1. v. The act of writing a weblog or 2. n. Toby’s weblog.

A message from the past

Whilst going through my Grandmother’s affairs after she passed away earlier this year my family found part of a letter that she wrote to her parents in November 1940. I showed it to friends with an interest in war history and they asked if they could use it in their work. I think it is a fascinating insight into the life of a remarkable woman and the conditions in London during World War II so, with the agreement of my family, I’m publishing it here so it can be cited in the future.


To continue this interrupted letter – I’d got, I believe, to the stage where we couldn’t get on with our work because we got taken to the pub next door for drinks. We heard a few bombs around then, but in the shelters here you can’t hear a thing — guns or planes, and everybody is very jolly and helpful. Betty and I finally finished work last night at 1.30, when we changed into slacks, and wrapped ourselves on our stretchers. The ARP man on duty knocked us up at 4.30, and after a cup of soup four of us sallied forth in a WVS car up the Holloway Road to one of the shelters holding about 1500 people. We also went to Finsbury Park tube station where they were all just beginning to pack up their mattresses etc and leave for home, although the “All Clear” hadn’t gone. These were both reputed to be of the better type of shelter, so what the others are like I don’t like to think, although some of the stories are quite unbelievable. But their cheerfulness through it all is amazing. One dear old soul of 82 was sitting on a bench recounting her bomb story to a neighbour, and enjoying every moment of it. We went down to the Corner House afterwards for a large breakfast of bacon and eggs, but those poor blighters had to go back to cold houses and start off on another day of endless work — and then back to the shelters again.

Tomorrow (the others have gone back) I’m going to see some of the communal feeding centres in N. Kensington, where the person running it wants some advice on what food to sell. Then I shall either go back to Colwyn or I may stay another night if I can get a pass for the Minister’s train. They are starting an Underground train which is to go around delivering food etc at a lot of the stations. Tomorrow evening Lord Woolton and the Lord Mayor etc are going on its first trip, and I’ve been offered a ticket. So if it comes off I shall certainly go.

London is marvellous — there’s quite a lot of damage, of course, but it’s amazing what a lot of bombs seem to have dropped in the streets, and only broken windows and scarred the fronts of the houses. The actual blitzkrieg is not nearly as bad as it sounds from the papers — I expected to be scared stiff, but I find myself as calm as blazes — most people just don’t worry a scrap and carry on, during the daytime anyway, as if nothing were happening. We go to earth soon after six, and stay there until next morning.


Sorry this never got finished, but as usual there hasn’t been much time. I went on the Minister’s train with all the press and had a great time. It was most interesting to see the people in the stations – we went by car to Notting Hill Gate, and from there by train to Bank station where everyone forgathered . The Refreshment special came along, and we went non-stop back to N.H.G. where the Lord Mayor presented the cheque to Lord Woolton (incidentally it was in the bank weeks before) and everyone had a look at the food and drink and had their photos taken. Four of us finally went back to the Strand and had drinks in one basement and supper in the Corner House brasserie. Then affairs overhead being inactive, we went to the Press Club.

The next morning the same four got up at 4.30-ish again and went down to Aldgate. The report had already come through to Neville House from the Home Office about Coventry. We first went to the shelter in Aldgate where 14,000 people shelter in a railway warehouse. This was the one about which there was so much talk at the beginning of the Blitz because it was so indescribably appalling. But we were very pleased to see that it has all been very much cleared up, and 3-tiered bunks provided, and the whole place has been lit. So then we went on down to Stepney, where Father Groser, who is the really big man down there took us all round his parish. It is all rather grim when you see the roofs of the shelters dripping damp and hundreds of people huddled in the corners trying to keep warm and dry. The buildings, many of them in ruins or gutted shells, look all very eerie in the dawning light, and the poor old people trudging home with their bundles on their backs made me wish that every member of Parliament could be sent down there to spend a night in one of those shelters, and then perhaps something would get done quickly. One feels so helpless, but I sent a pretty hot report into Drummond about the feeding question in the shelters which I hope will be effective.

After all that we betook ourselves baths in the Minister’s bathroom which is all very luxurious, and then to breakfast in the local Express Dairy. Later in the morning I called at Devonshire Place on my way to the train to find both John and Connie there, both very cheerful they had a landmine near his hospital, which wrecked the whole place, but fortunately he had just gone over the road to the Nurse’s home to see if Connie was all right. She did first aid on all the minor cuts and bruises.

The journey back here was pretty grim – 1.5 to 12.30 am – 6 hours late at Crewe owing to a trip round the country to avoid damaged lines. Fortunately I got into the Luncheon car as soon as I got to the station, because that was the last thing I got to eat before I got back here, except for a slab of chocolate shared round. Luckily I had a couple of Canadian soldiers at the same table – it was that sort of carriage, and they kept us amused and interested all the way. They are great lads, these Canadians. There’s not much chance of our losing the war while they are around. They’ve got such a refreshing outlook on life. That together with the fact that I was feeling so sleepy, didn’t make the journey seem so long. I slept the clock round on Saturday night, and felt quite recovered.

Many thanks for your letter which arrived this morning. This question of whether I should tell you whether I’m going to London is a very debatable one. You worry if you know I’m there, and you worry if you think I might be there — so what is one to do! We’ll try it’s the other way this time. I’ve got to go up again on Friday for a meeting with Drummond and a lot of Industrial Welfare people on Saturday morning. I shall stay Friday night at Neville House as before, and I’m aiming at going down to Dorking for the weekend to see Peggie, if she is at home; I’ve written but haven’t heard yet. Let me know your reactions to knowing I’ll be there!

I don’t travel by night unless absolutely essential — as it was coming back from Edinburgh, or we’d never have got the stuff ready for London. As it was, that turned out to be one of my best wartime journeys.

Who was it Mrs Comfort knows whom I have met? It intrigues me, but I’ve met so many people up here that I can’t figure it out from this end.

I’m so sorry to hear about Eric Blackwell. Have you heard anything from Coventry — let me know as soon as you do.

I’ve lost for the moment your letter with all my bills added up. So I am enclosing a round check for £11, which should cover everything plus all the little things you haven’t put down.

With very much love to you all,

Published on 2010/09/26 at 18:34 by Toby, tags , , , , ,


Much as I don’t like to rely on memes to populate this blog I have to say that this is possibly the best thing on wikipedia ever. If you want the original lyrics for reference they are available here.

Highlights as far as I’m concerned:

This article may contain original research. Please improve it by verifying the claims made and adding references.

The perpetrators have taken jewelry and a name brand designer watch from Warren, who is so incredulous that he asks what else the robbers intend to steal. This is most likely a rhetorical question.

Putting congratulations aside, Nate quickly reminds himself that he has committed multiple homicides to save Warren before letting his friend know that there are females nearby if he wishes to fornicate with them.

Nate goes on to note that if any third party smokes as he does, they would find themselves in a state of intoxication daily (from Nate’s other works, it can be inferred that the substance referenced is marijuana).

Nate concludes his delineation of the night by issuing a vague threat to “busters,” suggesting that he and Warren will further “regulate” any potential incidents in the future (presumably by engaging their enemies with small arms fire).

If only wikipedia had been around when the song originally came out; we could have been jealous of the humour of our elders rather than the humour of our youngers.

That said, today has clearly been the day for discovering excellent websites as how can you turn down a website about Tom Selleck, Waterfalls and Sandwiches particularly when each photo has a caption describing the featured sandwich.


Published on 2010/08/06 at 00:03 by Toby, tags , , , , , , , , , ,


According to The Register I am part of the ‘Beautiful People’ and The Register is /never/ wrong, is it…

I’m expecting the offers of lucrative modelling contracts to arrive any day now.

Published on 2008/08/08 at 14:46 by Toby, tags ,


Does anyone know what these beasts are? We have a few clusters of them (presumably mating) on an external wall that is protected from the wind.

I’ve not seen anything like them before.

[2008-07-21] It’s a Rosemary beetle. Thank you Derv!

Published on 2008/07/20 at 11:40 by Toby, tags , , ,

Humphrey Lyttelton 1921-2008

My god: you think that this year is getting better and then something happens to prove you wrong. It has been announced that Humphrey Lyttelton has died. I got the announcement on the ISIHAC mailing list that he was in hospital but it didn’t seem like it was serious. He always seemed such a strong character that he would survive.

I don’t have much to say as many more people will be able to say far more than I. I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue has been one of the soundtracks to my life. When I was very young my mother used to cut my hair whilst listening to it and although I then didn’t get many of the jokes I understood the sheer wit and joy behind them.

RIP Humphrey and thank you for all the laughter; you will be very sadly missed indeed.


“As we journey through life, discarding baggage along the way, we should keep an iron grip, to the very end, on the capacity for silliness. It preserves the soul from dessication.”

Published on 2008/04/26 at 00:32 by Toby, tags , , ,

It's at times like this

… that I feel an overwhelming sadness at the future of humanity.

There I was on a flight out to see my friend over the Easter break when the two seats in front of me were taken by two early twenties girls. There was, of course, the irritating linguistic tic of not being able to reduce the number of ‘likes’ per sentence to below three. There was, as well, an inability to realise that you can talk on an aeroplane without resorting to foghorn like volumes. Finally, there was the following conversation which sealed the deal and made me see red:

Air hostess: Can all passengers please turn off all electronic equipment, including mobile telephones, laptops and personal audio devices.

Plane starts to taxi and I watch one of the pair send a last text and then sit there waiting for a return text to arrive.

Air hostess: Madame, could you turn off your mobile phone please

Girl: Why, like, should I?

Air hostess: Because it may interfere with navigation equipment during take off.

Girl: But I’ve been on, like, ’planes where they let you, like, use them during, like, flight

Air hostess: You may well have been madame, but I’m sure that they didn’t let you use it during take off and landing and also we do not have the equipment on this aeroplane that will let you use your telephone during the flight. Turn it off.

The girls sighs loudly and turns the phone off and the air hostess walks off, presumably quite glad that she didn’t have to ask the pilot to get involved (which may have escalated to him aborting the takeoff). As she walks away…

Girl: Fascist.

Published on 2008/03/25 at 18:43 by Toby, tags , , , ,

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