Friday, December 12, 2008

Tuesday 26th January 1943

On Sunday night I sat up in the bitter cold until midnight, cooking the books. I'd found, on checking the accounts, that we were about £S40 (£E4) short in cash. I think this was probably due to an incorrect calculation of the profits on the previous day. Anyhow, I eventually “re-arranged” things – after tearing-out and re-writing a couple of pages in the a/c book!

“Alexander” arrived late, yesterday morning, so I told him to file away again. In the afternoon, Jackson introduced another Armenian, named Abraham. He's only about 17, but seems a pretty good lad. Hope to get some proper pay arranged for him, later.

Went in to Damascus today for stores. Had some eggs and chips at the NAAFI before returning. When I came out to the truck again, there were two Wogs sitting in the back, with massed bottles of beer and wine. The driver was giving them a lift to Mazar Camp. At first I thought they were Syrian Arabs, NAAFI employees, of the NAAFI in my camp. OK! But I noticed stinking breath, gold teeth and a certain oiliness, and found they were Egyptians... Zift!

We drove off and picked up two 519 men who'd been to the de-lousing centre. There wasn't room in the back for all of us so I detailed one Wog to get out. In the argument, I found they weren't NAAFI men, but were taking the drinks to a stinking grog shop in the village by our camp... Still more zift! However, I was placated by the promise of three bottles of beer and we set off. The last straw though, was when we halted down the street and the Wog who'd previously alighted, climbed on again and sat down coolly, saying “OK, George.”

So I slung them both out, and their filthy beer, whilst a small crowd gathered in the main street. As I dropped one heavy sack at their protesting feet on the pavement, there was an ominous crack! and frothy beer flowed into the gutter. “Drive on now,” I said sternly, (but with some remorse at thought of broken bottles). One Egyptian ran after us a few paces, furiously, gold-teeth agleam, “I'll see you badin!” “OK, mate!” I shouted fiercely. To ease my conscience, I explained to the two puzzled men from the de-lousing centre, “They were Gyppo, see, and wanted a lift to the grog shop in Mansours.” “Wogs, huh? Zift,” said Lofty Morrison, now free of lice and “crabs”.

The officers closed this canteen tonight, at 6 o'clock. There's a lecture on until about 7:15p.m. or later. The canteen was full when they came, too, and the wireless giving out some good music. Everyone was smoking “Dawson Java” Cigars (I got a box this morning) and feeling like playboys, no doubt. It seemed rotten, for them, when the BSM marched in and shouted “Everyone outside!”

However, I retired behind my green screen of rush mats, and thus had time to write this. Also, sitting a few yards away from the lecturing officer, I'm smoking and sipping cognac to keep me warm. Which is very nice. I bought a bottle of cognac today for myself, in the queer little shop where we buy our bread. Tonight, before Pat and I go to bed, I'll warm the bottle in some hot water, and then we'll finish it off. Should keep us warm until we go to sleep.

On Sunday night I slept beneath six blankets and a greatcoat, wearing a pullover, socks and scarf. Yet still my back was cold for some time. So last night I put a kit bag in the bed and slept with my back against that. I kept warm, this time, so the same scheme will be used again tonight.

I found that Pat Geraghty was a Leicester man, yesterday evening! We talked of Leicester for some time, until we fell asleep, leaving the oil stove burning, (a good idea). We eventually established mutual ground; he had worked at Gent's, opposite to Mellor Branley's in St. Saviours' Road East and for many a day had been courting Freda Freitch, who worked at the British United and lived next door to us in Ellis Avenue.


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