Thursday, August 28, 2008

Monday 5th August 1940

August Bank Holiday Monday – and we celebrated it! Reveille 7a.m. and parade at 9a.m. for a fake “route march in vehicles”. We drove, in convoy, to Tiberias in north-east Palestine. Hilly roads, through Jenin, Affula and Nazareth then down, down, down, until we could see Lake Tiberias gleaming blue below us. Then we passed a notice board marked “Sea Level” and still went down! Rather warm in Tiberias. Only 90 minutes before we had to return, just time for a drink and the ubiquitous eggs, chips and tomatoes in a cafe that was “in bounds to troops.” Just time to sit by the lake, once known as the Sea of Galilee and watch naked Arab children diving for coins and to look across at Syria beyond the water (longingly, for Syria was no longer in the bloody war!).

We passed the Hotel Tiberias, a large civilised building, upon the terrace of which sat two or three obviously European or American people. (Ah! Nostalgia! You tear at my vitals!) Anyhow I'd realised another boyhood dream and been below sea level – nearly 700 feet below, actually!

Hadlow and I sat in the candlelit, semi-underground tent, cleaning our kits. “I want to ask you somethin' now, Steve,” he said solemnly, “And I want you to answer very frankly!” “Right!” I said. “Why,” asked Hadlow, “Are you always telling people about the Bahamas and showing them that piece of paper about tropical beauty and all that? Some sentimental reason? Or what?”

I undid the buckle from my belt and carefully began to polish the brass work. “I don't know, boy! Unless I'm going fuckin' mad!”

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