Sunday, December 07, 2008

Monday 4th January 1943

Last night I went into Cairo. Towards 10 o'clock I found a few Yeomen about and we decided to take a taxi back. We waited near Ezebekiah Gardens. The wind freshened; suddenly – there in the heart of Cairo – a fine spray of dust splattered into our faces. And was gone. I looked up at the sky; a few, hurrying clouds, SW wind.

“Going to be dusty out there,” I said gloomily. “Yeah,” said someone, “Proper shit storm, I shouldn't wonder.”

The taxi came, we got in and were back at camp within half an hour. It was dusty there, sure enough, and the wind getting stronger. One of the walls of our tent was flapping loose, I secured it, went in, turned on the electric light and got my bed ready. Quite cosy in there; every one else asleep, no music coming from the tannoy loudspeakers. I put out the light and slept.

Sometime in the early hours I awoke, quite gently, and found myself lying in the open with clouds of dust driving into my face. The wind was howling... the tent lay across my legs, a tangled heap of canvas and ropes. Gayler and Skewes were underneath, others were half covered like myself, and some were on the miredam, quite clear of the tent.

“The tent's blown down!” yelled Hallows, “Can't we get it up?” He was groping about in the dark; the dust stung my eyes. Ingue laughed. “Can't we do anything?” shouted Ted, struggling from underneath the ruins. “No”, I mumbled, “No use till morning.”

And I dragged the blankets and a coat up around my head to keep the damned dust out.
Foul awakening this morning, in the cold and dark. All coughing and spitting... It was some satisfaction to see that other tents had been blown down...

We got the tent up by first parade, despite the wind and dust (ah! the joy of standing in it's windless interior, when we'd put the walls up again!) The wind has not fallen, nor is it any less dusty now, and this is 8:30p.m. in the still, permanent, security of the YMCA.

My head aches. All our heads ache. Our throats, noses, eyes, hair, mouths are all full of the damned zift dust.


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