1 June 1919

St. Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford.

1.6.19

My dear Mother,

Very many thanks indeed for the cake, your two letters and the note, which last I was very pleased to see, for the reason I did not send any washing last week was because I simply had no money to send off the parcel, so it is all coming this week.

Last week – being Eights Week (1) – was really most thrilling!  By the Tuesday we had found out that the best view of the races was to be had from a punt on the towing path side of the river between the New Cut and Long Bridges.  We used to see all the bumps from there, always one – and sometimes two – per race.  Bumping races are really most exciting.  Magdalen finished head of the river – it was easily best.  By the fourth day we had nearly distinguished all the colours, and learnt to prophesy what would happen.  During the races there was a boom across the end of the New Cut, opened only at intervals.  Two Thames Conservancy tugs panted up and down – clearing the course for each race and cursing the audience through a megaphone – “Get over to the towing path side, sir – the towing path side …that’s not the towing path side!” – “Look ahead – punt!” – “There now, sir, you’ve quite spoilt that eight!” that eight only being the head of the river doing a little preliminary canter!  Then after it is all over for the day, there is a perfect scrum to get through the boom into the New Cut again, you really could walk right across the Isis from the towing path to the Green Bank  by stepping from punt to punt.  Thereafter a great exhibition of incompetent punting!  But, oh it was fun!  I never had such a glorious time in all my life.  I am so glad I did not go to Cambridge!

I have been elected on to the W.E.A. central committee, so feel rather proud of myself.  Mr Cohen was also elected.  By the way I propose to ask Mr Cohen to a river picnic while you are up, so that you can make his acquaintance before the dance.  I am looking forward to your coming immensely.  Just at the moment I feel I want my brother very badly.  I suppose you could not lend him to me for the day next Saturday?  It would be during his half term.

I go to Swanwick on July 23rd and leave on July 29th, so could be at Heaton Moor on the latter date.  The station for Swanwick is Butterly on the midland Railway, so perhaps Daddie could find out how I could get to Heaton Moor from there.  By the way I must have that Rhodes boy introduced to me while I am up North, for I find the Elsa Lowe, one of our First years, who lives in Manchester, knew the George Rhodes family quite well and says they were all nice, particularly the K.C.  Elsa  is typical Manchester, so they can’t be very sniffy!  Anyway he would be jolly useful, so will you please write to Auntie Nellie and ask her to wangle it?

Could you please time your next cake to arrive on Friday morning like the last, because Tommy and Miss Coate are coming to tea with me on the river on that day, and I want to do them well, so would like a home cake as a foundation.  Isabel is coming to support me, so I think we ought to have some fun.  Tommy arrives here on Wednesday.

I went to cocoa with the B. last Tuesday and talked about my future.  Do you know, I believe I want to teach, after all!  The B. quite approved of the plan and we sketched out a programme of how I could train for an educational expert – for example – one year’s training as continuation school mistress, then two years in an ordinary High School – the B. says this is best as a beginning – then continuation school teaching, and finally, inspections or other expert work under the Education Office.  The B. gave me some addresses, and also instructed me about getting into the Civil Service, but she seemed to think that latter rather a waste of energy!  Still all this is in the air – the Moberly may have something different to suggest, or the Levett.  This is really all the result of my finding out that I can coach.

My best love to Daddie and Max

Your loving daughter

Margot.

P.S. I am so sorry to hear about Frank Prescott – I should think they ought to be all right though, both Frank and Ada were pretty warm, weren’t they?

P.S.S.  I am so (sorry) to have missed the post, but have been out all day with Doris Coleman.  We sculled down the river to Abingdon lock, past Nuneham Court below where we were that day last summer time.

(1) Eights Week ie 8 oarsmen in a long, narrow boat with a cox, racing one behind the other because the river is so narrow.  Every boat chases the one in front and, if it catches up, bumps into it, – and then starts the next day’s racing ahead of that boat.  If a boat achieves a bump every day (6 days in Margot’s day, 4 more recently), the oarsmen ‘win their oars‘, ie get an old oar painted with the crew names, dates, etc.

 

(2) The continuation schools were for 14 -17 year olds, in the area of technical and general instruction, taking into account local needs of different trades, together with ‘ training for healthy living and for the duties of citizen ship’ (MS Sadler: ‘Continuation Schools in England and Wales‘, 1907).  Presumably Margot was thinking of teaching in areas of social need.  The Continuation Schools extended to adult evening classes, which were already being promoted by local societies, the Co-operative Society and the Workers Education Association, with a broad curriculum particularly in the arts.

The next letter will be published on 14 June 2016.

 

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24 May 1919

St. Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford.

24.5.19

                My dear Mother,

Thank you ever so much for the cake with enclosed letter and note.  The cake will be invaluable for the Eights Week tea-party I have decided to have on the river on Tuesday – if it is fine.  I am sending you home some washing – stockings and the new mauve blouse, as arranged.  By the way, if you could find and send me that very old little silk blouse that matches my little white silk skirt, it would come in very useful for playing tennis, which is impossible this weather in anything but whites.  It would just make me an extra cool dress, and I think the blouse would just about hang together.

This week has been hectic as usual – the weather being perfect.  Today it is trying to rain which is a bad sign for Eights Week, beginning tomorrow.  I do hope it is fine for at least part of it.  There is not a room to be got in the whole of Oxford from this week-end to next, inclusive.  However, I feel that if the weather breaks I shall get a little work done – perhaps!

I have simply lived out of doors since the second week of term, and am consequently as brown as a berry.  I forget whether I told you that I have qualified myself to pole a canoe, which is great fun!  I have also had one test for my boat whole, and shall have the other next Wednesday afternoon.  In rowing I am at present trying to get used to the gig, which really is rather a trying arrangement, as it rolls so abominably.  I seem to be rowing at an angle of 45º the whole time, so how can I help it if I feather on the water!

24.5.19 On the river with Mr Best coxing

24.5.19 On the river with Mr Best coxing

We have had a very worrying week.  In the first place – there was the election of the S.S. for next year.  Bronwen was almost unanimously elected, much to everyone’s satisfaction.  The next trouble was the play – we were going to act “Quality Street” 1  last Friday, but on Wednesday Betty Graham, our leading lady, was recalled home to her brother at Edinburgh by an urgent telegram.  We have since seen in the Times that her mother has died in India.  There was a great debate as to whether we should have the play with a substitute, but we finally decided to wait for Betty.  When we had got over that, a fresh agitation arose over the out-house problem.  I don’t know whether Daddie has told you that we are going to have three out houses next year.  The B. made a particular appeal to our year to volunteer to go out, as she wants us to create a Hall atmosphere in each hostel.  Of course none of us want to go in the very least, and at first none of us had any intention of volunteering, but we ended by all doing so.  Thus the B. will get what she has been playing for all along, her own choice as to who goes out and who stays in.  The only one of us who really wants to go out is Isabel.   It will be a wicked shame to break up our year – the best year that there has been for some time.  Our present first years are such rotters that the B. does not think them responsible enough to go out in large numbers, so it will fall on us.  It will be miserable for us anyway, for we shall be separated whether we stay in or go out!

Tommy is coming up to Oxford for a week on June 4th.  She and Miss Coate are coming to tea with me on the river on the following Friday.  I think I shall ask Isabel to support me.  We ought to have some fun.  Lots of people have birthdays this term, and celebrate by picnics on the river.  I was at one yesterday.  May Spurway’s 20th.  We had a most enormous cake and chocolates galore, and were very hilarious.  Bronwen and Babe have their birthdays on the 29th and 31st of this month respectively, so they are giving a joint tea picnic on the 30th to the whole of our year.

On Friday the university and city branches of the W.E.A. had a joint debate – the motion being “that this house approves of a general strike unless troops and munitions are withdrawn from Russia immediately.”  Five men of the N.C.C. were there and lots of other cranks, so you can guess what fun we had.  The proposer was a rabid trade unionist, the opposer an ordinary middle class sort of man, the third speaker one of our young enthusiasts with rather ill digested ideas, the fourth a plain working man who was the only one that talked sense.  Then all the cranks in Oxford spoke in the debate that followed .  One little man would have delighted you.  He called himself a trade-unionist agitator, and he spoke with a dramatic viciousness that was very funny.  He kept on alluding the “this hypocritical government of ours that is bamboozled by that little wizard from Wales!” 2

I am taking this week end very quietly, for various reasons.  I am just off to tea with Doris Coleman plus Matthias, so I hope to do a little playing.  The weather is repenting of its tears, so perhaps tomorrow will be fine after all.

Please give my love to Daddie and Max.

Your loving daughter,

Margot.

1’Quality Street’ is a play by James Barrie, written before he became famous for ‘Peter Pan’.

2The little wizard from Wales is Lloyd George, the Prime Minister.

The next letter will be posted on 1 June 2016.

21 May 1919

St Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford.

21.5.19.

My dear Mother,

Many thanks for your letter and parcel which came on Saturday.  The pies came in very nicely for our picnic on Sunday and the cake for my polite tea-party on Monday.  Thank you very much also for the sweater.  It is most useful these mornings.  I nearly always take a punt out from 7.0 to 8.0 a.m., and even in this perfect weather it is inclined to be chilly at that hour of the day.

We had a glorious weekend.  The weather has been all that could be desired ever since I came back from Headington.  These are certainly halcyon days.  The worst thing about them is that they go so fast.  The B. was most obliging last week-end, she let me have all I asked for!  We took Joyce and Isabel up the river with us on Sunday, and nearly got as far as Water Eaton.  I think I must take you there next time you come up as Todd says there is a beautiful old Jacobean house there.  We lunched in a field – so well that the cows in the said field turned into sheep before our eyes.  (N.B. Nobody believes this story, but it is true!)

I am pleased to report that the commander in chief approves of my friend from Wadham.  What he most likes about him is that he has not too much of the Oxford manner!  Mr Cohen took us round Wadham gardens on Monday evening, and told us about the arrangements for the dance.  I think it is going to be some fun.

Ethel’s address is 123 South Croxted Road.  Will you go and see her about the dish?  You will get there best by going to Gypsy Hill Station and walking down the hill.  Instead of taking Alleyn Park take the next road which is S. Croxted.  The house is quite near that end of the road.

I want to catch the 9.30 post, so will leave off now.  You shall have a proper letter at the week-end, for I shall have no distracting gentlemen around this Sunday!

My best love to Max.  I hope you are not too dull without all of us, or missing Betty too much.  Don’t forget Covent Garden.  Doris writes from Canterbury, quite recovered.

Your loving daughter,

Margot.

The next letter will be posted on 24 May 2016.

12 May 1919

S. Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford.

12.5.19

                My dear Mother,

I am so sorry that this letter did not get written yesterday, as it should have done.  The truth was that Doris Coleman carried me off to spend the day in Wytham Woods, and came back to tea with me.  She did not depart till supper time, and after Chapel Gerry and I fell into a theological discussion, and it was 10.30 before we knew where we were.  Very many thanks for your two parcels and letters this last week – both arrived quite safely.  I am sending you a box of cowslips – I hope they will not be two [sic] squashed or faded on arrival.

Of course I’m emerged from the quarantine period quite happily, and very thankfully, for I had had quite enough of my own company, though I was very comfortable at North Lodge, and Mrs Wheeler and Mrs Philips were most kind.  Ever since I came back to Hall I have lived in a whirl.  One day succeeded another in a terrifyingly rapid manner.  Of course I am boating hard – before breakfast and at most other hours of the day.  This morning I got jumped on unexpectedly for rowing in a sliding tub – and had a gorgeous time for Joyce Tomlin was stroking.  Her reach is as long as mine and therefore I got along splendidly and won golden opinions from Best.  By the way Newnham1 have challenged us to race them.  Isn’t it topping?  We don’t know whether it can be wangled though, because the Cambridge term ends before ours.  What price a female ‘Varsity boat race in a few years’ time!

I don’t believe I shall get a stroke of work done this term – for I have just discovered that my tennis is no so bad – my racket is a beauty!  Gilbert, my English History coach is a soothing old bird, and good in his way – very thorough – but won’t let you do anything interesting.  Mr Cruttwell has appeared at last.  He is a gem – quite young and school-boyish – talks slang and is awfully jolly!  I am rather pleased about him.

Please tell Daddie that I may not be able to meet him on Saturday as the B. is having a garden party.  But please ask him to let me know, for if he arrives after 5 I could probably slip away to meet him.  Also would he like to come here to dinner on Saturday, or shall I come to the Golden Cross?  Please ask him to let me know soon, as I must talk to the B.  I am counting on his having tea here on Monday, even if he does not stay the night.

Both my frocks have come – the white one is a dream!  By the way, couldn’t you come up the last week end and chaperone me?  Mr Cohen would be pleased to include you in the invitation!

Much love to Daddie and Max.

Your loving daughter

Margot.

1Newnham College, Cambridge, together with Girton College, for women students.

The next letter will be posted on 21 May 2016.

4 May 1919

North Lodge

Old Headington

4.5.19

                My dear Daddie,

Thank you very much for your letter and the cheque, which I took to the B. this afternoon.  She had already given me her cheque for my grant.

I came up here on Friday, and have got a very nice large bed-sitting-room, with a glorious view from a bay window – scarcely any houses in sight.  Mrs Wheeler and Mrs Philipps, her daughter, are both extremely kind.  The house has a glorious old garden – rather in want of attention.  Mrs Wheeler says that people are too well off to work here!

There is no sign of the chicken-pox as yet, but I have had a most violent attack of indigestion.  It began on Friday and when I arrived here it was so bad that I could eat no dinner and went to bed about 7.0 p.m. with a hot water bottle.  When I woke up in the morning, it was quite gone, and I carried on a usual all day Saturday – rowed in the morning, worked all day, came out for a high tea at 5.0 and then went for a long cycle ride.  I took two doses of Baptisia during the day as a precaution, and went to bed quite happy.  At 2.0 a.m. I woke with a violent pain, and was kept awake till after 3 a.m.  This morning I breakfasted off tea and toast, lay in bed till 12.0, had no lunch, lounged about all day, and have just had a light tea.  What more would you do?  It seems to me very like one of your bad attacks.  I am very bored with life today, as I intended to cycle to Dorchester, but instead have scarcely dared to move.

Please let me know as soon as you can when you are likely to be at Oxford, as I want to ask Mr Cohen to tea to meet you.  I want your opinion on him.  It was rather decent of him to ask me to the Wadham Commem. Dance, wasn’t it?

There are two Conferences at Swanwick1 this year – one beginning on July 11th and the other on the 19th.  Jerry says that if I am chosen to go I may make my choice, so I shall choose the later one, as that will give me longer at home.  If I went to Swanwick on the 19th I should go to Heaton Moor some where about July 26th, which ought to be near Auntie Lucy’s date of breaking-up.  Will you write to her, or shall I?

On Thursday evening I went to the Union – that is the Undergraduates’ Parliament and heard a debate on the motion that this house deplores any departure from the principles of President Wilson in the settlement of peace.  The proposers felt that they had such a good case that there was no need to get it up, while the opposers betrayed the weakness of theirs by frivolity and personal recrimination – as, for instance – “Mr So and so, on May 5th, 1914, expressed an opinion diametrically opposed to the one he has just stated!”  The best speaker was our old friend “Earp”, the poet.  He drooped on the proposers’ side of the table, looked exactly one of the aesthetes in “Patience” and made witty – and sensible – remarks in a mournful drawl.  He said “What do we really know about the Peace Conference?  We hear that Japan is on the point of going, Wilson will go soon and that Orlando is coming back tomorrow.  Mr Ll. George comes home to tell us what we don’t know about the Peace, but only tells us what everybody except himself knew long ago about Lord Northcliffe!” and he ended with a quotation from “As you like it” – “Exit Orlando” – (pause and laughter) – Earp, unmoved, continues the quotation – “Exit Orlando – bloody and with sword drawn” – (Renewed laughter and applause) –

My best love to Mother and Max,

Your loving daughter,

Margot.

1Swanwick is a Christian conference centre in Derbyshire.

 

The next letter will be posted on 12 May2016.

2 May 1919

1North Lodge

Headington

Oxfordshire

2.5.19

                My dear Mother,

Thank you very much indeed for your letter, the note and parcel which arrived this morning, and also for the coat, very thankfully received.  I have also received the jumper from Miss Vincey – it looks very nice.  No sign of my frocks from Mrs Christian – it has been rather awkward this week without an evening dress at all.  I wished I had brought my green frock – it would not have been too warm.  Please thank Max also for his letter.

I could not get a room anywhere in Boar’s hill, so came up here.  Mrs Wheeler, the lady of the house, and her daughter Mrs Phillips are both very nice indeed.  I am to cycle into Oxford every day to work and have lunch there – all this at the expense of the Hall Loan Fund.  I shall call every day to the Hall for my letters and parcels, so you can write to me either there or here.

This morning by the same post that brought your parcel I received from Mr Cohen an invitation to the Wadham Commem. dance on the Monday of Commem. week – that is the day on which we go down.  The B. says it is nothing to do with her, as it is out of term time, but will want to know where I stay the night.  Of course I want to go – do you think I possibly can?  Could I go to a dance in my satin frock?  I really must introduce Mr Cohen to Daddie when he comes up.  Please let me know as soon as possible what you think about it.  Tell Aunt Ethel I would like a 50 guinea evening frock instead of a ring, please!  N.B.  I don’t mind particularly about the dance, but I don’t want to offend my nice little friend, whom, by the way, I have not yet seen to speak to.

I want to catch the evening post, so must stop now.  Please excuse pencil, but have only just obtained some ink.  I hope I am not quite as illegible as Daddie can be on occasion!  Please give my love to Daddie and Max, and tell Daddie that I am longing to see him, and, if all goes well, will be in Oxford again next Friday in time for his visit.  I will write again on Sunday and tell you all the Varsity news.

Your loving daughter, Margot.

1Margot is in Headington in quarantine for chicken pox.

The next letter will be posted on 4 May 2016.