Saturday, November 15, 2008

Friday 20th March 1942

Letters came from home today, at last – the first real mail for two months.

“... There is a little secret heart right in the centre of my heart and that belongs to you... you sort of backed yourself in there about September '38 time. I hardly knew it and neither did you but it was such sweetness to see you and we were so ridiculously happy those few times together and then I thought things were so complicated... The thing I didn't bargain with – was fate taking you a few thousand miles away for some long time and a war – otherwise I'm afraid I should have said to myself – to hell with everyone and hopped along and at least said, “Hey, I'm in love with you and I believe you are with me, too.” Perhaps not quite like that, I should have been nervous... “... it cannot be found by looking for it, it is a sort of divine accident”... No! I can't understand any of it... all the same we are going to meet again, and while we are young too, also it will be here in this world of reality, not in any waste of unexplored lands... Hell, I must be sickening for something, darling, I'm crying again and oh! what a mess I've made of this page. I guess I could tear it up and write it again but I'm not going to. God bless you and bring you home soon.”

The exchange is very quiet nowadays. Last night I was talking to the RHQ exchange operator over the line for some time. “Are you REH?” I asked. “No, that's Herbert. I'm RFH And you?” “SJD” “Ah yes, I remember talking to you one night last November. Just before the battle started.” “What did we talk about? Home and Beauty I suppose?” “That did enter into the conversation old man, I believe. Usually does!” “Do you come from Thames Valley?” “Well, Hamstead way.” “Oh! Right through the siege I used to talk about the river, with one of your night operators.”
“That was Steer. My best friend, actually. He told me about it. He lived by the water, at Richmond and loved the river. Spent most of his time on the river.” “Steer? Where is he now? Still around?” “He's dead old man. Killed on the first day of the battle.” “I'm damned sorry to hear that!” “I went down to see his grave the other day. Scrounged some stuff in Tobruch, and tidied the grave up a bit, you know.”

So Steer, who was always talking and dreaming about his River will never see it again. He's buried in a blanket in a shallow grave on the dusty miredam below the first escarpment.


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