Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Friday 4th December 1942

Sent off the engagement ring this afternoon, registered air mail letter post. It's rather crazy, but at the last minute I dashed into a jeweller's in Fouad Street and bought a gold wedding ring, and sent that off as well!

Felt very pleased with life then, when I knew they were both on the way. As instructed by my lady, I put the engagement ring on my own finger, as far as it would go and made a wish. And the same with the wedding ring. It was the same wish, of course.

After fruitless searching in dictionaries, I eventually found an Encyclopedia Brittanica which told me something about alexandrine. Only it's real name is alexandrite. Interesting!: “Alexandrite is a variety of chrysoberyl discovered in the Urals in 1833. It was named to commemorate the coming-of-age of Alexander the Second. It is remarkable for being strongly dichoric, generally appearing dark green by daylight and raspberry red by candlelight, or by daylight transmitted through the stone...”

I then made vain search for “dichoric.” It probably means double-coloured. Next I looked at: “Chrysoberyl. A yellow or green gem stone, remarkable for it's hardness, being exceeded in this respect only by diamond and corundum. The typical yellow colour of the stone inclines in many cases to pale green, occasionally passing into shades of dark green and brown. A remarkable dichoric variety is known as alexandrite...”

Last night Jack and I had supper at The Bystander, after seeing a wartime film called “Dangerous Moonlight.” The story was woven around the “Warsaw Concerto” (composed for the film I think) and Chopin's “Polonaise”.

Jack had a book with him - “Sons and Lovers” by DH Lawrence. “Can't you get a book?' he asked pleadingly, “Then we can both read at the table.” “OK!” I said nobly, “You order supper and I'll go and find something.” It was pretty late; few shops were open. I walked fast in a wide curve across Cairo, until I found a dingy bookstall, presided over by a Wog with a flashlight. There was plenty of pornographic, paper-covered stuff. I saw a copy of Eliots' “Mill on the Floss', lying with the trash, and picked that up. It was very grimy though, and looked dull for meal-time reading.

“Look George!” said the Wog (all English soldiers are “George” here) and shone his torch on “William Shakespeare” and “The Holy Bible”. “No” I said. The beam of light shifted to a lavishly coloured cover. I caught the curve of a large breast and some legs and arms. “Dirty book, George. All right. Just little bit dirty” “We're not all dirty like you, Abdul,” I said sternly. “Dirt is good, George,” he said earnestly, “All right, George.” Eventually I bought “Love Stories” (non-pornographic). Alright for the meal, but atrociously badly written. I slung it away after reading two stories so perhaps some Wog will find it and sell it for 7 piastres, all over again.

Silence in the street below our window, at 1a.m., except for the rhythmic rattling of a passing gharri. The noise died away and we, sitting on our beds, heard a drunken voice and faint footsteps in the next street. “So deep is the night – no moon tonight...”

Jack looked up from his book. “Chopin rolling homewards,” he said.

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