Dec 151934

The Catholic Citizen
Organ of St. Joan’s Social and Political Alliance, (formerly Catholic Women’s Suffrage Society), 55 Berners Street, London, W.1.
Vol. XX. No. 12. Price Twopence.

Do we Appreciate our Heritage?
By Stella Gregson
A girl may leave school today and embark on her chosen career with the same chances of success as her brother. No longer need the ambitious female raise the cry that so often punctuates the novels of the last century: “If only I were a boy.” There is no longer any need for her to hide her light under a bushel, nor to bury the gifts that God gave her in the duties of domesticity.
This is the world for which women fought and prayed and suffered; the dream-world of the first feminists, won at last after the long battle against so-called tradition and arrant stupidity.
Does the girl who now tastes of the fruits of this victory appreciate her position? Does she ever pause and thank Heaven for the noble band of women who gave her this heritage? No. She takes it all for granted. She considers sex-equality as just one of the many improvements in a century that has cast aside outworn traditions.
Suffragettes? Yes, she has heard of them. Her impression of them is gained chiefly from those pictures which the newspapers are constantly reviving. Being endowed with a deep respect for her sex, she does not enjoy looking at them – women looking absurd with their hair falling down, struggling in the arms of grinning policemen; women shrieking and breaking windows, throwing themselves in front of horses, burning buildings, destroying pictures. Well, thinks the young lady who has inherited the victory without knowing the fight, it is a good thing women have some sense nowadays. They don’t make fools of themselves like that now. And thus she dismisses the whole subject of Feminism.
There must be a reason for her misguided attitude, and it is not lack of intelligence. Good use has been made of the reformed educational systems. Nor is it lack of fair-mindedness. The young girl of today does not appreciate her inheritance for the simple reason that she is not taught about Feminism, and is wholly ignorant concerning any aspect of the subject save the one which is generally held up to ridicule.
Her History course tells her of other reformations that have influenced our lives. She knows of the great movement of the nineteenth century which resulted in crowded towns and altered the entire outlook on all social questions. But that same History course does not stress the reformation that affects her more nearly. She knows, of course, that the position of women was profoundly different in the time of her grandmothers’ girlhood. But is not everything on a different basis? We can forgive her for thinking that the Feminist revolution is merely a part of the world-wide adjustment towards sanity and fairness. The lack of appreciation is not her fault. It is the fault of those responsible for her general knowledge.
If only she could be told the story of the Cause in a sane and fair-minded way, I believe that she would enjoy it more than any other event in the history of humanity. Nothing appeals to young blood more than a tale of a small country rising against and defeating a nation of powerful oppressors. How greatly would the schoolgirl relish this story of the small band of women who won their rights from the powerful nation of oppressive tradition. A story that is not an ancient one dealing with powers of long ago, but one in which her own life is implicated. Let us tell her that there is a promised land that has been won for her; that there are still those who begrudge her that land and say that she is incapable of holding it. Let her thus gain a sense of responsibility, not only to herself, but to those who went before her and whose patience and suffering gave her this heritage.
If we allow her to continue in her present state of ignorance, lacking this enriching stimulus, the result may easily be the gradual return of women to their old position of inferiority. One generation has gained an incomplete but magnificent victory. The present generation of women must turn that victory to good account, must hold the land already won and add to it. For the battle did not end, as so many believe, with the winning of the vote; there are still positions to which women are barred; there is still work to be done in the ranks of feminists, but it is being done by the older generation. We need Pankhursts and Fawcetts among the girls who are in their teens today.
If we allow the young to retain this attitude of indifference and ignorance towards Feminism, there may be a tale told in the future years of a strange whim that possessed the female mind round about the beginning of the twentieth century; of how, for a little while, women decided to be considered the equals of men, but that it all died away eventually … a mere flash in the pan … a tale to be laughed over, very ridiculous and a little pathetic.
This is the danger that we are facing. The question that the die-hards are constantly asking is: “Can women hold what she has won?” The answer lies with the younger generation, and they do not even know what all the fuss is about. Let us teach her the price of this treasure of liberty, so that we may be assured that her labour will be worthy of that magnificent struggle in which indignity, hardship and abuse were counted as nought, so that she could come safely into this dreamed-of world, and, for the first time in the history of woman, be given a fair chance to prove her worth in every sphere of thought and action.

Miss Gregson, who contributes the above article, asks us to inform our readers that she is “not an old fogey, but merely a sweet young thing straight out of a convent, therefore not possessed by a prejudice against the much abused ‘modern girl’, but speaking from first-hand experience of the views of school fellows.”

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

St Peter’s, Derby Street, Reading [Stella is visiting her sister Mollie, a Carmelite nun]
You were a darling to rush a note through to me when you were so busy. On thinking it over it had occurred to me that you might not get my letter until late, so I was not really expecting your reply till Friday. I am looking forward to your promised second letter.
I have just climbed a six-foot wall in order to enter my digs. Mrs Harris is at her mother’s from after breakfast until 6 o’clock so my position is rather complicated. After Thursday I decided to give the convent meals a miss as far as possible because both the food and the hours of feeding were so peculiar. This afternoon I had intended going to Marlow and told Mrs H. I would not be back till 6. After lunching (at a respectable hour with respectable roast lamb) I gathered there would not be a Marlow bus until one and a half hours later, so I mounted the first Thames Valley bus I saw. The conductor seemed to think I was quite mad because I asked for a return to any village on his route. He said I had better go to Sonning, in a tone that suggested that Sonning contained the local lunatic asylum. It has been pouring with rain all day, you see, and only an idiot would want to see villages in such weather.
You wouldn’t like Sonning – very beautiful but not a single pub! After seeing the sights here, and failing to make up a limerick beginning – “There was an old lady of Sonning, Who always insisted on donning” – I continued through the rain to Yare where a bus to Reading appeared out of nowhere and took me home. I thought it was easily 6 o’clock but it wasn’t five, so the lady next door helped me to climb the garden wall and enter Mrs H’s through the back. When I got in I discovered your letter so am whiling away the time till tea by writing to you, having failed to think of any better way of filling this empty hour. I’m sorry about Sunday but I quite understand that it can’t be helped.
To make up for this disappointment, can you meet my train on Saturday? Please, darling! It arrives at Woodside station at 5.47pm. If possible, let me know whether or not you will be there, so that I won’t work up any excitement in vain.
Last night I went on a walk with Mrs H. along the side of the river and saw some sheltered spots that would have been splendid if you had been with me. Oh, dearest, I do miss you, and I can’t imagine how I’m going to do without you in Shrewsbury.
Although I enjoy being with Mollie, I am longing to get home again. For one thing, the air doesn’t seem to like me. I yawn my head off all day, and today and yesterday have felt lousy – which may be a good sign do you think?
Buy the way – if you haven’t already done so, burn my first letter.
You will be interested to hear that Mollie is praying for your conversion – not at my request. We’ve only had one fight so far and that was over socialism.
Till Saturday, goodbye, sweet, and do try to meet me.
All my love, darling,

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 011936

St Chad’s Terrace, Shrewsbury
If you know any bright young things who want to leave the parental roof and make their way in the world, just tell them that you know a girl who thought she was tough and got a job away from home. On her first night in digs she cried herself to sleep. She woke up at 5.30am and wrote a miserable letter to her mother. She woke up again later on, and, because there was after all, just a tiny streak of courage in her, she tore this letter up and wrote an entirely different one. Later on in the day, however, she was howling again so she wrote to her boy friend. Of course, I don’t know who this girl is – it’s just a story with a moral and it’s called “She couldn’t take it!”
But seriously, dearest, it’s a horrible feeling. If I could see now anyone from Liverpool, even if it was someone I detested, I would fall on his (or her) neck. Talking of necks reminds me of another reason for woe. When I had my hair cut last week I had a tiny spot that I hadn’t noticed, on the back of my neck. The silly ass ran the clippers over it with the result that my whole neck is swollen and septic and my whole head is hurting. I took it to the nearest doctor a couple of hours ago and he recommended hot water and salt. It was when the maid brought up this mixture to my room with efficiency but an entire lack of sympathy, that the second fit of blues descended. It suddenly occurred to me that no one within sixty miles cared a damn whether my neck was hurting like hell, and this thought broke down my resolution to be spartan.
In case you think I am going to moan right through this letter, let me assure you that I spent a perfectly happy morning in the office. And, by the way, how do you like my card? [Enclosed in the envelope is a personalised Shrewsbury Chronicle business card.] The staff – editorial, advertising, photographic and clerical – gave me a really genuine welcome. The lads had spent most of the week spring-cleaning the office in honour of my arrival. The chief reporter, whose name was Mac- something, showed me round and I tried to look as though I was quite used to a rotary machine and a photographic and process department on the premises. They seem quite a decent crowd. Sloane does not want to launch the full women’s page until I have found my feet, that is, he says, in a few weeks’ time. I have undertaken to announce my arrival to the children by writing a Corner during the weekend, and I am doing a carnival at Church Stretton on Monday. I also have the addresses of the Mayoress and the county secretary of the Women’s Institutes and have promised to introduce myself to them.
Feeling so blue makes this other business – if it has to be – less difficult. On the other hand if I like the job as much as I think I will, it makes it more difficult. That is how I regard the situation at the moment. Last night, in the depths of my first despair, I could only look at Mickey as a blessed way out of a miserably lonely existence. This thoroughly cowardly attitude has since been tempered by a smell of the office – but only tempered and not entirely eradicated.
So I await with a divided mind for the arrival of Monday and if nothing has happened by the end of the week I shall take the necessary steps to make quite certain.
Whatever happens, darling, do try and see me soon. Give me some reason for ticking off the days on the calendar. I AM trying to keep my chin up, but it’s so damned hard.

I’ve just come up from lunch. Oh, Arthur, boarding house meals are a perfect entertainment. I do wish there was someone here to chuckle with me. Today our family consisted of: 1. Elderly gent, former member of Durham Education Committee, and wife. 2. Another elderly gent from Caernarvon, whose proud boast is that he has been a church warden for the past 43 years; and wife. 3. Young curate, shortly to go abroad, who does some holiday relief at St. Chad’s each Sunday. 4. Woman about 38 who also appears here only on Sundays and is trying to vamp young curate. 5. Ancient man on tramping tour, otherwise the “tramping bard”. 6. His ancient friend in bathchair. (More about these two to follow.)
All these people went to hear young curate preach this morning so the meal commenced by everyone, except me, congratulating him. Conversation then went along church lines for a considerable time, but tramping bard, who was itching to show young curate his books of poetry, tried to push latter out of the limelight by twisting conversation to walking. Y.C. makes some remark about fishing. Tramping bard sees his chance. “Ah” says he. “Fishing wouldn’t be energetic enough for me. Give me tramping.”
“I do not mean ordinary fishing” replies Y.C. with dignity. “I mean fishing with the VICAH!”
This leaves no room for further dispute. T.B. admits defeat gracefully by continuing to talk about fishing. He once watched a party of fishermen, he says, of which there were parsons. When he asked them if they had good fishing, all except the parsons had replied “rotten”. The parsons said they had made five catches.
Y.C. is not blind to the double-edged quality of this compliment to the cloth. “So” he says, “parsons are either good fishermen, or are good – er – er – are good at what fishermen are supposed to be good at.”
This dangerous subject is then left alone and Y.C., still breathless after his narrow escape from saying “liars”, tells alleged funny stories about various “Vicahs” to lady friend. She laughs loud and long at the end of each story. (This is evidently technique for vamping young curates. Must make a note of it.)
Tramping bard is getting desperate. He usually holds floor. He produces his books of poetry and sticks them under nose of Y.C. who has to look at them out of mere politeness. But even the mighty work on the epic tramp from John O’ Groats to Land’s End does not produce terrific effect on Y.C.
T.B. is a really remarkable old chap. He and his friend arrived last night and are starting to hike through the Wye Valley tomorrow, doing 20 miles a day. His friend goes with him in the bathchair. All his walking tours have been immortalised by T.B. in beautifully printed books of verse, illustrated by his bathchair friend. Although I was not particularly keen on revealing my identity to the rest of the gang, I couldn’t let a story like that slip through my fingers, so T.B. (who is 72) was interviewed by the ‘Shrewsbury Chronicle’ this morning. I have also got a picture of him and his bathchair friend setting out on their travels. He has quite genuinely walked every inch of the way from John O’ Groats to Land’s End. I hope Sloane will be impressed by my zeal during the weekend.
Well, sweet, I think I’ll take a walk now as the sun is actually shining. I dreamt about you last night, but I can’t remember what! Do try and write as soon as you get this. A letter means such a hell of a lot now. I’m feeling much brighter in spirit today, as you will have noticed, but my neck is still ghastly.
Bless you, love,

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

St Chad’s Terrace, Shrewsbury
My Dear,
I’ve been meaning to write all week but the fact is that I’ve been so sleepy I’ve fallen asleep at every available moment. People tell me this is the usual complaint of ‘foreigners’ here. Also I’ve walked miles and miles every day. The policy of the paper seems to lie in keeping us all on the trot. So far I’ve never been more than one hour at a time in the office. One walks and walks – and what hills! As a matter of fact I did write to you on Wednesday night, sitting up in bed. I was half asleep and next morning could hardly read the letter myself so did not inflict it on you.
As you will have guessed from the absence of any telegrams, nothing has happened. The symptoms continue much to my discomfort. When I tell you that I’ve started knitting, you will know just how certain I feel about things. I haven’t been to a doctor about this yet, as I’ve been to the local vet nearly every day this week with my neck. I’ve just returned from my final visit now and the beast is healing up nicely. The bandage was dispensed with this morning so you need not be afraid of coming to see me. Mother and Chris are coming on Sunday, by the way.
Oh, darling, I do hate digs. These present ones are quite impossible so I’m going to give a week’s notice this evening, and I admit I do funk the job. Does one make up a pretty story or does one say straight out that the food is lousy and that one hates eggs with ‘Danish’ stamped shamelessly on their shells. I’ve spent most of the afternoon looking at other possibilities. Every landlady presents you with her view as if this makes up for everything. After staring at this damned quarry for a week I know that one new-laid egg is worth all the views in the world. I’m an awkward person about food, especially just now, so I’m rather in favour of taking a room I saw today, where I have to ‘find myself’. This mysterious phrase means that I rent the room, purchase my own food and let landlady cook same. I would have my midday meal out. One of the advantages of this scheme is that it would be good practice for me in learning how to cater. See how I think of you at every turn! Quite seriously, dear, I worry a lot about whether I’ll be able to make you happy from the purely housewife point of view.
While we are on this subject – don’t tell me what a fine cook your mother was every time I have a culinary tragedy!!! Remember that the tragedy will be just as obnoxious to my stomach as to yours, because my mother is also a good cook, as I have been forcibly reminded during my one week in digs.
Talking of food – that story of yours about there being only one fish and chip shop here is all boloney. So far I’ve counted six! My faith in you had been shaken, so don’t be surprised if I use the reminder “fish and chips” in any future argument!
With regard to this other business, it worries me sometimes that you might think I’m rather letting you down by not taking any more stuff. I’ve got all sorts of courage – as I’ve proved to myself to my own amazement every day this week, but somehow I haven’t got the courage to go on killing this thing that has stood out so strongly against my former violent onslaught. For one thing I do believe (and this is a positive and not a religious belief) that when you work directly against nature, nature will eventually have its own back.
Another point – as you probably know, I’m just a bit fond of you and a normal part of this strange emotion is that I want your child more than anything else in the world. That’s how I feel about things. In my long hours of tramping up and down the Salopian hills I’ve had an opportunity of weighing all the pros and cons. I’m not blind to any of the difficulties. I go sick when I think of my mother, and I’ll hate leaving my career at this hopeful point, but the fact remains that in spite of everything, there are moments when I’m bursting with pride. There is more primitive woman in me than I ever realised before.
I’m afraid I’ll get told off for writing like this, as I was before, but, dearest, I must talk to somebody about it.
Could you possibly manage to get here next weekend? Or will you be down for the Show? I do miss you so, and we must get everything straightened out soon. The chin is keeping up well, all things considered. I haven’t cried since last Saturday. There’s one thing about this – if the chin is still up, in spite of loneliness, physical sickness and mental anxiety, at the end of the next few months, I’ll know that it will stick up through anything. I’m keeping my job and my worries strictly in two departments. It would be fatal if I allowed them to mix.
Write to me here next week and then I’ll let you know my new address.
By the way, keep your chin up at your end.
I’ll post this and then I must face my landlady with my week’s rent in one hand and my week’s notice in the other. Oh dear! After that I’ll get on with my knitting.
Write soon, sweetheart, and let me know what chance there is of seeing you soon.
All my love,

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 101936

Monday 1.35pm
On train
My Dear,
I’m not exactly in the best of tempers at the moment. I had an interview with a woman at 12.30. She kept me waiting for exactly half an hour and then decided not to give the interview. As she happens to be Mayoress of Shrewsbury I couldn’t give her a piece of my mind.
I am now sitting in the most uncomfortable of trains waiting for it to decide to take me to Bridgnorth. Apparently I am the sole passenger so perhaps they’ll decide not to run it after all. At Bridgnorth, if I ever arrive, I have to do an inquest at 3pm and then find the Mayoress. I’m not particularly fond of Mayoresses today. You will be glad to hear that I registered a protest on being sent to an inquest, but Sloane pointed out that I would be going to B’north in any case this afternoon so it was not worth while sending two of us.
Forgive the pencil because, as I said, this is being written on a train.
I gather that you had received my letter by the time you wrote the second instalment of yours so I need not answer your questionnaire? Let it be said, however, that I am quite immune from falling for all the masculine charm around me. I feel far too matronly for that. Mickey seems to have banished all such thoughts from my mind and I’m not a bit keen on going up the river with anyone but you. In case this statement makes you conceited I’d better balance things by giving you cause for jealousy. Tomorrow night I go to a dance somewhere in the wilds to witness the choosing of a beauty to compete for the title of Miss Shropshire. The judging is not until midnight so I am to be brought home by Mr Wood, photographer! However, I am sure he is a perfect gentleman, and he is engaged, so you can rest in peace tomorrow night, darling. You know, I’m not a bit subtle – I shouldn’t have told you he was engaged.
I’m glad to hear we have some additions to the bottom drawer. All I can contribute at the moment is half a vest (first size) for Mickey.
The candlestick will be useful when they cut off our light for failing to pay the bill, won’t it? The drinking goblet will be just ideal for mixing up Mickey’s Cow and Gate’s! I’m afraid my B.T.-trained mind will only suggest improper uses for the decorative jug, so we’ll ignore that.
On Saturday I gathered my courage in both hands, walked to the outskirts of the town and saw a doctor.
(The train has actually started!)
After all that, he only told me that in matters like this it was against medical etiquette that he should see me, as I was not his patient. He advised me to see my own doctor, who, he assured me, would think nothing of it as every doctor had girls asking the same questions every day. I am thinking of trying again while I’m in Bridgnorth, but you’ve no idea of what a lot of courage it requires. After today’s interview I was a nervous wreck.
I don’t think you could find a cheap trip during the week, darling. Couldn’t you come on Sunday and get the 6pm train back, which would get you home in time for your night calls? If not, Wednesday and Friday and Saturday are likely to be free. The only time I can be sure of being in the office is 9.15 in the mornings. If you do decide to come any evening this week, do ring me at that time and I’ll let you know for certain whether I’ll be free. I shall probably chew the flesh from your bones when I see you!
On Friday afternoon I remove my goods to the side of the river and the house where I have to “find” myself.
The family came down in a hired car yesterday and Harold arrived at Shrewsbury Youth Hostel for the first stop on his cycling tour so it was quite a reunion. I’m afraid it’s getting quite impos. to write to you on the train. Finish later.

Bridgnorth Station.
The inquest dragged on until 4.45. After that I saw the Mayoress from whose house I staggered out in a state of agonising hunger that seems to be one of the symptoms. After feeding, and getting back to the station, there was of course no time to see a doctor. This 6.40 train is the last tonight!
At the inquest an ancient man in a long beard introduced himself to me. He is the local freelance. There are hundreds of them around here and they are all over 70.
It’s ridiculous to be longing for bed at this time of day, isn’t it? But the fact remains that my legs are lifeless and I can’t keep my eyes open. I suppose one should be “putting one’s feet up” instead of going to inquests.
I can sympathise with your lack of concentration and your inability to complete your well-meant efforts at fiction. My own concentration is far from perfect just now and I think we would both be subnormal if we were able to concentrate on anything these days.
I have discovered, by cunning and subtle questioning, in what direction the registry office lies, although I have not actually seen it yet. I have also written to Gertrude asking her, if necessary, will she assist us as witness. Have you thought of another one yet?
Sloane is very keen on creating a sort of grand debut for me in the paper including a photo. This is going to be awkward because it means that people in the street and in shops may recognise me. Also one can’t prevent the registrar from seeing the paper. Difficulties seem to be crowding upon us from every quarter, and I’ve got a nasty feeling that we haven’t realised half of them yet.

St. Chad’s Terrace.
The third and last instalment. Darling, shall I go to my own doctor who knows where I work and all about me? I shall abide by your decision in this matter.
I’m writing this lying on my stomach on the bed, which accounts for the backhand slope of the writing. At the moment my only want is to be lying by you, not talking, not worrying, not thinking – a want that will have to wait a long, long time for fulfilment, I’m thinking.
I’ll expect a phone call or a letter within the next few days. You don’t know how much it will mean to me to see you again.
Till then, keep smiling (if possible) and remember that I’m thinking of you last thing at night, working, eating, walking.
My love for always,

Aug 121936

St Chad’s Terrace, Shrewsbury
My Dear,
I’ve got an idea that this letter will cross yours but I want to put forward this proposition without delay. The arrangement with the family was that if you decided not to come on Sunday I should go home for the day. Mother wrote this morning with a new idea, which seems quite good. Here it is: I come to Liverpool on Saturday, arriving about 6 or thereabouts, spend the evening with you, go home to sleep and spend Sunday at home.
How does this suit you? Can you let me know as soon as you get this as I must let the family know whether or not I am coming. I’ll make it absolutely clear that I am to be met at the station by no one but you this time.
They’ve worked me hard this week so I’ve had no time to meditate on my woes. Last night was a unique experience – a dance in Montford Bridge, 250 people in a room made to hold 25 and lit entirely by oil lamps as was the whole village. By the way, I noticed there was not one hint of street lighting, and thought of our frenzied search for darkness in L’pool.
In case you are worried let me assure you that I did NOT travel home with the photographer. He was going on to Wem before returning to town so I came and went with the judges of the Beauty Queen. Remind me to tell you more about this when I see you. Suffice to say that I behaved extremely well.
I mustn’t write any more because this must catch the post. Oh, darling, you’ve no idea how I’m looking forward to seeing you. It seems years and years ago since I last saw you. If I see you Saturday that means there are only two full days to get through after tonight.
Let me know about Saturday right away won’t you, and I’ll let you know about the train.
Goodbye, sweet, till then,

Aug 131936

Thursday Tea-time
My Dear,
I haven’t had a letter yet and am beginning to wonder if you received my last or if you have been stabbed in the back or something. However, I’m living in hopes of tomorrow’s post.
This isn’t a letter but just a note to tell you that, if the idea put forward in my last letter meets with your approval, I shall come to L’pool by the 2.35 on Saturday, which arrives at Lime Street at 4.28pm.
If you’re writing to say this is OK remember that my address after Friday morning will be: Trefaldwyn, Coton Hill, Shrewsbury. Letters seem to take a devil of a time getting here so wire if there’s any doubt. I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding over this weekend.
Now supposing I get a letter from you on Friday morning saying that you’re coming on Sunday and supposing that you wrote that letter before you received my last one. In that case I shall sit tight until you let me know, and if this does happen you had better make it a wire because I must let the family know whether they’re to be honoured by my presence on Sunday.
No matter what happens, please meet me at Lime Street Stn. I shall go raving mad if you don’t because at the moment I’m living for nothing else. And darling PLEASE don’t be late. Yes, you’d better wire. I shall worry all the way in the train if you don’t. Must get back to office now. Feeling lousy. Only a short goodbye, dearest,

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

Tuesday 6.30pm
‘Trefaldwyn’, Coton Hill, Shrewsbury
My Dear,
This letter was going to be really cheerful as I’ve been in a “don’t-care-a-damn” mood all day, but when I came home about an hour ago there was a letter from Mother which demanded immediate action.
The trouble is this. Mrs Knowles went to tea at home last week by invitation. As you can imagine it was far from being my wish but I had no hand in the matter. I have heard from Mother since then, and as she did not say anything important about the visit, I gathered that Mrs Knowles had kept her mouth shut. So she has – to a certain extent.
Since my last weekend at home Mother has been determined that I’m ill and then Harold sees me last Sat. and Sunday and goes home with tales of how pale I looked – curse him.
Another point – although I’ve only written once to Mollie since I’ve been here, (a letter solely about Shrewsbury and the office) Mollie suddenly starts writing frantic letters to Mother saying how worried she is about me. I’ve an idea that she’s had one of those queer experiences she’s had before. I don’t know what exactly happens but I do know that whenever there’s trouble about, concerning Mother or myself, she knows all about it before she’s told. An awkward sort of sister to have.
You’ll be wondering what all this has got to do with Mrs Knowles or with Mother’s letter, but they do link up. From what I know of them and from what Mother says of the visit I can imagine the scene something like this:
Mother starts weeping because she thinks I’m ill and Mrs Knowles proceeds to comfort her by telling her I’m quite all right physically but she thinks that I’m making myself ill through worry (silly ass). Mother wants to know what Stella is worried about and wonders if it is about Arthur. Mrs K finds herself in rather a jam, says she has an idea it is about Arthur.
As Mother did not mention this when she last wrote to me, she evidently did not attach great importance to it. Since then, however, these other points have been going round in her mind – Mollie’s letters, the fact that I looked ill, and the fact that even Harold, famous for his lack of observation, noticed this. Now all these things have become linked up in her mind and she sends me a frantic letter, begging to be told what is worrying me and revealing the conversation with Mrs Knowles.
I’m sorry to have to use all this space on this matter but I meant to make it perfectly clear. Now I’m not saying she suspects – she probably thinks I’ve had a row with you and I’m breaking my young heart! But she may suspect, and anyway it’s a letter I can’t put off with an airy answer. As I see it, we MUST get this business over right away. I propose writing to her, saying there is something you and I want to tell her privately and asking her to arrange the rest of the family to be out of the way. What about this Sunday, dear? I could get the excursion train leaving here at 9.30am. I’ll arrange for Mother to get a letter on the Saturday, which will prepare her without telling her anything.
The trouble is I don’t want to do anything without your sanction, and there’s this damned letter demanding immediate reply. So in order to shelve matters for at least a day I’ll write her a nice cheery letter tonight, not mentioning a thing so she will believe the letters have crossed. Then when you get this let me know right away whether the whole idea meets with your approval. If you’re terribly busy send one of your immortal wires.
The more I think of it the less I like the idea of taking her out somewhere to tell her. There are only pubs and cafes and as I don’t know how mothers react to these things, never having been in such a situation before, I think it would be wiser if she was NOT told in a public place. When I got the letter I felt very much inclined to finish the whole business by writing and telling her, but I do appreciate that the fact of your braving it out will stand you in good stead in the future, though I don’t promise you’ll be saluted as a hero at the actual interview! There’s no doubt about it, darling, it’s going to be a nasty business, and that’s all the more reason why we should get it behind us as quickly as possible. Do your best to make it Sunday, for if I don’t get home then I’ve an idea Mother will just come down and ask the direct question.
There are times, you know, when I can actually get a flash of humour out of this business, believe it or not. One point that struck me today was that my immediate family (excepting Mother) will be upset chiefly because I am depriving them of a favourite family joke. Having a blot on their own escutcheon, they will never again be able to get hours of entertainment out of discussing the hurried marriages of Tom Gregson’s family. This thought led me to make a mental list of all the first cousins I have who have been in exactly our situation – Doris, Olive, Freda and Joy Gregson; May Farrell, Marty Farrell and Tom Breen. Now I ask you, what chance has a girl got, surrounded by such examples? The first four are all on one side of the family and the other three on the other side. Have you considered what bad blood you’re marrying, sweet? We either go to the religious extreme or the other extreme. In each generation and each branch of the family this has come out again and again. So if it goes on, Michael will be a devil but Ann will level things up by going into a convent. But perhaps the Johnson blood will purify mine? Anyway, when our children do extraordinary things, don’t say I didn’t warn you. After all this confession from me, don’t you think you ought to tell me some of the black deeds of your own family? Did you once tell me that your grandfather nearly murdered your grandmother, or did I imagine it? Heaven grant that Michael is not ORDINARY anyway.
While we’re on the subject of heredity, has it occurred to you what little chance the poor mite has of escaping being a journalist? His very conception was the result of you going to interview a man, and his embryonic life is being spent in a newspaper office and conducting interviews. He’ll be born with a fountain pen (instead of a silver spoon) in his mouth, and ink instead of blood in his veins, poor lamb.
I’m reading a book by Stella Gibbons, who is a damned good novelist, and in the introduction she laments the fact that she wasted ten years of her life “in the meaningless and vulgar bustle of newspaper offices”, and goes on to remark that “the life of a journalist is poor, nasty, brutish and short”. All of which proves that she was jolly glad to escape and has made far more money at fiction since, which has given me much food for thought. At first I thought of Michael as writing finis to my career, but dear, the last few weeks I’ve been thinking of him as a beginning to other things. You see, when this business is known to the large band of people who have always been jealous of me for doing an unusual thing in becoming a journalist (more or less!) there is going to be great rejoicing and many cutting remarks about “Stella’s career”. My friends and relations are in two distinct classes – those who are going to be really disappointed and upset, and those who are going to be indecently glad because I’ve “made a mess of my life”. The reaction of this second lot is going to get my pride up in arms and I’ve an idea it’s going to be the making of me.
If ever I get mopey about my lost career will you remind me of these points? That is why I’ve written them down here. I want your promise that you’ll stick them down my throat, brutally. When I say to you (as I undoubtedly will) that I can’t be expected to do anything more than look after you and Michael, will you say to me “What about Ethel Mannin?” She wrote her first novel when she had to keep leaving off to feed her kid, and she kept wondering if she’d get to the end of the sentence before the baby started crying. Now I’m really serious about this. I’m giving you arguments to use against me when the time comes, and I do want you to remember them.
Oh, love, I do hope you’re getting more sleep. You must keep well. Let me know right away about Sunday, won’t you, even if it’s only a line.
Till then, goodbye, dearest. You tell me to think of you sometimes, but believe me I think of you ALL the time – at least you and Michael.
Bless you,

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.

Aug 271936

Thursday Lunch time
My Darling,
I’m writing this in a tiny cafe to which I go whenever Michael wants beans on toast for his lunch, which is quite often. It’s very quiet here and they don’t think you’re mad if you start writing copy.
Now would you believe it, just as I had written that a woman arrives and starts talking like blazes to me. She’s talked for half an hour so far but is showing signs of going now. Hard luck story and she comes from Formby! She’s gone now.
Excuse this lousy paper. It’s copy paper and the only sort I have at the moment.
Your dear long letter arrived this morning and since then I’ve given it much thought and I honestly do think that you are right, so we will call your plan settled. There’s no easy way of carrying this business through and it’s no good trying to find one. So that’s fixed, my dear. I still retain my childish belief that you are right about most things, chip-shops excepted! The more I think of it the more I see the sense of your scheme and I can’t help feeling glad, for the baby’s sake, that I shall not be present when Mother hears the news. There might be a terrific emotional upset and that is a definite risk of a miscarriage, and to me now that is the greatest tragedy life can hold. Funny how one can change, isn’t it? Such a short time ago we were thinking of nothing but how to get rid of Michael and now, if anything happened to him, I’d go crazy.
This kid has personality, there’s no doubt about it, to have won us both over to such an extent. But then what could you expect with such parents!
Today I’m quite shamelessly and indecently happy. There are so many clouds on the horizon but I can’t see one of them. I’m aware of only these things at the moment – that you may be coming this weekend; that you sent me the nicest letter you’ve ever written this morning; that Michael exists. Sometimes I think that nature arranges for a sort of film to grow over my brain so that I can only see the bright side of things, which is the only atmosphere in which a healthy babe can be produced. At first I got these bright moods just occasionally, but now they are so frequent that it’s almost a permanent state of mind. I do my work mechanically with just about one cell of my brain, and with the other cells (or should I say the other CELL) I think about you and Michael.
I’m so glad you’ve had some sleep, dearest. You must have had in order to write that long letter. On the morning of the 12th I really think you ought to get up much earlier than that and then you’ll have to go to bed at about 8pm. By the way, have you any bright ideas about just WHERE we are going to bed? We must discuss this at the weekend. Oh, love, you WILL come at the weekend, won’t you, if it is at all possible. Let me know just when and how you are coming.
On Tuesday morning I received a letter from the registrar asking me to call and see him. I was quite sure he had found some red-tape reason why we couldn’t be married so I was at the office a full half hour before he arrived himself. All he wanted to know was whether I was Stella Edyth or vice-versa, and whether I was 21 or 22 because Mr. Johnson and I didn’t seem to be in agreement over these two points.
So for your information dearest, I’m Edyth Stella (though you must never remind me of this unhappy fact) and I am a mere child of 21 summers (cradle-snatching, isn’t it?) Having assured the registrar that my information was correct, I explained how it was doubtful whether you would be able to get here by noon, so he said it would be OK if you were late. As we seemed to be getting on so well I persuaded him to let me see his little book in order to let me know just what I was going to be let in for. The ceremony should be over in a couple of seconds and we don’t have to make any rash promises about honouring and obeying. It is beautifully straightforward and thank heaven they don’t have that indelicate bit included in the church ceremony where the parson talks about hoping your children will flourish like vines about your table. I don’t want my dear Michael to be a bit like a vine, do you? It sounds like a thin, anaemic, green-faced child, doesn’t it? And you escape all sorts of other things that you have to say in church, such as “With my body I thee worship” which I have always considered a PRIVATE affair, and you have my full permission to say it whenever we are alone.
Really the registry office ceremony seems to be made for sensible people and I don’t believe anyone ever means all the things they are forced to say at church weddings.
If you really want me to be sick in your presence, sweet, all you have to do is to force a tin of sardines down my throat. Michael showed me how he detested them the other day. Apart from the sardine incident there has been a marked improvement since I started the doctor’s medicine, which probably accounts for my high spirits lately.
Feeling particularly maternal this morning I bought another pattern-book called “Lovely Layettes”. This gives a very sensible list of “What baby will need” and you’ve no idea what a lot he does need! I think I’ll have a circular letter printed to my numerous knitting friends. For Michael’s sake we had better arrange to see samples of everyone’s knitting before we decide to have a row with anyone.
Talking of good knitters reminds me of Chris. I often wonder what her reaction will be. She is such a strange person. You never know how she is going to take things. Personally I think she will be torn between two emotions – delight that Mother’s white lamb has turned out dark grey, and a blazing jealousy that I’m going to have a baby. Margaret will probably stick up for me. She has a habit of supporting all black sheep. Ernest will think it’s rather a good joke. Harold Bird will sneer and make horrible remarks which will annoy Mother but will have the effect of making her stick up for me, in public at least. Young Harold will not say anything about it but will think a great deal and be rather shy when he meets me. But he does rise to the occasion when Mother needs comforting and he will watch over her and protect her from the band of cats. Also he will come in for the share of affection that will be removed from my head. As for Mollie – she’ll just break her heart. The Rev. Mother is a worldly-wise woman who had her share of life and I intend to write to her when I write to Mollie, asking her to break the news. So that’s the family.
As you say, it’s a case of choosing between you and family. Well, you know what the fortune-teller told me and you know what my own heart tells me. The family do matter to me, at least Mother and Mollie matter terribly, but, oh my dear dear love, you are my man, and you matter a thousand times more. Do you know that when I had read the first two sentences of your letter this morning, I found I was crying from utter tenderness and happiness. I don’t think there’s any danger of our failing to stick together, darling. We must remember this – that each of us is going to lose a hell of a lot through this marriage, and each of us has to make up to the other for that loss. I think we can do it. We started our courtship in a way that everyone would have said was disastrous, didn’t we? (God bless Marjorie Smith!) According to the world’s viewpoint there is everything against the success of this marriage. We made a success of our courtship and we will make a success of our marriage. These last two months have been a severe test on our stability. If either of us had been playing make-believe about our feelings we would have found it out for this has been stark reality. Instead we have found out that we mean more than we ever imagined to each other. Yes, I think all our difficulties will be from outside. We need not worry about any rows between ourselves.
In case it ever worries you that I am having any religious scruples, let me say once and for all, I’M NOT. Last night I started thinking of how I used to plan my wedding when I was a kid at school. You know – every detail of the dress and no thought about the one essential, the man. When I had been thinking about this for a few minutes the thoughts started going into rhymes, and the result is I’ve written a poem on the subject. I’ll present it to you on the memorable day. This is the last sheet of copy paper and I’ve been here two hours and I must be at a fete in half an hour, so I must hie back to the other half of my double life. I’ll pack this letter off later in the day.

Thursday tea-time
I’ve just read your letter over for the fourth time and it still sounds sense. When I was reading the last part it occurred to me that one way I could make certain of your coming to see me this weekend was by pretending to disagree with your arrangements, then you would rush here to overpower me with your personality and make me see sense. But I’m an honest woman. (Am I still the one and only honest woman? Do you remember when I used to be content with the lowly title of “second honest woman”?)
It’s about six o’clock now and you’ll be thinking what an easy job I’ve got when I can write columns to you on a Thursday. But I have worked all afternoon in terrific heat at a Methodist fete. I’ve written that up, had my tea, and am taking things easy now till about 9.30 when I go to a dance at which they are choosing Miss Shrewsbury. The first part of the dance has to be written up by 11.30pm and taken to the office, but the actual judging will not be over till after one, and that’s got to be written up so it looks like a late night for Michael and me! However, if there’s one thing you do get here, it’s consideration after late nights and I’ll only be expected to roll in at about 12 tomorrow and pick up my cash. In fact Sloane was dubious about letting me do this show at all and has treated me like a piece of China since the fainting incident.
This is the only dance I’ve done since the village hop and as I hadn’t got a dance frock with me I wired home yesterday. It arrived this morning and I discovered that Mother has had a pink lace frock cleaned and resurrected and, funnily enough, it’s the one I had on when I was first “seduced” by you! Though I don’t think you were conscious of what I wore that night, were you? I have a terrible suspicion that it’s on the tight side and I don’t know how it’s going to react to Michael. The staff, moreover, is looking forward to seeing “what I look like in evening dress” when I come in with my copy, so I hope they won’t get a shock! As you are coming at the weekend I must get a move on with the other mitten and the other bootee. Today I had a fit of conscience because the ribbon I had used was only a penny a yard and only satin on one side, so I said to myself, “Do you think that’s good enough for Michael Johnson?” and hung my head in shame. Then I went to the poshest shop in town and bought some lovely ribbon at 4d a yard, and so satisfied my maternal conscience. The list of “what baby will need” includes “six old soft handkerchiefs, large”. I can’t think what these are for, can you? But please save any old soft handkerchiefs, large, that you have spare.
My love, platinum is very, very expensive!! And anyway I think I prefer the good old gold. After the great day I shall wear the ring sometimes when I am quite alone just to convince Michael that he is quite legitimate. I take it that you have had your chat with Tim as you say he is running you over on Sept. 6th. Does he just know there’s a wedding on, or does he know why? It’s better I know where we stand with him in case I come out with any unfortunate remarks.
Now I wanted this letter to be solely without mention of any snag but there is one possible snag I must mention. I have a suspicion Gertrude may let me down. I hate to say it. Although I wrote to her more than a week ago about the arrangements, I have had no reply. I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt by writing c/o her school because she seems to move every few days. But if she fails what are we going to do? I would prefer to have a man and a woman as witnesses for this reason – the staff are omnipresent in Shrewsbury. Someone always sees me wherever I go. If we should bump into one of my fellow workers just on coming out of the registry office, I had it nicely planned that you and I were the witnesses and Tim and Gertrude the happy couple. If she fails there is no other female I can think of. All my girl friends are quite virtuous and for obvious reasons I couldn’t ask a relation. What are the possibilities of Mrs Leuty? I really can’t understand Gertrude’s silence especially as I purposely let her into the secret right at the beginning. It’s not a bit like her. Somehow I feel certain that she hasn’t received my letter so I’ll give her one last chance.
I’m hoping to hear on either Friday or Saturday that you are coming on either Saturday or Sunday. Sunday would be nicest because it’s an unbelievably long day when you’re all alone. Another point – if I write to Mother and say you are coming this Sunday it will definitely prevent her from coming, so I’ll say this in any case. I must not go home until after this business is over, and Mother coming here would be just as risky. If I tell them you will be here the next two Sundays they won’t make any surprise visits. You can rely on that because when Mother came here a few weeks ago she was most emphatic that I must let her know if Arthur was coming – she wouldn’t dream of spoiling our time together.
I wish I was paid linage for my letters to you. I am far more eloquent than in the Chronicle! The great difficulty is writing pretty-pretty letters to other people. Violet for instance. I put off writing to her every day until yesterday. She’ll never forgive me for not allowing her to fix Michael for me. I used to be so fond of her but lately I can’t bear the thought of her because she is definitely against all that Michael represents. I think I’ll leave all the minor relatives, cousins like Vi and aunts etc in Mother’s hands. A funny idea has just occurred to me – my most puritan and spinster aunt, Aunt Amy, was in the house at the time of Michael’s conception! Do you remember? In fact I remember now that when the question of absence of evidence arose I jokingly remarked that Aunt Amy might have one in her bag. If you knew her you would appreciate the humour of this. It’s too funny for words.
Gosh, will I never stop!
All my love, sweetheart,

Sep 021936

‘Trefaldwyn’, Shrewsbury
Already it seems a year since you got on that horrible train, but there are only three more whole days and then a bit of a day to be lived through before Sunday. I’ve been working hard this week to make the time go more quickly. That never-ending August is actually over! The fact of it being September makes Sept. 12th seem much nearer doesn’t it?
When I went into the office on Monday everyone remarked that I was full of beans and wanted to know if I’d been home for the weekend. When I said no, they all decided that “he” must have been to see me. I wonder what they’ll say when I arrive on September 14th?
I’ve just written a long bright “not a care in the world” letter to Mother – a terrific strain because I keep thinking of how she’ll look at such letters a few weeks hence and wonder how I could be so false. In reply to her previous alarming letters I was evidently satisfactory. I just took the words “trouble concerning Arthur” as if she meant a row between us and gave her ample evidence there was no row. In today’s letter she says she is most relieved to hear this and that her chief worry had been that Mrs Knowles seemed to know something about me that she didn’t know. She was upset because she had never known me to keep anything from her before etc. However, she is convinced that Mrs Knowles must have been talking through her hat. Every time I get a letter from Mother I see quite clearly how badly she is going to be hit. I say “Oh hell” and wonder how on earth I’m going to write that letter. But I’m convinced, love, that she’ll be OK afterwards. I often wish I had a “never darken my doors again” sort of parent, one that would be angry rather than hurt. The baby will probably make things alright with both parents. Do you know those old melodramas where the wayward daughter arrives at midnight clutching the ill-gotten child? We may laugh at them but there’s a huge amount of truth in them. My Mick will probably receive far more grandmotherly affection than Ernest’s Mollie, respectably entering the world 18 months after the wedding day. But this piece of philosophy won’t help us to write those letters, will it? Why should a baby be sacred once it’s born, but indecent while it’s unborn? You needn’t think of an answer to this – it’s just my brain rambling on into the strange ways of humanity.
On Monday night I sat down determined to at least plan those awkward letters. I wrote one to Hettie – that was easy. Then I tried to face Mollie’s letter and I couldn’t even start it. After an hour’s solid thinking I made a definite decision – to write to Rev. Mother giving her the full facts and leave it to her to break it. If she cares to tell Mollie just the wedding part and leave the baby until later she can. I won’t write to Mollie until (and if) she writes to me about it. Then you can enclose your letter too. I’m definitely decided on this plan of action.
I haven’t thought much about Mother’s letter yet because I want it to coincide with yours.
Will you PLEASE convince Tim that I did NOT give him a poisonous look! He is being so helpful that I hate to think he has the idea that I don’t like him. My only reaction at seeing him at the show was that it was marvellous to see anyone from Liverpool, especially anyone connected with you. Also I MAY have been a little embarrassed because I was not quite sure at the time whether or not he had heard about my peculiar state. Will you read this paragraph to him and tell him also that I’m terribly grateful for all the help and advice he is giving you. And now, Tim Leuty, if you still think I don’t like you, I’ll give you a piece of my mind on Sunday!
The son has moved to his fourth month position without mishap. This sounds most knowledgeable but all I know is that he does turn a sort of somersault every month. Do you realise that I am exactly one-third of the way now. In six weeks I’ll be half way there! It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? I’ve only been sick once since Saturday, thank heaven.
As a matter of fact the child is sulking a little because I’ve made him take second place to work this week. Sometimes I realise that I haven’t given him a thought for almost three hours. It’s the only possible way to get on with my work properly and I’ve been concentrating on the launching of a new women’s feature this week – a few paragraphs of the gossipy variety. Sloane has been keen on this for a long time and he was like a child when they pulled the proof of it. It’s going to be one of those nerve-racking things where you worry yourself stiff each week because you can’t see where a single par is coming from – like your Waterfront. There was quite a revolution in the works because I introduced drop caps at the beginning of the pars, but even the terribly conservative stone man admitted that it did look rather well. So I’m Sloane’s Big White Hope at the moment. Alas, I’ll be his Big Black Despair soon! I sometimes wonder if this business will spoil the chance of any other woman here. Will they say to hell with women – you see what you get from THEM – after this?
Oh, love, this letter is getting blue, isn’t it? I’m so sorry but I must have exhausted all my cheerfulness on Mother. I’m feeling more journalist than expectant mother just now. I must train myself to make the two go hand in hand. But, mind you, I never REGRET Mickey for a moment now, no matter how journalistic I feel. In my efforts to get really solidly to work this week I have neglected my knitting, I’m afraid. When I knit too much I go into a sort of maternal coma.
One of the decisions I’ve come to on the maternal side is to join the Women’s Pictorial Mothercraft Circle. It’s a really good thing and I’ve heard excellent results from it. You get all sorts of useful things such as pre-natal diets and exercises, layette patterns and feeding charts. It’s quite a sensible business, run by a certified nurse on modern lines.
I’m nearly asleep now so I’ll have my supper and my bath. (It’s my turn for the bath tonight.) I’ll leave this letter open until the morning in case there is one from you. Before I say goodnight I’ll tell you a secret, precious. I’ve been terribly oaty all this week. Sometimes I’ve felt neither journalistic nor maternal but merely wifely. And I’m not just oaty for ANYONE either! Never mind – the 12th and the 13th are not so dim now! Oh, darling, won’t it be marvellous! I sometimes wonder how we even imagined we could wait two more years for this and I think Michael knew what he was doing when he decided to take matters into his own hands and fix his own date. (I wonder if he’s got any hands yet?) Goodnight, dearest.

Thursday morning
I’ve been thinking about where you will pick me up on Sunday. When we were discussing it last Sunday I knew I had some reason for suggesting you should come here for me. This is it – when you come 60 miles in a car how can you estimate that you’ll arrive here at exactly such a time? When the family came they were an hour later than they said they would be. So don’t you think I’d better hang on in the digs, (watching eagerly from my window) until you arrive? Give me an idea of ABOUT what time you’ll arrive.
Busy day ahead. I’ve got to go out to Ellesmere Carnival, arriving back at 7 and then to the choosing of Miss Shropshire. Hope Michael behaves like a gent. Expecting to hear from you tomorrow. Till Sunday, dearest – it’s the day after the day after tomorrow now!
Don’t work too hard my sweet. All my love –
(Trefaldwyn is the house next to the big garage.)

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 081936

‘Trefaldwyn’, Coton Hill, Shrewsbury
My Dear,
Two days gone of the week! I was pretty dismal last night and wrote to you, but, as I hate sending you mournful letters, tore it up this morning. This writing of unposted letters is getting quite a habit with me. It’s so damned hard to write a lot of silly nonsense to the people who want to know do I like the job, and are my digs alright, and have I fallen for anyone in Shrewsbury?
I am now actually sitting in front of a fire – the first I’ve seen for weeks. It was so cold that I was beginning to have visions of our Mick being frozen inside me like those fish you were telling me about on Sunday.
Mollie sent me a long letter y’day full of questions including this one – had I given Arthur a book she had suggested entitled “The Catholic Question Box”? I don’t believe I did, did I, my dear, and I don’t believe I ever shall. Also, she is still worried to death because I admire Russia and enclosed a magazine concerning the church’s attitude in Russia, which will make me See The Light.
I suppose that she’ll think all this business of ours is somehow connected with socialist tendencies, but this time next week it won’t be Russia that will be worrying her. By the way, I SHALL write to her after all. After talking it over with myself I have come to the conclusion that it is just pure cowardice to do otherwise.
I called in at the R.D. y’day to make sure it would be all right if you arrived late. The man told me that the ‘deputy’ who is evidently the chap that does the job, “likes to catch his bus just after 12.30, the bus services being as they are”. So I asked what would happen if we came after 12.30, and he said the deputy would HAVE to wait for us but “he didn’t like being late for his bus”. To which I felt like replying “bugger the deputy – he gets paid for it”. So now you know the position! I’m dying to find out if he really does shake your hand and wish you luck and say “7/6 please” like they always do on the films, all in one breath. Doesn’t it seem crazy that any man should have the power to make us any more married than we already are? And how can a few words, gabbled by a man who’s frightened of missing his bus, make Michael into a legitimate and respectable child? It’s all awfully daft when you look at it logically, isn’t it? Thank heaven you’ve never talked about “making a decent woman” of me. Of all the crazy phrases coined by humanity, I think that is the craziest.
I like Mrs. Tim. She seems to be getting quite a kick out of this business, doesn’t she? From her conversation I can’t see myself turning into a typical journalist’s wife, can you? I know those crowds – exactly like Margaret’s clique in Bromboro. I used to watch them pretty closely when I stayed there about four years ago, and I made a private vow never to get involved in such a gang. Pulling other people to pieces doesn’t interest me – this isn’t a virtue, it’s just a state of mind. Before we establish a home I’d like you to know this because I feel particularly strongly on the subject.
Now, about my letter to Mother. I don’t know whether you’ll agree with this but it would make a huge difference to me. Will you let me ask her to wire the hotel on Saturday evening? There’s no danger of her going there. You can take my word for that. Even if the wire played hell, it would be better than silence. I’m afraid I may be inclined to worry myself sick on Saturday, wondering how she’s taken the news and if she’s all right. You have no idea what a difference this will make to my weekend. PLEASE darling, let me do this. And, by the way, what is the exact name of that place?
One more request – dirty joke if you like, but, PLEASE, keep off pregnancy. This may sound stupid but it’s just part of the pregnant mentality and I only found it out on Sunday. It’s not me – it’s Michael. You know how you hate to hear people using foul language before kids? Well, it’s the same sort of reaction, somehow. I wanted to tell him he wasn’t a dirty joke, but terribly sacred. Please try and remember this on Saturday, sweet. I’m not turning into a prig, but it sometimes seems to be that pregnancy develops as much in your mind as in your body. Oh, my poor darling, try and put up with the peculiarities, mental and physical, of your un-virgin wife, for a little while. I believe there is one stage later on when one develops an agonising longing for strange things such as polonies and liquorice all-sorts. Don’t let me have them will you – they’ll probably make me sick. I’ll try to be as little nuisance as possible. I’ve discovered plenty of guts in my make-up, that I never had need of before, during these last two months. No doubt they’ll stretch out a bit.
I expect this is the last letter I’ll write to you before we are married. Next time I’ll be writing to my HUSBAND – queer thought. But we were really married ages ago, weren’t we? To my mind we were married on that extremely wet day in Thursaston, when I got soaked to the skin and you tried to teach me not to be afraid of cows. There was a particularly pretty little jug in a cafe (some day I’d like to go back there and steal it) and it was while I was looking at the jug that I stopped fighting against loving you and I knew that we would always belong to each other. After that we waded along a lane about a foot deep in mud and you proceeded to seduce me against a five-bar gate. (It was still raining.) An unconventional and, in the world’s opinion, an extremely uncomfortable courtship. Somehow our most precious moments were always mixed up with dampness, prickly grass, sand and gnats. But would I have it different? NO, I WOULD NOT!!!
Perhaps it is the memory of those gates etc. that makes the prospect of a real bed so terribly attractive to us. So here’s to next Saturday night! I hope you’re eating oysters all this week. Bless you, precious, and goodnight. The child has just given three little twinges. Whether he’s sending messages to his papa or whether he’s merely complaining about his diet I don’t know. Probably he just wants to go to bed, and so does his ma.
Till Saturday, dearest,

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 151936

Tuesday 7.15pm
‘Trefaldwyn’, Shrewsbury
My Darling,
I suppose I should address this to “My Honoured Husband”, shouldn’t I? And, before I forget, how is the honoured husband’s tummy? Did you go to the doctor? And what did he say?
Oh, dearest, doesn’t it seem an age since I got on that train! Everyday life is so bleak compared with that weekend, but I do feel that the worst is over and whatever we have to face now will be comparatively easy. No one can unmarry us, and no one can take last weekend away from us or make it less precious.
I’m enclosing Mother’s letter, which I had less than an hour after leaving you, and Hettie’s letter, so you will know as much news from the home front as I do myself. I do love Mother’s war-horse attitude – “to blazes with everyone”. Judging by this letter I think that whatever attitude she may take that may seem at cross-purposes with us, will be founded purely on devotion to me. I am particularly grateful for two things – that she does not unload any maternal abuse on the man in the case, and that she makes no reference to religion. Really, considering the great stress under which that letter must have been written, I do not think anyone could have risen to the occasion more generously. Good old Hettie! Down there by 9 o’clock!
I think you will agree that in the light of Mother’s letter, I had to tell her I would be down on Sunday. It would have been cruel to do otherwise. If I had not stated a definite day she would have been running down here some time this week. All her talk about not carrying on is, of course, ridiculous, but you must remember that when she wrote that she had no idea how many months gone I was. I know I can carry on without anyone suspecting for another couple of months if things go smoothly. If she is still difficult on this point I shall persuade her to come down and see the doctor who will talk her over. I wrote a long letter to her last night, telling her Michael was not due until March and that I was NOT taking any absurd risks. Also I made a special point of there being no H.B.’s present on Sunday. She will see the sense of that.
By the way, love, if you could spare a moment this week, I do wish you would drop her a couple of lines thanking her for the way she has taken it. You know what a difference it has made to me. I ask you to do this only for your own sake, because it will stand you in good stead in the future. (22 Limedale Road, Liverpool 18, in case you have forgotten.)
Have you got over maternal difficulties on your side yet? It’s an awful pity you can’t bear the child too, because you can see what a lot of trouble it lets me out of, can’t you? Perhaps if you explain your morning sickness to your mother. She might think you have undertaken part of my duties, but I’m afraid she’ll just say “bull”.
That son of yours is an ungrateful brat, you know. I gave him a lovely lettuce for his tea, not because I wanted it but because it was good for him, and I was sick! And yet he is often as good as gold when I give him things that can’t be any earthly use to him. A really awkward child, just like his pa – bless them both anyway!
How do you like a virgin bed, now? I don’t think much of it personally, although I slept in mine from 9pm last night till 7 this morning.
Michael says he doesn’t see the fun of being illegitimate. He heard the doctor say that cereals were good for him, but personally he thinks oats are far better than shredded wheat. He felt so respectable during the weekend, but now his Mother doesn’t even wear a ring! Never mind, son, say I, believe it or not, you’re as legitimate as the law can make you, but you’re a love-child for all that, and a better lad you’ll be for it.
Sloane has been just as awkward as he can be this week, but a lot I care! I’ve got the trump card now, so I just grin inwardly and tell him where he gets off. When I see you on Sunday don’t let me forget to tell you of a long conversation I have had with MacHardy.
I mustn’t write any more because I must go out and see what the Labour women are doing at their Harvest Home. It’s raining too, damn it.
Now, my precious man, goodbye for just a little while.
With true wifely devotion from Mrs Johnson, and all the love in the world from just
your own,

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

Thursday Tea-time
‘Trefaldwyn’, Shrewsbury
Your letter arrived with an avalanche of correspondence on my bed this morning. At least to my half-asleep brain it seemed that everyone under the sun had written to me, but actually it was only five.
I’m glad to hear you have found the definite cause of your morning sickness. Now it’s absolutely up to you yourself and I’m going to tell you off according to a wife’s rights if you don’t cut down that smoking!
Being Thursday I can’t take hours over this letter, so I’d better get down to business. About this weekend. After due thought I have decided to come on Saturday and return Sunday night. Michael has definitely been in a most lively mood this week and has just discovered a new form of torture. He seems to be trying to “pull Mummy’s leg” or something – anyway, he’s playing hell with my legs. As it is I’m doing far too many trains and buses every day, and I really don’t think it would be wise to do two sixty-mile journeys on Sunday with all sorts of emotional strain sandwiched in between. Don’t you agree? I’m not getting squeamish about myself – it’s the kid I’m thinking of, and he’s not giving me a chance to forget him this week!
My best train on Saturday seems to be one leaving at 2.15. I change at Rock Ferry and arrive Liverpool Central at 4.8pm. Can you meet this? Drop me a line to reach me by Sat morning. If you definitely know that you can’t be at Central at this time, I could have some tea in town and you could meet me somewhere after that. You see, I think it’s going to be of inestimable value if we can arrive at Limedale together. It will impress on the family that WE are a family, whereas if I arrive alone and you follow later it will give them the impression that it’s just me and the baby, with you quite out of the picture. I’m sure you’ll see the sense in this. You mustn’t blame Mother for trying to make plans and give orders. When you’ve looked after a person for 21 years and have had a hand in every move in that person’s life, it must be hard to realise that the said person has got a husband to take care of her. THAT is why I think it is essential we should make our first appearance en masse – father, mother, and (I hope) invisible child. (Sounds like some new form of the holy trinity, doesn’t it?)
If you should discover on Saturday that you can’t possibly be at the station then, leave a message at the club. Then if you are not at Central by, say, 4.30, I’ll ring the club. I’m determined not to go home without you because it will make such a bad impression.
Your letter sounds just a little afraid that I’m going to allow myself to be talked over by other people. Oh sweet, don’t you know me better than that? Don’t be afraid, darling – it’s “us” now and no one is going to arrange our lives for us.
News from home is a mingling of good and bad. Chris is just as I thought she would be. No word from her but Mother describes her as being “sullenly wild” about the situation, and warns me not to expect a hearty welcome from that quarter. (We must get a reserve – there’s one of my knitting team gone!) I can quite see her point of view. It’s not just this affair – it’s a matter of years. Although she and I have never had one quarrel there has always been a terrific undercurrent of bitterness and jealousy against me. It must be damned hard, when you’ve had a more or less humdrum existence and been a blameless daughter, to see all the affection suddenly going out to the black sheep. Mother has stated definitely that she is with me, and if anyone in the house is against me, they must also be against her.
In the morning’s letter she seems to be getting over the first shock and says she is going to spread the report that we were married secretly last May. Aunty Amy is the only relative who has been told the truth. As she is also aunt to the Gregson family who do this sort of thing so monotonously, she should be used to it.
Margaret has also reacted according to my prophecy. (Margaret is my brother’s wife, in case you think she’s my cousin.) She sends her love to “the three of us” and says we can rely upon her to do her utmost to help in any way possible (what a pity she’s a lousy knitter!) She also remarks cheerfully that the pangs of childbirth will be nothing to the mental agony I must have already undergone! I’m inclined to agree with her, too. I asked that she should tell me the truth about Mother as I had a feeling everyone was trying to spare me. Mother is all right now, apparently, but collapsed completely physically and mentally on Tuesday morning. I certainly can’t complain that Margaret has spared me anything. She fairly goes into details! Mother was evidently a raving lunatic for a few hours, shrieking that she knew I would die. There was more than that but I’ll spare you. Margaret finishes up on quite a cheerful note and says Mother is fine now. So altogether it was a bittersweet sort of letter. Margaret as an ally is good though, and I’m jolly glad of the way she has taken it.
Thank Arthur Jones for his message and his marvellous compliment! I’m looking forward to hearing from him, and I’ll also be deeply interested to hear about the interview with Norman.
We are developing our forces aren’t we!
Yes, I have told Mac, and I’m really glad I did. As I told you, one can trust him. He’s full of admiration for my acting ability. He has advised me about the Sloane side of the question, and helps me in all sorts of odd little ways during the day. I’ll tell you all he said when I see you, and don’t let me forget to include the interlude in the conversation where Sloane put his head in the office and made some wonderfully appropriate remarks.
By the way, I’ve just discovered that Mac was born and educated an R.C. but chucked it up a few years ago! Consequently he is in a particularly good position to see every side of my question. If you do manage a day or two here, before I hie me to your bed I would like you and Mac to have a drink together. He is really a great help.
Well, dear one, I must get back now. We’ve all had a stiff week. One chap is on holiday and the tonsil person is still nursing himself and says he won’t be back for another three weeks. He’s had three already. I do wish it were possible for someone to put that lad in the family way!
By the way, the R.C. priest when I called about a wedding, made a flat refusal to see me yesterday! Previously he was most matey. What do you make of that?
I MUST go now. Do try and meet that train. Till Saturday, my darling, and your son (who is juggling with my kidneys at the moment) sends his filial affection.
Bye, my own,

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.

Sep 231936

The Shrewsbury Chronicle Ltd
Dear Miss Gregson,
Your letter came as a great surprise to me, for I had no idea you were in Liverpool and could not make out what had happened to you on Monday. I very much regret the circumstances that have made it necessary for you to tender your resignation, and hope that after a rest you will be completely restored to health.
Yours faithfully,
E Sloane

Oct 031936

The Shrewsbury Chronicle Ltd
Dear Miss Gregson,
You must be aware that in resigning without notice and giving us no information whatever with regard to the work you had in hand you have caused us very serious inconvenience.
Your letter states that you acted as you did on medical advice, but up to the present we have received no proof of this in the form of a doctor’s certificate. Unless this evidence is forthcoming we shall have no option but to submit a claim for four weeks’ salary in lieu of notice.
Yours faithfully,
E. Sloane

Nov 011936

Carmelite Convent, Reading
My dear Stella,
I am going to take you at your word, my “helpless baby sister”, and exercise the privileges of one who put you to sleep when you were quite small, who took you out in your pram, and who held your head when you had bilious attacks. My baby! The world pivoted round my baby! A great deal of my world does that still. At one period, when you could just manage a spoon, Mother used to prepare a cornflour pudding for you, warm and sweet. I fed you with the spoon. It was a great feature of the day. Every mouthful had to have a story. A letter for the post, and you would open your mouth. So the plate was emptied. It would have been much easier for me to have eaten the pudding myself, but that would not have fattened you. I could bear the spoon to your mouth, but you had to open your mouth and swallow the food.
So now, my precious, I can pray for grace for you. God has prepared it for you and allowed me to bring it near you, but I cannot act for you, you must do that yourself. Grace awaits you, but YOU must receive it.
You must know, deep inside you, that my anxiety about you is much more serious than you say. You know that your action is a grave sin, are you purposely “begging the point”, have you been to confession yet? That is the anxiety that breaks my heart, an anxiety that never leaves me. It is practically five months now, and are you still living out of grace? If I was there with you at this moment I would take you by the arm and run you round to Our Lady’s Church, then when we were in the presbytery reception room, I would say to Father McAuley, “This girl has come to have a serious talk with you, Father. Now I will just go round to the church and say my prayers. Get on with it, Stella!”
There again – you have the spoon, I could not go further than that, the rest is your action. You must be miserable whenever you face it. Perhaps you fill your mind with the thought of next April, but you are not being fair even to that thought, for he, too, will need grace. He needs it now, and the peace that grace can give him.
Why, my precious, why, when God has given all things to you, do you turn away from Him? Have you forgotten already – “Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, I am He whom thou seekest! Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest me.”
It does not matter in the least whether you believe in the marriage contract or not. The fact remains, it is a law, and millions of wiser people than you have seen the necessity for keeping the law before you chose to break it. So in all probability you are quite wrong, and everybody else quite right. As the lack of devotion is based on ignorance, it really bears no weight at all, and certainly devotion has no chance of growing unless you encourage it. This is not the moment for argument, the matter is too serious, we are too near to Eternity, to hesitate and quibble. So, my own dear, make a big determined effort, and deliver yourself and everybody else from a most humiliating position. You know that you can, if only you will. The present situation is ignominious to a degree, and quite untenable.
I suppose I think of you more often than you do of me. My first waking thought is always a question, “What day is it, Lord?” Then when He has awakened my memory sufficiently, there follows another, “Oh, dear, and there’s Stella.” So my day begins.
I have often re-lived our week together [in July 1936]. How strange that after five years God should choose to send you, then. So that the first days of your tragedy were spent with me, who loves you more than anybody else on Earth. Do you remember our conversation about pedestals? Yes, yours did crash, after all. You are not less, dear, but you occupy a different position. I picked you up out of the debris, and want to shield and hold you now, whereas before I watched you from a lower altitude, and expected everybody else to do the same. They always crash, those pedestals, and I never grow any wiser. Ah, human nature, poor, weak, tainted nature, capable of divine heroism, and bestial wilfulness! And through it all, the plaint of the “tremendous Lover”, “Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest…”
I hope you will soon have the little house, I am sure it would be much better for you. I am glad that you are making a success of home life. You have the best cook on Earth to teach you, so you should not err in that department, but it is very difficult to imagine you as the critical shopper.
Here is the end of the page, and a last whispered pleading. Soon, precious, soon, there is not time for delay. All the love and grace are waiting for you.
With all my love, dearest baby sister,
Sister of the Heart of Mary

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