Compiled by Victoria Washuk,
as written in the diary of her great-grandmother, Ruby Alice Side Thompson
Read by Amanda Meuwissen
Monday April 15, 1940
I remain queer. In fact, I seem to have renewed my cold. Also, I’m walking very badly. I went downtown this afternoon, and hardly knew how to walk home.
Ted is very late for tea. He had been to the Western Roadhouse with Skilton to get ideas about the plumbing. Before he had finished eating, callers arrived. They were the John Thomson family from eighty Western Road. They stayed very late, but were agreeable company. In his youth, John Thomson had knocked around Canada and America, as a free-lance, much as Ted had done in the nineties, so they had a good time swapping stories.
Thursday April 18, 1940
I am fifty-six today: in poor health, and poor sprits. I heard from Artie this morning, but no word from Cuthie. He is probably out bombing over Norway. I have not heard from him in over a week. English troops have been landed in Norway, but, so far, it seems to me, the Germans are winning; certainly they are holding their own, in most of Norway. The Allies have taken Karvik, and mutilated the German navy, but today’s news says that the Germans are holding the iron-ore railways north of Karvik, and are fighting well.
As prophesized, the spring slaughter has begun. Artie is still with battalion in Sussex but for how long there now? No news from America. I received her usual sort of a letter from Mother.
The weather is abominable, very cold, very dull, and windy, and now commencing to rain. After a very severe winter, we are having a retarded spring. Frost every night this week. In Norway snow is still falling and, as in Finland, the troops are fighting on skis. What a war! What a world!
Well, this is the end of another seven-year period for me. For nearly a year I had been counting on it, looking forward to it, and thinking of it as another beginning; another fresh lap. In a way it will be, because of the purchase of the new house, the moving into of yet another home. This event was quite unforeseen by me. All through last fall I felt wonderfully well, and I imagined I was entering on a new period of fresh vigor, resilience, and good health. Apparently not; it was not to be. For weeks now I have been feeling wretchedly ill, and weak, and I have no zest left for anything. I am completely weary, in body, mind, and soul, and continuously I feel more ill than I remember feeling for years. Maybe I am only exhausted by the severity of the winter, and the strain of the war, but it is not like me to feel like this.
Well anyhow, it is still the end of one seven-year period, and the beginning of another. My life seems to fall into these natural periods more than most women. At twenty-one I married. During the next fourteen years I had my family, finishing with the twins when I was thirty-five. At forty-two came the end of Ted’s business life. It was in nineteen twenty-six that he resigned from office, and in nineteen twenty-seven he brought us back to England. In nineteen thirty-three, when I was forty-nine (seven times seven), I made my last trip to America, and it was then I made my wonderful, unforgettable round tour of the states. Now that I’ve reached fifty-six (eight sevens) I find that I have reached quiescence about the lots of mental troubles. All questions about belief, or beliefs, have left me. I am not concerned anymore about what I can or can’t believe. This is a great gain and a great rest.
I have attained an inner peace, and I think it is a peace I shall never lose. I can recognize what doesn’t matter, and never again will an argument ever coerce me. Circumstances may compel me to courses I shall not like, but they can never again compel my inner woman. She is free. What will she do with the next seven years? When I reach to sixty-three, if ever I do nine times seven, how will the world be, and how shall I be in it? Will my inner woman still be free and serene? Yes, I think she will be. What I have learnt, I have learnt; what I have reached into, I have reached into; and my joy no man can take from me. Absolutely, very literally, no man can take this from me. My husband may have become a bigger fool than ever, but my secret self he can never touch. I am myself, and I own myself, no matter what he thinks.
For now I know the things I know, and do the things I do, and if you do not like me so, to hell, my love, with you!
Of course I shall not be so outspoken as Dorothy Parker. Nevertheless, what Ted believes, or what he wishes to force me to believe, can never again have any effect upon me. I have outgrown him, passed him by.
So fifty-six is definitely some sort of an ending. What I am going into now, I do not know, but it is a new phase, I am sure. Perhaps destiny presents me the new house as a concrete symbol of it.
Friday April 19, 1940
At tea tonight, speaking of the illness of young Clem Coppen’s husband, a man of thirty only, with cancer, hence passing on to speak of Mother, and all her various operations, and her indomitable health and toughness, I remarked that Mother hadn’t been able to pass her health and vitality to her children, not one of whom had ever been as strong as she was; to which Ted replied, “Of course not. That isn’t surprising at all. Children naturally take after their fathers, and though your father was excitable enough, and vehement sometimes, he never had the energy and activity that your mother had. He was a slower tempo and less strong altogether. It is the father who stamps the children, always. It is the father who is the important one, always. That is why our Lord couldn’t possibly have had a human father. It couldn’t have been seemly. You couldn’t imagine Saint Joseph being visited by a female angel, and begetting a child upon an angel, could you? Of course not! With the Blessed Virgin it was different. She could be overshadowed by the angel, the power of God, and not be contaminated by human intercourse. She received the seed from heaven, by the power of the Holy Ghost. It is simply unimaginable that our Lord could have had a human father! For then he would have been Joseph, not God, a sinful man.”
This threw me into the abyss. I made no reply, noteven the obvious one that the human embryo contains fifty-fifty of the hormones of its parents. I was simply stunned and disgusted by this fresh presentation of the old Christian and Jewish idea of the impurity of the flesh, the curse of sex, the virtue of Chastity, and the eternal inferiority of women. What is a wife? Still the old chattel: a concubine by night, and a servant by day; a creature without a soul; merely one of the creations of God, which exist for the use of man. My God! This Ted Thompson!
Saturday April 27, 1940
Ted is at Arden Cottage. I have had a busy week, with visitors every day, so I am tired. Yesterday the legal business about the purchase of numbers seventy-eight and eighty Western Road was completed, and the keys handed over to us by the lawyers. Ted has been seeing Skilton about installing plumbing, stoves, etc., and Harvey, the builder, to get estimates about turning the house into flats.
The result for me is that I view our immediate future with acute apprehension of trouble. Ted is going to have to spend money, real cash, and that will hurt. He will niggle and haggle and make absurd economies, and just as absurd splurges, and every time he has to pay out he will be as disagreeable as hell. He will be on my tracks about household expenditure. He’ll be after me turning out lights, fixing the stove, examining the pantry, and the dustbin; he’ll hound me for a half pence, and he’ll cry poverty, poverty until he’ll rouse me to fury and I shall hate him with a singing hatred. I know Ted. I’ve had some of him before.
With it all, I shan’t get what I want. He bought this property because he wanted to. He is going to fix it up the way he wants. Apparently he will consult me about items, but if I don’t agree to what he has already decided, or if I should make suggestions contrary to his ideas, I shall be all wrong, and in great disfavor. I want to like this new house. I want to settle into it comfortably. I suspect it is going to be the last home Ted and I will ever have together, and it can be made very nice. Oh the job of it! We shall both of us lose our tempers over and over again. I shall be disappointed about what I could get, and shan’t, and Ted will grizzle about the spending indefinitely. Well there will be no peace in the Thompson family. I can see for some long time to come. What a life!
Cuthie is now stationed in the north of Scotland for quick access to Norway. He has also been over Denmark this week. The twenty-sevens were registering today. So far, the Germans are holding on in Norway, but their losses are heavy. Our navy has done well, and Sweden reports that around Oslo alone three thousand German dead have been washed ashore. War. This is more wisdom of men.
Sunday Aril 28, 1940
I was in London during March, about the Aunties. I made inquiries at Stoneham’s about the books of Annie C. Bill. They traced two of them for me, and sent them to me this week. I hadn’t had time to look at them until today. I was examining one this morning whilst waiting for Ted to come into breakfast. (He left the house before seven a.m. and did not return until nine-thirty, all this time for one mass and his private devotions.)
I was suddenly surprised at myself by falling into a panic. When I heard Ted’s key in the door my heart began to beat like fury and I at once hid the book under the tea wagon. Why? It is a perfectly harmless book, and I have a perfect right to read it. Even if it was a rotten bad book, I’ve still got a perfect right to read it. You see what? I am afraid of Ted, still afraid of him! When we first married he began to deride the books I read, and this hurt me so much that I would never let him know what I was reading. I continued to read everything I wanted to read, but whatever the books were I would put them out of sight before he came home in the evenings; and on Sundays and holidays, when he was around the house, I never read anything at all except the newspapers and magazines. I never spoke to anyone, before him, of what I was reading. I kept up this habit until we left the states, and it is only since we have lived in Romford that I have read whatever books I wanted to, regardless of whether he was around or not. So this morning I was considerably surprised at myself, when in the midst of his approach I was flooded with feelings of guilt and fear.
Naturally my reason doesn’t assent to any of this, but my natural, physical, animal woman did quake, was afraid. Still, as of old, she is afraid of this man.
It took me hours to quell my disquiet, and it was not until afternoon that my heart returned to its normal beat. Queer, isn’t it? What one person can do to someone?
Evening. It is just as I foresaw: the economies are beginning at once. This afternoon Ted went round to Western Road to do some gardening at seventy-eight. He was very late returning for tea. It seems he had been visiting the other Thomson’s in number eighty. Mr. Thomson showed him their upper floor. Now, number seventy-eight has no bathroom, so Ted has planned to create a bathroom in the back bedroom. This is a very long narrow room, and one-third of it could easily be walled off to make a small bathroom, but by doing this, a portion of the room would be left without light, so a window would need to be cut on the sidewall. Now Ted has taken this whole matter up with the Skilton’s, and the room was to have been made into two, as I have just outlined.
In number eighty, where a bath and basin has been installed, everything has been left exposed; Ted has decided to do without a partition and a window in our house, because that will be cheaper. Exactly. It is cheap and nasty. He will discover other and similar economies. Probably he will dispense with a carpenter altogether, and all the built-in fixtures we need will be put up by his own butchering. This is quite likely. The furniture he said could be recovered will not go to the upholsterers. I never answered him when he told me of this cheaper bathroom plan. What could I have said? If he won’t spend money, I shall have to make do, as per usual.
I first saw through this new house on the evening of Saturday April 13. Ted took me round there on his way to Bert’s, and left me to see through it alone. It was about half past seven in the evening, between lights. The effect of the place on me was to depress me. When I got back here, I began to cry and I think I cried all night. When Ted got back from Bert’s, I was hysterical. I told him I couldn’t make the move; I couldn’t live there. Wisely, he refrained from discussing the matter with me then but he assured me later in the week that he did intend to modernize the place, to install proper plumbing and stoves, etc. Then when I saw it the second time, going round there with him Sunday a week ago, the twenty-first, on a bright sunny afternoon, the place did look more attractive, did show possibilities for being made into a comfortable habitation. I felt reassured then. Now, home he comes with ideas as to how he needn’t do what he had planned to do, Gosh! It’s the devil!
Monday April 29, 1940
I had a nice visit from Ethel Coppen today, but disagreeable words with Ted this evening. He began badgering me about the removal of our books. So far I haven’t been able to do any sorting out at all. I had visitors every day last week and this week is beginning the same. This is a job that needs thinking about and I must be in the mood for the thinking, or I can’t do it at all. Ted wants to drive me to it at once. When? How soon? When will I know? And so on. When I told him I didn’t know when I could do it, he became insulting, said I was a fool, wouldn’t cooperate, and I was more mulish than Selma. When I protested, “Don’t talk to me like that!” he said he would talk to me just as he pleased, that I was a fool, and that he thought less of my sense than ever. I said that when he talked to me like that he was being deliberately spiteful, and that it would do no good, because such talk only antagonized me. He said, then I was a bigger fool even than he had thought, and he went off by himself to the dining room. There he is now, listening to Shakespeare on the wireless. What a petty fellow! When he speaks to me so contemptuously, it is the inner man speaking, and I can see that is how really contemptuously he thinks of me. That doesn’t help at all.
I often think Ted is a fool, but I am very careful never to tell him so or even give him an inkling to guess on. I dissemble my thoughts. I play up to him all I can. It is my undeviating policy to live at peace, for I saw enough of marital quarrels between my parents, and I don’t want any quarreling in my life. Just the same, I have an awful crushed feeling tonight.
Tuesday April 30, 1940
I have been putting away all my papers. I simply cannot write. So now I’ve lost stroke again. Maybe when the moving is over and we are seated in the new house, maybe I can begin again. For me, to write a continuous work without steady hours of reliable leisure is impossible.
Ted is still disagreeable. So far today he has not spoken to me yet. Of course he was out to early mass this morning, just the same.
Friday May 3, 1940
This is our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. I thought perhaps we might have celebrated it a little; but no, Ted remains disagreeable and aloof. I don’t think he has spoken to me once today. Well, this is the end of another seven-year period. What will the next seven-year period of our marriage be like? Shall we grow less critical and kinder? I wonder.
© 2011 Copyright Victoria Washuk
Presented by BigWorldNetwork.com