Waugh’s Christmas 1946

Waugh records in his Diaries 75 years ago his rather downbeat experience of the second Christmas in the postwar Atlee era. His feelings may resonate with many of us who are experiencing our second Christmas in the Age of Covid:

Monday 23 December 1946

The presence of my children affects me with deep weariness and depression. […] At tea I meet the three older children again and they usurp the drawing-room until it is time to dress for dinner. I used to take some pleasure in inventing legends for them about Basil Bennett, Dr Bedlam and the Sebag-Montefiores. But now they think it ingenious to squeal: ‘It isn’t true.’ I taught them the game of draughts for which they show no aptitude.

The frost has now broken and everything is now dripping and shabby and gusty. The prospect of Christmas appalls me and I look forward to the operating theatre as a happy release.

Waugh was scheduled to have an operation for hemorrhoids after Christmas and before embarking on an ocean voyage with his wife to New York en route to Hollywood. The operation turned out to be more painful and annoying than he had anticipated.

Christmas Day 1946

Drove to Midnight Mass at Nympsfield very slowy on frozen roads with Teresa, Bron and Vera [the nursery maid] in the back of the car. The little church was painfully crowded. We sat behind a dozen insubordinate little boys who coughed and stole and wrangled. The chairs were packed so close that it was impossible to kneel straight. Drove home very slowly and did not get to bed until 2.30 am. Laura has imprudently sent Saunders and Kitty for holidays so that she and Deakin are grossly overworked. I made a fair show of geniality throughout the day though the specter of a litter of shoddy toys and half-eaten sweets sickened me. Everything is so badly made nowadays that none of the children’s presents seemed to work. Luncheon was cold and poorly cooked. A ghastly day. I spent what leisure I had in comparing the Diary of a Nobody with its serialized version in Punch.

Laura gave me a pot of caviar which I ate a week ago. My mother gave me a copy of the Diary of a Nobody. But for these I have had no presents though I have given many. I should like to think that from 29th October [day after Waugh’s birthday] onwards friends from all over the country were thinking ‘What can we give him for Christmas?’ and hunting shops and embroidering and continuing to find me unique and delectable presents. But it is not so.

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