S. Hilda’s Hall
My dear Daddie,
Many thanks for your nice long letter and also for the cheque, which I was very relieved to see. It saved the situation beautifully. Thanks also for the paper which arrived this morning. Aren’t you sorry not to have been in London when the news came through? Of course it’s just my luck to have been away from home both at the beginning and at the end of the war. Fancy J.R.S. 1 giving you a holiday. The end of the world – I mean the war – must indeed have come.
We managed to make things pretty lively here! I was just returning to the Rad from a little stroll down town in search of coffee when I met two excited people on bykes, who had got some inkling of the truth. They rushed off to the G.P.O. to see if the official intimation was out. They returned to say that it was really true – and there was no more work for that day. We routed everyone out of the Rad and swarmed into the High and the Corn. I don’t think any of us quite believed in it. I know I didn’t. The undergrads relieved the situation. They got hold of an enormous motor lorry and careered round the town on it yelling and waving flags. We finally wandered home, after buying all the flags we could lay hands on, and had a most riotous lunch. Several people popped2 to all the freshers at one gasp, by way of celebrating the occasion.
After lunch the whole Hall processed round Oxford, headed by the S.S. 3 with the gong and the Hall banner. Most people had flags or air balloons, and the bell was also trotted round. All the third year had ridiculous tin trumpets and the rest of the band was provided by combs, etc, including Jacynth with a poker and shovel. We got ringed round by the Balliol men and some of the Hertford cadets, which was great fun. We serenaded Miss Coate, who is now History don at Somerville, and extracted one of our number from the Cadena, where she was lunching with friends. Then it began to pour , so we went home.
That night the undergrads lit several bonfires – and of course we went out to see them – the B. and all. We had to go in twos – neither more nor less. Of course there was a great racket – you could hardly move at Carfax, and Cornmarket was packed. The bonfire was just outside St John’s, and all the time they sent up rocket signals, and aireoplane[sic] lights. So imagine St John’s lit up in front by the lurid glare of the bonfire, and behind by the brilliant very4 lights – it was a gorgeous effect! There was plenty of noise in Oxford all night, and next morning the Caesars whose heads ornament the paling outside the Sheldonian Theatre appeared covered with red and blue paint.
On Wednesday evening we decided to celebrate in style with a bump dinner and a dance. None of us had dancing togs, so we decided to have fancy dress. It was great sport. The Bursar really rose to the occasion. I have kept the Menu, so will show you it one day. After dinner we toasted everyone we could think of, and pledged each other in a loving cup full of claret-cup. I think it was lucky we only took a sip each! I went as Solomon, with the aid of a handkerchief-satchel, a few scarves, Isabel’s table cloth and rug, and Silvia’s nightgown! Isabel looked perfectly sweet as Queen Victoria. Gerry was Henry VIII in the days of his youth, as she was careful to point out – Gerry is as thin as a lathe! Bronwen was a most fascinating Welsh maid, and Joyce went as her ancestor Buckingham. Muriel and Joyce Darnell were gorgeous as an XVIIIth century couple. Darnell looked exquisitely pretty, and Muriel was most handsome in a blue velvet suit, patches and ruffles. Altogether we had a jolly time. Joyce taught me to fox-trot, and Joyce Tomlin nearly succeeded in getting me to reverse properly! I wonder if I shall ever go to any proper dances.
Isabel, Joan and I went to see Carmen5 at a matinee of the Carl Rosa. I had no idea it was so nice! Carmen was perfectly ripping, and put everyone else in the shade.
I really must stop now. Are all the lights up in London? We don’t draw our blinds now. We ought to have a jolly Christmas this year! I wish we could go North. How is Donald? I expect Mrs Stanton feels happy!
Much love to Mother and the boy,
Your loving daughter,
1J.R.S. is the firm Margot’s father worked for, Sharwoods, whose most famous product was and is their mango chutney.
2Popping is when an older student invites a younger one to use her first name rather than the formal ‘Miss Collinson’.
3SS – Senior Student.
4A very light is a warning light like a firework; the dictionary describes it as a coloured flare fired from a special pistol from a design by a man called Very.
5Carmen, the opera by Bizet.
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