Saturday, March 4, 1944
Was aghast to receive a letter today in which you calmly write of suicide, as if it were a real possibility. When someone is depressed to the point of weighing the pros and cons of suicide, then their nearest and dearest must give them strength to live through those dark moods which come to everyone. These moods come - but they always go -the important thing is - THEY ALWAYS GO.
I am frantic that I cannot be with you at this bad time. I know I could compel a complete change of thought in half an hour. There is such human magic in a touch, a voice. I feel so helpless to express what I want to convey in a mere letter - which may not reach you for a week. A few days ago I told T. I was worried over your inability to settle down and accept army routine. He fully understood and sympathized with your impatience at all that saluting, "yes-sirring" and backside kissing; said it must be difficult for such an independent and hot-tempered boy to keep his hands in his pockets when bossed around by some squirt of an officer. He said "remember a soldier is not required to salute the man - just the rank". He also said, after being in the army 5 years (most of it in the Front Line - once no leave for 17 months!), he found at least 2 good things he got out of it. The comradeship of shared danger, and the intense pleasure of the little things of life, hot baths in a real tub, soft bed, clean white sheets, good food served daintily. Good common sense.
As the person who knows you best, and loves you most, I have some other bits of common sense to put forward. First, you love life too much to leave it now when you are young, virile, strong, healthy, intelligent, highly sexed and very good looking. Good God, what more could you wish for. With these unusual attributes your life in the future is BOUND to be fascinating, interesting, full of work, play, fun, books, women, friends. Even if you are not out of the army until you are 26 (as you fear) that's very, very young. Forty is considered young, now. From 26 you'd have about 20 years to carve out a career (and I'll bet it will be a good one!) and another 20 to stay at the top. From my own experience, I am amazed that 5 years of war in England have past! Four years of deadly monotony, plus one year of great danger and discomfort. It seems only a few months ago I heard the Prime Minister, as he said over the wireless: "Britain is at war". So my darling if you do put 5 years in the army, as every able-bodied man under forty in Britain has already done, they will go just as quickly.
I don't believe it was luck that I came into your life at the very moment when you most needed me. Just before you met me, you were in a state where sex did not mean much to you, either as diversion or solace. You took it where you found it. It was so barren that in order to amuse you it had to be accompanied by very heavy drinking - or girls in the plural - or pepped up with "Reefers". Getting paralytic drunk was taking the place of the pleasure in women. Then you had the good fortune to fall madly in love! It is a strange, unhappy, mysterious love, inexplicable in some ways - the intense excitement, even the unhappiness, makes it the perfect counter-irritant to the tedium of life. You discovered a person who deeply interested you, with whom you could be your real self. Gradually a thrilling communion of sexual love grew. One woman was able to give you the deep satisfaction that scores of women had failed to do. How well I know that tremendous lift, meeting someone who is interesting, fascinating, clever, vital, and unusual - a new friend who understands, loves, appreciates. I had this feeling the moment I met you. Meeting a new friend - falling in love with her - you had a perfect "escape", safer and nicer than drinking yourself unconscious. I am going over all this again, because having me, or rather having this "escape", is the Good thing of life against the Nothingness of death. Do I not count at all as a reason for living? Just think for a moment, your father believed in you as a human being. He put his guts into making you a fine man with a good start in life. He did his job well. Is all this to be thrown away before it has been used for the benefit of humanity? Deny the world all those years of careful thought, love, and planning that your father put into you. Not only that, such stock as yours should be bred from! It would be a terrible waste to die without leaving fine sons to carry on where you left off. To teach them, and give them worthwhile ideas as your father did for you. How can the world progress unless the best of us are willing to do this? An accident may take your life; that would be waste - but unavoidable. You might destroy your great gifts and powers by becoming a drunkard or drug-addict. That would be a terrible tragedy - again waste. But to take your life at 23 years old! That would be an act of extreme selfishness - anti-social in the extreme. No, darling. IT IS NOT GOING TO END THAT WAY. Soon it will be summer, warm weather and sun, light has such a great effect on one's mental state. You will feel so much better then, dearest. When you go to the new job, in only a few weeks, it will be a complete change of scene. Very important when one is depressed. Maybe we can see each other oftener, because you'll be nearer. Maybe I can come down to spend weekends with you. Maybe you'll have more money. As to the war, wouldn't be surprised if the Russians are on the borders of Prussia or Austria fairly soon. Finland is on the way out - then the collapse! The very moment restrictions are lifted, come to me. I'll do my best to give you a gay and happy time. Let's have friends in and lots of talk and laughter. Let's eat and drink good wine. Let's kiss and kiss and hold each other's hands. These are some of the good things of life and they are yours, now. My next night off is FRIDAY, March 10th. If it fits in, come - come before then, don't wait.
Your very own
(A Day in the Life of Lady of No leisure: Monday, March 6)
Morning: Made the F------ beds. Clean sheets on bed of the Lodger, that b------. Turned 7ft. mattress, broke fingernail. Damn - blast - hell! Selfridges - Queued up 45 minutes for small cake. 15 minutes in bacon queue, got 4 oz. 20 minutes in butter queue, got 2 oz. Half an hour in orange queue, didn't get any. Walked home, as bus queue too long. (Feet hurt). Naval Lt. rang up to invite me to dinner tonight. I said it was too cold to go out. Rang off in a huff! Cleaned my room and the hall. Lieutenant rang up again: said, well, how about lunch, then? I said, if it's too cold for dinner, it must be too cold for lunch. Finally agreed to lunch on Wednesday - if it was warmer. Said he'd take me to Bentley's for oysters - next best oyster bar after Wilton's, which was "bombed out" last raid. Asked Lt. if he had got himself fixed up with a nice sleep? He said, yes, and she was a beauty. So I said then why bother about me, there's no percentage in it. He said: "Yes, I know, but you do things to me. Kind of haunt me. I can't stay away. Tried to for 2 weeks". Well, well, I couldn't care less.
1:00 o'clock. Had lunch by myself and read morning paper. Ate some of Gerry's butter, and Gerry's fruit-juice - bless his heart, I love him.
1:30. Went scrounging for food for dinner. Walked up road to market, 3/4 mile. Had this conversation with old girl at stall:
Me: "Any celery, please?"
Old Girl: "No, darling. Celery's a bob, too high for the likes of us".
Me: "Then I'll have 6 lbs. Kind Edwards."
Old Girl: "Dearest, them ain't Kind Edwards, them's
Whites. But they'll eat lovely, them will."
"All right. Whites it is."
"Anything else, luv? parsnips, carrots, darling?"
"2 lbs. of Swedes, thank you."
"2 lbs. beautiful Swedes, dearest luv."
Wonder why the Limeys use all these intimate endearments to total strangers?
Foraged in another neighborhood and walked home carrying bag weighing 15 pounds or more. Bugger the basket, bugger queues, bugger life in general. Washed undies, did some ironing, F--k ironing, it gives me a backache.
5:30 last post gone and no letter from Gerry! Very anxious about him, he isn't well; won't take care of himself. Think he might have delayed shock or internal injuries from accident. If only he would telephone, I'd stand on my head with relief!
6:00 Preparing dinner; scrubbed, peeled, scraped and sliced vegetables, then boiled same. When I saw my hands stained dark brown (it won't wash off, has to wear off,) I wished I had gone out to dinner with Lt.
Kenneth, 16-year-old pageboy at the Rainbow Club rang up, wants me to go to the pictures. Accepted promptly. Going to "the pictures" with Kenneth is always great fun. His running commentary in richest cockney is worth the price of admission. Afterwards I take him to tea that is practically 2 dinners and a lunch. Kenneth is a Communist, so tea is always dedicated to earnest political discussions. Says I'll get the hang of it, in time. Sometimes he says, grandly, "I'm standing treat today." Then everything is done en prince. Best seats, chocolate-bar, and bunch of snowdrops. If we meet a beggar, Kenneth hands him two shillings! "My Dad said, 'Son never be mingy; you lose more than you gain by it."
The Family is home, and we eat. Nice meal; - then I wash up, and Vim the saucepans, that takes hours. Sweep kitchen, fill bottles. Read article in paper: "The crocodile lay sunning himself, half in the water, while egrets picked his teeth for him." What luxury, what elegance, nothing like that ever happened to me.
Midnight. Hot bath. Fresh pink lace nightie.
1:30. Thank heavens, am alone and can put my feet up! Can write to Gerry, haven't seen him for 2 weeks - longest time we didn't see each other was 18 days. That was awful. Hope it won't be longer this time. Hope I see him, Friday, March 10th. It's my night off. Won't go out with anyone else that night, just in case. F--- MY DAY. This one and every God damn one in the year, they're all alike, F--- the war. "And so to bed." as Pepy said.
Tuesday, March 14
Oh, Gerry darling, how much I miss you!
I was too tired to write you anything but two short letters, too worn down by that rather intensive "jet-propulsion" lovemaking! Tonight it was dark, but no raid, the Nazis have allowed us some sleep, perhaps they have changed their minds, deciding to save up for the Invasion.
I am certain that all travel and communications will be suspended during the first part of the Invasion. You and I will be more cut off than ever. Perhaps you can get lifts in army lorries - or will able to telephone - if that fails, send messages by anyone coming to London, on official business. I will be stuck here; unable to go to T.'s in the country, catching it heavy as one of the Invasion centers. If it doesn't take place until the weather is "set fair", why, we might have April, May and June before the madness begins. We must see each other as often as possible; each leave might be the last - for a long time. Try to get a furlough.
In the letter that alarmed me so, you said, rather bitterly: - "You have a funny line in your letter, that no physical change in me would alter your love. Love turned to pity." Well, my darling, I don't think it was a "funny line". But Shakespeare said it better, - as he did most things;
"Love is not love that alters
When it alteration finds."
Because our naturs are akin, we have a kind of love which could withstand many changes of the physical envelope. You would remain "YOU", though a limb might be lopped off. I will remain me when you see in my face the scratches of Time's malicious nails. I'll write again tomorrow, my beloved. Today I did little errands - your shoes will take 2 weeks, it will be a nice job with good leather. You have a lot of my letters to answers, so no more, now. Am off to the canteen. Hope to see you this Sunday, March 19, or, perhaps the 2 days following! Telegraph if change of plans. I can't possibly express the pleasure I am getting out of your chocolates. I love you, and cannot conceive of not loving you.
Wednesday, March 15, '44
Well, friend Gerry, we had quite a Do last night, thought you might like to know about it. It was a fair Do and no mistake. I was sitting reading a piece in the paper about wot little old Goebbels said when e was a-trying to cheer up the Bombed Outs, I was eating one of your chocolates, when Jerries started razzing round upstairs. The old guns Crumping away, when an explosive incendiary went off BANG right in front of the door.
Wot, sez I they're getting the range of No. 111. The ole street was lit up with undreds of them, bright as a Fun Fair it was, 3 'ouses already burning on the tops of them. Up I run to fill the bath, T. kept yellin' COME DOWN! Soon as I got down to fill the other bath, e was yellin' COME UP! Being a bit excited-like, thought I was safest wherever I wasn't, so to speak. Then there was another BANG on our porch, and Coo, I sez, now they really are getting the range. 2 secs after, they 'ad got the range and no mistake - our garden was so full of fireworks it was like Fourth of July! The grass was covered with little piles of white stuff burning and shooting off small- sized rockets they was all giving birth to Quins, in a manner of speaking. Well, Gerry, we put em all out and then the All Clear went. We went out, alf a dozen ouses a-burning thesselfs out down to the second floor, a gerridge in our mews was a blooming inferno.
This war is a Bugger.
March 4-15 1944