Sunday, September 07, 2008

Friday 29th November 1940

We are at Mena. We did not like the camp much at first (the site had been left in a filthy condition) but we've put in some work and cleaned things up a bit now. The tents (large ones, as at Gedera) are all dug-in; in my tent are Stevens, Gayler, Grant, Burch and – when he returns from hospital – Goodwin. A couple of pyramids loom up on the horizon quite near-by. Cairo is about an hours journey by tram car – cost only one akka.

Early mornings are worst here. The wash place is some distance away and in the open. My gods, it's cold in the early mornings! On roll call today we wore pullovers and greatcoats but that didn't keep out the bitter wind. I expected that our breaths would “steam” as on wintry days in England but it did not,so maybe it is not really so cold as our thin blood makes it seem.

Last night I went to Cairo with Jack Chenery and Stan Ling – my first trip to a big town or city since we spent a weekend in Tel-Aviv last spring. It was fine to tread a pavement once again! There is a black-out imposed but it is observed in what one might call a very steady way. The beggars and pedlars are a damn nuisance, they shouldn't be allowed to pester people. Chenery, who knew the place fairly well, filed off vaguely into dimly lit streets and we followed. Spent most of the time in the civilised part of the city; I have already seen enough Arabs to last the rest of my life. Otherwise the population is chiefly made up of Greeks and Egyptians, with a few French and English. All the place names and public notices are in French and Egyptian and/or Arabic.

We had supper at an English sort of cafe, the Nile Brasserie and then went to a Merle Oberan flick. The films had English speech, with Greek, Arabic and French translations. Duting the evening I bought an Agfa camera for £2-5-0. It's a folding one and is going into the field with me, next time. I'll risk the consequences for sake of what might prove interesting snaps. It had many weird sensitising gadgets, unfamiliar to me. Stan Ling, a photographic expert, did the choosing for me. We got back to camp at 1:30a.m. - just in time!

I didn't feel tired today but nicely clear-headed, as one often does after a late night. A pleasant evening; we had not done much, really, but it was simply marvellous to be in a city once more! (The little luxuries! An orchestra in the cafe and a boy to light one's Egyptian cigarettes after coffee. Qwise!)


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