Cylinder of Butagaz gave out yesterday. That makes 5 weeks. It has supplied pretty regularly 3 gas-jets (one of them higher candle-power – I think 60 – than the others) & a fourth occasionally.
Weather fine & warm, not particularly hot. Fires some evenings. When it is reasonably clear the snow peaks on the Atlas now seem so close that one would think them only a few miles away (actually 50-100 miles I suppose.) Nearly all the seeds, except marigolds, sweet peas & nasturtiums have done very badly & most have failed to germinate, no doubt owing to having been kept for years in stock. It seems difficult here to grow any small flowers, which are easily killed by the heat & drought. Gardens mostly specialize in shrubs.
Paid Frs. 31.50 for a measure of wheat (round about 40lb. = about 1d a lb.)
Have been ill (chest) since 16th. Got up yesterday & somewhat better today.
VILLA SIMONT, 22.11.38
Some days back visiting the British consul. The latter (named Robert Parr) is man of about 40, cultivated, very hospitable, married, appears to be in easy circumstance. Speaks French, very careful and grammatically very correct, but very strong English accent and manner while speaking of mentally going over grammar rules. The Assistant Consul or Vice Consul is young Englishman son of missionary, who has apparently been brought up in Morocco. Nevertheless has more characteristically English manner and accent than, eg. an Englishman brought up in India.
Parr considered I was wrong about the local French attitude to the crisis. Thinks they really believed war was coming and were prepared to go through it though thoroughly fed up. Their apparent indifference was mere surface stolidity. He believes that there will be no general election for some time to come. Says the scandals about the Air Ministry were very bad and known to everybody,[a] and the Government would prefer to make this good before risking an election. Says he has been struck by the number of more or less ordinary Conservatives he has met who are becoming perturbed by the Government’s foreign policy. Thinks a likely development in the near future would be an attempt to revive the old Liberal Party. His own opinions seem to be moderately conservative. Could not be sure, whether, as a government servant, he has any inside knowledge of what is going on, but gather not.
Ref. Note on wheat prices above, a quintal equals about 2 cwt. Recently paid Frs. 31.50 for a measure, a decalitre I think, which appears to weigh about 40 lbs. This works out at nearly the same price, ie. about 70 centimes a pound. Seventy centimes equals about a penny in English money, so that the price of wheat here is at about the English price-level. Have not been able to secure full price lists, but it would appear that the things cheaper here (ie. when franc is taken as being equal to its exchange value) are meat, certain fruits and vegetables, most of the products of the local hand-workers (leather, earthenware, certain kinds of metal work and heavy-quality woollen° cloth) and, of course, rent. Imported goods, especially manufactures, are all expensive. Oil of all descriptions notably expensive.
It appears that the negroes in Senegal are French citizens, the Arabs in Morocco not, this province being still called by a fiction the Cherifien Empire. All negroes are liable for military service just the same as Frenchmen. In Morocco only French subjects, ie. mostly Europeans, do compulsory service. The Arab troops are voluntarily engaged men and enlist for long periods. They appear to get a (by local standards) respectable pension for long service. eg. our servant Mahdjoub Mahommed, who served about 15 years in an Arab line regiment, gets a pension of about Frs. 5 a day.
Forgot to mention earlier that at the entrance to Marrakech there is a toll-station where all incoming lorries etc. have to unload and pay a tax on any goods being brought in for sale. This applies to all the vegetables taken in to market by the peasants. Do not know amount of tax but it makes an appreciable difference to the price if one buys vegetables etc. outside the town.
[a] Possibly a reference to the demand by M.P.s on 12 May 1938 for an inquiry into the state of Britain’s air defences.
Planted out nasturtiums.