Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Thursday 26th August 1943

I'm writing this in the ward. I've procured a table and chair and have sited them in a partial recess in the middle of the ward. If I lean back too far I am in darkness; if I lean forward too far I get blown sideways by the winds which sweep through the ward; but happily there is a no-man's land in between, a band of space a few inches wide, in which there is light, but no gales of wind.

Yesterday, in the middle of the morning, an “important, essential” parade was ordered for all patients of grade D for E. William and I are of that grade (“D for E” sounds so low that C3 appears beastly fit in comparison!) and were warned for the parade five times, in case we forgot or made any mistake. So it was impossible to settle down in Occupational Therapy.

At 11a.m. we morosely set out for parade, but some men, coming back, said it was alright, we weren't wanted after all. Not waiting for a second telling, I came back to OT. Later it appeared that we should have been on parade but anyway – it seems the Colonel had enjoyed himself. He personally interrogated each patient, demanding to know what sort of work the patient was doing during his day? To all replies, apparently, the Colonel snorted that the work was not of any importance and that things wanted tightening-up.

I can imagine the scene. The Colonel, splendid in his power and glory, with his red cap band and smart uniform, triumphant and overbearing – great above all in his swelling ego – towering over a frightened, neurotic, nothingness – an “other rank” not even a Something, just a negation – afraid of the domineering voice, afraid that he might say the wrong thing and be put behind barbed wire.

What a gallant picture! Victory after Victory for the splendid Colonel. When everyone had been abased satisfactorily, the King-like Colonel sent them all out into the desert in a long line, saying that when their two hands were full of rubbish, they could fall out.

Happier postscript: I have just read a third book by James Hilton. This was “Random Harvest” and singularly appropriate, too!

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