Observing Christmas with a Mass Observer

Olga Lehmann, A Shelter in Camden Town Under a Brewery (1940; via)
 
I heard the planes go over
With shuttle and with roar
The moon looked down on Dover
And lit the winding shore.
It filled the night with beauty,
Our tired world’s release:
Old wardens at their duty
Invoked a prayer for peace.
–T. A. Agius, O.S.B., “Wartime Christmas,”
 

A sprig of mistletoe was all Pam Ashford wanted for Christmas, 1941. It surely would’ve livened up the office of the Glasgow coal-shipping firm for which the 38-year-old worked — an office she described at one point as “death heated up.” And it would’ve marked a welcome addition to the tin of shortbread biscuits and tiny cash bonus given to her by the firm’s honchos. At the very least, the bit of seasonal greenery would’ve leavened dull routine with a dash of the aleatory. Pam Ashford wanted it “just to see what would happen,” as she confided to a colleague. Later in private she walked back this wish. “But certainly I could never rise to that level of audacity,” she wrote in her diary.

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Boarding-House Custard for Blitzed Britons

Bombed out of a boarding room in Kensington and thus forced to take up residence in the sleepy suburban town of Thames Lockdon, Miss Roach – the thirty-nine year old beak-nosed  narrator of Patrick Hamilton’s 1947 novel The Slaves of Solitude – inhabits a small, pink room on the top floor of a tea house turned boarding house under conditions “of intense war, intense winter and intense blackout in the month of December.”

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