It was very amusing to hear his stories, especially about “Tanks”…..

D Higgins 1915 IWM14/10/1916

My dearest Mother

Excuse scribble but my fountain pen is in England being repaired and overhauled and as I am writing in bed I’m using Tim’s fountain pen which is a poor affair for me.

I suppose Molly is with you any day now. Your last letter dated October 1st only arrived on Oct 8th and I haven’t had a letter since: it may come today or tomorrow. I got a package of papers yesterday. Poor Captain Stanhope what a loss for Lincolnshire. I saw his death in the Times, but I didn’t know of her tragedy till I saw the Lincs. Standard.

I think I told you that Nick brought the bulbs, gum-boots and pinks quite safely. Most of the bulbs are in the ground. We have had 5 days running without rain here, almost a miracle. So we have been digging and forking and planting bulbs for all we are worth. I think we have worked every day for a fortnight in the garden. We work there nearly every day always, but we have been making a special effort lately. There isn’t anything much flowering now: our Michaelmas daisies of which we had a good many are most of them over – the Campanula Pyramidalis is still flowering!! We have got 2 baby frames made of packing cases, sawed diagonally in half, and with lids put on to them (glass of course) and a third little one. We put manure and soil in them and are raising seeds and cuttings for next year – the pinks haven’t rooted yet but they look quite happy.

I was much amused to see the Woodiwiss Bruce affair in the Times and then again in the Sunday pictorial. How could he!!? Especially as he must have seen all the other mumstruck girls. Bessie Alders Ruffers seem to have been getting married in handfuls. The bird was still in London when I heard from her last. She was going to Limoges to join Miss Grimston (her doctor friend): it is a “Wounded Allies Committee” hospital I think.

John Reed turned upon Sunday for tea. He was down in Rouen for 24 hours on business and just had time to run up and see me – it was very amusing to hear his stories, especially about “Tanks”.

We have got a new boy to wait on us a mere child. He speaks English very well, but with an appalling accent. I asked him where he had been in England and he told me he had been at Kettering with his parents who were still there farming. He said he’d been several times to Rushton ‘All and knew it well: it was a pretty plice! His name is Denis Schormans (pronounced Skormans) so I daresay Father knows people who would know his people – I hear you had a letter from Short: she has just comeback. She is quite a decent sort really but an arrant gusher! As I expect you would notice.

I have received a catalogue from the L.G.C. but want you to recommend me which quality of stocking you generally get. Also will you be sure and take the money for my blouse (Harrods) and the lengths of serge, out of my October allowance. There is something else I think but I don’t know what – however I expect you know, as I told you all about it when I was leaving.

The man who is sitting behind the Dowsing thing has got it over his hip and knee joint and the left leg is hanging outside.

Your flowers sound too heavenly: I wish we still had so much. I sent back the thing for the G.P.G. I haven’t had a chance to send back the certificate yet, but I haven’t forgotten it. It must be registered and I have been meaning to send it back in a big envelope with the Humphrey’s photo and Molly’s and Indian Letters, but I haven’t had a moment to go down to the APG myself and the Belgian postman is such a fool, I daren’t trust him. I expect I shall be going down in a day or two and will send it then.

15/10/1916

Tim and I are in the midst of an adventure. It is our Sunday off. Yesterday we were allowed off duty an hour earlier and we sallied down to Rouen to catch the 4.15pm train to Duclair, which is a pretty little town or village on the Seine some way below Rouen, a place in peace time much beloved of artist folk and at all times very convenient for Jumièges, a beautiful Norman abbey about 4 miles away which was our goal.

We got to the station all right but at 4.15 a military train went through and somehow or other, much to our fury, our train was 35 minutes late and when we got to Barentin (the junction on the main line where one changes for the little single line which only goes to Duclair and Caudetec a few miles further on) the rotten little train had gone and there wasn’t another one till 5.25am this morning. Well we didn’t like to be beaten, so cross and hungry we repaired to the Railway Hotel, and having inspected it decided to pass the night there. So we got a room and dined in a funny little room which they called the restaurant full of pampass grass and woolly mats and enlargements of photos (I’m now in the State railway and their lines and rolling stock do not conduce to steady calligraphy. In fact I can’t bear it and shall finish later)

Being now home again I shall continue-

We spent a weary and fidgety night waking up every ten minutes although we quite trusted the woman as she had a lot of people to wake and it appears that this happens “assez souvent”. The devil take state owned railways say I, they are always the utter limit. However we rose wearily at 4.45am and after a very minute “little breakfast” caught our train in the half light of dawn mid a very depressing drizzle. Half an hour brought us to Duclair about 6.15am and we besieged the only decent hotel in the place (quite a nice one on the quay) where we ought to have spent the night. It was locked but we rang the bell and boot boys and the like came to the door and let us in and found a maid who presently served us a heavenly breakfast of omelette and then sardines with coffee, butter and hot new rolls. Then after a few minutes rest we set out for Jumièges.

The road is pretty, running between forests one goes for about 2 ½ miles on the main road to Le Havre and then turns sharp down a road to the left for about 1 ½ miles which brings one to the village and abbey. I must now explain that the river goes as follows [small map drawn]. The dotted line is our route. We got to Jumièges and a very nice old man showed us round. He evidently loved the abbey and didn’t gabble off meaningless dates at us. I discussed architecture and Anglo French history with him recklessly in French. The abbey is glorious, mostly pure Norman. I can’t tell you about it now, but I’ll tell you about it and send you some postcards next time I write.

We walked back to Duclair by the forest, a bee line from Jumièges to Duclair and very pretty. We had showers fitfully but ovely sunny periods in between the showers and rainbows galore. We had tea at Duclair and came back here directly after.

Thanks awfully for the cuttings and the sweet William seed.

The buildings are small houses and a big convent I think. I don’t remember the picture and haven’t it by me at the moment. The Zepps do seem to have been gay round you.

I must stop now

Best love to you and M too if she is there.

Your loving Dorothy

About Mrs T

Beyond the day job, the housework and the garden I love to delve into local and family history. I also love to get involved in local projects. Recent research for Alford Manor House has combined the two and led to obsession.
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