CHURCHILL IN HIBERNATION, Week 6
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Churchill, in the throes of his Wilderness Years, dealt with his own personal episode of long distance missing. In December 1934, Clementine Churchill left him alone at Chartwell, embarking on a four-month naturalist expedition to the Dutch East Indies and Australasia with their friend Lord Moyne on his yacht Rosaura. The length of this separation devastated Churchill. To reach out to Clementine and assuage some of his loneliness, he took to writing to her what he dubbed his “Chartwell Bulletins,” a detailed record of Chartwell’s day-to-day life:
“My darling one, I send you Chartwell Bulletin No. 1 which will conclude like Napoleon’s famous bulletin after his Russian catastrophe, “The health of the Emperor is excellent.”
Most of Churchill’s bulletins revolved around his own DIY work on the Chartwell grounds.
“The pool has now been raised another fifteen inches,” he announced in No. 1. “It is filling gradually from the spring through the old filter and is absolutely clear and limpid owing to the algae being asleep for the winter… At the bottom of this the new run of permanent fox-proof fence will be erected, and when you walk down to the swimming pool you will not even see its nose showing over the top of the ground. Your eye will plunge, as you desire, across a valley of unbroken green.“
Primarily, Churchill seems to have assuaged his loneliness with extended doses of bricklaying. Both of his young daughters, Sarah and Mary, assisted him in these bricklaying labors. Their father, in turn, built his older children a tree house and for Mary, a little brick summer house called “Marycot” that still stands at Chartwell today.
Churchill’s passionate interest in Chartwell’s animal world embraced goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, cows, horses, swans and even fish. After digging his ponds and pools he filled them with golden orfe, large orange-gold carp that he fed himself, by hand, with grain kept in a box by his chair, or live tinned maggots imported in bulk from Yorkshire. “One of his most endearing qualities was his love of animals,” his secretary Grace Hamblin would later reflect. “He surrounded himself with them.”
Our unceasing good wishes for your health and safety. Carry on with whatever bricklaying equivalent soothes your spirit.
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