A bit of New Forest history; Remembrance Day and Christmas shopping; breakfast in bed, ice cream van delayed by snow; the capitalist greed of Piglet; wonderful ballet at The Gaumont, and “thank you for everything” at Compton Church.
Gran clears fallen Winter Pearmain apples in the Pinewood Garden on November 7th 1950, although two hours’ work “made very little impression but gave me an intense backache”, she writes.
There is a meeting of the SNHS that evening, where Brigadier Venning gives a talk on conifers, and Gran receives a “report on the survey we carried out on Bishop’s Dyke and Wood Fidley this summer”. Her journal says little of the results, but she writes in some detail of the sites’ histories:
On June 5th 1284, in the reign of King Edward I, Letters Patent under the Great Seal of England were granted at Caernarvon Castle to John de Pontoise, Bishop of Winchester, for the ownership of five hundred acres of bog and woodland in the New Forest. The area was enclosed by a bank lined by two ditches and the whole called Bishops-ditch…The ownership of the area has now passed to Winchester College…
Of Wood Fidley, she writes:
In 1698, during the reign of William III, and act was passed for the inclosure of two thousand acres of the New Forest, to be completed by 1708. Wood Fidley is one of these inclosures and was planted in 1700.
November 11th, Remembrance Day, as ever, touches her deeply. She says:
I listened to the broadcast Festival of Remembrance, poignant and beautiful, the Last Post as always thrilling my soul to a pitch of exquisite pain. I lost no nearest and dearest in either war, but my heart aches for those who did…
And the following day is Remembrance Sunday, when she and Barry make their way, on their bikes, to early service at Compton. Jane “was unable to go owing to an accident at school on Friday, when she fell heavily at gym and injured her arm”.
Winchester is Gran’s destination on the 17th, where she shops early for Christmas, and admits that it was not unpleasant:
I spent an enjoyable time choosing some special Christmas presents in Book and Art shops but was chagrined to find that I had somehow lost my book of notes and my pencil, since writing on the hill near Bushfield. I did not find it again but fortunately it was not the one containing uncopied poems.
Heavy rain causes flooding at the Ford and across Hiltingbury Road above the Lake, towards the end of November, and Gran’s thermometer, a treasured gift from Adrian, recently broken but repaired for the price of 25/-, tells her that the nights are close to freezing. On the 27th, we get an inkling of what a winter’s day is like in Gran’s bedroom, unheated and never decorated since before the war, and still with its old brown wallpaper until the 1990s:
There has been a sudden, sharp rise in temperature and the walls of my room are running with moisture and the glass on bookcase and pictures steamed, with little rivulets of water running down them. The atmosphere is quite warm, causing no discomfort in writing, as has the cold of recent nights. It sounds dismal and discouraging outside – I am glad to be indoors – and it will be good to say farewell to this year and start afresh.
Indeed, a few days later on December 2nd, she writes in her room, that it is “getting extremely cold, and I have difficulty in holding my pen”. However, before that, on November 29th, she is in a more comfy house, and in the evening she writes-up her notes of the first day there:
I left home soon after nine o’clock to catch the bus to Catisfield, near Fareham, to spend a couple of days with a friend, the nurse who cared for my father during his last illness…It seemed a little strange to be at Catisfield for the night but this is another house where I am always sure of my welcome and, as always, when I go away from home, my greatest treasures go with me.
And, relaxed the next day:
I was thoroughly spoilt this morning and enjoyed the luxury of breakfast in bed with a book, followed by leisurely rising at about ten o’clock. I got through a deal of knitting during the day, and felt considerably rested, not a little by the sympathetic understanding of another good friend.
In Kingston on December 7th, while visiting Adrian’s mother for the fourth time in 1950, she writes:
We went to town to do a little Christmas shopping and visited, among other shops, the Art shop at which Adrian obtained all his materials, giving me again that bittersweet pain which I feel always in places where his feet have trodden. It gives me also, a queer feeling that, at any moment, I shall see him standing there…
Two days later, returned to The Ridge, and in frosty conditions:
I was horrified to see our little Hedgehog in the garden. He rolled up as I approached him, wondering what on earth he was doing out at this time of year, but when I looked closely at him I saw that he had been hurt. His back, just below the base of his neck was bleeding slightly and he had lost a number of prickles. I assumed that a dog had dug him out of hibernation and if this is the case, I sincerely hope that the wretched thing has a very sore mouth as a result of his indiscretion. I put food down, but the Hedgehog made no attempt to eat, so I partially covered him with leaves and shielded him with a wooden box. He was breathing somewhat heavily and uttering subdued squeaks.
Hedgehog was still there next morning snuggled up in the box amongst the leaves. Gran covers it with a piece of linoleum weighed down with tiles, and hopes he means to continue his winter sleep. A good job he did not eat: although you should have laid down plenty of fat, you need to hibernate with and empty stomach!
A beautiful white world greeted my wondering eyes this morning, fully six inches of snow having silently fallen during the night and driven by a rather high, erratic wind, it was caked on the windows and blown into all the doorways.
She waits half an hour for a bus to Winchester for the completion of her Christmas shopping, and “the bus took another half hour to crawl along the treacherous road”.
Returning, the bus in which I was travelling was halted at Otterbourne by a stream of traffic brought to a standstill by, incongruously, an ice cream van, which had skidded across Otterbourne Hill and was unable to get a grip on the icy surface to enable it to proceed. After waiting nearly twenty minutes, I decided to walk home through Cranbury Park…though the walk was not without some effort and even discomfort. I walked so far in the tracks of a car, which had gone up the main drive to the house, but when I reached the pathway leading to the Kingsway Lodge, I found the fall of snow undisturbed. Plunging boldly along, I discovered that the drifts almost reached my knees and I had to scuffle, with the result that some of the snow went down my Wellington boots. But the exertion made me beautifully warm and glowing.
Almost every evening, Gran writes that Brown and Barn Owls can be heard calling, and on the 19th, she writes that “mentioning owls reminds me”:
…that I recently read that those curious-minded folk, the Hungarian Communists have recently banned from their bookshops, A. A. Milne’s “Winnie-the-Pooh”, calling the books “decadent literature” and “imperialistic”. I think the feelings of the entire British public may be summed up in the following – quoted verbatim from the “Southern Daily Echo”. ‘…Perhaps Rabbit is a deviationist, perhaps Piglet typifies in his meek little way, capitalist greed; perhaps Wol is a dangerous Fascist thinker. Perhaps it was undemocratic of Pooh to build a heffalump trap (after all, the only other person to fall into it was Alexander Small, a typical member of the downtrodden proletariat). Playing Pooh-sticks, it may be held, is a competitive occupation inconsistent with state control but surely Eeyore would be gloomily at home in a Soviet country? This is the sort of situation about which Pooh would have composed a hum’.
Gran follows this with:
Ah, well, all I can say is “Thank God I live in a country where my children have been able to grow up and thrive on Winnie-the-Pooh, and I pity poor little Hungarians…What memories, I wonder, will Hungary’s children have to treasure”?
I doubt that even Gran knew the full impact that the characters of this book had on her daughter, when a child; Winnie-the-Pooh was the very last subject on Jane’s lips, as she lay dying, tragically long before old age, in 1991. For now though, this is in the unimagined future, and on December 23rd Gran records that she is “up again at 6 a.m. in order to get Barry and Jane away on their postal duties just after seven o’clock”.
Christmas Day arrives – not Gran’s happiest day, and at the end of it she writes:
We spent Christmas Day in traditional manner at home, quietly to many people’s idea, I have no doubt, but it suited me admirably. The King’s speech was friendly and inspiring and filled me anew with respect for our sovereigns and an even greater love and pride for my dear England.
A couple of days later, a small party makes its way by bus into town through the falling snow:
We went to the newly-opened Gaumont Theatre in Southampton this evening to see the International Ballet Company in “Coppelia”, taking Mary Harding with us as Barry was not well enough to go. Disappointment at his absence was counteracted by her obvious pleasure and enjoyment but I felt sorry for Jock being there without him after they had looked forward to it for so long. The ballet was extremely beautiful and executed with faultless perfection, a spectacle of delightful colour, lovely scenery and dancing of ethereal daintiness combined with the unforgettably inspiring music of Delibes. The prima ballerina received a wholly-deserved ovation, which must have warmed her heart and curtain after curtain was taken.
The last few days of December are cold, Jane coming home from the lakes at Cranbury Park “joyously announcing that it was freezing hard and that the skating was grand”, and Gran recording her “…washing on the line freezing before the second lot was ready to hang out”.
Gran also records, on the last day of 1950:
…the arrival of four Long-tailed Tits, not only in the garden but to the food put out for our feathered friends. “The Handbook of British Birds”, says it is unusual for this species to visit gardens and exceptional for them to come to bird tables. Today I saw four of these charming little Tits feeding upon the pork rind hanging up…
Well, things have changed a bit since then: Long-tailed Tits are more abundant now and they have developed the habit of visiting gardens. They do love fat. In my experience, though they are generally infrequent and irregular visitors, but large parties of them, in cold weather, sometimes seem to develop a craving for the concentrated energy available in fat-balls, to which they then throng.
Gran’s first wish of the New Year is probably what everybody with the memory of the war still fresh in their minds, wishes for – peace on Earth and understanding among nations.
On January 6th:
Jane and I suddenly made up our minds that we would go into Southampton this evening to see the International Ballet Company’s last night appearance in Swan Lake, even if it meant standing throughout the performance. There was “standing room only” when we arrived but by half way through, four seats remained unclaimed so we sat for the rest of the time in the centre of the stalls. It was a most beautiful ballet… And the closing scene in which the despairing Swan Princess jumps into the lake and is drowned, followed by her prince, brought the tears very close to the surface. They overflowed when, by the Prince’s supreme sacrifice, the spell was broken and the released spirits of the lovers glided away in radiant light towards eternity, watched in awe-stricken wonder by the other swan-maidens.
There are more tears on the 7th, “A full day crammed with emotional upheaval”, writes Gran, “It is four years since Adrian’s last brief letter came to me, and it was the day of Mr Utterton’s farewell to Compton”. She, with Barry and Jane, attends early service at Compton, but she goes there alone for evening service:
Stars were shining when I once more left home to go to Compton Church for Mr Utterton’s farewell service. It was a most beautiful and moving service and I am not ashamed to admit that the tears were slipping down my cheeks as he spoke his farewell to his friends and his fellow-workers from the pulpit.
In spite of the fact that his voice faltered slightly once or twice during the service, he conducted it with the utmost strength and courage, closing it with my favourite 16th Century prayer – “Oh Lord, support us all the day long of this troublous life…”.
Whilst kneeling at prayer at the Alter, the choir sang for him in subdued voices the beautiful hymn “God be with you till we meet again”. He must have been profoundly moved, yet he stood up and in clear, vibrant tones, pronounced the blessing. The memory of him standing there will remain with me always. A murmured prayer for our dear departed completed my own emotional collapse and as he stood in the church porch to shake us by the hand and bid us all “Goodbye”, I could only whisper “Thank you for everything”, press his hand, and thank God for the cover of kindly darkness.
- 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)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 27)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 28)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 29)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 30)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 31)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 32)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 33)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 34)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 35)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 36)