Thursday, June 26, 2008

Friday 28th July 1939

Lost the contract for paint at Rochford Hospital. Starline got it, after a grim struggle. If the firm had written their sales letter when requested instead of three days later things might have been different. As it was there was some misunderstanding about price which would not otherwise have existed. Garforth and Wellham were the contractors. I’m still trying to get the order for their remaining two schools. If I get it, the balance of victory swings my way. Four schools for me, two schools and a hospital for Starline.

I waited in a country lane, sitting half in and half out of Slinky B. April came! She looked at me and said “Gosh!” and looked down and laughed. It’s two months since we last met.

Mournful task – helping George take his kit into the drill hall. We exchanged cap bands (chinstraps) as his was better than mine. Another car brought Jacko’s kit in…
Before joining their respective regular units, they have to leave TA and their civilian jobs. Stanley Ling does not think he’ll be coming down any more – except possible at weekends. Got a job in Town. He will leave altogether, eventually. Tiny, now a driver, still remains but he expects to go to Cheltenham within six months.
Soon I’ll be all alone.

Sergeant Quayle came down. I was taking a buzzer class. He took me aside and told me that he, Lieut. Adams and George all considered I was the best man to take George’s place. I pointed out doubtfully I did not consider myself experienced or capable enough. Lieut. Adams then entered and gave me the works and I eventually agreed. I really am ignorant but suppose everyone else is as bad! So, assuming George does get accepted by the RAF, I’ll be Bombardier in charge of “A” Troop signallers. Phew! I have never worked with either Troop! Good bye to my beloved exchange and the Command Post.

As I write, a haunting tune comes from the wireless – “One alone”. I often think my fate is to be always alone at heart.

The milk bar. Jacko, George, Tiny and I sat there a long time, with an interlude for ringing-up Pat at Harlow. A drifter from “down under” came in and drawled his opinion of Chelmsford, the milk bar and people in general. One could imagine him “shooting up” a saloon bar-room “out-West”. For a moment I wondered if there’d be trouble and if I should take charge. But I glanced across and saw the watchful, twinkling eyes of Littlefield of 5 Queens Road. He took care of the “drifter” with a little neat repartee.

“…Hey you! Where are you going?”
“That’s my business stranger, if I want to get out of this louse-bound town”
“I say that’s my business, stranger”
“Say old timer, I like the cut of your jib. What’s your name?”
“Call me Poona!”
“How are ye?”

They shook hands solemnly, got together. “Man meets man,” I whispered to Jacko.
It eventually transpired that the Australian intended to “drift on” to America – “a dinkum country”.

Mary sat with me in the car. A horrid good-bye. Because I’m engaged and she’s getting fond of me, she won’t see me any more. Would not even let me give her a lift home. A more genuine boy friend waited around the corner. I said lots of bitter things, which I should not have. She is a damn nice girl. The theme – a confused, heart-sickening break between a straight girl and a crooked fella.

Bright night. I stopped at Galleywood Common and looked at the stars. Mars, nearer than for 15 years; the full moon, the Bear. Philosophical policeman. We talked about the heavens whilst I filled, lighted, smoked and knocked out a pipe. And he did not end by prosaically asking to see my driving licence and insurance certificate, bless him!

Reached my bedroom soon after midnight. Hot summer’s night! There on the dressing table, stood Doc, the token given me by Mary because I’d been “Doc” at Camp. No, I couldn’t keep it! Silly, but I must send it back. I wrapped it up very carefully, with strange anxious-ness as though Doc were something alive and might be hurt – perhaps like a little puppy. I’d thought I could never be hurt again! Only if I kept among light-hearted people apparently…

With Doc, I enclosed a note which I hoped would cancel out the bitter things I’d said. “…I’ll unwrap that scented store…” As I packed away Doc and the letter, I was packing away the scented store of memories that never were, of the happy times we might have had… “Close the rainbow and the rose…”

The rose had only budded.

“Send George Beer” said a member of my morse class as we finished (- - . - …) GB is signallese for goodbye. GB! Today has been all GB – except for April and that, thank God! Was VE VE AAA (Calling up, calling up, break signal preceding text. Hullo! Old friend)

High Noon 1939 however really ends with “GB”.


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