Jul 081935

Eaton Avenue, Litherland, Liverpool
Stella Dear,
Aren’t I prompt? Replying within an hour of receiving your letter – because I know that if I don’t do it now I’ll never get a chance later in the week. I hate writing in ink, but for your sweet sake I’ll persevere (charm, blah, blah). Now let me deal with cold business first: Yours to hand of yesterday’s date for which we have to thank you and note contents. You say that if our Mr Johnson catches the train at the even half hour certain events will follow. Is there such a thing as the even half hour? Surely the “even half” is the hour, and the odd half hour the half after hour – or before the hour if you prefer it! Having suffered an excess of Freddie, who wanted to cut the exes down today, I had to say that.
However, there is already a cloud in the sky in the shape of a meeting of the P.A.C. on Friday. Is that annoying or is it just damnable? Still, don’t despair. I’ll use my undoubted personality on F.H.S. and Philip Lawler Whitehurst[??] to some effect. Whatever comes or goes I’ll be at Grange on Friday and this is what I suggest. I’ll save the phone call until I know at lunchtime on Friday just what is going to happen. You will most probably be feeding your face somewhere about 1–1.30pm on that day and, I hope, eating FISH! When I come home I shall probably need dozens of oysters and cases of stout, but that is all good for trade. Let’s get back to business… I’ll ring you on Friday and tell you whether I am getting the “odd” or “even” train. If it’s a day like today, which seems too much to hope for, I’ll bring costume and towel, but not a full rucksack, and we can go for a swim to Hoylake Baths or some other appropriate place. We can go for a meal after that and then you shall show me the sights, including a nice quiet place just around the corner, where, of course, we will not waste too much time. By the way, your suggestion of bracken and flowers revives a very tender (anatomically) memory of sitting, yes sitting, in bracken and going home with exactly 100 gnat bites. A repetition of that experience is definitely taboo. Look again, darling, bracken is not essential!!
Yes, dear, I have thought of you. Yesterday I took a lady to Formby – Freshfield was sacred ground. There’s no reason for jealousy, however, for the lady thoughtfully brought along a husband and two children. When you have recovered from the shock, remind me to tell you about a person in a yellow bathing costume and another in a bright green one. There’s a moral in this little story. By the way, Arthur Jones came into the office today and made a most unfortunate remark: “Who was the lady you were with at the Tennis Club on Saturday?” says him. “Miss –,” says me. “Oh I thought it might have been Miss Gregson,” says him again and Freddie, Norman and Philip Lawler all sat bolt upright. You can imagine the scene with me in the limelight, working up a splendid alibi with my usual skill. Does the mention of Miss – pique your curiosity? If it does, let me say right away I have been faithful ever since Friday morning. What do you think of that as an endurance test?
You’ll be interested to hear that Norman is back, as cheeky as ever, having spent the whole of his holiday in and around Liverpool and having failed to find, or so he assures us, any outlet for his undoubted energies. Isn’t life hard?
This is a rambling sort of letter but what with the ‘B.T.’ office in this weather and you being in Grange and me in Bootle, I do not feel exactly coherent. Note the craft with which the man introduces the weather as well as his faraway love. Low down cunning, that’s all it is. For your own personal satisfaction I feel bound to say that I have dropped so many silent tears on your chair – which sounds just a little indecent to me – that Freddie has been swearing to wring that damned cat’s neck and asking who leaves the office door open on a Saturday, anyway. Poor old mog.
Seriously, I’m glad to hear that you are feeling more rested already. Hope your Mother is also feeling the benefit of the change. You will be 100% normal after Friday. I promise to do my best to see to that for you. As I am going to ring you on Friday, you have my permission to write me another charming letter to arrive, say, on Thursday to help relieve the heat and burden of the day. Until Friday then, darling.
Love in huge chunks,

P.S. Don’t forget. No family on Friday!! If it’s all the same to you, I prefer the Grammar School to your lane. It’s enough to have one member of your family telling me what a funny face I have without the thought of the whole family telling each other just how side-splitting is the appearance of “our Stella’s young man”. You’ve heard Gracie Fields’ records, haven’t you? Well I’m self-conscious. Don’t forget that was a promise. I have broken enough rules.

Aug 211935

Eaton Avenue, Liverpool
I’m afraid you’ll have to excuse the pencil but I have just got home, at 11.15pm after playing three and a half rounds of golf against some of the best men in the club, which means that I have walked about 20 miles today. In addition, I finished the day off by calling in and having a few quiet, but rather quick ones with a few of the lads, and as I had little to eat beforehand I feel just about as sleepy as possible. For once I’m rather dismayed by the necessity for bathing – and I must do that because the course is dry and dusty.
Do you remember seeing the fellows fishing? Well when I got home I picked up the paper and came across an article on angling. The result was that I was up until 1am getting fishing tackle ready, mixing bait and ground bait and hunting out a bait can which is a family heirloom. I carefully wound the alarm and set it for 5.30am and woke at 7.45am to hear the postman knocking the door down because he had a registered letter. I had forgotten to switch the alarm on! To make matters worse, the letter was not for me but for Mother, who slept last night at Crosby, which means that I was all alone last night. Does that make you jealous, dear? After all our trouble, we might have been very comfortable at home. Does that make you mad? It certainly annoyed me when I found out. Think of the possibilities in such a golden opportunity!!
Now the parent has butted in and discussed for half an hour on the relative values of various movies the sister has seen – and it’s taking me all my time to keep my eyes open. Before the parent did speak up I was going to offer a little sound advice, and that is that you get the old brain box to work and see if you can think of anything really original for Friday. Although this is not very original, I should like you to include swimming if the weather is anything like it has been today. What about New Ferry? I have heard great accounts of it. Only a small but very nice bath I believe.
In view of your uncertain movements in the office I shall not ring tomorrow (Thursday) but suggest 2pm as a time for Friday and the rendezvous, the Liver Building, on the corner nearest the river and the floating roadway. Know where I mean? Will you try to find out whether or not F.H.S. is going to take his holidays next week. I will be interested to know what I have to look forward to, so make inquiries as judiciously as possible, will you?
After I left you last night – it seems such a long time ago – I began to worry whether that bus was as quick for you as a Ribble into town to connect with the train. I do hope you got home alright.
Apart from the fact that I’m looking forward to Friday and am trying to think of it as being near because there is only one full day and a few trifling hours, I don’t think there is much more I can say. There is lots in my head but I am too sleepy to write another page and I have yet to walk to the local G.P.O. to be certain you get this some time tomorrow as a relief, I hope, after a very busy day.
Lots of love,
until Friday,

Oct 041935

‘Bootle Times’ office
Having driven your poor mother nearly frantic with requests for bogus dance tickets, I am scared to ring you today and must resort to pen and paper once more.
All I want to say is – how about tomorrow night? The family is skating as usual and there is some talk of Mother going with them to spectate. Also I want you to approve and bless my new domain. You will receive this tomorrow morning. Can you contrive to look in at the office before you go to court? As I am staying the night here I am sure to be in. In case there is only an opportunity for a yes or a no, I suggest you meet me Saturday night at 8 o’clock at Penny Lane car shelter – you know that, don’t you?
I am writing this on my lunch table amid the remains of a poached egg on toast, which meal always reminds me of one with you in a cafe in Bromborough. In a few minutes I must go and see His Worship open a Xmas Fair and tonight, of course, there is a bit of a hop at the Town Hall to which Freddie is also coming. No danger of me being unfaithful to you tonight, precious!
I was feeling very oaty last night – were you thinking of me? Norman wanted to take me home but I wasn’t as oaty as all that!
Dearest, please don’t say you’ve arranged anything for Saturday. When I have an evil prospect like the Hospital Ball I do like having something to pit against it – such as seeing you tomorrow.
I shall now proceed to give you full instructions on the many routes to Penny Lane:
From Dale Street you can get either a 7, 4 or 4w. If you get 4 or 4w stay on after you have passed the Clock Tower. It’s three or four stops after that. The 7 which only runs every quarter of an hour takes you up Smithdown Road. Penny Lane is at the junction of Smithdown and Allerton Road.
From the Victoria Monument you can get a number of Smithdown Road cars – 5, 5a, 5w or 8. The 5w and 8 are the most comfortable but they all land you at the same place.
I must go now. Just in case I forgot to mention it on previous occasions – I love you.
Till tomorrow, darling,

Oct 051935

1 o’clock in the morning
My Dear Arthur,
The chances are that you won’t receive this. At this hour of the morning one writes things that seem daft the next day. Anyway, I’ve got to get this load off my chest before I can sleep, and the chances of having a talk with you tomorrow are practically nil.
First, there is one thing that prompted my behaviour at this unfortunate dance which I do not think you have considered. Throw your mind back to a conversation we had about the winter in general and Town Hall dances in particular. You said that we would have to treat each other exactly as we did last year, didn’t you? You were most emphatic on that point. When you said you were going to the dance tonight I was thrilled but, remembering that conversation I immediately and reluctantly squashed that thrill. Perhaps I should have taken into consideration the fact that, as you said, it would be your last dance there, but I did not realise that this was the case until you said so. One word from you would have altered the whole situation. Darling, I ask you, can you possibly imagine that it is more pleasant for me to be with Rimmer – of all people – than to be with you?
I have tried to put myself in your place and I do appreciate that I did not know exactly where I stood.
Secondly – about the office. I have been a B.F. with regard to the boys and I don’t know why you didn’t tell me to go to hell before now. There is no excuse so I am not going to invent one, knowing that you appreciate honesty above all things. That business is stopping from now on.
I’m doing a daft thing now – crying like hell because I am remembering that the last thing you said to me was, “I said goodbye and not au revoir”. The knowledge that I have written this paragraph will probably make me tear the whole thing up tomorrow morning, because I do hate to admit this.
I’ve been utterly happy with you. It’s been such a terribly precious secret thing – we can’t let it end like this. You spoke tonight as if I was any girl who had been making a fool of you. I’m not. I’m a woman who’s badly in love with you. You have grown to be a part of my life far more than you can realise. I have treasured every step of those walks we had in the summer, could repeat our conversations almost by heart. You have become a sort of bulwark for me against loneliness. When my father died and when they told me my mother was going to die, I was particularly aware of this.
You once said (I have remembered it because it was the first thing you ever said about me) that you thought I was the sort of person that would fight like hell for you if you ever had an accident. I am reminding you of this because I think, in that moment, you were nearest to understanding exactly what sort of love I have for you. Will you try, just for a minute, to look beyond those petty little things, such as tonight’s nark, and see me as you saw me then?
Please, dearest, let us talk the whole thing over sanely, and please do not treat me as a rotten flirt who is glad to have you only when no one else is about.
You once said that you never thought any woman would ever be in love with you. This woman is – badly – and are you going to chuck her love away?
Oh, darling, remember Freshfield and Formby and Thursaston and how happy we were. They are happy memories now, but if you leave me they will hurt horribly. I know I’ve been a damned fool but people in love do sometimes forgive each other, you know.
However beastly you are to me, it won’t stop me loving you.

Dec 241935

Tuesday, Xmas Eve
Just a small expression, it’s size being, as you know, dictated by economic circumstance, but I think we might as well be sensible about things. Although there are so few, each of the enclosed is a thought for and of you. Hope you will thoroughly enjoy the holiday.
Regards to the family.

Apr 081936

‘Bootle Times’ office
The difficulty about writing this is that Norman is within half a yard of me and, office manners being what they are, I should not be surprised if he is reading this. I almost hope he is because it will teach him a lesson! As I have not indicated to whom it is addressed he will be none the wiser.
When Monday and Tuesday passed and no letter came I began to wonder what had happened. I had almost begun to think that one of your complications had come along to monopolise your time and I was thinking of coming out to Hoylake in the dead of night to surprise you with a strange man in your virgin(?) bed. Would you have liked that? The visit, I mean, not the strange man! Anyway, your letter did not arrive until this morning and we have been up to the eyes in work today, so I could not possibly get a reply back to you.
I am afraid there is no office scandal, except that there are rumours that we are to have a new office. I believe the firm has purchased a house in Ariel Road for this purpose, but mum’s the word when you come back. Norman is still very randy and seems to get worse every day. Philip is still the same, making great plans for his holidays when he swears he will be a real devil. I’ll bet he goes so far as to kiss a girl before he leaves the island! That is, of course, if he finds someone really forward who will almost do the job for him. F.H.S. has again commented on the fact that your holidays are nearly over. Isn’t he a nice kind sort of gent? By the way, he has written to your beloved brats about rats this week. I suppose he feels he must uphold the honour of his clan.
So you miss me, do you darling? Sweet of you to admit that to someone you so constantly accuse of being the most insulting person you know. Still, you’ve no idea how much I have missed you this week, and I was only sorry I couldn’t come over again on Sunday. The great drawback, if I might say so, is that the conventionality with the family occupy too much of the flirting hours when we have so little time at our disposal. What about a day at Freshfield soon? The trouble on Saturday was that I wanted to stay, too. And you don’t know how near I came to doing so. If I had done so, I’m very much afraid both of us might have been doing a little sleep walking, but we wouldn’t have slept for very long, would we, darling?
By the way, when I come on Friday – that’s only a day after you receive this, thank goodness – remind me to tell you of a suggestion about Chester and to show you some literature, but don’t mention the latter, or either for that matter, in front of the family. I think both these things will interest you. At any rate, I hope they will.
So your mother is beginning to doubt the platonic nature of our friendship? I rather fancy she has done so all along. Mothers usually do, but never having been a mother (though not without hope) you will probably know nothing of this, I’m afraid, and very much so, that you cannot guarantee that there will not be an early inquiry from the family as to my intentions. Or am I meeting difficulties half-way again?
We will forget about that for the time being and concentrate on the joys of life. Between now and my holidays we will have to think of some bright scheme to make things even better, but I must administer a word of warning. No vapourings during that week, please! That would be the last straw. If you promise that, I shall promise to take precautions against any gnats chewing more pieces out of your adorable body. I am sorry about that experience and even more sorry about not being able to comfort you by saying I had suffered similarly, but after all, dear, with such a delightful morsel as yourself close at hand, even gnats know better than to bother blunting their teeth, or proboscis, on such tough material as a mere male.
Tomorrow I want to continue the very intriguing discussion on the development of our offspring and the site of our ancient or modern house. The subject intrigues me beyond measure! F.H.S. has been to my desk for the fourth time in a quarter of an hour, and as Norman insists on seeking my assistance with a little low doggerel, I’m afraid I’ll have to give up and post this at once. Freddie is distinctly restive this afternoon and altogether the atmosphere of the office has been all against the type of letter I want to write, but I’ll be doubly nice to you tomorrow (Friday). I’m trying to bring the day nearer by considering this as Thursday! I noticed, on Saturday, that there are day excursions on the train. I may try that route this week, but I’ll let you know when I ’phone on Friday. Will you be ringing up on Thursday? You will scarcely be able to answer this last query, nor I suppose will I receive another of your charming letters this week. I feel I have been swindled, but still I drink, in office lemonade, to your bright eyes and happy times on Friday. Until then, lots of love,

Apr 291936

Eaton Avenue
Stella Dear,
Which would be the best night? Thursday – that will be today if you receive this letter early enough – Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday? What sayest? Can you give me a ring? If you decide upon Thursday, I should suggest that you ring the ‘Liverpool Express’ between 1pm and 1.10pm PROMPT and discuss nothing over the phone other than the actual place of meeting. Somewhere in town, or even the Birkenhead side would be most convenient for me on that day as I am hoping to play in the Press Golfing Competition that day. If you decide on one of the other days, I should suggest that, if you cannot get me at home, you should ring Walton 1034 – that is the golf number.
I had rather expected to hear from you during the last few days, but I know now what your answer to that will be! I think Monday is rather hopeless, if only because of the crowds. If you can arrange for Thursday night – or any other night during the holidays – can I rely on you to arrange for the “evidence” as you once did? Just mention “yes” or “no” with regard to the evidence on the phone and I shall understand but, wherever you ring, whether it be home, golf club or the ‘Express’, be careful not to mention names! You will understand that, I’m sure. If you cannot get the evidence I will have to – unless of course it will not be needed! Should you decide on Thursday, it is almost bound to be a short “reunion”, but we might be able to arrange matters for later in the week!
X – Just to be going on with!!!

P.S. If you ring the ‘Express’ ask for the Reporters’ Room and mention my name. I’m in court until one o’clock.

Apr 301936

Coroner’s Court, Liverpool
Stella Dear,
Sorry not to have been able to let you know about Friday earlier, but I have been doing a fifteen hour day this week, what with religious conventions, sessions and appeals, to say nothing of women who, by getting trapped in the sands at Seaforth, spoiled not only my Saturday night but the whole of my weekend. Every damn paper in the country seemed to go crazy over that story! Now it looks as if Friday is also going to be out of the question because the Quarter Sessions meet again to hear an appeal by a brewery company against a refusal to grant a transfer of a licence.
The mere fact that I am writing this in coroner’s court when I had been hoping to play in a Press golfing competition today shows how busy I have been. There is one consolation, however, for I heard something yesterday which makes it appear that although I’m not likely to have much more time off I will at least have a little more security. But I will tell you about that when I see you next. Here comes his lordship. Must leave you now.
Lots of it until I see you again.

Jun 021936

An example of Arthur’s ‘News Of The Waterfront’ articles.

News Of The Waterfront
By The Mate

This column was a regular feature by Arthur in the paper, and with hindsight can be seen as his application for the role of Blitz Reporter, which he took up during the war a few years later.

Jul 061936

Eaton Avenue.
Stella Dear,
In a helluva hurry, but as I promised to drop you a line, this is it! Saw F.H.S. in subs room at ‘Express’ today, and he was asking whether you had got a job. I said I didn’t know. So remember that if you are speaking to him, and don’t forget you were not in Waterloo on Saturday!
At the moment it rather looks as if things are going to be very slow in the ‘Daily Post’ this week, which means I should be free at night. Will you ring me at the Press Club between 1.30 and 2pm tomorrow (Tuesday). I should be in there then. But DON’T ring the ‘Weekly Post’. I will probably be free tomorrow night but we can make a tentative arrangement.

Jul 221936

‘Daily Post’
My Sweet,
This IS in haste. I got your letter an hour ago on the way to a meeting for the ‘D.P.’ and I’m jammed here. I’ve been in the office since before noon and I do not look like being free before midnight so I am trying to get the 10 o’clock post. I’ll drop you another line tomorrow, but in the meantime I’m afraid it will be impossible on Sunday as the parent is going on holiday and wants me to take her to Fleetwood. I really don’t see how I can get out of it and I’ll not be back in Liverpool before 8pm. In haste.

Jul 221936

Limedale Road, Liverpool 18
My dear Stella,
Funny, thinking of you and missing you so much, yet here I am in a hurry to catch the post. You seem ever so happy. I was afraid you would find time hanging, being so accustomed to a busy life! It is lovely for me to think of you and Mollie together so much, that is why I would not be a third party, specially as I have had my days. Yes, Mr and Mrs Harris are a lovable couple. I knew you would like them. Do give them my love. It is amazing about the cats – how they know a cat lover, but they certainly do.
Life here is as usual but very dull and sad without you. I don’t know how I am going to manage at all. Monday eve I was all alone, still I did not mind as there were heaps of jobs to keep me occupied. Down I came from your attic with curtains to wash etc, when in came the Howards. I was sorry because talking is trying, but I put on a good smile and tried. They were in a nasty mood. I got a lecture about Hal. It appears they know a couple of wealthy mothers whose boys started in factories, rock bottom and they worked their way up etc. As for Hal going away – well, I should let him go and think of myself for a change. Aren’t people a blessed nuisance, as though I was continually refusing jobs for Hal, and why do they come along and worry one about an anxiety one tries to hide.
I enclose letter from Shrewsbury. They do seem kind and you will reply, won’t you? I am glad you are taking food at convent hours, it is so much less trouble. Let me know when you are coming home, dear. Give my love to your other mother, Sister of the Heart of Mary, and love to Rev. Mother and gratitude for her kindness to you. Love from all at home, specially from

Jul 231936

Thursday 23 July 1936
Eaton Avenue
Stella, my dear,
So sorry to have had to rush that letter – if one can dignify it by such a term – last night, but I thought at the time that even a note would be more welcome than utter silence. Now, I’m not so certain! But really it was hopeless. This was the position. I was on inquests for the ‘Express’ at 11am and worked for them until noon. Then I just walked across the road to the ‘Echo’, where I was due to work from noon until 8pm. Unfortunately, Geddes, who is their regular night man, lost an argument with the propeller of an aeroplane the previous night and was distinctly lucky to escape merely with head injuries. The result was that I had to go from noon until midnight. During the day things were very slack, but at night I was sent off to a meeting protesting about the new P.A.C. regulations. In addition I had to make calls twice during the evening on the police and fire brigade and eight hospitals. All this apart from my own Bootle calls and a few pars which had to be rewritten from the ‘Echo’. Now you know all that, I’m sure you’ll appreciate how little time I had to spare. I didn’t even get supper and arrived in the Press Club at 11.48pm, which left just two minutes before my last bus went. Still, I managed to knock back one quick one.
I’m sorry about Sunday but at the moment things do look rather difficult, especially as the sister will be home from the Potteries and the brother is coming up from Stroud to get a new car the firm has bought for him. These things always come along together.
What a timetable you have had this week! Did you touch for a swig of hallowed beer? Or don’t they trust visitors in the wine cellar? Don’t forget my sandals – size five boot and size six shoe! – and also a beer tankard. If you put on a coat with poachers’ pockets you should be able to get away with them all on the one visit.
By the way – I nearly forgot to apologise for not seeing you off on Monday but I started my Waterfront stuff in the ‘Express’ office soon after 8.30am on Monday and it was 10am before I was through with it. If I had broken off in the middle of it to go to Woodside I would not have had it done by lunchtime, which is far too late.
This seems to be all work, doesn’t it? I suppose it’s because I seem to do nothing but sleep and work these days. What a treat it would be to be able to sit still for two whole hours without any need to talk or write or even think! At the moment that is my conception of heaven. I think I really must have a couple of days absolute rest in the next couple of months or I will be an absolute nervous wreck before I even begin to face the winter.
So Mollie didn’t know what it is to make whoopee. If she did she would (a) understand just how things are; and (b) certainly not send her love to any so ungrateful and unworthy wretch as myself. By the way – exactly what interpretation can be placed on a nun’s love? A pretty little poser for you my sweet!
Now I really must be off to the galley again. Whatever else you do, drop me a line without fail, to reach the Club by Saturday, telling me what time you are getting in to Liverpool on Sunday and what your arrangements are likely to be for the early part of next week.
All my love,
Arthur X

Jul 241936

In the bus on the way home
I’m afraid pencil is the only way of writing this. As it happens, meeting you on Saturday at that time – 5.47 – just fits into the programme. This is my timetable for the weekend.
Saturday: 8am to 5pm ‘Echo’.
Sunday: 5pm to midnight ‘Daily Post’ night inquiries
Monday: 10.30am to 6pm various jobs for ‘Echo’ and ‘Express’.
At some time over the weekend I have to write the now celebrated “Waterfront”, which is soon to be copied by the ‘Birkenhead News’! I’ll explain the whole timetable to you when I see you on Saturday.
Have you ever tried writing in a bus? Take it from me, if not from the appearance of this letter, it’s lousy, so having got the vital news off, I think I had better leave the rest until Saturday – that’s tomorrow. Whoopee!
Arthur X

Aug 031936

Stella Dear,
This is being written on top of a West Derby tram on the way back from a flower show and fete. I thought I had better tell you that in case you thought I had a very sticky night last night and was suffering from a hangover!
So the chin was a bit higher on Saturday? Bravo! I did not expect you to be full of the joy of spring on leaving home for the first time so your letter scarcely came as a shock. Still, I’m glad you feel better and like the crowd. That is the main thing in going to a new place. If only you can fix the other thing up you might spend a couple of happy years there, during which time we could get a few odd sticks together. Why not turn Christian Scientist and see if that has any effect? Triumph of mind over matter and all that! Sez me.
Congrats on getting a good special in your first two or three days. What did Sloane say about the Bard johnny? Isn’t it funny that once you got away, things went a lot quieter here. I’m not at a standstill but there is nothing like the rush there was. I thought of you on Friday evening during a quiet moment in the ‘D.P.’ and wondered if you were feeling a bit blue.
By the way, look after your neck properly. Go to the vet every day if necessary but get it right as soon as you can. For one thing I wouldn’t like people to think, if they saw me walking round Shrewsbury with you, that you had to wear a bandage to hide the fingerprints on your throat! Let me know what the doctor says about that and other things in general when you hear anything definite. I am FAINTLY interested you know!
Am nearly back in Lime Street now so must stop if I am going to catch the post. Keep your pecker up, sweet.
Bye now.
Love, Arthur

Aug 071936

Friday 1.30am
Eaton Avenue
Stella Dear,
Things have been rather slow since the Bank Holiday and I have waited in vain for another letter. What has happened, sweet? Have you become intrigued with Sloane or Mr Whatever-his-name-is already? Or is it the neck? Or is Mickey growing too big for himself? Or is it just that you can’t be bothered writing? Now there’s a list of questions that offer opportunities for writing reams in reply. Diabolical cunning I calls it and are you mortified?
You will have to make all due allowances if I seem a little light-headed. I spent all morning and part of the afternoon listening to a rape case in Dale Street court. For all that, I got home unusually early, made my own tea (the parent being on holiday) and went out to the local for a quick one. When I got back I felt really restless, probably through having a little unaccustomed leisure, so I started three short stories, all of which have since gone up the chimney in smoke! I had hoped to strike a decent line and make a couple of extra guineas, but the muse is only working on a short shift tonight. She will take me so far up the path and then leave me standing all alone in an absolute maze. Isn’t that like a woman?
I have all sorts of good intentions about earning a little extra here and there, but somehow or other I have not the powers of concentration which are so necessary.

The muse has deserted me altogether and if you only knew what an effort it is to write at all you would become highly conceited.
On Friday I went to bring parent home from Fleetwood and you should have seen the bags and parcels! Thousands of them. With the weather being so foul she and my aunt had been able to get out very little, but they discovered a crockery shop which was being sold up by an auctioneer and they must have spent days in the place judging from the amount of stuff they collected. It almost seemed as if they knew about my bottom drawer for, in addition to my rug, I now have: drinking goblet (one); decorative jug (one); Wedgwood candlestick (one); ash tray (one). And the very first thing their landlady asked when I got there was whether or not I had found myself a wife while I had had the house to myself. Can you beat that!
I was glad to hear the good news that the neck has yielded to treatment. If only the other had! Like you I feel sick and helpless at times when I think of all there is to be done and, what is worse, the short time we have to do it all in. Go soon, dear, to see the vet. Although there seems little doubt about it now we must know just where we stand and the sooner the better. Hunt out the registry office and see what the cost is. I’ll be down to see you before then but I don’t know just when. On August 15th I take over from Walker for several of the national papers at nights. That will run until the 25th. So it seems to me that, if I am to manage it, the best thing is for me to come down during the week. If I can find a cheap trip shall I come? Or will you be working every night? Perhaps the best thing would be for you to drop me a line saying which is likely to be your best night.
What about phone calls to the office? Are they permitted, and what time am I likely to find you in? Let me have answers to some of these questions as soon as you can, sweet, and then I’ll do my best to get down, if it’s only for a couple of hours. I don’t know whether I will be down for the Show or not but as soon as I hear I will let you know.
Glad to hear the chin is well up. I’m doing my best to keep mine a little above the waist line! If I was to get a telegram now I’m afraid it would go so high that I would snap my neck!
All the best, sweet. Drop me a line and we’ll get the whole thing straightened out somehow.
Love, ever,

Aug 131936

Eaton Avenue
Stella dear,
I had been waiting to get something definite from Walker about my position if I take over his linage connection while he is on holiday before writing you anything further about coming over to Shrewsbury.
Now the difficulty as I see it is this. If I arrange to meet you on Saturday and something really urgent comes up, just where do we stand? On the other hand, it means I will not stand a chance of seeing you for at least a fortnight because I will also be deputising for Jones for a week. It is a bit perplexing, isn’t it? But that gets us no further. I think perhaps the best way would be for me to arrange to meet whatever train you are coming by. So let me know as soon as possible what time you will be in Birkenhead and I will be there to meet it. If I am not there when you arrive, wait until I come.
I won’t be very late. Really I do not want to bother doing Walker’s stuff, but when I tell you that I have earned £2-10-0 in 13 days this month you will realise how slow things have been. If that state of affairs is to continue I’ll lose all the advantage I gained by working so hard last month. I can afford that even less now than ever.
Before you come on Saturday, what about going to see the doctor? I think you should, dear. Remember that the code of conduct in that profession is so strong that there is no fear of a leakage from that source. No matter which doctor you go to the embarrassment will be just as great – or small – according to your mood. That may be cold comfort but it is worth keeping in mind.
We will have to get everything settled this weekend because, as I say, it will be at least a fortnight, probably more, before I can get over to Shrewsbury.
Try to make a list of all the points which have to be settled and I will try to do the same and then we can go through them, arrange them in order of precedence and dispose of them as quickly and as pleasantly as possible – if it is going to be at all possible!!
Now I must be off to try to get Walker to talk seriously tonight. Hope he will.
I’ll save all the rest until Saturday, when I hope to see you with neck in one piece!
Until Saturday, sweet,

P.S. If you are held up by work or anything else, wire me at the club on Saturday.

Aug 201936

Liverpool Press Club, St George Building, Lime Street, Liverpool
Stella Dear,
As usual this is in great haste as we are expecting a real riot tonight. Last night there were nearly 400 police on duty at a meeting we went to. Tonight is going to be worse.
This is just to confirm your arrangements. I cannot say now what time I will be arriving as I’ve been up to my eyes in work and not had a moment to look at trains, but I’ll wire or phone you at the office. I agree about seeing your mother in Liverpool. We’ll settle that part later.
Bye for now, sweet. Will write first opportunity.

Aug 221936

Liverpool Press Club, St George Building, Lime Street, Liverpool
Early morning
Stella Dear,
I’m so sorry I missed the post last night – that is a libel on myself because I gave the letter to one of the girls in the Club to post on her way home at 8pm and she handed it in to the Club at after midnight with the message to say that she had forgotten to post it, and was it important? Now I asks you! As you will see from the enclosed letter we were expecting real riots and if you had seen the crowd in Netherfield Road as we saw them you would have agreed with us. They had police planted in every conceivable place, in addition to at least 200 of them, who came out into the open in their uniforms.
Still, all that is past and gone and now I am really free to write to you. Had Nel Tarleton, the famous boxer, had more sense than to have given his wife twins, which were born this morning, I should have been free an hour or two ago. It is a most amazing thing the way things happen to put you off getting married, isn’t it? Here is Nel’s wife throwing out twins. I have been on another story to Walton – before the Tarleton story – about a man dying two hours after receiving congratulatory messages on his marriage. From what I can gather from her associates, the woman in the case is not too fortunate with her love affairs. Here she marries a man and the most he can stand is three days of her society. Then you get a man like Nel Tarleton, who should have more sense, fixing his wife for twins. On the strength of that, I think the least you can do is to spend your leisure time thinking out four alternatives to Michael. You never know your luck in a big city and we may touch for quads!
By the way, I had to go all the way out to Formby to give notice of the wedding. As the office for the registrar does not open until 10.30am and as I shall not be able to get the permission from the local registrar before the morning of the wedding, as I should not be able to get the notice of wedding if I did, I think I have done a good thing by arranging to call for the necessary legal form at 9am, which means that I shall be able to get to Shrewsbury by noon only if I have a car at my disposal. Anyway we will worry about that at a later stage. We will also go into details about the visit of your Mother, or at least the question of explaining things away, until a later date. At the moment I have not had more than five hours sleep in any day and there have been some nights when I have had so little time for sleeping that I might just as well have kept my clothes on for all the good it did me to take them off.
There is one bright spot about things at the moment. I have had half offers from the Mail and the Daily Express about taking on jobs on their staff in Liverpool, because they are all getting fed up with Walker and a few of the other people who have been half attending to their jobs. If I could get a job with the Mail, outside Liverpool for a few months, what a help that would be! However, that will have to remain over for the present and I will let you know in good time.
I have had a word with Tim Leuty, whom you met at the station the other week, and I have warned him that I want to go into conference with him on an urgent private matter. At the time he thinks it is something by which I hope to make money, but there is a great point about getting Tim to stand as a witness, because if he does he will have his car and will be able to run both Gertrude and I over from Liverpool. And even if I pay all the petrol expenses, it will save a lot of money on the cost of three railway tickets from Liverpool to Shrewsbury. I really do feel terribly tired at the moment and the only thing I can say about our one-day honeymoon, if it materialises, is that it would almost be better for your memories that you want to keep so carefully tucked away, if I did not see you after the ceremony until I had had at least three months solid sleep. I feel just like that tonight. In fact I am typing more by instinct than by ability.
For your benefit I am enclosing the letter I wrote under great stress the other night. You may be interested to read it some time when you have finished all the Shrewsbury proofs! Pardon the typing, dear, but really it is a physical effort to touch the keys. If I was to have written this you would never have read a line of it. By the way, remind me to tell you of the trek I had to make to find the registrars’ for my district. Eventually I found it in Formby – about a mile from the station and much nearer to Freshfield than it is to Formby!
I’m dropping to sleep now. Goodbye, sweet, keep fit. I’ll drop you a line about all the other things as soon as I have had one decent night’s sleep.
Think sometimes of
Your own,

Aug 251936

Eaton Avenue
There’s such lots of things to say I hardly know where to begin! First of all let me send my love to you. Perhaps that is not really necessary but I was down in the dumps when I received your letter – the most cheerful and loving you have written. There were so many intimacies in it. First of all you were sick and then you knitted a bootee and a mitten for our Michael (what are we going to do if it’s a girl?) Really I cannot honestly say which I most preferred to see you doing. Were I earning a thousand a year I think I should have liked to see you doing a repetition of the act which followed an over-indulgence in gin-and-its on that famous night early in our acquaintance. But being only a poor and very impoverished freelance I rather fancy I would have liked to see my own sweet one knitting bootees and mittens!
You know, sweet, there are times when I can see all this working out as the best thing that’s happened to me and for me. At other times I can see nothing but trouble, and I think it all depends how closely we stick together. I finished Walker’s job last night and the first thing I did was to get the first decent night’s sleep I have had since I saw you last. When I tell you that I have not had more than 5 hours sleep any day, and that on three days I had only half of that amount, I hope you will make allowance for my nerves being shot to pieces and my scrawl being worse than ever you remember it! And that is saying something!!!
But since I finished that work I have had an opportunity of thinking our own position out. Now on this position I want you to make a compromise, and when you have heard all my arguments I think you will agree that my theory settles your conscience and, at the same time, settles our difficulties. This – let me be quite frank – concerns only your side of the family. As you know, I am looking after my side without worrying you and they will know nothing of it until it is a fait accompli. I am not asking that of you, but what I am asking is that we should not let them in on the secret until it is too late for them to do anything other than send their good wishes! Here is my plan in detail. You may not agree with it, but I hope you will because it has this advantage – your mother and others cannot say we did not let them know before we were going to be married and, at the same time, it will not give them time to think it over and descend on us in a body on the happy day – and believe me it will be a happy day and night!!!!!! (I mean all those exclamations.) The more I think of our original plan to tell your mother a week beforehand, the more I dislike it and, my sweet, as you will have to trust me in so many things and much more difficult things than this in the years to come, I ask you to trust my foresight, my wisdom(?) and my judgement in this one item regarding our gala day – to wit September 12th.
This is the position and if you are fair – as you always are dear – you will admit the fairness of my arguments. You can only come home at the weekend. We can only get your mother by herself on the Saturday – but even the Sunday would make little difference. Supposing we tell her of our plans on the Saturday, she has a whole week to brood over them. The net result is that we are going to find, on the great day, that your mother is in Shrewsbury with Chris and Harold or with one of the neighbours. Is that going to be nice? You know very well we could not hope to keep her away. And our honeymoon weekend would be ruined. Honestly, don’t you agree? If we had to put your mother on the train while we went off, you would be really upset and I would spend the whole of Saturday and Sunday trying to make you forget it, in which I would not succeed. The thing to remember is that we are committed to this and we must make the best of it for all of us. I have had enough family squabbles in my time; you are in no fit state to be subject to a further nervous strain, as shown by the fainting episode in the office, and, finally, Michael deserves the best possible chance he can have. Don’t forget he may look like his father so he must be able to live up to the old man’s reputation!
All that is light-hearted. Here is my serious suggestion and I think it will meet with all your points. All along you have insisted that you should let your mother know that we were going to be married before we actually were married. For your peace of mind I agreed, although my people will not know, perhaps for a long time afterwards. Now this is what I suggest. And really, dear, I want you to think it over very carefully. My plan is this: I shall write a letter to your mother telling her the exact position. That letter I shall send to you with room for you to add a note to your mother. You will address the letter to your mother but you will not post it until you are certain that there will be no time for any of the family to rush over to Shrewsbury. You will then have fulfilled your promise to yourself and to your mother. You will have told her that you are going to be married and you will have left it too late for any interference. That is most important from our point of view. You can see how easily we might fall out over things if half, or indeed the whole, of your family was there, as I think they will be if we give your mother the whole week to make plans in, and not a single soul from my side was there. Don’t you think that is fair?
After all I have not told anybody on my side of our intentions and I will not do so until it is far too late for anyone to do anything about it. After all we must hold the balance, and if you tell your mother actually before you are wed, and I give her the address of the hotel to which she and all family can send congratulations, you have a decided advantage over me. Please, darling, trust my judgement in this for this is the only way in which we are going to avoid many future complications. I have spent a solid day in thinking all this over and I am right on this occasion.
Having got all that off my mind I feel a lot better. There is only one other argument I can advance and that is this: if you came over to Liverpool for a weekend can you face the role of telling your mother all this and, with that emotional strain, not betray your condition to Chris and Margaret and any other womenfolk you may meet? Can you guarantee that? If you can’t, life is going to be hell and we have enough to face at the moment. Please, Stella, say you agree with my masculine logic. It will be so helpful to me.
And now, my lady, to another side of this question. Do you know that simply to marry you, I will have to leave home on the morning of September 12th somewhere about 8am? That means I will have to be up about 7am. Isn’t that a tragedy? Or is it? Because it means I will want to go to bed early that night!! Serves you right, sweet.
I want you to put the time back half an hour, if you can, because I cannot get the certificate before 9am, which means that it is going to be a tight squeeze for us to get there by noon. Now what about the girl friend? Will Tim and I have to pick her up in Liverpool? Or can we rely on her coming to Shrewsbury from some other direction?

How funny that you should have written your letter just at a time when I was getting rid of all the enclosed letter off my mind. Having read your letter and all your fears I’m afraid I cannot change my mind. No matter how difficult it is, don’t do anything so mad as you have suggested. This is our affair and we will have to go through with it, no matter how difficult it may be. You cannot deny the truth of these things: 1. If we tell your mother beforehand we will have no guarantee that we be able to meet her in your house by herself (which means that before we know where we are we will be scrapping with the whole of the family); 2. We cannot tell your mother we are going to be married and then add “but you are not coming”; 3. As soon as she knows, you can bet your last penny she will find a way of getting there; 4. She will very probably get in touch with my parent and I am doing all I can to avoid that complication – we’ve enough on our plate already.
No matter which way you look at it my plan is the best. We will write a joint letter which will not be delivered before Saturday morning. All the explanations can be made afterwards. I’m afraid you will have to choose, even this early, between the family and me. I’m sorry if that sounds hard, dear, but that’s what it boils down to. Don’t be stampeded by the letters of other people, and by reading into other people’s heads thoughts which may never exist at all. Carry on for another fortnight and we will be over the worst part of it. No Liverpool visits and no letters of confession home just yet!
Tim has promised to run me over to see you on Sunday Sept 6th. If I can manage it I’ll come over this weekend too, but that is just a wee bit doubtful. I can’t afford to take too many days off, you know. I’ve little enough in the bank now. Still, I’ll see what can be done.
I’m sorry about Molly. She seems to have started the ball rolling doesn’t she? But don’t take too much notice of her imagination – we can’t afford to. With such a short time to go, it would be silly to weaken now.
There were lots of things I had to say but your letter has knocked them all out of my head. In the next day or two I shall get a ring card. Which do you like? Gold or platinum? I don’t know the price of the latter, do you?
Now cheer up, sweet, and don’t let a letter get you down. There’s only two more weeks and we can laugh at them all. Try to see my point of view and I’m sure we will come out of this alright. If only I were in Shrewsbury, I could convince you, and here I have written at least a column and a half trying to do it by post.
Bye love for the present, and keep Michael in order.

Sep 041936

Eaton Avenue
Stella Dear,
I had hoped to get this away last night, but circumstances conspired against me. I began to reply whilst sitting on some stairs in India Buildings last night waiting for the finish of a meeting. First there came the janitor, and then the liftman, and finally the charwoman. So I gave up the attempt about a minute before the meeting ended and then I had to go back to the ‘D.P.’ to write up. Wot a life!
I have had words with Tim today and, as per instructions, I read your paragraph to him which seemed to tickle him considerably. The arrangements for Sunday are that we will leave Birkenhead at noon and arrive at Shrewsbury about 2.30, having picnicked en route, which, as Tim points out, will save us something like 3/- per head for lunch.
If you had seen my bank book today you would have appreciated the need for it! So far as I can see I am going to be minus the price of a suit by the time the wedding is over, which means that I am going to be worse off than when I finished at the ‘Bootle Times’. Not too cheerful, but I’m afraid we will have to make the best of it. There’s one thing certain, I cannot alter it now. Not that I would want to anyhow! Would you? It’s you I worry about, not myself. I still don’t think you realise what you have let yourself in for.
This is only a short note because I will be with you about 24 hours after you receive it. I have a lot to do tomorrow. I want to see if I can get a suit on credit; I want to get enough out of the bank to stand the expenses for Sunday; I want to buy the ring if I can; finally I have to go to an S.J.A.B. inspection for the ‘D.P.’ and write it up and have it at the office before I leave for Shrewsbury. So that all things considered, there will not be too much time to spare, especially as I shall have to see Tim in the ‘Express’ office. Must close now, sweet, if I’m going to catch the post.
Love, until Sunday. Sorry this is so business-like but, as ever, time presses. Can you store the oats until they can be properly harvested?
Bear up, my dear, until 24 hours after you receive this.
Ever yours,

Sep 081936

Press Club, Liverpool
Stella Dear,
Forgive me for writing in pencil, but I have just been writing out that dreaded letter to your mother and it seems as if everyone in the club – where I had hoped to get a quiet hour – has made a point of coming in to speak to me. However, it is done with now, and I only hope she can read it. Read it over again and see if there are any improvements you can suggest. You will notice that I have made a special point of not saying just when we expect the happy event. I thought it best to wait until we saw how people reacted before we gave any hint of that nature!
Did you really like the ring, sweet? I tried to choose it so that it would conform with the law and not look too brand new and “brideish” – to coin a word.
You will, I know, be interested to hear that Mrs Leuty thinks you are just too sweet! Isn’t it funny how people to whom you belong somehow seem to have far greater licence than those with whom you are so intimate? Or is it that I must make up for all my shortcomings on September 12 and 13? I know I have not been too ardent in that way but perhaps I may learn even yet. Or would you prefer something other than mere lip service? And, as I don’t mean anything lewd, I think that I would prefer that you made the latter choice. Words are so cheap. Don’t think I am casting any aspersions on Mrs Leuty. Far from it! Do you know what she suggested? It was this: she thought perhaps we might prefer not to take a place of our own too soon. Your nerves, she said, were all on edge and a rest would be good for you so she thought we might like to live with Tim and her for a couple of months. Now, considering she had only seen me once before – and then half tight – and had met you for the first time on Sunday, I thought it damn decent of her, especially as she added “Don’t think it’s liquor talking because I’m not in the habit of speaking first and repenting afterwards”.
We might consider that possibility for a few days after you leave Shrewsbury before you plunge into the hurly burly of home keeping. She was quite honest about the whole thing for she said quite frankly that they could not afford to keep us (as if we would expect it!) but it was always cheaper for two couples to share expenses. I thought perhaps you would think the suggestion over from all angles between now and next weekend. I neither accepted nor rejected the offer until I had mentioned it to you and it was left more or less as a standing invitation. Anyhow, whether we accept or refuse it, I thought it very decent of them to make the offer, for although the offer came from her I’m sure she had found an opportunity of talking it over with Tim.
Now if I’m going to catch the post – which means you should get this at breakfast instead of at tea – I really must close.
Goodbye, my sweet, and look after yourself – and Michael! – until I see you on Saturday. Will try to write again before then. My love to Michael and tell him I expect him to be a good boy during next weekend!

P.S. I dreamt of you again last night!
Don’t forget to enclose your letter to your mother in my envelope, because if you send a separate letter and she opens it first the whole use of mine is destroyed!

Sep 101936

Stella Dear,
I got your letter at the club an hour ago – that was the first time I had been in to the club today – and was I glad to see it? I’m only sorry that your letter and mine evidently crossed, whereby hangs a tale which I will tell you after Tim and Mrs Tim (whose name is Beryl, by the way) have left us. I can’t tell you earlier in the day as it concerns Tim! By now you will have my letter so you will know of their offer. Wasn’t it decent of them?
What has happened to you this week? Another fit of the blues? I don’t blame you really and if we can possibly cut down your time in Shrewsbury we will do so. Anyway, we will see what can be done after we get settled down this weekend. If there’s any danger of your nerves going absolutely to pieces, which is the very last thing we want, you had better leave there much earlier – but what we will live on I don’t know. That sounds a bit blue too, doesn’t it? But I suppose both of us are feeling the effect of the strain. Now about Saturday – shouldn’t it go on to the calendar as Our Day, complete with caps? I’m afraid that by the time you get this you will have posted your letter to your mother. The difficulty about the wire which you suggest is that we are not certain of being at any hotel at the time it arrives, in which case it would be refused. Why not suggest that she wires you at Coton Hill before noon? Or that she sends a wire to the poste restante at either the Wrexham or Shrewsbury G.P.O. If you decide on that course I can only suggest that you send an express letter containing whichever of these addresses you decide upon but – apart from Coton Hill – be careful not to make any time limits, because if they think we may be in Shrewsbury until afternoon some branches of the family may decide to run over by road. Don’t forget that danger. Personally I should suggest the Shrewsbury G.P.O. because there are quite a lot of Sunday excursions to Wrexham and you’ve no idea of the reserves of blasphemous language I could draw upon if I found anyone butting in on our all too brief honeymoon!
By the way, if you find an express letter will not get to your mother by Saturday morning I should suggest that you get on to the phone somewhere about 8 or 8.30am on Saturday (not on Friday night!) and send a telegram letter at 30 or 36 words for 1/-. Perhaps something like this: If you care to wire message suggest c/o Poste Restante Shrewsbury by return.
Anyway, I’ll leave that part of it to you. Somehow writing all those details seems to have driven out of my head all that I had intended to say. Remind me during the weekend to tell you of Tim’s adventure the other night and of the conversation I had with Mrs Tim and her mother. I am sorry, dear, to know that Michael is beginning to make his presence felt again. I was hoping you would get something by way of a respite for a few weeks.
Anyway, Saturday will be here before we realise it. There is only tomorrow, and then the following day I will be tearing round the countryside picking up documents and things including, at Shrewsbury, a wife and embryo family. You know, even now, I can’t think of there being, as you say, any difference in our relationship than there has been in the past. Michael will make a difference later on, though.
Now I must be off to the post and to collect a stamp as I’ve run right out.
Until Saturday morning, my dear. Saturday night will see such a change.
Love to Mickey and Mickey’s mother from
Arthur X

Sep 121936

Limedale Road, Liverpool
My darling Stella,
Dismiss all notions of my feeling bitter. My uppermost feeling is agonising pity for what you have passed through – without me.
I cannot tell you how to act until I have talked with you, but I think that eventually you must tell your Editor with regrets that you were already married and now you must retire for a while. I cannot rest knowing you are taking risks for yourself and the little one trying to hold the job down.
Darling you must come home. You know I am with you now as before – “Backs to the wall and to blazes with everyone.” My heart aches to see you and have you but am too shaky to venture to you tomorrow.
Everyone here all right, nothing but sympathy and wanting to help. Meanwhile, until I see you no one is to be told outside the house. Stella, do come soon, I am ill for wanting you.
Tell Arthur I shall keep mum, but he should tell his mother right away. You must NOT try to carry on. BURN THIS.
More love than ever,

Sep 141936

My dear Stella,
I received your letter and went along to Limedale. I was there by 9am, just in time for breakfast.
Now, my dear, your mother is bearing up very bravely indeed, and her chief thought is for your comfort and welfare. So don’t worry too much, will you? It is remarkable how these things straighten themselves out.
I spent the day on Saturday with your mother. After dinner I suggested we went on the road to do some shopping. We had an ice, and when I left her at 5 o’clock she seemed much brighter. I will call in again very soon and if I can will try and get her to come to the pictures.
Well, old girl, I wish you both all the best after the very rotten time you must have had. So take great care of yourself and try not to worry too much.
If there is anything I can do, don’t be afraid to ask me. So keep smiling and God bless you.
Yours very sincerely,

Sep 161936

Eaton Avenue
Stella Dear,
This is being written in between the spasms of a slum clearance inquiry in Liverpool – one man who owns property in Richmond Row has just asked one of the corporation officials what the radius or circumference of a room is! In face of that, I hope you will bear with any little shortcomings.
First of all, madam, allow me to thank you for your kind inquiry as to the state of my abdomen. I had no time to go to the vet on Monday as I had to turn out the inevitable Waterfront in the morning, go to St Helens in the afternoon and get back to Port for 6.30. However, I went last night and he told me that morning sickness is caused only by three things: pregnancy (which could not apply to me), cigarettes and beer. When I told him I had cut my beer down and had taken to shandies, he asked how many cigarettes I smoked and when I said between 40 and 50 he nearly fainted. It seems he is sick if he smokes 10 cigarettes a day! If I can’t take it now at least I have been able to take it for quite a long time. He said it was a wonder I was not dead long ago! The upshot of it all is that I’m suffering from the effects of nicotine poisoning. Isn’t that just too bad? The verdict is that I have to give up smoking, or at least cut down my rations to a considerable extent. He gave me medicine which he said, quite cheerfully, would not cure me. I will not improve, he said, until I control or eliminate entirely my smoking rations. All things considered I felt very cheerful when I left him, for I had been fearing gastric trouble which might have meant a visit to hospital, but he laughed at me. That took a load off my mind.
I am glad your mother wrote you so nicely but I’m afraid we are going to have a little trouble there on Sunday, particularly as regards your return to Liverpool. Beryl will probably have a competitor for your company then and we are going to have to walk warily. Once and for all, dear, I want you to realise that if ever you feel you cannot possibly carry on in Shrewsbury until the middle of November, as we arranged, let me know at once and I will fix something up somehow or other. That will be an entirely different matter from being told that you MUST come home at once. Those days have gone for ever! However, I’ll try to write at least a note to your mother some time this week. So far I have not broken the glad news to my mother, mainly because I have not been able to get hold of her without our young lodger (who is so well informed in matters of birth control) or my sister being present. I would prefer to talk to mother alone if possible. The trouble is that we cannot afford to leave it much longer before telling her because it would be fatal if she learned from anyone other than myself. You know the way things get round once anyone knows about these things. I had a word with Arthur Jones last night and was he surprised? He was a little disappointed that he had not been able to stand for us but readily appreciated the advantage of a car. He has promised not to mention it to anyone until I tell him he can – which will be almost as soon as I have seen mother. You should have a letter from Arthur soon but, in the meantime, he asks me to send you not merely his kind regards but to wish you – and me of course! – all the very best that we hope for ourselves. He is quite certain that we will make a success of it because, he says, “sensible women are so few and far between!” That, from Arthur, is just about the pinnacle of praise.
I am hoping to see Norman Jones this evening for he is going to the Union meeting and I have asked him to come to the ‘D.P.’ and have a cup of tea with me in the canteen because I am on spare duty, 6.30 to 10.30. If I get the chance I will break the news to him and give him to understand that the happy event occurred some time ago. I shall of course avoid giving a definite date if possible. We might as well start getting our allies together now. We have one good one in Arthur Jones and Norman will strengthen his hand considerably.
When you write thanking Hettie, give her my love won’t you? We may not see her on Sunday because I have a feeling I shall be working some part if not all of the day.
I think that, if Michael misses his father so much that he goes on hunger strike as soon as I leave him, I had better come up and see him some time! What do you say? I do hope that you have not cramp in your left hand by taking your ring off! You did so I hope? Or was that the basis of the long talk you had with Mac? I am quite intrigued about that talk for, if you could find somebody you could really trust it would do you good to be able to talk to them once in a while.
Am now in the ‘Daily Post’ office and as old Peps is beginning to sniff round I’m afraid I’ll have to give this up for tonight, but I’ll slip it into the post so you should have it by morning delivery. I’ll write again soon, sweet, to tell you what the prospects are for Sunday and perhaps in the meantime you will look out what time the trains arrive here. Is there a cheap trip?
I nearly forgot! You ask after my virgin bed. Don’t take it too literally when I say it’s lousy, but you get what I mean. Still, that state will not last for many more weeks now. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the time will fly, although just at the moment it seems to drag terribly.
By the way, I was looking in the ‘Echo’ the other night, just to get some idea of prices, and was surprised to see the ridiculously low figure asked for some furnished flats. They cannot be too good but I thought the lowest would be about £2-10. Instead it was very much lower than that. In a couple of weeks or so I shall begin looking round seriously. By that time we will know better just how we are fixed.
Bye, sweet, for now. Don’t forget to bring your ring on Sunday or your family will swear you are not Mrs Johnson.
Love until Sunday from
Arthur X

Sep 171936

Eaton Avenue
Goodness, my sweet. First of all I have broken the news to Mother and that has taken a load off my mind. Secondly, the sister in India cabled £5 with a brief note: “Good luck. Our blessing and love – Jane and Jack.” Wasn’t that nice?
The breaking of the news was not quite so pleasurable and I was almost sorry, at first, that I had made up my mind to tell her the full story. Afterwards I was glad for a reason, which I will tell you on Sunday if you remind me. She really was cut up. “It’s a pity if you couldn’t tell your own mother. I suppose I’m not worth telling,” and so on for the best part of an hour. Like your mother she was trying to insist that you should come to Liverpool at once. “Her place is with her husband…” You know the argument as well as I do, probably. The sum total of her argument is that she is disappointed in you and in me and in the whole world, it seems. Finally she was beginning to furnish a flat for us, but that was too much for me. I had to leave for town just as she was saying: “Why didn’t you let me know earlier? I could have got you a 20 guinea carpet for £4 last night.” Women!!! Will anyone ever understand them? I’m damned if I can.
Mother definitely prefers the “married some months” story so far as the rest of the family is concerned. Personally I don’t give two hoots, but if it gives her any pleasure I think I’ll give her her own way on that point. I’m going to write to your mother if I can snatch a few minutes in the office tonight and I am going to give you the same advice as you gave me. Will you write a few lines to mine before the weekend? She said she thought women stuck together and that you would have dropped her a line, against my wishes, to say that we were to be married. But I told her that I forbade it! That seems to be your best line, together with the fact that, whatever anyone may think about the circumstances of the wedding, ours was a marriage of choice and not one of convenience.
I’m afraid that if I’m going to get that letter off to your mother I’ll have to leave you now, my sweet. Is Michael behaving any better? I do hope so. Look after yourself, dear. Really, cruel as it may seem, I’m not looking forward to your bringing him back to Liverpool’s filthy atmosphere. You may not see eye to eye with me on this point, but I fancy Salop air is cleaner and better. Sleep well, dear, for I want you looking at your best on Sunday. I’ll drop you a line later about the arrangements for ringing me, but in case I should forget then make it a personal call which means that you can get your money back, or some of it, if you don’t speak to me personally. All you have to do is tell the operator that you want a personal call to Mr Arthur Johnson at – whatever the number is.
‘Bye my love, until Sunday.

Apr 111937

Stella dear,
It won’t be long now! Only one more night then home again. And then there’ll be months and months and months at the very least before we have the same business over again. Be ready when I come to collect you, I’ll be there on the dot. Today has seemed longer than ever, for with the heavy rain and generally miserable weather, golf has been out of the question. It’s lousy with nothing to do but sit down and wait for the time to pass, because it never does seem to pass somehow. I think this must be worse than waiting for a husband to come in from the Club!
I’m sorry I forgot the enclosed whatnot, but I had hung it in the wardrobe so that some of the creases would fall out of it. Being young, sweet and innocent I should have been more careful with the list instead of trusting to my Pelman-trained memory.
Don’t have any more fits of the blues, will you? You were down in the dumps last night. If only I could have turned in with you! Oh boy! As it was, I slept at Litherland and as I had no pyjamas there – and was sleeping alone – it was not so tropical. Does that wake a pang of pity in your breast – or should one say nipple now?
I have aired all the things in the cot today so it should be okeydoke for tomorrow. Don’t know whether you will agree with the way I have fixed the cot, but if not then I’ll do it again.
Bye now, sweet. Be a good lass and keep that dainty chin, surmounted by that famous rosebud mouth, well up until tomorrow. It’s much less than twenty-four hours off now.
As ever, your
Arthur X
X for Wendy

Sep 241940

My dear Jane and Jack,
I’m tempting fate. We have not had an air raid so far tonight and it is now midnight, so I’m taking a chance on at least getting this letter well under way. If there are any interruptions, you will have to forgive me if the letter seems a little disjointed. Actually we have been very lucky so far in Liverpool. There have been “alerts” – dozens of ’em. In fact we consider ourselves lucky if we only get one air raid warning during daylight hours and two at night. For all that, there has been very little material damage done and, considering the number of bombs dropped, the number of planes he must have had engaged in visits to Liverpool, and the amount of money and time he must have spent on our “Education” in Nazi methods, the number of lives lost is remarkably small. It all seems in the lap of the gods. If he hits a public surface shelter and it is crowded, then the casualties are high. If, as has happened on a few occasions, he hits a shelter which is empty, then we have a good night. I don’t know whether you ever listen to, or see in the papers, the German communiqués about the damage which has been done in different parts of the country. If you do, then take it from me that, at least so far as Liverpool is concerned, and probably so far as the whole of the country is concerned, he talks a lot of poppy-cock. He has said on several occasions that the harbour of Liverpool has been burned to the ground. He is crazy. On two occasions only – one of them was last Saturday – has he caused fires of any size at all. One of them destroyed only one building, the old Customs House, and the other day (which was this weekend) was his best day ever here and then he only got four decent fires going. Really it is a poor effort considering the number of planes he has had here. These are two of the very few days when he has been able to reach dockland, and although this weekend things looked pretty good for him, when it is all boiled down it means this – he hit a timber yard, a cotton warehouse and a general warehouse in Bootle. To do that he probably dropped the best part of a thousand incendiaries over the north end. Not very good shooting, is it?
We have had a bit of stuff round us. In all I should say about a dozen or fifteen high explosive bombs within half a mile. It may be more than that, but we have felt very little, except on one occasion when I was at home and, in full innocence, opened the front door during what I thought was a quiet spell. Just then he dropped a couple in some fields which are two or three roads away from us and we felt the full benefit of the blast. That is as near as he has got to us yet and we are not over-worried about it. My experience is that, even if you have no real shelter, you are safe enough if you stay in the house. To do any damage to you he has to drop one right on your doorstep, or at least within a couple of houses. Even then you are not likely to be hurt, but you may be shaken up. So far as I can see, there has got to be a more or less direct hit on a house before any really serious damage is done to the occupants. Property and furniture may be knocked about, but what does that matter as compared with life?
I’m writing all this, not for the sake of scaring you, but because I feel you should know what we think of it, and to write and tell you that nothing has happened here would be an insult to your intelligence. I will tell you quite frankly that apart from one occasion when a “Molotov breadbasket”, which is one of those arrangements in which he releases a big number of incendiary bombs at once, burst over my head soon after I had left the house to go to the office, I have not been really scared. Yet, on the other hand, once it is nearly time to leave for the office, which is, just now, the time at which he is likely to come over, I get all worked up and cannot settle in the house. Once I am outside and on my way down I feel much better, even if the sirens go and I have to walk part of the way during the raid. I think it must be a sort of claustrophobia complex I have as zero hour approaches. I’m all right once I’m on the move. Stella, on the other hand, heaves a sigh of relief when the sirens go and she has to go up and fetch the kids downstairs. Then she settles down into the routine of keeping an eye on them while reading or knitting.

Monday 21 October 1940
As you will see, it is quite a long time since I started this letter. In fact the night I did so he came over very late and interrupted me, which I took most unkindly. In fact we have had a number of lively nights since then. Only a couple of nights after I had written the first page of this letter, Jerry touched lucky with a whole load of incendiaries and treated us to the greatest fire I have ever seen – or expect to see. He went right along the south end docks and planted fire bombs in dozens of places. In all we had about seven or eight huge ones all going at the one time and from our roof it looked as if half of Liverpool was on fire, but actually the damage, although considerable from a financial point of view, was nothing like as great as was at first feared. The chief thing is that he was not able to affect transport at all, except passenger transport to a small extent, and once again the docks escaped serious damage. The more I go about and see the damage he has done, the more I marvel at how small it is. To back up what I said on the other page about the number of lives lost and injuries inflicted, I’ll quote what happened on two successive nights – or mornings. On the first occasion he dropped a line of high explosive among house property which, incidentally has suffered by far the most in these raids. The first bomb hit a house which had already had a time bomb in the yard in a previous raid, and consequently there was no-one in it. The second and third bombs dropped in the yards of houses in a street opposite. The fourth scored a direct hit on a small surface shelter, demolishing that one and damaging an adjoining one. The fifth dropped in the middle of the road. The only casualties were those in the two shelters. In all, about thirty killed and injured. This despite the fact that there were at least two planes which dropped a full load of H.E. and incendiary. The next night he came over and dropped even more. They all fell either in gardens, sports fields, the grounds of hospitals and places like that and there were two very slight injuries, one of them a soldier who slightly burned his hands in dealing with an incendiary. It’s like a raffle. Sometimes he is lucky, but most often we are.
You will be interested to know that the work I have put in on these air raids, sometimes working a fifteen and sixteen hour day, has made a very good impression on the office. So much so that, although I did not apply for one, I have been given a rise. In fact I am the only one in the office to receive an increase since the war began, and it is not likely that there will be any more for a long time. The news editor of the ‘Daily Post’ and the editor of the ‘Echo’ – whom I have seen about twice in my life – were so pleased with what I have been doing that each of them went on successive days, and quite unkown to each other, and told the managing director that I should be given some recognition. Result – a rise. It is very welcome just now for many reasons, not the least of which is that I will now be able to resume giving something to Mother, in which direction I have been rather lax of late, but things are so tight – or rather were, until I had this stroke of good luck. I would rather it had come through some other medium than other people’s misery, but the position being what it is, I might as well turn it to good use if I can. Anyway, it will probably mean that I shall be put on to day work as soon as possible, although I don’t think that is likely to be for some time yet, because of the difficulty in getting new staff. We cannot compete these days with the national papers who are offering excellent wages to people who are likely to be out of the army for some time to come. On the whole, I prefer night work just now from a purely selfish point of view, because I can get my sleep in as usual during the day and, at night, there is generally at least one good story to be done, which is an improvement in sitting twiddling my thumbs as I have been doing for months. I’m almost a war correspondent now, complete with steel helmet, which Stella and the family think makes me look funnier than ever. Daddy’s hat is a standing joke in the house.

Sunday 3 November
Still another effort to get this into the post and I’m determined to finish it tonight. So far I have written of nothing but the war but now, with November upon us, I had better make this a Xmas letter! It seems as if we have gone back to the ice age, writing Xmas letters two months ahead of time. Despite war conditions, there are signs of the festive season being on its way. Already Woolworth’s and other stores are displaying some purely Xmas lines. I don’t know whether we will be able to get hold of a Xmas tree this year. Usually Bert gets us one from the Burton woods, as I have told you before, I think, but as he is not at Burton now, the chances do not seem so good. I would like to get one if I can, because we are ging to do everything we can to make it as normal a Xmas as possible. Stella has already made the puddings and the next job will be the cake. Even if we cannot buy any fresh ones, we still have a few crackers left from last year and these, together with the coloured paper garlands, will help to make the atmosphere something like normal. I have bought some decorations such as Santa Clause on a sleigh and that sort of thing because they may be scarce later on, and we are gradually accumulating a stock of small novelties for the stockings. I have even got some new pennies so I think that, whatever happens this year, the youngsters should have a decent day, which is the main thing. It is impossible to tell what will happen in the way of visitors, of course, but I have no doubt things will be sorted out at the last minute, as usual. Presents for the adults will be kept down to microscopic proportions, I expect. I don’t know what to make for Wendy. Last year I made her a doll’s cot and she is just a bit too young for a doll’s house yet, and so is Michael, who would probably break it in the first day if I did make one for her. It is impossible to stop them from playing with each other’s toys. Before the time comes, however, I shall probably have a brain wave. Michael has already made up his mind that he wants a train – a big wooden one which he can pull along, so I’ll have to start that very soon. I suppose it will have to be painted the traditional red. It won’t be long now before he is demanding the real thing like Hornby trains, or Meccano.
As you will see from the date, we are not far off Bonfire Night, but of course a real bonfire or out of doors fireworks are out of the question this year. We are having a few indoor ones and I expect a few of the youngsters from round about will come in to see the fun. We tried one or two of them out the other day and they were a great success. I was not as strong minded as Stella, who religiously kept her hands off them, although she actually bought them in South Road. As soon as I saw them, I had to try some of them! What’s the good of being the boss(?) of the house if you can’t do things like that? I’m quite looking forward to the time when we can have a real Bonfire Night out of doors. It’s like going to the grotto, the children are a great excuse.
I don’t know what the arrangements will be in town about grottos this year. Last year, so far as I can remember, only Lewis’s had a real grotto, the remainder of the stores having only a toy fair. It will probably be the same this year, but whatever happens, we will take them both into town some morning – Stella will probably meet me in town straight from the office, where I can have a sleep and some breakfast before I meet her. If we do that, we should be home again about lunchtime and then I can have a sleep in the afternoon if necessary. The children like the trip to town and Wendy, like a true woman, will probably insist on a glass of milk in a café. She has reached that stage already.
Today I lifted the last of my potatoes. I put in quite a lot of work on the alleged allotment at the back of the garden last year, but the results were disappointing, probably due to two reasons – lack of manure and slackness in not keeping weeds and pests down. Everything seems to have come so far and no further. Sprouts, for instance, have come to a small ball, about an inch across, but seem to have stopped growing altogether at that point. The same thing happened with beetroots. Some of them reached the size of a tennis ball, but some of them never exceeded a marble. Cauliflowers were promising well and suddenly bolted, growing about a foot in a couple of days. Dwarf beans were severely attacked by fly, two rows failing to yield a single bean, and the cabbage fly, which was a new pest to me, did a lot of havoc with my greens during the summer. Still, we have had a few meals off our own stuff and I have learned a lot, which I hope will be useful next year. Considering everything, the potatoes did well, for they had no feeding of any kind, and one cannot expect too much in those circumstances. In all I suppose we will have had about six or seven months’ supply by the time the last are eaten, for with these I have lifted today we should have about two or three months’ supply in hand now. Bert sent me quite a good stock of winter greens which are doing better than the others, and which I hope will just be right when the shop supplies are running low. That was the chief difficulty last year, that we were unable to get any fresh greens for two or three months during the winter.
Well, I must finish on this page so it’s time to say au revoir. We shall be thinking of you both as usual at Xmas, and particularly when we are eating the turkey, or whatever takes its place. In the meantime, we all send you our love and best wishes for Xmas and 1941. We hope, too, that next year will see the end of all this nonsense and that you will be able to get home for a few months’ leave. Bye for now, and see you both take care of yourselves.
Arthur XX
P.S. I’m almost certain Stella has already acknowledged them, but just in case – many thanks for the frocks for Wendy. They fit her beautifully. Not one has had to be altered. Everything you mentioned in your letters as being on the way has now arrived. Yes, your cable came and was duly passed round all the family or else they were told its exact text.

Aug 081941

Story Of Year Of Raids On Merseyside
A Story Of Grim Experiences And Great Recovery

The new raid “season” is about to open, we are warned by people in authority, and as it is a year or so ago since Merseyside was first attacked by the Luftwaffe, it is interesting to review the “season” just ended.
Though the full story of the year cannot yet be told, it is interesting and instructive to look back along the road we have travelled and to realise to what extent our outlook has changed.
Few realised, last July, what we should live through in the year that has gone. True, there had been minor excitements. Occasionally there had been gunfire, even in daylight. But can you think back to that first night raid – not a heavy one – when in the intervals between the firing of the guns you could hear the steady “drum-drum, drum-drum” of Goering’s dark angels high overhead?
That night – it was in July 1940 – the first bombs were dropped on Merseyside. Neston, Irby and Thurstaston can claim the distinction of being among the first Merseyside districts to suffer actual attack. A stick of bombs scattered over these areas fell in fields and did no damage, but dug deep craters which drew wondering crowds.

Birkenhead And Wallasey
Birkenhead received an early “visit” one night in August. Bombs were dropped in Prenton, and when a house in Prenton Lane was struck, a maid who was in bed was killed. She was Merseyside’s first fatal casualty.
Two days later Wallasey was struck a heavier blow. Houses and shops at Stroud’s Corner, Cliff Road and Mill Lane were damaged and demolished. Infinitely worse, a few people were killed.
Next came the first Liverpool bombs. Just about midnight on Saturday August 17, they whistled down but did little damage. With the horrors of the Continent fresh in their minds, everyone called them screaming bombs. Do you remember that, and do your realise that nobody speaks of screaming bombs these days?
Two days later Liverpool had its first incendiary bombs, several hundred of which fell. From the centre of the city one saw for the first time that leaping, flickering greenish white halo, soon to become so familiar.
In some ways these early demonstrations of frightfulness, particularly those early deaths at Wallasey, made a deeper impression on the public than the succession of heavy blitzes during the longer nights.

On Their Doorsteps
People who had never seen themselves in the light of heroes suddenly realised that this war was to be fought out, literally, on their own doorsteps. Perhaps unconsciously, but nevertheless determinedly, people settled down to the raids, and that attitude meant defeat for the German Air Force. They set out to crack the morale of the civilian population and failed. They failed in those first few nights.
More and more efforts were made to destroy the town. In September there was scarcely a night when the alert was not sounded, and bombs were dropped on 19 nights in the month. Those were the nights when the housing estates were bearing the brunt of the attack, as they did for so long. Those were the nights, too, when the Anderson shelter proved its worth.
About the end of September raiders began to make greater use of incendiaries and for several months there was the same story in the papers of an “abortive fire-raising raid on a coastal town in the North-West”. That phrase about the town in the North-West is an echo from the past, isn’t it? Throughout the weeks there was raid after raid, with serious damage on only one occasion by fire. October came and went, bringing with it the long raids which meant six, seven and eight hours in shelters for so many people.

Lull, Then Fury
There came a lull in November, but suddenly there was unleashed all the fury of the Luftwaffe, who brought their heaviest bombs to Merseyside on November 28, rendering many people homeless but failing to crush their spirit. That was the night when a big shelter was struck, causing a number of casualties.
Another lull, with occasional nuisance raids and little material damage. Then the December blitz, which lasted two nights and on the third switched over to Manchester. This very heavy raid was followed by almost two months of comparative quietness, in which there were small raids, which failed in their objective of creating big fires.
By this time the organisation of civilians in defeating the incendiaries was so successful that raiders began dropping explosive incendiary bombs in the hope of scaring the public – a hope doomed to disappointment.
Raids, though fewer, were more concentrated in the early spring. March 12 and 13, for instance, brought two nights of hell to Merseyside, where residential areas were badly damaged by some of the heaviest bombs. It was at this time, however, that we began to hear of our night fighters, who shot down at least seven.
Spasmodic raids followed in April, but May saw the outbreak of a heavy and concentrated attack. Eight nights in succession the raiders came.

National Admiration
Firemen, ambulance drivers, rescue squads, police, and all the civil defence personnel worked unceasingly, earning the admiration of the whole country. Just how well they did their jobs is shown by the speed with which vital services were restored.
Many famous and historic places in the city were hit – churches, homes, public buildings, hotels, all felt the weight of Germany’s relentless bombing, but still the city stands. Ugly wounds in the streets have been cleaned and healed by temporary dressings and, most important of all, the port carries on its vital work. People come and go much as they have always done.
The people of Merseyside can face this autumn more confidently, for they know what to expect.
There are two great differences as compared with the post-Dunkirk period: We are now hitting back at Germany, in Germany, and we have our night fighters protecting us with growing success.
Arthur Johnson

Sep 121941

Very Odd Ode

Said little Stella,
“We’re in a helluva
Said Arfa-parf,
Not ’arf.
I’d better marry you,
That’s the Proper Thing to do.”
Which is not quite
The right
Way for a great story to start,
With the girl in the cart.
We agree,
But you’ll see
If this story you follow
That it has Cleo and Helen and even
Snow White all beaten hollow.
Which just shows that you never can tell
Well, well!

Pardon this rot
But I don’t need to write a great sonnet
And splash tears upon it
To tell you I love you today
So wot?


Mar 241942

I never want to see a curtain or a hook or a curtain ring again! The whole of today has been occupied with curtains and their etceteras in some shape or form. It started this morning when I took our bedroom curtains down and put them in soak so that I would have to wash them today. Then after breakfast I thought I’d better get the screws in the window frames before doing the shopping. I thought this would take about half an hour but actually it took nearly all the morning because I discovered I would have to put in 16 screws – one in each corner of each frame and as they had to go in as far in the corner as possible and there was scarcely any room for your finger and thumb (I mean mine not yours) it was a fiddling job. The sun was quite warm outside but working in the window all that time I began to feel like a tomato in a greenhouse. Then there was a last minute rush to the shops, then dinner to cook and eat – and still you notice no work done and the curtains still in soak. After dinner I washed the curtains. My fist went straight through the first one so I treated the others with great reverence! Fortunately it was a perfect washing day and they dried beautifully. While they were on the line I took Wendy’s old curtains down and unpicked the Rufflette tapes on them as I didn’t see why they should be wasted. Then I sewed these on to her new curtains, made the frill, put the hooks in and hung them up. They look lovely and fresh but they will have to be washed very regularly.
This brought us to tea-time. After tea I ironed and hooked our curtains (they look lovely now – I hope they haven’t got mucky again by the time you come home) washed the dishes and bathed the children, who had been out all day and were just as filthy as the curtains! With them in bed I hung our curtains up again and then started, while there was still some daylight, to sew rings on our new blackout. I had to do this on the window to be sure that each ring was in exactly the right spot, so this was just as fiddling as putting the screws in. Anyway it’s done now, thank heaven and looks quite neat. I haven’t been out to test its efficiency as a blackout yet. If I find the light showing after all the trouble I’ve had I’ll go completely mad!
The whole thing is taken down quite quickly and it’s made from those two pieces of curtain that used to cover the two centre windows. I re-dyed them and they are quite a good black now. This leaves only the two side windows permanently papered and just now they are going to stay like that. I refuse to even consider another black-out problem. And that’s quite enough of that – three and a half pages of curtains! I’ll have you so sick of them as I am myself. I sometimes wonder if I bore you with all these tedious domestic details, but my day never seems complete if I haven’t told you exactly what I’ve done with it.
Your letter arrived by the midday post. I can never make up my mind when I want your letters to arrive. I like them first thing in the morning, of course, but when one doesn’t come it means that there are still the other two posts to look forward to.
Yes, I can quite understand how unsettled you will be feeling this week. Actually you have never had a chance to settle down in Skegness, knowing that you would be there such a short time. If you are going to be at Aberdeen for six months there will be some point in trying to get settled there. Is the Commodore who kept you waiting while your dinner went cold the same bloke who didn’t come to see your nice clean chalet? He seems a regular pest!
Michael’s behaviour is not such a worry as it was because in this weather I bundle them out right after breakfast so see very little of him all day. Meal times are the bogey. How he gets enough energy to play around all day I don’t know. He is eating absolutely nothing. Today, for instance, he had no more than two forkfuls of dinner, then at four o’clock came in pleading for a biscuit and I told him he was hungry because he hadn’t eaten his dinner and would have to stay hungry till tea-time. He yelled the place down of course, but, as he really did seem hungry, I thought there would be no trouble over tea. There being a sudden rush of new-laid eggs (they had so many today that they were making everyone take next week’s rations as well as this week’s – I had to take 18!) I made omelettes with apricot jam. Michael ate about a third of his, said he liked it, then deliberately played with the rest and didn’t have another scrap! This performance at every meal is most nerve-racking. I never enjoy my own meals. The baby-theorists say you should never show that it matters to you if a child doesn’t eat, but these days it is very hard to show no emotion when you see good food wasted. I hope Rees will give him something that will make him ravenous. Michael’s cough seems to be improving and Wendy is a mystery to me still. She looks fine, eats wonderfully well, and scarcely coughed at all during the day. Then each night round about eleven she starts this really terrible coughing. Last night she went on till she was sick. I gave her an extra dose of medicine during the night and it seemed to help a lot. There is always something to worry about, isn’t there? All day I’m expecting Michael to faint with malnutrition and half the night I’m sitting on Wendy’s bed while she coughs her insides out. Then next morning she seems so bright and energetic that you feel you must have dreamt it all.
I was wondering how you got on about your feet and I’m sorry you had to pay for new boots. How much did they ream you for them? You certainly have made very good use of the naval health services so far. It’s a wonder you didn’t have a baby there while you were at it!
Your mother was fishing for an invitation to stay over Easter yesterday. I hadn’t realised that Will was going away or I would have raised the matter myself. Anyway I thought I’d better clarify the situation right away so I told her that if I had definite news that you would not be home during the Easter weekend she would be very welcome, but while there was the faintest chance of you coming I was not inviting anyone to stay overnight and was not going to stay a night anywhere myself. With Thelma going away these weekends alone will become a very real problem for her, and she is quite welcome to come here at any time when there is no chance of a surprise visit from you, but no one under the sun is going to spoil that precious first moment, my sweet!
By the way, while we are on the subject, if you do find out exactly what time you will be coming beforehand, it might be as well not to let your mother know as she might find some excuse to be here at that time. I’m not blaming her, love. It’s only natural that she should want to see you as soon as she possibly can – but that moment is yours and mine and I’m willing to make a life-long enemy out of anyone who makes it otherwise!
It has been really warm here today. These nice not-too-hot days, especially towards the evening, always remind me of those long-ago days when we used to go walks together, stopping now and again for a drink (and now and again for other things!) while you expounded your theories on marriage and the world in general. I shall tell Wendy to marry a confirmed batchelor – they make such excellent husbands! I remember you saying that no man on earth was faithful to his wife, to which I replied that I was thankful I was not going to marry you! Dear, dear, how sure of ourselves we were, and how very, very young! Changed your ideas about fidelity, my own? Or are you leaving someone behind in Skegness? Do you remember how, catering for any eventuality, you had it all settled that if I should become pregnant you would marry me to legalise the child and then divorce me as soon as possible? What a cold-blooded monster you were, and yet I came back for more, didn’t I? I probably stuck to you at that time chiefly because I was jumping mad that I hadn’t made you fall for me. It came as quite a shock when you said “Have you ever thought of marrying me?” – in that little lane in West Kirby. I’ve never yet been able to make up my mind whether you were in earnest or not and I don’t think you knew yourself, did you? How wild I used to get because you would never say you loved me. In lighter moments you would say “I hate the sight of you” and in more emotional moments you would just kiss me but you’d never say it, you bugger! You’ve said it enough since to fill all those gaps, haven’t you precious?
West Kirby reminds me of a letter I wrote to you from there in which somehow the shadow of war cropped up. I remembered writing “Please, never go to any wars, will you darling”. Remember? That must be several years ago. I wonder if a hint of today’s separation touched me when I wrote that, even when I didn’t know I would ever be married to you. Not to be married to you! Can you imagine what that would mean? I can’t. I can’t picture myself at all without you. All those years before you came and comparatively few years since you came and yet you’re the whole of my life. How horrible to think it might never have happened. I sometimes go over the crossroads and see how often, years ago, I might have missed you. When I neither knew nor cared about your existence I was deciding, or other people and events were deciding, whether or not I should ever meet you. Just to take one little example. When I sat for the scholarship it was settled that if I didn’t pass for Bellevue I could be sent to Mount Pleasant (that being £2 cheaper). Now if I’d gone there it is practically certain that the higher standard of all-round teaching would have made up just that slight difference between an ordinary H.S. Cert and a university scholarship. Which means that I would have been fancying my chances with some conceited student when I might have been seducing you on the sandhills! ’Orrible thought!!! And you can even trace our meeting to years before either of us were born. For instance, if my Aunt Annie had not had a girl friend called Celia (who afterwards married a Tom Greene) then a certain young woman – whose parents had not even met then – would never have heard of the ‘Bootle Times’. And that’s only my side of the picture. All that time you were somehow, through a maze of crossroads and decisions, moving towards me, until that moment when you walked (or should I say staggered?) into County Hall (blessed be it for ever) and in a drunken stupor decided that you had to shag someone and I just happened to be about. And the world was never quite the same afterwards because the fates that had been trying to get these two stupid people to see that they were incomplete without each other, leaned back and left the rest to us. And even then we were stupid enough to hold out against loving each other! So the fates got a bit anxious and had to dig up a silly man who lived somewhere near me, and make him win some silly competition so that you would have to come and see him – and in passing, put me in the family way! We did give those fates a lot of bother didn’t we? They’d been working so hard to make sure that we should meet and yet when they plonked us down in the same little office we were just polite to each other – “Miss Gregson, you made these errors in this sports proof”. “Oh, did I, I’m sorry Mr Johnson.” Why didn’t the earth turn upside down or the heavens open or something when I was introduced to you? That’s what I can never understand. Life’s Big Moment – and nothing happens.
Oh, my own, my precious, I could go on like this for ever – I am never tired of contemplating the miracle of our finding each other – and the hideous possibility that we might, somewhere along the road, have taken a wrong turning, and each spent an aimless life trying to find the other and never knowing what we had missed. And Wendy and Michael would have been lonely little unborn ghosts in the limbo where the babies live whose parents lost their way. My darling, we belong to each other, now and a million years hence.
My last letter to Skegness, angel. Tomorrow night I shall be writing to you and on Friday night when you are on the train. Perhaps for part of the time the train will bring you nearer to me and then up you’ll go out of England far away – but all the time you’ll be close in my arms. You are never far away from me, sweet. Even if you sail to the other side of the world so that we are, for a moment, just as far from each other as is physically possible, we shall be a million times nearer than most people who eat and live and sleep together.
I can see every line of your face so clearly now, that I can’t believe you are not here. I’ve only just noticed that my face is quite wet – but I’m not miserable, darling – how could I be when I’ve got you right by me at this moment?
I’ll say goodnight, now, dearest, before I come down to earth again. I haven’t the foggiest idea of the time but it must be darned late. Write from Aberdeen the first minute you can.
Always your very own,

Apr 061942

Easter Monday
It is now 11pm. I’m sitting in bed just waiting for Percy to put the finishing touches to his nightly toilet and then we’re off to sleep. We’ve been roaming the banks of the Dee and not a few hills today, but I’ll tell you about that again. The only thing is I’m tired out and will only write now until Percy is ready to sleep. I tried to phone you today – this before I received your letter telling me the phone had been cut off. It was impossible to get a line, they were mad busy when I reached civilisation because we seem to have spent the day losing ourselves and then getting back almost to where we began. That sentence is as rambling as the day has been, but you will see that your letter did save some disappointment after all, although I, too, feel another link with home has gone. I’ll send you the club phone number and let you know when I may be there. Don’t forget you’ll have to make it a personal call.

Now to try to answer your letters. On the question of your need of a holiday, I have felt very guilty some time. You do need a holiday, sweet, and you deserve something more than a week, too, but that seems as much as we will be able to manage just now. We will let the whole matter lie on the table for a time because there are so many things which cannot be sorted out until we get to Torry. There is the question of whether or not I can get permission to sleep out with you for a full week and that in itself depends on where I can find for you. I have already got someone working on that line and and may hear something in the next week or so. When I do get it properly sorted out I’ll let you know and the sooner you come up the better because neither of us will settle down properly until you have been up. Do your best to make it a week. Two nights would be such a short time that I think we would be tempted to stay in bed for the full 48 hours and I want you in other ways than sexually – I mean in addition to sexually of course! To be serious for a minute, I think one of the things which has helped to unsettle us both is the way we have shown in our letters how much we want each other. No wonder we cannot settle down! I know yours have been very, shall I say, “stimulating”, to me. That may have also been the case with some of my letters to you. Therefore, apart from an occasional word of endearment here and there perhaps, I don’t think I had better describe my biological urges too minutely.
I have only answered part of your letters but I am going to try the experiment of catching an earlier collection tonight – the 6.30pm – and see if that reaches you any sooner. It’s almost post time now so must go. Many thanks for the regular letters you write, darling. They mean ever so much to me. I got your Easter Monday – or rather the one post-marked 8pm 6 April – by this evening’s delivery. I was glad to hear May is well but sorry you had such a time with Mother. Eric seems to have had the rough edge of her tongue.
I had a letter from Harold today. Will send it on when I have answered it, but goodness knows when that will be. I don’t seem to get time to write to anyone except you these days. My arrears of correspondence are assuming gigantic proportions and I’ll have to do something about it. Sorry this is so short a note. Will try to do better tomorrow.
Goodbye, sweet. Biological urges or no, I only know I love you now and ever.
Ever yours,
Arthur X
P.S. Will you tell Wendy I tried to ring her up on her birthday and explain about the phone. Tell her how much I wanted to be at her party.

From Michael to Arthur
Dear Daddy,
Uncle Eric gave me a shilling instead of an Easter egg and I went to Hilton’s and buyed an aeroplane and it’s got a thing that goes round. I saw Ronnie today and he said “Do you want to see my boat?” and when he came out he said I could keep it. It’s got a gun on the front and funnels and a thing that petrol goes in. I’m going to sale it in the bath. Uncle Eric brought the mirror for my dressing table in his motor car. The mirror moves. Mummy let me have a little clock in my bedroom. The aeroplane’s got wheels and nice things on the end and windows. It’s a fighter and it’s called a Defiant. When I saw it in Hiltons on the shelf I gave the shilling to the lady and I carried it home. I’ve got money in my pocket – a farthing, a halfpenny and a penny and a ha’penny with a boat on and a shilling. My trousers are nice and clean. Ronnie gave me a piece of clay. When I was in the garage the mudguard came off my bike. I have eaten all my meals up today. Ronnie has got a big yacht with a little man on. I took my bus and racing car out and I found a little car at the back of the cupboard. Mummy has got a sewing machine.
Love from Michael

Apr 151942

Here is your chain, dearest, with all my love. Sorry I can’t put it on for you, but some day, when we are together for always again, I shall have the greatest pleasure in taking it off. Until then, my own, it can be a small tangible symbol of the invisible and unbreakable chain that will always bind us to each other. May it keep you safe, now and always, and bring you home to me.

Sep 111942

Morningside, Liverpool
[first pages missing]
Wendy’s rash had practically disappeared this morning, so I told her to tell Miss Ellis that I thought it was a fruit rash. Miss Ellis evidently said that “your mother’s probably right” or words to that effect.
This singing business amazes me. It seems we have been raising a prima donna! I thought yesterday’s grand success was a fluke of some sort, but today three classes had singing together in the hall. The ‘champs’ of each class sang solo and then our Wendy was brought to the front and according to her “the teachers said I sang nicer than any of them and some of them were awfully big!” So there must be something to it, though I still can’t see it myself. Perhaps it is that all children of this age ‘sing’ in this same monotonous way, and the teachers are able to pick out the ones that might develop something like a voice. Well, it just beats me.
Despite your soulful rendering of ‘Danny Boy’ and less respectable ditties, singing was about the last talent I expected to find in one of our children. It’s the Breen coming out in her, that’s what it is!! But seriously, love, I’d give anything to see Wendy singing in front of a hallful of children! I still can’t believe it’s true.
Now that’s all the news of the children and the only other news of me is that I’ve finished making the marrow jam and it seems very nice. I didn’t make last year’s mistake of overcooking it. Shall I risk sending you some in a tin? That last experience has scared me. This lot produced about four and three quarter pounds. Next time I’m going to experiment by adding a pound of apples. That should make it set much more quickly and there won’t be so much loss of weight. I should be able to scrape up enough sugar in about another three weeks. Unfortunately it’s not a very economical jam from the sugar point of view.
By the time you’ve got this far in the letter you’ll be thinking that I’ve forgotten on what day it will arrive. No, I haven’t forgotten, darling, only I wanted to be rid of the more mundane matters before I mentioned it. That being done I’ll say many happier returns, darling. I’ve always been glad that no one seems aware of our anniversary except ourselves. That’s how it should be, for it doesn’t mean a thing to anyone else but us. It’s our own day, precious, and in future years we’ll have a whale of a time every anniversary to make up for the ones we’ve missed. Through your peculiar work hours and my habit of child-bearing we’ve never had a chance to do this day justice, have we? Still, it’s always meant a lot to us for I think we’ve both been aware that each passing anniversary has brought us closer to each other.
From the time you cast your evil eye upon me at Marjorie Smith’s party, my life with you has fallen into definite sections, each one drawing us closer together than the last one. First there was the ‘courting’ period – days when you used to drag me away down dark passages in Bootle Town Hall and have your will of me; or walk me for miles while you laid down the law; or just find a sheltered spot in the sandhills in the dear dead days when they weren’t bristling with barbed wire and A.A. guns – an ‘Echo’ to lie on, your glasses in my hat, one more evidence buried in the sand – dear love, if I shut my eyes I can recapture the whole atmosphere of those nights. I can hear the river and feel the sand running through my fingers as we lay smoking the post-coital cigarette! How difficult it was to have to remember mundane things like last buses. But there was always tomorrow when we would meet on business footing – “Will you see to this Miss Gregson?” “Certainly, Mr. Johnson!” Not a flicker of the eyelid to reveal that we had lain in the sand the previous night and would do so again at the first opportunity. We were pretty hot, weren’t we, although I say it myself.
But I’m rambling – I do love to linger over those first days when we were learning to know each other and I was learning to love you and trying so hard not to! It seemed to me at first the ideal relationship. We suited each other sexually, we enjoyed each other’s company. Neither of us wanted to sentimentalise it, neither of us wanted marriage. But after a while I was dissatisfied. I suppose a woman always is when she finds a man isn’t falling for her! Do you remember when I said “I’m not just a body to you, am I?” I had begun to feel that anyone could have filled my position with you, only I happened to be obliging. There were times when I could have choked you for your refusal to fall in love with me. But there were good days too, when I was thoroughly happy with you, content that you only wanted me, and that you did like to be with me quite apart from shagging me. And as we began to know each other better I began to think that perhaps some day you might love me a little bit! And then in a little gnat-infested lane in West Kirby you leaned me against a wall and said “Have you ever thought about marrying me?” I didn’t take it too seriously but it was pleasant to turn the notion over in my mind.
After that came black days. You left the ‘B.T.’ I saw you but rarely and when I saw you, you shagged me with a sort of bitterness and promptly left me again, like a man eating his dinner and rushing off to his business. Then one night you told me you weren’t going to see me again for six months. And the same night you raved about Dr. Somebody’s daughter and when I looked at you a trifle suspiciously you said “Lord, you don’t think I shagged her, do you? You couldn’t touch a girl like that.” Wow! Not very tactful, love! You hadn’t worried about touching me! That gave me to think. It seemed the virtuous ones were right. I had made myself “cheap” and here I was being cast off for six months for “business reasons”. But it seemed funny that business reasons should crop up at the same time as another girl. I came home and cried a bit and painted my bedroom and tried to stop loving you. Six months seemed a long time and I hadn’t much faith that you’d want me at the end of that time. But I was wrong. The six months lasted exactly two weeks when you popped up at a dance in Litherland and bore me away from Norman to his great annoyance and my huge delight!
But you weren’t very nice to me in the days after that. You were bitter with the world and you seemed to vent it all on me. How often I wished for the strength of mind to break away from you! At last after a night when you’d been particularly abominable I made up my mind that I’d have to finish it and get over it as well as I could. The next date you made with me I came to meet you with every intention that it would be the last time. And, just as if you knew, you were angelic to me. For the first time you spoke about marrying me seriously. I’ve always been glad of that – that you did think about marrying me long before you had to! That night settled it. I was happy after that. You still didn’t admit you loved me but I stopped worrying about it. I just knew that I was in love with you for always and would have to make the best of whatever you felt for me.
Some time after that the “courting” period ended and the “crisis” stage began. Poor old Wendy! Sometimes I look at her, so sure of herself, and think of the days when her life was in peril.
Queer days those – planning for Shrewsbury and planning for a hurried marriage at the same time. I remember one night at a pub in Woolton – we settled all our crises in pubs! – when you were making a layout of a Shrewsbury’s Children’s page, and a list of the first essentials for finding a house, all on the same piece of paper! How I relied on you in those days. You were an angel. You were the one sure thing then.
The next stage was the Alexander Road period. I’ve never pretended that was a particularly happy time. There were too many things to get used to – house keeping, new relations, complications with my own relations, religious persecutions – and you. That last remark sounds nasty but I don’t mean it like that. All I mean is that when you start living with anyone, even when you love them as I loved you, you have to start getting to know them all over again. And then there were things that you couldn’t appreciate – like having no money of my own, and being lonely for the first time in my life. I used to stand in the evening watching the lighted buses go past, thinking of nights when I had to rush round to those dances and of the friendly noise at Limedale. I suppose all these things seemed worse because I was ill all the time before and after Wendy was born. Sweetheart, I’d love to write “Our first home – how happy I was!” But it’s no use pretending – I was just damned miserable.
But I loved you, darling. I had that though I think it was the one time since I’ve known you when I might conceivably have stopped loving you – not through any fault of yours, but just that it is harder to love when you’re conscious of nothing but your own misery. I think I let you down then. I mean that I kept too much unhappiness shut in. I didn’t tell you about it and so didn’t give you a chance to make things better. I was so scared that if I started moaning you might stop loving me, for I thought that at last you did love me and it was such a new and tremendous delight that I was frightened to breathe on it.
Then for the second time our life was turned by your putting me in the family way. The Morningside phase began and still goes on, for the fact of your going away hasn’t somehow started a new stage in our lives. Four years we’ve been here and three of them have been war years and yet I’ve been so happy darling. It seemed that when we came here we came together at last, with no reservations.
We’ve travelled a long way in our eight years, haven’t we, sweet? Yes, I know it’s only six years today, but our marriage only marked another stage in our relationship. We started off as two young people so sure of themselves and their world, and here we are sure of nothing except each other – but so terribly sure about that.
After six years in most marriages I think the gilt’s worn off. Not for us, love. I love you a thousand times more than the day I married you and am a thousand times more sure of your love. And we haven’t just grown used to each other. The longer we have lived together the more we have seemed to gain of that romance which we so haughtily cast aside when we first started to know each other.
I don’t know what I’ve been trying to tell you in all this long rigmarole – unless it is that I have loved you more deeply as each anniversary has come along.
My darling it is past midnight. I had no idea it was so late. I must stop telling you how much I adore you or I’ll be here all night. Oh, sweetheart, I do love you.
The enclosed is to get a couple of extra pints to celebrate this auspicious occasion! I know you don’t want me to send you money, but please don’t be cross just for this once! It’s only to make the day a little bit different for you. I’ll be all cut up if you tell me off about it. I love you, angel, I love you.
Always your own,

Nov 141942

I’m feeling very virtuous this evening because even if you were here to bully me I could not be “looking after myself” more than I am doing now. I am actually in bed at the unholy hour of 7.30 – in fact the children and I all went to bed at the same time.
All this has not been done without reason of course. My cold seemed to take on a new lease of life today, and this afternoon I started going hot and shivery and head-achy. Actually I’ve improved a lot during the last hour but I felt really “in for something” at tea time. Anyway, I’m concentrating on sweating it out now with the help of bed, a hot water bottle, two Vegenin tablets, and hot milk.
I’ve told you all this in detail just to show you what good care I’m taking of myself and I do mean it when I say that I’m feeling much better already. The children have been splendid – they get really concerned now if I’m not well. Until mothers are really ill I think children are apt to regard them as machines that just can’t run down. This morning I had an extra hour in bed and they were up before me. When I came down I found the curtains pulled back and the breakfast table laid!
I went to South Road this morning but got no further at Martins except that I got a definite understanding that if the coat has not been found by the next time I go in they will give me a claim form. The woman admitted that everything had got in a terrible mess and I noticed there were several people there on a similar errand. Anyway, my much-loved blue coat was safe and sound and it does feel so nice and cosy. I don’t think I’ve ever had a coat I liked better than this one. The brown coat is beginning to feel a bit chilly now and I think I got this fresh cold on South Road today.
Your mother was round this afternoon, fortunately in a pleasant mood. She is trying to make Xmas plans but of course I couldn’t say what I was doing until I knew your movements. She is talking about going to Joe’s for Xmas, but of course she won’t. About Doris she has done just the same thing again – advised them not to come because of the expense. You remember how hurt Doris was last year about this same thing.
A bit of street gossip now – Mrs Hodge is expecting. She’s the last person I would have thought of because Carol is such a typically “only” child. I believe she got the shock of her life – something must have come unstuck! Anyway, if I’m proved to be in the same boat I’ll have some company going to the clinic, and if that comes off I bet Mrs Gardiner will follow suit. There’s nothing more catching than pregnancy, especially in this road. The position regarding myself at the present moment is that I am 12 days over but have so far had no other symptoms. Illness, as I have told you, can easily throw the machinery out of gear, so don’t take it for granted until I report more definite signs or until I can go to Rees for an examination – that will be in about three weeks from now. As you know I find this an extremely nerve-racking period and I’ll probably leave the subject alone until I have something more definite to tell you.
Talking about babies – I thought the irony of this would have intrigued you as much as it did me: Dick Hasprey[??] and Maisie with infant plus several females very obviously returning from a christening!
Well, love, that’s all the news for today. Like Charlie I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if you were still cleaning the tables at Cookham at the end of the war. Everyone is banking on next spring to finish it now but I’m inclined to think [??]’s was a pretty fair estimate. It’s the first time since the war began that I have ever been able to even dimly visualise the end, so it’s a new sensation for me.

The first thing that happened this morning was vapours so you’ve lost your bet! I was as usual disappointed, but I’ve been sensible about it, and although it was later than it had been for a couple of years, I hadn’t really been banking on it.
I have felt much better today although my cold still hangs on. I have come to the conclusion that the real trouble now is catarrh because I have a perpetual headache and very peculiar noises and explosions in one ear. If it doesn’t clear up soon I’ll go and see Rees – I probably need some sort of nasal douche. I looked up catarrh in the ‘Home Doctor’ and read the depressing news that a cold in the head following “a virulent germ such as pneumonia” often leads to chronic catarrh. That didn’t exactly cheer me up but at least it made me determined to get rid of the condition as soon as possible.
The children were once again down before me so I let Wendy put the kettle on and Michael raked out and laid the fire without any supervision. He must have done it right because it lit first time! They’ve both been very good all day and altogether it’s been a quiet peaceful sort of day.
I haven’t done your pants yet, love. The only reason is that with a headache, working on dark material is just murder. They won’t take long when I do tackle them.
I do miss you, darling. You’ve been home so often lately that I’ve been completely spoilt. And yet already I feel as if I haven’t seen you for months. It will be heaven to have you home without the cloud of your going away always hanging over us. Never mind, the last few weeks have brought that day considerably nearer.
The children have got some fantastic game (Cynthia is its author) that would amuse you. Michael sits down holding a torch and is supposed to be God. Wendy dances round him and is a fairy. Michael’s eyes are shut but every so often Wendy rouses him and he stands up brandishing his arm in several directions, then says “I’ve killed them all” and retires to his throne again. Now, what would you make of that? When I was bathing him he said “I’m still God, you know”.
I don’t think there’s anything else to tell you. I’m looking forward to another letter from you tomorrow. It does seem absurd that there hasn’t been time for you to send a letter in answer to any of mine yet. The services both ways seem very slow, though the letter I sent on Wed. might have arrived after you left the camp on Thursday. Goodbye for now, sweetheart. I do love you so much even if I do go ill at awkward times and let my boilers burst at the wrong moment. I’m all yours, precious.
All my love,

Nov 271942

No letter today young man – that’s twice in one week. I’ll be beginning to think that the wicked metropolis is luring you away from your poor little wife. You spoilt me in Glasgow, pet, that’s the trouble. There’s a funny thing about your London letters. No matter when they are posted they always arrive by the morning post. So if the ‘D.P.’ comes without a letter I know it’s no use watching the later posts.
I gave myself a holiday from cooking today. We went and ate, on the way back from the library, at the British Restaurant near the George (that one in South Road isn’t open yet). My one complaint about the place is that they give you far too much. What I should have done was to order one dinner and two plates and given Michael half mine, then we would both have had plenty. I couldn’t get through mine and though Michael seemed willing to wade through his I told him not to worry about it. Meat, potatoes, carrots, gravy, and steamed pudding with custard. For the two of us the charge was 1/5! They were doing a roaring trade and there was a complete cross-section of the public there – boys and girls from the secondary schools, business men, shop girls, soldiers, housewives, factory workers, bus conductors etc. There was a constant stream coming in and I kept wondering how and where they all fed before this place was opened – the demand must have existed yet no one realised it. It made quite a pleasant change, especially as I was stuck for something for dinner today.
The one in South Road should be more convenient for us when it opens and I’ll probably get into the habit of going about once a week. It’s not like having a meal in town where you feel “done” when you pay the bill.
Apart from this I don’t think there’s much to tell you today. Marjorie got my prescription from Bastick’s[??] and I nearly broke my heart when I saw the size of the bottle – about four inches high and it cost 9/7! I don’t know how long this treatment has to be kept up, but it’s going to cost 5/- a week, so that finishes any idea of being able to save a few bob for Xmas. You needn’t write and tell me to take the stuff regularly! When you’ve paid that much you’re not likely to forget a dose, and just as a matter of interest I’ve reckoned it works out at 9d a teaspoonful! So you may be sure I treat it with due respect. The tales you hear about how horrible it is are all a load of bunk – it’s not at all bad.
I didn’t thank you for the children’s letters yesterday. I think they appreciated the praise from you.
Do you realise this is the first time we’ve had no idea when your next leave will be? I suppose, by the 3-monthly rule, you are due for another seven days at the beginning of February. It’s a pity they’ve stopped weekends just when you’re in a convenient place.
Sweet, I miss you more every day. And yet, in one way, I don’t want you to see me again until I’m looking marvellous (as if I ever could!) That isn’t strictly true for I’d give the world for you to walk in now.
Well, lamb, I must to bed. I believe Melias have some raisins, and though I haven’t much hope of there being any left, I want to get down there as early as possible tomorrow. Elsewhere you can get sultanas but nothing else and currants are just non-existent. There’ll be some queer puddings this year.
Goodnight angel, I love you.
Always your own,

Saturday morning
Many thanks for long letter, darling. I’ll let you off about Friday!

Nov 281942

Many thanks for a very long letter today. There seem to be a few points to answer so I’ll start on it now. By now, of course, you will know that I have the liver stuff so the question of getting it in London doesn’t arise. The 2oz should last 2 weeks. I don’t know how long I’ll have to take it yet, and Rees can’t say until he sees how much improvement I’m making on it. As he is so concerned about putting me on anything so expensive I don’t think he’ll keep me on it any longer than necessary, but will probably put me back to the fessolates as soon as possible. Yes, I sent Rees the £1 a day or two after you left. I have also put aside another 10/- for him, but I’m afraid, after paying 15/- for medicine out of this week’s money, I’ll have to take that in order to exist till next pay day. This next bill will probably be about the same as the last. I don’t know what happens about the X-ray and other tests. I paid nothing at the time.
About the grant. I applied first to the SSAFA and they put me on to Miss Rollo. She is not connected with SSAFA but is the local welfare officer. Recently I have come across the slip giving information on this. It tells you to ask at the P.O. for the name of the regional officer for pensions. Anyway, it all goes to the same place for the decision and I don’t see any point in trying any other method, having found Miss Rollo so decent. As you can only claim for amounts exceeding £2 they would be justified in giving you 10/- for a £2-10 bill, so I think we did well to get the pound. I honestly don’t think the office scheme would be worth worrying about – this business of “after the first £5” makes it pretty useless.
There was an interval there. Mrs Gardner came over on a matter concerning Xmas puddings and from that the subject somehow turned to “nights out” and we both started counting how long it was since we had been to a dance. She has now gone to get on with the puddings and I’ve lent her some prunes to be chopped up as “ersatz” currants.
I’m glad you enjoyed your evening with Bill and Emily. It’s a pity they haven’t a family for I’m sure they would make really sensible parents. I do hate to see good parents wasted when there are so many silly ones in the world. It’s a wonder Emily hasn’t taken a job now – or perhaps she has. I know she used to get very fed-up with the house when she was here and I would have thought she would jump at the chance offered by war to get out to work.
No, Will has not left yet. He is still half-expecting to go but there’s nothing definite yet.
Now that finishes your queries, I think. Mother came over at about 1.30 today and stayed till about 4. She was much concerned over the lack of warmth in the hospital. Each bed had only one blanket and all the patients looked absolutely frozen, she said. She was telling me that Margaret has “discovered” Jean Lambert again and she and Ernest were staying with him last weekend. He is, of course, separated from his wife, and has a super furnished flat in Prestatyn at 5gns a week! There was lashings of rationed and unobtainable food on the table and Jean remarked that butter was quite easily got at 5/- a pound – and the same went for all other food! Point one, where does he get the dough, and point two, why the devil isn’t he called up? These people make me jumping mad. When I think of you being away and me having to worry about things like kids’ shoes and the price of medicine, and then I hear about people like Jean, I just get livid.
Another item of news from there is that there is a chance of Ernest being recalled to the R.A.F. Six of his pals, in exactly the same position, have had their papers.
I had a bit of shopping luck today – got the very last pound of big juicy raisins from Kings! Did I grab and what dirty looks I received! This has put me in a good humour for the whole day for it makes all the difference to my pudding and cake problems. Now I have raisins, plenty of sultanas and about half a pound of precious currants. I am making my own candied peel from a recipe originating from Mrs Hodge. The peel is in soak now in salt and water and tomorrow there are various other stages of draining and cooking and “candying” to be gone through, and there you are. I think I’ll get the puddings done tomorrow. I’m making half the amount I usually do – that should give me two medium-sized puddings. I won’t do the cake till later as I don’t know how it will keep with this flour. If only I knew you were going to be home I could work up some real enthusiasm for these preparations. Like last year I’m hoping to get pork – I’m not messing around with turkeys or fowl at the price they are.
The children have been to John Winter’s birthday party today and seem very intrigued by the gramophone there, which they insist on calling “the record”. John, who has improved a lot lately, is starting school on Monday, to his mother’s huge delight.
Well, lamb, that exhausts today’s news. That sparrow, by the way, did pass out and Tiger put his whole tail right in the fire and singed all the fur underneath which I thought served him right. Talking of cats, the kids were crawling underneath Johnson’s counter today after a manx kitten – this is the third generation now.
Sunday tomorrow and the chance of an extra hour in bed. This business of Wendy not being due till 9.30 makes all the difference to the weekdays, but it’s still pleasant not to have to rush on Sunday morning.

Sunday evening
I’ve had quite a useful day today. I felt really energetic this morning and the work seemed much less of an effort than it usually does. At last I got down to polishing the hall – the first time since you washed the muck off it! The children became infected by all this energy and they had a great time upstairs. There was much brandishing of brushes but where the dust was swept to I haven’t yet discovered. Anyway, it kept them quiet for the morning and Wendy discovered several hairclips during the operation.
This afternoon I got the puddings made and they are boiling while I’m writing this. With the fruit being short I’ve made half my usual quantity, one good-sized pudding and one smaller one. If you are not home for Xmas the second one will be kept for your first leave, unless you would like me to send it to you? Anyway, that is one of the points that can’t be settled just yet. The home-made candied peel was a great success and much nicer than the shop peel. I put some sherry in instead of rum. I believe it is almost impossible to get in small quantities. No doubt Dave could have got me some, but I don’t like asking when I know he wouldn’t let me pay him for it. The sherry seems to have given it the correct smell anyway. I won’t do any cakes and/or bunloaves until about a week before Xmas as I don’t trust this flour. By that time I might have touched for more fruit. Oh, for a bit of ground almonds! It’s something to have got the pudding off my mind. Just getting the ingredients was such a gamble this year.
This week I must try and get some black material and get that golliwog made. I believe Mrs Hodge has a really super one – home-made – for which she paid 12/6. The shops are full of home-made dolls and toys this year. I’ve seen several tanks very similar to the one you made. Incidentally, one of those electric shops in South Road still has some soldiers – very reasonable too for these days. I’d like to get some for the fort if I can persuade Michael to stay behind one of these days. I’ve got a vague idea for something I can do for Wendy inspired by sets I’ve seen in the shops – two sets of small cards one with capital and the other with small letters. We have some plain white cards in the house, which, cut in two, would be ideal. I could do the letters fairly big and clear and fill them in with Indian ink and she could build up words with them. If there are enough cards it would be better to have a double set of the small letters, wouldn’t it? I really must get on with things this week as I don’t want that last minute rush we always seem to have which means sitting up late for nights before Xmas.
Your mother was over this afternoon with some pills, which she insisted were my prescription. Of course they weren’t and of course I wouldn’t buy them off her. If people go on falling for these things she’ll never learn and, as you know, I’ve spent too much on this stuff already. There were enough of these pills to last for weeks and they were 4/- so you can see they can’t be the same. The new woman has arrived and as she is new she can only be described with eyes raised to heaven and bated breath – “her clothes! her furniture! her linen!” etc. No doubt she will soon fall from grace.
Well, sweet, that’s all the news for today. I’m feeling fine so don’t worry about me any more. There’s nothing wrong with me except wanting and missing you and that, I’m afraid, is a permanent state which only you can cure. Oh, darling, I do keep on loving you more and more and wanting you near me is just one long ache.
Now I must do some ironing. Goodnight, beloved. I adore you.
All my love, precious,

Dec 211942

My Darling,
I thought these slippers would make things a bit more homelike for you now that you have a civilised roof over your head for the next couple of months at least. Think of me when you put them on, and some day they might live in your own fireplace.
I don’t need to tell you how much we will be missing you on Xmas morning – always providing some last minute stroke of luck hasn’t landed you home! I’ll be thinking of you when the children open their stockings particularly – that was the high spot of Xmas day for us. Do you remember how our bedroom was always littered with brown paper and labels for days afterwards? And I’ll be missing you when I’m cooking the dinner and remembering how you used to wander in from the local with an odd pal or two, full of the Xmas spirit and holding up the dinner and making yourself a general (but very beloved) nuisance.
Oh, my love, you know without me telling you, all that I’ve been thinking today, and I know how much you’ll be longing to be home. Bless you, sweet.
All our love, precious.

Feb 241943

I’ve been working really hard outside today so am feeling full of virtue and very blistery on the hands – I must be getting soft. This afternoon I dug quite a good slice of the plot, I should think about a quarter of the left-hand side. I don’t mean just the part up to the line of sprouts, but right across to Russell’s, where the peas and a path were. Where it was very overgrown I skimmed off the sod and used it to make a low wall. If someone is going to have that land we’ll need a proper line of demarcation. Then I lined it all and divided the rhubarb as you suggested and retired for a cup of tea and a sit-down.
I didn’t intend to do any more, but we had tea early, and I was at a loose end afterwards so I had another shot at the garden. I’ve got all this side tidy, which was something of a job if you remember how overgrown it was. I’ve got an absolute mountain of grass out of it. So altogether I feel I’ve broken the back of both the plot and garden today and if I go on at this rate we’ll soon have everything ship-shape. And I forgot to mention that I put some muck on the rhubarb. My precious spade has been put away as clean as it was in the shop – I don’t know how long this zeal will last!
What a nice long letter yours was today. You know sometimes I can hear your voice in every line so that I feel that I’m listening to you rather than reading a letter. Oh, my love, you’re such a nice understanding sort of person and you’ve left the “bored subject” just as I wanted you to, as a distinct possibility for the near future. And don’t worry that I’ll let this obsess me. After the first day one quickly gets over the disappointment. Not because of shallow feelings but just because it’s no use getting fussed about things that can’t at the moment be altered. For the next couple of months I’ll be using my urges, biological and sexual, in hard work on the plot. You remember what a source of interest and consolation it was to me last spring. It was the one thing that saved me from going gaga during those first awful months. So please don’t think I’m all depressed now, sweet. I’m not, and I won’t be, but heaven help you next time I’ve got your not unwilling body within my reach! Oh, darling, darling, you’re so sweet in everything you say in today’s letter, and I do love you such a lot tonight.
Thank you for your suggestions about walks. I thought of that Thornton walk but I haven’t the foggiest idea just where we got off the bus. Can you enlighten me?
I’ll try and remember to clean up your golf bag tomorrow. I doubt if there are any balls around the house now for I sent all I could find to you in Aberdeen. I’ll let you know in tomorrow’s letter whether there’s a lock on the bag.
Michael has looked much better today and has had more fresh air than he usually gets. He’s not eating much but you know how the slightest upset puts him off his food for ages.
Tragedy! The family’s one hot water bottle has sprung a leak! I’ve dug out that tin one I got and it seems quite efficient but I like something soft myself – not that you’ve noticed it!
Well, love, I think that’s all the news for today. By the way, I’ll send a letter to reach you on Sunday this week.
Goodbye, precious. I do adore you. Had a nice dream about you last night, not sexual but you were very nice to me.
All my love, dearest,

Mar 091943

Many thanks indeed for the sweet-pea seeds. I was lucky to get them for the envelope had split right across. And that reminds me – did the tea arrive safely? It was posted on Friday and it has just occurred to me that you haven’t mentioned it.
I haven’t done anything in the garden today. There doesn’t seem to have been any time. This morning I was working and also had to go to the butcher’s, and intended to put in the afternoon on the plot when it suddenly dawned on me that my library books were overdue. Then Wendy came home and said they had the afternoon off and as she doesn’t get to the park much these days that settled it. I also took Cynthia. When we were half way home they found they had left their skipping ropes at the library so we had to go all the way back! Michael sailed his boat and the weather was really lovely.
The holiday was for Pancake Tuesday, by the way. Actually we celebrated last week by mistake so I had to make pancakes again today.
Do you remember me asking you about the mysterious thing with prickles and pink buds? Well there are hedges of it in the park.
Michael’s legs are covered with spots which I’m hoping desperately are spring heat bumps and not scabies. Having kept him clean all this time I’ll be wild if he starts it now. If I’m still in doubt I might as well ask Rees about them tomorrow.
Once again I’m writing this in the tea–bed interlude, though I’m afraid most of the time went before I started your letter because I got too interested in my book. It must be time to call the children now so I’ll see you later.
Knock at the door came then. It was Mrs Allen with a message from your mother. I wrote to her last Friday in case she should make a journey in vain on Sunday, and I said I would call as usual on my way back from the doctor’s on Wednesday. The message is, not to call as she is going to a meeting in town! Sounds a bit odd to me but there you are. I asked Mrs Allen if your mother was better and she looked rather astonished and said she hadn’t been ill!
I don’t know how you can bang those machines of yours for hours on end. When I type a few hundred words I get a crick in my neck.
Well, love, I’ve been a good girl tonight. I’ve written and typed those samples of what I’m calling “garden gossip” and typed a covering letter to the Editor of ‘Home Notes’. I think I’ve achieved the right “chatty” style favoured by women’s mags at which I was aiming. I really do think there’s a market for these things somewhere because it is a new field that hasn’t been exploited yet. It’s only a question of being lucky enough to tumble on the market before I lose patience. Personally I’m more inclined to the women’s papers for these things than to the general press. Unfortunately it is hard to tell, when almost all papers are ordered and not on show, which are still going. I don’t think any of them have actually disappeared, but a lot of them have amalgamated since the war.
I’ve also typed the part of the article that didn’t carbon last night, so I’ll enclose that with this letter. Don’t you get sick of the sight of a thing when you’ve re-written it a couple of times and typed it twice? I bought a bob’s worth of typing paper today – four sheets a penny – just to show that my intentions are good!
Bed now, my sweet. I do love you and am just longing to see you again. If I touch lucky with any of these things I’m going to buy myself a really seductive nightie! That’s a promise.
All my love, darling,
P.S. Wednesday morning. Have just been “signed off” by the doctor, who thinks there is a vast improvement since he last saw me. I had a talk with him of which I shall tell you in full tonight. All I’ll say at the moment is may heaven protect you next time I get my hands – and legs – anywhere near your body! Oh my darling, tell me quickly when I can come to you or I’ll be jumping on a train and arriving unannounced one of these days!

Mar 141943

Dear Daddy,
Auntie Chris has found the eiderdown for my little bed. We went to Sefton Park and saw the caves. At school we have made a little house with paper and made some furniture for it and we are going to make some and bring it home and I will show it to you if it is still alive. I have finished all the cards and have got a reading book now, and I am doing page six of book 2 in my sums. I make spills with the Christmas cards. We have got to be at school at nine o’clock now. I have got a tooth nearly coming out. We heard a story about a magic pancake that ran away on the wireless last week. All my last year’s summer frocks are too short for me this year. Valerie came home again yesterday, and she has gone to her grandma’s today. I play with her every day. I have got a writing book now and Miss Ellis says if I do figures a bit better I can have a book for my sums. Thank you for your letters and I could read nearly every word in your letter and I would like to see the little ponies in the zoo and I am going to after the war and see the little fishes. I can skip with my legs crossed. I am going to have 13 children at my birthday party. (Sez her!) I am trying to learn to skip with my hands crossed.
Love from

Mar 141943

Dear Daddy,
Mummy fell over my fort and broke it. We play out after tea. I help Mummy in the garden and we are going to plant some flowers tomorrow if it is a nice day. I hear nice stories on the schools on the wireless. We went to the canal and saw some boats and a man said he was going to open the bridge. We saw three barges and the last one was a motor barge. Auntie Chris gave me a sentry box for my fort. When we were at Grandma’s we went to the park and saw a lot of birds and the parrot said “Hello Polly” and the other one said “Cockatoo”. We went to the pictures last week and we saw aeroplanes and men going in them and they jumped out in parachutes. Another time we saw Kew Gardens on the pictures and Mummy said you had been there. The wheel is all right on my barrow and I carry shopping in it and lime from the nursery. The lady in South Road gave me two puddings yesterday and I ate them both. I can sing ‘Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition’. A man said to the South Road monkey “Come on Joey” and the monkey jumped down and sat on his shoulder and he said “Give me a kiss” and the monkey got back on the wall. The other day the knob in the kitchen turned right round and Mummy thought it was Wendy and opened the door and it was Tiger! I liked your letter about all the animals at the zoo.
Love from

Nov 091943

HMS High Tide, c/o G.P.O. London
Dear Stella,
And about time I wrote to you, isn’t it? It must be over two months since this sort of thing happened, but I’m in one of my sentimental, “blood is thicker than water” moods, when shadows from the past come crowding in and one gets that nice comfortable feeling – recalling earlier days and basking in the sunshine of adolescent magic (horrible sentence!).
It’s strange to live on a ship. When I am out here and there is no possibility of going ashore, the body appears to relax – one becomes resigned easily to the estrangement and the mind alone has freedom. And the mind is fickle – sometimes my thoughts are to the future, but often they wander back, not regretfully, but almost with pleasure recalling incidents from the limbo of a half-forgotten world…
The little things of no importance. They live in the memory, it seems, where the major events have no place. Mill Lane – and I recall the sharp sound of dishes being washed of a Sunday morning and the mingling of voices – your own voice complaining loudly of Convent Convention, Mother’s a little lower key, understanding and sympathetic. Sunday dinner, always late waiting for father. The tablecloth that is rough and the curtains are dark blue. Sunday afternoon and a trip to Patten’s sweet shop for peppermint creams and Clarnico marzipan… It was quite in order then to borrow Stella’s bike, but any other time met with Stella’s disapproval. No damn wonder – I certainly knocked the life out of that thing.
A stock phrase – “Are Ernest and Margaret coming today?” And if they came, why, then, what a “to-do”… For they came in a bright blue Morris and I’d see it through the hedge. I’d hear the door slam and then they came romping down the path. In they came and the house would shake its head sadly to be thus disturbed on the Sabbath and everybody would start to talk at once.
Back through the years. Back to the [??] long, long ago… back to the land of dreams… Winter nights that were dark and mysterious. Sledges and snowballs – roller skates and “relievio”.
Summertime and the living is easy… A few pieces of wood and four wheels became a racing car, “The Black Panther”, and once I took little Olwyn Lewis, the parson’s daughter – I took her in my car down Deverell Road – and never again will I feel as proud as that moment… and I carved her initials on the back of my bed and all my thoughts of her were the sweetest in the whole wide world – and never again shall I be in love.
A little later and it was S.F.X. [St Francis Xavier School] and a man called Barber, who is now an army chaplain, put the fear of God in me and killed all interest I might have had for education. Hours of homework when the mind would roam and concentration an impossible thing. At Our Ladies’ School it was different. The scholars there were roughnecks, but there was a certain amount of encouragement given. I remember you were allowed to choose subjects for composition and two or three times my essays were read out to the school. I felt proud and pleased and I wanted to go and write some more… this was the way. At S.F.X. I lived in fear… not all the time of course, but the shadow was on the mind, and there was no peace.
And now I’ll snap out of it – too much grave-digging is unhealthy – tho’ to refer to one’s earlier days for enlightenment is a good thing if one is desirous of understanding one’s true self.
In your last letter you erroneously stated that there was never a suggestion of latent histrionic ability evident in my childhood capers. Your mistake is quite understandable. I suffered pleasantly enough from a dual personality. This still endures. The person who cavorts around the town and has, ’ere today, held the front room at Peter’s Bar in rapt attention, has little in common with the less fantastic individual of the maternal hearth… My imagination is now, as then, in childhood, a safety valve. And did I not have an overgrown interest in the cinema? – knew more about cinema than the average adult? Could name the directors and read books on film technique. And all my “outside” life – away from home – I never felt that I was myself – always acting, I tell you – always watching myself – never being truly sincere.
Tragic in a way. But, there – I have delved too deeply. These are my own thoughts and the conclusions reached are my own affairs and future practice will prove me right… I hope.
This is too much about me. I apologise most sincerely. The nostalgic interlude is now over. You understand how it is? Repressions and such… One puts pen to paper and then anything might happen… This sentimentalising over the past is nothing unique. All sailors, perhaps all forces men, have this weakness. Often we talk of our childhood adventures and some awful lies are told. Another thing – it’s strange how most of my comrades earned such fabulous sums in peacetime. They talk about the splendid jobs they had and the magnificent suits they wore (with padded shoulders and pin stripes). It appears that everybody was very happy and contented in their work. Coal mining, for instance, is a grand occupation and work in an abattoir is heaven indeed. And as for fishing… well, apparently it was nothing unusual to be paid off with about £50 and spend it in a couple of days. I myself frankly admit that I have never been more prosperous in my life as now.
I was home last week. I have made three trips in the last month to see a series of productions at the Royal Court and after the shows I have time for a couple of hours up at Limedale. At the Court I saw ‘Othello’, then Robert Morley in ‘The Man Who Came To Dinner’ and last week “the Lunts” – Alfred Lunt & Lynn Fontaine, America’s greatest acting team – in Robert Sherwood’s ‘There Shall Be No Night’. Which means that last week I witnessed the finest acting I have ever seen. The word is “magnificent” – I have never seen such stuff. They achieve a natural effect which is miraculous.
Mother tells me that she has heard nothing from you for a long time. Why so? Is all well at Crosby? And what of Arthur – can he still get home at times? I left a tin of stuff at Limedale for him. I don’t know whether Mother has forwarded it or not.
Leave for me should not be more than a month distant. I suppose my visit to you and the children will be the usual brief affair – though each time I tell myself it must be different. I see us all together enjoying at least one good night’s fun. Can we not arrange something?
I must to my bunk. Four hours I shall sleep and then another watch. I shall stand on deck in the dark and gaze at nothing. I have spent thousands of hours of this precious life of mine doing nothing. It is bad for me – but I see no incentive for promotion, no betterment in change. We are the ones who “stand and wait” – and we do also “serve” I suppose. But God – what a waste of life and time.
With all affection,
P.S. My love to the children. Is Michael still enjoying that secret joke of his? Talk about “the Man with a load of Mischief!”

Jan 021944

Dear Daddy,
Thank you very much for all the things you sent me at Xmas. I like my station better than anything and I put all my soldiers in it and one of them was ringing up all Xmas night. I got a lot of nice presents. Mr Gardner made me two aeroplanes amd two soldiers with machine guns. Yesterday I carried all the rations for Mummy on my little railway truck that Grandma gave me. Mrs Perry gave me an Orlando book. We had a very nice Xmas Day amd we went to Nanna’s and Grandma’s and had chicken and a lot of plum pudding. We went to Sefton Park and saw Peter Pan and the birds and went on the stpeping stones. We saw about 20 aeroplanes being pulled along Queen’s Drive and some had bombs on. We have used up all our transfers amd I put one on my nose and my last one fell in the pan of milk. I took my new gun out to play in the road today and I took it to Grandma’s with me. I hope you will come home soon and then we will have another Xmas dinner and there is sixpence left in the other pudding.
Love from

Dear Daddy,
Thank you for my stocking and all the nice things you sent me. I like my new doll and her name is Mary. I like my sweets. Molly is staying with us and she has made some shoes for my doll. I played with Pats dolls. My nigger doll is called Topsy. Jen has a kitten called Monty and it is very wyld. When are you coming home. We want to go to the pamtomime. Tiger let the new year in.
Love from Wendy.

Jan 221944

I’m afraid there’s very little news today. It has rained ceaselessly and I’ve been no further than the rabbit hutch out of doors. My time has been divided between Michael and a massive wash. As soon as anyone gets ill I always get in a panic for fear we run short of sheets and towels, and last night I bunged loads of things in soak and that’s why it rained today! Now I’m wondering how to dry everything.
Michael has been up and down all day. He was wonderfully improved this morning and had some breakfast. I made him up a bed on the settee and he was fine all morning. Then about two he suddenly flopped and got all feverish again and went sound asleep in a couple of minutes. He woke up just in time to be very thoroughly sick and then went off to sleep again. He woke up much better but by six was crying to be put to bed. Once in bed he wasn’t awake for three minutes. He seems to want to do nothing but sleep. It’s difficult to know what to do for the best. During his bad patches today I’ve been blaming myself for not getting the doctor, and yet if the doctor had come this morning I would have felt I was wasting his time.
This is the time of the day I hate when one of the children is ill. There is no one to stop the ridiculous ramblings of my mind through every possible malady. Michael has been like this so many times before and has got over it in a couple of days, and yet I can’t learn not to worry myself stiff each time. And yet I continue to want the children to have measles and whooping cough and awkward tonsils and all the rest of it all over again. There’s no sense in it, is there?
Thanks for your letter, dear. Yes, I remember Crighton very well. Funny his daughter should land there. Regarding plans for leave – well, just at the moment I feel the making of plans is tempting providence when children are as awkward as ours! But as I said last night, Michael seems to have tamed it fairly well this time and should be on his feet again before Friday. But if he’s still convalescing – and I’m almost sure it’s flu – it may dash our complete Friday arrangement. Still, there’s no point in meeting trouble halfway, and by the time I am sending off your final letter – Wednesday – I should be able to say fairly definitely whether or not I’ll be tied up on Friday. Regarding Wendy, I believe they give you about four days notice so there won’t be any sudden decision on that side. Incidentally, Rees thinks it may be quite a few weeks before I hear anything.
Yes, it would be a good idea to ask your mother on Saturday but there are two complications. One is that she has written arranging for Hennion to come for her on Saturday and take her to Wrexham for a few days. Now I’m not really clear whether she intends going to Wrexham actually on the Saturday, but she did say she would be able to see you before she went, and would be back again before you went back. Anyway, I’ll try and get that sorted out. The second complication is that Saturday is the one day that is most likely to suit the Ross family. I was going to ring them this weekend but of course have suspended all arrangements till I see how Michael turns out. So everything at the moment seems in a bit of a muddle, doesn’t it? No doubt it will sort itself out in the next few days, and there is, after all, a lot to be said for unplanned leave. All I can suggest at present is that if Hughie and family come on Saturday we’ll ask your mother to tea on Saturday – that is if she’s still at home. If she’s going Sunday morning it looks like us being landed with a nice tea party of your mother, Hennion and the Ross family – I’m not keen on that, are you? Or maybe I’m biased because I know just how many cups with handles we possess. If it turns out like that, we’d better ask your mother after she comes back from Wrexham and you can see her before she goes. Of course it is quite likely she won’t go at all. The whole arrangement seemed a bit queer to me because she said she had been relying on me to have Will and yet she had fixed the date for when you would be home! So, to be brief, I can’t make any arrangements with Madge till I know whether Michael has anything serious or contagious. I can’t make any arrangements with your mother till I know about Madge and until the Wrexham position is quite clear.
Sunday afternoon.
At that point Michael started seeing things so I went to bed with him – 9.30! Today he is on the settee again and is quite full of beans. He hasn’t lapsed back again today as he did yesterday so I really think he’s on the mend now.
Must catch the post. All my love,

Apr 041944

Dear Daddy,
We went to see ‘Peter Pan’ last night. When the children were in bed, Peter Pan came flying through the window and looked for his shadow. Then Wendy woke up and talked to him and said “I wish I could fly”. And Peter Pan taught her and the boys to fly. At first they kept just jumping out of bed and when they learnt they flew through the window. In the Never-never Land the Lost Boys were dancing with an ostrich. The crocodile chased the funny pirate and nearly ate him up. Then Smee put his hand down the crocodile’s mouth and pulled out Captain Hook’s hand. The crocodile had eaten the rest of him. Nana went head over heels when the children came home. The children’s daddy stayed in the dog’s kennel. At the end Nana had a puppy of her own and carried it in her mouth. We didn’t get to bed till 10 o’clock. We liked it better than a pantomime.
The Easter holidays start next Thursday.
Love from

Dear Daddy,
In ‘Peter Pan’ there was a pirate called Smee and he was tearing some stuff and every time he did it Captain Hook thought his trousers were ript. And when the boys were in the pirate ship Michael got Captain Hook’s hat off and threw it in the sea. And at the end a lot of little lights went in and out and they were fairies. And Wendy and Peter Pan were waving. When Tinker Bell was ill Peter Pan said if you believe in fairies Tinker Bell will get better. The children all said yes and Tinker Bell’s light got brighter.
When I went out with Mrs Dresser I got on the bus and Mrs Dresser and Linder were left behind and I got off at the next stop.
Love from Wendy

May 051944

This will, I’m afraid, be but a note. First, because the day has been eventless (unless you call dropping and smashing two pounds of jam an event – I call it a major tragedy!) and, secondly, because my lack of sleep all week has caught up with me and I’ve been only just conscious all day. And now, it being 9.30, I’m scarcely conscious at all.
I’ve done scarcely anything all day except the necessary things and, as you see, I didn’t even collect the rations without dropping the one smashable article. Proper awkward – I know! I understand that a dog had a whale of a time with that jam. It has also been raining all day.
There hasn’t been a letter from you. I’m only mentioning it because you were off yesterday, weren’t you, so I’m wondering what has happened. Maybe tomorrow’s letter will explain the mystery. During these times of sudden changes I start wondering when you don’t write on an off-day. Though that’s silly really because I know you’d write if you were being moved. Darling it’s just hopeless. I’m falling asleep at every full stop. The remedy is to go to bed before I fall asleep permanently here.
You might not believe it from this scrappy note, but I do love you!
Always your own,
P.S. Saturday. Thanks for your letter love and I’m glad you kept it for Saturday – if I’d been more conscious yesterday I would have thought of that explanation. I’ll answer your letter tonight. There’s no time to start on it now. It’s after dinner on Sat. I’ve got to do some work and washing, then the shopping I couldn’t carry this morning, and then I’ll have the rest of the day on the plot. The weather has cleared again and the ground is just nicely soaked for lettuce planting.

May 151944

Dear Daddy,
When I went to Formby we saw a goat lying on the grass across a little dich. I got a picture for writing the best story in the class. We are lerning a lot of songs for Empire day. We are doing feet and inches, and shillings and pennies and half pennies sums. We have just come back from the swings. Thank you for your last letter.
Love from Wendy

Jun 101944

This isn’t much of a birthday present, but I just couldn’t think of anything else and I intended to send this with some filthy lucre as well. But things being somewhat tight this week, I’ll have to postpone the latter part of the arrangement until I get a spot of extra.
There isn’t a note in the cake but I hope you will like it and please note that it contains raisins, sultanas and currants! Who said there was a war on? It’s the first cake I’ve made with three varieties of fruit for about two years.
The book I had in mind was one of war cartoons by a number of people, but though I saw it advertised I couldn’t track it down. But I thought this one, though it is rather out of date at present, would be amusing to look over in the dim and blissful future when our two silver heads (providing you don’t go bald!) can nod together by the fire over memories of that long-ago business, the war of 1939–194? By then we shall probably find little things in it that we have completely forgotten and it illustrates an aspect of the war with which you were most familiar.
So happy returns, my love, and please come home for your next birthday.
Always your own,