Twenty Shillings Will Do In FIVE—XXIX Wigan And How They Are Squandered In London IN six weeks 1 shall be twenty-five. The prospect does not please me. I seem to have done very little with my lite and do not see that I shall ever do much.
Spiritually, if not quite in fact, 1 am a tramp.
1 was born a Catholic. The absolute surety of the Church is, oh, it is beyond words. I do not know how people live outside, for life and the Faith seem one to me.
Then there is the family, home. They are the most perfect imaginable. Daddy and mother had their silver wedding a couple of years ago and we gave them a Mass in perpetuity on their wedding day. It was the only thing we could think of to express the family feeling.
With the Faith and such a family, what more could I want? Surely it was my job to serve those who were not so fortunate. But what could I do? 1 wanted to be a psychiatrist, but I think all practising psychologists should be qualified doctors, and that, of course, was out of the question for me with two big brothers to be educated after me.
I want to write. I have already written one book. But this seems a very ordinary thing for young people to say and do nowadays. The book is a calendar of East Anglian saints. The next one I do I want to be a murder story. 1 have also written and produced a good many plays—acted in them too, as well as dressing them. My brothers and their friends form the company. We have a good deal of fun every Christmas holidays and the local charities do not suffer—even if the audiences do.
I spent nearly seven years as an assistant in a public library. Officially, I wanted to learn about books, as I intend to write them. I suppose one also learnt a lot about human nature. Nothing shows a man's character so clearly as the books he reads and what he thinks of them.
They Grabbed the Second Best
It was during those seven years I found that strange class of people which 1 believe is peculiar to modern times, to my own generation: the no-class people. They are chiefly young people, who, while more or less secure in their material circumstances, do not feel at all happy or secure in their own minds. either about their own futures Or the future of their country and civilisa
tion. They think rather more than the average English, and they are quite prepared for action; only they lack a leader and a plan. Perhaps they are G.K.C.'s hidden people. I express myself very badly; the whole thing will not go into words at all clearly. Only I know there are these people.
Another thing I learnt at the library. quite a different thing, about middle-class young women of secondary school education. It was this: They set out in life full of dreams and hopes. At first they are rather pleased to have a job at which they more or less earn their own living. Then comes the longing for companionship, for material comfort and security, the wish to love and to be loved. But they are terribly impatient. They snatch at the first thing that comes along, whether it is ideal or not. When the second-best they have grabbed shows them a shabby illusion, they are bitter, disillusioned and hurt.
. . . So I Ran Away
After the library I had a few months at home.
There was a slight moral pressure being brought to bear.
" You are twenty-four now, you are get
ting on. Cousin Phyllis is settled down,
Cousin Theresa is earning £2 a week . . Did that nice young Michael bring you home from Benediction again . . ? Wouldn't you like to have a nice home of your own and settle down?"
The last thing 1 wanted to do was settle down: So I ran away.
Not exactly in the story-book style, but I announced one day that I had got a job, at Wigan, in the House of Hospitality, on the staff of the Catholic Worker. It all sounded quite nice to the family. I did not know anything about it then, except that I was very tired and wanted to cut clean away. I knew I was going to Catholics whose whole daily life was occupied with the sort of work I had been trying to do by myself for years.
I went to Wigan.
I have never in my life spent more than a week away from home without feeling violently homesick, and I have been here in Wigan six months without a trace of it.
I Want an Enormous Family
I am perfectly happy. I love the work— writing, answering questions, painting posters, playing with the children, visiting, exploring the countryside, sewing and cleaning and cooking and doing any odd job that comes along, from chairing a meeting to looking up statistics for P.A.C. pamphlets.
There is daily Mass and Holy Com
munion and a general atmosphere of Catholicity that 1 have seldom enjoyed before. There is no money, but I never did bother about money—a deplorable characteristic. I wish I had enough of it to feed and clothe some of the children and their mothers.
It hurts when you think what a lot twenty shillings will do in Wigan, and how it is squandered in London . • But this is too happy. It may go on for a year or two, but my permanent place is not here. Where is it? I do not know. 1 have to trust God.
I hope, God willing, my ultimate vocation will be marriage. Marriage is such a tremendous sacrament. Unless I can see the way clear to fulfilling it at least nearly as well as my father and mother have done, I do not want to attempt it at all. Love, of the marrying kind, I think will be absolute and certain, without the least shadow of doubt. There will be a oneness of mind and soul and body.
1 would like to have an enormous family because 1 love children, as individuals, not as toys to be made as exactly like their parents as possible.
If Only Hitler Read Aquinas
On reading this over, it is most unsatisfactory. It meanders, and all the real bits
arc left out. It is thoroughly mediocre. There is no justification for this even though we live in an age of mediocrity.
We Catholics are the only people in the world with a Divine guarantee that the Church will never fail. It should colour our lives much more than it does. The Church in England is still thinking and acting as though the penal laws were in force. The sooner we realise the siege is lifted and that the field is ours for the taking, the better.
If only Catholic men and women would live the laws of their religion more in their daily lives, how much better off we all should be. The whole social order could be changed in a generation.
Catholic employers would pay a living wage. see their people have decent conditions, and not treat them like machines.
Leisured Catholic women would give their maidservants a square deal and not occupy themselves with futile " charities " but with sensible work directed by the parish priest.
Dreams near at hand, mainly, because I do not know enough about politics and world affairs to think much about them. But it does seem a pity, with a sane, whole and true philosophy that covers every imaginable circumstance in human life, that the Church's teaching is not given more serious consideration by the politicians of today. If Hitler read (and understood) Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Bonaven
tura . . another big if.
When I am twenty-five I think 1 will go home for a holiday and consider all this.