Friday, January 11, 2008

Thursday 22nd July 1937

Awoke late. Heard the tramp of feet as the 193rd came down the road to shoot. “Here they come, like lambs to the slaughter” I heard someone say. Dashed into camp, late for breakfast. Cold tea, bread and margarine and jam. Cloudy weather. The right section of 193rd stood-by, waiting to shoot. Ammunition stacked in rear of the guns.

At lunchtime, had 1/2d left. Went down the road in overalls, wearing “civvy” clothes underneath. Round a bend in the road, I dodged behind a hedge, rapidly removed my overalls, wrapped them in a brown paper parcel. Proceeded into Watchet in civvies – a free man! Drew 20/- from the Bank, had Somerset cream for lunch. Back to camp in mid-afternoon. Marched smartly in, again clad in overalls. Nothing said!

Evening: To Minehead. Walked up North Hill, about 800 feet sheer from the sea. Met a quiet gentleman who was delighted to be my guide. The woods, the shoulder, the summit. Coombes and wirtleberries. The distant sea seemed at our feet.
“I’d like to come here, when I retire”, I said, as the Somerset quietness crept upon me. “That’s what I did”, replied my leader, - “A few years ago”. We took a broad track into the woods; there was a broken gate which served no apparent purpose. I said sleepily… “They closed the way through the woods…” We turned off the track, down a narrow path between the rhododendrons.

My guide laughed at a humorous memory. A few months ago he met a man here, in the heart of the woods. It was dark and lonely, so he thought the occasion demanded some bright remark and called, as they met, “Doctor Livingstone, I presume?”
The man was apparently of the uneducated classes. He stared in amazement. “I don’t know”, he said, “I ain’t seen im nowhere about ere”. What thoughts must have oozed through his mind as the poor man went on his way!

On the outskirts of the town we parted. I thanked my serene companion. Never knew his name. Mingled with the crowds. Went to a café – The Bungalow Tearooms – and had a feast. Cheese and pickles, tea, baked beans on toast, in that sequence.
Back by the 9:40 bus. Saw the moon (nearly at the full) rising above unknown hills.

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