Season 3, Episode 3
Compiled by Victoria Washuk,
as written in the diary of her great-grandmother, Ruby Alice Side Thompson
Read by Amanda Meuwissen
Wednesday, February 5, 1941
Last night Ted went out for Home Guard duties from seven until nine p.m. He returned home before the news was finished, and then we listened to the “There Men Were Free” program, which featured the men of 1793 and the French Revolution, particularly Lazare Carnot, who organized the armies of France to resist the threat to the Revolution from without. Then when that finished Ted came over to my corner, knelt on the floor beside me, turned my face to him, and began kissing me, kissing me straight on the mouth, so that I quivered and melted. I began to cry. My God I am crying now! Well we loved, and then slept in peace.
Today I am at peace, with Ted, with myself. We lose each other. Then we find each other, and we begin again, in love. When the body speaks instead of the head, when instead of listening to the ceaseless silly words we make, we listen to the call of our blood, when we surrender to each other in physical union, then we are satisfied, then we are at peace.
I think I’ll note some items about food. It has occurred to me that perhaps we have become more cranky than ordinary because of the food situation. Although we could not say the food situation is bad, it is decidedly tiresome. There are so many restrictions that variety in food is hard to come by, and meals are uninteresting and uninviting. Rationing does give everybody a definite amount of whatever is available. As it stands now this is what one person can get every week:
Sugar: four ounces
Tea: two ounces
Bacon: four ounces
Eggs: two (if you can find any)
Cheese: two ounces (if you can find any)
Meat: one shilling and two pence worth
Butter: two ounces
Margarine: four ounces
Note: this is per week!
Eggs are practically unobtainable. Lemons and onions are absolutely unobtainable. Kidneys and liver are not to be found. Fish is out of sight for all practical purposes. There is no fruit anywhere, either fresh or tinned. No dried fruit. No nuts. No tomatoes. No marmalade. No jam. No syrup. Sausages are forty percent bread.
Neither bread nor flour is rationed, yet, but only one sort of loaf is obtainable. Cakes and pastries have practically disappeared, certainly all those at popular prices. The last time I was on South Street I saw a chocolate layer cake in one baker’s window priced at eight pence; ordinarily it would have been two pence.
We are exhorted to eat plenty of carrots and potatoes and oatmeal. What a diet! The lack of onions for all savory cooking, and also of tomatoes, fresh, tinned, or pureed makes very flat dishes; and the lack of sugar and eggs deposes of all sweets.
Try to cook without eggs or onions and see how little you can do! We diet on potatoes without butter; or porridge without sugar or syrup, and with milk at nine pence per quart. Meals have been dreadfully uninteresting. If one cared to sit down to a hearty, variegated, tasty meal one would feel like a new being.
Joan also told us something about shelter life and the effect it was having on people. She spent every night sitting up in a shelter for three months and finally got such excruciating pains in her back she had to go to the hospital to get cured. Shelter strain. Son has had to go to the hospital with neuritis in his right arm. Shelter life. Joan tells me many people are getting what is described as shelter ankles, that is swellings due to always sitting up, never lying in bed for a night anymore. Joan thinks all doctors must be under orders not to say anything against the shelters, or to admit that any aches or pains or illnesses are due to sleeping in shelters. She says it is quite remarkable how they don’t ask patients about where they sleep and how they sleep!
“Of course the shelters must be bad for the health. I’ve heard of two doctors in this town who have forbidden mothers to take their young children into shelters. I heard that Dr. Levy wept when he lost a baby with pneumonia, contracted, he declared, by sleeping in a shelter. Another doctor told my Lily that she must take a chance on a bomb, but she must keep her bronchial baby out of the shelter.”
Friday, February 7, 1941
I am serene, thanks to St. Francis. The whole of last night Ted was out on fire spotting duties, on top of Lyons, from eight p.m. until six this morning.
I was all right. Happily there were no raids. The weather was too bad I expect. We had deep snow yesterday. Anyhow, I was all right. I sat up until midnight, and then settled down to sleep quite calmly. Today I have been writing. My mind’s in spate again, hurrah! There was news at one o’clock of the fall of Benghazi.
Saturday, February 15, 1941
I am waiting for Sainsbury’s delivery. Airplanes are buzzing about. No morning alert yet. The last alert was at one twenty a.m. this morning, with all clear after about an hour. Ted heard nothing of it, and even though I got up to get a light, he did not waken. We had raids most of the evening, too. The all clear came about eleven fifteen p.m., so that we could settle down comfortably to sleep.
Throughout this week there has been plenty of air activity again, after the January slow up. The weather is improving of course. Things are getting more frightening now. There is constant talk, in public, and on the air, of the prospect of imminent invasion. It is that Hitler must invade us to lick us, and he must do it soon before American aid reaches us. In the first news this morning at seven a.m. instructions were given as to what to do in case of invasion, to “stay put,” and await direct instructions from the military or the police. It is sickening.
This week Franco went to Italy for a conference with Mussolini, and on his return had a meeting with Petain at Montpelier. What does this portend? So far Franco has kept out of the war, recovering from their civil war, of course. Franco is a minor dictator, and a puppet of the other two. Will he take Nazi orders? Will he copy Mussolini and land a stab in the back to a power he considers to be losing? God knows.
Anyhow the coming slaughter is going to be awful. Again millions of Europe’s young men will be destroyed and for what? For the damned stupidity of political maniacs. Civilians too will perish in multitudes. Oh my God, the stupidity of men!
Thursday, February 20, 1941
Ted has gone off to his Home Guard stint. The weather is very cold with snow this evening, so we may get another peaceful night. We had a raid this morning in spite of the weather, but it is extremely cold again tonight, so we may have an undisturbed night. I hope so. I have been working at collating my recipes again this week—my form of madness! When I get desperately homesick for America, as I am now, reading and transcribing the standard American menus and recipes gives me some kind of assuagement. Anyhow, it’s the nearest I can get to American terra firma! That, and Mary Baker Eddy! God! How I long to be home in America!
Friday, February 21, 1941
It is Johnnie’s birthday. He was born in 1910, so must be thirty-one today. He is the father of four children already.
I went to the hairdressers this afternoon. Ted told me at dinnertime that he would go straight to church from the office, to play for benediction at six p.m., and would not be in until about six forty. So I decided I had time to get my hair done. It is a problem getting to the hairdressers. I certainly will not go out while the raids are on. No day raiding today, so off I went. There were raids again last night. We have had them every night since Wednesday in spite of the cold. On my way back I met Mary Bernadette Jude, so brought her into tea. She has returned to Romford and is living alone in their house, her mother still staying in Belfast.
Saturday, February 22, 1941—Washington’s Birthday
It is very cold and frosty. Ted has just gone out to pay the bills, go to church and the barber, etc. Inside I am secretly laughing.
An alert! There is trouble again in Romford. So I cannot write now.
It is eleven thirty a.m. and all quiet, though no all clear has been given. We had a very bad night again last night. The evening was quiet, but the guns began soon after midnight. No clearance still from this morning. Oh this senseless war! What I sat down to note was another folly of men. Though perhaps not a “folly” but only a fundamental. Last night when Ted returned from seeing Mary Jude home, he began to kiss me, so we loved. Inside I was intensely amused. First, because I notice that a young girl around excites Ted, not towards them, but towards me. Next, because in the act of love, theology completely vanishes. Men forget God when their lust is upon them. I thought: what married woman, or any woman that lies with a man, can possibly believe in a man’s religion? I don’t mean the religion proposed by the individual man but the great cancers of religious dogmas, which men have invented, and the churches have built up?
Women are realists, true; women can tell fairy tales, but they don’t ever believe them. They can’t. Women don’t “believe” anything. Women deal in facts. I don’t wonder why the early Christians placed such an exaggerated value on continence, talked so much about purity, because when men love women they stop worrying about heaven. When men and women “know each other” then they are satisfied; completely satisfied. It is churches, institutional religions, which disappear in the state of nature. Natural religion survives of course. One could remember one’s creator when loving a spouse, but one certainly couldn’t remember the priest nor his preachings.
When my eye fell on the VonHugel books on the shelf this morning, I thought: What’s the use of all those words? Words, words, words! Men trying to convince themselves of the validity of arguments! Actions speak louder than words, and in the act of physical loving arguments are non-existent. The loving and all religion, or, rather all other religion, is a vapor. Well, Ted’s gone off to confession. Confession is a habit he has established for himself. I laugh. Confession. What is there to confess?
Well, the postman has just been and brought me the delayed volume of St. Francis’s The Love of God. It’s funny it should come just this morning. I’m glad. I like St. Francis and I certainly love God. St. Francis was a realist. So was Jesus. It is the churchmen who have made such fantasies. Jesus was preaching the love of God. God is a spirit, he said, and God is Light; and those who love God must love him in spirit and in truth. The Christians seem to ignore what Jesus was trying to tell, and instead have insisted on substituting Jesus for God himself, and keeping right on with old pagan rites. No wonder people don’t go to church today; the fashion of the church service is out of date, finished. The Church is dead. It does not know how to make contact with today’s people. With the half-educated, yes perhaps, those who will listen, but to the educated normal person of today the church can say nothing.
Sunday, February 23, 1941
Ted has just gone out to benediction. We were talking at lunch today about it now being twenty years since we went to Tenafly, and talking about the old coons in the cottage. Then Ted spoke of their religion (of course!) and the day when they had their “meeting” down in the cottage, and how our boys created a disturbance. Ted added, “It was really wrong of us interfering with other people’s religion, of course. Us Catholics! I used to feel pretty awful, I can tell you, walking down to the train afterwards, and thinking people were most likely talking about us, persecuting. You too, of course. Naturally everybody in Tenafly looked upon you as a Catholic.”
When he said that I experienced a mental jolt. I hated him to say it. I realized it was true, but I also realized l had never regarded myself as Catholic, or never thought the neighbors regarded me as such either. Of course they must have done. Was I not visibly a member of the Catholic Church? Of course. I can see that I never regarded myself as Catholic, and moreover that I never have done so. Why? Because I am not a Catholic. I have joined the church: I have studied Catholic theology, I have gone regularly into retreat; I have obeyed the rules, more or less. Occasionally I have responded emotionally to oddments of Catholic belief and practice, but I have never responded in total to Catholicism. In fact, fundamentally, I have never responded at all; I have been an individualist all my life, and I shall die such.
Monday, February 24, 1941
I am waiting for the water to warm up for a bath. It was a noisy night again last night. Some bombs fell nearby about eight thirty p.m. Then everything quieted down again until nearly midnight. There were two bad spells of raiding then. All clear not coming until after three this morning. Oh this damned war!
About ten o’clock last night Artie telephoned. He said he got his leave, and was phoning from Victoria. He said he was going down to Hammersmith and would stay at Grandma’s for the night, and would be in Romford in time for dinner today. Good.
I spent most of last night re-reading The Passionate Pilgrim, G.M. Williams Life of Mrs. Annie Besant. I had a Trubisky novel from the library, which I couldn’t read, so my thoughts turned to Annie Besant. She was about the age I am now when I first met her. She was a truly wonderful woman. I have often wondered lately how the Christian Scientists explain the war or explain it away, but I expect the Theosophist’s could explain it easily. Most likely they say it is general repetition from the past, and a general karma, which we all have to endure.
Well, we have to endure it all right. Theosophy was a fascination to my youth, and Annie Besant was the greatest woman I have ever met. Well I must go and bathe. Artie will be here at noon. So Au-Revoir.
© 2011 Copyright Victoria Washuk
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