Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Friday 11th December 1942

Quite a few outcasts are sleeping on the gun park, in trucks. At each roll call, in the mornings, you see us all emerge, and having scrambled noisily out of our vehicles we mingle with the more respectable inhabitants of the tented camp, and fall in. Yes, we pariahs are like the squatters who dwell on the outskirts of towns, in dingy hovels, amid bungaloid growths! But it's a darn sight healthier than those tents!

I am on guard. We dismount in 2 ½ hours time. Alas! there are signs that the pleasant tempo of life will soon quicken. Tomorrow there is a drill order... Hell! Next week, we expect to have intensive training... Damn! Well, I should be able to get into town at least once this weekend, anyhow.

Two men on this guard lived in the country near Cambridge, in better days. “Know a village called Grantchester?” I asked (I always do, when I meet anyone from the Cambridge district!) “Sure!” they both said, “Quite near us!” One became reminiscent. “Ah, I'll never forget Grantchester,” he sighed. “Really? Why?”
(“Ah God to see the branches stir, Across the moon at Grantchester”? I wondered.)
“You know that bridge?” said Russell
“There's lots round there,” said Rawlings.
“Aye! Well, I was going into Grantchester with Pat – You know...”
“Yes,” said Rawlings.
(“Unforgettable, unforgotten river smell” I thought)
“Well, on that bridge there was a man with a monkey!”
“A what?” I demanded, shaken to earth.
“A monkey! On a lead you know. And Pat was tickled to buggery. Coo! It was funny. Mind you, I was tickled myself.”
“Good Lord!' I ejaculated.
“Yes,” said Russell, “I'll never forget Grantchester.”

Rawlings did make a slightly better contribution to the Grantchester of Rupert Brooke: “It's bloody lovely, all round there,” he said solemnly, shaking his head. Then the conversation changed, so I learnt no more about the woman called Pat, the monkey on the lead, the bridge and Grantchester.

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