My trip to Paris

The postcards may be over, but that doesn’t mean my trips to the past are too. Oh no.

Here is a little diary I found in an auction, written by someone called Maureen from Camborne County School. It’s about a school trip she took to Paris in April 1941.

I don’t really understand the history of this diary. At the time, I believe Paris was occupied by Germany, so I cannot imagine why Cornish children would travel there. Perhaps it was simply an exercise, to imagine being in Paris at this time, but there are very few mentions of the military which, I would have thought, would dominate in an imagined account.

So I don’t really know what’s going on here. I hope to find out more as I post these, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy this lovely little travelogue from an excitable narrator with a penchant for the dramatic, and bucketloads of character.

This entry: the trip from Cornwall to Salisbury.

My trip to Paris
April 5 – 14 1941

April 5

When I woke up in Wednesday morning, the fifth of April, I had that feeling – now what was it I had to remember? Oh boy! I am going to Paris today! today! today! I felt like jumping out of bed and leaping through the window or something. But, being of a lazy disposition, I didn’t move from my bed.

I thought of the preceding weeks, in which we had been getting everything ready. All going about at school – I say, how many frocks are you taking? – What colour are your pyjamas? Is your suitcase a big one or a little one? and so on.

We had lived on the thought of Paris in April. And now the great day had come! I had had a little calendar ticking off the days. I began 82 days before we really went.

It was an ordinary day that Wednesday, grey sky and so on, but I thanked heaven it wasn’t raining. We had to be at school by about 11.0. I remember going down to Reynolds to buy a new pair of shoe laces. I wanted to shout out to everyone “I’m going to Paris at half past eleven! Paris do you hear!”  Then when I had waited as long as I could I collected everything and went up to school.

My case was labelled – I had spent ages the night before doing these labels – and I had my new macintosh cape over my arm. I wondered what people would think if they could see what was going on in my brain as Mr. Alder took Olive and I up in his car.

At school we met the rest of the party, and we went up to the formroom, while the rest of the form stood round trying not to show how envious they really were. I was nearly beyond speech by that time.

Then Miss Cooke came and said it was time we went to the station. With scarlet faces we picked up our bags and walked out of the gates, with the whole school hanging over the railings shouting goodbyes.

On the platform all the fond parents and relations were gathered to kiss the departing heroines. We sort of talked about nothing until the train came in, and then all dashed for the carriages marked WTA. Kisses were exchanged through the windows, amid much embarrassment, then the guard waved his flag, and the train started to move with assortments from various families running beside the windows.

Then, with sighs, we sank into our seats and settled ourselves for the journey to Exeter. It was only twenty to twelve but I felt I could not eat my pasty then. We could none of us really believe that we were really off to Paris at last. We didn’t quite know whether to laugh or cry.

Olive and I wanted to play Boxes of all things. I think we lasted until we got through Plymouth before we began our meal. At North Road Station about half the party rushed madly out and for the autograph of the engine driver, why I couldn’t see.

My pasty was a divine one, and I ate it in about 3 minutes. Miss Crabtree was in the corner diagonally across from me. She has a Marks cake box with some chocolate cakes in it, and the box was tied up with string.

It didn’t seem very long really before we got to Exeter, although actually it was half past three. We had to change platforms, and of course we rushed madly although there was plenty of time. Ursula and I carried a carrier for Cooky, and in the hurry the handles tore off, and there was a cascade of stuff all over the platform including several oranges that bounced.

We went down a subway and on to the other platform where we had to wait until 4.20. We piled our bags on to a truck and sat on it as well.


Read Part Two.
Read the whole thing on The Diaries page.

7 Comments on “My trip to Paris

  1. I am puzzled too. It can’t be real in 1941. Are you sure the date is right?

    • Yes, they’re the dates she’s written. I noticed as I was typing it up that she writes ‘I remember’, like she’s writing this after the event, so maybe she’s remembered the dates wrong. But still the tone is quite childish, so I can’t imagine it’s that long after.

      It’s a puzzle alright!

  2. Hi. She mentions early on that the 5th of April is a Wednesday, and then also mentions that the 9th is Easter Sunday. Using these clues and my handy perpetual calendar, this narrows the possible years to 1950, 1944 or 1939.

    Next, she mentions that on Easter Sunday they went to see ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ at the Comedie Francaise. Cyrano WAS at the CF on 9th April 1939 … I’m still trying to find out if it was on in 1950, as it wasn’t in 1944 (and I’d ruled out 1944 in any case as most unlikely!) :)

    • Wow, thanks for your detective work! Strange that the diary would be dated 1941, when the dates don’t match.

      I too thought the 1940s was pretty unlikely – so it seems that 1939 is looking like the real year.

      Very interesting!

      • Think it’s definitely 1939, as for the 13th April entry she mentions they were on the ship TSS Lorina – and googling that, it was bombed and sunk in 1940!

        It’s been really fun doing a bit of sleuthing work – and can we mention that if anyone wants to look at the real thing, you have kindly donated the diary to our archive at http://www.bishopsgate.org.uk/

        :)
        Barbara

        • Indeed I did! Glad it got their safely and it’s great to have some answers about it at last :)

          Thanks for your work!

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