Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula



Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula


He writes about trying to find accommodation for Ursula when she comes to Stratford to stay for Christmas. Mentions church parade and weather. Write of meeting up unexpectedly with two old friends. Asks her not to forget to bring his post office savings book.



Temporal Coverage



Four page handwritten letter


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Start of transcription
[inserted] Your letter has just arrived also one from my people. You are quite right in coming here & bring Jane. We will be independent. John
Shall probably be fine Xmas Day & Boxing Day. [/inserted]
1251404 AC 2 Valentine John
5/2 Flight, 9 R.W.,
Stratford Hotel
[underlined] Saturday [/underlined] 21/12/40
My Darling Ursula,
I have only a few minutes in which to start this letter, but I shall finish it tomorrow in time for the evening collection so that you ought to get it before you leave on Tuesday – (may the time pass quickly, until Tuesday evening – I long for you) I tried to ‘phone you again this evening – for the third night in succession, but alas it was of no avail, only priority calls being accepted. I think it must be that the line from here to London goes via Birmingham so that there is always a lot of heavy traffic at all times of day & night.
I have at last got a room for you on Tuesday night (haste the time until then). I started my enquiries about 1 pm and with intervals for dinner & tea it was nigh on 6 o’clock before I managed to book something. I must have tramped miles & called in at least 25 places (no exaggeration) before the lucky hit came along. It is much more ‘umble than the Falcon but I think that you will be fairly comfortable. It is a boarding house & one feeds communally at a large table, but the room is clean (no H & C) the bed looks comfortable while the lounge & dining room are both warm and well furnished. I do hope that it is good enough for my darling wife, but honestly dear I don’t think that there is an alternative unless one stoops to much more lowly digs. I do think that it is the best going. The good lady in charge struck me as a charming soul anxious to do something for me in my plight & waived her objections to Jane. I told her that I might get a sleeping out pass but she said that she couldn’t reserve a double room on chance. However, she has definitely booked a single bed for you dearest & she has a double vacant at the moment. If I can find out anything about my chances of a sleeping out pass soon she might still have the double room free. Perhaps I may be able to wangle something myself this time instead of having to rely on my wife. [inserted] [indecipherable word] up good night [/inserted]
[page break]
[underlined] Sunday 22/12/40 [/underlined]
My darling,
I have just come in from Church parade & will carry on with this until lunch time. Today is bitterly cold. The sky promises snow, I think for it is a dull grey & the wind is icy. Whether it is due to the low temperature of the last few days or not I don’t know, but the water supply at our pub is off colour. We have had no hot water since Thursday and the cold comes in fits & starts. This morning I went to breakfast without washing or shaving & performed these operations at the Shakespeare after feeding. How glorious is Hot Water after a day or two of cold.
Yesterday was an amazing day for me. Just about 1 pm I was walking towards the station looking for a likely hostel for you when someone hailed me from a car. It was the ubiquitous Colin Hay – friend of Jean Serpell & of Irene (quondam). You probably remember me talking about him he is always turning up at odd places in a most unexpected fashion. He is a solicitor of the treasury & has been evacuated from Whitehall. He has been here for 7 weeks & is often in the Falcon. I haven’t seen him since the summer of 1939 so we had a chat & a drink or two in the Falcon in the evening while I was trying to ‘phone you. He is not my idea of a perfect companion but it was most enjoyable talking over “old times” with him.
That in itself was quite an odd meeting but not so strange as the second. After leaving Colin I went into the Shakespeare for supper to find the cook-house full of a new intake of rookies. Just as I was sitting down with my hunks of bread & cheese one of them held out his hand to grasp mine. It was a chap who had once been one of my greatest friends – Keith Somerville. He was in the office (Touches) & left about two years ago to go to South Africa with my Father’s firm Balfour Beatty & Co. I don’t remember ever speaking to you about him but I do recollect telling you that Stewart was after the job & was very annoyed with my parents whom he suspected of standing in his way. The accusation was quite unjust because my Father knew of the speculative nature of the job & for Binnly’s sake did not use his influence to secure it for Stewart. His action has since been amply justified because the job faded out when the war began & Keith came home out of work. He really is a grand fellow, very quiet & quaint but a true gentleman. He has a little round almost squashed face but I have had a tremendous
[page break]
liking for him ever since we met. If we can possibly stick together it will make an enormous difference to life in the R.A.F, for me, at any rate. Unfortunately I am a week ahead of him & he is to be a pilot so that the chances of keeping together are rather remote.
These two chance meetings yesterday coupled with the weariness of my tramp around the town in search of accomodation [sic] for you left me a little dazed in the evening – or was it the two pints of beer I had with Colin Hay?
I am still unable to supply a possible solution to the puzzling telegrams and to the [deleted] old [/deleted] question of why you are coming here at Xmas. I may try ‘phoning again tonight but I am now very doubtful of my chances of success. Just in case we don’t meet on Tuesday, I will give you some idea of the whereabouts of your digs – called WINTON HOUSE
[street map drawing]
Your train I believe arrives at 4.50 & I ought to be able to meet it. If you are there first, find a warm waiting room & “bide a wee” for hubby. If he is too long in coming, please yourself about waiting or not but if you set off on your own don’t attempt to carry too much in case you strain yourself. I am looking forward to your coming tremendously.
Please don’t forget my P.O Savings book. I am to meet Colin Hay on Monday & might spend a shilling or two. I have about 4/- just now & hope to borrow from Keith if need be. Handkerchiefs I am still very short of – I have tried Voolourts but they ain’t much cop. I could have tried getting to P.M today but it is so confoundedly cold, & I am so doubtful as to the reason for your not going there at Xmas & as Keith is here I decided not bother.
I haven’t much to tell you, dearest, & my hand is slowly turning to ice so I shall desist for the time being. If I thaw or if I have an inspiration I shall take up my pen again before posting this
In the meantime my fondest love & longing
Yours always



John Ross Mckenzie Valentine, “Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 29, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/19157.

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