Friday, October 03, 2008

Tuesday 8th July 1941

The enemy shelling of this area has been switched elsewhere but there's still a good deal of artillery activity going on. More heavy stuff, flying high over our heads, in both directions.

2p.m. Quiet now, except for distant rumblings of gunfire. Yesterday some NAAFI supplies came up! I had five razor blades, one bar of chocolate, 40 Capstan Navy Cut Cigarettes (in tins of 20!) and a tin (2oz) of Log Cabin Flaked old Leaf Tobacco. So, although this is the day before baccy issue, I'm well stocked with smokes. I am just smoking the 20th Capstan. In a box, carefully preserved for the lean days ahead, are 18 fag-ends. What happened to the 20th, I don't know, must have thrown it away, absent mindedly. Such waste! The 19th fag-end has gone into the box with the others. Presently I'll fill my pipe with some tobacco scraps that Tiny Plane gave me yesterday and light it from a candle which is burning here. (Cunning idea of mine, that utilisation of a long-hoarded candle fragment! So long as it burns I can light my pipe or a cigarette! Have no matches, you see.)

Further more, Grant has just brought me a mug of tea. So I should be deliriously happy, all the components of happiness being here present. But I'm not, frightfully. My unfortunate nature makes me now dwell on past mistakes and on happier times. Introspection and retrospection as well! My God! What a mess I've made of things! And eventually I'm here in a sun-scorched wadi, pestered by flies, hoarding up cigarette ends! What sweet memories can come to me – yet how fragmentary, rough and disjointed most of them are!

“Experience is the name men give to their mistakes” said Oscar Wilde. By that standard I'm mighty experienced! And yes, as I said just now, eventually I ended up here in this blasted wadi, in July 1941. In Tobruch! I may never leave Tobruch; yet I think I shall and that I'll survive the war, end how it may, and get home someday. Two and a half months – and two months – and four months – that's eight and a half months in the dreary desert altogether.

Have I come here to be punished for my wrong-doing? Or to give me a chance to think, slowly, very slowly as the months lengthen into years, until the tangle of my life has straightened itself and until I've grown more slowly wise so that I shall not make such mistakes again?

We shall see.

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