Author given as Betty Armitage, but this is a pseudonym. Edited by Nicholas Webley, 2002.
I enjoyed this account of the war years in rural Norfolk. “Betty” is direct and mundane. The best bits for me were the references to her cat, Alfred, a large tabby.
The Vicar came round the other day for a cup of tea and told me he thought Albert was too fat to be healthy. I told him to stick to his job and leave looking after Albert to me, as he is a happy cat which is more than can be said for some of his parishioners.
Betty judges the seasons by how much time Albert spends asleep on his barrel in the sun. Albert chases off intruders twice and becomes fond of a pig, Daniel. I liked Daniel too:
[we] went for our walk with Daniel … We stopped to eat our sandwiches by the round pond. I wondered if Daniel would jump in for a swim but he just sat down with his face up to the sun. … the three of us sitting there with Daniel on the end like a portly gentleman, looking this way and that at whichever of us was talking at the time.
I also found interesting the two Freds, poacher and black-marketeer / smuggler. Their activities are fine with Betty and she comments on how helpful the black-marketeer is: “what would we do without young Freddie, he smoothes the way for so many people”.
And the references to Betty’s past in the theatre are intriguing. She was a seamstress and prop worker (she mentions painting scenery) with touring theatre companies and on the music halls. She has a lot of friends from those days, some of whom come to stay with her.
I always doubt diaries if there is no clear provenance. Webley talks about the diary entries being written on scraps of paper, kept in a shed for decades and disintegrating, and that he has been asked to suppress some of the diary (not clear by whom – Betty doesn’t seem to have any family except for her brother). But Betty’s voice is convincing – particularly the details of daily life, which have a plausible dullness, and the jumping from subject to subject. I was also interested to see that she never (as far as I could see) uses contractions. I’m a bit worried about some of the loose talk about the war though, especially from Betty’s well-connected friend and employer, Mrs Wentworth.
In worlds other than reading, things are rather tough at the moment. House stuff, work, health, etc. Hanging in there.