sheepish, apologetic smile on his face. Another romantic with an inferiority complex, I suppose. Having a talkfest with another little man about his thoughts and his soul. Gr-r- it makes me sick. Only as recently as Wednesday night I had a dose of missionizing Catholicism.
Barbara Hayes called in, bringing some music for Ted, which she wants him to play at her wedding, which takes place on Easter Monday. Naturally we asked questions about the young man, and whether her family like him, and so on. She said, oh yes, they liked him, but the great drawback was that he was a Protestant. Drawback. He was a good Protestant, so they had hopes of him, and if we all prayed hard enough, no doubt he would see the light, and come into the church. Wouldn’t we please pray for her, and for her Jimmie’s conversion?
Of course Ted effusively promised to do so with their monopoly of truth and righteousness! My God, how they weary me!
Saturday March 16, 1940
Artie came in whilst I was washing up the tea things. He has leave until Sunday night.
Thursday March 21, 1940
It is the official first day of spring. I have a sore throat; also a sore temper. Ted is being most aggravating and silly. He is “playing” Holy Week to the limit, under-eating and over-praying, until he’s unbearable. He is deliberately making himself miserable “for Christ’s sake”. I don’t know what gratification or benefit Christ gets out of it, but I know what I get; which is a boring, scolding, unendurable fanatic. Throughout the week I have been listening to Ted talking at Artie, handing him out the most deadening platitudes and truisms with all the aplomb of a pope. As I listen to Ted, I just think he is one silly fool. He talks to Artie and me as though we knew nothing. Artie remains dutifully polite, and I say nothing.
Today I am cross. I think Ted is so preposterous. This is the incident that has enraged me. It occurred yesterday. As usual Ted got up early and went off to mass. The day went through as usual. Artie wasn’t here in the afternoon. He had gone swimming with Pauline Dunball. At teatime Ted came in very late. The office closes at five. Tea is supposed to be about five-fifteen p.m. Well, Ted didn’t come until seven-twenty p.m. and then he didn’t have his tea. “I’ve got to go to the church and see about the Easter music,” he said, and went right out again, not returning until eight-thirty; when he did eat his tea.
All right. That didn’t annoy me. I am used to Ted’s inconsiderateness about the tea meal. He treats the home like a restaurant and me like a servant, and comes when he is ready. At ten-thirty p.m. he went upstairs to bed. I decided to take a plate of cornflakes and hot milk before retiring. I have been sleeping very badly these last two weeks, and as I wanted to sleep, I thought the hot milk might induce sleep. Presently, after I had fixed the fire for the night, and was putting the scullery tidy and locking up, Ted appeared in the kitchen, in his pajamas, and in the devil of a temper. I looked at the clock. It was eleven ten p.m. So I had remained downstairs alone for forty minutes. Ted harangued me. He ordered me to bed. He asked me what I meant by “hanging about”.
I said, “Don’t talk to me like that.”
He said, “I will. I’ll talk to you just how I please. Go on upstairs, right away. I won’t have you staying around like this.”
I tried to laugh at him. He wouldn’t have it. I said, “You went up early tonight. I thought you wanted to sleep.”
“So I did,” he said. “But you know I can’t sleep until you settle down. You’ll come to bed when I do or I’ll sleep in another room. Do you hear me? Do you hear me?” And he stood behind me, threatening me, and herding me off like a sheep.
I was ready to go upstairs, so I went. I took my time about undressing, and I did not speak to him anymore, nor say goodnight when I got into bed. All the time I was undressing he kept raising his head from the pillow to look at the clock, and then dropping it back with a thud. He is so childish, so silly. I had trouble not to laugh. Well, I fell asleep.
This is Ted Thompson. This is my saint. He gets up very early every morning, so as to go to mass, because he wants to go. Then he wants to go to bed early, because he’s tired, so I must be tired and go too. I’m not tired. Although the clock says ten-thirty, it’s really only nine-thirty because of “summertime”, which has already started, and my brain is not ready for sleep. I expect that is why I have been so wakeful these past few weeks. I must go to bed; that is his lordship’s ruling. What about teatime? Doesn’t he owe me the courtesy of coming to meals at mealtime? As Johnny says, “There ain’t no justice.”
Today I’m not exactly angry, nor depressed, either. I’m just weary; weary of enduring one fool man. I’ve no hatred against the fellow in my heart, but distaste and a dislike for his personality strikes deeper and deeper into my mind and sensibilities, distaste and a dislike, which is becoming permanent. I think he’s one goddamn fool, and I long to get away from him, forever. I can’t get away from him. We’re married, God help us!
Thursday March 28, 1940
Easter is safely past. Artie returned to barracks on Sunday evening. Cuth came home early this morning. He has leave until April Eighth.
I have been very ill with the flu but am on the mend now. I haven’t been so ill for a very long time. On Easter Sunday I was especially bad. I felt that even for me death wasn’t very far away. However, I’m recovering. I am too sick to read; in these long days and nights of sleeplessness, my mind began its own composing again. It must be the spring! Anyhow, I’m all set to start out on the writing of a book. I can see the whole design of it, and get it down on the paper. I have already scribbled some notes for it, but I cannot begin to work at it systematically until after Cuthie goes back to Yorkshire.
I have an idea to recreate the large back bedroom as a sitting room, like it was when Charlie was here; and then I could work at my writing there, undisturbed. When I try to write in any of the downstairs rooms, I am always having to clear-away for meals, for visitors, etc. I was never able to work in the “little room” that was too small for my comfort, but if I could dispose myself, as I wished, in that big back room, I think I could use that as a work room, and come and go up there, as domestic times suited. Perhaps I can persuade Cuthie to change the furniture around for me before he leaves us; but of course, if he doesn’t want to, I can’t shift it.
Today Carter Paterson brought me two chairs form Shepherds Bush. One is Auntie Daisy’s rocker, and the other Auntie Mary Morris’. I am glad to get these chairs, but I don’t know where I am going to place them. If I could re-make that room into a study, I could use them very nicely up there. Anyhow, I am very glad to receive them; they are nice chairs, and they belonged to dear aunts, and I shall use them somewhere or other.
Meanwhile, it is Cuthie’s holidays. There is news this week of the birth of a son to John and Ruth, on March 6. Kay and Harold had a second son born on January 17. This child they have named Robert Anthony. Eddie and Chic are yet to be heard from. We know they are “expecting” in March, and Cuth tells us their child was expected before Johnnie’s.
Friday April 5, 1940
Edith and Monica were here for the day. My cold is still very bad. I have been sick again all this week.
I received important family news today. Ted and Cuthie have bought a pair of houses, numbers seventy-eight and eighty Western Road. They were auctioned on Wednesday, as one lot. Walter Wachett bid them in after they had passed Ted’s set limit of seven hundred and fifty pounds. However, Ted especially wanted number seventy-eight for us, and offered Wachett a profit to split. This Wachett refused: he had bought them as one, and would only sell as one. The upshot is that Cuthie decided he could buy one and have it paid for by the time he comes out of the R.A.F. So, it has been so arranged. Ted introduced Cuth to the bank, opened an account for him at Lloyds, and two deeds are to be drawn up; one for Cuth on number eighty and one for us on seventy-eight. Number seventy-eight is vacant, and in eighty, Mr. and Mrs. John Thomson reside. (No connection of ours, just a coincidence.)
Sunday April 7, 1940
Artie managed to get home for dinner. I told him the news about the Western Road houses. We celebrated with the last of the Christmas pudding and a little bottle of champagne that Cuthie had smuggled in from France.
Monday April 8, 1940
Cuth left for Driffield soon after nine this morning. He says he’ll probably be over the Rhine tomorrow.
Tuesday April 9, 1940
The war spreads. Germany invaded both Denmark and Norway this morning, at six o’clock. She announced to the world that she had taken these countries under her protection, to “protect” them form the wicked Allies. Her protection works like this: she bombed Oslo from the air from two a.m. to five a.m. this morning. I suppose she “protected” Poland.
Friday April 12, 1940
I went to the hairdresser’s, to have my hair curled, the whole head. It should be done about June or July, but with the war intensifying and spreading as it is doing, I figured I better have a long session with the machine now whilst things are still quiet in Romford. I don’t think many women are going to sit around in the beauty parlors once the bombs begin dropping.
Sunday April 14, 1940
Edna Renacre came here for tea. She borrowed some more Balzac, and in addition I gave her six odd volumes of fiction, to keep. I suppose we must have at least a couple thousand books in this house, and the problem is how to move them? The answer is to dispose of as many as possible. Some we can give to the public library, some send away for the soldiers, and some we can give to our friends. There still will be hundreds we won’t want to part with. This move is going to be similar to our move from Avenue A., Bayonne, to Bayside, Long Island. We are moving to a house, which is only half or less the size of this one. It’s a good thing. I’ll be glad to get rid of belongings.
© 2011 Copyright Victoria Washuk
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