Some welcome mail; a hare sneezes; Gran picks fruit and Barry runs a mile in the summer heat; Peter Symonds’ School fete; Beauty of Bath versus Gladstone; a difficult time tempered by solitude and repose in the Forest, and Barry turns nineteen.
It is July 2nd 1949, and Gran is elated after receiving some post:
Today I received a wonderful gift from my American friend Elizabeth Jones. In a parcel containing all manner of good and useful things, there was a copy of Kenneth Graham’s “The Wind in the Willows” illustrated by that king of whimsy, Arthur Rackham. This is a special treasure, for it is published only in America at present and is an enchanting legacy from both author and artist who, unhappily, have passed to higher service. It was Graham’s greatest wish that Rackham should illustrate his book, but he died before this could be accomplished, and some time before the last war American publishers again reminded Rackham of this desire of Graham’s. Although a sick man, and allowed to work only one hour daily, Rackham devoted this time to the illustrations for “The Wind in the Willows”, and handed these pictures to the American publisher just as war was declared. Before they had crossed the Atlantic, Arthur Rackham, alas, had died, but he left behind him what is surely some of his best and most inspired work and a heritage of supreme beauty for the coming generations. Would that I could leave such a memorial when I pass on! And now it is an American who has given this treasure to me, one of Arthur Rackham’s most ardent admirers.
(The following excerpt, concerning the edition to which Gran refers, is derived from the link above):
“We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Arthur Rackham illustrated edition of The Wind in the Willows which was published in 1940 by the Limited Editions Club in New York. This American edition, with gilt decoration on the cover and spine and top edge gilt was limited to 2,020 copies. Copies can cost a collector a couple thousand dollars, depending on their condition.”
The following day Barry and Jock had an amusing experience with a Hare in Cranbury Park when it ran towards them and stopped suddenly about ten yards from them, then sneezed violently about a dozen times. “It was such a funny sight”, Barry said, “its nose drawn down and its mouth wide open”.
And that evening, Gran, who has suffered with headaches and depression in recent days, writes:
Walter Midgley has just sung Sullivan’s beautiful “Lost Chord”. Truly the beauty and passionate feeling of this song enters my very soul and leaves me dumb, with a tremor of sheer ecstasy running through me. I am filled with an indescribable feeling of tears and desperate longing for my Heaven.
“Beauty”, she writes, quoting R.U. Johnson, “the smile of God, music, His voice”.
Dad camps with a friend for two nights on the saltmarshes at Buckler’s Hard at this time. He records plants (including “Sea Bindweed Convolvulus soldanella…a new find for us”, writes Gran) and birds, including many with fluffy young, such as Shelduck, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover and Lapwing. Gran adds:
While having breakfast Barry and his friend watched a Lesser Tern [known today as Little Tern] sitting on her nest on the shingle. Under the direction of his friend, who kept the bird under observation, Barry found the nest and saw that it contained one egg.
The relatively rare Little Tern is a so-called Schedule 1 bird today, thus protected by special penalties during its breeding season. This is because its choice of sandy and pebbly shores as nesting locations, prone to human disturbance and to flooding by high tides, makes it particularly vulnerable to nesting failures. Dad’s actions described in 1949, nowadays would be illegal without a licence issued by Natural England!
July 12th: Gran has a hard time in the Park Road garden:
I have never felt the heat as much as I did in the Park Road garden as I did this afternoon. Usually I like it and can stand any amount, but after picking five pounds of blackcurrants and two pounds of loganberries, with the sun streaming down on me from a cloudless sky, I was on the brink of exhaustion and soaked with perspiration…. Grasshoppers were “singing” and the buzzing flies exasperated me. Temperature was still eighty-six degrees at 4 o’clock and seventy-two at sunset.
A few days later, she is still unable to shake off her depression, but what she writes shows considerable fortitude and strength of character:
Tonight I am in one of my moods of despair and darkness, when hope gives way to endurance, leaving me feeling somewhat battered. Life seems so long and I am so tired, yet it is a mere drop in the sea of Eternity. But it is so hard to think in terms of Eternity when human frailty makes me long for love here and now, in this life. After all, what is life without love? But this will not do. Love is still with me – that great spiritual love which gave my soul fulfilment and these moments of despair are treachery to it and must not be encouraged.
She finds herself on Otterbourne Hill on July 20th where:
…the surge of traffic suddenly ceased for a few blessed moments and the silence was so intense that it could be heard. Nothing disturbed the peace and serenity of those minutes, all too rare on main roads… and crickets chirping on the verge in company with the gentle calling of a Pigeon, were the only sounds.
If based on the volume of traffic encountered at Otterbourne in 1949, Gran’s reaction to a busy road today can only be imagined!
The post brings a little more pleasure on the 22nd:
Having a birthday gift from Adrian’s mother today with the charming request that I buy another little reminder of our friendship, I indulged my love of books by getting myself that chronicle of beauty “The Herb of Grace”, by Elizabeth Goudge. I have long wanted a copy of my own, and it will always be what she wishes, a reminder of a friendship that has brought me the greatest possible comfort.
The summer heat continues. July 23rd:
Barry today won the junior mile race in the County Championships at Southampton, breaking the existing record by three seconds, with the time of 4 minutes 35.1 seconds. I should not have cared to run a mile in a temperature of eighty-three degrees!
And the next day Gran and Barry are out on their bikes:
Reaching Castle Lane, we turned right towards Chandlers-Ford, and went into a small enclosure to look for Small Chocolate-tip caterpillars…Barry was much amused because I preferred to squeeze under the gate rather than climb over it. There was barbed wire on the top and I am not much good at jumping now, but I am thin enough to wriggle through small apertures.
I’m sure that as she wrote, “squeeze under the gate”, Gran had in mind Peter Rabbit, gaining entry to Mr McGregor’s garden. She was a great fan of Beatrix Potter!
In Southampton on the morning of July 25th, she saw:
… a litter of five puppies, just over a week old. They were most attractive – mother is a thoroughbred spaniel, father a gentleman of uncertain ancestry who leapt over the garden fence one day – but what the youngsters will eventually look like remains to be seen. At present they are fat, round-faced mites occupied this morning chiefly with slumber, two of them flat upon their backs. One seemed to be having dreams, for he was kicking and squealing in his sleep. Another, though fast asleep, had violent hiccoughs! Occasionally mother disturbed them to give them a thorough washing, of which procedure they took a dim view.
And the following day she records that:
A Goldtail moth was at rest on a fence in Kingsway and a Large Yellow Underwing in the window of Sherborne House schoolroom where I attended the delightful Speech Day and Entertainment this afternoon.
This afternoon we went to a garden fete at Peter Symonds’ School in aid of the Sports Fund. The weather was kind and the fete a great success and we had the opportunity of seeing over this fine old school. I was much intrigued by the stone stairway, much worn by the feet of generations of schoolboys, and it was interesting to note that the greatest wear was on the edges of the steps whilst the centre was almost unmarked. I found the biology laboratory, of which Barry was in charge, most interesting, and the Art and Philatelic exhibitions were very fine. Before the final reckoning had taken place, over £200 had been raised… There is a dance this evening to conclude the programme.
August 1st is a bank holiday, and one which Gran finds “thoroughly unpleasant” because it is wet and windy, and there is no-one for her to go out with, “Barry and Jock having gone to Farley Mount for the day and Jane to a Horse Show at Broadlands, Romsey. When one is young and in love such does not matter, but for me……!”. She continues:
I went to work in the Park Road garden as usual. I felt irritable and out of sorts but found at least a little peace at work, though the hens annoyed me by pecking the fallen apples before I could get them in and the low branches tore at my hair and the stinging nettles stung my legs. If only chickens would eat one apple properly instead of just pecking and spoiling so many! Irritating creatures! Bullfinches were piping as I picked Beauty of Bath apples… Personally I prefer the Gladstone apple any day.
After picking twenty-eight pounds of plums in the Park Road garden, and feeling unwell and heavy of heart, Gran makes her way to the highest part of Compton Down on August 3rd, which she calls, “Adrian’s Day”, where:
…for the last three Augusts I have on this day, made it a pilgrimage of remembrance for Adrian. Here I find a measure of comfort in my sadness and feel a communion with my lost love. Ah yes! Why keep it a secret within my heart any longer?
On August 13th, after “a perfect late Summer morning”, Gran cycles far, to lose herself in her beloved New Forest environment:
This afternoon I set out early in order to go as far as Beaulieu Road, rather a long distance for me now for half a day’s outing…
She cycles through Baddesley, where the “Goldenrod has been in flower for some time and Goldfinches chatter in the hedgerows”; through Totton, where the River Test is a “sparkling blue, with the tide just coming in”, and the creeks looking beautiful with golden-yellow reeds, and Sea Aster “making bold splashes of mauve on the mudflats”; through Eling which, “for once, looked quite attractive, the first time I have seen it at high tide, and it looked so different from the dirty, muddy wharf and river that I have usually seen”. Clouded Yellows are on the wing, and Whitethroats sing along the Marchwood Road.
Gran finds a place to sit, with her journal:
…on the heath between Beaulieu Road and Beaulieu itself, and as far as the eye can see, it stretches, rosy-mauve with the opening heather. Near me, here and there, the heavenly blue Gentiana pneumonanthe (Marsh Gentian), lift their perfect faces to the sky, which, even in its summer brilliance, is not as blue as they. These glorious flowers are amongst my first favourites.
She spends time observing, and describing the Forest scene in her journal, deriving sorely needed solace and mental tranquillity in her seclusion there. Indeed, she writes:
I am very loth to leave this delectable spot where I have spent an hour or so of peaceful solitude but it is a long way home, at least two hours on my bicycle.
Completing her day’s entry later that night, she continues:
As I cycled home I had a feeling of unreality, almost as if I were dreaming, as is so often the case when I have spent an hour or two in such surroundings, allowing my soul complete freedom and my thoughts to wander at will. I think I do not completely return to this world for some hours, but the sense of repose, almost of contentment, remains for a long time after one of these excursions.
Today Barry is nineteen – on the threshold of manhood – it does not seem possible!…I did not go out this afternoon because we had a little birthday party for the benefit of the two who were celebrating, Barry and his cousin, Brother’s son [this is David Adamson], who was six. It is a curious coincidence that these two should share August 14th for their birthday, for it was also my Father’s Day, though he did not live long enough to know that his second grandson arrived on the same date, thirteen years after the first.
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 1)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 2)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 3)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 4)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 5)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 6)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 7)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 8)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 9)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 10)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 11)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 12)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 13)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 14)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 15)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 16)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 17)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 18)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 19)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 20)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 21)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 22)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 23)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 24)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 25)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 26)