The treatments for the children who came to Clent Grove were all founded on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, and to many who came to work there, little was known of this. So right from the school’s earliest days, Fried Geuter had inaugurated what became the foundation of all studies, namely work every morning at 7:00 a.m. on the book Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. This is really the foundation of all Spiritual Science, or Anthroposophy, as created by Steiner for the whole of his life. In it, Steiner examined the thinking of the Philosophers, mainly of the last century, and showed how, in every case, the true nature of thinking and its capacities is never reached. The second half of the book leads beyond the natural aspect of thinking into its reality as a potentially purely spiritual activity. As it was so important to get to grips with this book, I used to go myself, when I could get away from home to join these early morning sessions. As this was a daily study carried out over many years, it was noticeable how the people from Clent Grove all developed a very clear thinking capacity, which one rarely met with elsewhere.
I have described how, as a small child, the fairy world was a real world to me, and then the angels that guarded us. From the hymns, possibly at Sunday School, I heard about Jesus and his love for little children. And I remember from this time when there was no love in my home, I used to comfort myself by saying “Jesus loves me!” As I grew older and went to Church, I felt dissatisfied at the way Christ was presented. For me, He was a figure of tremendous majesty and glory, a Sun-King. Thus, as I have said, I met the works of Rudolf Steiner through Mrs. Pease. Here at last was what I was looking for, a truly divine Divinity, an inhabitant of almost unimaginary exalted regions. Steiner had given a very great number of lecture cycles describing the working of the Christ Being in earthly, human affairs and amongst the spiritual hierarchies. I read many of these cycles, to broaden and deepen my understanding of Christ, which is not so easy.
At the same time I was concerned to learn more about Karma and reincarnation. When I first read a lecture on Karma and reincarnation, I was really quite excited, as here could be found the key to so many of life’s problems. Mrs. Pease had so truly sensed that not only must I get away from home but that the new Art of Eurhythmy would give me much that I needed for my eventual life. And indeed it was so.
After seventy years, I can’t possibly remember all the conversations I had with my Eurhythmy teachers, Vera and Judy Compton Burnett, but what I gained as a deeper understanding of the nature of sound, both musical and spoken, was immeasurable. We also, I know, talked a great deal about Karma.
In 1939 the Second World War broke out, and it became impossible to continue the school at Elmfield just outside Birmingham. So the older ones moved out to Clent Grove. I was not very well during my last pregnancy and had to close down my part of the school, which I had had at Caspidge. To keep the students beyond the end of the Christmas term, they joined up with others at Clent. My own children were already there, Idonea and Cecilia. Hugh had objected so strongly about John having this education, in fact about everything having to do with Steiner, that I had perforce to agree to John’s going to a prep school, at which he was profoundly unhappy.
I must now go back a few years to relate certain episodes important both in the children’s and my own life. Tiggy and John both developed very serious mastoid inflammations which had to be operated on. Our doctor, Dr. Charles Hicks, was always very concerned about the effect such operations have on children and engaged a surgeon to agree to carry out the operations in the surgery at Clent Grove. This was a most efficiently run surgery, with trained nurses and a very special doctor, Dr. Hilma Walter who had come to work there from the Clinic in Arlesheim. So first Tiggy, who only had one bad ear, and then John, both of whose ears were infected, were operated on at Clent Grove. Tiggy’s cleared up comparatively quickly, but not John’s, and he even had to have an anaesthetic for the dressings, which were so painful. Gradually they were both quite well again, but I can never be grateful enough that these operations could be carried out in such ideal conditions rather than in some impersonal hospital.
Before the school moved over to Clent, Bridget also developed a mastoid, and this time Dr. Hicks was able to persuade the surgeon to perform the operation at home. I was within six weeks of the birth of yet another baby, and Dr. Hicks was anxious of the effect on me of this big ordeal, as the pregnancy continued to make me feel less than healthy. There were two nurses, one for day and one for night, and Bridget was amazingly brave all the time. But after spending one night with the night nurse, the other nurse feared she might be stuck at Caspidge because of the heavy snow. So although she was also a midwife and aware of my condition, she walked out and left us with just the one nurse. After a few days this nurse also left because of this snow. I was alone, as we did not have servants during the war, with Bridget who needed daily dressings. Dr. Hicks could not reach us until the snow let up, so I had to do these dressings myself. Bridget was marvellous, never letting out a peep while I did the job.
At 3:00 a.m., on March 6th, 1940, Hugh Nicholas was born. But three-quarters of an hour passed before he breathed, and the elderly midwife, working away at this “dead” baby with Dr. Hicks, told me that in the end she could only pray that such a beautiful baby would come alive. Then he gave his first squeak! Who can say that prayer from a devout soul does not work! As my heart was in rather a bad way, I had to stay in bed a month after Hughie was born. Then we went to St. Bride’s House, so Hughie’s first sight of the sea was when he was very small.
At the beginning of the war everyone aged 18 and over was called up for national service of one sort or another. Sheila, the nanny I was able to engage, being 20 years old had to leave to do war work, and I was left at first with no one but an elderly woman, Miss Garfield, who walked up from Finstall twice a week to clean the house. As soon as Sheila left, Hughie got pneumonia, so I called her back at once to nurse him. When he had recovered, she had to go back to her home in Dover. Dr. Hicks then arranged for Ann to come and live in the house, as I just could not manage all alone.
A year later Hughie became ill again, and I got Tiggy and Bridget back from school at Minehead, for about a week to help care for Hughie. I suddenly had three to care for.