A holiday for Winston Churchill was a trying time for everyone around him. His daughter Sarah called him “Hard, hard working wonderful Papa.”
Martin Gilbert records a telephone call between Churchill (in Aix-en-Province) and William Deakin (at Chartwell) which illustrates the demands placed on assistants.
“WSC: Bill, I am very hard pressed. I want you to come down right away. Take tomorrow’s plane. I’ll have a car meet you at the airport.
“Deakin: I’m so sorry, Sir, but I can’t get away that early. I have a lot of work to wind up at Oxford and can’t leave for a least four days.
“WSC: What’s that you say? I can’t hear you need you down here F ~rery much. Get on the plane as fast you can. We’ll arrange everything from this end.
“Deakin: But. Sir, I said I can’t possibly do it. There is work I must finish up here first.
“WSC: This connection is very bad. Can’t hear a word you say. We’ll see you tomorrow then. Good-bye.”
Gilbert also records a poignant story that illustrates the complexity of Churchill’s genius at this time. Walter Graebner, author of My Dear Mister Churchill. dined with Churchill after WSC had spent “a long happy afternoon at Montagne Sainte-Victoire, so beloved of Cezanne. Deep in thought for several minutes, he suddenly broke into the conversation around him, and said rather gravely: ‘I have had a wonderful life, full of many achievements. Every ambition I’ve ever had has been fulfilled – save one.’ ‘Oh, dear me, what is that?’ said Mrs. Churchill. ‘1 am not a great painter,’ he said, looking slowly around the table.”
On receiving an honorary degree from the University of London, he remarked on “how many more degrees I have received than I have passed examinations.” On his 74th birthday he went riding to hounds with the Old Surrey Burstow Hunt He appeared in his bowler hat, smoking an enormous cigar. He was hale and hearty and tally-hoed after the fox for two hours.
Get the Churchill Bulletin delivered to your inbox once a month.