Thursday, January 08, 2009

Saturday 3rd July 1943

I was awakened by a familiar sound – John whimpering that he was dying. The time was 2a.m. He'd been awakened by jackals howling, whom he imagined to be at the gates of hell... I had to deal with the usual items: “Feel my heart; feel my pulse – it's very fast, isn't it? Feel my hand, it's clammy...What's the date – the third? Three is a bad number... so is six, seven, nine, twelve.... This is terrible Stephen.” “You're telling me,” I replied with feeling. “What's the time? I'll probably die at 3a.m. or else at 3 minutes past...”

I eventually told him it was 4 minutes past three and showed him my watch to prove it. He went away mollified. When he came back, dying again, a few minutes later, I feigned deep slumber and let Bill entertain him.

William and I had another and much better walking excursion today. As we went out, armed with haversack, sticks, open-necked shirts and sun glasses, we passed John, crouching on the ground engrossed in misery. “Why don't you do some work and forget yourself for once?” “Because the Sister wants to kill me, that's why.” “AW! You make me bloody sick!”

Today we hardly saw road but tramped through farmlands. Nor were we solely confined to the disciplined, orderly plantations of citrus; we roamed aimlessly through melon, grape and fig lands, which are more rambling and free. Most of the hedges were of cactus, some flowering yellow. We saw a few tomatoes and ended up in a wood of olive trees, where we dozed, and smoked, and talked (always of non-neurotic matters!) for a couple of hours.

We'd had lunch previously under a huge and spreading tree and found that the Sister (bless her!) had made up very tasty sandwiches of cheese, tomato and egg. She'd also given us a large tin of apricots – heaven knows where that came from! - and a tin opener. So we had a dainty picnic, strange for soldiers.

It was a delightful walk – no agraphobia – and I even enjoyed the breeze which made the leaves rustle around us. The country was broken and undulating, full of sudden small views. On the way out we ambled along idly: “Which path shall we take here?” “Oh, maalesh.” “This one then?” “OK”

We came back rapidly and by a more direct route; ending with a short hike along the road into Beer Y'agauv village, where we drank milk and lemonade respectively, in a cafe.

William and I are much better for this day. Poor Store is about the same, pondering his Freudian theories while holding his heart dubiously like a wilting lily.


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