JANUARY 19, 1946
LONDON—I find that listening to speeches in the Assembly meetings for so many hours daily, no matter how good they are, is a tax on my powers of concentration. It may be that, being deaf in one ear, I have to listen more attentively than the average person. For this reason, I shall be glad when the work in committees really begins and we can deal with concrete questions in a somewhat smaller room and with a smaller group of people.
One of the questions being discussed by various groups is the request of the World Federation of Trade Unions to have special consideration and to be allowed a different approach to the Assembly than is allowed any other non-governmental organization. Their argument apparently is that, while the United Nations Charter empowers the Economic and Social Council to enter into negotiations with specialized non-governmental agencies, this particular labor organization should be treated on a different basis because of its broad membership.
They have requested consultative representation in the Assembly and voting representation in the Economic and Social Council. This question is now being taken up by a subcommittee, which will hear all the arguments in the case and report back to the Steering Committee.
The dinner which Prime Minister Attlee gave for the delegates the other evening, in the Painted Hall of the Royal Naval College, was one of the most beautiful occasions of this kind that I've ever attended. Since I was the only woman delegate attending the dinner, Mrs. Attlee did not wish me to feel isolated, so she acted as hostess and it was not a completely stag party.
Historically, the Royal Naval College is extremely interesting. It stands on the site of the palace where both Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth were born. From the palace windows, Elizabeth watched Martin Frobisher set out in search of the Northwest Passage and, when Francis Drake returned from his trip around the world in the "Golden Hind", it was here that she welcomed him—as well as Walter Raleigh when he returned from America.
The Painted Hall in which we dined was designed by Sir Percival Wren and was originally used as a dining room for Naval pensioners. Its wall and ceiling paintings were executed by Sir James Thornhill. The ceiling has portraits of King William and Queen Mary in center, with allegorical paintings representing all their virtues covering the rest of the ceiling.
Since a historian had been kind enough to bring me a description of all this, I tried very hard to bend my head backward and examine the ceiling with care, but one really should lie on the floor! I always wonder how painters of ceilings ever do their work.
One little thing at the table struck me. Each of us had a small silver ashtray. I examined mine and found that it bore an inscription of presentation by a Chinese cadet trained in the Royal Naval College during the first World War. Every ashtray carried a different Chinese name. I thought it was a charming way for these young Chinese to commemorate the opportunity which was given them to study at this historic college—and characteristic of the thoughtful generosity of the Chinese people.
It may seem absurd, but the person who impresses me most at these state dinners in Great Britain is the master of ceremonies who announces the toasts and speeches. He stands behind each speaker and intones: "Your Royal Highnesses, Your Grace, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen…" It always seems to me that he is much more important than anyone else present!
The Archbishop of Canterbury, whom I met for the first time and whom I found entirely delightful, said grace at the beginning and end of the meal. The last grace was just three words long, which caused a ripple of laughter as he finished.
Even formal dinners in Great Britain are still held down to three courses—soup, the main course of fish or chicken, and dessert.