Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sunday 1st September 1940

Don't need much sleep nowadays. Had eight hours last night, so that makes up all my arrears! No work today except that I was NCO i/c Meals, blast it. Compulsory bathing parade in the morning.

A little comedy has been enacted between Ling and myself, in the matter of lighting cigarettes, ever since the Camp at Epping, 18 months ago. At that time I insisted that it was “good form” that the recipient of a cigarette should produce matches. I also emphasised that whilst he frantically searched for matches, in order to produce them in as short a time as possible after receiving the cigarette, the giver of the cigarette should fumble slowly and with apparent keen-ness in most of his pockets but not produce any matches!

Well, Ling, after many months of patient instruction learnt this polite habit! If I offer him a death tube he takes it then hastily rips out a march box and lights first my tube, then his own. And two pairs of eyes twinkle and I stop vaguely tapping my pockets. Sometimes however, Ling, feeling contrary, will tap (no, loudly thump!) his pockets without producing the cigarette, lighting, for the use of, whilst I, baffled, continue to fumble. I scowl, his face takes on an impish, expectant sneer. Eventually (a bas la politesse!) I growl, “Come on, you bugger.” “'Ain't got none!” he raps out or else chuckles, “Dawson, the etiquette king!”

Five to six! This time last year I sat at tea in the parlour of the Cock Inn, waiting for the six o'clock news bulletin. That included the calling-up of:- “All Territorials, all Reservists, all Supplementary Reservists are to report at once to their depots...” I expected it; my kit was all packed and my uniform ready to put on. It was good-bye to civvie clothes right then! Here I am a year later, in a Palestine canteen, waiting to have a meal, feeling rather unclean, impetigo sores on my hands, face and on one ear and one ankle. Unshaved and leprous. I'm listening to the wireless now, also. Despite the notice pinned to the set, “Please use only British broadcasting stations, by order.” I've switched on to some very faint music which probably comes from Radio Rome. And next year? Wherever I am it'll not be England, I reckon!

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