Monday, July 07, 2008

Saturday 30th September 1939

Sergeant Quayle gave us a lamp morse test at Regular rates – 8 words a minute. I was rather apprehensive, as I had qualified at 4 and had done hardly any reading since mobilisation. However I scraped through – 91% on the first and 97% on the second message. Dean, Ling and Pond who have been as unlucky as I regarding reading practice, fared badly also. The Sergeants’ sending was very good and he had a fine background – a dark railway embankment, 400 yards distant.

As hoped – further to my preparation of the duty rota – I am free this afternoon and “on” all day tomorrow. Used my ration cards for the first time – bought two gallons of petrol. That leaves four more gallons to be purchased during the next three weeks.

To Billericay – and April! I rang; the door opened a few inches. Aprils’ laughing eyes peeped through at me; she gurgled, “Hullo Stephen! Shan’t be a moment!” and disappeared. We had tea – bacon, egg and chips and coffee – at the Blue Bird on the grey arterial road. We used to go there long, long ago, although perhaps I never mentioned it in my diary.

April admitted she had a cold. “Then I must keep well away from you tonight,” I said tentatively, “Or maybe I shall catch your cold”. “It won’t be my fault if you don’t!” she cried shamelessly. We called on her Mother, just for a few minutes: they do not often meet nowadays. April said that her engagement was pretty well over, now.(This as we were driving along.)

“Aren’t you going to marry K after all?” her Mother had asked her recently.
“Oh no” April had answered, “I’m going to marry Stephen!”
“Let’s not do anything real, tonight,” April said as Slinky B droned into the gathering dusk.
“It’s very strange,” I said truthfully, “When we are together something seems to go click! As though our thoughts and emotions are slipping into each other, like pieces of wood, dovetailed”.

The moon – it must have been at the full – rose serenely, unafraid of black-out restrictions. We stopped in a lane near Sandon, where, on a windy springtime night we’d seen searchlights. Where I’d got out of the car just for the pleasure of getting in again and smelling Aprils’ special own perfume.

And this time April was quiet and depressed suddenly. “Oh Stephen!…Everything was so different then… And the searchlights were only practising… Now everything seems hopeless… And when we say “one day” that “one day” may never come”. Soon though she was gay April again and said she’d teach me the game of “nookie”. This started by an amazing move; somehow she bounced out of the front seat and into the back of the car.
I told her that if I had a chance I’d take the car to Warwickshire and leave it there until after the war.

April weaved fantasy again. “Oh yes! And one day – there’ll be cobwebs all over – you’ll say, “Let me see, I left a car somewhere” and we’ll go and find it. And we’ll pull the starter button and it’ll break off. Then you’ll try to crank it and the handle will break!” “Oh, I’ve thought of that” I said solemnly, “My Aunts’ garage is at the top of a hill, so we can start the car by pushing”.

(“We’ll go and find it”, April had said. Delightful picture of she and I, in the great peacefulness after war, going to the green heart of England to collect a car – Slinky B.)

Reached Chelmsford, then dashed on across Galleywood Common. Moonshine helped my dimmed sidelights as we swung around the bends. Ran through Stock at a little over 40. (Car uninsured and with defective brakes. Curious how reckless or perhaps more concentrated my driving has become, lately.)

Billericay. And then we parted.

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