Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sunday 3rd October 1943

Paced 22 furlongs.

If yesterday was a day of headaches, this is a day of unquenchable thirsts; the sort of day which is almost intolerable in the desert, with a meagre water ration. There has been a strong khamsin wind since breakfast time. It is scorching hot, not close and sultry.

I washed my underpants at 3 o'clock this afternoon, then hung them out to dry on the barbed wire fence whilst I paced up and down. Just 13 minutes later I collected them. They were bone dry and had that nice, hot scorched smell which one associates with clothes which have been warmed in front of a fire. 13 minutes or probably less! English housewives would say that wasn't a bad drying time for the month of October!

Last night just before lights-out, there was a pleasant little gathering in the kitchen. The special “privilege” tea was handed around and cigarettes were lit. The company was Joe Meek, Jock Hart, the two kitchen men and myself. We talked lazily, at ease.

Lin Yutang, the Chinese thinker and author, says of “the art of conversation”: “In true conversation, we must be able to air our views in leisure and intimacy with a few good friends and with no people around whom we hate to look at... Proper style of conversation is a style of intimacy and nonchalance. There is no self-consciousness and everyone is indifferent to which way the conversation is drifting...”

I think Lin Yutang would have approved our kitchen discussion, for the above remarks were applicable. So far as I remember this pleasant and idle conversation began with a discussion of various kinds of cigarettes, went on to memories of presumably obsolete types like “Spinet”, “Tarf” and “Rough Rider”, then drifted into a debate about the odd coupons and free gifts racket which were rampant a few years ago. We shook our heads at those “stunts” for selling cigarettes and newspapers and what not. “Good old Player's never went in for anything like that...” “No. In fact I believe it was the Imperial Tobacco Company that put a stop to it.” “Yes, probably it was...”

Thus we arrived back near our starting point, talking about cigarette cards. “Remember the Player's series, Cries of London?” “Yes. And the next was “Struggles for Existence,” a nature series.” “Will's did a “Gardening Hints” lot about that time too.” “Which brand had cards of “real photographs” - country views and all that – all hand painted?” We made many conjectures but this question was never really solved. Yes! I'm sure this useless and pleasing converse would have satisfied Lin Yutang!

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