Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thursday 23rd September 1943

22 furlongs yesterday and 16 today.

There are not any of the moonlight walks around the square of barbed wire now, as Mackay has gone and Joe Meek at present has sore legs (a sweat rash). Instead, Joe and I “sit in he park” as he calls it. We stroll once around the compound, then sit down and talk, on a bench in a quiet corner with our backs against a wall which is usually warm with the stored-up heat of the day's sunshine. There is no moon now, for this is the last quarter and the moon does not rise unril the early hours of the morning.

Joe is trying to improve his memory, so we usually talk about various episodes of his life prior to coming to the Middle East, and Joe tries to recall as many of the details as he can; or else I whistle some old tune and Joe says if it reminds him of anything and also guesses the year in which the tune was popular. Sometimes Joe will leave the seat against the warm wall and return presently with two bowls of hot tea, for he is a ward orderly and has certain privileges in the ward kitchen.

There was a bit of an event, to break the monotony last Tuesday evening. Hearing gay music I went out into the compound and to my excitement discovered that there was an open air cinema show in full swing just beyond the wire. I found a spare seat in a corner of the wire only twenty yards from the screen but in line with it so that only a blur was visible. However, I heard every word distinctly and was able to follow the story, which was a fairly simple one. It was thrilling escapism! Furthermore, that night we were allowed out of our beds until 10p.m. and so slept much better.

Next day, Joe, who had actually been to the show (escorted by an orderly) told me the bits I didn't understand and also described the general appearances and personalities of the characters. Yes, it was quite a red-letter evening!

PS: The worst ward here is No. 25. It has a double row of barbed wire and is patrolled by armed Negro sentries. The patients are partly black, partly white. Just as I was writing the foregoing, I heard a lot of shouting over there, followed by five rifle shots. Then, silence. Dramatic!


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