Sunday, October 12, 2008

Wednesday 1st October 1941

Outwardly I'm hard and cynical and sneerful. Yet – deep inside I still know the beauty of soft and lovely things. Last night I saw – or, rather heard – something sweet. I was at the camp flicks with Golden – Rifle Brigade – Buchanan – RA - and Steve. We were armed with the usual salted peanuts and icy orangeade and the film was a “Western.”

Three gunmen strode into a saloon bar. Actually it was part of an old Spanish hacienda. Rough men, guns, bottles of booze – and suddenly they heard a piano playing gently, rippling on and on through a soft tune. Cautiously the gunmen followed the music, up a flight of stairs, along a balcony, up a passage. They came to a luxurious room with old furniture; the music was louder now. They took their hats off, awkwardly; crossed the room. In a corner, a Spanish gentleman was playing the piano. Long white fingers. He watched them standing around him but his hands kept moving for a while...

That scene and that music, dominated the film to my mind. I must know the name of that piece of music! And the very first person I asked, strangely, knew something about it. A Chopin Valse, he said, but he didn't know the number (* later addition to text “Valse in C Sharp Minor”). So I shall hear it again. I have not expressed myself very well, I'm afraid. It was lovely.

We talked about music for some time – he had been a radio engineer before joining the RAF. Where did he come from? Hornchurch! “Has the Hornchurch end of Romford been bombed much?” I asked anxiously. “My God, yes!” “I know someone there. Harrow Drive” “I know it well,” he said at once, “Very nice there. Quiet and respectable. Some very decent people live there.” “Where is it?” I asked, “She – went into digs there – since the war” “You know High Road?” “A continuation of North Street. Yes” “Down there – under the bridge. Turn left at the Works” “On the main Dagenham – Upminster road?” “Yes. And you'll find Harrow Drive along there. On the left” “Thanks. I don't suppose I'll be going there yet. Someday though...” “Yes. This bloody war...”

(Harrow Drive... nice digs, then... a green-walled bedroom...) I slept almost happily.

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