Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday 27th December 1943

A shave today. We shave (under rigid supervision of a cold-eyed, fish-faced but quite human orderly) on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, usually. It's a bit deadly, trying to get a lather with the common property block of washing (not toilet) soap. This uniform is ghastly – thin, 4 inches short in the legs and sleeves, undergarments ragged and scanty... I have to use my pyjama trousers as a handkerchief.

The great consolation is that men in normal health don't stay here long; they are usually discharged to their homes, though a few go back to duty. Two happy men (they came on an earlier draft from 41) drew their civilian suits this morning.

I looked in the pauper's graveyard. All graves in rows, covered by sad, lank grass. Each grave was marked by a metal plaque bearing a number. That's all. No names, no RIP.

No pay until Friday. No library books, either. Unable to go for a walk this afternoon as I had no boots – I found later that I should not have been out yesterday. No more meals downstairs, now. I'm glad for that place gets on my nerves.
The comrades there have settled down now, but like myself they're still waiting for the little things from their kits which make life bearable. Nobby showed me a man with a bruised face – he had refused treatment.

Issue of 20 (free) Ardath cigarettes this afternoon. Very welcome.

At 7p.m. “Essential” bits and pieces of my private belongings came up and were dumped unceremoniously on the ward floor. Nothing that I'd requested was there, except my books, greatcoat and a tin of “Capstan” tobacco. Instead of pen, ink, pipe, toothbrush and paste and hair brush and comb, they had sent odd letters and photographs – and this notebook. It was heartbreaking to see April's letters strewn on the floor – Yes! they came loose, having been taken out of the waterproof covering I'd made. How I hate the petty restrictions and tyrannies here! One does not dare complain however. If people complain, they probably remain here the longer; in any case they receive the old evasive Army answer - “It 'aint my fault mate; it's the Regulations, see?”

I've laid that dismal book “Miranda” aside. It's too much in sympathy with local surroundings! Some kind soul has lent me something much more pleasant - “The Strange Boarders of Palace Crescent,” by Phillip Oppenheim.

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