Friday, January 02, 2009

Monday 15th March 1943

This morning, Howe casually addressed Ghandi as “Sambo”. This shook the old fellow considerably, and he promptly told Howe he was a bastard – and other things.
“Me Rampeli Masani. No Sambo!” screeched Ghandi. This annoyed Howe so eventually he moved back into the upper class tent whence he came. I was sorry to see him go! He's a much an anti-routine and anti-jingoism man as I am!

Later when he had cooled down, Ghandi told me that “Sambo” was hardly a complimentary form of address. In his country one addressed a low servant as “Sambo” - not a friend “who might sit in the house.”

The Greek sergeant who made a dramatic entrance and exit here yesterday, has been moved into Howes' old bed. He seems a pretty agitated sort of a feller. Even Paras thinks he's excitable so he must be absolutely crazy. The quiet Anastas has nothing to do with him at all. He just grins, shakes his head, and says “magdnoon.”

More wholesale shock-therapy injections, today, including Chadwick and the now hideous Hamad. Taffy seems to take an unhealthy interest in these stunts and talks too much and too audibly before and after the others have been injected. It is probably nervousness.

MacAdam, the English artilleryman, is quite OK in his behaviour but has headaches. He thinks they're a queer lot in here. He has that slight wooden-ness, characteristic of all gunners. He wanted to talk about the desert – the old game you know, “Was your lot at Knightsbridge in '42? Didn't we lay along side you at Mersa Matruh last year?” - but I adroitly avoided much talk of “shop” by saying my memory was almost gone. A slight exaggeration, but maalesh.

Handsome Harry, the new nigger, contributes nil to the existing jovial atmosphere of the ward. He doesn't even fall out of bed much. Occasionally he just gets up and shambles stupidly down the ward, looking rather like King Kong. “Yeah, a dead loss,” said an orderly, when I commented on Harry's taciturnity.

The Killick is now recounting some of his experiences to MacAdams, so the latter will shortly be even more convinced we are strange people here.

Dialogue between two orderlies:

“Is Farrell in here?”
“Which is he?”
“That mad Scotsman, with the soup basin on his head.”

At first Paras called me Stefan. But now it is Stephanie. He addresses me dozens of times each day, thus, - loudly, plaintively and caressingly. He assures me that Stephanie is not the feminine of Greek Stefan and that his brother's name is also Stephanie. “Ah! Stephanie! Good!” bellows Paras winningly.


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