Season 4, Episode 5
Compiled by Victoria Washuk,
as written in the diary of her great-grandmother, Ruby Alice Side Thompson
Read by Amanda Meuwissen
Wednesday, August 6, 1941
I have just been having words with Ted. I think him detestable, and I was so disgusted with him, I told him so. It is silly, of course. Usually I can hold my tongue, but tonight I didn’t. I’m so tired of him; that’s why, I suppose.
This afternoon I went to the movies. Major Barbara, Shaw’s play, is showing at the Havana, so I went down to see it. I did not leave the theatre until six ten p.m. but I was back here in the house before the news was finished. I had left the table laid, and I found Ted eating his tea, but he began scolding me at once. He said I should have told him I would not be here to get him his tea. I went straight ahead and put the kettle on, and got him some pie and cream, but he kept on and on as though I had committed a crime. Finally he stopped, I thought he was finished, but when I sat down to take off my shoes, he began all over again.
“Good gracious,” I said, “have you got to begin again? I thought you were finished.” Then all at once I flared, “How many times in these last twelve months have you found me out when you come in?”
He began all over again. He came and stood over me, and wagged his finger at me, admonishing me without ceasing, and being very rude. I resented his rudeness, and his whole admonitory attitude. I said so. Why should he speak to me as though I was a naughty child? I told him I wouldn’t listen to him. That was a silly thing to say, of course, because I had to listen, as he told me, of course. Everything went out with his pointing, wagging finger. I just thought him silly, and so petty. He kept on and on until I finally told him he was detestable. How stupid of me. Finally, he went out to the Home Guards.
I have been having a very trying time this week past. Artie has been home on his seven-day leave. He returned to camp yesterday. All the time Artie was here Ted was extremely disagreeable. He nagged the boy; he nagged me. Why Ted is so censorious I do not know, but he will set himself up as a judge and he cannot refrain from sarcasm or what he thinks is sarcasm. Three quarters of what he must think is wit is just plain low class rudeness. He has talked to me daily and nightly of what he calls Artie’s stupidities; he has condemned “the youngsters,” “this new generation” twenty times a day. I am sick of his preachings. God, how sick! I want to be happy and easy. My God! Aren’t they fighting this war for us? For Ted they are just fools. In most of his talk for Artie he just tried to make Artie look a fool and then jeer and sneer at the boy. That is how Ted talks with the boys and with me. He questions and cross-questions everything we say, even an innocent remark about the weather. It is as though he deliberately tries to make us out to be either fools or liars or both. Oh, but its wearing.
Today I received a letter from Eddie, and after he had read that, he began instantly to belittle Eddie, and make a derision of him. I made no reply at the time, but probably that was a soreness that made me flare out tonight when he began to scold me for being out. Anyhow, I am not the man’s slave. I’m free, white, and twenty-one, and I’m not chained to the premises. I do resent his cutting and insulting remarks. Why be so rude? Why be so unfair? Why in the name of God be so petty? When he comes back I expect he will begin another harangue. I shall be told off all over again. Well, he’s the righteous one, but he certainly makes me hate righteousness.
Thursday, August 7, 1941
Waiting for Mrs. Prior. If she does not show up by nine thirty I must begin on the work myself. When Ted came in last night I was listening to a B.B.C. concert. I did not speak, nor did he. However, he stayed in the dining room and also listened. Later a dance band came on the air; then he grunted and fussed, and soon went to bed. I remained downstairs and listened the program out. I think some of the dance songs very funny; they are certainly clever and mostly melodious, but Ted affects to dislike them all. To him they are “modern music” therefore no good, and he says so, times without number.
This morning he rose extra early, and went into the garden barefoot before the seven a.m. news. Then he shod himself and went to church, of course. What does he get out of early church? An orgasm perhaps. I remember years ago, way back in the Bayonne years, Blanch Sivell once said to me that she didn’t know what pleasure married people got out of marriage, but it couldn’t possibly be more than the pleasure she got out of Holy Communion.
“Why, Ruby, it’s wonderful, it’s keen. I can’t describe it, but I’m sure no lover could possibly thrill me more!” I thought her batty at the time. Perhaps there was something in it. I’m sure love and religion is inextricably mixed and I’m quite sure religion practiced by Ted is an aberration.
Ted is an A-1 eccentric. Take this barefoot practice of his. I do not remember him going around barefoot until the Tenafly years. I think he began the habit there. Outside on the lawns, or in the woods or fields, it was not so bad, a summer habit. When he began to walk about the house bare-foot, that was different. I remember one occasion which was downright unpleasant. One afternoon, Mary Spencer Smith was calling; we were drinking tea in the parlor; then Ted came in, wearing linen knickers, but bare footed. He bowed in his ambassadorial fashion, seated himself in an armchair, but swinging his legs over the side. His feet were filthy, covered with ground dirt. Mary exclaimed at him. He expatiated on the pleasure of going barefoot.
“But not in the drawing room!” she said.
“Well, I’m surprised Ruby allows it. I shouldn’t allow Spence to, I can tell you.”
But there it is, the way Ted slips in manners. He is not a gentleman, and the older he grows the more evident that fact becomes. He acted grossly one day this summer. He had been working barefoot in the garden, and he then came in to rest awhile. He went upstairs and took off all his clothes except his shorts, and these were gaping. He came down into this dining room and began to smoke a pipe, lolling on the sofa, opposite the kitchen door. In this little house the dining room opens directly into the kitchen, and immediately on the right of the kitchen is the back door. If Ted is in the dining room when the errand boys call, he will speak to them as he chats in his camaraderie way.
Well, a young lad came with the green groceries and Ted immediately rose, called out to the lad, and began stalking across the room to speak with him further. I was literally horrified. I closed the door abruptly and I said to Ted, “For goodness sake, use a little sense! Don’t expose yourself to strange young lads like that!”
I shut the door in his face, and held it shut whilst the boy unloaded his basket. On the other side of the door, Ted was laughing. He thought it a joke. I thought it an indecency and madness. What would the boy have thought had he seen this spectacle? There was Ted, a naked and dirty old man, puffing on a pipe, and talking, talking! God, what a fool!
Mrs. Prior has arrived. I’m glad. I didn’t want to tackle the cleaning. She said she has had a poisoned foot, but it is quite recovered now. Good. I hope she stays recovered. I can clean the house but why should I?
Ted might be surprised if he knew how some of the youngsters regard him. Mary Bernadette told me one day last week that he made Huge Storr-Best “feel uncomfortable” and that Doreen Peel did not like to come to the house when Mr. Thompson was at home because she did not like him. Strange, especially when Ted thinks himself so fascinating. Certainly his conceit grows, and the way he talks to intelligent youngsters is preposterous. He talks at them, and as though they knew nothing. Again behind everything, I think, lies his own uncultured youth; his consciousness holds only the poor cockney, with a mere elementary board school education, even if that.
Ted thinks he is being friendly. Actually he is only being embarrassing. Oh dear! What a man! Then there is his religion, his damned religion, and his talk of morals, which ultimately he drags into every conversation. He is tiresome and boring beyond words. His religion is an obsession, and in the end he tires everybody with it, even the Catholics. Lou Branney was here to tea on Monday. (Lou now has his commission, was on leave, and came to see Artie.) We talked of the war, of course.
Lou said to Ted, “I must say our Catholic papers make me sick, especially the Catholic Herald. I won’t read them anymore. They’re damned awful.”
But with Ted, whatever a Catholic paper prints is right. Must be, because it’s “Catholic” isn’t it? It is fanaticism, pure and simple. Franco is right. According to Ted, Franco is a Christian gentleman who fought to save Christianity in Spain. Franco is a good Catholic, therefore can do no wrong. Facts tell against Franco, and Lou said that the more he found out about the Spanish war the more disgusted he was with Franco and his gang, the more he thought there was something to be said for the Republicans, for the government. Franco is a minor Hitler, or Mussolini, a man ruthless and cruel, self-seeking and a liar. Not for Ted, oh dear no, Franco saved Spain! Oh well!
At breakfast this morning Ted wanted to be affable. I remained just polite. I presented him with a bill to pay. I have a bill from Stone’s for flannel and I have been wondering how I was going to pay it. He told me he was going to take a holiday all next week, and he thought he would go and look at Beccles and a few other places. So! I thought, all right, old boy, you can pay my Stone’s bill. So I produced the bill, asked him to bring me pence for the house at dinnertime, and please settle this bill.
“Is this for clothes?” he asked.
“Yes, for petticoats.”
He put it in his pocket. Let him pay. What does he ever give me? Why are little gifts so important to a woman? I don’t know, but they are. Trifles: things like a flower, or a pound of sweets, a package of cigarettes, a magazine, a scarf, all those little oddments, those little casual gifts. It is because they show affection, I suppose, a thought for you, a gift, a little gift. So I think: let him pay my bills. He looks after himself all right. Very well, he can look after me too. Now au-revoir. I must go in and see about fixing lunch.
Friday, August 8, 1941
A teeming wet morning and I have just been out to Carlton Parade to place my weekend orders. I received a notice from the food control office this morning that my request to have my registration for eggs transferred has been granted. I took the notice to Mrs. Dennis, so now I am entirely through with Sainsbury’s; this after about fourteen years trade with them, during which we must have spent considerably over one thousand pounds with them.
Elizabeth Coppen telephoned early this morning and she is coming to tea this afternoon.
Now I’ll record an absolutely typical piece of English masculine behavior. Last night apropos of nothing, Ted suddenly said, about seven, that he was going out to a boxing match, held by the Home Guard. So off he went, not returning until about ten forty-five p.m. This was the husband going out without previous notification given. What about the wife in this case? I might have arranged to do something with this evening, especially if I had known it was going to be a free one. No, I was not informed of Ted’s intentions for the evening until he was ready to leave the house. Yet he rowed me abominably on Wednesday because I went out, in the afternoon, too, when he was not at home! Without previously telling him of my intention to go out, and my crime was heightened because I was not back in the house before he came home. Probably he wasn’t back until six, anyhow. He comes in when he is ready to come in. Officially the office closes at five. Ted may come straight home, but he may go to the barbers or the library, or the church first; but he never tells me what he is going to do, or where he is going. He returns when he is ready to return and I have nothing to say in the matter. Not that I want to have anything to say. What I resent it that he should object to my going out at my convenience, and returning at my convenience, especially as I had not neglected any of my “duties” by doing so. That’s the Englishman for you, particularly the English husband. Perhaps the young English husbands are different. I don’t know, but I shall hope so.
Oh, how I do dislike old-time Englishmen! Is it any wonder I long for America, and shall long for it, as long as I live, and whether I have any children there or not. American men treat their women properly, and no matter what their personal relationships are. American women are equal human beings with their men; they always were, and I guess they always will be. Anyhow, I thank God my sons are American. My sons won’t expect to own their wives, nor even give them “Christian” arguments that morally a wife should obey a husband. My sons are not Englishmen, thank God.
Ted did write me a cheque at dinnertime yesterday, and without further questions. All day he tried to be jocular. I think he was ashamed of his Wednesday’s outburst, his anger and rudeness and injustice; but of course he’ll never say so, he’ll never apologize, not to me. He might confess it in the confessional but he’ll never admit to me he was wrong, or say he was sorry he hurt my feelings. To write a cheque with partial good grace, that’s all he’ll be able to do in repentance or recompense towards me. I smile. I’m hard, and I only wish the amount requested had been triple what it was! When he so unexpectedly went out last night I set to work and cut out the petticoats. Now I’ve discovered why flannel petticoats have gone out of favor these past years. They cost too much. These petticoats work out at nearly one pound apiece, which is very expensive.
Saturday, August 9, 1941
I received a note from Artie this morning to say he had been passed for a commission. Good. He will probably go to an O.C.T.U. before the month is out.
After much rain, today started very fine, so Ted said the weather was “for him” and packed his haversack. He went off by the twelve forty-six p.m. train; for Ipswich, I think. Anyhow, he is going hiking through East Anglia. Why East Anglia, seeing it is raided somewhere or other practically every day? Well, my guess is he is making for Walsingham. Next Friday will be the fifteenth, the feast of the Assumption, and I think Ted has started out on a pilgrimage to Walsingham, and probably, once in the country, will travel bare-foot. He has a mania for pilgrimages. Oh Lord! What a fool! What an utter fool.
I have been to the town twice today, and now am very tired. First I went to Stone’s to pay my bill, and whilst there I bought some khaki wool to make Artie some socks. I also returned Ted’s books to the Public Library, and bought a basketful of apples from Ives in Mercury Gardens. Apples are in at last, thank goodness. The paucity of fruit is very great. There’s a paucity of everything, I think.
When I returned to the house I remembered I hadn’t parceled Artie’s cardigan, which he asked for, to be sent at once, so I had another trip, down to the post office. Consequently I am terribly tired tonight. It had been my intention to cut out a frock, but I am much too tired to do so. Luckily I’ve got an interesting book to read: The Man Who Loved Children, by Christina Stead.
Last week I read ambassador Dodd’s Diary. He was an American ambassador in Berlin from 1933 to 1938. This was an intensely interesting book. It was his private diary, not his official one. Right from the start he could see war coming. What struck me most in it was the rascality, and idiocy, of men in high places, and how greatly the life of the world lies in the hands of the giant capitalists. A few rich men do own the earth. No wonder they are afraid of the communists. The rich men of Europe wanted war, because war makes profits; but ordinary men never want war. As G.B.S. said somewhere: If you take out the governments and shoot them, then you will have peace.
For several years now I have been attracted by the thought of communism, especially since the Spanish Civil War; but I have never dared investigate it, because I feel that if I did I might be converted to it. That would never do! Not whilst Ted Thompson and I have to live in the same house. He condemns it offhand, in toto. Without ever investigating it for himself, of course; sufficient for him that the Church had condemned it. The Church!
Tuesday, August 12, 1941
Got no sewing done. First of all Mrs. Thomson killed my morning. Then I went down to South Street to buy some stationary, etc. All paper, books, etc. are getting very scarce, and very dear. I bought two new books, a good (and their last) newspaper clippings book: a bottle of stickphast, and their last scrap-album. I’ve got the album to hold my collection of dress pictures. For years I have cut out of papers, magazines, etc. pictures of what I consider beautiful frocks, in styles suitable for me. Some are being worn by people in the news, some by people in advertisements, a very few from fashion notes. They go back to the last war years, and start with a photograph of Maude Adams, wearing a velvet gown. My two latest are; one, a photo of a social group in Buckingham Palace this July, for the picture of the ensemble worn by the Queen of Yugoslavia (a woman of my build, wearing a figured silk dress, covered by an extremely graceful but plain black coat—it was the coat I wanted to note); and second, a propaganda picture about girls war-work, showing a mother and daughter chatting together, and this to note the mother’s dress, which is a severely plain cross-over.
Then after lunch I called a taxi and went over to Parkway, to pay a visit to Miss Coppen. I met her friend Mrs. Townsend. I stayed with her until nearly eight o’clock, and then taxied home again. I had only just got in when Rita Pullan came, and she has only just left. So now it is bedtime again, for I am too tired to start sewing tonight. Goodnight.
© 2011 Copyright Victoria Washuk
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