Season 2, Episode 10
Compiled by Victoria Washuk,
as written in the diary of her great-grandmother, Ruby Alice Side Thompson
Read by Amanda Meuwissen
Tuesday November 5, 1940
Guy Fawkes Day
It is U.S. Election Day. In the eight o’clock news this morning I was very amused to hear that last night Wendell Willkie held the air, giving his last campaign speech, for an hour and a quarter, “assisted by Bing Crosby and Mary Pickford.” This is simply ridiculous. It is as though Churchill should broadcast to the Empire assisted by Jack Payne and Cecily Courtridge.
Last night was a very bad night again, the Germans making up for all they didn’t give us on Sunday night. Fourteen bombs have been dropped in this immediate vicinity. South Street is a mess. It is shut from the public from Victoria Road to the Market Place. There are big craters in front of the Havana and in The Plaza Car Park. Also in front of Boots and the police station. There are unexploded bombs in Ives Nursery Gardens, in Errol Road (Bertie’s Road), in Gilbert Road, and one nearly opposite this house, between here and the main road.
We have had notice to keep all our windows wide open. There was another bomb in Eastern Road, and I don’t know where the rest are, but there are fourteen in there, three or four blocks. I don’t know how many in the rest of the town. We are now, four fifteen p.m., having our seventh warning for today. What shall we get tonight? Ted has decided to move the bookcase out of this dining room, and bring in its place the parlor sofa. This is a good idea. For two months he has been sleeping on the floor, in front of the bookcase, but if a blast tumbled the bookcase on top of him, the books would almost surely kill him. Anyhow, it’s getting too cold to sleep on the floor. So we have this shifting job to do this evening. I have been carrying lots of the books into the parlor, but now must rest, as I am too tired to do any more. Artie didn’t come home last night, so I’m afraid we shan’t see him this week after all.
Wednesday November 6, 1941
Roosevelt is in. Good.
Forty-three bombs were dropped on Romford on Monday night. One lodged in the Gasometer. Captain Davis has been here today to remove it. This is the engineer who successful removed the bomb from St. Paul’s. News from Rome: Last Wednesday the Pope blessed two hundred Italian officers, received in audience, saying to them, “We bless all you who serve the beloved fatherland with fealty and love.” So they were off to invade and destroy Greece, with the Pope’s blessing. My God! What decent English person could remain a Roman Catholic!
Thursday November 7, 1940
When my new young charwoman arrived this morning, she had seen last night’s destruction on her way here. She passes the water-works, and she tells me four more houses are completely demolished there, and others, more than she could count, on Clydesdale Road and Melrose Avenue. She was very shaken, and very angry. “They didn’t tell you these things,” she exclaimed. “It is only when you see for yourselves that you know.” That’s right. Specific news is never given out; on the BBC everything is minimized. We, the public, only know what happens in our own localities, and that we are never officially told about. We have to suffer or to see for ourselves, and then we know. On, this devilish war! When will it end?
It is a busy day. Mrs. Jude here to lunch, and Rita Pullan to tea.
Monday November 11, 1940
I went out this morning, my first outing since the end of June. I walked all around the block, down this road to South Street, along South Street to the Market Place where I went into Adam’s to buy some articles, then up the Market to Stone’s, then up further to Junction Road, and then down Junction and home. It is one square block. I am as tired as though I had climbed a mountain. Into the doctor’s this afternoon and she said I shouldn’t have walked so far.
“Down to the end of the street and back would have been ample,” she said. I expect so, but I wanted to do some shopping. Commodities are becoming scarce. The shops seem only to have what they have on hand; as their supplies give out they apparently are not able to obtain renewals. Prices are soaring too. I chiefly wanted some scales and a new coffee pot, some Pyrex ware, and some knives and scissors. I also wanted a milk saucepan and a double boiler, but these I couldn’t get. Anyhow, in all I spent three ten; this is a lot of money to put into hardware.
Mrs. Thomson was here to tea.
Tuesday November 12, 1940
It is a very stormy day. News of further earthquake shocks in Romania. The oil fields are reported destroyed. Good! This will save our R.A.F. the job.
Good air report today also. Yesterday we were raided all day long. In all we had eight alarms, though the last all clear came through at nine fifty p.m. We had a raidless and quiet night, thanks to the storm, which was terrific. Yesterday the enemy came over in groups of one hundred and fifty. With them was one lot of Italian bombers, eighteen in all. Of these, our boys brought down thirteen, in the Thames Estuary, and the others turned back without showing fight. So that’s another smack for the dirty dagoes. The Greeks are punishing them too; of an Italian Battalion of twelve thousand men, in the mountains to the north of Greece, the Greeks have destroyed about two thirds, and the rest have run away back into Albania, leaving most of their equipment, guns, field kitchens, even personal belongings, behind them, strewn through all the ravines. The Italians don’t want to fight. In the Mediterranean they won’t bring their navy out. Then why don’t they overthrow Mussolini?
Today Molotov has arrived in Berlin, bringing a suite of sixty-five specialists with him. What for? Russia also doesn’t want to fight. She only wants to stand by and pick the bones.
Friday November 15, 1940
Ten a.m. The first raid of the day is in progress. Wednesday night was fairly quiet, because the weather was very stormy, but last night, though misty, there was moonlight and we had a very bad night indeed. Barrage was very heavy; we heard bombs falling, but whereabouts in this neighborhood I have not heard. BBC reports the raids last night were worst “in a midland town where the casualties reported are very heavy.” But it was pretty bad in Romford too. Yesterday Ted told me that Tommy Skilton had been hit again on Wednesday night, this making the third time he has had it, in addition to having his workshop on North Street destroyed. Wednesday night was the worst for him. The bomb took the roof completely off his house, and fell through into his kitchen, blew out everything and blew to bits even his bicycle, which was in his shed. Mrs. Skilton is terrified, and wanted to leave at once. Naturally!
Three twenty p.m. I was interrupted by the incursion of my neighbor, Mrs. Thomson. I seem doomed always to have some female leech around. I have had peace from this woman for three weeks, whilst she was in Devon, but she came home on Tuesday this week and seems to think she has to come in to see me every day. She was here all Thursday afternoon, and now all this morning. She’s a darned nuisance.
Ted would be rude to inconvenient visitors and markedly show them the cold shoulder, but I can’t be rude to people, hence I get stuck with all the bores in town. The raids are continuing all day. There was much gunfire at dinnertime, and what sounded to be hundreds of planes flying over, but we could not see them. The one o’clock news told us that the worst raids last night were on Coventry, on the scale of the first heavy raids on London, and that there are at least a thousand people killed, and much of the city destroyed. Glorious war!
When I opened this book to note this morning, it was with astonishment at the depth and tenacity of our aversions. Yesterday whilst we were at dinner there came a very important sounding knocking at the door. When I opened it I saw two nuns, one of whom accosted me by name, saying, “Mrs. Thompson! You remember us? We used to call on you at your other house, don’t you remember? The Poor Clare’s of Woodford?”
Immediately anger rushed through me. “Wait a minute,” I said, but closed the door in their faces. Had the door been un-shuttered, so that I could have seen through the glass panel, I should not have opened the door to them, for I will never willingly open my door to any nun.
I came in to Ted, and said, “There are two nuns here, begging. You had better see them. Don’t bring them in here.” So he left his dinner at once, opened the door to them, and invited them into the parlor. They conversed together for a while, and then he showed them out again. When he returned to his meal he actually had tact enough to say nothing.
Was I angry! They were looking for a meal, of course. Where did they pry out our change of address? And come here to beg? I did not recognize the one who spoke to me, but she knew me all right. I had a shock when I opened the door to them. I could think of nothing. Anger and hatred suffused me on the instant. God! How I loathe nuns! So deep is this hatred in me that I was physically upset for hours. My heart increased its beat, and my legs and hands were trembling until after I had my tea. This is what Ted’s lunatic religion can do to me.
I have been busy cooking today. Artie does expect to get leave this next Monday so I made a batch of pastries this morning, and since dinner I have mixed up a couple of fruit cakes, which are now in the oven. Presently I am going to make flapjacks, and tomorrow I’ll make a chocolate layer cake and some fudge. If I can stock the pantry with homemade goodies before he arrives, we’ll have more time for talking when he does get here.
Monday November 25, 1940
Artie didn’t come. His leave was cancelled, but he was promised leave on the twenty-fifth, so perhaps he’ll come today. I don’t know where last week went. I did get some letters written but nothing else.
Yesterday Ted invited young Mr. Simpson in to tea. When Simpson was received into the church this year, Ted was his godfather. Now Mrs. Simpson and the baby have evacuated to Ireland, and Simpson is waiting to be called up. Meanwhile he is boarding at Haga’s. All the talk yesterday was of the absurdities and idiosyncrasies of Haga. Haga is the town quack; and he is another religious manic. He is an excessive Protestant; brought up in Norway as a Lutheran, he is a heretic from Lutheranism. He was a stanch First Day Adventist once, but he left that faith also. Instead of becoming an indifferentist or an agnostic, he still remains actively religious, but he can find no sect to agree with, and has a religion apparently all his own. Of course, he is violently anti-Catholic.
Psychologically, Haga is explainable. Now, nearly sixty years old, he began his life as the son of a poor Norwegian farmer, a pious Lutheran. He had very little education, but was thoroughly indoctrinated with a fervent Lutheranism. At about the age of twenty he left Norway, and he has never returned there. He went to India, and also to the States, making his living as a masseur. Somewhere on his travels he married a Welsh girl, another ignorant person. In nineteen hundred and three he came to England, picked out Romford on the map, and settled here. He continued to make his living at massaging. Now he added hydropath, sunbathing, Swedish exercises, light treatment, etc. He set himself up in a house, and began advertising his cures. Perhaps he did make cures. Anyhow, he succeeded in making a living, and bringing up a family. He writes to the paper practically every week in the year, instructing the public either on his special field of medicine (so called) or on his special brand of religion. So far as this goes he is one of the town’s jokes.
You see, nobody takes him seriously, and he is a man without any real anchorage in life. By profession he is definitely a quack; the real doctors in town will have nothing whatsoever to do with him. By religion and by nature he is a wanderer; he has left his native land and his native religion. He has no country, no religion, and no profession, and he has married a foreigner, so his very children are half and half’s, so nothing about him is genuine; everything is half-fake. His evangelizing is the way to compensate his ego.
Last night Simpson was full of tales about how Haga behaves in his own house. He is definitely an eccentric, we laughed about him. It was unkind, but he is laughable. What I noticed was the unconscious assumption of superiority on Ted and Simpson’s part simply because they were Catholics. This is laughable too, but they don’t know it.
Haga is a muddle-head, but neither Ted nor Simpson thinks for himself. They accept the authority of the church. Why? Because they feel they need an outside authority. Haga is authority for himself. It just depends what kind of person you are.
Simpson is another weak specimen of a convert. He has swallowed all the bait. He is an ordinary fellow, respectable, but ignorant, educated sufficiently to make a living, of course, but without culture. Ordinary. I can’t stand the ordinary. He is one of the respectable lower classes. I can’t stand the lower classes! They may be saints, but oh they bore me! I detest this mania for theology that men get. Whether it is, Ted or Haga or Simpson, they’re all the same. Why theology? Isn’t it because theology doesn’t require either brains or learning? They can read it up in books and memorize it. It’s easy. Real knowledge, science, or mathematics, or philosophy, or engineering, or music, or doctoring, need a keen and alert intelligence, practice, and a trained mind. In short, a genuine ability and a good education. If a man is a dud in a real science the fact is immediately apparent, but if he is a fool for even a wise man spouting theology, nobody can prove him either right or wrong, and neither the error nor the correctness of his theological opinions will make any difference to his practical life.
As I see it, theology is the cheap diversion and solace of the half-educated and the half-baked. I’ve never known a strong man bother himself with theology. So, Simpson, another of Ted’s duds! To lack a proper education, a classical education, what a lack! These poor fools talk about God and Heaven and Hell and think they have knowledge, and oh, I’m so weary of fools!
© 2012 Copyright Victoria Washuk
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