24 October 1917

St. Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford.

24.10.17.

                My dear Mother,

Very many thanks for your letter and the enclosure, which was very welcome, as I had come down to 4½d, the subscriptions, etc, of last week having quite cleaned me out.  There is still the Bach Choir sub. to pay, 10/- for the year.  Also I am sending in a bill for books and stationery.  It isn’t very heavy, but made a hole in my spare cash.  The Mill I am sharing with the Cheltenham child – we went halves in the price – that is the only book I have had to buy so far – the rest I am borrowing from three different libraries.  We could have borrowed a Mill, but J.A.R Marriott insisted on it being W.J.Ashley’s edition, which, of course,  none of them had.

Talking of libraries, I went this morning for the first time to the Bodleian.  Miss Levett gave me a ticket, and I had to walk up to the Bodleian to get it signed – that done, I went across to the Radcliffe Camera, commonly known as the Rad, and spent the morning there reading.  I actually got some work done which is impossible here in the Common Room, which 19 of us have to share, with people passing in and out all the time, and of course there is some chattering, although there is not supposed to be any.  The Rad is awfully nice to work in.  You sit in a most comfortable chair, have yards of desk space, and can take off as many garments as you please – there’s plenty of room to stow them away.  I shall go there every morning now.  By the way, in the Bodleian I saw the original of that portrait of Shelley, with the open collar, and also a chalk sketch of it.

On Monday night after the Bach Choir practice I gave my first cocoa.  My vis-à-vis was another fresher, Joan Fisher, an awfully nice girl from Birmingham.  It was quite jolly, and now I want to do it again, but must wait for supplies.  I have all but finished your cake, and would like some more, please! 1  I don’t mind what, exactly.  I always have tea in my own room now, it is much more comfortable, so I have nearly eaten up the cake – also I like a piece and something hot to drink at night.

Mrs Harris returned my wash today, very nicely done.  Am I to pay her by the week or fortnight, or shall I tell her to send in the bill at the end of the term to you?  If I am to pay I shall want more money.  The oddments here do mount up so – for instance, you can easily lose a shilling in various church collections on Sunday.

Yesterday there was an intercollegiate debate at the High School on the desirability of passing Mr Fisher’s Education Bill2.  It was most amusing.  One speaker at least had read the bill, the others hadn’t.  She got up and floored them with facts.  The St. Hilda’s people practically conducted the debate.  I understand that sometimes they do so entirely.  Also it is the only woman’s college that rows in a four, (or six, I forget which) like the men, with a trainer.  So you see we are most progressive.

Yesterday morning I received a billet-doux from Miss Burrows asking me to come for a constitutional with her in the afternoon.  She was awfully nice, and took me round Christchurch Meadows, and on the towing path.  Previous to that I went to a Fire practice which was most amusing and involved descent from a first-floor window by a rope.  Apparently I managed quite creditably, for I was among those asked to repeat the performance – however, I was not finally chosen for the Brigade, much to my relief.  The first time I came down I took a few inches of skin off my knuckles on the window sill, but the second time I was more wary.

Rita has sent me “Poems of To-day” – do you remember my borrowing it from Ethel once?  It is a ripping collection of modern verse.  She didn’t enclose a letter but merely a laconic note of change of address, written in pencil on a visiting card.  She has apparently shifted her abode into the High Road.  Why, heaven only knows!  I understand from Ethel that Rita and Claude have parted in anger for ever, and that once she got over the shock, Rita was quite sensible about it!  Now perhaps she will consider her duties and responsibilities as a friend.  I have had two long letters from Ethel since I came up.

Gwen’s sister-in-law has been to see me twice.  The first time I was out, but the second time she came into my room where I was working, and stayed quite a long time talking.  She was awfully nice.  My coach for European History, Mr. Stampa, reminds me awfully of Uncle Tom Hooley3.  He is short and grey and very correct in his attire – just like him.  He is awfully amusing, too, and puts things humourously, which is a blessing!  He has just Uncle Tom’s accent;  I think he must come from the North.

My window measures 85″ from the top of it to the floor (I don’t mean there is 85″ of window, but I want that much curtain).  There is already a rod with rings.  The width of the window is 33″, and I want the two curtains together to stretch right across it, so as to hide the blind at night.  It must be a very light material, as I don’t want the room any darker, the window being quite small.  Mine is not really a dark room, like some in the old part of the Hall, but heavy curtains would most certainly make it so.

Best love to Daddie and Maxted,

Your loving daughter, Margot.

1Margot’s mother is for ever sending parcels of cake and shortbread, odds and ends wanted from home, money (which is perpetually in short supply), and letters.  Postage must have been relatively so much cheaper than it is now.  Another constant theme is the washing of Margot’s clothes.  No possibility of clothes washing facilities in the college, no washing machines, no launderettes, and underwear and stockings made of substantial materials not easy to wash out and dry in a student room.

2Mr Fisher’s Education Bill:  H A L Fisher was the minister responsible for the 1918 Education Act which dealt with the teaching of  religion in state elementary schools, who could or need not teach it, and the possibly clashing interests of the established Church of England and the Non-Conformists.  He was also the father of a future Principal of St Hilda’s, Mrs Mary Bennett.

31Uncle Tom Hooley – a Collinson relative

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