Friday, December 12, 2008

Wednesday 13th January 1943

8p.m. and £E22 cash in hand. We've run out of bread, eggs and chocolate and there are only a couple of dozen cakes left. So it will be quiet now. We're selling a good many cigarettes – nearly 3000 a day in the last three days. Men are taking in stocks for the journey. This canteen closes at 2p.m. tomorrow and opens again (in Asia) next week I hope. There's something final about this move, I think. Perhaps we really are finished with Egypt and the Western Desert, for a while. This canteen has been a success. Our takings in less than a week have been £E60 and the profits are over £E12! (I took a check of the stock held yesterday.)

I was given a half-day pass yesterday and got a lift into Cairo (for the very last time?) on an RHQ truck at 2p.m. Did some shopping and went to “Music for All” for a haircut and shampoo and the usual tea and creamy cakes. Sat writing in the lounge whilst the string quartet played.

At 6:30p.m. I went to the “Diana” to see the film of this war - “This Above All”.
They showed me to my seat in the balcony, and dimly in the dark, I could see Jack Chenery smiling sadly in the next place. This didn't surprise me as I'd given him the corresponding ticket to mine that morning. “This Above All” very good but it shook me – the girls in uniform, the barbed wire all over England, and the bombing of London.

Not being a holiday, it was quiet in Cairo, and after supper Jack and I got a taxi very easily and were back in camp by 10:45p.m. He came into the canteen (debris littered) for a mug of tea before going on to 339's lines. German dance music was throbbing out merrily from the wireless set.

I can still write poetry! During the last three days I've written a narrative poem called “Full Circle” Pretty long – 128 lines and pretty gloomy and realistic.
It starts:

“The earth revolves in a circle around the sun,
for ever round and round till it's course is run.
Here is the tale of a common sort of man
who life revolved upon a similar plan...
His parents, weary went to bed
Early, to save the gas...”


“Now he felt a sparkle of sudden romance
for a girl he picked up at a shilling dance...
... This night put her in the family way
but he married her before the day
of her labour, with a ten bob ring...”

There was some poetry in this “poem”:

“They say that to each of us is given
one day more wonderful than the rest;
the zenith time, when we're nearer heaven
than we'll be again; our final crest...”
“... and a single poetic instinct stirred
in the man, and he looked above
puzzled by the blueness, and slowly said,
“Doesn't the sky seem big out here?””

But it comes back to grim-ness:

“...they started their war and the holocaust grew
and the working men's land and several more
unhappy nations marched into hell...”
“For a month or so he limped and fumbled
around the ruins where his two dears
had once lived before the whole slum crumbled
under a rain of bombs two years
after he'd gone away...”
“... pennies for the meter in his room,
closed door and window and turned on the gas
and died there deserted, in the gloom...”

At any rate, the ending is neat:

“... thirty years later their son was dead
but 'ere his soul could pass,
because he wasn't very brave
he spent what they had tried to save”

For the last three days I've been scribbling and re-scribbling “Full Circle” and have felt content. Now it is finished and I'll feel restless, waiting until I have another idea.


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