- 21 A fresh start
Now, with all the freedom from good corsets of the required tightness, and also plus the activities we had got into, caused a small rebellion from Ethel, and she had little desire to go back to the stiffness and tightness of the prewar years, nor did my arguments seem to have much effect. We seemed to be growing apart from one another in our thoughts and desires.
During the war, my conditions had changed several times, and in several ways. First of all I had my place of work changed, whereas previously I had been working with boys and men only, I was transferred to another place of work, due they said, to the shortage of staff there (but really to keep my political activities under control, so they thought). Here I came into contact with many females, and also began to take part in union work with the rest of the staff, so I really became more politically active than before, where my scope had been severely restricted. At the end of the war, when other men returned, I was shifted twice, each time resuming union activity until I finished up in a very mixed establishment, with some attractive women on the staff.
Then, there was another change, for at the end of the war, my mother died rather suddenly, just as she and my father were thinking of retiring and moving to be near us. In fact they had just arranged to buy another house here. This left my father, then over 70, in charge of his workshop and shop. Also my daughter, who had been refused a scholarship at 16, when many special places were provided, and this because of her and my own complete absence of religious views, for she would take no religion in school, and this made it awkward for the secondary grammar school syllabus, in which religion, was one of the essential school subjects for the Cambridge Senior Local Examination. I guess this placed them in a spot, so they said she had failed to pass, but I guessed why. So to prove them fools I sent her, against my principles, to a private school, where after 1 year and 2 terms she passed the exam, whereas the others took 2 years at least to do it.
There she developed a taste for art, painting drawings, singing and later, ballet. It was soon after that she went to the Leicester College of Art, but when my mother died, she went to Cambridge, to live with and look after my father for a time. In the end my father sold out the shop and business and came to live with us, most of the time until he died. Meanwhile there were periods, when she went to London to study ballet, until she was 21, when she came home, tried working, but with her temperament she could not get along and so she decided to go off to Italy to study music and singing. I must said she had a wonderful voice, but after some time, she had to return due to illness, so when she tried to do something with her voice the man she saw asked, "Who did she know?" As she said, "It isn't what you know, but who you know, that counts in this world.
I give all these facts briefly, for they had a lot to do with what went on later. As you can see we were rarely alone in the house, for either my daughter, who was not with the same ideas as we had, or my father, were with us most of the time from then onwards, so we had very few opportunities to do what we might have otherwise done if we had been alone.
So here was Ethel, rebelling against the things I would like to do. Yet she still had the possibilities within her, and I had many things to do. Also I knew she really loved me, as I know I did her, except when she rebelled. So I decided to try a little bit of deception, perhaps jealousy might have some effect, if I could play off some of my female friends, and get her to think there was something deeper behind my activities. I pretended that I was very much interested in one, who I might add, was quite keen on waists and earrings. Ethel took the bit between her teeth and was quite severely shaken, so much so that she made a complete fool of herself one day, with actually no real grounds for her jealousy, except those I had manufactured. I had in fact never even kissed her.
She stormed and wept, cried and railed at me, but that was better than her previous indifference to my pleas, for I knew I had stuck oil, and that she really did love me, certainly enough to not want to lose me, as she had suspected might be the case. In the end 1 told her straight out, that there was nothing really to worry about, but it she continued to neglect herself, and allow her waist to run to seed, she could only blame herself.
Furthermore, that she knew quite well, if she searched her memory what would draw me to her, and keep my attentions at home, where it was very evident she wanted them to be. I could see that this was making her think deeply, so after a lot of weeping, and recriminations, she put her arms around my neck, drew me down and pressed her tear wet face to mine, murmuring that she would be only too pleased to do anything I wanted her to do. I kissed her back and put my arms around her waist, saying that was the first thing, she must really begin to get her pre-war figure back and also start once more to wear high heels on the right occasions. And that I did not think it would restrict her activities at all, and what was more she could show it off with more confidence than before. "Then I want to do all that work on your ears we had planned so many years ago. You also promised to have your nostrils done for me and I would like to put rings through your breast nipples, to see whether they will help to enlarge your breasts, for your bust measure at 33 inches is not enough to match your hips at 39 inches. They should be at least 36."
She was in such a frame of mind that I soon had her definite promise that I should be allowed to do all that I wanted, when she could pluck up enough courage for the operations on her nostrils, ears and breasts. And I could now rest assured that, despite any pain and restriction she might suffer, suffer it she would to keep me with her, so she would not let them out, as she had been doing, when my back was turned.
We got a new pair of corsets from Overett. They were only size 15 inches, but that was a reduction from what she was then it is true. They were well and severely boned, not too long, so she might keep active, and when they arrived we hurriedly laced them and she put them on. It was a struggle to get them on at all, so when they were round her body and the suspenders adjusted I tugged and strained at the laces without mercy, or without complaint on her part. In fact I made them meet at last, for I stood no nonsense, for they were laced in as hard as I could get them, and remained so. She had to put up with them, even if they did feel uncomfortably tight, to the point of fainting. Strangely enough she did no such thing, and as we had more garden than ever, she was kept busy on it, and the work helped to settle her corsets and reduce her figure. We had a brick building to put up, on which later to erect my observatory, and to store the plough. With cement to mix for the paths, as well as mortar for the brickwork, and cement for the floor. In all these things Ethel helped for she can mix cement with any one. One other thing, I had got fed up with her old fashioned hair style, not then the thing. Her hair was a nice length, for she had never had it cut since I married her, but all this time she had worn it in coils over each ear, so that her earrings were covered. Now I got her to try it fashionably styled, dressed high on her head and pulled away from her ears. It made a great change for the better, but I was not completely satisfied like that for ever, so I thought she should try different styles as time went on, even to tint it different colours, and this she did, so I had lots of different Ethel's as time went on. With an improved figure and new hair styles, she looked a new and attractive Ethel, and as such, she reaped her reward in my appreciation for her efforts to change her appearance to please me.