Friday, January 30, 2009

Thursday 30th March 1944

I'm not working at the station now, so have nothing to do until I go, unless they try to get me on parades and fatigues. This morning, after breakfast and just before parade, I hurried out of the barracks and had a swim at the baths.

It's nearly dinner-time now. What I shall do this afternoon, I don't quite know.
In the afternoon I cycled – two hours the outward journey, just over an hour the inward trip – for four kisses and a short stroll down a suburban street. Aphrodite and I crossed by the ferry boat to North Woolwich soon after lunch. I felt the usual sense of relief when we were in Essex and clear of the barrack town. Then I cycled steadily down monotonous wide roads across a dreary landscape of factories, slag heaps, gas works and marshes, into an area of serried rows of uniformly designed Council houses.

It was sunny and warm. I halted once for a cup of tea and reached Romford at about 3:30p.m. Following the directions given me by a homesick RAF man in Cairo, in 1941, I easily found Harrow Drive. I'd never seen it in daylight before; it looked a nice road of individualistic houses. I retired to a cafe nearby and had some toast and cakes.

After writing part of a letter to April – and it seemed odd to be writing to her from a cafe within sight of Harrow Drive – I went along to her digs. It was not the same as going to Terori. However, I had a wash there, left Aphrodite in the yard, and after listening to precise instructions from Mr and Mrs Hack walked to the road, about a quarter of a mile distant, where April's bus stopped.

It came almost at once, and a few yards away, I saw my wife alight and walk towards me. Her face did look funny as she saw me and kept on walking! When we met, that was the first kiss and it wasn't an ordinary peck-in-locum-publico kiss either. As we walked back towards No 52, fingers interlocked, arms pressed closely together, I solemnly explained that I had about 10 minutes to spare if I was to get home before lighting up time.

April kept om emitting queer little gurgles and sudden laughs of astonishment. We entered the digs and I said briskly, “Right, the cycle's in the yard...” “Hey! Wait one minute!” cried April, “I want to show you some books!” I followed her up into the green-walled bedroom, so often described in her letters to the Middle East. “I don't see why you shouldn't come up!” she had laughed, standing on the stairs. So I went up, while Mrs Hack, in the hall, looked as if she wasn't quite sure whether such a proceeding was improper or not. The bedroom seemed far more familiar and homely than the rest of the house, perhaps because April's possessions were in evidence in it.

“Have I ever kissed you in the green-walled bedroom?” “No” That was the second and third kiss. The forth kiss was a minute later in the road outside. April kissed the cycle too: “I christen thee Aphrodite!” Then I mounted and she said, “I'll not see you for forty two hours, then – somewhere near the Half Way House, if possible.” “Uh-huh,” I replied and cycled off, then turned my head to shout in tragi-comedy, “Forty two hours of hell!”

As if rider or steed was inspired, we dashed through the streets, lost our way but dashed on and reached the arterial road at 6:25p.m. By 7:15 we were on the north bank of the river. There was no sign of the ferry boat, so eventually I wheeled Aphrodite through the tunnel and at 7:30 garaged her on the other side.

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