25: BAPTISM OF FIRE:
I’ve worked in the law,
On divorce I’m proficient,
I’ve done shorthand and typed
And my work was efficient.
If you want to insure,
yourself, or a bike,
It’s a terrible bore, but
I’ll advise if you like.
If you want to know how
to procure a house
I’ll advise you now,
(The surveyor’s a louse)
Worked in Wardour Street too,
For some little time,
The things film folk do!
Wouldn’t make this verse rhyme!
I found farming too hard,
What with ricking and stooking,
And could only sit down,
When the man wasn’t looking!
In politics too, I have had my fling,
‘til the party went broke -
An unforeseen thing.
I’ve worked under matrons,
And Sisters galore,
But I was not amused,
And at last said, no more.
No more will I sell,
(You can see I’ve read Marx)
What is called ‘labour power’,
To capitalist sharks!
I am to write in February, 1946, the poem including some poetic licence. And, of course, the necessity to rhyme meant that I could not set out in correct order the jobs I was to undertake in the first two or three years of my work career. It was not difficult to find employment in those days, especially for typists. A joke going the rounds declared that if a job applicant could pick out the typewriter in a room in which there were also a sewing machine and a lawn mower, she got the job!
My first job, in the Summer of 1943, is at the New Realm Film Company in Wardour Street, distributor of such films as the Old Mother Riley series. The Company is situated on the ground-floor of an office divided up by filing cabinets, desks, piles of paper... so that I am fenced into a corner. From there I watch the passing show, people coming and going, calling out to one another, working at their desks and none of them exhibit the slightest bit of interest in me. I am merely a spectator. To take shorthand dictation I am called into a small side office and on one or two occasions sent farther up the road to another office to take dictation from one of the two brothers Fancey, Directors of the Company. I sit on a chair to the side of his desk and Mr. Fancey, a tall, dark, dour man throws dictation at me. Then I go to my typewriter in the same room to type his words into longhand. Psychologically, I remain at the College and cannot rid myself of the belief that all this typing and shorthand is merely acting. That it is no more than exercises from a textbook to be marked up by the teacher. I cannot believe that my letters will be put into envelopes and posted to the addresses. Therefore, I do not take them seriously. Mistakes, or typographical errors, of which there are many, are merely blips that will reduce my test speed and I will do better next time. But, it is not the levity with which I greet the Company’s correspondence, but a series of asthmatic attacks which are to take me out of the Film industry. I stagger up Oxford Street, holding onto the glass frontages of clothing stores. And those are my better days. On the others I cannot get into the office at all. At last I am sacked. a few months later the press reports a drama enacted at the New Realm Film Company, when an Accountant stabs one of the Mr. Fanceys in the leg with a paper-knife. I regret having missed the ‘fun’!
In the meantime, I am caught up in a drama of my own. I lie in bed in a high fever for bronchitis has become pneumonia and I live in the strange land of delirium. There, I stand still and will myself to fly into the kitchen, walls and closed doors melting away at my touch. I wish myself into the garden and find myself wandering down the path, on each side of me red, white and yellow roses. In front of me the lily, Solomons Seal, which leans across the pathway and which when younger I liked to jump. Fruit trees, cherry, plum and apple spread their branches above my head and I see clearly the ripening fruit. Then I wish myself in bed and wake to find my mother beside me. She gives me the medicine prescribed, a new drug M & B (named for the maker May and Baker). This is a large, white anti-bioltic tablet. I swallow it down with some water and wish myself into the street where I fly above the queues gathering at the shops. All of them intent upon obtaining the day’s food, to supplement their rations with whatever is on offer. I fly above them, but none of them look upwards, their eyes are fixed downwards, firmly on the ground. This is like swimming in air! I say to myself "Why have I never done it before?" I wake again to find my mother beside me. She is sitting on a chair. "You’ve been giving directions to Muswell Hill Post Office in such a refined voice!" she says chuckling. "Oonagh and I have been laughing our heads off! Why don’t you always talk like that!" My mother dislikes the slang which I pick up from my peer group.
A nun calls at the front door. "How is Oonagh?" she asks my mother, who is surprised at this visitation. "Oonagh?" my mother queries. "You must mean Sheila." "No, Oonagh" insists the nun. My sister has not been at school for the past month or more, although each morning she has left the house at the right time for school, dressed in her uniform, and returned home at what was presumed to be the end of the school day. My mother is shocked. What has Oonagh been doing all day? She is soon to find out, for demands arrive from libraries, both public and private, for books Oonagh has borrowed and not returned. Books which have been lost to our view among the many hundreds already in our house. It was G.K. Chesterton who remarked in one of the Father Brown stories, that if something is to be hidden away, it must be stowed among its like. During the following weeks, my mother spends much time in tracking down drama, adventure, mystery, history, philosophy, comedy... and trudging as far as Crouch End to return books to the library marked on the inside covers. Friern Barnet, Hornsey, Boots, W.H. Smith, and many more situated in confectioners and stationers which displayed books for borrowing at threepence per volume.
Oonagh wants no more of the Convent. She has had her fill of the black and white nuns, the Acts of Contrition, the Catechism, the Lives of the Saints, the Confessions, the interminable Mass, the intellectual confinement, God watching her most intimate moments in thought and deed, Faith of our Fathers, mea culpa and De profundis. She refuses to return to St. Martins and so my mother pays for her to attend Woodhouse Grammar School in Friern Barnet Road, surrounded before the war by iron railings which have gone to assist the war effort. At that time 25% of Grammar pupils won scholarships from the State system, and the rest paid fees.
As for me, soon I have flown away from the mound threatening to engulf and bury me beneath the heavy weight of history. Convalescent, one afternoon I find myself travelling on a tube train to go to a job interview at a small publishing Company. Standing by the doors is a black American soldier, a GI The Americans having entered the war in December 1941 following the bombing by the Japanese of Pearl Harbour. he is holding onto the shiny steel bar and resting his body gently against the glass and wood half partition separating the seats from the boarding platform. We pull into a station and an American Army officer dressed smartly in his light and dark green uniform and peaked cap, enters. With a frown he notes the blackness of the GI and lifting one hand signals with a thumb "OUT’. The soldier, with no argument, obeys and the train pulls out to leave him standing on the platform. The scene passes before my dazed eyes and part of me asks why I have not caught hold of the black man to keep him from stepping off the train. Why have I not shouted angrily at the Officer "There’s no Jim Crow over here!" But that part of my inner core which would have prompted me into action remains hovering above the burial mound and has yet to re-join my body. A body which sits heavily on the train seat, unable to consciously participate in the world around me.
I am interviewed by a shock-haired coloured man somewhere in his thirties, and a fair long-haired woman, of about the same age. I do not get the job. perhaps I am thought to be too young, or I appear as only a wraith. But, my mother is to say "they recognised your name and know your father is a publisher. They looked upon you as competition." My mother, no longer in receipt of the fifteen shillings per week I had paid her from my wages, once more must provide me with pocket money. For in the evenings I go to the Youth Club, the GTC or somewhere with Madeleine. During the day I catch up on all the news of our neighbours.
The Misses Vernon, Dolly and Nelly, had been evacuated to Ilfracombe at the beginning of the war. Dolly eagerly climbing aboard the charabanc stationed outside 14 Wilton road. She turns to call to Nelly who for once dressed normally in floppy small brimmed grey felt hat and long dark coat, moves at a snail’s pace, clutching hold of the front door, the front gate, the hedge... clinging to these familiar static objects. Until, at last the driver, good-naturedly, but eager to be away, takes her firmly by the arm and pushes her gently into the coach. Apart from one or two hastily scribbled notes and a picture post-card from Dolly, my mother hears nothing of the two sisters for some months. And then Dolly arrives home alone. She is homesick for Wilton Road. Also, she is angry. Nelly has refused to return, for in Ilfracombe their positions have become reversed. Dolly is the quiet sister unable to cope with strange surroundings and circumstances. Nelly is in her element. The sea breezes whip into redness her pale cheeks and stir into being a long repressed vitality. They whisper to her of adventure on the high seas. She becomes outgoing, the much valued friend of the other evacuees in the boarding-house. She is invited to tea by the local ladies who are beguiled by her obvious pleasure in the delights of Ilfracombe. She goes for long walks, on her feet sturdy boots, and climbs hills which my mother reports to me as mountains. And the more extroverted and popular Nelly becomes, the greater is Dolly’s retreat into her shell. She can hardly bear to speak to the other residents of the boarding-house, these people who are so fond of Nelly. "Your sister’s not very friendly" they whisper to Nelly "she’s a little...well...odd!"
Eventually, Miss Vernon leaves behind the lively, born again Nelly and returns to 14 Wilton Road. There she hopes to find the reclusive, semi-invalid who had for so many years occupied the second bedroom. In vain. Miss Vernon can do no more than write almost daily to Nelly. Letters which plead to her to return home. As it happens, while in Ilfracombe, Dolly has made one contact. This is Celia, my mother’s niece. The older of my Aunt Flora’s two children rescued from the Portsmouth fire and who had lived with my grandmother Rachel for some years. Celia, together with her two younger daughters had also been evacuated to Ilfracombe and lived in a house next door to Miss Vernon’s boarding-house. Breaching the smoke in which Celia will walk to the end of her days, Miss Vernon in reply to a question, tells her that she comes from Muswell Hill. "I was so surprised when she asked me if I knew anyone named Lahr" Miss Vernon tells my mother. She gives my mother news, eagerly received, of Celia’s appearance, her interests, the ages of her children, their names... for it is many years since my mother and her niece have met. Later, my mother is to say to me. "Celia has another child, her eldest, but she’s brain-damaged. Such a pretty baby with bright red hair. They employed a nursemaid and she dropped the baby." This was a popular conception, or perhaps, misconception, in those days, for a child born mentally handicapped was considered to be a blot on the family name. Their condition must be by accident. "Celia worried so much she lost all her hair! Miss Vernon said she suspected her hair to be a wig."
Years later, while I am staying in Southsea, I call upon Celia and her husband, taking with me my eldest child who is two years old. The family live in a large house and I walk through the front door into an environment of soft lights, soft furnishings, soft voices, soft people beautifully groomed from head to foot. I sit on a settee against the wall, my daughter next to me, in a sitting-room in which the warmth of the fire has been banished and only the smoke remains.
With respect to Miss Dolly Vernon, having returned from Ilfracombe bereft of her dependent sister, no longer able to carry out the terms of her father’s will, she has lost the raison d’etre for her existence. She moves into a deep depression, passing through each day greyly and greeting each new day reluctantly. A greyness which blotches and darkens her mind, as if her soul is within her head and marked by sin. A blackness which will not be lifted or shaken away. In desperation, she turns on the gas over (for this is pre conversion) and lies her head, the offending part, on the hard metal shelf. The windows closed, unopened for many years, the door bolted, newspaper pushed into the unused keyhole and into the space under the door, Dolly prepares herself for death. Soon the room is filled by noxious fumes which permeate the newspaper under the door and makes its way into the Ridgeways’ flat, where Mrs. Walker, Mrs. Ridgeway’s mother, is home alone. She, an older version of her cadaverous daughter, sniffs at this invading odour and checks her own gas stove. "Miss Vernon!" she calls up the stairs. "Miss Vernon! There’s a gas leak somewhere, is it yours?" No answer. She climbs up the stairs, calling all the time "Miss Vernon, Miss Vernon, gas!" The door to Miss Vernon’s cluttered sitting-room is open, but the kitchen door is locked. Mrs. Walker bangs on it with her fists, pulls at the handle to shake the door backwards and forwards. No response from Miss Vernon. Thoroughly alarmed, Mrs. Walker runs to a nearby neighbour who has a telephone and the police are called.
I return home from the Youth Club just in time to catch sight of a black police car shooting backwards up Wilton Road towards Colney Hatch Lane, its tyres screeching. My mother is at the gate of No. 9 and neighbours are gathering at their front doors, or peering from behind net curtains. "Miss Vernon’s tried to gas herself!" my mother tells me, her face white, her eyes large. The ambulance arrives and two attendants hurry into No. 14, the front door open, but Mrs. Walker is hiding herself away from painful memories. The ambulance men emerge, carrying a stretcher covered partly by a blanket under which lies the small form of Miss Vernon, her grey hair showing above the cover. My mother walks over to the men. "Where are you taking her?" she asks. "She has no family, only a sister who’s away. I’m her closest friend." The attendant hesitates and then almost whispers "the Whittington." The police contact Nelly, but she refuses to return. At that time attempted suicide was a crime, but perhaps in 1942 when the whole world appeared bent on suicide there seemed little point in prosecuting one ageing lady. And so Miss Vernon soon returns home, to make a further attempt on her life by gas a few months later. This time she is despatched to Napsbury Asylum at St. Albans where my mother visits her regularly. But Nelly refuses to return home.
Co-incidentally, Miss Vernon meets at the Asylum a girl named Jean whom I know from the Youth Club where she had attached herself to me. Against my will, for she has an intensity which makes me uncomfortable. A short, plump girl whose clammy hands grabbed at mine. She hates her mother. "She’s a Jew" she tells me. This puzzles me, for it means that Jean herself is half-Jewish, but she does not see herself as part of her mother. "My mother wants me to leave home" Jean continues "she says that if I don’t go, she will." Now Jean is in the Asylum. My mother has met Jean once only, when she called on me at a time when I was ill in bed and fell asleep across my legs. Knowing that Jean is epileptic, I am afraid to wake her for what will I do if she thrashes bout in a fit? At school we had been instructed to put a cork in the mouth to prevent biting of the tongue. Frequently, in my mind’s eye, I had seen myself performing this heroic feat, but with the actual possibility before me, I am not so keen! At last, my mother enters the room and gently shakes Jean awake. "Time to go home" she says. "Sheila must sleep." I breathe a sigh of relief on hearing the front door close behind Jean. The next time my mother sees Jean, she is in Napsbury, slumped in a chair, out for the count, in the same ward as Miss Vernon. "She’s very troublesome" says Miss Vernon. "The nurses don’t like her because she argues, over the food, the beds, the arrangements for baths - everything!" When my mother visits again Miss Vernon tells her that Jean is dead. Having been tranquilised into pliancy, she had fallen asleep never to awaken.
Miss Vernon is proud of her own eagerness to survive by co-operating with the nurses, doctors and the regime. With or without Nelly, she now longs for the peace, security and freedom of 14 Wilton Road. A goal towards which my mother is assisting her, for she has written to the Asylum authorities requesting Miss Vernon’s release. My mother sets out on several sheets of note-paper the case for Miss Vernon’s return to the community, stringent in its application to detail. My mother had always prided herself on her awareness of the exact language to use to impress authority. With the result that Miss Vernon is released into my mother’s care. For some days she sleeps in a made-up bed in our living-room, but eventually returns to her own home to sleep and spends her days with my mother. Until, at last, Nelly returns home.
It is a much changed Nelly who comes home from Ilfracombe. The pleasure of companionship has banished the recluse and exercise has made her physically fit. No more halting figure, corset tied over dress, creeping down the garden path to the front gate, to walk along the pavement clinging to the hedge and then to turn and scurry once more into the house. Now she walks sturdily up the road each morning, smiling at the neighbours as she passes on her way to a job in the kitchen of a small cafe. She has her own money in her pocket and is once more the elder sister.
Mrs. Sargie also continues to call upon my mother. Her son, Guy, has been called up for the army, his tall, thin frame enclosed in rough khaki. His medical had revealed that he was suffering from malnutrition and so the army had fattened him into fighting condition. "She never cooked for him" laments Mrs. Sargie, sitting at the table in our living-room. She is talking about Guy’s wife, Mariella. "He’d come home from work and have to see to himself. He lived on bread and marge." Other facts are now emerging about the errant Mariella. While Guy was at work, his wife took herself off to the West End, leaving their baby son Alan alone in the house, lying in a cot. Later, when he could stand, and then walk, she tied him to the cot. "That neighbour of their, Mrs. Jones, told me about it a long time ago" says Mrs. Sargie "I wish I’d done something then, but I didn’t know what to believe." Alan is now evacuated to the countryside and with Guy away as well, Mariella is relieved of all family responsibility. She earns money by war-work and spends her leisure-time in dance-halls and pubs. every evening she hurries home from the factory to put on her glad rags, rouge, lipstick, takes her hair out of the band into which it has been rolled to prevent it from catching in the factory machinery; combs her dark hair into an imitation of the Hollywood star Veronica Lake’s blonde hairstyle, her long hair brushed almost over one eye. And removes from her finger the gold band which confines it.
At the Astoria Dance Hall, Charing Cross road, she meets Dennis, a petty officer in the Navy, and within five years she is to give birth to five children. Mariella wants to be free, but she is betrayed by her body. Mrs. Sargie knows the name and date of birth of each child, for these have been set out on Guy’s divorce petition, filed under the government sponsored scheme ‘£5 divorces for the forces’. a department of the law Society in which I am to be employed during 1943. Mrs. Sargie, sitting in our living-room, recites each name and date of birth as if she is recounting the facts of an extended family. she is especially fascinated by the first illicit child born, Emma., for Mariella in answer to Guy’s divorce petition, had tried to claim him as the child’s progenitor. But Guy had been able to produce his army pay book which proved that, at the relevant date, he had been on duties outside the British Isles. And yet, Mrs. Sargie sees Emma almost as a longed for granddaughter. Guy has custody of Alan, for his mother does not want him, and Mrs. Sargie has agreed to rear him when he is returned from evacuation.
Several times in each week, I go to the youth Club which is situated in a large old house on the right-hand side of Colney Hatch lane (walking up the hill from Wilton Road). There, I take part in the discussion group held in an upstairs room, to put the world to rights. I can remember speaking about ‘vested interests’ but when a boy asks me earnestly what that means, I do not know. I cannot reply. I am stupid. Sometimes I play table tennis on one of the three long tables at the end of the long ground-floor room, but I am not very skilled at the game. Years before, I had played regularly with Twi, either at her house, or mine, on makeshift tables, but the long, correct sized table is more of a challenge. Madeleine comes to the Youth Club only occasionally, for she is not much interested in any of the activities offered. To this day she must have wry memories of this Youth Club for it is here she is to receive a grievous disappointment. A disappointment, the roots of which began at the house in Grove Road, for Aunt Kitty had a new boarder, a tall young man named Arthur. He had shown an interest in Madeleine, taking her out for walks and to the pictures. Holding her hand, giving her chaste kisses. I had not met Arthur, but he was to call for Madeleine at the Youth Club. "He says he’ll be here at eight o’’ clock" she says proudly, looking at her watch. And she continues to look at it: 8.15, 8.30, 9 p.m. She becomes agitated, her face an unhappy mask. "He’ll be here soon" she assures me, but mostly herself. "I expect he’s had to go somewhere first." At last he arrives, accompanied by Madeleine’s younger cousin, Ruth. I had known Ruth at St. Martin’s Convent as a small quick-moving little girl whom my named called ‘twinkle-toes’. Ruth had also been evacuated to the Preston Park Convent and, like me, had temporarily lost much of her hair. This had been the only time during which I had seen Ruth unhappy, for she was a laughing, lively girl, a smile always ready on her round face, her blue eyes dancing with laughter. Now she accompanies Arthur into the Youth Club and from the first moment they walk into the hall, Arthur with a stride of his long legs and Ruth hanging onto his arm, it is clear that they are a couple. Madeleine makes an attempt to claim her boy-friend, to regain her territory, for she cannot bear to lose this pale, moustached young man dressed always in smart double-breasted suits.
Arthur is some years older than both girls, but certainly nearer to Madeleine in age for Ruth is no more than sixteen. until now, Madeleine had not thought of her cousin as a rival. "You’re late" she says waspishly, eyeing the couple standing close together in the Youth Club’s long room. "I’ve been waiting all evening!" Arthur makes no reply, but puts his arm around Ruth, who giggles. "Ruth and I will walk you home" Arthur says carelessly. Arthur and Ruth become engaged and then married and Madeleine is forced to swallow her disappointment. However, she cannot resist making the occasional spiteful remark about her would-be lover and her cousin Ruth.
The members of the Youth Club are offered a reduced fee for roller-skating at Alexandra Palace. I search out my skates, nailed to a pair of shoes and accompanied by a tall, fair-headed boy named John, make my way to the skating rink. A place not frequented since the days with Colleen. Now I am to skate alongside a boy who seems to enjoy my company. We skate round and round the rink, talking and laughing, until our feet are blistered from an activity from out of the past. Next time I see John at the Youth Club a dance is in progress and he stands with his mates, a group of teenage boys, on the other side of the room. I walk past the swinging couples and go towards him, sure that soon he will greet me. Instead, he turns away. He ignores me.
Madeleline and I have tired of the Girls’ Training Corps. For a short time we transfer from the Holly Park division, to a Catholic GTC meeting in Crouch End, but soon ‘fall out’ for the last time and do not return. I join the Civil Defence as a Messenger, attending for instruction in the garden of a house in Colney Hatch Lane. It is here that I learn that ‘make-up’ does not necessarily mean cosmetics. It can mean also winding, or unwinding, a stirrup hose pipe. I learn too that if a house is on fire it is best to mount the staircase on the inside, away from the outside wall. I learn that fire runs first along the joists. Many are the scenarios I picture in my mind of flames and billowing smoke against which I run lithely up the stairs away from the wall to rescue the screaming residents. Then I lead them to safety. Instead, once the siren sounds at night, I put on my tin hat and jump on my trusty steed, and cycle up Colney hatch Lane to Friern Barnet Town Hall. Pedalling furiously, I pass the wall of the Asylum and the swaying trees, the ack-ack of the anti-aircraft guns above my head accompanying me as background music. Once at Friern Barnet Town Hall, I sit on a chair in a corridor, ignored by the men and women in an office collating the state of the raid. There I wait to be sent to deliver a vital message. All communications down, only I can pedal through the streets, bombs falling around me, to deliver the message which will win the war. Instead, the raid over, I cycle home again. When, at the end of the war, I receive a Certificate from Civil Defence, stating that I have served my country in time of need, I am more than a little surprised.
My mother, miserable at beginning upon the menopause decides that before it is too late, she must bear a further child. My father, who longs for a son, agrees and night after night they go through the necessary performance. But, my mother does not become pregnant. She has had an operation for appendicitis some years before and maybe this had finished her as a child-bearing woman. My mother had undergone this mutilation while James Hanley stayed at 9 Wilton Road to care for both Oonagh and me. Eventually, my parents admit defeat and my mother takes a job as an orderly at the Colney Hatch Asylum where she tends the dying, gives blanket baths to the insane, geriatric, or senile, some of whom are deformed, cleans up faeces.... She has entered voluntarily into a place from which Cecil had escaped. and she regales me with tales of the hospital:
"When they’ve worked there a long time" my mother says "the nurses are as mad as the patients. It’s the environment." Her blue eyes large and serious, her mouth a thin line. She tells me also of amusing incidents. Of a new orderly who, asked to bring the bier for a dead patient, whispers to my mother "why do they want beer?" My mother chuckles at the macabre thought of the orderly returning with a crate of beer for a wake amidst the cries of the elderly, the insane and the hurrying nurses bearing bedpans. The Voices and the Visions.
For some months I have belonged to a Youth Parliament meeting in Crouch End. I had considered joining the Young Communist League in order to find a soul-mate interested in politics and wider social issues. My mother is sympathetic, but I am afraid of my father’s reaction. Later, I am to joke that my father would never have turned me out of the house for bearing an illegitimate child, but he would have slung me out if I’d joined the Stalinists! Fortunately, the setting-up of a Youth Parliament is advertised in the local press, The Muswell Hill Record. And so, on a Sunday morning, I make my way to the stated address in the large back-room of a shop. There, young men set out chairs opposite one another to represent government and opposition. Two more young men are canvassing for persons to sit on the cross-benches for the Common Wealth party.
As it happens, no more than a week or two previously, my father, standing in the living-room, the newspaper open in his hand, has said "This Richard Acland must be genuine. He’s donated all his Devon family estates to the National Trust, because he believe in public ownership." So, of course, I join the cross-benches. I put my name down also to join the party, expecting to be brought quickly within the fold, but months pass without me being called to the colours. At last, I write to the Headquarters in Gower Street - where I am later to work for a short time - and obtain the address of the local Secretary. She lives in Muswell Hill Avenue with her husband and here a few of us gather occasionally for a cup of tea and a chat. It is at one of these meetings that I meet Ann, who is to become my friend.
COMMON WEALTH: The Reference books read as follows:
..Sir Richard Thomas Dyke Acland, English politician educated at Rugby and Balliol College, Oxford. he entered parliament in 1931 and resigned from the Liberals to found with J.B. Priestley the Common Wealth Party (1942)...
Posters advertising Common Wealth appear on hoardings in London: IS IT EXPEDIENT? crossed through and IS IT RIGHT? taking their place. Common Wealth breaks the electoral truce between the Tory, Labour and Liberal parties, putting up candidates against Tories in Tory seats. In three consecutive years, Common Wealth wins bye-elections. The Longman Companion to Britain in the Era of the Two World Wars: 1914-45 states:
Common Wealth (CW)....based its appeal on Christian morality, and its policy was of extreme socialisation, although it eschewed the term ‘socialism’ in favour of ‘Common Ownership’. Its main appeal was to the middle classes....."
CW’s main recommendation to me was its activity at a time when parliamentary political life was dead. Of course, the newspapers, angry at this breaking of the political truce, infer that like Oswald Mosley’s ‘New Party’, Common wealth could be the forerunner of a fascist organisation. How many people fall for this lie I do not know.
With regard to the job situation, in the Autumn of 1942 I am well again. My mother’s nourishing broth has returned me to health and strength. My mother is proud of her soup. When we were children and sat at table, bowls of soup in front of us, she had often told Oonagh and me a fairy story of how, Once upon a time, the Queen had knocked at our front door for a bowl of soup, because my mother made the best soup in the Kingdom. Now I am recovered, but I remain without employment, for my previous experience has left me with employment shock. My mother must have wondered when, and if, I would work again! But, our tenant Mrs. Taylor introduces to her a Mrs. Parnell, who supervises a typing pool at the Law Society. Mrs. Parnell, a middle-aged woman who lives in Sutton Road, comes to visit my mother, who says to her "you’ve got a good name!" Mrs. Parnell knows that my mother is referring to Charles Stewart Parnell, the Irish Nationalist Leader, hounded out of politics by his political enemies. His private life with Kitty O’Shea revealed to the censure of the world. Mrs. Parnell, proud of her name, is delighted that my mother makes this connection for Parnell has been forgotten, except by the few. The two women talk politics, Mrs. Parnell pessimistically of the opinion that the establishment would never allow a Labour government to carry out its full programme. The end result of this visit is that Mrs. Parnell arranges an interview for me at the department of the Law Society dealing with a £5 divorce for servicemen and servicewomen. And in December 1942 I begin upon employment at the Law Society at a wage of £2.10s - a few shillings more than I had received from the New Realm Film Company.
In another place, Beveridge is proposing a Welfare State. The entire adult population to be brought within a comprehensive, compulsory insurance scheme to give protection against sickness, unemployment, old age and to provide support for families. Hailed by the press as "Social Security from Cradle to Grave." Or, as A.J.P. Taylor writes in English History 1914-45:
"The Liberal planner (Beveridge) took over the principle of flat rated contributions which Lloyd George had unwillingly accepted in 1911 and so perpetuated the retrograde principle of poll tax against which Englishmen had revolted as long ago as 1381."
However, because of my sickness record, I had been refused membership of a Friendly Society which for a weekly payment provided benefit during illness. Therefore, I am to welcome the introduction of the National Insurance Scheme.
Abroad, the Nazis are planning the extinction of the ghettoes for Jews in Poland. Ghettoes which the Nazis themselves had reintroduced. Those living in the ghettoes to be imprisoned in concentration camps or to be used as slave labour. The old, the sick and the children to be murdered and cremated in the ovens.
On to Love, Marriage and Divorce
Get You Back Home