by Kenneth Fields
(Originally issued as HVM Society Snippets – No.208, 3 September 2016)
“It is good to be back in London…”
At this time of the year many people in the UK are returning from their summer holidays to face, once more, the daily grind of work. But in this article published in the Daily Express on the 30th August 1928, HVM reveals that he is secretly looking forward to escaping the boredom of his holiday and returning to London:
BACK TO LONDON ONCE MORE
CONFESSIONS OF A HOLIDAY-MAKER
By H. V. MORTON.
Nerveless men with satanic drills are disemboweling the Strand. It takes half an hour to reach Adelphi from Fleet Street. Parts of the Temple have been repainted – window sills flesh-colour and ironwork green. A respectful hush lies over Mayfair. Fewer bald-heads than are usual shine in the club windows of Piccadilly. Bond Street faces the tedium of these days with a spurious vitality. London, in other words, is enjoying her annual fairytale: the belief that she is “empty”.
I am glad to be back in London. My holiday is officially in progress, but I have got the better of it! It is perhaps cowardly to return to work before a holiday is over – or it may be brave! I cannot say.
For nearly four weeks I have watched men gathering in the harvest. I have seen the big wains heavy with corn go lumbering over the stubble. I have walked long, magnificent miles to small inns whose tap-room walls still support lithographs of the battle of Omdurman and of General Gordon, in full dress and a fez, astride a prancing charger.
I have talked to farmers, labourers, vicars, caretakers, vergers, milkmaids, cowherds and tramps. I have become quite a good dart player. Lying under hedges and bitten to madness by harvest bugs. I have read with sympathy Mr. Sinclair Lewis on England.
I have observed the simple life of a small holiday encampment, which sits on the edge of the chalk cliffs, like a plateful of French pastry: a mere handful of richly-coloured bungalows widely spread but linked to the realities by grocers’ boys on bicycles. Such places a recent phenomena in England, are children of the motor-car. Men plant their families there all summer and “go down” for the weekend. Every Friday the husbandly ride flows in with triumphant hooting; and the cocktail shaker and the gramophone, mute during the week, salute the air of evening.
I have for weeks gone out, in a bath gown, with this community at the precise moment of high tide, and plunged into cold seas and at times not so cold. I have spent days clothed only in a bathing costume. I have felt the sun beating on my body and have observed with pride those tracts of my anatomy which slowly turned the colour of Spanish mahogany. I have played with children. I have collected numbers of those damp, grinning dogs who roam the seashore in a kind of desperate hilarity, ready to adhere with passionate sincerity to any man who will go on flinging sticks into the sea.
And I became bored with the routine. I became as dangerously sad as a rich woman. Perhaps it is not possible to remain content for four weeks. This wide, wet Sahara at low tide after sunset, with a few industrious shrimpers sweeping the edge of the sea, tiny black figures against the sky, became full of an unspeakable melancholy.
I concealed my feelings. No one should know that I wanted to get back to work. But one night I met a man who opened his heart to me: he too, wanted to see London again: he too, wanted to escape from the elaborate discomfort of a holiday. From him I drew courage…
It is good to be back in London. It is distressingly satisfying. How good it looks. There is an excitement in the movement of it and a thrill in the sound of it. It is a city of brown people who returned and pallid people who are going away. Good luck to them!
And above the babble of reminiscence it seems to me that you can hear the machinery slipping back into gear – London will soon be at work again, and August, that idle month, will be forgotten in the reality of September.
With best wishes,
Kenneth Fields, Bolton, Lancashire, England