Vol. 8 No. 2 1941 - page 112

tinuous intellectual life very difficult. I don't mean because of physical
is true that by this time everyone in London has had at least one
"providential escape"-these so common that it is now considered bad
form to talk about them-but the actual casualties are very few and even
the damage, though enormous, is mostly localised to the City of London
and the East End slums. But the disorganisation of transport, communica·
tions, etc., causes endless inconvenience. One seems to spend half one's
time trying to buy a sack of coal because the electricity has failed, or try·
ing to put through telephone calls on a wire that has gone dead, or wan·
dering about looking for a bus-and this is a miserably cold, slushy win·
ter. The night life of London has almost ceased, not because of the bombs
but because of the shrapnel, which is often plentiful enough to make it
dangerous to go out after dusk. The movies close early and theatres have
stopped altogether, except for a few matinees. Only the pubs are much as
usual, in spite of the now enormous price of beer. On nights when the
raids are bad the deafening racket of the guns makes it difficult to work.
It is a time in which it is hard to settle down to anything and even the
writing of a silly newspaper article takes twice as long as usual.
I wonder whether, even in what I have said, I exaggerate the serious·
ness of the air raids? It is worth remembering that at the worst period of
the blitz it was calculated that only 15 per cent of London's population
were sleeping in shelters. The number is added to by those whose homes
are destroyed by bombs, but also constantly decreased by those who grow
gradually callous. When all is said and done one's main impression is the
immense stolidity of ordinary people, the widespread vague consciousness
that things can never be the same again, and yet, together with that, the
tendency of life to slip back into the familiar pattern. On the day in
September when the Germans broke through and set the docks on fire,
think few people can have watched those enormous fires without feeling
that this was the end of an epoch. One seemed to feel that the immense
changes through which our society has got to pass were going to happen
there and then. But to an astonishing extent things have slipped back to
normal. I will end with a few extracts from my diary, to try and give you
some idea of the atmosphere:
"The aeroplanes come back and back, every few minutes. It is just
like in an eastern country, when you keep thinking you have killed the last
mosquito inside your net, and every time, as soon as you have turned the
light out, another starts droning.... The commotion made by the mere
passage of a bomb through the air is astonishing. The whole house
enoqgh to rattle objects on the table. Why it is that the electric lights dip
when a bomb passes close by, nobody seems to know.... Oxford Street
yesterday, from Oxford Circus up to the Marble Arch, ·completely empty
of traffic, and only a few pedestrians, with the late afternoon sun
straight down the empty roadway and glittering on innumerable frag·
ments of broken glass. Outside John Lewis's, a pile of plaster dreg
models, very pink and realistic, looking so like a pile of corpses that one
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