Barbara Skelton poses for a modelling photo in the 1940s (photo: Getty Images)
Christmas Day, 1940. Harold Nicolson writes in his diary:
“The gloomiest Christmas Day that I have yet spent. I get up early and have little work to do [at the Ministry of Information]. Finish reading the memoranda on local organisations with which I have been supplied. Have talk with Hall about the reorganisation of our propaganda among minor nationalities in the USA. Lunched alone at Antoine’s and read a book of Pitt’s war speeches. Hear the King on the wireless. Pick Raymond [Mortimer, literary editor of the New Statesman] up at the Ritz Bar where I meet Puffin Asquith [film director] and Terence Rattigan [playwright].
“After that I have a nice dinner with Raymond at Prunier. I then go back to the Ministry, where there is a party downstairs followed by a film.
“Poor old London is beginning to look very drab. Paris is so young and gay that she could stand a little battering. But London is charwoman among capitals, and when her teeth begin to fall out she looks ill indeed.”
Evelyn Waugh recounts a frightful Christmas Day, 1946:
“Drove to midnight Mass at Nympsfield very slowly on frozen roads with Teresa, Bron and Vera [two of his children and the nurserymaid] in the back of the car. The little church was painfully crowded. We sat behind a dozen insubordinate little boys who coughed and stole and wrangled. The chairs were packed so close that it was impossible to kneel straight.
“Drove home very slowly and did not get to bed until 2.30am. Laura [his wife] has imprudently sent Saunders and Kitty for holidays so that she and Deakin are grossly overworked. I made a fair show of geniality throughout the day, though the spectacle of a litter of shoddy toys and half-eaten sweets sickened me. Everything is so badly made nowadays that none of the children’s presents seemed to work. Luncheon was cold and poorly cooked. A ghastly day. I spent what leisure I had in comparing the Diary of a Nobody with its serialised version in Punch.
“Laura gave me a pot of caviar which I ate a week ago. My mother gave me a copy of Diary of a Nobody. But for these I have had no presents though I have given…