Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Thursday 3rd June 1943

“Corporal! Come here please!” In the quietness of yesterday afternoon, Sister Scholfield's abrupt command rang out with dramatic urgency from the other end of the ward. I hurried to her, past the long row of empty beds. The Sister pointed sterny into the annexes. “Please go into the bathroom immediately and see what is happening. I can hear voices inside, there has been banging on the door, and someone appears to be crying out...”

My perfunctory push on the door was resisted; so I roughly pushed it open, and entered the room. Inside I found Hancock the buffoon and two wastes, who were all either washing or drying themselves. Hancock had been giving one of his graphic narratives, with gestures. (“So I taps the front door – like this, see? No answer. So I taps again. “Who's there?” she calls, “What do you want?” “Me” I says, “And you know what I want, dearie!!... See?”)

“What is it?” demanded Sister grimly, as I emerged from the bathroom. “Oh, nothing Sister. Just three men having a bit of fun. They're all laughing... One of them is telling a story”. “Ah! There are three men, are there? Safety in numbers,” commented the Sister, mollified.

Again there is a cigarette shortage. I have a packet containing seven “V for Victory” cigarettes, and the eighth, now only a smouldering stub, is in my mouth. After this – nothing.

Signalman Hancox to his successor, on relinquishing his job i/c ward kitchen, where he has obligingly given me continuous early morning cups of tea: “... And another thing – you don't let anyone come in here for buckshee tea, see? Except (looking at me, ecstatically sipping a sweet and milky cup) a few privileged customers. Same as the Corporal, here. He sees that you get the pick of the clean linen whenever you want, and you give him a cup of brew every morning...”

Store had an interview with the doctor this morning. William Lias and I, both at work in the garden, saw him come out eventually and rush off alone into the groves, in a desperate manner. Apparently the interview was very similar to the one I had here early in April, and John Store's reactions are much the same as mine were then. It was a stormy interview. The MO kept telling him he was going back to his unit, but I don't think he will – not yet anyway. I believe it was just another instance of the MO's clever method of shocking a patient into revealing just how nervous he is.

I've been feeling excited today, a) because a Colonel – he later turned out to be the specialist who recently examined my chest – stopped me and asked me my name and unit b) because Hancox asked me what I knew of Almaza – the Base Depot RA, hell on earth.

So I worked off my agitation by – work. Lots of it. Hardly sat down at all, today.
In the evening I went for a stroll with John Store – he, still very agitated. At dusk we sat down in the middle of the citrus grove. My pipe tasted fine; he was nervously puffing at many cigarettes, lighting one from the stub end of another. He talked rapidly and slowly, his voice rising and falling.

Store is an ideal companion, for his conversation is stimulating, not dull and boring like that of poor old William.

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