Three seasonal diary extractsby Ian Irvine / December 16, 2009 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2010 issue of Prospect Magazine
1911—William Lashly, on Scott’s last expedition to Antarctica, records in his diary: Christmas Day and a good one. We have done 15 miles over a very changing surface. First of all it was very much crevassed and pretty rotten; we were often in difficulties as to which way we should tackle it. I had the misfortune to drop clean through, but was stopped with a jerk when at the end of my harness. It was not of course a very nice sensation, especially on Christmas Day and being my birthday as well. It seemed a long time before I saw the rope come down alongside me with a bowline in it for me to put my foot in. At last we stopped and found we had done fourteen and three quarter miles. Captain Scott said ‘What about 15 miles for Christmas Day?’ So we gladly went on—anything definite is better than indefinite trudging. We had a great feed which I had kept hidden and out of the official weights since our departures from Winter Quarters. It consisted of a good fat hoosh with pony meat and ground biscuit; a chocolate hoosh made of water, cocoa, sugar, biscuit, raisins, and thickened with a spoonful of arrowroot. (This is the most satisfying stuff imaginable.) Then came two and a half square inches of plum-duff each, and a good mug of cocoa washed down the whole. In addition to this we had four caramels each and four squares of crystallised ginger. I positively could not eat all mine, and turned in feeling as if I had made a beast of myself. 1942—Joan Wyndham describes her Christmas as a member of the WAAF: My first Christmas in Scotland. I had behaved so well for the last few months, and everyone here thought I was such a nice, quiet intellectual little girl—but not any more! We were up at the men’s Mess, and it was fantastic—colossal buffet, unlimited booze. I decided to break out and go on a jag. I can’t remember when I got so drunk or felt so exhilarated, except possibly when I went out with my dad. I have an awful feeling I called the CO a stinker—it was one of those religious arguments about whether the popes had mistresses… A very nice pongo drove me home and wanted to kiss me but I said No, and he said God, what a swine I am trying to take advantage of a gel when she’s tight! 1952—Barbara Skelton (Mrs Cyril Connolly) records in her diary: It was a delicious sunny crisp morning and we enjoyed the drive to the [Ian] Flemings. Arrived in time for once. Everything very Christmassy. There was a holly wreath covered in red berries on the front door; in the hall an enormous Christmas tree decorated with coloured Bethlehem globes and presents. Everyone very subdued when we entered the sitting-room. The Duchess of Westminster, wearing a black suit with gold flecks, was sitting alone on a far corner. Peter Quennell came up and talked. They all seemed smug, confident and spiritless. We listened to the Queen’s speech. Someone said how middle-class the Royal Family were. Cyril told me afterwards that it’s the chic thing to say. The Queen Mother, they said, was the most middle-class of the lot.