Cosy Corners in Depression and War
I have kept a diary about my life in 1972... I was careful when keeping it not to make remarks about the staff, in case this was found, as I had to keep it in my hospital locker.
I rose at 7 am; had breakfast at 8 am. (I am in Goodmayes Hospital). Sister gave me supplies of amitryptilline (an anti-depressant), librium (a tranquilliser) and mogadon (sleeping pills) for the week-end, which I am spending with my father in Lawford.
My father is also in a psychiatric hospital; he tells me he is suffering from "narcosis". I think this means falling asleep at odd times. However Dad came home for the week-end (Sat. morning until Mon. morning). I had lunch prepared by my father and played a game of chess with him,
Before going to bed, I packed a case with all my winter clothes to take back to Goodmayes Hospital with me. Mr Heath signed the treaty of Brussels for entry into the Common Market today.
I rose at 8 am and took my father a cup of tea in bed. After breakfast I went to Mass in Manningtree. As is usual at the present time the Mass was in English and hymns were sung. Very enjoyable and consoling.
My father prepared the evening meal of chicken with vegetables. I typed a letter to Robert, a translator, thanking him for discussing the prospects of myself becoming a translator from Russian in the future. I was unable to do any Russian studying during the week-end, owing to having to devote myself to my father's needs. I helped him sort out his financial affairs. To bed at 11 pm.
Said good-bye to my father and caught the 9.30 am train back to London, and arrived back at Goodmayes Hospital just before the 12 mid-day lunch. Meanwhile my father also returned to hospital in Colchester.
After lunch I took part in the usual physical training lesson given on Monday afternoons at the hospital. Had tea as usual at 4.30 pm. Did a little knitting and studied Russian for about three hours in the evening.
A typical day at Goodmayes Hospital. Rose at 6.30 am, did housework between 7 am and 7.30 am. Breakfast at 8 am. Then helped to wash up.
At breakfast the conversation was about Carol who has now been transferred to another ward. Carol is always going up to people and saying, "I'm sorry. Have I offended you?" People get tired of her continual worrying. When she came up to me and said this, I simply answered, "No, Carol, you have not." But some people lose their patience with her and tell her off.
Occupational Therapy between 9 am and 12 noon. As usual on Tuesday mornings I had to do painting. This week I painted a poster advertising a jumble sale.
Saw the doctor during the morning, who seemed pleased with my progress. Lunch at 12 noon, uneventful. Walked to shop after lunch to buy my daily papers and scanned them for possible situations vacant. Nothing doing.
Occupational Therapy in the afternoon 1.30 - 4.30 pm.
Most people play bingo for the first hour on Tuesday afternoons, but I have refused to do this. But painting and physical training are compulsory. Did not enjoy painting - which I used to enjoy, because the painting materials are poor quality, and we are not allowed to buy any extras for ourselves. However, I have been excused from Bingo.
During Occupational Therapy I wrote one letter applying for a job as a chemist, and spent the rest of the afternoon knitting.
During the afternoon I saw Mr W. the Employment Officer, who had contacted my last employer to try to persuade him to take me back. The employer refused to do so, but said he would give me a reference, but would have to state that I had left because of a nervous breakdown. This seems very unsatisfactory.
Tea at 4.30 pm.
In the evening I went up to my bedroom and sorted my personal documents out and put them away in an orderly fashion. Then I washed out some clothes.
At about 7 pm I went downstairs to the sitting-room and studied Russian until 9 pm. Then, feeling tired, I sat and continued knitting a pullover for my father until bedtime at 11 pm.
At Occupation Therapy in the morning I studied Russian. At dinner-time I asked permission from the sister to go out for the afternoon. This was granted. Reasonable requests were rarely refused. I went to see my old employer and collected my thesis which I had left there. My employer said he would give me a reference but would have to say I left through illness.
Later in the afternoon I called at Baker St. Lost Property Office to enquire about a brief-case I had lost recently. It had not been handed in. Then I went to a police station and reported my loss there. The police said they would let me know if it was found. I arrived back at Goodmayes at 7 o'clock, had a bath and studied a little Russian. Bed at 9 pm because I was tired.
Had a good night's sleep. During the last few weeks I had only been sleeping three hours per night. In morning Occupational Therapy I studied Russian. In the afternoon practised touch-typing . Today I sent another letter applying for a position as a chemist (East Malling Research Station) for work on pesticides. Had to change the sheets on my bed.
There are only 5 patients on the ward at present. A general rearrangement is taking place in the hospital. Many of the wards are going to be mixed men and women. Until last weekend there were sixteen women patients here in Cherry Tree Ward. Some were discharged, others transferred to other wards.
Still only 5 patients in the ward. At mid-day after lunch I bought my daily papers as usual. ...
Rose at 6. Studied Russian until it was time to do my housework. Went to Ilford in the morning to try to buy new suit suitable for interviews. Could obtain nothing suitable. Commenced typing an article "The Analytical Chemist" which I wrote in October 1969. Tired by 9 o'clock, so went to bed.
Now only 4 patients in Cherry Tree Villa.
An interesting day. Sleepless night. Got up at 2 am and studied Russian for two hours in the washroom. Nicki, another girl who does not sleep was there. Last week-end my room-mate (Irene) was transferred to another ward, and for the last few nights have been sleeping alone.
Kay, an Irish Catholic has moved in. Had interesting talk with her in the early morning about religion and the troubles in Northern Ireland. Her husband was porter for the French Ambassador in Dublin.
During day went to town and studied chemistry. [In the Patent Office Library in Holborn] About 8 pm in the evening relaxed in sitting-room and discussed mental illness with other patients. Suicide and religion were discussed.
In the evening I had dinner with Robert and Elizabeth, and their friend Mr F. who has a degree in Russian. We discussed the possibility of my becoming a translator of Russian technical literature, and Mr F. advised me not to put too much hope into it. Although he has a degree in Russian, he gets very little work in Russian and had to learn Japanese in order to make a living.
I had an interview this morning for a position as Clerical Officer in the Ministry of Health and Social Security. They wanted to know why I wished to be a clerk, having been a chemist for twenty years. I had therefore to tell them about my latest nervous breakdown, and therefore don't think I'll be offered a job.
In the afternoon I had an interesting chat with the psychologist.
Very quiet day. Only four patients in the ward. Read through my M.Sc. thesis in the morning in order to revise my chemistry for the interview on Tuesday.
Recently Bernadette Devlin made a physical attack on Mr Maudling, a Conservative Minister. I used to admire Bernadette Devlin and supported her left-wing views. Now she encourages violence. We need a socialist revolution, but it should be a peaceful one.
Personally, I can see no opposition between the basic tenet of communism "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need", and Christianity.
To-day I had an interview for a post as analyst. Unfortunately, the post entails a lot of microscopic work, of which I have had no experience, so I don't suppose I stand much chance of getting the job. Had to travel from Goodmayes to Chorley Wood which took over three hours. Had lunch out in Lyons and arrived back at the hospital in time for tea at 4.30 pm.
Spent the morning studying Russian. In the afternoon I did typing for an hour, joined the "keep fit" class for half an hour, and then had an interesting talk with Miss S, the psychologist. She thinks I am much improved. She says she is a Liberal Marxist. I went to my Russian class in the evening, could not understand a word of the dictation, although my reading and writing in Russian are going quite well.
In the post, there came another letter refusing to offer me a clerical job. I decided to concentrate all day on trying to learn typing, even though I do not like it. I am doing this because it may be the only means by which I can get a job.
Had a frustrating and boring morning in the painting room. Feel annoyed about these compulsory activities. A better afternoon and evening studying Russian.
Spent the whole day typing. Did Russian and some knitting in the evening. Feeling depressed but not psychologically depressed. Want to get out of this hospital.
Had a letter from Aunt May. She is suffering from the power cuts caused by the miner's strike. In her all-electric flat, she is having a rough time. As I am in hospital, I do not have to suffer these power cuts.
Went out shopping this afternoon and spent £4, £2 on a new pair of shoes, the rest on odds and ends.
Went to have hair done at 9 o'clock. Because of a power cut, they could not do it at the shop. Returned to hospital, washed it myself, and Sister Mohammed put curlers in it. Dry at 12.30.pm. Off to have interview at 2.30 pm for a job as checker to typing pool for a firm of patent agents. Did badly at the interview owing to nerves.
Went on to Patents Office Library, where I read in English, (for the first time) my Russian references in my M.Sc. Thesis. I wish that I had been able to do this while I was engaged on research in analytical chemistry at Birmingham University in 1965. It would have speeded up my work considerably. Now I know that English translations are kept in the Patents Office Library, there seems no point in ordering photocopies of Russian originals for practice in translation. Arrived back at hospital at about 6 pm. feeling despondent, depressed, tired. Had a quick tea and went up to the bedroom for a little while. Returned to sitting-room at 8 pm, to chat with patients for the rest of the evening.
In the morning I had an interview for a post as analytical chemist with a Public Analyst. In my heart I feel I shall not get the job (there are sure to be younger applicants) but felt that I answered questions better in this, my own field, than when I went for a job as a clerk yesterday. The employer had bought new chromatographic equipment and admitted that he was "out-of-date" himself, as he did not personally work on the bench and wanted someone who understood the new equipment. In my answers to questions I told him that I could learn to operate new equipment from adequate instructions books, even if I had not previously used it.
In the afternoon I called at Carr's Agency in Fleet St, told them that I had had a nervous breakdown, but that I was now better and would like a job. They promised to help me, firstly in the field of chemistry, and if that failed would try to find me a clerical job. In the evening I attended my usual Russian class.
Yesterday was such a routine day that I did not write about it. Today is my birthday. In all I received four cards from relatives. I am 44 today. Spent all day typing. In the evening did some Russian and some knitting.
I felt very tired all day. In the morning did some knitting and laid on the bed in the afternoon. I thought I had got out of the habit of lying on the bed during the day-time, but it seemed I was wrong.
I went to the usual art class in the morning, and at 11 am went to see the psychologist. We had a discussion about my three recent and most severe nervous breakdowns and came to the decision that they had all started off by my having a too dominating boss at work, dominating me at work in a similar way to that of my father as a child.
This morning we had a group therapy meeting lasting an hour. These meetings used to take place in this hospital before Christmas, but were discontinued as the wards were being re-organised. Our ward consists only of the patients of Dr. A. and Dr. E. I spoke quite a lot at this meeting, telling the doctors and others present about similar meetings I had attended at Rubery Hill Hospital and at Highams House. I commented that the meetings at this hospital were much quieter than those I had been to formerly. Patients did not shout at each other so much. I said that my mental illness had now disappeared and that I was only staying on in the hospital because I had not been able to get a job, but said that practical personal problems of this kind were unsuitable for discussion at such a meeting. I felt that the meetings were primarily for patients still experiencing mental illness who wished to get help from others.
At 11 o'clock I saw the psychologist, and I took her my article about working life at Cadbury's for her to read. We continued discussing my problems with bosses who dominated me. They were usually men, and the psychologist said, "Why not work for a woman boss?" I replied that there were few women bosses in my profession of chemistry.
I told her about my lack of progress in typing, and said that I did not seem to have the necessary mechanical aptitude for it. We discussed my problems about finding work, and I said that I intended to visit some more employment agencies, but wished to wait until my cold and cough were better. In the afternoon I studied Russian, while most of the patients played Bingo. I detest Bingo, and have managed to get out of it.
I spent the day typing. My cough was much worse, so in the evening Sister C. gave me some cough mixture and some hot linctus and I went to bed at about 8.30 pm. Sister C. advised me to stay indoors to-morrow.
Stayed in the ward, because my cough was so bad. In the morning studied some Russian, and Sister M. unkindly commented that I was only staying in the ward to do some studying and getting out of the typing in Occupational Therapy.
Saturday 11. 3 1972.
Sister C. was on duty in the early morning. She took my temperature and found it was back to normal, but said I must stay in bed. She brought my breakfast up to me. I got up for lunch and went back to bed for the afternoon, got up for tea at 4.40 pm and stayed up until 7.30pm, then went to bed again. Did very little Russian as I was too tired for it.
My study of Russian infuriated one of the nurses, who told me I should be socialising with others in the evenings. This was most unfair...People were not criticised for hobbies like knitting or playing records. And it is untrue that I never talked to people. I had long talks with Nicki, a young woman who was trying to settle down and was one of those who played records. In fact she was often restless very late at night, and I would often go and talk to her then.
Yesterday was a routine day. This morning was at typing class. In the afternoon, I had an interesting chat with the psychologist. She is reading my article "The Analytical Chemist", and intends to have it copied, so that she can send a copy to her uncle, who is an analytical chemist.
She gave me a "personality test". This consisted of making up a story about pictures (scenes including people) describing what happened to the characters in the picture, what they were thinking and feeling and what they intended to do in the future. The first picture was a farm scene, showing a middle-aged man leading a horse, a middle-aged woman leaning against a tree, and a young woman carrying books in the foreground. I said that the young woman was a teacher, and the older couple were man and wife running a farm. Next came a picture showing a little boy with a violin; then an elderly man together with a middle-aged man. I made up appropriate stories about them. In the evening I studied Russian.
I spent a busy morning washing out all my winter woollies. Most of them had been packed away in a case, unused this winter. They had all been left in a dirty condition, having been worn in the winter of 1970 and left unwashed, owing to my deep depression. During the period November 1969 to November 29th, 1971, I had been in such a depressed state that I neglected everything.
I spent the whole day visiting employment agencies in Ilford.... . I went to Alfred Marks. The interviewer here, Gill Munro, was very pleasant. She promised to do her utmost to get me a job in my own profession when she learned that I was a chemist, but would resort to seeking clerical work if this failed
In the evening, I attended my usual Russian class. Activities outside the hospital are a relief; the class is poorly attended; but those who come are keen students. A young man is also learning Czech and Polish and visiting these countries for cheap holidays. He uses languages in his work which is concerned with transport.
I attended the interview at Chemlab Instruments Ltd... When I arrived back at the hospital there was a letter for me from Alfred Marks Bureau, telling me to call at the office in order to fill in an application form for employment in the laboratory at Baird and Tatlock. I phoned up the bureau immediately, telling Gill Munro that I would call on Friday. I spent the afternoon typing, and in the evening studied Russian.
In the afternoon I saw the psychologist, and had four more pictures about which I had to make up stories. The first three were conventional scenes about which I made up conventional stories. The last was a blank sheet of paper which I had to imagine was a picture. I imagined a picture of a group of holiday-makers going to Spain.
[At this point, Joan started using her cousin's address instead of the hospital address in seeking work]
I phoned Leonard and found that another bureau (Brook St.) wished me to call. I attended the hospital group discussion meeting; after this had my hair set, and arrived at the bureau at about 2 pm. An interview with Spicer Cowan Ltd was arranged for Tuesday at 10 am for a clerical job.
A great day. I was interviewed at 10 am by Mr Copperwaite and was offered a clerical job at £960 p.a. I accepted it gladly. Am starting next Tuesday, after the Easter holiday. I returned to the hospital for lunch and spent the afternoon typing.
Had a quiet day in the hospital. Spent the morning typing. I was supposed to attend physical exercises but "played truant" and sat in the quiet room talking to Kathy and studying Russian.
Started work to-day, my first day's work since last November. The work consisted of filing and checking typing, dull but unworrying.
In the evening had tea in the canteen at 6.15 pm and chatted with a young patient, who is a secretary. She has only just started work outside the hospital; previously she assisted in office work in the Occupational Therapy Department. She used to belong to the Young Communist League.
My second day at work. Dull work. My relations with others in the office I am keeping strictly impersonal, until I get to know them better.
At work to-day I heard my boss swearing at someone on the phone, because he had not phoned back within twenty minutes as promised. This means I must be very wary of my boss, Mr C. His assistant, Mr Hopper seems very pleasant and has spoken kindly to me on several occasions.
While I was downstairs, having breakfast Sister C. looked into my room and noticed the cat was lying on the bed. In the ward, I was always making a fuss of the cat whenever I saw it, and secretly was delighted that the cat had chosen my bed. But cats lying on beds are not allowed, because possibly the bed covers might become soiled
Sister C. tells me money should be handed in whenever I come in and locked in safe, but this is completely impossible because only the Sisters have the safe key which makes it impossible to get money early in the morning, when the Sister is seldom on duty.
In practice, a compromise was arranged. The nurse takes my money in notes when I come in, leaves it in drawer or medicine cupboard in her office and returns it to me when I go out. Unfortunately, owing to my having stated that I keep valuables in my locked case, the case room is now being kept locked all the time, making it impossible for me to get out clothes when I want them. I have to find a nurse and ask her. These are some of the inconveniences of hospital life.
"Go-slow" on the main line trains. Took another route by bus and underground to work. Dull day at work; however I was taught to use the letter-folding machine. In evening saw Marjorie, had tea and a chat and a pleasant walk through gardens in Islington.
Transport go-slow continues. I continue to avoid main line trains. A more interesting day at work. Mr C. began to teach me the statistical work. Spent nearly all the evening going through my notes on what I have learnt.
At my Russian lesson in the evening, one of the students spoke about his recent holiday in Russia. Unlike me he is not poor. He said that "He had made several middle-class boobs", and kept referring to the Iron Curtain, a term which I refuse to use. I don't know why he went to Russia. However he said he found it interesting, but he was glad to be back home. He referred to the difficulties Russians have in leaving their country.
I stayed in the hospital, and worked for 12 hours solid, managing to translate a scientific article from Russian into English.
After going to church, I talked to one of the patients. I told her some of the thoughts which had been going through my mind. Briefly that I had believed in communism, although not in atheistic communism. I wished to be a communist in matters of politics, economics and social justice, but remain a Roman Catholic, accept the teaching of the church in matters of faith and morals, but declined to accept the views of the former Popes on communism. In fact I think it the only truly Christian form of society would be a communist one, and that Jesus Christ and his disciples were the first communists. This patient was very sympathetic.
I had a splendid day at work. I did the work of the statistical clerk without supervision. I have ordered the "Morning Star" and will read it each day, though I must keep this secret from my employer, because I am sure that he would dismiss me immediately if he knew.
I am thinking about the life of Jesus Christ. I believe that in his agony in the garden he suffered chiefly for and with all those who are mentally ill, and that in his scourging at the pillar, crowning with thorns and carrying of the cross, he suffered especially for and with the physically sick, and in his death upon the cross, experiencing both physical and mental anguish he suffered and died for everyone.
Although the train strike makes my journey home long and tiring, my sympathies are with the strikers. Their basic wage is insufficient for a single person to live on if entirely self-supporting. God help those who have a family.
Went out for the day, making lists of flat agencies in South.East and South London, obtained from classified directories borrowed from the Post Office. Unfortunately I left my note-book, containing a list of flat agencies in East London and also my translation of a Russian scientific article in the Post Office. Remembering it about half an hour later, I went back to the Post Office, but the note-book had gone. I am faced with doing that difficult Russian translation all over again.
Though tired in the evening, I attempted to study Russian. Eventually I hope to make my living by translating Russian scientific articles into English.
In the privacy of my room I read the "Morning Star" every evening. I also buy the "Daily Telegraph" in order to keep an eye on scientific vacancies. I am planning to visit my father this week-end. I had a letter from Aunt May expressing her anti-union views. When I have time I shall try to point out to her how much the unions have done for the working class.
In the morning played chess with Dad. He won. After dinner went to Manningtree for shopping. In the evening started another game of chess.
Had to get up early to attend the 8.30 am Mass in Manningtree. The Mass is early during the summer months. Finished chess game which Dad won, and caught the 5.30 pm train back to London. I had to get back to the hospital early in order to pack everything into cases as we are all transferring to another ward in the main building, called Scaulding Ward.
Left for work early at 7.15 am, had a busy day and returned to the hospital to the new ward in the hospital. It is a terrible place. Unlike the other ward, in which there were small bedrooms, there is one enormous dormitory, and one large sitting-room, in which the TV and gramophone are blaring forth all the time. No privacy for anything. Shall be glad to get out of here. It feels like a prison.
Visited Astral Flat Agency in Camberwell Church Street. They sent me to view a flat, price £7 per week. I had to pay agency £10.50 fee before I could view the flat. The flat consisted of two very nice rooms, but the landlady told me that two young girls had already applied for it, and she was waiting for them to make up their minds. She said they would ring her at 7.30 pm Friday evening, and so I said I would ring later than that on Friday.
I went out early flat-hunting. Before I left the hospital, at about 8.30 am, I again phoned that landlady, but still heard the engaged tone.
[An agent drove Joan to view some accommodation]
... We went over to a white car, and he tried to unlock it, but failed to do so. Then I noticed that my bags were not on the back seat, so it must be the wrong car! His mind must have been temporarily muddled - but don't we all get these lapses at times, even the most sane of us. Unfortunately, once we have had a definite illness, and afterwards exhibit some nervousness or absentmindedness, it is always put down to our mental state. In the public mind for the most part, we are never treated as normal. Even our closest relatives fail to understand. That is why I am keeping my past illness secret. I want to be treated as normal.
Well, he found his own car, and drove me to 46 Kellett Rd, Brixton and showed me a bed sitting room. As it contained a gas-cooker and a sink, and adequate storage space, I decided to take it. But it is no palace, and the rent, £6 per week is high. But I now feel like paying any price for my freedom, so tired am I of hospital restrictions. However kindly one is treated there, one must always ask permission for everything, so it is the nearest thing to being in prison that there is.
By the time I had viewed the flat it was 4 o'clock. I went back to the flat agency and paid £18, £6 fee for the agency, £6 deposit for the landlord, and £6 for the first week's rent.
I then returned to hospital and continued typing, after packing all my belongings away in cases.
I have spent my last night in hospital. I spent the whole day in hospital typing (after going to church) and at eight o'clock was driven to Kellett Road by taxi together with my luggage. I had bought two sheets and two pillow-cases, so I made the bed and went straight to bed.
Sun 7.5.1972. I have spent my last night in hospital. I spent the whole day in hospital typing (after going to church) and at eight o'clock was driven to Kellett Road by taxi together with my luggage. I had bought two sheets and two pillow-cases, so I made the bed and went straight to bed.
(1996 note: At the nearby Co-operative Department Store, I bought a feather- filled green eiderdown, which lasted twenty years.)
Monday 8.5.1972. After work, I went over to Astral agency to reclaim my fee of £10.50, as they had failed to provide me with a flat. Luckily they were honest and handed back my cheque. I had to eat out, having neither food nor utensils in the apartment. On getting back to the flat, I continued typing my article "The Analytical Chemist".
Tuesday 9.5.1972. Another busy day at work. I had a lapse of memory, thinking it was Wednesday and travelled all the way to Goodmayes for my Russian lesson. I had to ask someone in the corridor of the technical college what day of the week it was, as I suspected I had made a mistake. When told it was Tuesday, I realised that I had wasted my evening. Visited the hospital, Scaulding Ward, to ask for my writings back (Science fiction story called "The Inverse World"). Miss Stanley, the psychologist had been reading it and promised to return it but the nurse on duty could not find it.
Wednesday 10.5.1972. A busy day at work, followed by the long journey to my Russian lesson.
Thursday 11.5.1972. After work, I ate out. I succeeded in ordering the Communist Party newspaper the "Morning Star" from a local newsagent. Spent the rest of the evening studying Russian.
Friday 12.5.1972. An uneventful day at work. Had to eat out at night. Went home and did a little Russian.
Saturday 13.5.1972. Had a busy day. Had to go to Clapham Junction to draw £30 from my building society account. Spent all this on essential equipment for the flat and on food.
Sunday 14.5.1972. Did not get up until 10 am. Tired after yesterday's effort. Found out that last Mass was at 10.30 am at local church, and so I was too late for this. Went to Aunt Violet's for dinner and tea, then to 6 pm Mass at Brook Green. Saw Jim Barnes, now a very old man, still serving on the altar. Arrived home at about 8 pm, had trouble with the electric plug and water-heater. Situation was explained by landlord (one has to turn on light before electric plug works and must leave pilot light alight all the time on the water heater.) There is no control to turn gas off.
Monday 15.5.1972. A disastrous day at work. I got all the figures into a muddle, my head became in a whirl, and Mr C. had to help me out. I have not got filing jobs done, which are usually done overnight. Spent all the evening in the doctor's surgery (from about 6.30 -8.30) waiting for prescription. Next time I will be able to order prescription from receptionist. I got home too tired to do anything but have tea and read the paper. Mr C. found out that I was worried about financial affairs while working, and put me in touch with the Over-40 Association for Women Workers, who promised to find me cheaper accommodation.
Wednesday 17.5.1972. In the evening I went straight to my Russian class, without calling at the hospital. I went to the canteen before the lesson; had two cheese rolls and tea, and chatted to Mr Orton, our lecturer, who was also having a snack there. I told him about my nervous breakdown and the impossibility of finding work as a chemist, and he was very sympathetic about it. I daren't tell him my political views, because he mentioned during one of the lessons that he thought Lenin was worse than Stalin. I think Lenin was the great liberator of his people, whom Stalin betrayed. Stalin acted towards his own people much as Hitler acted towards the Jews. I abhor Stalin, yet somehow I feel that he was not quite as bad as Hitler. Kruschev was a very courageous man to denounce him.
Friday 19.5.1972. After work, shopped at the Co-op, and asked to become a member and ordered a milk supply from them.
Saturday 20.5.1972. I wasted most of the morning, vainly trying to find someone to fix my radio. All that needs doing is to fix the tuner, which is stuck in one position. I cooked a pork chop for lunch, then went to Bourne and Hollingsworth. I bought some wool to knit a summer jumper, though goodness knows when I shall have time to make it. Then went to Collet's Russian shop, ordered the monthly "Sovietski Soyuz" for 80p per year; also bought a copy of "Pravda". Attempted to read "Pravda" while having a snack in Lyons, and the man opposite me, noting the Cyrillic lettering, asked me if I was Greek. I told him I was learning Russian in order to become a translator. He turned out to be a dentist, and sympathised when I told him my story of being forced out of my profession of chemistry and having to do clerical work.
Sunday 21.5.1972. Went to Aunt Violet's for dinner. I was too late for Mass at local church in Brixton. I was tired and got up late, so I went to Mass at Brook Green, in the evening, after tea with Aunt Violet. She asked me if I had been to Mass on Ascension Day. I was shocked because I had forgotten about Ascension Day. Although forgetting in this way is not a sin, scruples prevented me from going to Holy Communion.
Monday 22.5.1972. Worked hard on translating extracts from my article ""The Analytical Chemist" in the evening. The Co-op failed to deliver milk. I will have to live on evaporated milk until I can ask them again.
Tuesday 23.5.1972. Sat up until 12.30 pm finishing translating part of my article, to be handed in to Mr Orton.
Wednesday 24.5.1972. In the evening called at the hospital, asked again for my articles (typed short story which I had leant to the psychologist) in Scaulding Ward. Miss S. wrote to me saying that she had sent them there). They could not be found, so I wrote a note to Sister C., asking her to investigate the matter. After that I went to my Russian lesson.
Thursday 25.5.1972. In the evening I "spring-cleaned" the flat, washing all the paintwork. Then an accident happened. I popped outside to look for the vacuum cleaner and my door slammed shut. Had to borrow 2p from Richard to phone the landlord. His wife told me to ask Lenny in No: 3 to put a ladder up to the window and get in that way. I asked Lenny to do this but he told me the ladder was too short to reach my flat. So I phoned the landlord again, and told his wife this and she promised to contact her husband who was out. Lenny and his wife invited me in. They have a three-weeks old baby, but live in one room and a kitchen. They listened sympathetically to my story of being ousted from professional life. The girl was working-class and I think the man is also. The girl had worked in an office, but more recently in a factory doing quite complicated factory work, which she preferred. The phone rang. I answered and Mrs Mitchell said her husband was coming. I returned to Lenny's flat to await her arrival. Eventually he came, unlocked the flat, and got the vacuum cleaner for me. It was put away in one of the other rooms. In my tiredness, I knocked the front part of the vacuum cleaner off, and it failed to work. Mr Mitchell pointed this out to me, and when I said it was rather late for vacuuming, promised that his wife would call and do it during the week. During the day, I joined two libraries, one in town and one in Brixton and took out six books on Russian.
I write this diary up too infrequently and get things muddled. I am forgetful. Twice I left my notebook out in the main office; once it was returned to me by someone else, and once I remembered it and fetched it myself. I still worry a lot about finance. I find it hard to keep my mind on my job. Are these traces of mental illness remaining? Or are they just normal? (Insert from 1996 - I know they are just normal now!) I packed case ready to visit Dad for the Spring Holiday.
Friday 26.5.1972. I was studying Russian on the bus. Unfortunately, I left suit-case on bus in the morning. I was also worried because I was an hour late for work and had to say I felt ill. In the dinner-hour, a woman at work helped me to phone up bus garages. Eventually I ascertained that the case was at Thornton Heath bus garage. Although I left work early at o'clock, by the time I had picked up case and got to Liverpool St, I was 10 minutes late for the 6.40 pm train. I caught the 7 pm train to Colchester and had to wait there until 9.45 pm for bus to Manningtree. When I explained things to Dad, he was, as I expected, very cross; said I must go back into hospital for good! Later on he calmed down.
Saturday 27.5.1972. In morning I did the shopping; I phoned Aunt May (she was poorly), played chess with Dad, did knitting and mending.
Sunday 28.5.1972. I went to church at 8.30 am, played chess, knitted, mended, and made batch of 22 buns for Dad.
Monday 29.5.1972. A day's holiday from work. I played chess; then attempted to read a little Russian but could not concentrate. I went back to London in the evening.
Tuesday 30.5.1972. After work I had to visit Vicarage Road. (Insert from 1996-Vicarage Road was the address at which I had been living when I went into hospital in November 1971 after taking an overdose of chloral hydrate. Though it is painful to mention such a thing, even in 1996, I am recalling it to set the record straight. These were the last days of the profound depression which lasted from November 1969 to November 1971.) Unfortunately, the hospital had mistakenly sent my story "The Inverse World", which I had lent to Miss S. to Vicarage Road. When I got there, I was just in time to retrieve it from a waste-paper basket.
Wednesday 31.5.1972. I called at hospital on way to Russian class. I saw Sister Cubberley who apologised for the trouble I had in retrieving my story. I saw Dr. E. who asked me to lend him my Linguaphone Russian course for him to record on his tape recorder. He very kindly offered to share my expenses, so I agreed to let him have it. He gave me half the cost of the complete Linguaphone course. I happened to have the records with me so I lent them to him.
Thursday 1.6.1972. Corpus Christi. Church in evening at 8 pm. A long service with benediction after mass.
Friday 2.6.1972. I had bath at public baths, Clapham High St, after unsuccessfully travelling to Streatham High Rd where the baths are for swimming only. After a hurried tea, I visited launderette with about 20 lbs washing. Afterwards I wanted to iron, but ironing board was in use.
Saturday 3.6.1972. Ironing board has not been returned to passage yet. The man upstairs kindly lent me his own board, and I did three hours ironing. I lunched off tinned meat, then felt so tired that I spent the afternoon on the bed. About 5 pm I got up and corrected all my Russian exercises with the aid of "Key to a New Russian Grammar". I have not done all the things I intended to do to-day - too tired.
Sunday 4.6.1972. I went to Mass at 9 am. To-day I intended to take part in the anti-Vietnam War demonstration, but felt too tired to do so. Instead I spent most of the day lying on the bed, and read a whole book called "Asylums" about conditions in an American psychiatric hospital. It certainly seems much grimmer than any of the three hospitals in which I have stayed in England.
Tuesday 6.6.1972. I went to Patents Office Library and had a photocopy made of a Russian scientific article.
Wednesday 7.6.1972. I saw Dr. E. at the hospital. He returned my records and gave me £10 for the privilege of recording them. A great help. Then I went on to my Russian class for which I was half-an-hour late.
Thursday 8.6.1972. I visited the public baths at Clapham.
Saturday 10.6.1972. I went to Stratford to call at the Co-op Bank, but found it shut. I called at the Nationwide Building Society, drew out £30 and deposited about £200, which I had withdrawn from a Post Office Investment account.
Sunday 11.6.1972. I went to church at 8 am. I read the papers and had a lazy morning. In the afternoon I visited the launderette and then did some translation from Russian.
Monday 12.6.1972. In the evening I went to CP [Communist Party?] rally. If my employer knew where I had been, he would probably have given me the sack. The International was sung at the end. It was the first time I had heard the words, although I have often heard the tune through listening to Radio Moscow.
Tuesday 13.6.1972. I did some translating from a Russian scientific article in the evening.
Wednesday 14.6.1972. In the evening I attended the Russian class in Redbridge near Goodmayes.
Thursday 15.6.1972. I left work at 3.30 pm in order to visit my psychiatrist. I told my employer I was going to the dentist. I told the psychiatrist that I was very forgetful, having three times left articles on the bus, and that I lacked concentration both in my work and in my Russian study, because I was worrying about my financial affairs. The pay is low; I will not be able to run the fire (costing £3 per week) in the winter. When I eventually got home, I wrote and typed a letter to the Clerical and Administrative Workers Union, asking them if a branch could be started at my firm.
Friday 16.6.1972. I went to public baths at Clapham. I bought bacon and tomatoes for breakfast at week-end.
Saturday 17.6.1972. In the morning I had my hair cut, washed and set. I visited a church jumble sale in the afternoon, but could find nothing worth buying. I went to Confession. Over the box was the name Father B. I made my confession, being rebuked for talking too loudly, but I find it impossible to whisper.
Sunday 18.6.1972. After church I visited Aunt Violet.
Wednesday 21.6.1972. I attended my last Russian lesson at Redbridge. I saw Dr. E. the Moslem Arab doctor and said good-bye and also said good-bye to Mr Orton, the Russian teacher.
Thursday 22.6.1972. I did some Russian and packed case with radio for Dad to repair.
Friday 23.6.1972. I travelled home by 5.30 pm train from Liverpool St and by 7.30 pm bus from Colchester. After fish for tea, Dad repaired radio.
Saturday 24.6.1972. Played a chess game with Dad. Knitted. Did shopping in Manningtree.
Sunday 25.6.1972. I went to Mass at 8.30 am. After breakfast at about 10 am, I had another chess game with Dad. In evening I caught 6.30 bus to Colchester and a taxi from bus park to station (because buses run only every half-hour on Sundays) and managed to catch the 7.24 pm train to London. I arrived back in flat ready to wash hair in preparation for work on Monday
Monday 26.6.1972. I spent a pleasant evening with Marjorie in her flat at King's Cross.
Tuesday 27.6.1972. I did Lesson 11 from Linguaphone Russian course.
Thursday 29.6.1972. After a visit to the public baths, cooking tea, and washing up, I continued translating scientific Russian. In the early morning I had attended Mass.
Friday 30.6.1972. I received letter from the Union APEX asking me to phone them. I translated Russian in the evening.
Saturday 1.7.1972. Dad visited me on a day trip; I cooked dinner for him and also tea, and we chatted while I knitted. In the afternoon we went out and he bought me a gramophone (£12) as a present. I saw him on his way to catch the 6.30 pm train.
Sunday 2.7.1972. After church, I felt tired, laid on bed and intermittently read book on psychology. In the afternoon I managed to finish my translation of a Russian scientific article, which I had obtained from Patents Office Library on June 6th, and started translating on June 11th. June 11th to July 2nd = 22 days!!!!
Monday 3.7.1972. I came home from work and ate the remains of my week-end joint with peas and potatoes.
Tues 4.7.1972. I visited Aunt Violet, taking to deposit with her the violin brought to London by my father, and also a bronze statuette. He hopes to sell both items, and believes the violin might be a "Strad". I received a pamphlet from the International Socialists, setting forth their political views.
Wednesday 5.7.1972 to Friday 7.7.1972. Achieved nothing. Rather depressed.
Thursday 6.7.1972. I visited new psychiatrist. A pleasant interview. I was advised to continue with tablets - these are mild anti-depressants.
Saturday 8.7.1972. I did a large amount of washing. Most of the rest of the day I spent reading books on psychology.
Sun 9.7.1972. After church I spent the morning reading. In the afternoon and evening I actually finished my "practice" Russian translation, typed it and posted it to a translation agency.
Mon 10.7.1972. In the evening I had an acute attack of depression. I wasted all the evening lying on the bed, brooding.
Tuesday 11.7.1972. I felt happier to-day and in the evening worked hard at my Russian.
Wednesday 12.7.1972. In the evening I tried hard to attend a meeting of the International Socialists, but could not find the building, stated to be "Brixton Training Centre" in St. Matthew's Road.
Thursday 12.7.1972. I wrote a letter to Dick North, District Secretary in Lambeth for the IS and sent him a copy of my article on my career as a chemist.
Friday 14.7.1972. I pressed on with Russian but also read a little from the writings of Trotsky.
Saturday 15.7.1972. After doing some housework, I did the correspondence course exercise from Linguaphone. In the afternoon I read Trotsky, and later on knitted and relaxed.
Sunday 23.7.1972. I am giving up the attempt to write this diary every day, as my life is now falling into a routine pattern. There is my dull daily job; in the evenings studying Russian, reading books about the Soviet Union, visiting friends and relations, writing letters, trying to get my article published, trying to contact various Left political groups to find out about their activities; when I have time I am also trying to write my autobiography, but so far have done very little towards it. I am anxiously awaiting a letter from the Over-40 Association for Women Workers regarding cheap accommodation. At work I feel very resentful when two young managers address me as "dear" - though I don't mind the term, when it used by a working class person.
I have read a book "A History of Soviet Russia" by Georg von Rausch. He is very biassed against any left-wing political views and even attempts to whitewash Hitler. Certainly Stalin was not a pleasant man - but every Communist leader everywhere is also shown as being totally bad; and this can't be true.
Wednesday 26.7.1972. Yesterday I saw and heard some of the striking dockers on the march - in protest against the imprisonment of five of their number for defying the Industrial Relations Act. My heart is out there with them - but alas I cannot strike, as we have no Union, but I hope to change this situation. A 24 hour strike of buses. Will go by main-line train. Since Monday - no newspapers.
Friday 28.7.1972. I packed ready for week-end with Dad. I have read "The Unfinished Revolution, Russia 1917-1967." Though not a full account of the history of the USSR, it deals with political, economic and social developments from a far more sympathetic point of view than dealt with in Von Rausch's history which goes up to about 1958. Though rightly condemning Stalin, and his policy "Socialism in one country", the emphasis on Russian nationalism and the total domination of foreign communist parties by Moscow, urging them to support Russian National interests rather than to try to effect Socialist revolutions in their own countries, he does point to the good points in the Soviet achievement, the first society based on nationally owned property, and these achievements were made in spite of the backwardness of Russia in 1917 as compared with the West, and the continued hostility of Western governments. The terrors and political persecutions, imprisonment and execution of most of the leaders of the 1917 revolution by Stalin are rightly condemned. Looking at these facts, many of the Western working class have been led to think "Socialism has failed". But Deutscher thinks Russia's revolution is the "Unfinished Revolution". In 1952 there were concentration camps - now there are not. (1996 comment _Any political system that evolves from concentration camps seems bad to me, as recent history has proved, but life must go on, and the younger generations cannot be held responsible for the sins of their fathers). But de-Stalinisation has not gone far enough. There is still a stifling bureaucracy in the USSR. The real truth about all Stalin's activities has not yet been told, and no reliable history of the revolution of 1917 is available to Russians.
Yet the restoration of capitalism would not make things better. It would make them worse. The Russians now have to fight for freedom of expression and association. We in the West have to fight for them also, for the voice of socialism is hardly allowed to express itself; all means of communication are dominated by capitalists. Though we are "democratic" in a bourgeois sense, we are economically dominated by the possessing classes. (1996 comment - I think I obtained this kind of writing from "The Socialist Worker" newspaper.) Our capitalist society spends millions on the arms race. We need socialism here in the West. A peaceful, socialist revolution would transform us, and should surely lead to a world united, free, living in peace, and able to use technology and science for the improvement of man's living conditions and his culture and able to cultivate freedom for religion, for the arts, for philosophy. (1996 comment - I do not think an ideal world can be attained -this should not stop us from seeking to banish people's worst sufferings and from the insane pursuit of the arms race).
Friday 11.8.1972. I had the afternoon off from work and was interviewed by Miss Rogers of the Over-40 Association for Women Workers. She was sympathetic, but thought I was exaggerating when I told her it would cost £3 per week for heating by gas-fire, suggesting that I should be out part of the time. But what I have said is true. The gas-fire burns for only fifty-five minutes for one shilling, and it is so constructed that it is impossible to turn it down without turning it out - so one cannot economise in that way. Assuming 6 hours leisure each week-day gives 30 hours - over £1-10s in cost. Thirty- two hours at the week-end means another £1-12s. - altogether £3-2s. in cost - plus another 5s for the excess 5 minutes in every hour. Miss Rogers suggested that I should not visit my relatives quite so often. The cost is £1-10s per week, but I pointed out that I only went once in four weeks to visit my father, which costs £4, averaging £1.33 per week. Visits to relatives living nearer on other Sundays brings the cost up to £1.50.
The interview concluded with the promise that she would put me on the waiting list for accommodation. So I have no knowledge of how long I have to wait. I know she means to help, but help is not always possible - it depends upon the resources available, and these are so often inadequate. She pointed out that this was the only organisation in existence which helped single women - and when I suggested applying for a council flat, she said that it would be a complete waste of time. Single women were never considered.
Sunday 13.8.1972. I had dinner with Aunt Violet. I have been reading autobiographies and biographies of certain prominent socialists and communists. I have just finished reading the autobiography of Hewlett Johnson, the "Red" Dean of Canterbury. He does not give a great deal of space to his inner thoughts and convictions, but most space to external events, travelling all over the world to Socialist countries. He seems to have been pro-Stalin, unfortunately. Though he was a supporter of Communism and is able to reconcile this with Christianity, he does not state whether he was actually a member of the British Communist Party. This I would like to find out.
Wednesday 16.8.1972. I had an afternoon off from work, and met a Trade Union Organiser from APEX at my flat. We had an interesting discussion, and she (Patricia) read my article - "The Analytical Chemist". She thought it would put my job in jeopardy if I approached my colleagues at work with a view to forming a Trade Union. Therefore she suggested that the Trade Union itself (APEX) would make approaches to my work-place; distribute leaflets, and try to find out if there was a branch of the Union in another of the firm's offices. A very interesting afternoon.
Saturday 19.8.1972. I have received my translation back from Express Translation Bureau at last, with a reply stating that they could give me no work, and to-day have written to Mrs S. Tovey, asking if she knew where I could get work.
Wednesday 23.8.1972. One of the administrative managers told me to-day that he was leaving shortly to take a post as lecturer in marketing. He asked me whether I listened to the "proms". I said "No, I am tone-deaf, can't distinguish one note from another." He said that he supposed I did a lot of reading, and I replied "A little, but my study of Russian takes up a lot of my time." To which he said, jokingly, "You'll be useful, if we are invaded." I answered non-committedly, that I didn't think that was very likely, to which he made the extraordinary reply, "I, personally, would welcome it." What an peculiar statement!
However, I, for one, would not trust him an inch, for the other day he said on the telephone, when attempting to engage a telephonist, "At the present market rate, we'll have to pay £1,200". (I thought that this means he believes in free markets, not fairness and social justice).
Saturday 2.9.1972. Last week-end was Bank Holiday week-end and I visited my father. We played many games of chess; I am getting rather tired of chess, but Dad loves it. On the Saturday, I had dinner and tea with Aunt May, who is now very frail, and often has giddy turns when she takes walks. I have found out that most of my correspondence is being stolen, a fact which makes life awkward for me. I have taken Dad's statuette to a firm of auctioneers, Phillips, 7 Blenheim St, New Bond St, W1Y OAS. They state it to be worth £15 to £20 and are willing to sell it.
The fact that I am having most of my letters stolen causes great inconvenience. For the time being I am having them re-addressed to Leonard. I must find somewhere else to live.
Thursday 7.9.1972. Yesterday, one of the girls, a teleprinter operator, who had been employed by Spicer-Cowan for three years, was dismissed, allegedly for repeatedly taking days off and arriving late. Our Office Supervisor, Doreen, has also been reprimanded by Mr C. for lack of strictness in dealing with the staff. Later that day Doreen burst into tears in front of all the staff in the office. As far as I can see everyone works hard, are seldom late, and the only known infringement of discipline is the fact that all the staff leave the office at five minutes before the official time. As this seems to be the common practice during my time at the office, I have followed suit.
To-day, all the staff in our office, together with Mr Martin's secretary, decided to make a complaint about Mr C's highhandedness to the chief manager of Spicer's. However, at the last moment, the girls decided to exclude me, and also Kitty, (who has worked as typist for three years) from the deputation, as we knew little about the incidents. I can understand why I was excluded, being the latest arrival in the office (I have worked there six months).
However, I would have liked very much to have known what took place at the interview. The other secretary (Mr Bloomfield's) was also absent from the interview.
The girls were all absent from the office for about half an hour. Kitty, and a new girl who had only started that day, both complained that they had nothing to do. However, I had plenty of work. (Kitty's work as a typist depends upon her receiving a supply of draft invoices from the comptometer operators. The new girl, replacing Sue, the sacked girl, was dependent on instructions from the others, this being her first day).
When the girls returned to the office (the two teleprinter operators, and the three comptometer operators) I gathered that the complaint about Mr C. mostly concerned the treatment of Doreen, the office supervisor, who all the girls liked. I did not hear what Mr Yeoman said in reply.
The Over-Forty Association
Shortly after this incident I moved to other accommodation, but was too busy to write anything about this in my diary at the time. The Over-Forty Association offered me a furnished room with cooking facilities for £3.50 per week. This was just over half my present rent. There was another advantage. A shilling in the electricity meter lasted for two hours with a one bar fire, which was sufficient to heat my room. One shilling had provided only 55 minutes heat in the previous room. So my heating costs were halved. It was an all-electric flat, and I was provided with a Baby Belling cooker. I learned to use the hot plate, but never successfully cooked anything in the oven. In my previous flat, I had been cooking at week-ends with a gas cooker oven for many years, so I missed this. Nevertheless I made the best of things, but though the rent was low, I thought my present flat had many disadvantages. There were seven flights of stairs and no lift in the building. My room was the only one on the top floor, and could be called an attic. There was a refrigerator on the ground floor communally used, but I did not use it, as invariably I would forget to look in it on my way home from work, and I never wanted to ascend the stairs twice in one evening, as I was often tired. However sometimes I went down to the ground floor to use the ironing board which was kept in the corridor near the refrigerator on the ground floor.
Shortly after moving in I received a visit from one of the charity's representatives. She hoped that I would be happy in my new home. Soon I became aware that the janitor who lived on the ground floor had a key to all the flats, which he visited every week to see if they were tidy. Soon I was told off for untidiness.
In my spare time I was studying Russian, doing some homework, was an avid newspaper reader and began buying Penguin books, now that my outgoings were less, and I began to feel I could spend a few pounds on myself. I was investigating radical psychiatry and became acquainted with books by Laing, Szacz and others who advocated non-drug therapy for mental illness. The story of Mary Barnes impressed me and her treatment by Dr. Joe Berke, a follower of Laing.
I bought two small bookcases and a table for the flat.
I began to encounter hostility from the janitor. I had never possessed a fridge, and knew exactly how long I could keep butter and other foods outside a fridge. Never had I been upset by any food I had bought and cooked myself at home. Being a food chemist I was very aware of the need to be clean and careful. My flat was untidy but not unhygienic, but the caretaker could not distinguish between untidiness and lack of hygiene. He told me off for not keeping my butter in the fridge downstairs, but I could not face descending seven flights of stairs whenever I wanted something from the fridge, so I never used it.
To-day something made me feel angry. On September 25th our office moved from Blackfriars to Banner Street, and all the staff were promised that they would be paid £50 on December 21st as compensation for the inconveniences caused. For me, these were chiefly the loss of the canteen and increased time spent travelling. To-day, we were told that this allowance could not be paid, without permission from the Government, but would be paid on January 21st, by which time permission would be granted.
I said, "This was agreed before the freeze was introduced, therefore it should not be necessary to ask the Government, as it did not infringe their rules."
Mr Simmons said, "We have to get permission from the Government for every increase at this time."
I said, "Suppose the Government says "No!""
He said, "They can't do that; you have nothing to worry about."
I said, "But staff in the Civil Service, on a recognised pay scale are getting their increments, otherwise there would be a breach of contract, and ours was a similar case."
Mr Simmons said, "I'm not going to argue with you."
I noticed on one of the salesmen's desks a memorandum stating that the Company had allocated money for Christmas presents to customers as usual, but these were only given in cases where it was thought that it would result in increased sales for the Company, and that salesmen were to prepare a list on this basis.
I thought, "How can the company be allowed to spend money in this way, debasing the idea of Christmas to commercial uses, while denying the staff their rights?"
Another example of the Company's attitude, - "Tell your customers that VAT will not affect them, for they will resell the paper bought, and the only people who would feel the effect of VAT would be the general public, and those small traders, actually exempt from VAT!"
The small traders are businesses with a turnover of less than £5,000 p.a.
I do not remmeber where I spent Christmas in 1972, but probably visited my father in Manningtree.