Desmond Greaves Journal, Vol. 7, 1945-46
13 November 1945 – 16 May 1946
Themes: Chemical research at Messrs Powell Duffryns/Dalanium – Disputes among company directors and staff – Mooted research trip to post-War Germany – Publishing first book of verse, “By the Clock ‘Tis Day”, with Alan Morton – Health worries – On the CPGB International Affairs and Irish Committees – Retiring from formal Connolly Association commitments – Meeting pre-war school and college mates following their demobilization – Family visits to Liverpool – Cycling trips in Wales and Southern England – Personal assessment for 1945, with plan of priorities for 1946 which mentions three parts of the 1944 Retrospect as having been completed, as well as a planned book on Ireland (v.entry for 30 December)
November 13 Tuesday (London): I felt fairly well today and went to Walthamstowe as usual [where he was working as a research chemist for Delanium, a research company that had set up by De La Rue Plastics and Messrs Powell Duffryn to research new products made out of oil and carbon]. Wolstonecraft is away and in his absence Zussman his assistant has succeeded in ruining our only mould, much to Parker’s fury [Bill Parker, a chemistry colleague and friend of Greaves’s], since he uses it as well. I reprimanded Zussman who made me all the usual RAF [Royal Air Force] excuses, and couldn’t even restrain a little grin which was the equivalent of a wink when I changed the subject – a gesture which brought back the vials of wrath on him. Still, it only came down to, “Don’t do it again.”
In the evening Ian White came [White was someone whom Greaves had employed to help with his voluntary work for the Connolly Association]. He has taken 14 days to type four pages of foolscap (800 words per page) and I complained. Tonight he brought his resignation. He is a very odd precocious lad and says he cannot manage on £2 a week, but will not work so as to be worth more. With JL Dooley [Editor of “Irish Freedom”, later ”Irish Democrat”] ringing up on the one side saying the Connolly Association needs no assistance etc. etc., in the usual style of a Dooley tirade, and the fact that we are short of money [ie. in the Connolly Association], I just couldn’t afford to offer him more. If I split his wages with Flann Campbell [Connolly Association activist] he would not do any work at all – so I had to let him go. Perhaps after thinking it over a bit he will change his mind. He is a highly emotional boy, says he has “psychological” difficulties and certainly he has trouble at home. I am sorry for him but can do little. I suggested he try Bagenal Harvey [another Connolly Association activist].
November 14 Wednesday: I spent the morning with Bethune and J.Godolphin Bennett [John Godolphin Bennett, 1897-1974, research director at Messrs Powell Duffryn, chairman of the British Coal Utilisation Research Association, which was charged with finding alternatives to oil at the beginning of World War 2; forced to resign from Powell Duffryns in 1950 during a scare over having communists on his staff; concentrated thereafter on publicizing the theosophical works of GJ Gurdjieff, of whose ideas he became a leading international exponent]. Foster appeared later and we had lunch together. In the evening I saw Philip Parke who told me of the bad position in the Holborn Branch [of the CPGB]. He seems very bitter against the secretary Lehemann.
November 16 Thursday: In the morning Bethune, JG Bennett and I after calling on Ballantyne, went to see “Learned Counsel”. His chambers were in a secluded place approached via various Inns and Temples, and his name was Basil Drew KC – a man of about 45 with a bushy moustache, who sat in a large room with a fire, it is true, but open windows. His colleague Marlowe sat by the fire on a leather-covered fireguard or surround (an antique whose name I am ignorant of) which also resembled an altar-rail behind which the vestal fire burned without heat. The solicitor Cook was also there. Very soon Ballantyne slipped over to the fire. Learned Counsel spoke forcefully and in the manner of an expert. “I wish you could come to the works and see this,” said Bathune. “No. No. I can visualise the entire thing!” said counsel. Of course everybody else was too cold to speak, in fact too cold to think, except plucky little Ballantyne who had from the first declared that we were only “consulting” counsel and that he would be responsible for what actually went into the patent office. When Drew was “damn sure” and “didn’t care a damn”, Ballantyne stuck to his guns, and in his tactful way began, “Now there is one thing I want to mention, and I think I ought to mention it in the presence of learned counsel. After all I took the responsibility for the draft of this specification, and I also took the responsibility of advising Delanium to see counsel. . .” and after gently reminding the KC of where his money came from, Ballantyne made his point unmolested. In the end Ballantyne’s draft was practically unchanged. Then we had lunch at the Waldorf (without Drew) and later I went to Walthamstowe.
November 16 Friday: It had been my intention to go to Liverpool but I learnt from Philip Poole and a notice that a very important Holborn Branch meeting [ie.of the CPGB] was to be held, at which the committee was to put forward proposals to elect a commission of three to draw up a panel for a new committee. So I postponed my departure, and went. When I arrived the secretary was concluding a report – without “perspective” but correct in its limited way. Poole was in the chair. He immediately invited a post-mortem on the election disputes. The candidate, Isabel Pepper, a 21 year old teacher whose candidature was nearly successful but resulted in a Tory winning one seat, supported the secretary. After a while Poole asked leave to vacate the chair and made a speech in which he said the Labour Government was heading “not for socialism but for Fascism”, that they were rightly called “social fascists”, that he didn’t care if a Tory pork-butcher had defeated a Labour man, that there was a strong right-wing trend in party politics, and that we needed a “clear revolutionary party and those who didn’t like it could get out.”
Someone said, “I know how we are dominated by this damned right-wing.” So I decided to reply, since nobody else was doing it, and accused Poole of jumping to the leftist extremity, and hoped the expressions he had used would not be repeated outside that room. A young lad leaped up and cried, “Why?” So I went on a little longer and told them why. Then they gave a report of the committee meeting. The secretary declared that the committee proposal was ultra vires. Then a proposal of no confidence was made and under this irenical banner the debate proceeded. After a lot of argument, I told them to keep their committee and look to their policy and perspective. They seemed to agree. Then the secretary wanted to reply. Poole replied that he would allow him to “sum up” but not reply. “If you don’t like it”, he replied to interrupters, “you can move the chairman leaves the chair.” This was moved, but lost. I voted for it. So Lehemann began to sum up, but was told after two sentences that he was replying. He refused to continue. Realising that they had voted wrong the branch decided he must reply and somebody else must sum up. The chairman said he was too partial to sum up (though apparently not to be in the chair) so they asked me, and I thought I had saved the committee. But No – they voted 17/13 no confidence. It was then 11 pm. They had no committee, and like the man and wife who were given three wishes and spent two of them in getting a sausage and wishing it up the wife’s arse, they had to spend their third wish voting the committee back again. I presume there will be another schemozzle next time. Later I sent the District Party Committee a circumstantial account of the whole thing.
November 17 Saturday (Liverpool): I missed the early train and went by the 10 o’clock to Liverpool. CEG [his father] picked me up at Rock Ferry and ran me home. AEG [his mother] and Phyllis were there. CEG has been unwell again, and poor old AEG has been very worried, and ill herself. Phyllis says that CEG always makes the most of it and worries the poor woman to death. “We’ll have him popping off on us one of these days,” she said to Phyllis, “Oh, I do hope he’s not going to die.” Whenever I go home I am shocked at the way AEG waits on them both hand and foot. Unfortunately she has no guile and is quite unable to manage them, and besides, her experience has never gone beyond domesticity, except as a girl, when she kept the books in a shop. They spoke of the way CEG flouts doctor’s orders, but added that Guthrie [one of Greaves’s school companions who became a doctor] had lent him some medical books, probably in the hope of scaring him. So far the only result has been to set him talking about “his” toxins. They complain also of his moodiness. I always find him very amiable, but they say this is because he sees me seldom, and also he has always had a specially soft spot for me. I explained how stomach ulcers have an irritating effect on the whole system, thus causing moodiness and a desire to turn away from things and “do something else”.
They told me Mrs Mercer was dead [had been a Labour political candidate; see Vols. 1 and 2] – of a most painful disease, cancer of the spine. Also that Iver Mercer is strongly addicted to drink [a secondary school friend; see Vols.1 and 2], like his father. Phyllis was just back from Dublin. Three things struck her (i) the smell of peat-smoke, (ii) the bicycles, (iii) the horse-dung all over the streets.
November 18 Sunday: In the afternoon CEG ran us out to Rhyltalog, Grawnrhyd, Llanarmon, and back another way. It was cloudy with a fine drizzle, but for all that he insisted on a mile walk, to the overhanging edge of a mountain (Moel Fandey). Phyllis, who is made sick by cars, was not too well, but on the whole we all enjoyed the trip. It was AEG’s birthday (61) and how she has succeeded in maintaining her hair in its original blackness is quite remarkable. The only thing I fear is that CEG’s illness and unpredictability may wear her down. I left on the 10.00 train via Chester and Crewe.
November 19 Monday (LONDON): I went to Walthamstowe in the morning and met my new senior assistant Bloomfield, from Cardiff. He knows Farrington [Professor Benjamin Farrington, 1891-1974, Corkman, professor of classics at Swansea, author of “Greek Science”] and was secretary of an AScW branch. Parker thinks he’s possibly in the party, something very amusing. It was Idris Jones who selected him and I hear that Idris Jones’s brother was a Labour candidate and also Pritt’s election agent [DN Pritt,1887-1972, British barrister and leftwing Labour MP] at one time. So now I see why JG Bennett has been for so long trying to keep him away from me.
In the afternoon I went with Aileen Palmer again to the dentist. This time the anaesthetist was not so skilful. I felt a slight choking sensation, “Take it through the nose, Mr Greaves,” cried Toogood. I still could not tell whether consciousness (of a kind) is continuous. I think it is. Certainly this time I knew I was coming round, and reflected that conditioned reflexes could be established even in the process of anaesthesia, whereupon I heard “open your eyes. All over now,” and that was that. I felt more shaken this time. The worst tooth of them all had been extracted. But an hour later I felt distinctly better than last time. There are still traces of arthritis – if it is a monthly affair, the next attack should be next Monday or Tuesday, so I am hoping not to be unlucky. Aileen told me how disappointing Hillel Woddis [Woddis, Hillel (Jack), leading CPGB member] has been at Marx House. He is, she says, “whippersnapperish”. She means that he is intellectually well-developed, but lacks the moral and emotional force which turns cleverness into wisdom.
November 21 Wednesday: In the evening Alan Morton [Alan Geoffrey Morton, botanist, Desmond Greaves’s oldest friend] came unexpectedly. He had seen Progress Press whose directors had returned our MSS [ie. their poems, later published as “By the Clock ‘Tis Day”], saying they would be prepared to reconsider doing them in six months time. He has now arranged to start work in Harpenden in a week’s time, and has taken temporarily a furnished flat in Hampstead.
November 22 Thursday: In the morning Alan Morton went to see the Progress Books woman. She said that the directors had read our work, and thought it was very talented. They were short of paper, but that did not worry them. They had no money to buy it in the black market. They found it hard to get even a £1000 capital. On the other hand “Nicholas and Watson” had just got £250,000 and were progressive – the money was without conditions, but she could not say who had invested it, on grounds of confidence. “Yes”, said Alan,” That’s about it. If you want money you must ask for enough of it. Now if you went round like Harry [presumably Harry Pollitt, general secretary of the CPGB], asking for £500,000, you might get it.” “She looked goggle-eyed at me,” said Alan, recounting the story. ” ‘Harry!’ Well – as a matter of fact it is Harry’s people who are investing in Nicholas and Watson.” Among other things Alan said he was very pleased at the reception he had received, and that we were willing to wait six months if we felt, as we did now, that she was serious. Most of the publishers he had been to gave him the impression that they didn’t publish anything, and he could discover no overt reason why they were in business. She said that the tendency was to pay attention to the form of poetry and to neglect its content.
November 23 Friday: A note left by Alan Morton said that he had been to see Nicholas and Watson. “Apparently they function in two sections about poetry. The first section is ‘straight’ and the second section (referred to as ‘upstairs’) is apparently the Poetry London circus. However they will consider the work in both sections and will let us know. At least they did not pretend to have no paper.”
At the research meeting this afternoon JG Bennett spoke of the need to send somebody to Germany. Who wanted to go? They all looked dumb, and I said “We all want to go.” “It’s likely to be in January – possibly in a jeep”, said JGB. “It’s all right by me!” I declared emphatically, “It can be on a sledge!” JGB was so much impressed by my definiteness that he proposed myself to go with DB Foster and the new “development manager” Budden. The other two had been going all along, and I don’t know what purpose he intended to serve by throwing the matter open in this way – perhaps that of giving an appearance of democracy.
November 24 Saturday: I went to the party Congress today, and saw not so many people I knew as on other occasions – Billy McCullough and McInerney, Jimmy Shields, Mary Sullivan, Pat Clancy and Packie Early, Voss, Jim Jeffery, as visitors – but nobody from Liverpool. It was a good conference, with a very sound sensible atmosphere. Everyone was, I think, impressed by the shocking deterioration of the world outlook since June – it was partly this which spoilt my holiday for me in August – and yet there was none of the nonsense Poole was talking last week.
November 25 Sunday: I felt so appallingly tired today that I just did nothing at all.
November 26 Monday: In the morning I went with JG Bennett and Bethune to Ballantyne’s. In the afternoon I developed a sore throat.
November 27 Tuesday: I went to Walthamstowe but felt unwell all day, what with sore throat, tiredness, headache and twinges of arthritis! I rang up Elsie Timbey and said I would not be at the Irish Committee in the evening. However I felt better later, but went only to find she was not there; nor were Bagenal Harvey or Packie Early. Paddy Clancy was unmoved from his decision to oppose Jimmy Shields’s proposals, but Packie Early was moved by my counter-proposals, which involve the liquidation of the C.A. but the making of something else.
November 28 Wednesday: I had intended to go to Penge where an attempt to extract coal was made. It was an idea of DB Foster and Payne who sold the idea to JG Bennett, to cut the Gordian knot by getting “experts” on the job. GC Philpotts opposed it, and said it would not work. “Do you claim to know more about it than experts who have been on the job for 20 years?” asked Bennett with withering sarcasm. Philpotts looked embarrassed, and I reassured him by saying, “I’m sure Mr Philpotts meant that they did not possess experience of this type of extrusion.” They sent King, who failed. I was to go, but felt ill and sent Derrick Walker. Then Philpotts went. I gather there was no success.
November 29 Thursday: I saw GC Philpotts in the afternoon, after taking the final examples for the specification Ballantyne is filing today. He thanked me for recognition saying that this case was as important as any he had handled – rather an admission from so notable a patent agent. He also in his rather ceremonial and punctilious way congratulated me “not only on a fine piece of research” but on having proposed altering the form of the specification: “After all with Mr Bennett being, in a manner of speaking, your boss, and I being an old stager, its requires considerable courage to say ‘why not put it in another way.'” This remark showed firstly how few communists he had been associated with, and secondly how little there is to cause progress in a scientific community where it requires no little courage to say, “why not put it in another way.”
These reflections robbing the compliment of its charm, I could not look pleased, so feigned embarrassment, and then said “Good morning” a little curtly, and received his salutation, also made a little curtly, so that I left without knowing whether my lack of pleasure had made him fear he had offended me, or whether it had offended him, or whether (most likely) he was taken in by an appearance of naivety which would be becoming in a boy of 20, but which he could, at 60, be expected to believe possible at 32, and under these circumstances.
There had been what approached an altercation between Philpotts and Foster at lunch. Foster was very annoyed, and blamed “the three boys”(King, Philpotts and Walker) among whom there was “insufficient cooperation”. The press had jammed. The “expert” was nowhere to be seen. The whole thing was quite unsuitable and their only experience in extrusion was the extrusion of lead! They set the floor on fire, and to crown all, Philpotts, bending down, pushed his backside through a plate glass window. When Foster rang up, Philpotts denounced the whole thing. Bennett was “listening in” and chimed in denouncing Philpotts for “giving up”. Derrick Walker says Philpotts’ manner changed abruptly, in the presence of the sage, but that he stuck to his guns. Today he was writing a memorandum.
I went to the International Affairs Committee meeting in the evening, and met the usual people. R.Palme Dutt was in the chair and not quite liking Shelvankar’s [RN Shelvankar, Indian intellectual and later diplomat] report on India gave us a twenty-minute lecture, but apologized for “banging in so soon”. He is a very good chairman, keeps a good atmosphere in the meeting, and has merely a rather aloof and slightly pontifical manner. Jimmy Shields, Maud Rogerson (Rogerson’s sister), Michael Carritt, Ben Bradley, Aileen Palmer and others were there.
November 3O Friday: We had a visit from Idris Jones in the morning, and DB Foster, Philpotts and I discussed things with him. Having left Alan Morton’s case in the ‘bus yesterday I went to Baker Street for it. It had not yet arrived, though I was informed it had been found. Foster drove me up in his car, with Idris Jones and Miss Murphy, Bennett’s secretary. Bennett himself was away. Idris Jones was bursting with pride over the South Wales coalfield. When I said I trusted we should soon operate in South Wales, he said, “It would certainly be a tragedy if South Wales were to get no factories out of this.” He has been broadcasting on Welsh scientists and is a member of the Education Advisory Panel or some such body. He is in favour of the recent reconstruction report. But his social ideas are confused. He is secretly, say some, pleased with nationalization [the post- War Labour Government was nationalising the coal industry], but he showed little pleasure today because, says Miss Murphy, his own career is involved in it and he is “disappointed that all Powell-Dyffryn’s progressive schemes are thrown into the melting pot.” The conclusion that he delivered to us in the car was that what the country needed was “discipline and industry”. He was also afraid of the “group mind”. My impression of him is that he has notably changed during the last eighteen months. Certainly he looks older, more respectable, less buoyant, and his conversation has less of general cultural interest. “Where is the world going? asked Foster, “To disillusionment”, he replied with a ghost of a wry grin, and pronouncing the “-ment” with its full vocalic value as it if were “meant”.
December 1 Saturday: I went to Walthamstowe in the morning and with DB Foster went to De La Rue and successfully extruded a mixture I had made yesterday, on one of their machines. I also told Foster I thought he had made a mistake in his handling of the previous extrusion arrangements, but softened the blow, and made him feel happy at our present success. I want to create an atmosphere of general goodwill and enthusiasm for this work, as Philpotts and I are set on trying to get more money out of them. Perhaps the memorandum of Philpotts is a trifle regrettable.
All the arrangements for the trip to Germany are made, but I learn we shall have to be inoculated against numerous diseases.
December 2 Sunday: Every time I intend to go out for a Sunday I am so tired by the week’s activity that I stay in bed till noon. This is also partly because I am not sleeping properly. The arthritis has not made another violent attack, but hovers about and gives me twinges when I get tired at night. On the other hand I have felt in general better these last two days, but then there is more dentistry tomorrow.
December 3 Monday: I went to Walthamstowe for a while, and then went to Holborn to meet Aileen Palmer. She was not there, so I proceeded alone. The reflexes of nitrous oxide anaesthesia are cumulative. During the first period I kept thinking, at the first feelings of shortage of oxygen, the feeling of swelling (due, I was told years ago to distress of blood vessels), and the very excessively deep breaths one takes, “I must remember this”. But I only recollect what is common to the three operations, including my desire to remember my sensations, and especially to solve the problem of whether the chain of consciousness was broken. This time I recognized that I was again coming to, and that in fact I had been internally conscious, that is to say dreaming, all the time, quite continuously. I felt a tooth being pulled out, and reflected, “That was very painful, if only I could feel it.” Then I heard, “My God! That one was a terror!” from the doctor, and wondered whether, now that my eyes opened of their own accord, and my hand reached immediately for the water glass, I heard the remark and felt the pull at the time they happened or whether the stimuli were so to speak stored up for a time. I decided that the tooth having been difficult I was already leaving the state of semiconsciousness when it was withdrawn and so felt it at the right time. The remark (which I was not certain I heard) I had heard and now remembered, so that its impact was twofold, first as a meaningless expression in my ears, then understood in retrospect as soon as the frontal lobes of the cerebrum resumed their functions. As I left my opinions were confirmed by Toogood who said – “That’ll do you for another fortnight” – in quite a rueful tone of voice. “Those were two very difficult teeth to get out,” he said, almost as if it was my fault.
This time I felt quite well afterwards, and went home and fell asleep. When I awoke I realised the shock had been greater than I had first realised, but as I had arranged to meet RH Smith at Holborn, I did so, and we went to the Wigmore Hall to hear a recital of Seiber’s music. His music is pleasant but not heavy. One thing was a horn and string “Notturno,” in which a young RAF man called Dennis Brain completely took my breath away by his playing of the instrument. Such virtuosity I never imagined possible. It’s a public scandal that he should be wasting his time in uniform. Afterwards RH Smith wanted to go to University College to see if he had left a bunsen burning in his laboratory, so I accompanied him and concluded the evening with a coffee at my flat. He told me he had met my neighbour Price in Scotland. Nobody he had met had such self-confidence – I call it conceit – he had led Smith, or had tried to lead him to believe, that he was (at 22!) director of research at Walthamstowe College. He boasted to Smith that his flat was to provide himself and his friends with a place to bring their women to, and that he had covered the lamp outside the door with red paper, but the landlord had objected (an exaggeration I believe – I would never have missed that).
After he had had gone I continued work on some poems I am writing. During the second half of this year I have done more poetry than for years.
December 4 Tuesday: I did little today owing to persistent toothache – or to be precise gum-ache.
December 5 Wednesday: I attended a branch meeting of Holborn Communist Party, and there saw things at last smoothed over and settled. Elsie Timbey was there and I went to her flat to meet her Ceylonese friend Wickramsinge, who returns to Ceylon tomorrow. She agreed with my proposals to liquidate the Connolly Association as Jimmy Shields suggests, but along certain special lines, which would keep what we have won.
December 6 Thursday: I saw Paddy Clancy in the evening but though I reasoned long and hard with him, he remained obdurate, the C.A. must stay.
December 7 Friday: The long-awaited Irish Committee meeting took place tonight, where the decision on the Jimmy Shields proposals were to be made. It was quite interesting to note that this time JL Dooley was there in person, and his understudy, coadjutor and pimp, Bagenal Harvey, had not considered it necessary to attend. I set out clearly what I thought to be the right course: (i) to make our main object building a broad movement round the paper; (ii) to transform existing CA bodies into committees of the paper; (iii) to alter the character of the paper so that the Hugh Delargy group [Hugh Delargy,1908-1976; Labour MP 1945-1976, member of the Irish Anti-Partition League and secretary of the Friends of Ireland group of Labour MPs in the late 1940s] would participate in its production; (iv) to press our work among the Irish through the party channels, from the British side [This was a proposal by Greaves to develop a more broadly-based Irish movement in Britain on classical national front lines.] Clancy attacked the whole thing fiercely, called it Browderism [ie. liquidating communist influence, referring to Earl Browder, 1908-1976, secretary of the CPUSA during the late 1930s-1940s popular front period, who proposed dissolving the American CP in a wider leftwing movement in 1945 on the assumption that a Cold War would be avoided], and said he would insist on seeing Pollitt if it went through, and much more. Elsie Timbey supported me. Mary Sullivan supported my broad policy but wanted to keep the C.A. The same went for Packie Early. Flann wrote [ie. Flann Campbell] saying he was impressed by my argument that 2/3 of the circulation of the Irish Democrat was done by the C.A. and he proposed to keep it in existence till he found out if there was any other way of selling the paper (what realism!) and then JL Dooley spoke.
When I had finished he had given me a look of slightly embarrassed displeasure, mingled with a touch of the kind of respect that a rogue gives another who has outwitted him. Dooley always thinks in terms of “getting away with” something. He was obviously in a quandary. He had prepared, as we could see, a tirade in favour of liquidation. He found me proposing it. As his interest was more to oust me than to solve the political problem, he was inclined to change sides – but he had so definitely declared that the C.A. should be liquidated that he wouldn’t go back on it. His remarks were therefore very lame. He “wanted to sit on the fence”(the joke was that I had built him the fence to sit on, did he but know it) and confined himself to saying that what was wrong with the C.A. was the “character of the leadership” adding, for fear anyone should be in doubt whom was meant, that he didn’t want to make a personal attack on me. When the vote was taken on a self-contradictory resolution of Mary Sullivan, Elsie Timbey and I were for liquidation and Dooley abstained, the others carrying the day. No wonder I sometimes feel that nothing on earth can be done with such noodles. I’ve never seen such a daft bunch of ha’porths. Then Dooley asked questions designed to imply that I was incompetent, and piped down after being replied to, and we went home.
Now this marks, I have a feeling, the conclusion of my work in the Irish movement in Britain. In future I shall be working with it, as part of a wider scheme of things. What will happen is that now Paddy Clancy will take over and Dooley will put through his scatterbrained schemes. All will be well at times, at other times all will be ill, and they’ll go on from crisis to crisis in the good old Irish way. “God mend their wits,” as somebody said.
Aileen Palmer rang me up late at night to explain that she had completely forgotten about our appointment on Monday, that she rang on the Monday evening, but that I was not in. I did not tell her that I had so far disregarded her injunctions as to go to a concert that evening.
December 8 Saturday: I felt very tired and stayed in bed till 12 am. There was a dance in the evening, at which Paddy Clancy and others were present. He was grumbling about Mary Sullivan’s unwillingness to do any work at the dance, thus leaving it all to him and a few others. He will learn all about this very soon.
December 9 Sunday: I went to Walthamstowe today as the establishment was open, in preparation for a visit by the board of directors of Delanium and De La Rue, on Wednesday.
December 10 Monday: In the morning DB Foster, Budden and I went to the Board of Trade to see Dr Norton, who arranged for our trip to Germany. We then went to the Quartermaster sergeant’s store at Victoria where we presented our credentials and were ushered into the tailor’s shop. There our waistline was measured and our size of hat by a primitive procedure. “Stand sideways, sir,” said the Corporal. I stood sideways and he immediately said “seven” or “twelve” or whatever it was. Then we went back to the store and were given private’s battle-dress and an army great-coat, and badges to sew on to show that we weren’t really in the army at all and were officers anyway, in fact “Government officials”, and when we rolled up our impedimenta in a “valise” I pretended not to be able to do mine, much to the amusement of the corporal, and Budden and Foster merrily tied it up for me, and were very amused when they saw through the trick. Then we fell talking. “What are we going to do about these damned buttons?” asked Foster. “Don’t worry,” said I, “I’ve got gold chloride in the lab. I’ll gold-plate them.” They roared, “That’ll fool ’em!”
“Excuse me, sir,” said the corporal very deferentially. “Are you gentlemen scientists going to Germany to unearth the secrets of the Hun?” We said we were, and were conscious of having lightened the tailor’s day from the proximity of romance. It rather surprised me however that with so many people going over, he was not blasé but then perhaps there is not the same man there every day. When we departed he said, “Well, anyway, I’ll be out of the army tomorrow.” “And me in a fortnight,” said his colleague. So we went to the Royal Automobile Club and had lunch – accidentally running into Norton again. The lunch was quite good but one had to queue for it, and it was quite amusing to see these highly respectable gentlemen all lining up for food in these luxurious premises, just as the small fry might at a common canteen. When one sees them all together it is rather sobering – so many!
I then went to Walthamstowe, and later went to the office for a while. Higgins came to see me. He has been laid up with lumbago. He talks of trying to use his industrial experience in England by setting up a little tool-making business in Cork. He will try to get a Government grant. This speaks a multitude in comparison of capitalism here and there.
December 11 Tuesday: In the morning I went with Bethune to see the old patent agent Evans (of Able and Imrey) who was discarded in favour of Ballantyne (Bault, Wade and Tennant). He is a pernickety, fussy little man of about Foster’s age, and about his build, but (from the presence of Barbusse’s “Stalin” on his bookshelf) not so reactionary as Ballantyne, while not possessing Ballantyne’s clear brain on patent matters. In the evening Derrick Walker, Bloomfield and I worked till 10.30 pm. preparing for tomorrow.
December 12 Wednesday: By previous arrangement Stafford Cripps [President of the Board of Trade in the new Labour Government] should have paid us a visit today, but could not. Instead the Board of Directors of De la Rue came instead. There was Bridge, big bouncing and rather a yankee type; Westall grim, withered, polished and shrewd, with just enough bad manners to show his station, and two hideous Dutchmen, big teutonic creatures, with loud voices, imperious manners and the pretence of omniscience that passes for wisdom on the continent. They stumped round and looked at things, and then returned in four cars to what DB Foster (who went, and came back filled with gin and glee) describes as an appropriately huge lunch. The directors of De la Rue regard themselves as such superior individuals that rather than occupy a part of the general offices of the company, they have their own suite of rooms at Brook Street, and thus put a double distance between them and the humble workmen. Derrick Walker afterwards said that he only now realised what business-men were like, and how much he detested them. If British industry remains in their clutches there is no hope of its ever re-entering the first rank of progress.
December 13 Thursday: Last night I went to Bhattacharya to get him to sign my passport, and look at the arthritis. He made no more observations, relying on his former diagnosis. He could give no advice about diet, rest, exercise or mode of living – the most essential determinants of health. He said my “nerves” were on edge, which is true enough within its connotation, and no wonder after months of arthritis and toothache. He said regarding Germany, “Nobody can tell whether there is anything wrong with you or not, and nobody can say whether you will have an attack or you will not.” He also hinted that I took the gout too seriously, and that after my return he would suggest a course of tablets which “might” stop it recurring. He gave me some mystery tablets (which I guess are luminal) for the journey. So failing to penetrate the mumbo-jumbo I left it at that.
Today I went for the medical examination at the Board of Trade. The Medical Officer had to answer some questions, for example whether blood-pressure was normal for my age. He did not test it but wrote, “clinically yes”. So Bhattacharya was right. “Mobody would know”, for they wouldn’t look carefully enough.
I then took the Irish Committee minutes down to Jimmy Shields who looked rather ill, sitting in front of the fire in Michael Carritt’s room. Michael and Aileen were typing. Jimmy Shield’s comment was, “Ach, we’ll just have to let them learn by experience. They’ve just got no idea of Irish politics in this country!” He seemed a little weary of things. His great problem is how to get through the winter. If it remains mild (the cold snap only lasted one day) he will be all right. He told me that Roth had written to me but that the letter had gone astray and was returned to him. On my return home I rang him up and arranged to see him on Monday.
I also went with Bethune to Able and Imray. We had lunch with Evans. “The best thing”, said Bethune, “is for Britain and America to compose their differences and to go and drop a few atomic bombs on Russia. ” I informed him that Germany had had such notions, but had not seemingly profited by the performance. Evans concurred and disclosed that he read the New Statesman and Nation [the Labour- oriented weekly]. By some means or other I must contrive to teach Bethune a lesson. Perhaps his nonsense comes from his friend in the Foreign Office, but without a doubt Bethune himself is a white-hot reactionary, and at the very least a cordon sanitaire of suspicion must be erected around him.
December 14 Friday: In the morning JG Bennett read a letter which he had received from Westall criticizing the presentation of our progress at the visit on Wednesday. Quite clearly they follow him like blood-hounds, and though DB Foster sighs for the days when Delanium, making a profit, will have “its own” income, one need have no illusions as to what those gentlemen intend to become of that income. What Foster will get will be what they overlook – not much. The upshot is that they see the possibility of commercial operation much earlier than they anticipated – there is no need to wait five years, so now everything is to be reoriented on a commercial basis.
December 15 Saturday: In the evening Flann Campbell called to see me. I had already handed over the seals of the Connolly Association office to Paddy Clancy. He can get on with it, with due help (which equals interference) from our mutual friend Dooley. Both Clancy and Dooley (especially the latter) want us to put ourselves at the head of a movement for releasing the IRA prisoners. When I say the movement should be broader, Flann Campbell immediately declares we must collaborate with the same bunch. I am afraid it will be a long time before we see even the first stirrings of political common-sense in the Irish, and little can be done to hasten it.
December 16 Sunday: I called on Elsie Timbey and handed over the books of the C.A. Now I hold no official position at all. Let them jog along by themselves for a while. For the time being my main concern is going to be my own health.
December 17 Monday: We had a meeting in the morning. JG Bennett wanted to take Lth. from me for Budden’s new department. I opposed it. “It will only be for three months,” said Bennett. “So I might think if I did not know quite well that nothing is reversible. I’ve never known anything reversed.” “A very shrewd retort!” declared Bennett and pressed it no further. Later I had a tooth extracted – a canine, and rather a troublesome one! Then I went to see Roth. He agreed the toe-joint was still swollen. He was more inclined to the gout theory now, but was convinced that dental sepsis had aggravated it, that there was no “diathesis” and that such an exotic growth as gout in me should not trouble me much, considering I was young etc. etc. I saw Jimmy Shields who showed me that this IRA release bunch who are demanding a “general amnesty” have asked Gallacher [Willie Gallacher, communist MP] to support them. “Don’t,” was my advice. Shields agreed. Later I saw Gaster [CPGB solicitor] who thought the same. Then DB Foster and I went to be inoculated and met there a bearded man, arguing, whose main subject of discourse was, “See how clever I am” arranged through various keys, tropes and anecdotes. He is from Aluminium Plant and Vessel, where he works with Brinsley, but “Be careful of him,” says Foster, “He was sacked out of Kestner’s”
I saw Clancy in the evening, still talking nonsense. They think that just because there is a movement among a section of Irish, we should adopt the slogans and put ourselves at the head of it. The trouble is that if they do it, and the result is bad, they are as liable to blame the weather as their own obstinate stupidity.
December 18 Tuesday (Liverpool): I got up late as I felt unwell and decided to go to Liverpool today. I therefore caught the 5.3O am. and reaching Lime St. about 10.15 went to Rock Ferry where CEG picked me up in the car. I found all three quite well. Phyllis has had fewer colds of late thanks to a new line of treatment, with iodine. CEG has, thanks to AEG’s persuasion, undertaken a new responsibility, in connexion with a hospital voluntary car service which Daphne Greaves [his first cousin Harley’s wife] is in charge of. The main interest is, I think, the additional petrol which he thus obtains. Last week he and AEG went to Ilkley to collect a patient.
December 19 Wednesday: I remained in bed all morning. Strangely enough yesterday and today were the first days since the last attack when I have been practically free from arthritic twinges. This may result from dental treatment. There is, in my opinion, however still one more tooth to be removed, for all the dentist’s swearing the job is completed. I rang Edge’s mother and heard he is coming on Saturday. Later Geoffrey Bloor rang and we arranged to meet tomorrow.
In the afternoon CEG drove me to Neston and Parkgate. The tide was out and we observed the great expanse of green marsh, with dead Aster Tripolium Inflorescens starting up on it. I expressed the opinion that it had extended since I last saw it. CEG had not the impression that it was true, but at the same time he recalled that his father had often spoken of having crossed to Flint by a ford, which he understood was still known to Parkgate fishermen. I remember also having heard of it. I doubt if it is still there, and I think that the canalization of the upper reaches has diverted the flow of water to the Flintshire side, and thus silted up the Cheshire side. CEG agreed it might be so, and observed that William of Orange set sail from Neston (I suppose it was Parkgate) for Ireland. One could scarcely launch a small dinghy now. So the place had certainly silted over a long period. The sky was clear, the sun falling in a halo of yellow mist over Moel Famau, and the mountains were of a slightly rosy slate-grey. It was a scene impossible in London or near it, as huge cumulus clouds stood out to sea, like huge yellow cauliflowers, with black bars across them – but there were no showers near us.
December 20 Thursday: I went to the city in the morning and met Geoffrey Bloor and Kenneth Westmore [friends and political colleagues from the early 1930s, see Vols. 1-4.] Bloor was at London Road. We went up to his flat in the Elm Park for lunch, where Winifred Bloor had prepared quite a sumptuous meal. Geoffrey had seen FM Jones. He had been a Captain in Austria and was now a 1stLieutenant in Italy. In Italy he had met De. His wife also was with him. They said his most outstanding characteristic was his extraordinary family. He came with them to the School of Architecture and saw some other national students at work. ”Hm,” he said, “So you think you’re stealing a march. Getting your building up before mine. But you see? Wait till I am out – the famous Frank M. Jones!” and he began to strut and prance, sticking his chest like a drum, until his wife had to restrain him. They all held the opinion that he was quite serious. His wife is a nice little woman. “She thinks Frank knows everything,” said his mother. He would be astute enough to chose someone like that,” said Geoffrey. As for his mother, having no visible means of support, she has taken a job as a cook in Reece’s restaurant, which I was sorry to hear, as she used to give me a great deal of help.
I also heard that Joan Rainford [a university years friend, see Vol.4] is in Liverpool. Geoffrey and Winifred Bloor went to see her. Apparently Lancaster [John Lancaster, with whom Greaves had toured the south of Ireland in 1939] and his wife are going to take on her London flat when she and her husband go to Cornwall. She still has a lingering regard for Lancaster. “I’m worried about him,” says she, “He’s got an inferiority-complex, says he wouldn’t be able to hold down a civilian job now, and talks of joining the regular army as an Allied Control Commission man.” He also is in town this Xmas. She has already gone back to London. But the oddest thing of the lot is that she has adopted a “problem child” – one of the worst cases of rickets one could expect to find, and mentally deficient into the bargain, or at the least very backward.
December 21 Friday: I went to the School of Tropical Medicine in the afternoon for a typhoid inoculation. Then I went past the Hartley Botanical Laboratories and, out of curiosity, dropped in and saw Duggan [assistant to Professor McLean Thompson, with whom Greaves did not get on, see Vols.1-3]. The impression he made on me, after these years, is that he is a miserable time-serving little old rogue. He was very effusively glad to see me – every symptom of affability turned on like a tap was there. An Indian student came in to borrow a razor stone. “I’ll sharpen it for you,” said Duggan. “Lend me the stone and I’ll do it myself,” said the student. But Duggan was not having his opportunity to turn an honest penny taken away, and eventually had his way with him. The atmosphere of the department was clearly as bad as it could be, and it could only be my inexperience in these things which explains my failure to lay this to its true account years ago. Matthias and Dr Knight were out. I took the opportunity of making some complimentary remarks regarding Matthias [Dr Bill Matthias, a staff member who had been helpful to Greaves as a student; see Vol.2], and when asked if I would look up the Professor I said I didn’t want to see him. This will annoy him, and it is rather a pleasure to cause him even a small annoyance.
I felt unwell in the evening and went to bed early.
December 22 Saturday: The inoculation having made me quite ill I stayed in bed most of the day.
December 23 Sunday: I rose late, went a short walk with Phyllis before lunch and then went to the Philharmonic Society’s performance of “The Messiah”. The interpretation was restrained and scholarly – which is however far from the pietist tradition – and apart from the Welshman behind us and his wife who would insist on adding their quota of song to the auditorium, all was well. But when it was over CEG, who had driven us through the tunnel together with the organist, Lake, having immobilized his car, was unable to restore the mechanism. A plug had to be fitted into a socket, which he could not see in the dark. “Pull the car along to this lamp,” I said. “No, let’s get a match.” The match blew out in the gusty wind, so we pushed the car. Then we decided to push it into a side street where the lamp would give a better light. CEG was getting more fussy every minute, as he was in a great hurry. In his haste he dropped the plug through the engine on to the road. “Push the car away, and get it,” said I. “We might run over it and smash it,” said he. So I said no more but waited. He encircled the vehicle once or twice. “What are you going to do?” – “Push the car away”. So we did and I picked up the plug. Meanwhile AEG had grown excited and was stopping all the passers by. “Where’s the nearest garage?” she asked one man. “Do you know anything about cars?” she asked another. But on looking into it further I discovered that the plug had been in position all the time, and that the cause of the failure of the car to move was quite different – being associated with the springs which held the plug in position. Finally all was well, and we moved. But CEG had gone rather long without food, hurried his tea, and was unwell all night. It is rather amusing to see the play of different temperaments. CEG is completely blank where machinery of any kind is concerned, and, of course, AEG knows it! She thinks that anybody passing by will know more than he does!
December 24 Monday: In the morning Edge [John (Jack) Edge, a Liverpool friend with whom he shared a flat in East London in 1936; see Vol.4] rang up and we agreed to meet on Thursday. Then Westmore rang to say he would be in town today. I met him, with Geoffrey Bloor, at Central Station. He is much the same in appearance though his hair is streaked with grey. He expects soon to be out of the army. He is thinking of becoming a salesman. He has seen Darlington who is married to the woman he has been buying cigarettes from all these years – about three months ago. He is, as Westmore puts it, “worse than ever”, more excitable, and “quite crazy”. We had lunch at the Chinese restaurant in Lime Street. The growth of Chinese restaurants in this area is due to the blitzing of “Chinatown” in 1940-41. The City Council requisitioned premises near Canning Street and with the Chinese population the restaurants moved up also, and thus began to cater for European customers as well. Into the restaurant came – as I had told them where we should probably go – John Edge, R.Edge his brother, and his youngest sister, Barbara. The brother has been a prisoner of war and is now demobilized. Barbara Edge is a sprightly, rather handsome girl, quite intelligent, now about 22, and a welfare officer in a factory in Birmingham. M.Edge, the eldest sister, is a doctor in Birmingham. Both of the girls are in the party and M. Edge is doing especially good work. When Westmore (or possibly Geoffrey) mentioned his wife, Edge winced visibly, why I do not know. Apparently he is not married, and possibly he was jilted. I don’t know. He talks of going to India. “Of course, everyone who goes to India comes back more reactionary than when he went,” says Edge, illustrating that he can still talk nonsense in the grand manner. But we didn’t argue with him, gently disillusioning him, and after a cup of tea he and the other two left us. Westmore returns to Thirsk, then hopes to leave the army about April. He is looking for a house in Birkenhead.
December 25 Tuesday: We spent a rather quiet day at home, apart from a short walk I had with Phyllis.
December 26 Wednesday: We set off in the car in the morning and CEG drove us to Llandegla, Corwen, Llandderfel and Bala (via Rhos-y-gwalliau). Then we went up the Tryweryn valley to look at Rheidr Cwm, returning through Yspyty Ifan and Bylchau to Denbigh, and soon home. A bad habit has grown up of calling the Mynydd Hirathog “Denbigh Moors”. There are no moors in North Wales in the Lancashire or Yorkshire sense of the word. In the same way thay talk, as they have for years, of Llandegla Moors. The correct term is of course “Mountain”. It does not apply to Llandegla but does to Cym-y-brain, “E [spelling unclear] Mountain”, less to Llandysilia mountain” but fully to Mynydd Hirathog.
December 27 Thursday: I rang up John Lancaster late last night. This morning he told me he had decided to delay his departure for London so as to meet Geoffrey Bloor and me. So we met at Central Station. Winifred Bloor was there. She, by the way, is expected a child in April. Lancaster was looking very fit and healthy in a garment of military cut, whose name I do not know. I looked at him with some amusement. He took it as indicating that I was superior. “Yes”, he said, “You look just the same, too. So does Geoffrey. It’s amazing.” Now this is not correct. One wishes it were. I am ageing steadily. Geoffrey has filled out, but now the induced fitness of army life has left him, has lost quite strikingly much of his startling handsomeness. Lancaster on the other hand, though of slightly coarser complexion, still blooms with youth. Winifred Bloor is, of course, over thirty, like me and looks it.
We went to the Kardomah, where we met Lancaster’s wife. She has little to her. She is a very good-looking girl, about 22 or 23. We had many opportunities to observe the fact that Lancaster has not grown a month older mentally while he has been in the army. “Isn’t he a school boy still?” Geoffrey exclaimed afterwards. This led me to reflect that probably Geoffrey would have been, if not the same, less mature than he is, if it were not for his wife. She is a maturing influence, whereas Lancaster’s wife is a juvenilizing influence. Of course they talked a deal about Joan Rainford. Not only has she adopted the “problem child”, but she is immuring herself in the wilds of Cornwall, where her gardener husband will take charge of some oyster beds and she will look after their cottage and perhaps later go in for a farm. They spoke as if she was undertaking a kind of joyous martyrdom. John Lancaster said she was happy and determined. Geoffrey said that he thought she had grave misgivings but had gone too far to withdraw with decency. I suggested that the thing to do was to withdraw without decency, then.
When they all went their ways, after lunch, I went to the party office and had a talk with Sid Foster, who comes nearer an understanding of Liverpool and its problems than anyone I have met. I said they should prepare a short popular history of Liverpool, and smash the legend that it was by nature a “Tory stronghold”. He agreed with the suggestion.
In the evening Edge came on his state visit. He had been at the Guthries. “Force of habit is strong,” he said, “I left the Guthries without thinking particularly of where I was going, and I found myself here, knocking at the door.” We had a long talk, till 1 a.m. I remarked that this was a great time of reunions, and that what struck me was how people had not changed fundamentally, but time had filled in, as with charcoal, the faint lines traced ten years ago, and thus exaggerated us all, made us all more of caricatures. He agreed, and reiterated his long-held opinion that I was (still) “cynical”.
The reason for his opinion, in his own mind, was that I rather made fun of such people as Westmore, Guthrie etc. The real reason lies in his own character. It is of course not cynicism to hate what is petty and stupid and to hold it up to ridicule as a means of provoking contempt for it. Nor is it cynical to note how different the protestation is from the action, and to see a certain wry appropriateness in the unforseeable causality of things. But Edge’s own approach to these things is fundamentally different; it is naive, disinterested, honest, and generous. He thinks Westmore is a contemptible creature, out merely for his own immediate ends, under the thumb of his mother and has “lost what sincerity he had”.
Of Guthrie – whom I did not of course ridicule – he says the fine old English gentleman has become a socialist. This was accomplished in the following way. They all joined the “Cheshire Yeomanry” at the outbreak of war, and some before it, as good bank-clerks should. They were called up. The flower of the “county” was in this cavalry regiment. The war robbed them of their horses. They became a tank regiment. Then they found themselves a Signals regiment and Edge was drafted to them as an officer. There he found that experience in Palestine and elsewhere had altered Guthrie’s outlook. Batcheldore, who was also in it, had become a “bolshy” in the army sense – i.e. a rebel. He told his major that he was “neither an officer nor a gentleman” and caused a deal of amusement by his revolts against authority. I remarked that authorities were foolish. Edge agreed but said he had more respect for Batcheldore because he had not “lain down to it”. And this is how he judges everything – by the feelings it evokes.
And so I am a “cynic”. At the same time it is quite undeniable that, within its limitations, naivete can be made to work. Edge was introduced into the army as a Lieutenant, then sent to an OCTU [an Officers’ Course training unit] at Catherwick. He had no military training and did not appreciate the need for military bearing and behaviour. A “review” was held at which a general attended, and he walked past, smoking his pipe, and wearing an old mackintosh coat. He was described by a cadet: “We saw a figure slouch by, looking like a workman, going nowhere in particular, and with a gun loosely slung over his shoulder, like a gamekeeper going out after rabbits. Of course he didn’t salute the review.” But Edge thought nothing of it and when one of his colleagues said, “Did you go past the review today?” ” Mm! Yes”, Edge replied, “Rather good, wasn’t it?” He then observed an increasing coolness towards himself in the mess. Later he was informed that the C.O. thought he was not likely to make a satisfactory officer and was liable to be reduced to the ranks. This astonished him. He then sought out a solitary officer who seemed a “decent fellow”. He did not apparently even then work out for himself what was wrong. It was the history of Plesseys all over again [see Vol.4], “I’m told they’re not pleased with me,” he said, “and I’m prepared to believe they have justice, but it would be nice to know why.”
This officer then told him why. So he got hold of a very smart cadet who told him details about equipment he had never imagined of the slightest importance. “These buttons”, he said, pointing to the glistening suns on his coat, “would be regarded as a disgrace.” He then called for an interview with the C.O. He saluted smartly and said that he had heard that he was regarded as not being a satisfactory officer, and he would like the C.O’s criticisms to enable him to improve. The Colonel melted completely, and from that time on by dint of an enormous effort he kept as smart as the best. His effort put me in mind of the efforts of those determined to secure their discharges to appear insane. Winifred Bloor says that it can be kept up with effect for six months. If continued longer a permanent and genuine neurosis does set in. But in Edge’s case no permanent “officer-complex” seems to have resulted in the time. He is his old child-like self. But one might reflect that the success of the naive method teaches us that on occasion one might pretend to be naive with equally good results.
He got into the army by volunteering. He and others had been agitating for release to join the forces. They took them at their word and asked for volunteers. So Edge had to do so. Why they did not, as radio experts, ask for release to enter essential industry, heaven knows. Now he has volunteered for India. But he will go back to his job in Dollis Hill. He likes a big research Institution. He has there a reputation far exceeding what he deserves. He can have “mass contacts” and so on. “I went to Cambridge without any keen interest in science,” he said, “but with certain definite social ambitions. When all that collapsed I didn’t bother.” I think he has not recovered from the blow to his self-esteem sustained at Cambridge. Now he is happy if the world smiles at all. Then he insisted all was bound to be smiles anyway. Of course probably his most decisive move was made in this very room, when he spun the coin whether he would go to Spain and when the coin said, “Go,” he said, “Christ! I’m not going!” So now he knows his naivete, his lack of savoir-faire in worldly things, and is afraid to go out for a better job.
It is not hard to summarise impressions. In his case too the lines have been strengthened, but somewhat retouched. They are brighter lines, too. His typical expressions are “honest”, “sincere”, “genuine”, “decent” – all epithets of the heart. I do not believe I heard him say “sensible”, “sound”, “reasonable” or “wise”, no, not once. In appearance he has filled out a little, but not much. CEG says he looks “tired and washed out”. AEG says. “He is not so good-looking as he was. He used to have a good colour.” I thought he was the only one to have brightened. His eyes, his smile, are in the best sense of the word childlike, genuinely expressing pleasure or whatever the emotion is, displaying a desire to communicate the emotion, and having the shyness which wonders just what effect it will have on the interlocutor.
I envy his naturalness, which is more valuable than, and cannot be replaced by poise. I admire his simplicity and yet am sorry for it, as it acts as a complete limitation. I thought of Jung and his “psychological types”. Here is your “feeling introvert” so strikingly portrayed that perhaps Jung is to be excused for his pigeon-holing, and his neglect of man’s infinite variety. When I make invidious comparisons, I do not for example say Geoffrey Bloor ought to brighten. He has matured. He is more wise, less hasty and sees behind things more. Darkening is involved in this. Lancaster has darkened without maturing, for he has not broadened, rather narrowed, taking the colour of his surroundings. Westmore is himself but less so, has less wit and less grace, I thought. Edge seems to have changed least, and to have grown but in the same shape as he was.
However, I was rather glad when he went as I felt tired and we agreed to meet in London where he goes tomorrow or Saturday, to the flat he shares “with two friends”.
December 28 Friday: I went to the city in the afternoon, to see Molly Marshall. Sid Foster had told her of my suggestions. She was enthusiastic. She had written a poem on the subject of Liverpool, which – like the “idea” of a novel – she will send to Robson. It is “too good for our time. It comes out of my guts!” She is still a glorious romantic, and Ingram Knowles, now on leave, seems a burnt-out fire beside her. He has started to go grey and his face is white and puffy, his black moustache standing out fiercely on it. “I’m trying to look 25,” she said, as she made her toilette, ” but I can’t kid myself. Nor can I kid the children.”
Bridget is an intelligent little girl of 10, who looks pale and sickly like Ingram – probably she is not ill. The other, Joanna, is not very clever, is indeed backward at school. Molly Marshall went to see the headmistress about her and asked for special attention to be given to the fact that she so readily forgot what she learned. The amiable Mrs X next day proceeded to Joanna’s classroom and called her out in front of your class, “Now, Joanna Knowles”, she began,” you must begin to pay more attention to your lessons. Your mother has been to see me about you and she says she’s very worried about you. You must show an immediate improvement.” Then she forgot all about her. But the girl of seven did not forget. She was off her food without apparent cause for three weeks, until one evening she was having her bath and she heard her father’s step on the stairs. He had come home on leave. She burst out crying as he came into the room, “Mummy, I’m ashamed of you! Telling Mrs X about me like that and saying you were worried about me.” Then when Molly denied it, the whole story came out, and she resolved not to let Joanna to go back to that school. It was then that she found the “do as you like school”, but the headmistress knew of her affiliations [presumably her communist involvement] and sent the child home after a month. At last Molly found a council school with a fairly progressive headmistress who did not brow-beat the children and who had successfully put down the racial antagonisms between white and coloured children which appeared for the first time in Liverpool when the American soldiers were there.
In the evening AEG played the piano and it was quite a surprise to me to see how she had recovered her technique, and in some respects even developed it. CEG is preparing a paper on “Hymns” and has a small choir which will sing his examples, among which are “Ein Feste Burg”, Tallis’s canon and “St Clements”, a great old Methody-tune which his father, William Greaves, used to sing all his life, preferring it to all others to the words, “I’ll praise my maker while I’ve breath”. CEG showed me another paper of hiswhich he read a few years ago on the history of the music at Wesley Church. He always had a great admiration for William Greaves who was by all accounts a fine old man. I scarcely remember him, though I have a rather clearer recollection than of William Taylor [his maternal Grandfather]. He was in charge of the music before the existing church was built – over 80 years ago – when they met first in a house, then in a small room. He led the hymns by giving each part its note with a tuning fork. Then he got a cello and a double bass. Some parishioners objected to this, so he obtained a harmonium. CEG made plenty of what his own family had done, and indeed as he remarks, for only 12 years throughout this time has the choir there been without its Greaves. U.William Greaves succeeded William Greaves and then CEG. The old Methodist tradition is of considerable interest and I must look into it one of these days.
December 29 Saturday: Despite rather bad weather we went in the car to Llanarmon-dyffryn-Ceiriog, on to Llanhreladr-yn-mochnant, back through Wean to Chirk, and so via Llangollen and Llandegla back home. I have never seen the country so beautiful. The grass is bright green, the bracken is rich red-brown, the beech and elder is a silver-grey. This may be due to the mild autumn. There has so far been no frost in Liverpool, and the Tropaeolums in the garden are still alive – I never recollect them lasting this long before. I fear a cold January.
December 30 Sunday: I did very little during the day, as there was a thick fog and it was cold, almost as if my last night’s words were prophetic. How many times I have known the weather change abruptly in the weeks after Christmas.
I gave some thought to the achievements of 1945 and its failures. Economically there has been progress. In science I have emerged from the junior ranks, and have, with patent specifications filed, laid the basis of a reputation (if I wanted it). I have gained administrative experience, and a broader knowledge of affairs under capitalism. Progress is still too slow however and I am nowhere near to the position to which my abilities entitle me. The reason for this is mainly that I pay too little attention to appearances, and I have no intention of changing.
In the main field of endeavour – the literary one – the year has spelled failure. The Irish book is only in synopsis. The poems are unpublished. There are still thtree years ahead before I can quit science. On the other hand I have done some new writing, but it progresses very slowly. The level of intellectual activity has been far higher this year. But I wonder if I have not allowed science to engage too much of my attention.
In politics I have done little but continue to do mechanically what I did before. On the other hand the 1937-44 record is three parts done [Presumably these are the parts which have survived, so the other parts may not have been completed rather than destroyed]. Little has been done on the national studies, nothing on art theory, even collection. The work with the Connolly Association (education) succeeded in stabilizing one branch. I did not after March speak again for Central Propaganda. I successfully worked with the Colonial Committee, but did nothing about the Dominions. In music I went to more concerts than before. I did less theatre-going. Cycling, in the summer, I kept up, but did not enjoy my holiday. In the social field the return of Geoffrey Bloor, Edge, Lancaster, Westmore and others restored many of the contacts of 1939. But time and changed circumstances have altered my relations to them. The Irish connection has appallingly narrowed my contacts with people, which is in itself a sign that something is wrong there. On the other hand there has been a great improvement in my ability to deal with people.
It is difficult to get a bird’s eye view of a year. This year is most difficult. It began with rockets and bombs. In the midst came peace and the worsening of international relationships. It was a year of partially fulfilled promises and new threats, with no softening of the prospects of war. To me it has been a logical continuation of 1944, of solid material improvement, of no great highspots, of restoration, and of great intellectual activity marred by physical ill-health, in particular by the breakdown of the metabolism in October and the recurrent arthritis.
What of 1946? Its material basis shows good prospects financially. The German trip (if it escapes M.I.5) will be of great value to my knowledge of the country and the language. On the other hand I think “Delanium” will become progressively commercialised, and may not remain tolerable for the three years I want it. The problem is to break through the barrier which binds me to routine. This I have done withinscience; I have to do it for all activity. Some outstanding problems are – the correct balance of work and leisure. This can only be done by voluntary routine (to break involuntary!). The balance of practical and theoretical work. Correct use of money. Elimination of waste time. Above all is the problem of health. Since I came to Liverpool I have had no arthritis. I am looking very much better and feeling it. Correct living can surely maintain this. On the other hand I am still producing uric acid in excess of what is desirable – the improvement is I think in its disposal. I must study medicine myself.
In point of time I should say: Jan.-Feb. Germany; March-April trip to Ireland, if possible two; Easter in Cork; Summer holiday – if possible in Spain or Portgual, failing that in Ireland, cycling. If possible two weeks extra holiday without pay. Not to accept further official position in the Connolly Association. The details are opposite.
PLAN OF PRIORITIES FOR 1946 Liverpool/London)
A. Theoretical Work:
1. Complete Irish book by December
2. National studies, art, Beethoven, suspend.
3. Stimulate study of Liverpool, not do it self.
1. Publish poems
2. Prepare new poems
3. Irish play
4. Long poem, already begun
5. 1936 retrospect –Journal
Only activities – International Affairs Cttee, Irish and Dominions Cttee., and occasional speeches and lectures, articles etc .
1. Music – more continuous attention to modern music
2. Theatre – less, except Irish
3. Cycling – Summer, also walking around some place to be selected (i) in S.England, (ii) in Wales.
1. To get more patents and start papers
2. To plan better and thus save effort
December 31 Monday (London)): I took leave of AEG. CEG accompanied me to Rock Ferry and I returned to London. I saw Mrs Fields who said most of our arrangements for Germany were completed. But she said that the Plastics Federation were very surprised at De la Rue going to look at Carbon. “Everything in it is not as white as if it has been rinsed in Persil,” she said. They had refused an earlier opportunity. JG Bennett informed me that my salary was raised by £15O. I was “Senior Scientific Officer”.
January 1 (1946) Tuesday: I went to Walthamstowe for a short time and saw DB Foster and some others. GC Philpotts was not in.
I rang up Edge in the evening and he came to see me again, at my flat. He is now on embarkation leave and probably goes off to India very soon. My impression gained last week was not altered. He said that he had nearly been married. He had fallen desperately in love with a woman and had lived with her for two years. Then there was a rift. Then he fell even worse, this time to a Spaniard. She also jilted him, and he expressed the opinion that his experiences had made him less naive. Certainly he still thinks and talks a lot about himself, but always about feelings, never about interests.
January 2 Wednesday: At the Board of Trade I was told that my passport had not yet arrived, DB Foster’s had. This perturbed me. I also saw that the new “development manager” Budden, a 3O year old Cambridge man, receives £1000 per annum. He is to have a Physics Lab. in charge of a physicist whom JG Bennett (with calculated indiscretion) describes as my “opposite number”. So the “Senior Scientific Officer” is not without its promise of evil. At first the emphasis was on Research, then Philpotts was the great centre of interest. Now with the emphasis on making money quick – development with a view to sales is the watchword. I will try to cut my three-year plan down to two, or take the third elsewhere.
January 3 Thursday: In the evening Brian Stedman rang up. He has finished his book and awaits Penguin’s dictum. GC Philpotts saw me and expressed concern over the turn of events. But I anticipated such a move from some source long ago. Then Foster said that a scale of status had been evolved in consultation with the AScW. The status of Philpotts or me might be “Senior” or “Principal” Scientific Officer. It would vary. This was due to his fear of the truth. But I thought of a way to defeat the scheme to stabilize us near the top of a low salary range, instead of at the bottom of a high one.
January 4 Friday: The usual Friday meeting took place today. Bennett reported that he had had a very rough passage at the Board meeting yesterday. They had expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that chemical files were not yet sent to Kestners, and had refused to agree to the AScW scale of salaries. The great thing was to make a wonderful impression on Sir Stafford Cripps when he comes on February 5th. Philpotts observed to me afterwwards that Bennett had held the carrot just too near the donkey’s mouth, and the beast is infuriated by just missing a mouthful. Possibly, as I remarked yesterday to Parker, with the scent of pound notes in their nostrils, the Board propose to discourage Bennett’s imagination and are demanding something substantial quickly. Their objection to the higher salaries was that De la Rue does not pay them. How could Delanium pay more than the parent companies who were “providing the money”? No word here of the purpose for providing it.
The Irish Committee was held in the evening with Paddy Clancy, Mary Sullivan, Elsie Timbey and myself. I think things are better. There is a prospect of getting Clancy on full-time this summer, getting Packie Early to do the London District job, and then in a couple of years time having a group of people to send back to Ireland. I will also try to find people who would give them jobs there. Farrington wrote saying that he was recommending the acceptance of my book by Lawrence and Wishart.
January 5 Saturday: I went to see Alan and Freda Morton (née Beadle) in the afternoon. He has settled down quite happily at Philhampstead. But I was grateful to Molly Marshall for some observations on Alan. He will never get far, she said, until the power of that Prescot house, with its well-ordered “just-so” regularity, is broken. She had met his mother, Mrs Morton and, fine old woman as she is, it was clear what an environment of solid puritan respectability she would create. His contributions in Liverpool, on the Area Committee, were always valuable, but his manner of producing them “neatly tied in ribbon, and perfumed with lavender” detracted from their effectiveness. I also detect a certain lack of robustness in his judgements, as if the slender flower of thought drooped from its own weight.
Then, when Alan said they would probably live in this unsatisfactory basement flat for another eighteen months, and Freda looked rather sick, but put a good face on it, and I observed the complacency with which Alan laid down this law, as if it was a law of nature which his intellect had enabled him to unravel, and which he now presented the fruits of to Freda, I recollected Molly Marshall’s other remark, that Freda was not very happy, but was so much in love with Alan that this compensated for her discomforts. This is much the relationship which exists. Alan seems to take a pride in the predilection of his small son for himself, and Freda does not appear to object when Alan tells the public that the small child prefers its father to its mother – perhaps not in so many words, but in effect. Perhaps she knows her own power, anyway, and is glad Alan is pleased. In fact (to quote HP on BB) you would think, to hear Alan, that Freda wasn’t present at the birth. As for me, young John just gave one coo of pleasure when I appeared and was insisting on climbing all over me till he was put to bed. Freda was rather struck by the instantaneous approval with which I was greeted. “He likes men!” said Alan. But, though I am prepared to believe this, or the instantaneous pleasure would be unexplained, its continuance is connected with the reason why all small children take to me – the fact that I don’t keep still, and they are able to recognize what draws them to animals and other things that move about of their own accord, that essential kittenish element in their own nature.
John is now nearly two years old, and is certainly a very attractive child, with a quite extraordinarily happy nature. He is like Freda’s father, they say. That I cannot however judge. He is certainly not like Alan. His is not a happy nature. It is a nature possessing a puritanical surface calm, and an inner peace of compulsion. Freda is more a human being – with, I think, considerable ability – and I think that the joke nature has played on Alan, which Freda instinctively grasps, is that the boy is a kind of extension of himself, much though Alan may ascribe his character to her father. And then, of all people, Ingram Knowles walked in. He is being demobilized on Wednesday, but does not know where his bank will send him.
January 6 Sunday: I did practically nothing all day, as I have a cold in the head. The weather is now quite mild (over 50′ F) so perhaps it will soon get better. What is more, despite the cold, there is no arthritic pain. There was a slight tenderness of the joint last night, but it was absent this morning. I cannot move my left toe more than 2/3 the distance I can move my right, but I am deliberately exercising it in hopes of restoring its full functions in due course. I am beginning to hope to get rid of the disease altogether, but appreciating its two-fold character – formation and failure to eliminate uric acid, I am only at the stage of improving the latter.
January 7 Monday: I had a letter from Sid Foster suggesting my doing a school in Liverpool on the history of the city.
January 8 Tuesday: In the evening Brian Stedman visited me, bringing with him the manuscript of his book, which seems to be very good. He has an infinite capacity for binding things tidily into sheaves, and he had supplied a black cover, and pasted the original diagrams, photographs and so on, from which he had made photostats, into the MS. at the appropriate place, moreover done all the typing himself.
January 9 Wednesday: Alan Morton rang up in the evening saying that our poems had gone “upstairs” at Nicholas and Watson. I saw Elsie Timbey later. She has become more cordial than I have ever known her. I don’t know exactly why.
January 10 Thursday: In the morning Professor Riley came to see us and he, Bennett, Foster, Budden and I held a meeting, into which Parker and Wolstonecroft came later, to discuss using our Carbon for atomic energy production. In the afternoon a man called Hutchens came and we discussed the same. This is probably JG Bennett’s counterblast to the board of directors. They could scarcely risk being uncooperative over a thing of such national importance. At the very least it strengthens Bennett’s independence in relation to them. It is possibly because Bennett follows no consistent policy that such strokes of opportunist genius are possible to him. But in the evening Foster was echoing his social views: “War is a feature of human nature. There is bound to be another war.”
“But doesn’t that horrify you?” asked Miss Head.
“No”, replied the parrot nonchalantly. “You can’t be horrified by what is inevitable. It just is, that’s all. And even if kills O.1% of world population – the world will go on”.
January 11 Friday: The usual Friday meeting was held, with them all agog with atomic energy! I went away for a while in order to procure my false teeth – a temporary set – which fitted perfectly. For all that, it was necessary to learn to eat, but I soon succeeded.
There is a little Welsh grocer in Great James St., where I go daily to collect my milk. The old man (about 60 I should say) is an amiable ex-miner from Carmarthen. His wife, twice his size, plump and grey-haired, with red face and wearing a blue overall, runs the shop. Their daughter “Bessy” also runs it. The daughter is obliging, and will serve you with what you want at any time, in contravention of the Shop Hours Act, as long as she will make money. The customers mostly work all day and trade would normally be at its briskest at about 7 pm. At this time Mrs Morris grows irritable. An old woman will come in for her milk which has not been “saved” for her. A smoker will come in for matches and start an altercation because there are none. Bessy will hand him one free of charge – and smile at him, whereupon he will leave with his one match, and a packet of cigarettes. During the summer there is more milk than they can sell, so I buy two, sometimes four pints a day. Bessy is always ready to sell it, even on Sunday. But Mrs Morris frowns on the sale of anything above necessities, though she opens the shop, and wants the money
The mother still dreams of returning to her native village. Bessy is not unwilling to stay in London where she was brought up. I remember last summer going into the shop in shorts just before going on a cycle ride. “Hiking?” asks Bessy. “Gee, What a way of spending a Sunday!” She has varicose veins and cannot walk – at 25 years of age, if that. The mother said, “Don’t you go to a place of worship?” I told her. “Well! Fancy not believing in God!” They went to get my milk and the old man said, “Well, you know, I think you are very sensible. Of course I’m a believer myself, but, you know, if I was a young man again now, have my time over again, then I’m not saying I might not do as you do. You get out into the country and you see nature. But when I came, you see, to London here, I was the first Sunday walking in the East End and I met the superintendent of the chapel, and he saw I was Welsh, you see, and he took me along. And I have gone there every week ever since. That was over twenty years ago, now.” The wife had come back and hearing the last said, “Yes. We were only going to stay in London a year, or two years, and we are still here.” “Well, we will not be here long,” said Bessy, “Father wants to retire. He’s found us a house on the Isle of Wight.” But the house on the Isle of Wight did not materialize, and he had to remain in the tiny shop, stocked with every conceivable kind of commodity – a London replica of a village shop. In August he went to Aberystwyth for a holiday. They did not hear from him for a week and were worried to death. He stayed there for five weeks instead of the agreed fortnight. “I don’t care about the business,” he disclosed when reproached. “Life is the thing! Yes, life is the thing.” As if to answer him, he fell ill in September, ailed two or three months, went to hospital, and is now in bed at home.
A young man with the sleek face and suave manner of a salesman, and no more sense, was in the shop today. I overheard:
“The doctor has told me there’s no hope whatever.”
“He should ‘t have told you that!” said the young man, who had presumably had no trouble of his own, and thought all other people were children too. “Well, I prefer it,” said Mrs Morris. “He came in the morning, and as he went away he said, ‘I don’t like him, Mrs Morris, I don’t like him’. And then he made a special journey, and he told me. I have had the same doctor for over thirteen years. Still, while there’s life there’s hope. His pulse is regular.”
“That’s a good sign,” said the young optimist.
“While there’s life there’s hope,” said she.
“Oh! Certainly, yes.”
“And there’s still one doctor”, she said, “above all other doctors.”
As she went to the back of the shop she murmured desperately to herself, “There’s still one doctor, above all other doctors.” The words gave her some comfort, I believe. The young man merely looked sheepish. His optimism was merely to economize sympathy and not see what was a fact.
But then the shop filled up. The toothless woman – a hag at forty – with two small and indescribably naughty children aged three and five, whom she confuses by alternately scolding and giving in to, came in. She calls Bessy “Bet” and asked in a whining tone for a “bo’l o’ ‘terilide” – “sterilized!” says Bessy. “Terilide” repeats the hag. And then Mrs Marshall, “‘Ope you’ve go’ some Players in. My ole man ain’t ‘alf a devil for the fugs!” “So’s mine” says another. “But I ration him, I do.” General laughter. “You want to have mine,” says a quiet but determined little woman, “He’s got the dumps again today. Why doesn’t he stick his ‘ead in the gas oven, if he feels so bloody miserable – Yes. That’s what I told ‘im. It’s worse than purgatory with ‘im! The old bleeder!” A very pretty girl came in. “Here she is”, they shouted, “The GI bride”.
“When ‘y ‘goin’?”
“Dunno. – soon.”
“Know anyone over there?”
“I’ve got in touch with another English girl in the same part – or about two hundred miles away. That’s nothing in America. Of course I could ask my husband to come and make his home over here.”
“I should think so!” said Mrs Marshall. “Yo’ make ya’ ‘owm in England, where yo’ was bore!” (Cockneys pronounce “ow” as if it was “oh”.) The young girl looks a little worried, but is far too handsome not to have the upper hand of all this crowd – she is torn between her secret worry and her feeling that they secretly envy her. Mrs Morris meanwhile looks up from serving her customers. Doubtless this girl will live many a long year with the intention of returning to England.
January 12 Saturday: I saw JG Bennett and DB Foster in the morning, but little happened. In the afternoon I went to Verdi’s Requiem at the Albert Hall. It must be twelve years since I heard this work. Then I was tremendously impressed. Of course I did not follow things so critically then, and probably “enjoyed” them more. The size of the work, on this hearing, was slightly reduced, but I was even more impressed by its dramatic quality. Here is a hot Italian Catholic judgement day. With the words “solvet saeclum in favilla” one could almost believe the age was dissolving in ashes. The variety in orchestration, the much that remains unnoticed or half understood without a score (I could not obtain one), shows the standing of the work, and as in all great works of art, it is obvious from the first notes that something big is coming. Without my realizing it, this has had a very big effect on my musical life, all these years.
January 13 Sunday: The most intriguing thing that happened today was that Sid French [CPGB activist] rang up. He had rung me in December but could not get through. He is now stationed in Cambridge after having been removed from Gibralter on security grounds. He is standing for the Council Elections in March. He intends to become a party organiser and looks first for experience in the provinces. He feels that he now has more self-confidence. He told me about Albert Firth who had volunteered to stay an extra six months in the Air Force because of a woman in Cairo. Of MS he said, “He’s married, of course”. Then of Charlie Browne he explained that he was in the army, is married with one child. And then he asked later, “Are you married?”, putting such a disapproval into the word that I wondered what I would have said if I was. Then he told me how well AS was getting on, that Jack Loveman will soon be demobilized, and that Wth was rather depressed at the state of the party in Wimbledon. “Of course”, said Sid French, “We’ve all got rather a rehabilitation complex. You come back and expect somebody to be waiting to give you something to do, and everything to be ready for you. Then it isn’t, and you have to adjust yourself. The YCL’s [Young Communist League] not much now, here. They’re all called up. But I’m nearly 25 now, so I suppose my YCL days are over. Still, we can’t bring 1939 back again. So there we are!” So he has the time-disease, too. Let him wait till he’s 32 and see how he feels then, about 1939, or even 1946. The worst part of it is that political and social upheavals having deprived us of the benefit of our youth, we can only look back to lost possibilities, and so might as well look forward to what can still be enjoyed.
January 14 Monday: In the afternoon Foster asked Philpotts and me to discuss salary scales with him. The AScW had been pressing for agreed scales, and these had been promised “without engagement”. It was now a question of scales for the Senior Staff. Philpotts and I told him that we didn’t want any if they were to be confined to £50 a year rises as this would be to compel us to leave the service of the company if we wanted more money. We also said we preferred a small instalment now than a big promise ahead. The situation might deteriorate rapidly. “Yes”, said Philpotts, “and we might be part of Morgans next” – meaning that if we did not get a good salary we would join a competitive firm. Foster misunderstood him. “Well, Mr Bennett is having lunch with the director of Morgans on Wednesday. He invited him to have lunch. I don ‘t know what he’ll say. Probably he’ll say, “Don’t touch this or we’ll undercut you out of existence. After all they’ve plenty of reserves.”
“More likely they’ll offer to market our stuff for us, and it mightn’t be a bad arrangement to come to,” said I, but Foster disliked the notion. For all that it would not surprise me if the end were to be to form a joint Morgan-Delanium marketing company. After all Morgans have world-wide connections.
January 15 Tuesday: There was excitement in the afternoon as Derrick Walker reported that an Avometer had disappeared. I had the place searched from top to bottom, and got Philpotts also to make enquiries, but without success. I threatened all kinds of dire events, and then hoped that it might equally mysteriously reappear tomorrow.
In the evening I went to a local group meeting where about twelve were present. They are all quite good, but the main thing seems to be selling literature each Sunday morning.
January 16 Wednesday: The Avometer did not reappear, so I sent a note to Foster. He said he thought it a good plan to have a policeman in. At Coombe all manner of things came back after the appearance of the man in blue, although he had never known the police to catch anybody. We interrogated the electrician – no result. Then Sainsbury, the old handy man, friend of Bennett’s family, who comes and goes as he pleases, told us that things were disappearing all the time, and that he suspected the electrician himself
“Hm”, said Foster, “That’s bad. It’s the hardest thing on earth to catch the specialist, pinching his own stuff. It’s like trying to prevent you taking a report out of the laboratory! You’ve just got to rely on the man’s character.” So he sent for the electrician’s boy. “Did you see anything suspicious on Monday might?” The boy did not. “I thought the boy might split on his boss,” said Foster disappointed, as if the boss would let the boy see, if he had any sense. So then it was decided to lend Walker Budden’s avometer, and when he went into Foster’s office to borrow it, there was a meeting in progress which was sufficiently well made aware of the circumstances to greet Walker with “ironical cheers and laughter”.
January 17 Thursday: In the afternoon the Scientific Adviser to the Board of Trade, Sir Thomas Merton, drove out in a luxurious car, complete with chauffeur. Bennett was anxious to impress him and seemed as nervous as a kitten. Foster came into the lab. for me and we went into the managerial office. “Good afternoon, sir,” said Foster. Then Bennett showed him some exhibits, and I showed him others. “It’s very refractory, then,” said Merton. “Oh. Yes – it will stand up to 3500’C – its’s king at those temperatures,” replied Bennett. All was going very smoothly when Foster broke in, “I say, wouldn’t it be the ideal stuff for the turbine blades of jet engines!” The baronet stopped suddenly, a deprecating smile on his face. Bennett smiled back as much as to say, “Don’t worry, he’s not technical.” “Ha! Has! Ha!” said the Baronet, “but you’ll have to get a bit more strength, what?” We showed him the electric element and he was impressed. As we went to Philpott’s place he drew me aside, “Tell me, my boy”, he said, “how do you fix the connections to these elements?” Now this was the most difficult of all the problems we had to solve, and it was Walker who did it – by shrinking incarbonized material on to the carbonized by the carbonization process itself. I therefore concluded that we were not dealing with a fool.
January 18 Friday: The weekly meeting proceeded as usual. Bennett said that at his lunch with Morgan’s director the policy they adopted had been to frighten him off with the difficulty of making motor-brushes. “Do you know,” they said, “there are 247 distinct kinds of brush that we make, and every one of them has its own peculiarities. The difficulties are enormous. We’ve sent men all over the world to study methods of doing it. Now we understand you have produced one good brush. Now why don’t you let us market it for you?” So I was right. But no doubt Bennett will agree, or the Board will compel him to agree, but probably not until after the German visit, when the bargaining power will be greater. Or they might let Morgan market one, while they prepare others to market themselves.
January 19 Saturday: I went to Walthamstowe in the morning, but did very little for most of the day. The weather is very cold indeed.
January 20 Sunday: In the afternoon Grove-White called [Bill Grove-White.. had studied at Trinity College Dublin]. He has been a second time to Germany and this time has a far more balanced picture of what is going on there. He has also been to Dublin and has seen John Ireland. There has been a great interest in the USSR in Dublin since the censorship was lifted, and things look very hopeful in comparison with their appearance hitherto.
After he left, I went to see Alan Morton. Fay King came. She is about 40 years of age, and works independently on Fleet Street. She came to England in order to escape her husband, taking the boat at two days’ notice with no winter clothes, and arriving in the depth of the 1940-41 winter – of all times. (She was quite surprised to learn that this winter, with its Irish cold snaps – the present one is now weakening slightly – is typical of the pre-war climate. We all agreed that our childhood recollections were of mild winters, and our parents telling us of the bitter cold ones of their youth – which leads me to think that 1946 is our last chance of a good summer, until 1911 repeats itself in 1956. The sunspot cycle is dragging out.)
“What’s the matter with her husband?” I asked Freda.
“Well, he’s a kind of repressed homosexual,” said she.
“He has detectives watching her, here,” Alan remarked – and apparently he is liable to arrive himself any time, in order to go on plaguing her, so she has arranged to go to China before he gets here. The reason why he should behave in this way is obscure, and intriguing. The discussion drifted on to another subject, but I suspect that the key is in Freda’s word “repressed”. He cannot enter into proper relations with a woman, but is like a eunuch taking his spite out on a girl by pestering her. He doesn’t want marriage, he doesn’t want to be without it. He wants trouble and the chance to lick his own sores. She has been to see “Lenin in 1918” and was greatly enspirited by it. “You do see Lenin’s method there – after all it all came down simply to loving-kindness,” she observed, not noticing that in that very film Lenin tells Gorky he is a slave to pity. I think that Fay is a slave to “loving-kindness”. When she arrived here she took a job as typist in a laundry, then got gradually into journalism, was on the Daily Worker for a time, but found the pace too much for her. Also she could not stand those beastly hard-bitten journalists you find on all papers, even ours – people very useful up to a point, but hard, and narrow – Lesser for example.
Then a South African Indian called Kassim arrived and told us about his cousin, now in prison at Brixton. This young man was standing outside a cinema in Durban four years ago when he was only 17, when a white man was killed. The police arrested all in sight, and as the youth’s father was a very prominent merchant who was agitating for the repeal of the laws forbidding Indians to acquire land, they were delighted with their capture and charged him with murder. He was completely acquitted, and so much so that they gave him a South African passport to come to Britain to study at London University. Unlike Kassim he was not associated with politics over there. Fay King introduced Kassim into it, as also Peter Abrahams, who “was suspected” of stealing and selling their typewriters, a serious thing for an impecunious semi-legal group.
After being in this country several years the father started agitating again with some new turn of events. The authorities determined to have another attempt to injure him through his son. They requested to have him extradited to stand trial again, fresh evidence having appeared. So this sensitive student was hailed before the magistrates’ court. The evidence had “not arrived”. He was remanded. The agent of the South African Government prevented him getting bail. As it was a capital charge Fay could take him only cigarettes and no food. For three weeks he was brought into court each morning, until the magistrate said he would dismiss the case unless the evidence appeared. “I don’t want to see the British courts used as a weapon in a political manoeuvre”, said learned counsel. So the evidence was, like God, when he did not exist, invented. A degenerate coloured man was suborned to state that he was present on the night of the murder and saw the assailant who was an Indian. “Could he describe him?” “No.” So fifty photographs of Indians were assembled on a sheet, and the coloured man was shown them. In the middle of the sheet was the picture of Kassim’s cousin, twice the size of the others. Although negroes have great difficulty in identifying Europeans, as we find it hard to identify negroes, he picked out Kassim’s cousin without hesitation, and received his witness’s fee. But he only said it “could have been this one.”
They found a girl in Capetown who had been in Durban and subpoenaed her. She brought two young ladies with her. She was asked to make a statement that the Indian had a grudge against the white man. Instead she made a statement to the contrary which she gave to Kassim’s uncle, the boy’s father, who cabled it to England. The problem then was to prevent it being used in the British court. It became inadmissible as evidence when they arrested the girl and shut her up with her babies in prison, on a charge of “conspiring to defeat the ends of justice”. Hearing of this the boy grew excited and with the quixotry of youth said, “I’m not afraid to go home – I’m innocent, what can happen to me?”, a comforting but not very true belief. I advised Kassim to see Michael Carritt and try to bring political pressure to bear if possible. So that is what is going on three miles from this flat.
January 21 Monday: There were further intrigues connected with Foster’s welfare committee. Parker having been elected by the lab, they refused to have him on the ground that he was too senior, and that such an election was not considered “democratic” because they had chosen the one they wanted and not the one Foster thought they ought to have had.
January 22 Tuesday: When I went into the little Dairy this morning for milk there was a general air of disaster. “How’s Mr Morris?” asked one of the customers. “Sh!”, said another, “He passed away 5 o’clock this morning. See – Mrs Morris has been crying ever since.” The daughter was serving, but her mother could be discerned with her head in her hands, leaning on the table in the tiny kitchen which lies behind the shop, where they perform most of their household duties. “Passed away this morning, did he?” said one of the women. “Dear me! How sad!” “No more chopped wood for us!” commented another, in a lugubrious voice, as if this constituted sympathy to the bereaved.
A meeting was held today at Walthamstowe, but no particular advances were made. The visit of Stafford Cripps in early February engages all the efforts of the staff, and consequently little else is being done but make beautification of the works. Today Payne spent £26 on Geissler tubes to light up the exhibits. De la Rue directors are arranging the display and, as JG Bennett observed when Bridge rang him up, “They’ve completely lost confidence in our ability to show anything.” He calls Westall “Bernard” and Bridge “Cyril” and I hear from Miss Head that they all pretend to be a happy family, even calling that grave patriarch Harris, “Edmond”. To Miss Head Bridge is a “horrible person”. To Miss Murphy he is “human, rather a big schoolboy which is more than you can say for those Dutchmen.” I saw Bridge and one of the Dutchmen yesterday, immobile as statues, peering into their general office. Miss Dowset holds an intermediate view but wishes Bennett was on the board without vote, instead of counting as one of Powell Duffryn. One should note however the chameleon-like versatility with which Bennett suits his manners to his company.
January 23 Wednesday: An AScW meeting was held in the morning and I attended. Only Parker, Wolstonecroft, Bloomfield from Delanium (Samuel also) were there. There is great difficulty in providing officers and active members for this branch, and this problem is of course not peculiar to the AScW. It is amusing to watch Wolstonecroft, who with his naive enthusiasm proposed a plan which would enable the members to retain all their privileges while not paying their subscriptions. He is however a good enthusiastic lad, though as innocent as a new-born lamb.
January 24 Thursday: A new election took place for a laboratory representative on the “Welfare Committee”. “Rhodes”, an individual from Phllpott’s laboratory, came. I attended myself, created an atmosphere of suspicion, and then suggested that Parker remain, plus one other. They all agreed and then elected Derrick Walker – so there are now three communists on it, instead of the one at first, Wolstonecroft, who is too gullible to be any danger to them.
In the evening I addressed the “Hampstead Garden Suburb” meeting on “Britain and World Trade”. Douglas Garman was in the chair and was curious to see how I dealt with it. Wolstonecroft was there and I returned to his flat with his wife and a demobilized journalist. The wife is a very nice girl from Glasgow (Saltcoats to be precise). They are living in an idyll at present, decorating their flat, buying books and objets d’art, and she seems to have quite a passable literary taste, though rather a pre-Raphaelite taste in pictures. I met Max Egelnick’s wife. He is now Hendon Borough Secretary. They have a small child, a girl.
January 25 Friday: Today JG Bennett appeared with a grand plan of research for producing a pure dense carbon for atomic power. He has seen Chadwick and has warmed Ackers to quite unusual enthusiasm. He asks them for a two-year contract, and £60,000. DB Foster, who always steps where angels fear to tread, remarked, “I suppose you hope to get most of the costs for Battersea out of this.” Bennett gave him a look like a kick under the table. One of Bennett’s problems has been how to be independent of De la Rue now that the excess profits tax has been modified so as to encourage more cautious expenditure. His recourse to playing them off against Powell Duffryn is limited by nationalization schemes which detract from Powell Duffryn’s immediate bargaining power. So he is very keen for this scheme to go through. It is equivalent to buying De la Rue’s off.
I heard from Foster and again from Philpotts that a tiny dispute between Foster and Bennett has for once ended in Foster’s victory. It was Bennett’s intention to bring in a new outside “production” man. Now Philpotts is to be promoted when the time comes. “We must give you a higher title so that you can have more money,” said Foster. This may also be a plot to divide me and Philpotts, as our concerted efforts against any super-imposed “research-manager” would seriously embarrass him. On the other hand the new atomic research is likely to benefit me. I think I must, as in the preparation of a report in order to open up the way to Germany, make a literature survey, and also a display of knowledge of physics. This means I must learn physics – at Delanium’s expense.
January 26 Saturday: For the first time for ten days I had an odd twinge of arthritis, but without the symptoms which led me to expect it to become acute. The weather is warm and very wet, but I cannot see how it can possibly have any effect on it. Why should humidity influence a bone which is completely cut off from the air? Perspiration may be reduced, but so it is by low temperature, and during the dry cold of early last week I was quite free from it. However today’s trouble I would have defined as perfect health in October, so do not worry much. I wrote to Mary Greaves, CEG and AEG, OD, Z.Rado [a former colleague from when he worked in Catalins, see Vol.6], who is now according to Elizabeth Weinstock, in Budapest, to Ben Ainley, and others.
There is a great hullabaloo in Holborn over coal. I waited for my delivery this morning but none came. Then I saw the greengrocer, who told me that the car-men had told her that without a further registration no more coal would be delivered. I rang up the fuel officer who told me that the car-men had made this statement without authority and that queues of people demanding priority deliveries were lined up outside his office. From experience with Bennett and Bethune, I know “how to talk to these fellows”, and at their suggestion rang the Regional Fuel Officer. His secretary said he was “not in his office”, and would I ring later. I said I would not, but wanted his deputy. Apparently during this conversation he came back into his office, and I told him that if something didn’t happen I would have a question asked in Parliament. He was obviously terrified. Finally he said if I went to the local office and asked for a priority form, he would meanwhile “speak to them”. I went. There were two or three women writing at a table beside a window with a shutter marked “Enquiries”. There was a door marked “Private! No admittance.” I walked through it as if I owned it, and found myself in an office with two typists and several empty desks. I asked one of the girls for a form, and on being asked where I lived told her, adding that I’d been on to the Regional Officer. “Did you get any satisfaction?” she asked with cynicism, “We’ve been on to him all week.” I went outside for a pen, and joined the women.
It was then I noticed what happened to people who respected the privacy of the officials. An old or elderly man knocked at the grill and asked about his coal. “Here’s a form,” the same typist said rudely. Then a woman knocked. “You people are only making it worse for yourselves coming here with your forms,” she said. “The more priority coal the less for those without.” “Well what are we to do,” the woman began to grow excited, “I’ve no coal. The children are shivering.” “All right, fill that in. I’m only telling you.” Having filled mine in I again walked in with a lordly air, and gave it to the girl. “The Priority Delivery scheme has broken down,” she confided. So much for the relations between people and their natural superiors.
January 27 Sunday: I completed the final form of six lyrics (33) and did the first draft of half the first scene of a play. In the afternoon I went to the demonstration in Trafalgar Square, and saw Shelvankar and Darawal, a journalist I had met in the Taj Mahal with Basu – who told me that my interview was given front page publicity in India – a thing he probably tells everybody. R.Palme Dutt made an excellent speech, and about 10,000 were there. On the plinth were Indian women in national costume with flags. The Indian flag is like the Irish, but striped at right angles. The orange is a Hindu colour, the green is the Muslim colour, white signifies peace, the fusion of all colours. “The Russian effect”, said Darawal. Suddenly a girl parted her way through the crowd. It was Alice Loveman’s daughter, Jean Loveman. She told me that Alice is out of hospital, the way she went in. The medical people have no idea of what is the matter with her. She gets very tired and her temperature goes up and down erratically all day. Jean is 17 next Sunday, and Jack is demobilized the week after that. She has given up her job in order to look after her mother. It is a scandal and shows the barbarism we are living under, that people can be ill and nobody knows the cause of it!
Jean went away and we decided to join the march to the Foreign Office, led by Krishna Menon, Dutt and R.Page Arnot, together with Lester Hutchinson [Labour MP, authority on India]. We noted Basu on the plinth. “It is good business,” said Darawal. “He has a photograph taken and it raises the prestige of his paper. ‘Your correspondent is seen on the left side of the plinth.'” “Trust Basu to be where there is news,” said Shelvankar and then told Darawal what to say to his paper. Just as the procession was about to move off, Shelvankar must want to relieve himself, and Darawal undertook to find us a place. When we emerged the procession had disappeared. We walked down Whitehall and descried the flags approaching us. They had made the circuit of Parliament Square in order to impress the United Nations. Dutt, Arnot etc. went into the Foreign Office as the procession lined up. There were three Indian soldiers in the ranks of the marchers. A young man with a mackintosh (beneath which showed green corduroy trousers) and a green hat, of the variety usually called “pork pie” on account of the flat top, strode energetically across to them, waggling a reporter’s notebook. He “interviewed” them. Darawal “mingled with them” and listened. Then he spoke to them in Hindustani. “What did Bedford look so irritated for?” asked Shelvankar, “The Hindustani?” “No. I looked at what was in his book. He is very jealous not to let anyone have his story.” I expressed the opinion that this was a very young journalist. “But No”, they said, “He is Reuter’s man. He is very shortsighted and very neurotic and has this queer manner, but he is very good at his job.” Later two young Indian students hailed Shelvankar with something approaching adoration on their faces. The only other people I saw were Aileen Palmer, and for a moment Lou Lehmann, who took the collection, and Isabel Pepper, of Holborn.
January 28 Monday: This morning my dentist extracted the “bit” – the remains of the first tooth which caused me trouble and which Barnton dug a hole in – in 1929 I think; we were at Rockville St. at the time. He amazed me with the care with which he removed it. I felt nothing at all but a faint tickle, and even to this minute I do not know the difference. One almost inclines towards local anaesthesia. But this was an easy one.
Miss Murphy rang me and said that Bennett had been advised to contact a Dr Frank. He was going to visit him this afternoon but had been called away. Would I go? She also added that since he had read my memorandum he agreed we must correct with Carbon.
“These experts are a waste of money,” I replied. “It is buy a dog and hang yourself. We do the work and make the investment, but they are the experts and get the money.”
“I’m rather inclined in general to agree. But he has been asked by Dr Singer. Apparently Frank is a very good man and one of these refugees who has not succeeded in establishing himself.”
“All right, then”, I assented. I went to the office to look at the correspondence and found Frank had held many important positions in Germany, and I had indeed read his paper on peat-coke. I went to lunch with Jennings and Bethune. Jennings told us the British Coal Utilisation Research Association presents a remarkable spectacle. Edwards is leaving to go to B.O.C. Townsend does nothing. There are no programmes. Yet most strange of all, Banglam, Pirani and all the other senior staff, are smoking their pipes in dreamy contentment. I think they expect to be part of the Civil Service. Jennings holds that nothing will raise coal output for ten years, and that the great thing is methods of saving fuel. He proposes to leave BCURA and go in for that. Landers has left BCURA “through pressure of other work”.
I then went to the “Frank Laboratories” expecting when I got to Sydenham to find a bulky German director picking the brains of six young assistants, full of slick circumstance and business show. I was welcomed by his secretary, a middle-aged – or perhaps aged 40 – typically small intense German woman, with the very open smile on her round face which marks contintental Jewesses. There was a business-like quality, a plainness of dress, which differs so much from the spirited French, or the saucy British or American. Anyway I prefer the German type in this respect. There was no palaver. I was introduced immediately into Franks’s room. He was modestly dressed and pleased to see me. As he spoke at first I realised that I was speaking to a very old man – later he told me he was 78, and arrived here 8 years ago to start his scientific life over again. He knew nothing about cements, but would be willing to experiment. He could make carbon-black, and very active carbon. When he spoke of tar his face lit up with enthusiasm and he said, “Ah. The tar! That was my first love. I have worked with it for fifty years!”
Learning that I was going to Germany he gave some names, lent me a book, and was very helpful. But he kept forgetting the names. He had to run out to get reference books, and when he couldn’t find them slapped his forehead in irritation. He showed me round his laboratory. There was only one assistant, a bald-headed German of about 60 years of age, who was also a pleasant enough man but did not seem to be doing very much. “Our other colleague is at Battersea Polytechnic every Monday,” he explained. The Laboratory was not very well equipped but he had some treasures – a Burns [? spelling unclear] Colorimeter, for example. He showed me a fossil Ichtyosaurus four feet long. “Formerly I had the biggest collection in Germany,” he said. “They allowed me to bring one.” When again he could not find a book – he had a good library – he said, “You see, my old colleague does not always know where to put his hand.” But whether the colleague or he was at fault I don’t know. “I have but two years, perhaps more, ahead of me”, he said. “I am a very old man.” His memory was failing and he seemed conscious of it. There was none of the self-confidence of Pirani or even of bubbly old Kann. “This is my son,” he said showing me a photograph. “But he is dead now. He was to have inherited all this and carried it on.” I mentioned Pirani; he had worked with him, but I gathered that he did not think much of him. He told me that Fischer was utterly unreliable, and that Tropsch did all the work on oil synthesis. “Always Fischer’s name must come first, that is all he thought of“[A reference to the Fischer-Tropsch chemical process].
I was sorry for the old man. The most pitiful thing was his having to use his failing faculties on that same thing which had engaged his youthful enthusiasms, but without hope of anything at all – not even handing it on to his son. I suppose it will go to his “old colleague” with whom he has worked for 30 years. He would talk of the past and ramble somewhat, often stopping and putting his hand on his forehead with, “I don’t know”. He was critical of the absence of facilities to try experiments, the slowness of Government Departments, and the attitude of British businessmen who did not want to improve their products and who said, “My product is good. It needs no improvement.” “Now, Mr Greaves”, he said. “I will never say that.” If JG Bennett wants to help him, good luck to him. I told Miss Murphy my impressions, and shall try to get him a fee as general consultant. It certainly seems incredible that the fresh vigorous body of youth is transformed so slowly but surely into this decrepitude; and the spirit is the last to give in.
But then Bethune talks nonsense when he says, “Logic teaches us that life is not worth living and we might as well end it. But, you see, we are not logical.” Fortunately the resilience of youth lives on in me and when I went for my milk I was in such a jolly mood that Mrs Morris asked me if I knew that her husband was dead. It was a difficult question. I told the truth and told her the only thing was not to think about it. She said she couldn’t help it. Then I realised the corpse was lying upstairs.
January 29 Tuesday: The preparations for the visit of Cripps next week have reached pinnacles of unexampled absurdity. A firm of decorators is transforming Foster’s office into a show-room. Rudloff, De la Rue’s publicity man, is arranging exhibits. Neon lights are being installed. From now on all research work stops and everybody is engaged in cleaning and sweeping. In my laboratory they have disconnected the electric power lines and cleared a space free from benches so as to make room for the nine visitors to stand and look at things. Naturally the result has been a demoralization of some of the staff. Bloomfield is “fed up” and says if there is no sensible work for him he will go elsewhere. Lth. has resigned, and will go to Booker Roberts (the silly boy!). It is of course the De la Rue directors who have taken all this in hand, and since they are essentially salesmen, they think they will “sell” research to the Board of Trade.
In the evening I cut the “Irish Times”, wrote an article attacking Randolph Churchill’s articles, which now appear in that journal, and sent the cuttings to R.Palme Dutt. I was rung up by Alan Morton who saw Nicholas Moore today. He told him he had sent him a negative letter. He was highly embarrassed to see Alan. He is a very adolescent, rather undergraduate-like man of 27 or 28. Alan read me the letter upon the ‘phone. It was typical of the reaction of a poetaster to the work of better men. He considered it free from the sentimentalism of poetry of its particular political persuasion. He even conceded to it “technical competence” but thought there was not the “variety” either among or within the poems which would raise them above the level of “mere competence”. For himself I should have imagined he would be fortunate on the day when he reached that “mere” level. Alan wants to go ahead and publish it privately. I am disinclined to do so. I think that despite all difficulties we can make somebody publish it for us. It is a scandalous thing that “Our Time” will not do it. But it is no use going and sulking. We must try to educate them.
Incidentally, my passport is still held up. I fear I shall not get it, and Miss Field is growing suspicious.
January 30 Wednesday: I spent the evening re-writing a series of lyrics which I wrote earlier this month.
January 31 Thursday: In the evening I went to the International Affairs Committee and later to Elsie Timbey’s. I saw Palme Dutt, Michael Carritt, Jimmy Shields, K.Shelvankar and the rest of them. It was a good meeting. With Elsie I helped her to prepare her statement to next week’s Irish Bureau. She was a little tired but is going to do it.
February 1 Friday: The preparations for the sight-seeing visit of Sir Stafford Cripps were in full swing, and reached their most fantastic proportions this afternoon. Bloomfield is looking after them. They have erected a steel edifice which carries 49 beakers, each heated by a bunsen, and containing 7 rows of reagents and 7 rows of material, the object being to show that Carbon resists everything. They have cleared everything out of discovery for a fortnight. I sent Wolstonecroft, Samuel and Miss Solomon to read in the Patent Office to be rid of them. DB Foster’s office has been turned into a miniature show-room, with shelves all round it, charts on the wall and Geisler tubes adorning it. The total cost of the exhibition, when lost time is counted, will run close to £1000, and this forced upon us by a Board of Directors which grudges us an extra 1/2d. in salary.
I left early and went home; I was thinking of catching the evening train, but as luck had it I was able to get a sleeper, and travelled overnight to Liverpool.
February 2 Saturday (Liverpool): When I reached 124 Mount Rd. I found that AEG was in bed with a bad cold, where she remained the entire week-end, and CEG also was gruff with a cold – an unusual thing for him. I spent the morning there, but went to the Picton reading room in the afternoon [ie. at the University]. I had heard that the Library was destroyed in the Blitz, but was relieved to see that it was only the lending library, whose books are largely replaceable. This superb theatre is still as of old. I heard from Phyllis that Enid Greaves’s husband, now at Stanford-le-Hope, is going abroad for Shell, probably to Java, and taking Enid with him. AEG and CEG intend to go to America to see Richard M. Greaves next year [a paternal uncle]. Harry Greaves [another uncle] is somewhat at a loose end now, for Daphne, twenty years his junior, is out and about while he stays at home. He therefore accompanied CEG to Southport for a hospital case and talked stamps. CEG, says AEG and Phyllis, now handles the housekeeping himself, goes the errands and gives AEG no housekeeping money. She has been degraded to the position of cook. The extraordinary thing is that she allows it, considering the effect is that he refuses to buy the things he can’t eat, and thus puts them on a diet as well. But for Phyllis’s weekly contribution AEG would be without finance. Yet he spends £15 on restoring the cylinder of his car. In a way, though, it is also pathetic to see his attempts to enjoy his retirement, on a comparatively small pension and with a weak stomach. I think AEG makes allowances for this, and merely says, “He’s a funny old stick!” He was in a very good mood this week-end, possibly because I took him some rice, but also because his stomach is at present behaving. On the other hand, as they admit, in some things he isn’t mean at all. So what can you make of him?
February 3 Sunday: I took the one-day school on the “History of Liverpool” today. It was a lively and very interested discussion. Ingram Knowles and Molly Marshall were there, Sid Foster took the chair. Dave Canning, Fitzgerald and (of all people) Hilda Jaffe [from his university student days, see Vol.2], whom I last saw in Devon and whom I didn’t at first recognise! She seemed a trifle older again, and I suppose, no wonder. I heard from Molly Marshall that Freda Morton writes to her and seems rather dejected. The child ties her, and then, again, Alan Morton must be impossible to live with as he is so correct, prim and conscientious to the point of selfishness. She told Molly Marshall that she was glad when I called as she found me stimulating, and now Molly declares that she finds the same. So I said, “You women!” and received a wry face in return.
I spoke at a meeting in Birkenhead in the evening. The branch has broken up, thanks to the SC affair [Not known what this refers to]. Only the old stalwart Joe Rawlings and one or two others remain. Joe’s favourite expression is, “If only I were twenty years younger!” Yet he is only 50. I was introduced to two young members just out of the forces who had been for a drink. They said they had been to school with me. One was called Jones – but he explained that he was younger than I and I would not remember him. The other said in a very decisive way, “I know him!” He was a tall young man, with a thin moustache and a nervous but slightly jaunty manner. “Who are you?” I asked. “George Evans”, he replied. It was GE. Now I looked carefully I could see a resemblance. “It’s years since I met you,” I said. “1938”, he replied. He would be 18 then. Now he is 26! One of the reasons why I did not think of him was that I had heard he was dead. So I said, “I didn’t think of you – I thought you were a prisoner of war.” “So I was”, he said. So I guessed right. He had been declared “missing” but was “captured”. I also met Mrs Rawlings.
Finally I returned to No 124 Mount Rd., saw AEG and Phyllis and then CEG ran me down to the station just as Arcturus appeared over the river gleaming brilliantly out of a storm-cleared sky.
One thing I forgot yesterday was to say I saw Whelan, in the Picton, a civilian again, very respectably dressed, with an umbrella and a slight deferential stoop – a teacher all right. He didn’t recognize me and was gone before I could hail him. Sid Foster had obtained a sleeper for me.
February 4 Monday: After a day of feverish preparations for tomorrow’s visit DB Foster was compelled to announce at 4.30 pm. that Cripps was not coming after all. This was the third time he had let De la Rue down. And serve the silly fools right, too!
February 5 Tuesday: In the evening I completed the text of my lecture on the history of Liverpool and sent it to Sid Foster.
February 6 Wednesday (London): I met DB.Foster and Budden at Holborn on a wet dismal morning, and Budden drove me to Chelmsford to Crompton Parkinson. We talked for a time with Astbury and then with a young electrical engineer whose name I did not catch. I went with him to his laboratory in Brentwood and as Foster did not arrive in time to collect me, I went home. This may be as well, as Bennett is giving them all a free tea this afternoon. They are bringing their wives and families. Thus he shows he is a psychologist – when there is no circus he gives bread; and a cynic who believes the children deprived of their outing will be happy if they have cake. His true attitude to his employees is hereby revealed.
In the evening at the Irish Bureau were Elsie Timbey, Paddy Clancy, Flann Campbell and myself.
February 7 Thursday: I went to the Fuel Research Station in the morning and saw RA Taylor. On going to lunch he said, “If I’d known we were going out to lunch I’d put on some better clothes.”
“Too punctilious an attention to the niceties of attire,” I replied, “is incompatible with the dignity of science.”
He explained that his house had been burgled and his clothes stolen. Later he explained that he was chairman of the Staff Association and had negotiated with Sinnott, whom he described as a pompous, destructive, pig-headed old fool. I am inclined to agree. Taylor observed as we walked back into the Station after lunch, “Of course, I’m convinced that if I were able to choose my own method of work I’d do far better. This is a view many hold, especially when they are young. But he looked younger than he was, and he stated that the conviction had grown with age. He had the slightly aggressive, watchful and cynically confident air which is often acquired by those who negotiate with employers. He said he lectured – what in he did not say, chemistry I think. He introduced me to their survey geologist, Collins. When we asked about open-cast coal he said, “Oh dear! Do let me think about it for a day or two.” He was a man of about forty-five with thick moustache and beard, who complained of serious shortage of staff. Nobody ever seems in a hurry here, and to a degree one envies their academic calm.
In the evening I did the Irish Committee minutes, and later saw Elsie Timbey, Sean O’Dowling, Judith Todd and some of their friends. As they always introduce people by their Christian names I don’t know who they were. At Walthamstowe I saw Bloomfield and Derrick Walker. Foster had told Bloomfield about Crompton’s scheme to use BaF2 in brushes and I enlightened him further about their ignorance.
February 8 Friday: The usual meeting was held in which more nonsense than usual was talked. Recollecting Pirani’s observation that to reply to each point separately would wear one out to no purpose, I remained silent. They had been discussing extrusion over which Bennett and Foster made such fools of themselves, and could not reconcile themselves to the fact that I did it when they couldn’t. In the end they agreed to do what I was doing, so Marcello Pirani was right and I saved my breath. This vastly amused Parker. Bloomfield was irritated and depressed, until I told him how with a little artfulness we could be doing what we liked.
February 9 Saturday: The artfulness was carried out this morning when we discussed motor-brush research. Cromptons use BaF2. So I suggested we should get a fluorine apparatus. Bloomfield was excited by the idea. Also he strongly approves of my proposal to study Boron and Silicon. They are trying to make him Branch Secretary in Deptford.
In the evening I went to see Alan Morton. Apropos of Heilbron who is coming to Walthamstowe on Monday, Alan reminded me that he was always Isidore, but changed the name to Ian about a year ago. “He’s expecting a knighthood,” said one of Alan’s colleagues at Levers. Consterdine, a faithful admirer, keeps saying he comes from “an old Scottish family”. He came from Glasgow, that is true. I showed my lyrics and remarked that I was sending them to “Our Time” and that I would continue to send them there until I had broken through their resistance. I think they are looking for a Mayakovsky, in which, of course, they are making a mistake. Ingram Knowles was there. He has been accepted for a job with the Allied Control Commission in Germany, after much hesitation. He is not going back to the bank. Freda Morton said she thought Kassim’s case was going well. Curtis Bennett had exposed the utter mendacity of the South African police, but the poor boy is in jail still and cannot receive books, or even have his hair cut, because “the prisoner’s appearance must not change during his detention.” A better example of a “non sequitor” would be hard to suggest. If he wins she proposes to hold a celebration.
February 10 Sunday: I went to see Alice Loveman in the evening. She told me that she caught a cold in October, and since then has been very unwell, with unsteady temperature, and short of breath, and tired after the slightest exertion. Although she is better now, it will be some months before she is active. It had been proposed when she gave up her full-time job that she should stand as a county council candidate, but now that is impossible, so she is working with Garman on the Education sub-committee. Although she is only 38, I observed that her hair is already slightly streaked with grey, and this is no doubt associated with the hormonal disturbance (inactive thyroid?) she suffered from.
February 11 Monday: I went to the dentist’s in the morning and not much happened today. I sent my poems to “Our Time” and started the “Ode to Poetry”.
February 12 Tuesday: I forgot to say yesterday that Heilbron came out to Walthamstowe. I showed him round with JG Bennett. He did not recognise me though he pretended to do so. On the whole I found him very sensible, not at all stuck-up, and quite likeable. Of course he has much of the Jew in him – he is a businessman and has no time for false sentiment or snobbery. His questions were almost all economic in tendency. He asks his questions very bluntly, with the concentration and economy of words of an old man – he looks 65 – and his hard, even slightly vulgar, as if deliberately vulgar typical chemist’s way of asking them, his plebeian accent, and manner of cocking his head to one side and then peering at you from an unexpected angle, are, for all that he’s a bit of a fraud, marks of humanity. He does not pretend to know everything, though he likes appreciation. He does not chatter like Riley. A meeting took place with Parker and Wolstonecroft. It was amusing that Parker and I had the identical notion of playing Heilbron off against Riley, but adopted opposite tactics. “Tell Sir Ian about your intermediate products,” said Bennett. Parker was in no mind to have his results appropriated by Heilbron, and started telling him about Riley’s results, praising them. I had concluded that Heilbron was no danger and said I disagreed with Riley. Bennett demurred and without appearing to take sides Heilbron supported me, and Bennett’s attitude, which thanks to numerous doses of Riley was rather sceptical of my opinions (blast these consultants!), was very impressed. Wolstonecroft, the little fool, had been warned by Parker, “Don’t tell the guy all you know, now.”
“Oh! But I thought Mr Bennett wanted me to tell him everything.”
So he did and Heilbron offered to take the whole research over from him. A few days ago I tried to get Wolstonecroft a trip to South Wales to study Idris Jones’s pitch. I had said Gilsonite was no good, so as to get him there. He, either from sheer innocence, or desire to steal a march, tells Foster that Gilsonite is good and cheap, cancels his own trip, but makes me look foolish. So I left him to Heilbron’s mercies. I’ll rescue him later when he’s had time to learn a little.
Afterwards Parker said he was nauseated at Bennett bringing Heilbron in. I was rather amused. At the moment, with the board of directors proving awkward, and Lth. having left to get more money elsewhere, he wants to be independent of me, among other things. But I merely let them go on, and when they are in a muddle they come home “wagging their tails behind them”. But today I went to Imperial House to see Windle, Central Register Chemists’ man, with Buden. He told Bennett he would get more staff if he paid better salaries. “Well, would you write and tell me that? asked Bennett. “Hm”, said Windle, “That’s the sort of thing that might lead to questions in Parliament.” This is the one thing the civil service is terrified of, as Alan Morton says. A letter to the Parliamentary Secretary is sufficient to send to the underlings: “Ministerial File – Immediate!” Bennett was off to a meeting of the Atomic Energy directorate. Meanwhile Derrick Walker made the strongest Carbon on record, and we phoned the results through. Bennett rang me up in the afternoon, full of excitement. He had secured the contract for Carbon, and was coming to see me tomorrow.
I called on Elsie Timbey in the evening. She had with her two Jamaicans, one very bitter and anti-British, the other rather more anti-American. They are in the RAF and told us of their experience in the country towns of England. They were sent to a boarding house where they were allowed to stay till the lights were switched on. In another place it was said that they had no black sheets for the bed – they thought the colour would come off. Though it was amusing in a way, and they laughed, I never felt quite so ashamed before, to live in a country with such ignorant backward fools in it. The worst part is, as they said, that English troops go to Africa and come back imperialists.
February 13 Wednesday: In the morning Bennett came out to discuss atomic energy Carbon. He said that they had told him that no more than 13 ppm. of hydrogen was permissible. It was very important to know if we could free it from hydrogen. Would I object to giving up the German tour and rearrange everything, so as to find this out? I agreed, with the knowledge that one does not strike this kind of iron when it is hot. I will try to reverse it later. I said, use mellitic anhydride. Bennett thought it too expensive and doubted its feasibility. But, to anticipate, when Budden returned from Cambridge having seen another of the same committee who said he thought Riley was not sufficiently radical in his approach, he rang up and said he had veered to my view. These proofs, as he took them to be, of the correctness of my policy, my apparent ready acquiescence in abandoning the German trip, and the fact that he is once more dependent on me, transformed him from a critic who cannot substantiate to an admirer who hopes great things from collaboration.
Parker pointed out that a phrase in last Friday’s minutes (interpolated by JG Bennett) was a means by which Foster could approach Bloomfield direct without consulting me. I agreed, but pointed to the changed balance of power since Friday. “Strange”, said Parker, rather pleased at his own perspicacity, “I’ve noticed that several times. When they’re dependent on you, they’re all over you.” I resolved this time to do my damndest to keep the advantage. It really amounts to a policy of “overtake and surpass” Riley, Heilbron, Hinshelwood and all the rest of them. I joined Lewis’s library to get access to the books. I bought Wordsworth’s poems. In the evening OD rang up and I had dinner with him. He had scarcely got to Manchester when the manager and assistant both resigned. The directors seldom came near the place. He was in full charge. He has brought the business up from nothing to where he has a lively export trade. He has one man in the laboratory, a foreman, and fifteen workers. Pollard has left Tanners. They were afraid to continue long-term research. OD does not know where he is now. He met Archer who is works manager of Kestner’s (Keebush).
February 14 Thursday: There was more excitement as Bennett drives ahead for his Board meeting and Battersea. I went to the dentist’s. Old Toogood said, “Miserable morning! It doesn’t make you feel too bright – especially with those Labourites singing the red flag in Parliament!” “Oh?” “Yes – this Bill of theirs, coal nationalization. And the worst of it is that it’s sheer spite, sheer spite against their opponents. If they’d build a few houses, there’d be some sense to it. Why can’t they wait? They’re strong enough to wait, or say they are. Why do it now?” But one doesn’t argue with one’s dentist.
February 15 Friday: This morning it was announced that salary increases had been approved. I got £150, Parker £40, and others pro rata. But Foster got nothing. “There’s no such thing as gratitude!” he remarked in the car, and Miss Murphy also got nothing, much to her annoyance. “She’s getting far more than any woman ought,” said Westall. Miss Head received £25 – instead of £75. “It’s anti-feminism!” said she. “The fact is,” said Foster, “It’s just a matter of how dispensable you are, or they think you are.” Miss Fawsett, the company secretary, receives a typist’s wage and remains on it. But all these increases were accompanied by suitable congratulatory letters from JG Bennett. The usual meeting took place. Of late he has tended to argue with me, and I wondered whether he would now do so, on account of the atomic energy project. He began to do so. I had showed how carbon could be made into a grand joint. “But that can be done with glass!” he declared. I decided to stop it and said sarcastically – “But surely you are interested to learn that it can also be done with Carbon.” He was rather taken aback and, as on one occasion before, seemed even a little upset. But at any rate the criticism for the sake of raising objections ceased for the time being. It was getting to the point where it would be a joke to see the battle each Friday. So now we shall see if it is repeated each week.
February 16 Saturday: I went to Walthamstowe in the morning. Parker was there but Bloomfield is away sick.
February 17 Sunday: I spent most of the day getting ready all my materials for the Irish book. Yesterday I saw Paddy Clancy for a short time. He told me about Bob Doyle [Connolly Association activist; had been in the International Brigade in the Spanish civil war] who is still very slack each Sunday. Apparently when he has a few pints of cider taken he tells stories of his murky past in Dublin, making robberies and the like – all of which he repudiates now. One tale is of how the IRA was robbing a bank and throwing out bundles of notes to confederates outside the windows. An old man who changed the tramway points picked up a bundle unnoticed and walked away. Bob and his brother saw him, and after debating how to rob without violence they secured a blanket and walked behind him, thinking to throw it over his head and relieve him of the money. Bob tiptoed up, but began to snigger before he got to him. “Don’t be a fool!” said his brother, and took the blanket from him. But before he could reach the old man he too found the humour of the situation too much for him, and he too began to snigger. The old man turned round, called them a couple of thieving bastards – and then ran away, blanket and all. There is no doubt that if ever a story reeks of the turf it is that one!
February 18 Monday: I met Bennett at Imperial House and we repaired to the Athenaeum to discuss Carbon. I recommended starting with a rough structure and refining in ethylene to begin with, while the mellitic acid was brewing. He agreed. Then we met Segler and went to the Ferryboat Inn. Segler is truly astonishing. He is over 80, but retains a sense of humour, a speed of reaction, and a wit and simplicity more characteristic of youth. Less than any old man I know has his mind closed up. He is reading Aristotle to help him with coal systematics. BCURA is not giving him much help and he cannot do much of his own research. “I do so want to get on with this!” he exclaimed, thinking of the few years – possibly months – left to him. But he had none of Frank’s sadness and resignation. “Did I ever tell you,” he said, “of how I met Shakespeare in the train going from Stratford to Birmingham? No? Why I told it to the Shakespeare Society. They were very interested indeed. I saw him get on and sit down in the corner seat. ‘My God!’ I said,’ that’s Shakespeare!’ I went down the corridor and saw another gentleman. ‘Excuse me sir, but would you come along and see if you recognise this gentleman?’ He came with me. ‘My God! Shakespeare!’ – he went back to his compartment without saying another word. Shakespeare had a book of his own works, and suddenly he slapped his knee and roared with laughter. ‘Look what they’ve made of me!’ He’d bought this book on the station, and I heard him say, ‘His nose was as sharp as a pen – or it might have been pin – and ‘a babbled o’ green fields’. And then I heard him say, ‘His nose was as sharp as a pen – or it might have been pin – on a table of green felt.’ You see – an old quill pen. Now you can just imagine it. The secretary of the Shakespeare Society brought out a book. ‘This is the first folio’ – and there it was, ‘On a babble of green fields.’ ‘But that’s nonsense,’ I said. ‘You’ve just tried to get at the first rendering, but you’ve never tried to get at what it was.’”
“I was interested to see the effect it had on them. The teller, this is the essence of it, must be believed. One woman in the audience came up to me and said she was surprised that Shakespeare should be so ‘earthbound’. She was a spiritualist. Of course there are three typical reactions. First the vulgar materialist one – some company of film actors were making a scene; then there’s the retort skeptical: ‘That’s just another of Segler’s damned lies!’” “That’s what I thought!” laughed Bennett. “Oh, You did, did you! And then there’s the frankly supernatural – and they’re the majority.” “No!” “Yes. Over half.”
“But now, Segler,” said Bennett, “tell us the truth. What’s your explanation?”
“As a scientific man”, he began, “I’ve no ready-made theory. I but tell the tale as it occurred to me.” With this neat confession he reduced us all to helpless laughter. He is a quite remarkable man. He has a wide knowledge of place-names, and of botany, was born near where we were lunching, when it was a country village, and even knows an amount of Welsh. He has a high regard for old Dr Kann, and like him (but more so, and for many years more) he preserves indications of what he must have been like in his youth.
February 19 Tuesday: I did little enough today. In the evening I cut Irish papers.
February 20 Wednesday: Again I did very little, except cut some papers.
February 21 Thursday: In the evening Brian Stedman called at Walthamstowe and took me and Derrick Walker into town where we had dinner at the Taunos. Brian has submitted a memorandum on management to the AEU executive [Amalgamated Engineering Union]. His contention is that the Trade Unions will have to take up a more positive attitude to scientific management. His book is not yet accepted by Penguins. Derrick Walker was going to see the Kensington Party Secretary. There is a deal hidden in that lad. I remarked that he did not usually come to town on Thursdays – his girl’s free day – whereupon he blushed like a beetroot, goodness knows why. Today, before Foster interrupted us “to see if we had anything to show him” we were discussing Bennett’s tea party, and Walker was remarking on what a revolting spectacle it was with all the women and babies sitting on planks, rioting for tea and queueing up for the lavatory. I observed that Bennett had said, “Well, they like it. After all their lives are so drab and unrelieved…”, this in the car at Piccadilly. Well, they did like it. I observed further that the more politically backward the more appealed to by circuses: “If the lowest stratum of all couldn’t lay out a Union Jack and reflect on the glories of royalty they’d be thinking of their own condition which would be fit to drive them mad.”
“I think that thinking about life would drive anybody mad.”
“Tt.Tt. That’s a surprisingly reactionary sentiment from you.”
“Always provided you could do nothing about it.” This was said with considerable feeling, and a more mature emotion than I have seen in him before
I might also record, apropos of Bennett and the little tricks of directors, that when on Monday it was drawn to his attention that Miss Franklin of BCURA might want a job with us, Miss Murphy asked, “Do you want to see her yourself?”
“What d’you mean?”
“Do you want Mr Greaves to be present?”
“I want to see her,” said he, putting the accent on “see” as if he had been asked whether he would be content to hear her. Today she was seen, and heard too, for she told him that she wanted to be a teacher. Bennett suggested she might come for a time and teach us some of her techniques – the gold hidden just round the corner assumes vast magnitudes in Bennett’s imagination, and each new shovel is going to dig it up. She was dubious. So it shows that I am not the only one whose well-laid schemes go aglay. I shall try to get RH Smith to come. He can write Bennett.
February 22 Friday (Liverpool): There was no Bennett meeting today, so I held one of my own – for an hour – and we apportioned the work for the “results-in-three-weeks” exploratory programme.
In the afternoon I left for Liverpool and arrived there at 10.00 pm. Who should sit down beside me at James Street but Westmore, who informed me that he had been demobilized today, and his wife had already obtained a flat in Prenton Road East, and furnished it – leaving only 5d. in her bank account. He was thinking of becoming a salesman (of films) but on the other hand was attracted by the idea of being a teacher. He wanted to settle down. CEG met me at Rock Ferry and drove Westmore to Prenton, and we then went to 124 Mount Road, ate and retired.
February 23 Saturday: I went to the City in the afternoon and saw Sid Foster [secretary of the Merseyside District of the CPGB] for a few moments, and then George Hardy [1884-1966, British communist veteran, who developed links with China]. The young secretary of the Ellesmere Port branch was there and when he explained to George how the members there would do as little as possible, with typical Liverpool crudity he declared, “Booger them!” – and then looked up for us to admire his boldness. “You’ll have to get a few more round you, then you’ll be able to say to them in good dockers’ language, ‘If you can’t shit, get off the pot.'” In the underground on the way home I met Mr and Mrs Piggott, Piggott’s parents. They said Piggott [another friend from his secondary shool days, see Vol.1]was still in the air-force and likely to remain there as instructor. Caughtrie and his brothers were in the army in India. Their house had been bombed and they were now living in West Kirby. Speaking of meeting people I omitted to record that on the way to Euston yesterday I met Anna Ryder – little, fat and good-tempered, having become just what one would have expected her to become. We arranged to meet and have a talk. In the afternoon I was at Verdi’s Requiem which gave me a greater impression of “size” than at the Albert Hall performance. Lake was there and met us on the way back. HO Jones is still at the Institute and the Piggotts told me that Charles Mount [a former teacher at Birkenhead Institute grammar school, with whom Greaves used play chess; see Vols.1 and 2] is living in retirement at Spilsby and visits them for a few days each season. Piggott remarked that Mount was quite unchanged. He also remarked that I did not look a whit different. Possibly this is because he has aged somewhat himself, stoops a little and is not as brisk as he was. In the evening Geoffrey Bloor rang up.
February 24 Sunday: I saw Geoffrey in the morning. His wife is having her child in April and is not too well, gets irritable and depressed. But all is well from a medical standpoint. Geoffrey is chairman of the Fairfield branch now. Tickell is now on “indefinite leave” from the army, on full pay, and has joined the Labour Party, thus I take it giving up his party membership [formerly a member of Greaves’s communist student group at Liverpool University; see Vols. 2 and 3]. “The place for us Marxists,” said he, “is in the Labour Party.” So that is where the Marxist has gone. It is surprising how long it is before the horns grow, though the foot may be cloven at birth. He is standing as a candidate for the County Council. Ingram Knowles has now joined the Allied Control Commission in Germany.
In the afternoon CEG drove me, with AEG and Lake, to West Kirby, Caldy and Heswall. The view along the West was excellent, the bays standing out clearly with snow-drifted mountains behind, the higher altitudes of which had been cleared of snow by the high wind which was still blowing from the North-West. I took the 4.45 train from Rock Ferry and arrived back in Euston at 10 pm.
February 25 Monday (London): I received a letter from Z.Rado which told me how he went to Prague and waited for Richter to arrive. He was going to conduct him to Budapest as Richter knew no Czech and it is dangerous to speak anything else in Prague just now. Unfortunately Richter was on board the aeroplane which crashed, “and so he lost his life and I went on alone,” said Rado. He tells me not a building is untouched in Budapest, and that the Government is not yet democratic. The landowners are coming back from the West. I also heard from Farrington telling me to proceed with the book [ie. Professor Benjamin Farrington, the book presumably being the study on Ireland referred to above].
February 26 Tuesday: I saw Bennett in the morning, full of the atomic energy project. I interviewed possible staff in the afternoon, and wrote to Hesketh, who doesn’t appear to want a job now, but who might come later. A letter from Bloor also arrived, and one from John de Courcy Ireland inviting me to Dublin in early May. In the evening I saw Paddy Clancy.
February 27 Wednesday: I went to the dentist, and then to 16 King Street [CPGB Headquarters.]where I could not see Jimmy Shields to tell him Rado’s news. The weather is abominable, sleet and slush – and Shields has probably stayed at home. Brian Stedman and Michael Carritt were there, Carritt with arthritis! Milne [Ewart Milne, Irish leftwing poet, had been a civilian ambiulance driver in the Spanish civil war] is behaving, now, fortunately, and I’m feeling more happy about it. Perhaps it has been caught in time! I took a taxi to the passport office. The driver was old Fiddler from Morden!
February 28 Thursday: In the morning JG Bennett came out to discuss the new project in more detail. Then I called our people together again and we took some decisions. The International Affairs Committee was held in the evening.
March 1 Friday: We held a meeting with Idris Jones today. Parker told me that when I was out of the room for a minute Bennett turned to Jones and said, “I want to talk to you in the car about where Powell Dufferyn come into this. Do you want us to subcontract to you or will you want a separate contract from the Ministry?”
“I’m sure I don’t mind,” said Jones.
“But you want to get something out of it, don’t you?”
“I don’t mind. I wouldn’t make anything now. Powell Duffryn would get it not me.” And he went no further. At lunch he displayed some uneasiness about Russia, but had no objection to seeing “the end of capitalist civilization”. It was rather the policy of Parker and myself to play him off against Riley. He is, for all his social democratic weaknesses, no money-grabber, and is a man of principle. Apart from that, very little happened. The weather is as bad as ever, with cold winds and an almost continuous sleety snow which sticks a while, then melts, and then repeats the unedifying performance.
March 2 Saturday: I went to Walthamstowe in the morning, and in the evening to a film. Otherwise nothing.
March 3 Sunday: The weather was too indescribably vile for anything. I rearranged my bookshelves and papers ready for the Irish book. Lawrence and Wishart are sending me a contract.
March 4 Monday: The tergiversations of the De la Rue directors have recoiled on their own heads. As I recorded, they held up our visit to Germany because they wanted to go and see plastics without the other plastics firms knowing it. They then decided that Bridge and I were not going. That left one too many for one car. The Ministry circulated news of the trip to other Carbon firms and Morgan Crucible signified their desire to go. So now the Delanium people have their worst enemies spying on every move, while the De la Rue people cannot even steal away for looking at plastics. In order to get away before Morgans were ready JG Bennett asked the atomic energy directorate to give the trip a special priority. The reply was that Morgans also were in that.
“What’s Riley doing?” I asked Foster.
“Oh! He’s on our side.”
“Hm! I suppose that is made all right.”
“Oh! Yes”, said Foster, “I don’t know how much, but he’ll not lose by it.” So such is business and such is science.
March 5 Tuesday: The weather is as foul as ever. It has given us a continuous sleet for nearly a week! In the evening I saw Paddy Clancy and helped him to prepare his report for tomorrow.
March 6 Wednesday: In the morning I went to central register and talked for a while with Wardlaw, and then with Windle. We saw the paper reporting that Alan Nunn May had been arrested [atomic scientist arrested for passing secrets to the Russians]. “Ah! We must look at his papers,” said Windle, but unfortunately he proved to be a physicist whose papers were “upstairs”. In the afternoon I interviewed a number of applicants for our numerous appointments. The Irish Committee met in the evening. Flann Campbell, Elsie Timbey, Paddy Clancy, Oliver and myself were there.
March 7 Thursday: I did a little work on the book but spent most of the evening on the “Ode to Poetry”.
March 8 Friday: The usual Friday meeting took place and the usual blather was talked. The discussion was vague and general, with Bennett announcing his intention of publishing a series of papers on the Delanium process beginning next September. No doubt these will incorporate the bulk of my and Parker’s activity. However he can have that credit. I am out for bigger game.
March 9 Saturday: I took the 10.30 to Liverpool. CEG met me at Rock Ferry and drove me home. Then, AEG being at the Philharmonic concert, he drove me to Mold and back via Pont-y-blyddyn and Hawarden. It was warmer than in London, but on high ground near Mold there were patches of snow. The trees are beginning to look oddly hung and knobbled as the buds swell and exaggerate the effect of the tracery. I heard from AEG that there is a “famine in Britain” scare in Australia. Bertha Taylor had sent four parcels, one to each of her sisters, as also had Hilda Taylor, now married and turned Catholic – she would. But it will be her last enthusiasm. AEG was right about the effect of SGW’s London trip. He has applied for a telephone and intends to remain in Liverpool. Phyllis’s theory of the Australian business is that it is a “racket” being conducted by Australian shopkeepers. Dorothy Taylor has told Bertha that we are not starving at all. CEG is now getting more anti-Russian and considers it a disgrace that the country turned down Churchill. He is very antagonistic to Phyllis and on the whole treats her very badly and hasn’t a good word for her. She on the other hand, while she has her idiosyncracies, looks after him when he is ill. Actually he is not so bad when she is ill, but without AEG’s peacemaking activities they would be forever quarrelling. Many people we used to know are ill – Doris Mathews with tuberculosis, Almond with arthritis, and so on. The war has depressed everybody’s health.
March 10 Sunday: On the whole I did little, apart from reading Hanley’s “Ebb and Flow”. AEG had not accepted Churchill’s speech at its face value. “There’s something behind it,” she said. She claims that her intellect is rusted from disuse but she sees many of these things more clearly than CEG, who can prepare his lectures on music but never puts into them anything theoretical of his own, though he has quite an engaging style. She said, “It was a tragedy that Roosevelt died. He was a broad humane man.” She knows the right virtues. It is because AEG is herself “humane” that she follows politics with more discernment than CEG. Speaking of AEH, still in Lockerbie, she speaks of her eccentricities and hopes she will not be as queer when she is 70 odd. “Perhaps my music will keep me sane!” she says, half joking. She is somewhat better from her cold, but looks a trifle tired.
March 11 Monday: In the morning I went to see Stewart, the Assistant Registrar at the University. He kept me waiting 10 minutes. When I went in I met a man of about forty, perhaps a little younger, thin and well-dressed, the typical university administrator, sleek, smooth-spoken, hard and self-seeking but occupying a “job” which demanded a pretence of disinterestedness and humanity, and making a poor show at each. He had asked Robertson if he had anybody for me [ie.for appointment at Delanium]. He hadn’t. They had no separate appointments man, but were considering appointing one. I left him and found Geoffrey Bloor waiting for me in the Victoria building. We had lunch together at a Chinese restaurant. Winnie is having some little trouble with her child, but he thinks it righting itself. Then I interviewed applicants at the Exchange Hotel. The first, Cohen, was a bright lad. The second, Comiskey, was a diverted schoolteacher. The third was a misplaced chemist, now back in science after being an estate agent. Unfortunately Cohen’s parents were Russian and there is a danger of anti-aliens bias in JG Bennett – not his own, but from the Ministry. I returned to 124 Mount Rd., had tea and listened to AEG playing, then took the midnight train for London. I had a sleeper and on board was, of all people, Hunt. He said his mother was dead, and that George Wright had never even gone a step to meet them from the day he left the house. He also said that Jellicho had been killed in action, and also that Bozier had lost his life, together with others whose names he forgot. He himself had been with BIC (Frodsham) since he left University in 1939. Charles Mount who had retired, returned to teaching for a while during the acute shortage of teachers during the war but had now retired again. He said that it would be possible to get a copy of the “Visor” (the Birkenhead Institute magazine) containing a list of those who had not survived. These two are the first people I know of whose deaths in the war I have learned. Neither were particular friends of mine [ie. at Birkenhead Institute school – Ed.].
March 12 Tuesday: There was very little of note today. The weather remains cold despite the promised mildness.
March 13 Wednesday: I interviewed applicants for jobs. Lardly, from Liverpool, wanted to be a liaison man. Most of the others were not much good. Perla, a British lad with Italian parents, with an Oxford degree, and Catholic, struck me by his obvious lack of interest in science. I asked him, since he showed unmistakeable signs of intelligence, if he was interested in anything else. “Poetry” he said, “and music.” “What poetry?” “English poetry, Shakespeare, Milton, Keats and Shelley.”
“Do you agree with the opinions expressed in Shelley’s work?”
“Well, no. He was an atheist.”
“Mozart, I like best.” He suddenly spoke with emotion. “I’m mad on it!” he said. I determined to try to give him a job, but I doubt whether I shall get him past Bennett or Foster. He may be quite a good chemist!
March 14 Thursday: I did little in the day, but in the evening continued working on the “Ode to Poetry” which is now nearing completion. On the whole I am rather pleased with it. I saw Jimmy Shields earlier.
March 15 Friday: The usual meeting took place. Bennett agreed to my nominees en bloc, doubtless with secret reservations. I think he has sensed that I don’t trust him out of my sight, because there is a slightly artificial politeness in his manner. I spoke to the Highgate branch in the evening [presumably of the CPGB].
March 16 Saturday: I received a phone call from Lancaster in the afternoon. He is demobilized and living in Joan Rainsford’s old flat in Primrose Hill. I went to see him in the evening and gave advice about how to get a job. We consumed his excellent schnapps which he had smuggled in, and discussed his experiences in Germany.
March 17 Sunday: I finished the “Ode to Poetry”, typed it and in the evening visited Alan Morton. We decided to publish our stuff ourselves, and I said I would try to find a printer in Liverpool at the weekend. I heard from Alan that Molly Marshall’s mother is now mad. They had her in an asylum once, but the kind-hearted sister got her out, only to have a husband refuse to let her in the house – and so, Molly had to take her in. She “hears voices”, according to Alan, and will suddenly address an invisible Mr or Mrs Shepherd, “Oh. No. Mr Shepherd, don’t say that the father of these beautiful children will die. After all he’s a serving man and he’s fighting for his country.” It is really quite eerie. She was telling Alan about somebody having gone abroad – “far away”, and suddenly added, “Well out of your way, Mrs Shepherd!”
I remember her well at Ulverton, with her quiet voice, and the slightly foxy look which mad people so often possess – not responding but looking artful at you. Alan Morton says it is mild schizophrenia. Molly Marshall brought in a doctor who sat all evening drinking cups of tea, but the artful old faggot wouldn’t say a single word to the two persecutors of her old age, the Shepherds (Apparently some people called Shepherd did do her some injury.) Then the minute the man had gone, the old woman’s face lit up with an artful smile and she said, “Oh! Molly! Didn’t you know, Beelzebub is dead!” Then she called her “a bad wicked girl for trying to have her old mother put away.” The strange thing is that though Molly treats her like rubbish (Alan says this) you can’t help having a sneaking sympathy for the poor bewildered crafty old thing.
March 18 Monday: On the whole very little happened. We are still looking for staff, and probably the list of people will prove insufficient. I did a little work on the book. I met Tommy Jackson [Thomas Alfred Jackson, 1879-1955, historian and authority on Ireland, founder member of the CPGB] on the escalator at Holborn. He showed me the proof copy of “Ireland Her Own”[for which Greaves would wrote an Epilogue in 1971]. He was dissatisfied with the price – 18/. “That’ll keep it out of the hand of the boys I’ve written it for. Of course it will sell, but I didn’t write it for those bastards.”
“Cheap edition possible?”
“Oh! Yes – but I’m sixty-seven now, and a few years makes a big difference to me. I hope it won’t be too long. Of course it’s the fucking publishers! Still, that’s that.”
March 19 Tuesday: A testimonial from Cohen was not too pleasing to J.G.Bennett, though I think it was merely his contrariness. It is part of directorial policy always to try to make people fear that they may have done wrong. He can puzzle it out himself. Perla’s testimonial also was better than I expected, but I don’t know again what Bennett will say. Most likely he will grumble and engage the lot of them! He told me that he was going to engage Atkins. This amused me as I had told R.H.Smith to ask Atkins to apply! Atkins himself rang me in the evening.
March 2O Wednesday: I met Atkins in the Florida. He told me that he and Weil and Orchard had written to Bennett, but that the reply they had received was that all staff must be recruited from the Central Register. Atkins’s fear was that the Central Register would inform Townsend and then he and his colleagues, being more or less constrained to move, would be snapped up by Bennett at unduly low salaries. For although Bennett had said he wanted them he had carefully refrained from discussing business!
March 21 Thursday: Foster and Budden having left for Germany yesterday, Bethune came to Walthamstow. The gradual establishment of a hierarchy is interesting. GC.Philpotts was nominated “senior staff member” after Bethune, a position which contrasts with his discredited repute of a few months ago, and reflects the power of Yogiism [a reference to JG Bennett’s interest in Gurdjieff and Ouspensky’s theosophy]. Llewellyn is being selected as his successor when he becomes production manager. That young gentleman asked me what I thought of Weil. I decided to do my best. I said, “Oh – all right. Not a genius, though.” Llewellyn beamed all over his face. “Ah. Not too good?”
“No. A good plodder.”
“Ah! Just the kind of man we want. We’ve got too many geniuses already.” I went out, but he informed Miss Head there were four of them in this supernaturally blessed plot of earth. I take it: Llewellyn, Llewellyn, Llewellyn, and Llewellyn. And then Budden’s two new boys, Smith and Fowler, came. Smith is a new callow young man who knows nothing and admits it. Fowler also knows nothing but looks fierce and tries to sound knowing. He treats Bethune with profound respect, but tries to “come it” over everybody else. He is a metallurgist, and the other is a physicist.
March 22 Friday: Today Hutchens came out to see us. Nothing of great importance happened. I left for Liverpool by the midnight train, fortunately getting a sleeper.
March 23 Saturday (Liverpool): I heard from AEG that Daphne Greaves’s [His uncle Harry Greaves’s wife] brother has turned up. Apparently together with Enid Greaves she was walking down Southampton Row or some place near there, when suddenly Daphne thrust her cane into Enid’s hand with a cry, “That’s Willie.” She followed him, and finally got ahead of him, looked back, definitely identified him, and then took him for lunch. He disappeared about twelve years ago, and the wildest rumours were current, suicide being the popular view. The real reasons were more subtle. Sam Welfare, his uncle, had given him and a partner his business when he retired from it. But although the old man had retired he wanted to retain authority while relinquishing responsibility, and was constantly meddling. Finally Termington grew so tired of the interference, and moreover so convinced that he would never make a businessman, that he decided to disappear and get a job in London, as a painter. This he did. Years passed, and he was ashamed to go back.
I saw Bloor in the morning with Cohen, now on the area committee. He is the Cohen of the YCL who years ago, when he was in the FSU, made denunciatory criticisms of one of my meetings in Birkenhead. He is quite a useful fellow though, despite this dreadful sin which does not appear to weigh on his conscience, and is merely (even now) as Bloor puts it, a little “Frank Brightish” – a little over-forceful in the expression of his opinion. In the afternoon I attended the “Damnation of Faust”, which the Liverpool Welsh Choral Society performed not too well. I met the girl Hughes whom I saw in the Lake District on the way to Scotland in 1943, and Miss Sharp (Elizabeth Dyson) but nobody else I knew. CEG has been asked to conduct a large church rally in September. It is of the “free church” persuasion, but the Bishop of Chester will attend. Remembering how impossible this would have been twenty years ago I asked where was the bigotry of olden times. AEG said that the churches had all suffered so much loss of support in the past few years that they felt that if they were to survive they could afford no internecine differences. It is perhaps regrettable however that the leadership should pass to the Church of England, the most right-wing of them, but perhaps this is inevitable as it is in a sense the only one sufficiently Catholic to embrace all their divergences. In the evening AEG played and Phyllis sang Schubert and Bach.
March 24 Sunday: I did very little, trying unsuccessfully to find O’Toole. I went a short walk with Phyllis, the weather being fair and mild, and then returned to London by the afternoon train, arriving on time (first time for years) at 10 o’clock.
March 25 Monday (London): I was informed by MIss Murphy that JG Bennett, in order to break the news gently to the British Coal Utilisation Research Association, told Townsend that some of his people had applied to Delanium for jobs. This apparently caused Townsend much heart-searching. He must surely realise now that he has stepped into the leadership of a moribund organisation only to be revivified if nationalisation incorporates it into the civil service. Bennett having given them notice to quit Coombe Springs, they have no laboratories and are talking of offering their staff six months holiday with full pay. If they can survive that they will be very lucky indeed.
March 26 Tuesday: I went to lunch with Bethune. After a long discussion on philosophy and politics we were about to go when a typical English shop-manager stated that he had overheard our conversation and that on the one hand he agreed with Bethune and on the other hand in this he agreed with me. We let him go on, when he added, “Thank God we’re English!” Bethune said, “Yes. Thank God!” I roared with laughter. “Are you serious?” Our interlocutor then admitted that he had talked to a Scotch policeman during the blitz and he had said, “Don’t include me in your damned English!”
“Now isn’t it silly! I regard the Welsh, Irish and Scotch as being as good as English.”
“As good as!”
“Well why don’t they stay at home, if they prefer it?” So then I wiped the floor with him, to Bethune’s surprise. He kept very quiet. “My God”, he said afterwards, “The way you slaughtered him. He offered me a cigarette. I wish I’d accepted. At least we could have got that out of him.” So that was Bethune’s worldly wisdom. It is amusing to note how pathetically pleased he is when he thinks he has cheated someone.
Then I saw Bennett. He could give me no satisfaction about moving to Battersea, staff etc. and one remark was typical of directorial logic.
“After all you are having the present coal-store for a lab.”
“But am I in fact having it?”
“Ah! That’s another question.” (sic!)
“Hm. If you don’t mind my saying so, I think it is the same question.”
“I don’t at all understand what you mean, and I’m afraid I must go now, and see Mr Bridge.”
March 27 Wednesday: I saw Paddy Clancy in the evening. He says Frank O’Connor has been over here and says that Sean O’Faolain has severed his connection with “The Bell“[Irish literary-political magazine], leaving Harry Craig in sole possession. So one wonders what will be the fate of the periodical.
March 28 Thursday: A young Austrian came looking for a job. He has engineering but no chemical experience. I told him that I was not allowed to employ aliens although I would be prepared to put his name forward. It then occurred to me that Philpotts was not under the same ban. So I rang for Llewelyn who came in with his big belly and loose bulging face, slightly florid and expressionless, philistine to the back teeth. He took the boy round his place and came back talking about taking him on, said he had fixed the salary and raised his hopes considerably. “We’ll let you know!” said Llewelyn. Then he came into me again. Of course I always want to give them a job, but not so my bold David.
“Pooh!” exclaimed Llewelyn,”No good. I can’t stick them. Bloody Jew! Ugh. I couldn’t bear to have him working under me, and I’m sure Mr Philpotts wouldn’t either. Do you know there is a waiting list of ’em. There’s this creature Weil we’ve got to have. But Mr Bennett says we’ve got to have him.”
“He must be some one. He says he is getting £400 a year.”
“Ah. Yes. But you know what that is – he’s probably getting £300, but he’s bumped it up for the job. After all that’s common. Between you and me, that’s what I did when I came here.”
So I think I do well to bring him Atkins and Weil as one might carefully lay sticks of dynamite under him. But he will take a deal of blowing up. When I told Derrick Walker about this conversation he said, “If I had the courage of my convictions, I’d bump him off!” Walker is now grown up. He can speak with emotion and express his feelings, with some of the self-consciousness of youth, but forcefully and with a deep sincerity. He will go far, I think. He went to B.O.C. at Wembley to look at arc-welding this morning, taking Budden’s boy Graham Smith. This individual is a nice open frank individual from college. “But very boyish!” comments Derrick Walker, who is a year younger, I think!
In the evening the International Affairs Committee met. Dutt has gone to India. Jimmy Shields took the chair. By all accounts things in the Six Counties are bad, but Bob Stewart has gone over to try to give them a little help and advice [Bob Stewart,1877-1971, founder member of the CPGB, Comintern representative, made contacts with the IRA in 1929-30]. I was glad of this as it was just what I pressed for when I went to see Jimmy Shields a week or so ago, and he was so gloomy. He is more gloomy and a little disillusioned now. I think it is because he thought he would live to see the revolution, and now he knows he will not.
March 29 Friday: The usual Friday meeting was held, and during the time when only heads of departments were there JG Bennett announced his intention of having a weeding out by a very simple process. The factory moves to Battersea. At present certain people receive time and cash travelling allowances. But when the move takes place these will be abolished. Thus those who live in Walthamstowe will lose £6 a week, counting income tax £2. Then they will look for other jobs. But to those whom he wants Bennett will give more money. While he was explaining this Windle rang up and told him that Moss (friend of DB Smith, and Lth., who was put into the electrical department though he wanted to do chemistry) had applied to the Central Register for another job. Bennett told Windle that he doesn’t want to lose Moss. For his own good he should stay another six months, and then he could go. For by then he would have “done a job” and would “have it behind him”. So Windle promised he would not offer him any jobs just yet. Then Bennett asked Gordon-Smith, Budden’s deputy, rather a mild character without much personality, to see Moss and explain to him that if once he got a reputation for chopping and changing he would never have a responsible job. In his own interest he should not leave for six months.
“These young men are astonishingly ungrateful!” said Miss Murphy. Bennett looked at her curiously, but saw she was quite serious, and turned to next business.
He held three small meetings in the lunch hour, in which he broke the news. Soon afterwards I invited Smith into my office and asked his views. He said DB Foster had promised categorically that he would be looked after at Battersea. But now he would lose 25/- a week, even with his car. He had bought the car with the intention of using it for Battersea and had spent most of his savings on it. (Hm!) Also he was the sole support of his mother. “When Pop died,” he said, “the solicitor who was talking to my mother about the business said, ‘believe every man’s a rogue till you prove he isn’t’, and then he borrowed a rather handsome fountain pen to sign a document. We haven’t seen it to this day!” So I said I would see he got some more money, and went back to the meeting. The AScW representative was Derrick Walker and he and Smith announced their desire to see Bennett. They came in, and Walker asked how the salary scales had gone. Bennett replied that he was “getting nearer to a position where a scale not far from that of the AScW could be put forward for consideration.” But he did not think there was time to discuss it today. He would like to have at least two hours for it. Next Wednesday Townsend was coming, and he would do it then. “But you have promised to drive Townsend back,” said Miss Murphy – “Well I’ll see whether he can bring his own car!” he replied rather irritably, as if the less time he had next Wednesday the better he would be pleased. Then he drew up a schedule of removal dates. At each point Baring, Bethune’s assistant, was asked to agree and replied that (1) the Admiralty could not go out until the Board had agreed what they would pay them for fixtures; (2) the freehold had to be purchased; (3) building licenses had to be got. Bennett ignored him and wrote down the dates. I go on July 1st. Baring privately talked about September.
In the evening I saw Paddy Clancy. He told me that he met Tommy Bell [1882-1944, Scottish trade unionist, founder member of the CPGB and Comintern representative] in Larmour’s basement. He has written a play showing the human side of Marx and Engels. Before it can be produced some minor alterations have to be made to it, but Bell is too busy boozing to do it. “It would not be safe for him to cross the road,” said Clancy, “not if there was a pub between him and the other side. We had him at the dance from Johnny Larmour. Now there’s no more disgusting man than him when he has a drink or two taken. He was praising Tommy to the skies.” But apparently Clancy told him Seán Nolan’s story of how when they were distributing the “Worker’s Voice” in Longford there was a cattle fair and Bell pretended to be a dealer (“He was drunk of course”) and said “Meet me at the National Bank”. “And naturally the farmers thought they had them sold, but when they got to the National Bank there was no sign of Tommy. Now that was a shocking thing to do, and I told Larmour. But he wouldn’t hear of it. He wouldn’t speak to me when the dance had finished. And into the bargain they bought me a glass of mild and bitter and before I went I said ‘Well what’s yours?’ ‘Double whiskey’ the two of them say! I was vexed with them. I remember Bell well enough when he was lodging along with me and I’d believe he was capable of doing as Seán Nolan said. He used to have only one shirt, and there he’d be of a Saturday afternoon in singlet, washing this ould shirt. If I passed any comment he’d say, ‘Oh! You’ve got a lot of “boojwa” ideas’. But one day he says, ‘Now come with me. I’m going out. And I’m going to buy an everlasting shirt.’ So he bought one of the darkest blue the dirt wouldn’t show on if he wore it six months.”
“He lived with McInerney [Michael McIernney, former editor of “Irish Freedom”], didn’t he?”
“And pinched his furniture, so they say.”
“Well it was his clock he pinched. It was a statue of Liberty McInerney had on his mantelpiece, and in the hand of this statue was a clock. Well Tommy Bell was living with him – not free mind you. And when Mac’s children put the wireless on he’d shout at them, ‘Put that Goddam thing off, or I’ll throw you and it into the street. It has my head split with its row!’ He was kicked out of the party, but he didn’t let on to Mac, until Mac rang up Emil [presumably Emil Burns] and said ‘How much longer have I to keep Tommy Bell?’ Emil said, ‘More fool you for keeping him at all.’ That’s how he went. But before he went this clock disappeared, and Mac thought the children must have kicked it to pieces in the street. But soon afterwards he went to Tommy Bell’s flat and there it was on the mantelpiece.
‘Where did ye get that clock, now?’ says Mac.
‘Well, now. Where did I get it at all? asks Tommy. ‘I just can’t remember where I bought it.’
‘By Christ!’ says Mac, ‘It’s my clock!’
‘Your clock, is it? Now isn’t that strange! How on earth could it have got down here? That is really remarkable,’ and he stopped and considered carefully. ‘How could it have got here, now?’ Mac said, ‘Hm. It couldn’t have walked’ ‘No, that’s true, Mac!’ says Tommy. But then Tommy used to flatter Mac up and some of it he couldn’t help believing though it was the price of a drink that Tommy Bell was after. ‘You’re the Lenin of Ireland!’ he used to say to him. ‘I can see it in you. You’ll lead the working class of Ireland to victory over the ‘boo’wasie.’” But Johnny Larmour wasn’t having any criticisms of him from anybody. “It’s a wicked, damned, imposthumous lie!” he says. “But why should Sean Nolan tell me a lie?”
March 3O Saturday: I had had it in mind to go down to Sussex for the weekend, for the weather is superb. I am inclined to believe that 1945 is coming in 1946. I have not seen such weather is March, not since 1936 itself. I should imagine however that this will be more a year of easterly winds than 1934. However, I didn’t go, as I thought two days cycling without having started yet would be too much for me. Besides I have got a continuous urge to write poetry just now and find it hard to concentrate on anything else.
I saw Alan Morton in the evening and we decided that Anna, Freda’s friend who was there, would draw us up an estimate of how much paper we should need, and that I would find a printer. They were a little shocked that my poems had come back from “Our Time”. But they showed me Lindsay’s review of Thompson’s book and we wondered no longer that Lindsay had effectively blocked us. Freda told me that Alan will not be happy till they are published. “We will have something to show”, he says. He is 36 – “Shit! I’m thirty-six!” he said, and has a feeling that everything he has put his hand to has failed, and that perhaps if he had been different the upshot would have been different. She thinks I am quite impervious to feelings of disappointment, in which she is incorrect. This continual battering at a brick wall of stupidity, ignorance and corruption tires me too. But the sight of Dylan Thomas proclaimed a genius in “Our Time” by of all people, Edith Sitwell, is just too much to bear.
March 31 Sunday: This was a queer day. I had a cold coming on. I felt also a general uneasiness, possibly due to the sudden heat, which nevertheless I welcome, but at first have found exhausting. But for all that I wrote more poetry in a single day than I have done for a long time, working on the long poem, as yet unnamed, the collection of ‘douzaines’ called “Iconoclastia” and the “Ode to Music”. In the evening I saw a French film and read some of De Amici’s “L’Ollanda” – not for its high intrinsic interest but to brush up my Italian.
April 1 Monday: Nothing very important happened today, except that I have caught cold, and feeling a little unwell, went home for the afternoon.
April 2 Tuesday: In the evening I interviewed Weil, who is wanting a job together with Atkins. His father was a German banker who was forced to leave Germany and lost his business, but although Jewish is very conservative, so much so that Weil wishes to leave home at the first opportunity. I asked him how he came to hold Socialistic views. He replied that he saw how his father had held the opposite views all his life and was then reduced to a penury the worse for his lack of any kind of skill. Then he had been enthusiastically Labour, but was feeling disappointed since the election. He knows Marcello Pirani personally and heard that that gentleman had been sending out unofficial feelers to see how much money De la Rue was putting into Delanium, with a view to angling for a consultancy – this he now looks like getting. The amusing thing about Pirani is that he keeps telling everybody how artful he is. He has taken to extolling the virtues of Machiavelli.
We went to Tottenham Court Rd. where we met RH Smith. He cannot make up his mind whether to come with us or not.
April 3 Wednesday: In the evening I interviewed Orchard, who like Weil wishes to come with us. Then I had a talk with Miss Murphy, pointing out inter alia that if Derrick Walker did not come on to the new project he would be called up. So she arranged for a survey form to be sent for him as well as for the others. Everybody has to sign the Official Secrets Act form, and one wonders whether one is entitled to walk across the road with impunity.
Then there was an Irish Committee meeting, attended by Elsie Timbey, Paddy Clancy, Flann Campbell, and Sid Maitland, a young man from Belfast formerly on the Belfast Executive Committee [presumably of the Communist Party of Northern Ireland].
April 4 Thursday: I distributed Officials Secrets Act forms to everybody and told Derrick Walker that he was now on the new project, and that this would keep him out of the army. He did not look pleased, and this seemed rather odd to me. About ten minutes later he came into my office with a great air of determination and began, “Now this is confidential.”
“Well, I don’t want to sign that form!”
“Why? Do you want to be free to give away the secrets? Or do you not want to be on the project?”
“I don’t want to be on it.”
“Well, the old man was pinched for selling secrets to the Soviet Union. He did three years for it, and it has ruined my career. I had to leave school and get a job. I couldn’t stand it, as the family was so hard up. That’s when I went into ARP [Air Raid Precaution]. It’s been dogging me for years, and now when I thought I was free of it, here it is again! What a situation!”
“But why has it come again?”
“Well they’re bound to find out about the old man.”
“But he’s dead and gone!”
“Yes, but then they’ll want me to give it up, or be suspicious of me. I’d sooner not start than have that dragged out again.”
“But why should they? Are you your father’s keeper?”
“Well – Oh! Well I can’t think clearly about it now. I felt it was a bit too big to handle by myself.”
“I don’t want to influence you either way; I suggest you sleep on it. But I see no reason why you should be penalized for your father’s errors, or why anyone should want to penalize you. And if they don’t like you, they’ll soon say so, so why worry. You’ve complied with the regulations by filling in the form.”
So he agreed to think it over.
The whole picture of the Walker family became clear to me, and the reasons for his father’s reticence, and his own too, for that matter. He had never told me he was full-time on ARP. And his father had let it be thought he was an auctioneer. It is an unhappy story, for that boy has a very bright intelligence. He said however that he has had experience beyond one of his years and of course this explains why he could take Smith (Budden’s) to B.O.C. and, though Smith is a graduate and a year his senior, complain afterwards, “Smith is very boyish!” It put Derrick Walker in a different perspective altogether, and I was very glad I had recognized his ability and done something to help him to recover his position, lost as I erroneously supposed entirely due to the mischance of war and evacuation. Now, too, I know he did not fail matric – he did not try!
April 5 Friday: We had Riley in the morning and he tried to persuade us to use processes he was interested in. He is very anxious for Delanium to be successful and is against Morgans, because they said that they did not want his services as consultant! A letter from DB Foster described the attitude of Morgan’s representatives on the German trip as that of school-boys on holiday. “We know all this!”they say, and go for a drink while Budden and Foster collect the information; a rather ironical situation!
April 6 Saturday (Portsmouth): In the morning I went to Walthamstow and tackled all my good colleagues for their lateness, as I was there at 9.15 and the first arrival was Wolstonecroft at 9.5O, then Parker, Derrick Walker, Bloomfield after ten.
I then went to Waterloo and entrained for Portsmouth, which I reached at 4 pm. I found Mary Greaves digging her garden, while Bert Wiltshire was at the football match. She was turning her soil over ready to plant her flowers. She remarked, “I’m getting old!” Strangely enough, Phyllis said that she thought Mary Greaves was ageing, though I had not noticed it as I see her more frequently. It is a pity, as she is a fine old woman, and above all she has a fierce loyalty to her own people, which is the only cause of her naive nationalism and conservatism. On issues of social justice she is quite sound. But for all that she is lively and vigorous though, as she says, feeling her age. She had the tea ready when Wiltshire came in. He is just 65 and receives the old age (superannuation) pension, as they call it. Now she, who is over 70 also receives it. Perhaps it is because of this reminder that she talks of her age. Blasted, damned age! “The trouble is we’ve lost six years of our lives,” she told me, “just the time when we were intending to enjoy ourselves.” Basil Wiltshire has rheumatism in his bones which he will not report to his doctor. “They’ve no time to bother with you!” he says, “What’s the use of bothering them.” She and I went for a walk in the evening along past the Castle and saw the most splendid sunset in years. The clouds were dyed crimson to the zenith, to where the sky showed peacock green and amethyst, while the sea was a pool of blood. As we walked back through the rock gardens a black kitten with a tail as long as himself followed us, till we shooed it off on to some other pedestrians. Mary Greaves is looking forward to AEG and CEG coming to stay with them in the summer, and they intend to make a trip to Devon together. When we got back we played a hand of cards, which both of them greatly enjoyed.
April 7 Sunday: We went on the front in the morning and Mary told me of the strange behaviour of Alice Greaves [a paternal aunt]. It has been her custom to visit Southsea for some years and stay at a rather gloomy boarding house in Grenada Road. Here she knows everybody. She goes and sits on the front in the morning and afternoon, returning for her meals, and sits silent in a chair all evening. “Mother’s memory is going,” says her daughter Elsie. She can only remember the way to the front and back. Continually she asks Mary Greaves’s advice whether to repair her “poor blitzed house” where the rooms are still, all but the one where she lives, in disuse, with carpets rolled up and white canvas covering everything. “You know my advice, Alice,” says Mary, “Repair it.”
She goes back to Liverpool and leaves it as it is, returns to Southsea and repeats the performance. “It’s no use asking me,” says Mary, “I’ve told you my opinion. But you’ll go right back and do the opposite, so I’ll save my breath.” “No. I won’t. I’ll do as you say! I’ve made up my mind!” And back she goes, and nothing happens. Then somebody has offered her a home and she tells Mary how her brother’s or her sister’s family have suggested she go to live with them. Mary Greaves tells her why they invite her. “None of the Greaveses ever offered me a home!” declares Alice. This immediately puts Mary’s back up. “And why did you need one? You’ve £100,000 in the bank!” – “Oh my poor boy”, the little old woman, bent and wizened declares. But the Marshalls next door to Mary Greaves consider Bert a hero because he takes Leslie Greaves [Alice Greaves’s mentally handicapped son] out and listens to him constantly repeating himself. But the worst feature of this is that she has not even taught him to spend money, and he does not even pay his fare on a bus, though he is 25. Now I do not believe that half-witted people cannot be taught. But she apparently does and has made no attempt to teach him. “Now why don’t you enjoy yourself,” asks Mary. “Spend your money. You’re only going to leave it to Elsie.”
“I’m not! It’s all going to Leslie. She’ll get her share!”
“Now listen, Alice, who’ll have the spending of it?”
“I’m not going to give it to Pemberton. He asked me to lend him £1000 for his business. I wouldn’t!”
“But according to the will you are allowed to give the children a part of their share if they need it.”
“Well, they’ll get it just the same.”
“Well Pemberton is rotten to my poor dear boy. He has no patience with him, won’t even speak to him!” Then Leslie chimes in, “Yes, aunty, Will Pemberton never even speaks to me.”
“Do you think it wise to set Leslie against Will Pemberton?” asks Mary. “Remember he’ll have to live with them when you’re gone, all his life.”
“Oh! I’m not going to help Pemberton to enjoy himself on my money,” says the stubborn old thing, changing her ground.
The above discussion has taken place a hundred times. Last August Alice Greaves went home and seemed apparently in a good mood. Then a letter reached Mary Greaves calling her a “wicked woman” and a lot more. Mary was upset, and wrote back asking what on earth she was talking about. But at Christmas Alice appeared again and not being asked in asked if she might come in. “After what you wrote to me?” asked Mary. “Ah. Well, I was hasty,” said Alice, who had forgotten everything about it till then. During her stay they invited her to spend the evening with them and she thoroughly enjoyed herself. There was no coal in the hotel and she was glad of Mary Greaves’s warm house. One evening she handed Mary a pound note. “I don’t want it, Alice”, said Mary. “No, but you must take it. I’ve so enjoyed myself.”
“Well, now, if Alice wants to make you a Christmas present, take it,” said Bert. Afterwards it transpired that he had had one too. Then Alice Greaves asked if CEG and AEG stayed at 26 Bristol Road. “Yes.” “And does Harry come?” “Yes” “Well could I come?” “Well, now Alice. You’d be better at the hotel.” So she went away satisfied. The next day, without saying a word, she left for Liverpool, and a letter arrived a little later, accusing Mary of trying to induce her to stay with her for the sake of her money, and adding, “But I can come to Southsea whenever I like, and pay for it. The Greaveses never helped anybody, and didn’t you say my brother was a rotter – even if he did take a flat opposite me to gloat over me in my troubles. You devil! To think you took my money! With all that spite in your heart. You two-faced woman! You always were envious of anyone with sixpence more than yourself. And now Amy and Charlie are coming. If only they knew what you said about the way Amy keeps her house, they’d not be coming!”
It was this letter which Mary Greaves forwarded to CEG, and which was being discussed a fortnight ago. “You know I never said anything,” said Mary. She told me, with evident triumph, how CEG had replied, “You know I wouldn’t take any notice of her, whatever she said.” Mary has no intention of having any quarrels with her brother, and it is a tribute to her moral strength that she sent Alice’s letter on. “I think she’s crazy!” said Mary. “Why doesn’t Elsie raise a thousand pounds on her expectations?” asks Bert, “That’s the way to settle that.” “Elsie has simply lost the power to enjoy herself,” says Mary, adding point to the advice she wrote to me a year or two ago, “Enjoy yourself, Desmond, while you can.” But she has retained the very power in a marked degree which Alice has apparently lost, and a sharper contrast between two women of the same age could scarcely be imagined. Alice’s brooding has eaten her away. So in the evening I returned to London.
April 8 Monday (London): I went to see Leslie Daiken [1912-1964, Irish socialist journalist and poet; helpd with editing ”Irish Front”, the stenciled predecessor of “Irish Freedom” in the 1930s] about publishing poetry. I said I wanted paper and he promised to try to help and recommended the Clockhouse Press. I said I thought it would be several years before Alan Morton and I recovered our expenditure on publishing our work. “Oh! No,” said he, “I’ve made a profit already.”
“Well,” he said, “I planned it a bit like a military campaign!” And then he proceeded to tell me how. He had a book of poems of Dylan Thomas, autographed. Apparently they all go to an “artists’ international” circle which Ian White occasionally attends. That young gentleman was there recently and sidled up to Daiken. “Hallo Leslie”, he greeted him. “Don’t talk to me,” said Daiken in a loud schoolmaster’s voice. “Why, you’re in disgrace! Leaving the Irish Democrat in the lurch! Don’t come near me!” Ian made a quick exit. But he had impressed Flann Campbell. “He’s a brilliant young fellow!” Flann told Daiken. Now Flann never expresses opinions like this to me. And I wonder why it is. He is uncertain of me, I know very well, and I have a shrewd suspicion from his remarks from time to time, that Pat Dooley pumps in plenty of poison, so as to keep us divided. However Bagenal Harvey has left Central Books, for accepting cuts from publishers, and I understand he is out of the party – so Dooley is at any rate deprived of one of his stooges. Not of course that Dooley is that kind of man, but his desire for the limelight and a career lead him to utilize always the worst types and the most backward tendencies in the good ones.
Maitland also called in the evening and we had a long talk, and Alan Morton to whom I told Leslie Daiken’s information.
April 9 Tuesday: I am still writing about four poems concurrently, and spent most of the evening on this.
April 10 Wednesday: I acted as tutor for the Holborn Branch at a class they are holding. Isobel Pepper and some others are there, including Jane Tate [Englishwoman who became a lifelong Connolly Association activist] who did my typing for me. As I went in I noticed a young man in an expensive but ill-fitting tweed sportscoat, and blue trousers such as Scotchmen wear. This combination does not find favour south of Solway, where grey is preferred. I thought little of it till I heard him speak with a nice Dublin accent. The class went off well, and I took him home with me afterwards [This was Gerard Curran, who became a lifelong Connolly Association activist and in later years used edit the “Irish Democrat” regularly when Greaves went on his annual holidays]. He is a male nurse at a local hospital, but is passionately devoted to writing. He attended a secondary school in Dublin, gave up Catholicism “because I prayed a lot and nothing happened”, joined the Eire Army where he wrote 1000 words a day, worked as an advertisement salesman for a small Dublin paper that went bankrupt, was with a travelling theatre company and got the sack, was a nurse in a mental hospital, and all this before the age of 21! But it is clear that he is of a very excitable and highly strung disposition, because experience has brought neither wisdom nor bitterness, but left problems of an emotional character all around him. He is a child of the emotions, and has not yet experienced – if one can say “yet” where temperaments lack it – the sureness, steadiness and lucidity that comes from the intellect alone, which alone gives the sense of self-confidence and power. His medium is the short-story, though he has written a play. He is very shy, and only thawed towards the end of the evening. He promised to show me his stuff, and for once I expected something to be fairly good.
April 11 Thursday: Curran came as promised and showed me his stories. They were good, and my anticipations were correct. There was a sense of situation, a feeling for the emotions of the people, and a felicity of phrase which off-set the strongly marked weakness, typical of youth, of uneven-ness and insufficiently well prepared architecture, as if one room had been added at a time and the sum called a building. Of course the journalists had been at him, telling him to cut out words. If they were as good at writing as they were at cutting out we should have a nation of Shakespeares. And of course whenever that pencilled line or circle appeared the correction had been precisely calculated to destroy completely the rhythm, flow and indeed the perspicuity at times, of the sentence. I pointed this out. Curran wants social life and to meet women. I told him to go to Molly O’Leary’s dramatic society. He has innumerable “problems”, mainly because his emotions are highly developed, as I am inclined to think only Catholicism develops them, but the intellectual equipment he possesses is not enough to enable him to puzzle things out. He therefore falls into fits of pessimism. In the middle of our discussion Paddy Clancy came, with little news. Pat Dooley has given up the paper. Maitland is to act as business manager, but Dooley will take classes. I forgot to say last night that one of my class from Central Books says Bagenal Harvey is out of the party.
April 12 Friday: The usual conference was held. On the whole very little happened that I could record here.
April 13 Saturday (Dorchester): I went with Bethune to see Ballantyne again in the morning. Then I took the 11.30 to Southampton, and cycled through the New Forest to Christchurch, Bournemouth and Wareham, where I took the train to Dorchester, arriving just after dark and cycled in brilliant moonlight to Cerne Abbas Youth Hostel. A farmer accompanied me part of the way. He told me in crisp experienced apophthegms why he was successful and his neighbours were not. “It’s the same with potatoes as with everything else. You must wait till everything is just right. No good putting them into the cold ground, it will chill ’em. But these young fellows here won’t wait.”
“I suppose they think they’ll get them earlier,” I said.
“Oh Yes! That’s just what they do think. But they don’t. Now look at all the wet weather we have sometimes. You work on the land and the longer you go on the more it gets like this road, and a small seed has a job to poke itself out. Leave it till it’s drier and your seed will be well ahead of the others. The best way to have things grow is all in one go, so that there’s no check, no holding back for anything. And that means saving late.”
The company at the hostel was comprised entirely of schoolboys and a couple of students, apart from a soldier on leave – not a real soldier, he explained, but a conscientious objector who had been six and a half years in the army. I enjoyed my stay. There was a grand piano to play on, and the company, though shy at meal-times, was congenial. The hostel is situated in a delightful spot, facing a giant man cut in the side of the hill – probably thousands of years old – though the boys would not believe it and attributed it to soldiers stationed here during the war. The trees are flowering in a way I never saw since 1933. It looks as if this is the cyclic summer, and that the cycle is 10+10+12+13 = 45 (Boyd’s cycle) and not 11+10+12+12 as I thought. The cycle of 11 grows by perseveration of sun-spot activity, giving a slower decline, and a longer nul period. This nul period is the time of cold winters and cold dry summers; then comes a very quick rise to the greatest height, and this time a rapid decline before the 10. Boyd’s waves showed the rainfall maximum in 1931 (5-year running averages). He expected the driest cycle to be the 1933-46 one, and this it has been, presumably because of the many low sunspot years. But the two tens are fairly dry, while the twelve is the wettest. If this is right we should have a blazing 1946, a mild winter, a warm wet 1947, ‘48 and ‘49, followed by a series of wet summers and cold winters, ‘50, ‘51,’52, ‘53, the greatest rain in 1954, followed by an improvement in ‘55, and the hottest summer of the century in 1956. Of course if the cycle was taken from maximum to maximum it might not take this 10,10,12,13 form, but more likely it would be basically 4 by 11 1/4, but the interval distribution between maxima can result in the hot year coming earlier or later in the slope, and thus being 12 or even 13 years separated.
April 14 Sunday: I cycled to Weymouth, then to Wareham, Poole, Bournemouth and Southampton, whence I took the train back to London, and wrote poetry.
April 15 Monday (London): I am working simultaneously on several things, the latest of which is of an idyllic character. I wrote a review of Marsh’s book [Irish economist Arnold Marsh] for the “Irish Democrat”.
April 16 Tuesday: Today Budden came back. DB Foster has made one last dash back to Berlin. I do not think they have discovered much.
April 17 Wednesday: I went to Woolwich intending to address a Connolly Association meeting, but as only Packie Early and one other attended, I did not.
April 18 Thursday: Today they held a Board meeting, which was very stormy. The budget has raised their hopes of profit and whereas they would formerly spend EPT money cheerfully on research, now that EPT is to go they grudge it. They told Bennett his “flow-sheet was crazy.” His expenditure was ridiculously high (and indeed it is, in many ways, as it is hard to see what Budden or his numerous assistants are of use for!) and much more. Bethune was rather upset. And Budden looked very unhappy, as if he did not now know whether to be the efficient American who gets things done, the Cambridge graduate who is detached from these vulgar things, or a rather unsophisticated young man who doesn’t quite understand the elders’ quarrels. He fell heavily among all the stools. Llewelyn was like a cat with six tails to each of which was attached a lighted squib. King, whose father rolls in wealth, was still the undergraduate, blythe and gay. Parker and Bloomfield were cynically amused.
April 19 Friday (Llanwrtyd): I took the 9.10 to Newport (Mon.) and cycled through Usk, Abergavenny, Crickhowell, Talgarth (Cwnddu), LLyswen and Bwlch to Llangammarch and Penlanwen Youth Hostel. I was the first ever to use the hostel, which is newly opened. The warden, Mr Davies, told me of how his uncle had made his farm out of the bare water-logged hillside, using the methods of Professor Stapleton.
April 20 Saturday: I walked to Llanwrtyd for tea, after lying in bed till mid-day, and returned. A couple of scientists from Malvern, a party of cyclists, two men with their wives and two children came from Neath and Cardiff, and that was the party for the second night.
April 21 Sunday: I cycled to Llanwrtyd, then to Llandovery and up the Toway gorge, and over the hills to Aberwesyn, then rapidly back to Llanwrtyd and to Penlanwen. The German prisoner of war who works on the farm was in a bad mood and kept saying, “Good Friday! None of these plants will grow.” “I can’t make him out,” said Mrs Davies, “Could you talk to him?” So I held a conversation with him in very pidgin German and explained that the farmer did not understand that Germans do not work on Good Friday. He said that most of the Russian prisoners of war were back, but that English ones were not. But he also said he had nothing to do with politics!
April 22 Monday: I went as far as Bwilch with the scientist and his girl and left there at 12.15 am., returning the same way as I came until I reached Abergavenny. I then turned off to Pontypool and reached Newport at 5.40 pm., in time to catch the 6.10 relief train to London. All trace of arthritis has disappeared, and no wonder for I have had four days of practically unbroken sunshine. The arthritis is never intense now, but occasionally my foot feels uneasy. However this last experience seems to show that the desideratum is to maintain a sufficiently high general level of health. Once one can get that right, all is well. But at the same time I get tired more easily than I did before the war. I also established to my own satisfaction that the food normally obtainable at the roadside is insufficient to cycle on. An extra meal inserted in the day enabled me both yesterday and today to approach pre-war speeds.
April 23 Tuesday: I saw DB Foster again. He has placed reservations on all kinds of equipment in Germany, but recent developments do not seem to hold out much prospect of his ever getting them! I received a letter from Sid Foster sending copies of my class in Liverpool, and an invitation from Michael Carritt to contribute to the Communist Review, and news that Clockhouse Press has paper for our poems. I saw Alan Morton in the evening.
April 24 Wednesday: I took the Holborn Class in the evening and Gerry Curran came for a cup of tea afterwards. They were all quite pleased with it.
April 25 Thursday: The sub-committee of the Board wrangled all day and came to no decision. Llewelyn looked more miserable than ever, and Budden having apparently moved a little showed signs of peevishness and disillusionment, and complained of “wrong attitudes” and the like.
I attended the International Affairs committee. RP Dutt is still in India. R.Page Arnot, Jimmy Shields, Michael Carritt, Hillel Woddis and others were there. Later I saw Elsie O’Dowling.
April 26 Friday: The board sub-committee wrangled all today as well, and appeared to have come to no decision when I left Walthamstowe. I have arranged to go to Newcastle next week-end, to see Riley.
April 27 Saturday (Liverpool): I took the Merseyside express to Liverpool and reached 124 Mount Rd. about 3 o’clock. CEG was at the last Welsh Choral concert of the season. They informed me that Tom Lloyd had resigned his conductorship of the Society, which he has held since Hopkin Evans died. There is talk of Culer Jarvis doing it, although he is primarily an organist. Apparently there were serious press criticisms of the “Damnation of Faust” in which, as CEG admits, Tom Lloyd allowed imperfections to pass which would have sent Tobin berserk. Into the bargain he sang a solo himself and his voice showed up very badly in comparison with that of the other principals. This was a foolish thing on his part. The result was a recrudescence of the village Welsh spirit, so persistent in the nation, and a petition was organised which Tom Lloyd coming to hear of, he resigned and his resignation was accepted. He was a postman (in the Post Office in Liverpool) and has never risen above this because he had no interest apart from music. Delivering letters was a “bread-ticket”. A few weeks ago he retired and intended to devote himself entirely to his musical work. CEG was very sorry for him, and strongly sympathised, and wrote him a letter expressing his regret at the event. When it was suggested that he might like to take the job he declared, “Not for a big clock!” and laughed. The choral societies which have come so powerfully through the war are both in the midst of schemozzles. Tobin also has resigned. He had been promised that he would conduct half the concerts. But the orchestra dislike him and one way or another it was contrived that he conducted only one or two of them. It is not known whether his resignation is to be accepted.
Late in the afternoon Phyllis arrived, having cycled to Southsea and back calling on various of her friends on the way there and back. She thinks Mary Greaves is showing her age more, and Harry Greaves says the same. As far as I can gather there was no great news. Mary Greaves is rather upset because she is over 70, as she says she had thought she was only 69. This year being robbed from her makes her feel more acutely the six robbed by the war, the very years in which she and Bert had planned to enjoy themselves.
April 28 Sunday: I set off in the morning for Preston where I was to speak at a meeting, but when I got there there was no meeting, nor could I find the person whose address I had been given. I then discovered that they had booked me to speak in two towns between which there was no communication. I managed to get a train back to Liverpool, and went from there to Manchester and from Manchester went to Bury, all at breakneck pace. I happened to see Wl’s. brother in the Lime Street Lyons. There was a tiny open-air meeting at Bury, and no proper arrangements had been made. But I met the original “Robinson” whom Peadar O’Donnell had referred to with such venom and contempt. We thought he meant John Ireland and that his real name was Robinson, but I now think this is the man. He was associated with John Ireland when he was a teacher at Bury Grammar School, and has been to Dublin once or twice. The secretary told me that a local figure is the “philosopher” Casey whom TA Jackson calls the “Sage of Bury” in his book “Dialectics.” So then I went back to Manchester and took the newly restored train from Central to St.Pancras.
April 29 Monday: Things were still very much in the air at Delanium. RH Smith (not the BCURA one) came for the first time and seems a good man. He told me at the interview that he spent his evenings at an Art School.
April 30 Tuesday: There were no developments. Tomorrow JG Bennett reports the findings of his sub-committee to the Board of Directors. He, Foster, Bethune and Budden are in continuous “planning” session. Llewelyn, fearing that his previous activities are to be restricted, wants to muscle in on the new, and today he went into Wolstonecroft’s laboratory and spent a good hour “pumping” him, much to Parker’s disgust. We must catalogue the Smiths. RH Smith is of BCURA, DB Smith is the Woodford boy, Sth. is the artist.
May 1 Wednesday: In the evening I continued my class with the Holborn branch. There were fewer there, but all went well. Afterwards Gerard Curran came to my flat and showed by one or two of his remarks that he really is rather clever. He showed me a letter from his sister in Dublin which must typify the anxious questioning mood of the Irish youth, which all attempts to isolate the country fail to exorcise or keep out, questionings on religion, morality and sex for the most part. They are years behind us.
[A photograph of CDG, aet. 32 years 7 months, is inserted at this entry in the original – Ed.]
The above is a very bad passport photograph, apparently taken on damaged film. However travellers must not be fastidious as they take themselves with them to demonstrate the actuality, which is probably as well. When Gerard Curran had gone home, I wrote more poetry.
May 2 Thursday: I received a telephone message from JG Bennett asking me to go to see him, on what proved to be a pretext. He told me that the Board had agreed with his proposals, to liquidate the development department and to make Budden research mananager over myself, Philpotts and the physicist Elliot. I was not pleased, but said nothing, partly because I could scarcely induce him to change his decision, and also because I am a match for Budden anyway, and I’m likely to be able to keep things more or less as I want them for as long as I want them, which may not be long.
May 3 Friday: The full beauty of Bennett’s reorganisation was revealed today. The whole thing is contrived so that the Government pays. No wonder his directors agreed. Foster is General Manager, rather to the alarm of Bethune. Budden is “Research Manager”, with a “projects” section directly under him, also myself and Elliot. I shall of course possess a kind of spurious independence such as Philpotts preserved from Kramers when the same thing happened there. Bethune is works manager or something. Baring is process manager or something else. Baring is a relative of one of the De la Rue directors, and is thus earmarked for high office from the start. In the evening I received a telephone call from Budden’s development man, Gordon-Smith. “I want to speak to you as an AScW man, but don’t want to use the Dalanium lines,” he said. “The fact is, I have virtually just been’ given the sack’.” “No?” “Didn’t you notice this morning that I was not mentioned? Well, I’ve only been here six weeks, and now I am told that there is no room for me.” I advised him to see Ainley and Wc.
May 4 Saturday (Dorchester): I decided to go away for the week-end, and took the train to Southampton and cycled through Cadnam, Fordingbridge to Thickthorn and Blandford. Unfortunately I hit a stone and suffered a puncture. I could get nobody to mend it at Blandford, but as luck had it I remembered a shop in Wareham which advertised repairs late at night, and reached the station two minutes before a Leeds-Poole express came in from Poole. I quickly reached Wareham, on the S.R. and although the shop was closed I persuaded them to mend it, took another train to the city of Dorchester and thence cycled to Cerne. The hostel people had waited up for me, but oddly enough I was the only person there that night. I had another more careful look at the giant, and was surprised at its remaining substantially untouched for all these years. Perhaps only now have we the power to alter these things.
May 5 Sunday: I left Cerne and cycled to Sherbourne and so to Blandford again, and ended at Bournemouth whence I took the train to London, called home for an hour and then took from King’s Cross the night train to Newcastle.
May 6 Monday (Newcastle): I reached Newcastle quite early and after a wash went to “Kings College” where I met Professor Riley. Bennett had told me how Riley had had lunch with the Board and “enormously improved their morale.” Indeed he had said, “If the Newcastle project goes through, you’ll put Morgans out of business in three years.” I was amused at this white-haired professor, lover of pure science, persuading the hard-headed business-men to risk the Government’s money, and today he tried to persuade me that the ideal raw material was one the preparation of which depended on a patent owned by himself. He expressed his admiration of Franz Fischer – more than Franck did. As Bethune put it, “Riley is a very good fellow, but he has one bee in his bonnet. He thinks that the Newcastle project is going via X and Y to furnish him with quite a modest income.” I think that is just what he does think. However I met his assistants, who are good plodders, who have a respect for him shown by a slight sign of being uncomfortable in his presence. However, he calls them all by their christian names and they seem on good terms. Newcastle is quite a democratic college. The students own and administer their own Union, complete with funds, and though it is not so handsome as Liverpool, I did get the general impression that the general oppressiveness, though present, did not make such a weight of official nagativism on everyone. Then I went back to London.
May 7 Tuesday (London): I saw Parker in the morning. He was very worried about this damned Official Secrets Act we are all now under, as he feared they might “frame” us for political purposes, and at least try to restrict our movements in and out of the country. The possession of such knowledge might be more trouble than the acquiring it was worth. The thing that irked me was that we invent the things, and then our own inventions are used against us!
May 8 Wednesday: Again Gordon-Smith rang me and wanted to see me. He seems rather uncertain about what to do. Ainley had heard his story and said, “Hm! The Development manager doesn’t like you!” He was rather against Budden, saying that he had tried to exclude him from activity, and that this seemed to him suspicious and of malice prepense. Budden appeared to him to be a young man who “rushed about doing a lot of things in a rather superficial way.” I said I did not think Budden capable of much guile or malice, or much else for that matter, so there it ended.
There was an Irish Committee in the evening, with Flann Campbell, no doubt on Dooley’s instructions, trying to liquidate it, or as good as do so. We had decided to ask Dooley to do a pamphlet. Flann Campbell had approached him and between them they had decided that “there are more urgent things!” So that is his lordship again.
May 9 Thursday: The last of the Holborn classes was held this evening. Gerard Curran was not there, and I think I know the reason why. We went for some food after the last one, and he had no money and had not the courage to say so, and let me pay, and I showed distinct signs of displeasure. There is an extraordinary moral weakness in some of these people, though I suppose it is easy to talk like that now I am comparatively affluent and do not have to count an odd shilling or two.
May 10 Friday: The usual Friday meeting was held at Walthamstowe and Budden and his physicist were there. The subject was a flow-sheet. Foster loves flow-sheets, and had been busy all week, and enough nonsense was talked to keep us stocked for a month. I staged a diversion by taking them to see Parker make a lot of fumes, and had a slight clash with Budden, to warn him off right at the beginning. He was rather upset. Then he had a long wrangle with Foster over moulds. He thinks in American terms, and wants dozens of everything – no doubt it is the better way, but it scarcely appeals to our parsimonious businessmen. It might be possible to set them going at anytime by raising the question of moulds, and I am sure it will prove a very useful way of keeping them occupied.
May 11 Saturday: I did very little today except continue with my long poem, as I seemed to feel a cold coming on.
May 12 Sunday: I had a slight cold again, and stayed in most of the day and wrote.
May 13 Monday: In the morning a rude note from Bennett awaited me, noting with disappointment that “confusion of thought displayed on Friday”, and adding that he was not impressed with the experimental work. I used to bother about these pinpricks, but do not now, as they do not take a penny piece out of one’s pocket. I showed it to the staff, and then to Foster. He seized upon it to suggest a discussion of laboratory organisation in the afternoon. I then rang Miss Murphy and asked for Bennett, who was out. Then when he rang back, I said I had read his note, and wondered what he had in mind when he wrote it. It then appeared that on Saturday there was great excitement about the Battersea premises. The Board of Directors are pressing him only to use a part. But he suggests to let a part to the Ministry and has maps and plans drawn up marked, “Let to Ministry of Supply!” although they do not apparently yet know that it will be let to them. So he explained that he had hoped for a flow-sheet to impress them, and had not had it, but he was very conciliatory and climbed off his perch. Then Miss Solomon applied for a rise of 2/6 to make her on the AScW scale, and she received it, but simultaneously Miss Dowsett stopped her 5/- travelling allowance so that she was 2/6 worse off.
Today the Italian came, Rodolfo Giovanni Giuseppe Perla. He had seemed very lively to me at the interview, but today was rather unresponsive, as if not really interested. However Bloomfield found him something to do.
I called on Alan Morton in the evening and his mother was there. She looks a little older, and her rather strident Lancashire voice has lost a little of its ring. But she was obviously enjoying herself and was able to pretend not to hear Freda’s bad language. When John, looking out of the window said, “Bloody pussy!” she remarked, “You’ll have to be careful” but she fortunately did not hear him say “for Christ’s sake!” when he could not open a door. He is a saucy little wretch, and here is his picture –
[a photograph of the infant John Morton is attached to this entry in the original – Ed.]
May 14 Tuesday: Today’s note announced that Budden had now taken up his duties as research manager. The amount of work he is responsible for is so considerable, and his abilities so limited, that one need not expect much interference from him. Another of the Yogi circle, Bethune, now takes over Philpotts and something else, and Baring takes over Payne and works administration [the “Yogi circle” refers to the fact that JG Bennett and some of the others were into theosophy]. Payne’s assistant, Hughes, is furious, being young enough not to realise that these things mean little and happen all the time. Baring is the nephew of one of the directors. He will draw a salary higher than Payne’s, and take the credit for what Payne does, and that will be all.
May 15 Wednesday: In the afternoon JG Bennett came out. I had prepared a document for his edification and after perusing it he was prepared to stake his all on a new process I had thought of.
In the evening I went to Woolwich to address Packy Early’s Connolly Association branch. Only two came except himself, and we merely had a general talk. He is experiencing great difficulty in getting his branch going, but we decided to hold a public meeting as soon as I return from Dublin where I am going on Friday. On the way back I had a long wait at Plumstead Station and there was an elderly man, waiting to meet his daughter, who was working in the Arsenal and who was very pessimistic about the future of this country. It is surprising how many people you meet who think there is no future for them here and want to emigrate, to the colonies usually, or more precisely to the dominions. Yet at the same time there is astonishing complacency and lack of any real political grasp, as the situation goes from bad to worse.
May 16 Thursday: Today was spent in feverish activity. First I went to the Clockhouse Press at Hoddesdon and met Wright the owner. He promised to give me an estimate for publishing our poems: but it was very amusing to hear him say that he wanted to be paid for them, as Leslie Daiken had not paid his bill, and “as for that other fellow, Peacock, I’ve simply not heard a word from him. Of course,” he went on, “I don’t blame Mr Daiken. I know he’s a decent fellow, and his financial arrangements came unstuck. But we can’t afford to be let down like this. It’s very nice to see your stuff in print, but after all we’ve got to live and we can’t afford to hold the baby.” This quite conforms with what I am prepared to believe.
I then went to Walthamstowe and had lunch with Parker, after which I went to the bank to get money for my trip to Dublin, and then back to Walthamstowe. There was not much happening there.
My next port of call was Imperial House where I showed Bennett the notes of my lecture to the Dublin Fabians, the object of this being to show that there was “nothing up my sleeve”, and that I was not going to betray the Delanium secrets to the Irish. As it happened he made some interesting and useful suggestions. When I rang up Alan Morton we discussed the publication and mooted the idea of starting up a little company which would undertake the publication of other things as well, if need be. Then there was an additional Holborn class, the last before the branch is split into three. Then I went to see Elsie Timbey, who gave me the address of the Irish branch of the Irish-Soviet Society in Dublin. She had not been too well this week. The rest of the evening – or should I say night – was spent in preparing my notes for the Dublin meetings, and packing things into my rucksack for the journey.
It must be confessed that the weather appearing as uncertain as it does I am not very enthusiastic about the air-trip, but agree that people do continually fly in all weathers, and though it may be bumpy, it is not like a sea-voyage which lasts for many hours. Actually I am feeling quite excited at the prospect of seeing Dublin again.
GREAVES JOURNAL, VOLUME 7, INDEX
13 November 1945 – 16 May 1946
– Aesthetics and verse: 11.22-23, 12.3, 1.9, 1.27, 1.29-30, 2.11, 3.7, 3.13-14, 3.17, 3.30-31, 4.23, 5.7
– Assessment of others: 11.20, 11.29, 12.13,12.27, 1.5, 1.11, 1.13, 1.20, 1.26, 1.28, 2.6-7, 2.14, 2.18, 2.21, 2.24, 3.11, 3.13, 3.17, 3.23, 3.26, 3.28, 4.8, 4.18, 5.14,5.16
– Book projects: 2.17, 3.3
– Communism/socialism: 2.24, 3.1
– Cold War: 12.13
– Connolly Association (Connolly Club):11.27, 12.5-6, 12.15-17,1.4, 4.8, 4.17, 5.15
– Family relatlons: 11.17, 12.23, 12.28, 2.2, 3.9-10, 4.6-7
– Health: 11.19, 11.27, 12.3, 12.13,12.16, 12.17, 1.11
– Holidays/cycling trips and tours: 4.13-15, 4.19-22, 5.4-6
– Industrial experience: Vol.7 passim, but especially 12.30, 2.8, 2.12-13, 12.15, 2.18, 3.4, 3.8, 3.21, 4.18, 5.2-3
– Ireland and Irish affairs: 12.30 1.29, 2.17, 2.19, 2.26, 3.27, 4.15, 5.16
– Journal: 12.30
– Meteorology: 1.20, 3.30, 4.13
– Music: 12.3, 12.28, 1.12
– Political development: 12.7
– Profession, professional work: Vol.7 passim, but especially 12.30-31, 1.14, 1.25, 2.12-13, 2.21, 3.8
– Religion: 12.28, 3.23
– Science: 3.4
– Self-assessments: 12.30, 2.7-8, 3.30
– Wales and Welsh affairs: 4.27
– World War 2: 2.12
Organisation Names Index
Association of Scientific Workers (AScW): 1.23-24, 3,29
British Coal Utilisation Research Associates (BCURA): 1.28
Colonial Committee, of the CPGB: 12.30
Communist Party of Great Britain, Holborn Branch: 11.16, 3.15, 4.23
Messrs Lawrence and Wishart, publishers: 1.4
International Affairs Committee (of the CPGB): 11.29, 1.31, 3.28, 4.25
Irish Committee/Bureau (of the CPGB): 11.27, 12.7,1.4, 1.31, 2.6-7
Irish Soviet Friendship Society, Dublin: 5.16
Messrs Powell Duffryn and Co.: 11.30
Personal Names Index
Arnot, R.Page: 1.27
Bell, Tommy: 3.29
Bennett, J.Godolphin: 11.14, 12.31, 1.10,1.18, 1.22,1.25, 2.6, 2.18, 2.21, 3.8, 3.19, 3.29, 5.13, 5.16
Bloor, Geoffrey: 12.20
Bradley, Ben: 11.29
Campbell, Flann: 12.15
Carritt, Michael: 11.29
Clancy, Patrick: 11.24, 12.6-7, 1.4, 3.29
Cripps, Sir Stafford: 1.22, 1.29, 1.31, 2.4
Curran, Gerard: 4.10-11, 5.1
Daiken, Leslie: 4.8,5.16
Delargy, Hugh: 12.7
Dooley, JL.(Pat): 11.13,12.7, 12.15, 4.8, 5.8
Doyle, Bob: 2.17
Dutt, R.Palme: 11.24, 1.27, 1.29, 3.28
Early, Packie: 11.24, 5.15
Edge, John: 12.24, 12.27
Egelnick, Max: 1.24
Evans, George: 2.3
Foster, Sid: 12.27,1.7, 2.5
French, Sid: 1.13
Gallacher, William: 12.17
Grove-White, Bill: 1.20,
Hardy, George: 2.23
Harvey, Bagenal: 11.24, 4.8
Ireland, John de Courcy: 1.20, 2.26, 4.28
Jackson, Thomas Alfred (Tommy): 3.18
Jones, FM (Frank): 12.20
King, Fay: 1.20
Knowles, Ingram: 12.27
Lancaster, John: 12.27
Loveman, Alice: 1.27, 2.10
McInerney, Michael: 11.24, 3.29
Maitland, Sid: 4.3
Marsh, Arnold: 4.15
Marshall, Molly: 12,28, 1.5, 2.3, 3.17
Matthias, William: 12.21
Menon, Krishna: 1.27
Mercer, Iver: 11.17
Mercer, Mrs: 11.17,
Morton, Alan Geoffrey/Freda Morton: 11.21, 1.5, 2.3, 3.17, 3.30, 5.13
O’Donnell, Peadar: 4.28
Parker, Bill: 11.13,
Piggott, John: 2.23
Pirani, Professor Marcello: 2.8, 4.2
Rado, Z.: 1.26,2.25
Rainford, Joan: 12.20, 12.27
Rawlings, Joe: 2.3
Shelvankar, KS.: 11.24, 1.27,
Shields, Jimmy: 11.24,12.13, 2.27, 3.28,
Stedman, Brian: 1.8
Tate, Jane: 4.10,
Timbey, Elsie (O’Dowling): 12.7, 1.9,
Westmore, Kenneth: 12.24, 2.22
Woddis, Jack (Hillel): 11.19