Topic: 4 January 1939: To Hazel from John Glen McCauley
In which John writes Hazel about the bleak winter, playing rugby in 2°, the poverty of the East End, Westie who is off to the Coast, their father's funeral as well as his will and mill, and the possibility of purchasing a car.
415 The Strand
4 January 1939
I’m a little behind with this, but with it and a few more I’ll be up to date for a while. I don’t intend to finish this now either – it's so beastly cold I’m just seated in front of a fire and will tar off a bit.
As you no doubt read we’ve had a bleak winter – until about 10 days before Xmas it was exceptionally warm with hardly the necessity for an overcoat – it was on such a day that I promised to play Rugby – never football, always Rugger!! And damn me on the Friday before the temperature was 45°, on the Sat it was 2° above freezing and I started as full back – Hell’s chattering teeth!! After the match we get into a big concrete hot bath, 10 at a time and I eventually thaw out. Actually the snow was pretty, delightfully soft and most picturesque on the bare toes, and of course a rarely seen sight – the 3rd coldest for 100 years.
I was lucky – but oh heavens the suffering such a condition must bring. N.Z. doesn’t know poverty – I jaunt down the East End where many homes earn about £2-10-0 to £3. It’s utterly impossible for them to buy adequate clothes, food and fuel – and those earning such are not the poverty stricken, anything but, they are the lower middle class – how the Hell the really poor ones live through it I don’t know.
We didn’t go up north as we had intended, and in some ways it was as well – travel would have been very miserable and getting about in slushy snow not pleasant – we were content to sit in front of log fires, and eat and drink, plus a few theatres.
Westie came up too which helped the atmosphere from a suggestion of just an ordinary weekend, and an enjoyable time was had by all. He left this morning for the Coast – he was due to stay last night with Het before catching his boat. He is not looking forward to the idea and I can understand it – as a novelty, perhaps – but the thought of 3 years, no siree. He has been vaccinated and has had several injections – spent nearly all his cash on tropical suits, belly bonds, puttees, quinine, whisky, mosquito netting, canteens of cutlery and dinner plate sets – special travelling trunks to keep out bugs and God knows what – he’s been a joke and is tired of buying, and I don’t wonder. The thought of seeing no white man for about 3 months at a stretch does not appeal.
I learned from Quita that her present arrived but she said nothing on Unc’s or Aunties. I hope yours is safe – although not original, something a little different in its line – there was a Xmas card too and some scants and evening hank and card for Rae. I’m expecting yours and Rae’s any day. Hew apparently is a little better these days, but Hobble says still obvious signs of tiredness very often.
When speaking to Wynyard next time thank him for his kind thought re a newspaper job and someday I may be glad to take advantage of his help. I think I mentioned that I turned down a job here on the Daily Mirror some months ago – a rag paper but with a daily circulation of 1½ million.
Jam parcel arrived last night thanks and Joan asks me to thank you for her little hanks which she thinks are very nice. Muv’s biscuits arrived too so I am having another belated Xmas. You said something of Gordon coming over – did you mean Saunding – I’ve not heard from him yet.
Thanks for all the news about Dad’s funeral – yours was the only one which gave it to me in full and I had wondered the whole procedure. You no doubt have been frightfully busy with all the cards and letters – I would like to meet Con Casey someday, it was jolly decent of him seeing we didn’t know him. Dad probably would have liked some reference to his football records – as playing for Bay of Plenty and King Country together with some achievements at hammer throwing, putting the shot etc – however he will never know what appeared and after all such considerations barely merit significance in the circumstances.
Reading further into your letter I find there is something to which I should have attended immediately and that is about my portion in the will – all, if any, of what is due to me is to be paid to Muv – I shall probably send 1 or 3 signed sheets of papers and you can fill in whatever is necessary because by now a further stage may be reached and you can eavey straight on from them for me. A letter from Muv yesterday asked that I advise the Public Trust of her amount – I detailed it all prior to leaving and Muv has lost it so I’ll do the same there and you two decide the figure – I suggest this in preference to allowing Muv to do it alone – she doesn’t seem sure of the figure and is bound to under estimate it if I forward a blank paper to her direct, so on second thoughts I’ll give it to you – I can’t help at all, I have no idea other than I can remember a £30 figure as a first loan.
Well here I am again some days later. You can have these expired sheets headed same as this letter date and N.Z. House address and use one for Public Trust if you like it to fix things up and a second one to state the amount owing to Muv. Somerville Cook & Co. at Taumarunui are not much good – I think old Somerville means to be straight, although I’m anything but sure – but I do know he’s a messer – he was struck off the solicitor’s note years ago – in short I think he’s hopeless. It’ll be a tough thing to sell and I don’t worry too much about price, but do aim at cash if possible.
You ask me re the mill and fixing all up now – definitely yes – I’m out of touch and don’t know all the happenings except that Unc has been a brick – however it seems odd that claim has not been connected at all – there no doubt is some good reason – he is a good business man.
It will soon be your wedding anniversary (22nd), won’t it! As the cockney says, “for Blimey toime don’arf fly do it” – and I notice you’re talking of a family. Oh yes I just notice you say Gordon of Caruthers – so that is ok. That was very thoughtful of Andy to include my name on radio wireath – naturally I was hoping someone would do it. I appreciate his gesture very much.
Yes, this car – I still think there may be something in the selling of one out there although I did fear the bottom was beginning to fall out of the market – that saturation point was almost reached – I know nothing more, that is just a warning – of course if you’re wanting a car yourselves you work on a certainty – I could put say £15 towards it here, if it's any help – well say £16 to make it near enough to £20 N.Z. money – of course the new law may make it awkward now and anyway I leave it to you and Andy. I must say the figures you sent show a good margin.
Sorry, I can still offer no idea as to when we’re likely to return – money is a factor of course, but even with it I wouldn’t go at the moment – I’m just starting to learn my way around London – this job helps that way – the other day I saw two firms in the same day – just 26 miles apart.
Well, I must away now so cheerio with all good wishes for you both for 1939.
Love, John [handwritten].