No, It can’t be done. I can’t conform. I can’t live as a practicing Catholic, which has become absolutely impossible for me. If I was in a strange town I might attend mass, or in the city I could go and pray in Westminster Cathedral, but to go and sit through mass in our Romford Church, no, I simply cannot do it. I can’t be one of Father Bishop’s parishioners, no, I cannot. Go to confession again? I never shall. As a Catholic I’m finished absolutely finished. I’m through, really through.
If I can’t go to mass, at least I can refrain from definitely linking myself with the Church of England, or can I? I don’t know. All I know, the pull back is terrific. Sixty years ago, in January 1884, I was still in my mother’s womb, and I must have quickened by January. What I should like to do, is to put myself openly back in the Church of England this coming April, soon after my birthday- about the time of my christening. I should like to be duly born again into my true religious life, and begin it again this year, a new year one. That is what I should like to do, and so I would do if I had only myself to consider. But there is Ted. What am I going to do about him? Oh, this marriage business, what a nuisance it is!
January 4, 1944
No word from Artie. Last week we forwarded him, by telegram and mail, a notification, which came for him from Roehampton, directing him to present himself at the hospital there, at two p.m. January 4, to receive his artificial leg. So he must have come down from Glasgow in time for that. Also, he has an examination before a medical board set for January Fourteenth. I thought perhaps he might have been traveling yesterday, and would have come in late last night. He did not come, nor is there any word from him this morning. Perhaps he traveled last night, and will go straight through to Roehampton this morning, I don’t know, but even so, he could and he should have notified us what he was doing, unless he has cut loose from us altogether. Maybe he’s done that. Maybe Hilda hates us so much not only is she not going to come here anymore, she is not going to let him come either. Quite likely, for she comes from the class of people who behave like that. She definitely has no class. What a fool it makes Artie! Well perhaps he is a fool, really, certainly there is something lacking in Artie’s mentality that he could ever have chosen such a girl for a wife. Certainly the adage is proved in Artie’s case, “A son is a son until he takes a wife.”
It is the twin’s birthday. They are twenty-five today. Cuthie is still a prisoner in Germany, Artie, I don’t know where. Artie should have reported to Roehampton last Tuesday the Fourth, but whether he did I don’t know. No letters from him, or word of any kind.
January 11, 1944
A letter has come from Artie. It was addressed to his father, and came from Scotland, written on the Ninth. He said, “You will be glad to know I now have two legs again.” He added the information that he was remaining in Glasgow, would attend the limb-fitting center there, and had arranged to have his medical board exam there. He said he was well and happy and Hilda sent her love.
That was all. My name wasn’t mentioned. He neither inquired for me, nor sent me his love. As the letter stands I might be long dead and quite forgotten. So this is what a disliking daughter-in-law can do to you. Goodbye Artie.
January 14, 1944
It is St. Hilary’s Day and Charlie’s birthday. He is thirty today. The day he was born was so cold that the gas was frozen in the meter, and we had no light but candle-light. In the big front four windowed bedroom in Avenue A the hot-air furnace made hardly any impression at all, so in addition we had two oil stoves burning. In passing some cotton wool across the bed to the doctor, a candle was knocked over, setting light to the wool and the bed, so that Charlie was born in a small conflagration. Thirty years ago! Now Charlie is the owner of a country house with four acres of ground and a barn, himself, and the father of a family.
It is cold and frosty here today, but not too bad. The weather in Italy is reported to be very bad, and has been so for weeks, holding up the fighting. By the way, Ciano and DeBono were “tried” by the Germans in Verona last week, and executed there this Monday. Two of the double crosser’s crossed.
We had an alert here last night, the first one in eight nights, luckily it came about eight in the evening and the all clear came before nine. Somehow it is more endurable then when it is in the dead of night, though it upsets my stomach just the same. Oh, when, when will it cease!
When Ted came in at lunch time he said he had met Mrs. Dennis on the street, and, without him asking any questions, he had received the information that Hilda had written to Mrs. Dennis this week and asked her to forward Hilda’s ration book (which she was holding with ours) to Glasgow. No comments, and why should there be any? It is natural enough for the neighbors and storekeepers to assume that the young people have gone to stay with the other parents for a while, as they have done, of course. My feeling is that I hope to never have to see Hilda again, never so long as I live, and as for Artie maybe I don’t want to see him either, certainly I don’t want to see him for some long time to come, or if ever, I don’t know. Artie dealt me a little death, such a grievous blow as he without any cause whatever takes a lot of getting over, and maybe I’ll never get over it. What I want to do is not to think of him, not to think of either of them. I said something of this to Ted at lunch-time. He said, Funny, isn’t it? It is you who are the relent- less parent, not me, as it ought to be according to the melodramas. I don’t mind, Lady. I agree they’ve behaved very badly but don’t let them know that you are hurt.
No, why should you? Don’t let the information get round to them in anyway that they have hurt you. Don’t give the little cat that satisfaction, or any satisfaction, no matter how indirect.
That’s Ted, championing me for once. Usually Ted’s charity goes to the outside party, but he too has been hurt by Hilda’s bad behavior and Artie's ingratitude, he has been wounded in his fatherhood as I have been in my motherhood, together we are disappointed in a son.
I have been thinking about people’s characters recently and now again today; and it is my conclusion, after about forty years of observation, that Catholicism does not produce fine characters. Catholicism does seem to train people in deceit and insincerity even in downright lying. Catholics are untrustworthy. I’ve seen this over and over again. They’re liars, very often. I was thinking about Mrs. Harvey last night, remembering her goodness and her loveliness, it struck me that I have never met a Catholic person whose goodness razed out all around them, as her’s did,for instance. I’ve never met a Catholic person whose innate goodness was unmistakable, goodness palpable and unhidden. I’ve met many Protestant people who made you feel their goodness at once. I don’t mean that they were pious, or talked of God, but they were so indelibly good, through and through, that you knew it at once, and loved and revered them for it. Like Mrs. Harvey, Oh, how good she was! How kind and clever and jolly and how I loved her!
As for nuns, of whom I’ve known plenty, they are hard women. They have a peculiar nun mentality hard to cope with. Technically living lives of perfection, vowed to observe special codes of goodness, there is a certain ruthlessness about nuns that is downright chilling. No, it is anything but palpable goodness which streams out of nuns. It is the same with priests. They are good men, vowed to goodness but you don’t feel it when you come in contact with them. They are correct, yes; austere, yes, fulfilling their vocations, yes, but they are not human. There have been a few priests in my life that I have admired and have trusted, but never in any one of them have I felt such human warmth and sympathy and downright goodness as, for instance, people could sense at once in Grandpa Searle. Why? I think it is the Catholic religion, a safety first religion. It is the Catholic who wants to know he is saved, not the Evangelical, not the Protestant. A man like Grandpa Searle, a woman like Mrs. Harvey, simply never bothered about herself; it was you they wanted to help and save, you, they cared about. Catholics don’t love like Protestants love, not in carelessness and unforgotten, simply loving, no, they can’t, their precious souls are always in the way and moreover, if you happen to be a Protestant, well you might as well not be on the earth for all a Catholic will do for you; and that is why they deceive you and trick you, I suppose, for you are merely one of the heathen, so why should they worry about you.
January 17, 1944
There was a bad railway accident at Ilford last night. The express from Norwich ran into the back of the Yarmouth train, which was stationary. Nine people were killed, and over thirty seriously injured, nearly all of them service people, squadron leaders and men from Bomber Command and many of them Americans too.
January 18, 1944
We received another letter from Artie in Glasgow, to his father, in which my name is not mentioned in any way at all. We also received a letter from Eddie, a good letter.
January 19, 1944
Here came a knock on the door and I opened it to an American Air force man. He introduced himself. He said he was from “Home,” Knickerbocker Road, Tenafly and Johnnie had given him our address. His name, he said, was Stevie Clarke. For a moment this meant nothing to me, then light dawned, it was Dr. Clarke’s boy, of course, young Stevie, whose birth I remember as waiting for. He is now twenty-one. Here he is, one of the American boys in England. My clearest memories of him are of his being a bouncing two year old in a perambulator in the charge of his grandmother, Mrs. Lemon, and of her sitting on the beach with me under our maple tree whilst we chatted, and he amused himself in the baby carriage. After his sister Lydia was born I did not see much more of Stevie, though I was always hearing about him from our boys, especially our Johnnie, who was very fond of the Clarke’s and spent much time over in their house. When I was in Tenafly in 1933 their house had been pulled down, and the family had moved up to Cornwall,Connecticut. Johnnie paid them a visit whilst I was there and the twins visited them when they were over here in 1938. Lydia is in college, and Stevie was in his third year of college when the war called him. Doctor Clarke died last year. Billie is running the farm at Cornwell. Billie married a girl from Poughkeepsie, N.Y. and lives in the farmhouse proper. Mrs. Clarke lives in the big house with the lady doctor, Dr. Ebbarts, as companion and housemate. Mrs. Clarke has taken up painting as a hobby. She began with pastels, but now works in oils. She paints the darnedest things, says Stevie. Not a landscape like any other painter. Oh no! Just a lop-sided tree that she’ll pick out to paint, or if she wants to paint a room, she doesn’t do the whole room, only just a corner of it! Sounds like Cezanne or VanGogh to me.
He was seventy-four; an old man, really though I cannot think of him as old, he was always so vigorous. Of course he was a man about fifty when we first knew him, that year we went to Tenafly. He had recently married his second wife, and she was waiting for her first baby, this same Stevie. Billie, born in 1911, was the child of his first wife. Our Johnnie, born in 1910, became Billie’s inseparable pal and they’re still pals. Now here’s young Stevie in England. Oh, I am so pleased to see him.
Stevie Clarke stayed overnight, and left us about ten-thirty yesterday morning. He had made a special trip from Nottingham, on a forty-eight hour leave, especially to see us. We had a very happy time together.
Last night the R.A.F. made another very heavy raid on Berlin, thirty-five bombers were lost. I ought to be in the middle of my children and grand children, instead of which, I am thousands of miles away from them, living alone with Ted in a poky English Street and that is not enough for me. Ted alone can’t satisfy me, pacify me. I want life and more life, young life, the world of tomorrow swirling around me, not Ted’s world of yesterday and all the pieties of yesterday.
January 22, 1944
I am cooking the dinner. It is a blowy stormy day outside. Last night we had a very bad raid. It was like one of the old blitzes of 1940 and 1941. It lasted two hours, from eight-thirty to ten-thirty p.m. and planes going over all the time, and very heavy gunfire. Sometimes Gerry seemed right on top of us. I do not know what damage has been done in Romford, though several times we heard the bombs fall. Our radio is out of order, and was taken away by Stanley’s for repairs yesterday, so we shall be without the immediate news for a week or so. The milk boy said this morning that the Brewery, on High Street was hit, and was still burning. Ted may bring in more news when he comes to lunch. The papers won’t have much news because it would have been too late for them. I expect London got it badly. Anyhow this was expected before, seeing how heavily we are bombing Berlin and boasting about doing so. God! How I hate the boasting! The war in itself is horrible enough and I know it must go on but the bragging about it is sickening.
It is now two p.m. and the B.B.C. says ninety German bombers were over here last night, and we brought down nine of them. That is ten percent. Here in Romford, houses on Albert Road and Shaftsbury Road were hit, one man killed. This was Fulcher, the oil man, known to everybody in town until a couple of years ago, when he could no longer get supplies, he used to come around with a van, peddling soaps, oil, brushes, etc. Bombs also fell in South Hornchurch and in Rainham, but no other casualties reported. There is a rumor that in London, Westminster Hall was hit again, but there is no authentic news about this yet.
January 23, 1944
A report that yesterday allied troops made another landing in Italy, at a place named Netinho, thirty-two miles south of Rome. The enemy was taken by surprise, and the report says it was two hours before he fired a shot at our troops.
Yesterday was one of my bad days, a very bad day. As it was stormy in the morning I made no attempt to go out, nor did I go out in the afternoon. By evening I was swamped in melancholy, and aching, aching, for my boys.
I thought of Artie. Artie who went away behind my back, who never said farewell, who never writes to me, or even mentions me in the letters. He has written to his father. Artie, who has disowned me.
Yes it was a miserable Sunday, and as the radio has been taken away I could not even find any music to solace myself with. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t sew, and I couldn’t do anything. Yesterday was a terrible day of boredom and aloneness.
It is now evening and Ted brought in news of the damage done in this neighborhood on Friday night. On Victoria Road a public house was hit, and all around it many incendiaries through the houses, it is reckoned about fifteen hundred in just that small section. No bad fires resulted as all were taken out in time, but house roofs have been holed like pepper pots, and in the gardens Ted saw many pieces of furniture standing about, sofas, chairs, cots, those pieces which had caught the sticks.
At Rainham two hundred houses have been destroyed, but casualties not stated. At Warley, landmines were dropped. At the Brewery, great destruction in the bottling section, but the shelter, thought only a wall away, was not touched. This is a large public shelter, and is used as a sleeping place by many of the American Soldiers when they are on leave in this town. Had that received the bomb, the casualties would have been high. Only thirty of the bombers got through to London, and most of the damage done there was in Chelsea. We say now that we brought down twelve bombers, fourteen percent of their ninety.
I am feeling rather ill today. My stomach has been upset ever since the night of the raid, and now I have diarrhea and also am feeling very nauseated. Probably something has disagreed with me, most likely the bread, which gets more and more peculiar. What a treat it will be to have a piece of real wheaten bread, spread with some real butter. I’m terribly tired, unnaturally tired. I hope I am not coming down with the influenza. Outside the day is cold and blowy, very blowy, lots of low clouds, and no sun shining, in fact, a very disagreeable day.
January 26, 1944
The Air Ministry and Ministry of Home Security stated last night that it is now known that a fourteenth enemy aircraft was destroyed during raids on this country last Friday night.
January 29, 1944
An alert sounded last night just as we were going up to bed, about ten-thirty p.m. Ted went up, I stayed down, until the all clear came, about an hour later. Gunfire in the distance only, not in the immediate neighborhood, very alarming just the same, as you know it may come closer at any moment. After I got to bed Ted was very loving. I regarded this as a nuisance. I felt too tired to be bothered, but he was set to love, so he loved. I thought; this! This! I thought, what is the use of bothering about philosophy or religion or politics or anything, when this is the only thing that matters to man! Oh, I’m tired, tired of love and marriage, tired of thinking, tired of working, tired of England, tired of winter, tired of the war... Now I’m cooking the dinner, and I’m tired of housekeeping. I’m tired of everything and everybody.
Last night we had a most awful raid, it began about eight-thirty, and went on for two hours. It was worse than the one a week ago. It was sickening. I found myself praying like mad, the Catholic prayers, calling on the Virgin, begging for protection. When it was all over and we were still safe, I offered prayers of thankfulness, and I said, I will go to mass tomorrow. So, I have been but I really don’t know what good it has been, either to the church or me. I thought last night the Catholic prayers had a sort of authenticity, but in the church this morning I couldn’t feel it. The Church was crowded, as usual, of course, but the crowd oppressed me. It was so predominantly Irish, so foreign, it alienated me and I do not belong with these people. The only thing that pleased me was the collect for the day, the fourth Sunday after the Epiphany. I know that it is fear, and nothing but fear, which drives me to any intense realization of God. When I am afraid I call upon my God. It is atavism. I despise it, but I act it, suffer it all the same. I cannot help myself. In these awful raids, when we are in danger of destruction, when an awful death may strike us any moment, when we can do nothing what ever to help ourselves, or help anybody, when we are sick with terror, when all superficiality vanish, then our souls, our primitive souls, cry out from their depths, oh God, save us! God be merciful to me, a sinner! Our father who art in heaven, save us, save us! Jesus, save us! Mary save us! Oh God be merciful to me, a sinner! Deliver us from evil, deliver us from evil! He does save us, and we say Thank God! Thank God! Thank God!
It was a quiet night. No raids. Today is very overcast. The sort of weather which is very favorable to Gerry’s hit and run raids. If it does not clear I expect we shall have another heavy raid again tonight. I do not know what damage was done on Saturday night because our radio is still away being repaired. Presently I shall go and fetch the newspaper, and that may tell something, though, of course, the papers never give details.
The Times reports: Over two hundred German fighters were destroyed by American bombers and fighters in their attacks on Germany on Saturday and yesterday. One hundred and two were claimed after Saturday’s attack on Frankfurt, in which fifteen hundred aircraft collaborated, and the following report of yesterday’s operations adds ninety-one more. The R.A.F. destroyed sixteen in the offensive over France. The allied losses were ninety-six bombers, twenty-five fighters, and three intruder aircraft.