Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tuesday 29th February 1944

Off duty from 1:30p.m. today; the other NCO at the station always relieves me very promptly. I went to barracks, collected my mail, read two letters from April in a cafe and “escaped” to the flicks. When the show was over I had tea in the town and read the letters again.

I don't know whether I feel most shocked, bitter, defeated, angry or disappointed. I've been waiting 40 hours (the suspense has been quite charming) for one of those letters. April told me a letter was on the way which would “hit me between the eyes” when I spoke to her on the telephone last Sunday; also she said, there was a second letter with a “peace offering” of some cakes. This arrived today also; the cakes nearly choke me each time I eat one.

The former letter was not posted until 9:30a.m. yesterday, at Pitsea, so it is small wonder my many calls at the depot post office during the last 36 hours were all quite unproductive until this afternoon. The second letter was only a note, covering the cakes, which it was now stated were not a “peace offering” at all and would have been sent anyway.

My God! All the bitter remarks contained in this much-advertised mysterious letter, have arisen from two causes:- My deep concern for April's safety in air raids and consequent annoyance that she appears to take unnecessary risks, which she latter boasts about. And, the fact that I left my cheque book and Bank papers at Hampstead instead of giving them to her. Nevertheless, I don't blame April or myself entirely for this awful quarrel about nothing. I blame the damned Army, that prevents us being together.

When I was in the Middle East, April's letters were wonderful and a great comfort to me. I've often quoted extracts in this diary so now by way of contrast I will quote parts of this amazing letter, too: “I am afraid there will be one or two items here you may not like very much – however they are perhaps small things but I'm afraid you have yet to learn that it is those small things which I find most irritating... Your own common sense must surely have told you that no ONE person could look after a whole street...”

In air raids, this.

“... our team consists of Mr Hack, and the husband of the lady who should be on, as she went hysterical the other night, poor little soul, and myself.”

Why is it necessary to mention that one member of the team was driven hysterical by the danger?

“... I was somewhat surprised to learn Pep was in charge of your Bank account. The temptation to send you a copy of the Ministry's letter is just too much to be resisted so herewith...”

The neatly typed document which formed the next page of the letter was perhaps the worst part of all – just cheap sarcasm. Purporting to be from the Ministry of Labour and National Service it warned me I had committed a breach of Regulations by my act of dismissing an employee (MY WIFE) from my service without notice. This letter threatened various penalties and added:

“... In order to put this matter right in as far as it is possible to do so, you are hereby ordered to pay the said employee one months money in lieu of notice...”

And I, when I had digested this “joke”, was sorely tempted to send the employee a cheque for £8-6-0. That would be the correct amount surely, as it is my total income for four weeks. This extraordinary letter continued:

“You know you have badly broken the no secrets hid pact”

This jab because I stopped telling April – and all the rest of the family – anymore about my nerves and worries here. This was because I didn't want to become a sort of chronic invalid.

“Also previously you were not over keen on your financial business being known to others, now, I am afraid I have to tell you that I consider it definitely our private affair – and I do not like to know it isn't.”

As if Pepita was examining my papers, which she keeps in a locked desk.

“Also I believe that on the 22nd January 1944 the name of the girl with whom you vowed to share your worldly good and life was April Constance Winifred...”

She seems intoxicated with her command of business phraseology, which should never have been used in a personal letter of this sort. And so – in the summing-up I am considered to have already broken my marriage vows.

What do I do now? Well, I'm trying not to write a letter back. If I did, it would be as scathing as hers has been. I'm also trying not to telephone her before the official date at which I have been told to telephone ie. next Thursday night.

My God! It's pretty awful to have the sacred words of January 22nd hurled so viciously in my teeth only five weeks later! I still do not know whether I feel most shocked, bitter, defeated, angry or disappointed. Having just read this letter for the forth time, I certainly feel a bit physically sick!

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