Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sunday 2nd March 1941

Awoke 9a.m. An Arab brought us a pot of tea soon afterwards; we lay and smoked awhile. Breakfast was eggs and bacon with pepper and salt! followed by bread, marmalade and lashings of goats milk butter and more tea. And the newspapers to read.
There was a barbers nearby, where I had a shave, haircut and shampoo. Everything was fine!

After a spot of shopping we returned to barracks. From the state of the barrack-room, one imagines we were not the only people to fail to return the previous night!
There was a good deal of mail for us. I received two cables and four letters, all of which depressed me, and one letter which instantly made me feel elated and that all difficulties could, somehow, one day be overcome!

Took our small kit back to the hotel and our kit bags to the Citadel – a gloomy and ancient fortress – where Geoff Pyman was in charge of spare stores and universal kit bags. I took one or two things I wanted and left others behind. Also I took the beloved shell-case and bayonet out of my sea bag and left them in the universal.

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday! Free and in Cairo! Taxis, Shower-baths, Capstan cigarettes, Barney's tobacco, Shops and Cafes! Films – Ronald Coleman in “Lucky Partners”, “Pinocchio” - a Walt Disney, rather sweet, and hilarious “Turnabout”.

I collected the films – all 16 exposures had been printed, so my weeks of care were rewarded.

Apart from many cafes full of soldiers, we went one night to Parisiana, a better class place. (“A swagger joint, this,” I said to Ling as we lazily watched what he called “cotton kings” and their exotic women, taking reserved tables). The sweet at our dinner had a peculiar name – Eymek-Kadayif – but actually it seemed to be treacle and cream.

“Pinocchio” was supposed to be our last film but we couldn't bear to be saying good-bye to flicks again, so went to see “Turnabout” at a matinee the following afternoon.

Shopping: We wanted to buy, among other things, some pyjamas for April and a dressing gown for Phyllis. I went to the Tipperary (a club run by English ladies for the benefit of desert warriors) and asked one patrician old lady for advice. She told me there were only two shops in Cairo where “they” purchased such things. So we visited both. We sauntered into Rivoli's – two desert rats amidst the cream of Egyptian femininity, as I remarked at the time – and took the lift to the Lingerie Department.

Egyptian ladies don't seem to use pyjamas; there was only one pair in stock and they were peach – the wrong colour. I didn't like the night dresses - and dressing gowns!
They showed Ling an absolute creation in blue silk but it was a bit too expensive, over £6. So we went across to Eaton's, a smaller shop but with a better range (it seemed they specialised in lingerie) and after much deliberation Ling bought a blue dressing gown (lined with pink, he asks me to mention!) for £3-10-0 and I bought pale blue silk pyjamas for 175 akkas – about £1-15-0.

We later packed our parcels and sent them off from the Army Post Office. Slipped cards inside (quite soon it will be April's 22nd birthday) and just have to hope they'll get to England safely and if possible without being censored and messed about.

The end of the leave? Oh I won't dwell on it! The train left Cairo at about 10p.m. on Tuesday night and arrived at Mersa Matruh at 11a.m. the next day. Having had so many late nights, Stan and I were tired; he slept in the gangway and I up on the luggage rack!

News: Advances continue in Iti East Africa – Bulgaria joins the Axis – German troops begin to gather on the Greek Frontier.

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