Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Friday 31st December 1943

My spirits soared from the foggy flats of misery to clear sunshine (“... high on the downs at dawn!...) today, for several good things happened.

First, I boldly went into the Q Stores alone (against all orders) and again requested my pipe. The meagre, sallow Corporal reappeared and grumbled for some time. I replied cautiously to each of his complaints and accusations in a humble manner. Eventually he fetched my pipe – it took less than 30 seconds to locate it – and gave it to me, saying, “There y'are. Don't come down 'ere again without an orderly in charge of you, now”.

Back to the ward just in time to receive a week's pay – 7/-! And then I borrowed a match from an orderly and lit my pipe! I strolled out into the grounds, almost eating the smoke, which as I puffed, rose bluely about my head in the cold, still air. (There are no zift winds here!)

When I returned, the Corporal i/c M4 told me to report to the canteen after lunch, to work. A few seconds later, the Sister gave me a letter which had bright blue ink on the envelope. When I compare that happy, loyal and un-perturbed letter with some of the cautious, negative or dubious letters some of my friends have received from their ladies – then I know how lucky I am. Inside the letter was a photograph of April, laughing and looking quite adorable with her head on one side.

Finally I hurried into the annexe for a shave (it is shaving day) and of course, the water was piping hot, and the blade was sharp, and I got a good soapy lather with the new shaving soap. In the space of an hour, everything seemed to have changed, from gloom to hopes of happiness. As I dried my face I found myself whistling merrily – a snatch from the Bach Concerto, which Lobel used to play.

7:30p.m. and bedtime. Duly reported to the canteen, and became 3rd i/c fires and cleaning-up. Spent the afternoon in lighting stoves, fetching coke, putting up black-out shutters etc. There was still time for plenty of walking however. Most of the work is done in the mornings. For our labour we may each have a mug of hot tea at break time – free of all charge! Drew cigarette ration, which consisted of 20 Players and 20 Weights at what seemed an exorbitant price after the Middle East cheapness.

The library (supposed to make it's weekly opening) misfired this afternoon. Still, there's always that wretched “Miranda” to fall back on and I'm more busy now. I've been smoking furiously ever since this forenoon!

I feel happy enough, though eager to leave here, either in khaki or “civvie” clothes. Nobby is happy, too. His mother has been to see him. She looked worried at first, but he whispered confidentially, “It's alright Ma! I'm working my ticket!” and she was instantly re-assured!

In a few minutes, just before lights-out, I shall clean my teeth properly. One of my fellow sufferers obtained 3 toothbrushes today – Lord knows how – and has given me one.


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