Sunday, January 04, 2009

Sunday 18th April 1943

A Swaziland soldier is in the ward; a pretty good type of African. This afternoon, he and Mashobanco and I wandered into the peas field – where we found Howe having a feed, of course. We lounged about.

The Swazi man wandered into the middle of an acre of big white daisies, and stood still. Suddenly he flung wide his arms and cried, in the deep, sonorous voice of these Africans, “Dere are plenty of flowers in dis world!” It was a beautiful moment, the black man amid the flowers, abruptly realising loveliness. For that is what his statement meant.

He says he does not like South Africa, because the white Europeans there treat him like dirt. They will often say, “Stand further away from me. You smell...” “I do not smell,” said the Swazi man indignantly. Well, I certainly haven't noticed a smell. And he has a cold shower with me, every morning before breakfast; which none of the white patients here do.

Later on, I revealed to this Swazi (Albert) and to Mashobanco, a few facts of human life. That the earth travelled round the sun, for instance. I explained night and day, summer and winter. And told them the world was a sphere (using an orange to demonstrate) not flat, (like a book). I also told them of Chris Columbus, who once feared he'd fall off the edge of the world, but bravely sailed on and discovered America. And finally I told of the slaves and the American Civil War. They were an interested audience!

Albert translated sometimes to the slower and non-linguistic Mashobanco. Eventually Mashobanco wanted to go around the world and see for himself, and Albert wanted to go and live in America.

There is a horrid squirt here, called Daniels, whom everyone hates, for he is a bouncing, aggressive little creeper, who calls the Sisters “dear lady.” Tonight I made him look silly, which pleased everyone. There were sounds of a fight in the annexe. Albert and I were first in, and found Daniels struggling with Bartlett, a pretty “puggled” harmless fellow. As we dashed in they broke apart, and Bartlett hurried into the bathroom. Daniels leapt furiously after him – and found me standing in the doorway. All his threats failed to move me; then he pushed and pulled in an utterly ineffectual manner. I said coldly, “Better go and lie down on your bed, old man, you'll be alright.” And he was in a furious temper, crying that he didn't like the look of me, didn't trust me etc. It was most humiliating for him. He had to crane his neck to look me in the face; he is so small.

Lobel and his friends gathered ominously around Daniels, while poor Bartlett was running round and round the dark bathroom, muttering. (obviously “puggled”!) Eventually the sister came in and we dispersed. Lobel (a very large Roumanian Jew, like Jack Oakie in appearance and personality), came up to my bed and said dramatically, “We were waiting! If he touch you, he is dead man!” “Rather!” I said.

But – who would slay the little squirt? Lobel, perhaps? Certainly not I!

Tomorrow, I think I'll have a blood test. Several patients had it at No.22 and the reason there, was suspected syphilis. (Syphilis is one of the causes of GPI.) Well, thank God I've a sense of humour! I'll need it when they take half a pint of blood out of my arm, and examine it for a syphilis positive!

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