Friday, 12 November 2010

Another year

12th November
Dear Susan
Thank you so much for your long letter. It was lovely to hear from you and to know how your new life across the ocean has been developing. I did, indeed, tell Edith that she might send you copies of my letters as it was much easier (albeit a little lazy of me) for you to read those than for me to try and remember everything that might be relevant from the last three years. I have written less in the summer because I have been able to visit her more and I had hoped she would be well enough to come to stay with me in December but it is not now to be. I shall be writing to her regularly again over the next months as I will be doing quite a lot which I think she will like to read about.
I had forgotten that I did not quite finish the story of my Christmas last year. Until that autumn I had not felt able to socialise much. People were very kind when Frederick died but I needed to have time to myself to come to terms with everything and being surrounded by people simply stopped me getting through that process. Rosamund seemed to understand more than most and so when she asked if I would like to spend Christmas with them it was on the promise that she would not mind and would quite forgive me if I cried off at the last minute.
As it was, it was just what I needed and over those two weeks I felt that I was really out of the woods and ready to move on. I re-read my letters when I visited Edith in September, partly so I would know what she would be passing on to you, but partly to remind myself of the feelings that had gone through my mind at the time. I did feel that I was being very silly and that I would have to make sure that I did not make a fool of myself over Paul and so I was really quite alarmed when, the day after I wrote that last letter, he suggested that I stay on another day and take advantage of a lift back to London with him in his car. If the train journey had not been so arduous I think I might have made an excuse but the thought of travelling speedily in comfort and right to my door outweighed my worries about letting myself down.
As it was, he politely asked if I would mind if we didn't talk as he preferred to concentrate on his driving and time was going to be a bit tight because the meeting he was going to had been brought forward by an hour. That would usually be uncomfortable but it seemed quite natural and in fact I did drop off to sleep for a while. When we got to my building he made sure that the porter was there to take in the cases and then very quickly kissed me on the cheek and asked if I was free for dinner that evening. Of course, I said yes.
All afternoon I kept telling myself to stay cool. I tried on at least 4 different dresses and decided on something that I hadn't taken to Rosamund's as I had felt it was a bit too dressy. For an evening in London it seemed just right. Paul was very complimentary about it. He was a little awkward once we had sat down at our table then quite suddenly he started to tell me about his feelings for me - feelings that went back quite some time and which had grown over the time we had been at Rosamund's. He had been aware of my apparent coolness after the New Year party and I explained why that had been and it really was quite wonderful.
We spent a lot of time together when his work would allow but in June he had to go away for six weeks and when he came back we both agreed that the space had been good for us. We were both conscious of the possibility that I was still not fully recovered from my bereavement and it seemed to me that it really worried him that I was making a mistake. I'm not sure how things stand between us now. I'm not sure if he thinks he is the one who has made a mistake.
We are both going to Rosamund again for Christmas and will travel together. He will be staying at his cottage of course. We agreed that as far as anyone else is concerned we have simply dined together a few times and attended a few functions as company for one another and nothing more.
You will have to forgive me for the rather wordy letters I shall send to Edith. She asked me for lots of description of the food and clothes and rooms and people and so on as then, she says, it will be like spending Christmas there herself. It is a shame she is so poorly again.
Do write back when you have time and if you could send a few photos too, that would be very welcome
Love Freda

Friday, 1 January 2010

Later on New Year's Day

Friday 1st January con't
Dear Cousin Edith
It is nearly time for dinner now. Everyone has been quite sleepy for most of the day. I am surprised that I have got through as well as I have - late nights are something I am not used to any more. My walk with Paul was quite magical. The snow was very soft in places as there had been a fresh fall during the evening and once we were under the trees the silence was almost tangible. The sky was very clear and the stars were bright and the moon gave us plenty enough light to find our way although Paul had brought a torch. We had to go off the path to get to the place where the deer would be and after a few minutes I would have been hard pushed to find my way back, except of course, for our footprints. There was no wind at all so we didn't have to worry about our scent being carried but we didn't get too close and were able to stand and watch them for at least 10 minutes before something disturbed them and they moved away quite quickly deeper into the undergrowth. Then something quite amazing happened. I still don't quite know what to make of it. Paul turned to me and said "Happy New Year" and then took me in his arms and kissed me, really rather passionately. Then he smiled and took my hand and we walked back to the house without saying anything. He saw me in to the hall but just said goodnight and went. I haven't seen him today and I really don't know what to make of it. Forgive me, I don't wish to embarrass you but I needed to tell someone about it. It has disturbed me. I did think how handsome he looked in his costume at the party but told myself not to be silly. The talks we have had over the past days had made me feel that he was offering his friendship for old times sake and we have found that we get on very well but there has been no indication that he felt anything more and I don't think that he does. Only it has made me rather wish that he did. Am I making any sense?
One of the things he told me was that he ended the engagement he had eight years ago because he realised that his feelings for his fiancee were not deep enough and that it was seeing how I felt about Frederick at that time that had made him realise it. He said that he had come to the conclusion that he had either never met the right person or that he was just not capable of feeling that way and that he had become resigned to the fact that he would probably remain single now, and then he said that something had happened that had made him think that it might still be possible. I am assuming that he has met someone recently for whom he does have, or thinks he might have, deep feelings. So why did he do what he did? I'm sure he didn't mean to be unkind but it was really. It would be such a shame if he now feels embarrassed and is keeping out of my way. I am hoping he will be here for dinner. I have put on my black with the orange jacket which is the most becoming outfit I have with me, and feeling a little silly that I am worrying about how I look. It is ridiculous. I thought all that sort of thing was behind me. After Frederick died I thought I would never want to become involved with anyone else and, oh, I don't know. There's the gong
11:00 pm
I feel very foolish. I'm not sure if I will post this letter or not. Paul was here for dinner and had been working all day. He said that he had found himself engrossed in his writing and hadn't realised how the day had gone so fast. He was very pleasant and courteous but made no reference to last night and, of course, neither did I. Edith, my dear, I am writing this all down because I really wish I could talk to someone and get some proper perspective on the situation. Of course, Paul did not realise how vulnerable I was, neither did I. He has done me a favour in making me realise that, at least. Only at dinner this evening I kept looking at him and seeing what a very attractive man he is and thinking about how kind and witty and sympathetic he has been and wishing..., well, you know. Suddenly I find I will be glad to be home.
With my very best wishes for your continued recovery. I hope we can meet in the spring

New Year's Day

Friday 1st
I am continuing my letter at 4 in the morning! Would you believe I am waiting for Paul to come back from his cottage as we are to go out for a walk to the woods to see some deer that he knows are likely to be there. It may sound a little mad and I probably am a little squiffy but I have had such a good time this evening (last evening?) and don't feel in the least bit like going to sleep. The moon is quite bright enough to see by as it reflects off the snow which has fallen again and I am dressed up in my tweed suit and thickest jumper and Rosamund's boots and my overcoat. Paul has gone to change and is bringing me a woolly hat.
The party was very good indeed. I must try and remember what everyone wore. Lavinia and Brian were dressed as devils in red satin with long silly tails and little horns fixed to Alice bands. Harriet and Jane had similar costumes of medieval ladies. John was a clown, Elouise was a Christmas Fairy (she's quite big so it did look funny) and Henry was a Roman in a toga. Paul was a Beau Brummel, Alfred was Scrooge and Rosamund was the wicked witch but rather glamorous and not a wart in sight. There were about 20 other people but we all milled about quite successfully and Mrs Davey had prepared the most wonderful buffet, as we knew she would. I talked to all sorts of people and had some very interesting conversations. Quite a lot of kissing went on at midnight when we wished each other Happy New Year - the front door was opened so we could hear the church clock strike - but all very decorous. Paul got cornered by a young woman dressed as Goldilocks. Some first footers came up from the village and Rosamund had the coal ready for them. Most of the guests had gone by about 2:30 and I went and sat in the conservatory for a little bit of peace and quiet which was when Paul suggested this walk. He has actually mentioned it to me before but we hadn't got round to it, and as we were both wide awake and the night is so clear and bright and the snow so lovely, it seemed like the perfect end to the evening. Everyone else has gone to bed now and I am keeping a look out of the window so that Paul doesn't have to knock when he gets back - here he is.
Just quickly signing off before I post this. Lots to tell in next letter
Happy New Year

Thursday, 31 December 2009

New Year's Eve

Thursday 31st December
It is late afternoon and I am sitting in my room in the big armchair by the fire. I hope my writing is legible as I am using a book to rest the paper on my lap. The house is quiet for the moment as most of us are having a rest before the party - even Rosamund has admitted defeat and asked not to be disturbed for a couple of hours. After our early night last night we were all up bright eyed and bushy tailed this morning. I had a hearty breakfast of porridge with some cream and fruit compote then tomato and sausage and a slice of toast and marmalade. Fruit juice and coffee as well of course. Rosamund and Elouise were already organising the decorations for tonight and Henry and John had gone off somewhere so to begin with it was just Brian and me. Lavinia and Harriet had their breakfast with the children and then were getting them ready for a day out with Geraldine and her two. They are to stay the night with her too and Jane is invited to the party which Harriet is really pleased about. Alfred spent all morning closeted away in his office although I noticed that The Times had disappeared so I don't think it was solely to catch up with his paperwork!
Paul arrived quite a bit later than usual so he was glad to see that there was still some breakfast left. Brian had nearly finished and so had I but it seemed churlish to leave him on his own so I had another cup of coffee and we looked at a crossword together for a while. He invited me to go for a walk and as I was at a bit of a loose end I accepted and we were out for nearly two hours. I can't really remember what we talked about - nothing like as intense as the other day - but the time flew by. It's funny, isn't it, how having known someone when you were young makes it easier to be friends later in life. He reminded me that I did spend some time there when I was about 14 or 15. It was in the summer when he had just finished University. I had got mixed up in my mind with the times when I was younger.
Lunch was a wonderful cold collation, as my mother would have called it. Mrs Davey and her sister were very busy preparing the food for the party so Jane Harriet and Mary had prepared it between them and a very good job of it they did too. Lavinia and I did our bit and washed up after lunch but I'm not sure we weren't a bit in the way really. We sat in the drawing room for a while but then we were in the way there too and gradually everyone drifted off to rest and get ready after tea
I shall start thinking about getting ready myself soon. I didn't tell you about my costume. Rosamund didn't impose a theme on us but did ask that no one wear anything too bulky, like a crinoline or such like, as she doesn't have the luxury of a big ballroom like Geraldine and people will have to move around between the rooms. The conservatory will be the "quiet" space, the drinks will be set up in the snug, the food in the dining room and that will leave the drawing room and library for chatting and the hall for any dancing as that is where the gramophone will be. My costume is an Egyptian Queen. I have a cleverly draped white dress with a very fancy gold coloured belt, a black wig and some arm bands and costume jewellery and some high heeled sandals which are not very Egyptian but look much better than flats would have done. I have some thick black eyeliner blue shadow and a little drawing to copy when I do my face. I also have a heavy stole which hopefully I won't need as the house is going to be very warm I think. I should get on really. I won't sign off as I don't expect to get out to post this until later tomorrow so I will be able to add my report on the party before I do

Wednesday, 30 December 2009


Wednesday 30th December
Dear Cousin Edith
I have a nasty feeling that I forgot to sign my letter yesterday. I put it in the envelope very hurriedly as Alfred was going to the station and Rosamund wanted me to go with her in the car to the town that is near here, so that she could drop him first and then we would be able to take our time over her shopping. I must admit that I would have preferred to have a lazy morning. I was feeling a little the worse for wear after last night. I used to have no problem at all, partying and then getting up fresh in the morning at the usual time but I'm not used to it anymore.
Rosamund wanted me to help her with some last minute arrangements for the party tomorrow, and I still had to choose my costume, as it is to be fancy dress. We were most of the morning and everyone else had already had lunch when we got back. I had some soup and a turkey sandwich and was able to go and have a lie down for a while.
I went out for a walk later. The woods almost surround the gardens and it is quite easy to loose one's bearings if one does not know the area well. I found myself on the edge of the village and sat for a while on a bench by the pond. Then I went back again through some of the bits that I remember playing in as a child. There was the tree where we had our "den" and an old brick built store house which is just as overgrown as I remember it. I seemed to recall some fancy chickens pecking about there and a hen house and I poked about a bit and found what might have been the remains of a coop. Most of the snow has gone now but I made quite a mess of my shoes (the old brown ones fortunately) and got some mud on the hem of my skirt. Walking back towards the house I could see the lights in the windows and some of the curtains were not yet drawn and it looked so warm and inviting. I think I shall miss it and feel quite claustrophobic in my flat for a while.
I was pleased to find that I was not the only one suffering from the effects of the late night and everyone except Rosamund went off to bed quite early. The last day of the year tomorrow - I must think seriously about my resolutions. Last year I still didn't feel like moving forward but this year I think I can.
A very Happy New Year to you and Laura and Wilfred

Tuesday, 29 December 2009


Tues 29th
We got back from Geraldine’s house about half an hour ago and although I am ready for bed, I really don’t feel like sleeping yet. It has been an amazing evening. As you know, all the ladies were instructed to wear only green and/or purple. When we arrived the gentlemen were all given a choice of green or purple bow ties to swap for their own black and when we went into the ballroom it quite took my breath away. The room is decorated entirely in white and the furniture is all black. I suppose in an artist's house it constitutes a "blank canvas". Rosamund had mentioned that when they have parties they choose a colour theme and dress the room accordingly. It was all green and purple, everything! The cloths on the tables, the napkins and table decorations, the ornaments and Christmas Tree (which was huge) even the glasses and tableware. It was a stunning sight and just magical with all of us dressed in the same colours too. I have to say that I was very pleased with my dress and I hope you will not be shocked when I tell you that I felt single again for the first time. What I mean is that I felt what I felt without feeling guilty about it. I don’t know if that makes any sense. I looked around the room once or twice and found myself looking at some of the men as I would have done before I met Frederick and catching sight of myself in the reflection in the windows and feeling good about what I saw. John did dance with me twice but he seemed to me to be always looking out for Harriet, which will rather concern Rosamund. Alfred and Henry did their duty and gave me one dance. Brian did not, as far as I am aware, dance at all with anyone, not even Lavinia, but some men are just like that, aren’t they! Paul spent quite a lot of time talking to him and I didn’t think I was going to see him dancing either but he surprised me by asking me to dance quite near the end of the evening. I suppose he feels safe with me. I have to admit that I had a little too much to drink over all and suddenly realised just how close I had allowed him to hold me. I managed to ease myself away again and I don’t think it was obvious. John was dancing with Harriet and I think he made some comment to her about it though. I can only hope that it will all be forgotten in the morning. Rosamund Alfred and I walked back to the house together. I think maybe I do need to get to sleep after all. I hope to write more tomorrow

Monday, 28 December 2009

Monday 28th

Mon 28th
Dear Cousin Edith
There have been a lot of comings and goings today. Brian had to go back to his office but will be joining us again tomorrow evening. Elizabeth and Alistair left this morning as they were expected at Alistair’s brother’s for the New Year and Elizabeth wanted to go home for a couple of days to give the children a break (and herself as well I wouldn’t wonder) It is a shame for them that they will have to miss Geraldine's party (by the way, I have been told I should call her Gerry!) Jane will probably be relieved – I should think it has been hard work for her with 2 extra charges to take care of. As it happens it was fortunate because little Ellen was taken quite ill at lunchtime and the doctor had to be called. He was reasonably happy that it was just the excitement and change from her routine but Jane stayed with her for the afternoon and Harriet was more than happy to look after the other two. Lavinia didn’t stray far from the nursery either.
Alfred had some business to attend to in the town and Henry and John went with him so, while Rosamund saw to domestic matters, Elouise and I took the opportunity to pay a visit to Geraldine to see if there was anything we could do to help with the preparations. We were made very welcome but banned from the big room where the party is to take place. Geraldine doesn't want the surprise to be spoilt for any of us.
I think I told you that she and Pierre had the house built only a few years ago and that it is very modern. The entrance leads into a square reception room from which rises a rather grand staircase to one side. There are double doors into the room they call the ballroom and a hall way down the side of that room which leads gives access to the sitting room, library and terrace. On the other side of the stair case is another hallway which leads to the kitchen rooms. The dining room is at the front of the house off the reception room. The outside of the house is very angular and painted white with smart black metal frames to the windows. On the first floor there is a balcony at the front of the house and at the back there is a sort of terrace leading from one of the rooms onto the roof of the ballroom. Then on the second floor there must be Geraldine and Pierre's studio as there are some huge windows to the northern aspect. She's very busy at the moment but sometime I would love to have a really good look round. The room she took us into was decorated in a pale grey, with vivid red upholstery on the chairs and a similar colour for the curtains. The rug was dark grey, quite plain, and there were lots of paintings on the walls, mostly theirs but a few in other styles. We had tea and some delicious home made cake but we were obviously "de trop" so made our way back to The Old Rectory quite soon.
On the walk back Elouise started to talk a little about John. She was concerned that I might have been becoming interested in him! I reassured her but had to be careful what I said, of course. I did mention that I thought he had been paying a lot of attention to Harriet but she dismissed this.
The house was very warm this evening so I wore my grey evening dress without a jacket. We had a fairly light meal, fish and a fruit crumble. After dinner we played bridge for a long time. Rosamund made us all turn and turn about with partners. Harriet does not play so John offered to stand down but Elouise insisted that he take her place. Maybe my comments earlier did have some effect after all.
When we looked at the scores at the end of the evening Paul and I had tied in second place. Alfred was first. I am sitting here in my room now, the fire is dying down and I really should go to bed but I don't feel very sleepy. I am looking forward to the party tomorrow.
I couldn't sleep and I couldn't find anything to read here so I went downstairs to the library to see if I could find something there. I disturbed Rosamund, who was sitting by the fire. We have had an interesting discussion but it's too complicated to explain. I want to get this posted in the morning so I will tell you about it tomorrow
My very best