Friday, November 19, 2010

Foretold/ Then (The Slaves Of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton)

London, the crouching monster, like every other monster has to breathe, and breathe it does in its own obscure, malignant way.  Its vital oxygen is composed of suburban working men and women of all kinds, who every morning are sucked up through an infinitely complicated respiratory apparatus of trains and termini into the mighty congested lungs, held there for a number of hours, and then, in the evening, exhaled violently through the same channels.

     The men and women imagine that they are going into London and coming out again more or less of their own free will, but the crouching monster sees all and knows better.

     The area affected by this filthy inhalation actually extends beyond what we ordinarily think of as the suburbs -- to towns, villages and districts as far as, or further than, twenty-five miles from the capital.  Amongst these was Thames London, which lay on the river some miles beyond Maidenhead on the Maidenhead line. (Chapter 1(1))

     Then Miss Roach, knowing nothing of the future, knowing nothing of the February blitz shortly to descend on London, knowing nothing on the flying bombs, knowing nothing of rockets, of Normandy, of Arnhem, of the Ardennes bulge, of Berlin, of the Atom Bomb, knowing nothing and caring very little, got into her bath and lingered in it a long time.

     Then she got out and dried herself, and then put on her night-gown, and cleaned her teeth last thing, and then went back into the double room, in which the presence of the other bed made her feel that she was sleeping with the unhappy ghost of herself.

     Then Miss Roach -- this slave of her task-master, solitude - had to choose which bed she was going to sleep in, and chose the one nearest the window, and then got into bed and stared at the ceiling, and then decided that they were heavenlily comfortable beds anyway and that was all that mattered, too.  And then she decided that she felt like sleeping, and would probably have a good night and so everything was all right, in  fact very nice.  And she realised that it would be a bad thing if she didn't have a good night as she had to be up early in the morning looking for somewhere to live, and then, of course, she had to go to the office, because Mr. Lindsell had said 'See you tomorrow' when he had left her, not realising that she had to look for somewhere to live.  And then she thought that she might phone Mr. Lindsell, and ask if she not need go, and then she thought that this might offend him after all his kindness, and then she was sure it wouldn't because he was a nice man, and then this thing, and then that matter and then this thing again, until at last she put out the light, and turned over, and adjusted the pillow, and hopefully composed her mind for sleep -- God help us, God help all of us, every one, all of us.  (Chapter 29(4))

The modern entrance to the tunnel at Norhausen, where the V-1 and V-2 rockets were produced.

A replica V-2 rocket at Peenemunde

London Blitz 

London Overground Rail Map

Patrick Hamilton (1904-62)


  1. It seems that the Blitz photo of the milkman carrying on regardless (Stiff Upper Lip - Ian Hislop) was posed.
    The "milkman" was the photographer's assistant.

  2. Thanks for letting me know. Looking at it this morning, that seems to make sense. Still, it's a remarkable shot. I wish I had time to look the Ian Hislop book up today. And to reread The Slaves of Solitude. I hope you visit here again and comment on other posts. Curtis