Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula



Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula


Lots of discussion over problems of whether she should come to Aberystwyth or not, but if she decides to should decide quickly. He would not book nursing home yet. Continues with description of his activities including new eye test for pilot. Concludes with description of weather and continuing search for possible accommodation for her.



Temporal Coverage



Eight page handwritten letter


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1251404 AC2 Valentine
D flight 1 Squadron
Queens Hotel,

Saturday 11/1/41

Dearest Ursula, I am in a very confused state of mind tonight & don't know what to think about anything. Your letter has arrived & after reading it once or twice & making one enquiry after digs I really don't know now whether I think you ought to come down here or stay where you are & make the best of things there. To begin with your own admission that you get tired more easily now is proof to me that it is time you were taken in hand & relieved of the burden of looking after a house too large for you & a sister who keeps such irregular hours, apart from my stock arguments about the worries of bombing & the newly added fire picket duties. When it comes to making arrangements for you to come down here things begin to get difficult. Obviously I cannot book digs for a period starting 2/3 weeks hence. I tried after tea this (evening) to see what was the reaction to an enquiry at the most convenient place I mentioned to you before. It is 5 sec away from the Queens & the wife of a fellow in my flight is already there. The good landlady, who did not impress me, said that she couldn't promise anything until a day or two before your arrival or until we gave a definite date. She does not, naturally, wish to turn down any future enquiries while she has a vacant room, & this probably will be the attitude of most boarding house keepers. Secondly I was told that Jane would not be allowed.
Tomorrow, Sunday, is the only day of the week with any spare time & I shall do some more prospecting then. I am very worried about it though. You see, I shan't be able to tell whether a place which looks OK at first sight would be fit to live for any length of time. Thus if you bring all the things you mention you are going to have a lot of luggage to move to a second place if the first proves unendurable. Thirdly, am I likely to find any digs which would take in a young mother newly discharged from the Nursing Home with her weeks old infant? An infant is not a puppy you know. It may cry all night, even possibly all day. It demands a constant stream of fresh clothing which in turn requires adequate washing & drying arrangements. Today's digs for example would be most unsuitable for they didn't even boast a back yard.
The main consideration for your digs before April 4th (??) should be proximity to me & not for selfish reasons but so that I can pop in at any free moment & possibly break the monotony for you. I have seen nothing near the Queens that would be at all suitable for you after you leave the home. I still maintain therefore that the sensible thing for you to do – IF you do come is to come quickly & travel light. Then we can look around (for 'we' read 'you') for a place willing to take you & baby, then fix the nursing home & then decide what more in the way of equipment that you would like & if necessary I will go back for it during my leave. What annoys me so much is my helplessness. When I am free eg. Sunday, the enquiry bureau is shut. When it is open, even if I am able to pay it a lightning call I haven't time to follow up my enquiries. The only concrete fact that I have been able to establish is that this voucher for your travel can be obtained at any time. It is not a new thing & I wish I had known about it at Stratford. I spoke to one of the clerks in the orderly room tonight (after duty hours) & he told me that if I enquire on Monday I can get it then.
I shan't book the Nursing Home until I am more convinced that you will be coming here. I think you treat too lightly the first few weeks after you leave the home. You must stay here for some time for the idea of your leaving the home & going straight on to a train is just unthinkable. If we can get digs that will take you & baby – excellent – the best solution. If we can't we must have a flat or bungalow & if we can't do that I don't think you ought to come. If you are not coming it will soon be high time that you made definite arrangements elsewhere. I take it that you have no other ideas, nor have I & where are we? I am in a complete maze.
Enough of that subject – it has been preying on my mind all day & I will try to dismiss it until tomorrow when I start looking for digs. I had an eye test this morning which is a part of the routine of transforming us all into Pilots. So far, we have all been treated alike, whether we wished to change or not. They introduce a new feature here – a Psychological Test for all prospective pilots. What it consists of I don't know. I return Nurse Kerr's letter. All you need do, I think, is to send a polite & thankful acknowledgement. I have lost my tobacco pouch somewhere. I must have pulled it out of my pocket with my gloves. Could you get me a cheap one somewhere? I presume that Boots had none – one second thoughts, don't bother. There is a very big Woolworth's here & I will see what I can get there, so don't you go & get one as well.
The name of the doctor recommended is Chas. M. Burrell – North Parade. He is an M.B. & something else Oxon. I notice in your letter that you say that yours is not a VETINERARY illness. Isn't it? If not, why not? I must stop now my dear. I will add a few words tomorrow before I post it. I am very perplexed & very worried about you & long for a satisfactory solution to all our difficulties. All my love – tonight & for ever John Sunday 12/1/41 (After Dinner)
My Darling Ursula, I did a little prospecting for digs this morning but haven't landed anything yet. The difficulties here are not those of Stratford. Aber. abounds in Board Residences & the main problem is to pick a suitable one. I am therefore not worried so much now about any question of improbability of finding a satisfactory home for you, because the capacity of the town is not as taxed as that of Stratford at Xmas. Sunday is a not a good day for the job here. Wales has a large population of strict Sabbatarians who are inclined to look askance at anything which savours of worldly business. I may not do any more enquiring today,but will buy a local rag tomorrow & see what advertisements appear in it & try to follow up a few. Supposing we fix upon a date!! Do you think that you could manage Saturday 25th Jan or Sat 1st Feb or as a compromise Tuesday 28th since those two days are my best ones from the point of view of early closing – although I can't promise exact times because they depend upon the finish of our games or whatever we do on those afternoons. Do come as soon as you can & do not over exert yourself in a frenzied effort to accomplish too much before you leave.
It will be lovely to have you here not only because of the joy & pleasure which your company gives me but also because I shall know that you will be able to devote the last two months entirely to yourself & to preparations for the big event, undisturbed by Hitler & his boys. We had a very interesting lecture on the human body a day or two ago. One of the funnier facts that we learnt was that it is undesirable to eat peas beans or onions when doing a lot of high flying. They are gas forming foods & in rareified atmosphere the gas that they produce which is still in the intestines swells considerably on account of reduced atmospheric pressure. The result is acute pain in the belly. Today is another glorious one. There is a clear sky & a lovely sun. It is much milder too than it has been of late & I am beginning to wonder if the beautiful weather which has prevailed since we have been here will deteriorate just before you come down.
Back to the question of digs. I notice a lot of places with signs containing these three things “Board Resident, Apartment, B&B” what does “Apartments” mean? I presume that one had the use of furnished rooms & does ones own cooking etc. If that is so, how does it appeal to you? I have called at the Station to try to find out the times of trains from London. Each time, though, the Station has been shut up. I will try again sometime. Did you hear the true story of Sir Thomas Beecham conducting an orchestra at a concert. During the performance, the oboeist kept on making funny noises with his instrument & when the concert was over Sir Thomas turned to him & said “Well, you can pull the plug now” Am stopping now. I long to get boarding difficulties solved & to have you with me once more.
Lots of love John



John Ross Mckenzie Valentine, “Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed February 22, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/19171.

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