17 July 1945
As you will note by the reverse side of this stationery, I am writing this at Meadowcroft. After spending 3-1/2 days in London going to shows, I came up here to Yorkshire and was most cordially received by the Davies’. Comdr. Tim Healey is still here, his ship still in process of being fitted-out for duty. There was another distinguished guest and his wife here when I arrived, but they left early this morning. They were Col. Russel Jones, who was until recently Chief Censor in India, and who is destined for a post with UNRRA in Germany, and his wife. Both the Col., who is very erudite, and his wife, a charming, white-haired lady, were very, very friendly. I would have liked to become better acquainted with them, but they had business elsewhere.
There isn't much to tell about London, except that I did get to see the “Ballets Joos"," which is a never-to-be-forgotten experience. In addition, I saw "Affairs of Susan”, and "Diamond Horseshoe", both of which I enjoyed. Between shows I loafed at the Eagle Club, reading the papers, drinking cokes, etc. On the 14th, I went to Covent Garden, where I watched more than I danced, but had a nice time nevertheless. So much for London~ No, one more thing. On the evening of the 15th, the street lights were put on for the first time, since Sep '39. You should have seen how pleased the Londoners were! Whole families promenaded thru the streets, literally basking in the unaccustomed illumination. The older folks got just as great a kick out of it as the youngsters. It was a very welcome change for me, too, to be able to go about without the aid of a flashlight.
About 10:00 A.M. on the the 16th, I called Mrs. Davies to tell her I was taking the 12:45 train from King's Cross Station. I arrived at Darlington at 5:50 P.M. waited ’til 6:30 for a train to Middlesbro, where I arrived at 7:05, and after another half-hour's wait for the bus and a 20 minute ride, arrived at Meadowcroft at 8 o'clock, which is much better time for the journey than I ever made before.
Mrs. Davies had been waiting supper for me, so after the introductions had been made, I dashed upstairs to wash up and change.
There were six at table for the rather late supper. (No wonder they were glad to see me—they were probably famished!) The six, of course, were the Joneses, the Davieses, Comdr. Healey, and myself. Mrs. Davies, by a stroke of luck, had procured a whole salmon, and this, together with fried potatoes, salad, and delicious lemon meringue pie, which she made herself, made a very ample and tasty meal. Everyone was so hungry, that he paid strict attention to what was on the plate before him. Conversation, as a result, languished, but no one seemed to mind. After supper, as is the custom, we all went in to the library living room, where we relaxed in the easy chairs and chatted about various things. Col. Jones proved an extremely interesting fellow, whose knowledge covered many and varied subjects. So we talked until bed-time, which was about 11:30. I was given Judith's room, which besides containing some lovely old Sheraton furniture (bureau and wardrobe), also boasts a modern wash-stand, and a delightfully comfortable bed of the couch variety, without head or foot boards.
Mrs. Davies called me at 8:30 this morning, whereupon I rose, washed, dressed, and joined her shortly afterward at breakfast. The Joneses had departed at 7 o'clock, the Doctor was out on his rounds, and Cmdr. Healey had gone off to his ship. Mrs. Payne, incidentally, is on “holiday,” which is English for vacation, and Dr. Davies is struggling along without a secretary for the time being. Over breakfast, my host and I somehow got onto the subject of politics, the current general election, etc. We discussed the issue while we were eating; while we were clearing the table; and while Mrs. Davies was doing her wash in the garage, a corner of which is reserved for laundering. I knew that Mrs. Davies did most of her own housework, although she has two girls in to help her, but it never occurred to me that she actually does her own washing! I was shocked and admiring as I watched this amazing woman scrub her clothes on a washboard, wring them, rinse them, and hang them to dry, while her two cars stood idly by and watched with wonder that must have equalled my own.
When I expressed surprise that she should be doing her own wash, she explained that she had no alternative because she couldn't send them out to the laundry because doing so would shorten the life of the garment! It's impossible, Chippie, to appreciate how impoverished these people are for the plain necessities of life—food and clothing, in spite of their handsome income (Dr. Davies paid ₤1100, or $4400.00 in income tax last year), their lovely home, gardens, etc! I know Mrs. Davies would give almost anything for a new dress, but she just doesn't have the coupons to get one. Carl Weil, a Yank who was a guest when I came up here on that last brief visit, got his mother to procure four pairs of silk stockings, which he sent as a gift to Mrs. Davies and Judith. Honey, it's almost pitiful to see how grateful she is for these things. The food situation seems to get worse instead of improving, despite the fact that V.E. day is more than two months behind us. Sugar and butter and cooking fats (lard) are in very short supply. She loves to get enough fat for frying! Meat is all but non-existent. In spite of her endless difficulties, though, I think Mrs. Davies is one of the happiest, most contented women I have ever seen. It seems that nothing is beyond her capabilities. She still has her "committees", her charities, etc., in addition to running the house, entertaining guests, corresponding with Judy, and other duties too numerous to mention. Yet I have still to see her in any degree discouraged, depressed, or even tired! Her unfailing good-humor is a constant joy and inspiration, and I often wish that I could be like her in that respect. Now she is contemplating a trip to America, and intends to pay her expenses by broadcasting on domestic science in the States. She has done quite a lot of that sort of thing over BBC here, and she thinks her connections with BBC can arrange for her to broadcast in America. At the moment, she's "working" her beloved "Wallie" to take a month's holiday and take her, but this is well-nigh impossible for the Doctor at present, although he may manage it next year. However, she is quite prepared and able to go alone if the Doctor will but give his consent (which I don't think he will). I pointed out that a month's holiday would give them barely a week in the States after deducting traveling time. Mrs. Davies wants to go ahead a month before the Doc starts, so she might have that extra time, but she confided to me that she doesn't think he'll allow it. I told her neither would I. She said "Don't tell him that!” I assured her I was on her side. Moreover, I repeated my invitation to stay with us when they do come to America, which certainly won't be for a year or two yet. By that time I'm sure we'll be in a position to receive them.—And so the morning passed.
After lunch, Mrs. Davies packed a picnic basket with cakes and buns, and a Thermos of hot tea, and drove me in her little car out to the moors. It was a lovely, sunny day for a ride in the country.—And what country! Darling, a hundred times I caught myself wishing fervently that you could be there with me to see it all. I couldn't begin to describe the sheer loveliness of the Yorkshire moors and dales. I was prepared, of course, to see some lovely scenery, but, for once the images I had in my mind proved pale things, indeed, beside the actuality of the wondrous, rolling hills, bare of trees, but covered in the varied greens of gorse, bracken and heather, the latter soon to bloom and cover this particular part of the world with a lush violet-lavender-purple carpet. When I try to find the words to describe the glorious scenic beauties of this section, I realize how incapable I am of doing them justice. One must see them as I was seeing them. One must see the seemingly endless vista of hill and dale, and “feel” the exaltation of standing atop a ridge and looking over a panorama stretching miles away to the far horizon. One must stand on the apex of the moors to sense the brooding mystery and loneliness of these treeless wastes—to really know and appreciate their appeal. In my lifetime, Sweet, I have thrilled to many beautiful scenes, landscapes, sea-scapes, etc., but never have I been so impressed and awed and delighted by sheer beauty and grandeur as I have been by the Yorkshire Moors and Dales. As I said to my companion, if I could find a comparable setting in theUnited States, that is the place I would choose to build my home and settle in. We rode down to a green dale beside a stream that was spanned by a centuries-old stone bridge. Here we sat in the shade of tall bushes and had our tea and cakes. Mrs. Davies pointed out a large, rambling castle perched on the side of a nearby hill. It was built by Henry VIII for Katherine Parr, the only one of his six wives that outlived him. Before that, we visited a little church that was built in 1409, but which is still being used today. It is in a state of perfect preservation, and I had the odd sensation that time had no meaning here. After I had written “Philip Strongin, Philadelphia, U.S.A." in the visitor's book, we departed the ancient church with its ancient tombstones surrounding it. By the time we had finished our tea, we had to start back (it was now about 5:30). We stopped once more on a crest on the moors, while Mrs. Davies pointed out the different types of vegetation. She gave me a sprig of white heather, which like the four-leaf clover is considered lucky. Arriving back at Meadowcroft, about 6:30, I went up to shave and wash, after which I joined the others at supper, which consisted of fried kippers, boiled potatoes, salad, rice pudding, cheese and coffee. After we had cleared the table, we went out beyond the garden, (which is lovely now,) to the bowling green, where Comdr. Healey and I teamed against the Davieses for a game of bowls. It was a lovely summer evening, and it was most pleasant to be playing out-of-doors. Tim and I proved no match for the very able team opposing us, and they trounced us by a score of 11-4. By this time it was 10 P.M., and we all relaxed in the library for an hour before retiring. I started this letter then, but had to give it up after a few pages, because I was very sleepy. We said our good-nights about 11 P.M. I awoke this morning at 8:30 and rose straightaway and dressed. I had breakfast with Mrs. Davies and then went into the library to get on with this. Shortly afterward, the girls came in to clean, so I moved, at my hostess’ suggestion, to the kitchen where I am now writing while Mrs. Davies stands nearby and shells peas.
—Which all, sweetheart, brings me right up to date. One thing I forgot to mention was that I brought all my collection of snaps with me to show the Davieses. When they asked if I had received any new pictures I showed them the whole batch - old and new. Dr. Davies, being a man, said only that they were "very nice". Mrs. Davies had more to say. She remarked that you have a lovely smile, my sweet, (as if I didn't know!) and that the punkin resembled me, at which the good Doctor pricked up his ears and mumbled (just loud enough for me to hear) - “poor kid". He was kidding - of course!???
I'll stop for now, honey, and will continue when I have more to tell you. I love you, baby~