Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sunday 4th June 1939

Everyone slept damn badly if at all, as is usual the first night. In my tent we were all up by 6 o’clock and getting washed. George borrowed my shaving mug and in return had it filled with hot water which I also used. This was the procedure throughout camp. Decent cooks here; always let one draw hot water.

Nothing to do after lunch and Church Parade so Stan Ling, Jacko, George and I went to Harlow and the River Stort. Strange! Stan led the way to this river, which transpired to be the one where Anne and I took out a skiff, little more than a year ago! We went down the same reach, from the same boathouse. Four of us dangerously overloaded the skiff and I was the mug who volunteered to row. Took the skiff up the backwater, donned bathing costumes and had a swim in the locks further down.
Jacko and George fell-in with three gay girls on battered cycles, any of whom might have been Deanna Durbin and were about the same age. Pat, Lita and Marjorie.
Eventually Jacko and I, riding the two least battered cycles, dashed perilously back along the towpath and purchased seven bottles of lemonade which we took downstream, like John Gilpino.

Sitting by the riverside (they met us half-way, Ling on the third bike, George with the girls in the boat) we all laughed and talked. I observed the different methods of attraction with detached amusement. George (faulty technique) talked rapidly in a monotonous tone of voice about himself, his absent friends and the people in the unit. I was kindly and courteous. Stanley Ling was quiet and sucked on an empty pipe, faintly smiling. Jacko was an obvious he-man, do-as-I-say-damn-you type.

We parted on the main road by Harlow Mill; the three girls turned to wave as their decrepit machines rattled away down a side lane. We’d learned that Lita and Marjorie would return to London that very night and that Pat was one of the local inhabitants. Nobody knew her surname, or where she lived, however!

We had tea – somewhat late – at a café in Bishops Stortford. We flirted verbally with three girls at the other table, whilst their male escorts (all motor cyclists) ate glumly, obviously unenthusiastic about our humorous sallies. Jacko assured the girls that we were travelling on tandems – which moved them to scorn. The tables were turned however when we ultimately swaggered out and poured into Captain Slinky B with much door-slamming.

Back at Camp we all laughed loudly and recounted our adventures to Tiny and the rest. One would imagine we’d had a hell of a love affair! I chuckled though when I thought of how four men went down the Stort in a protesting skiff and, two hours later, two men returned on ladies ancient bicycles; loaded up with lemonade and dashed madly away again.

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