Saturday, January 17, 2009

Wednesday 24th November 1943

In the annexe, I paced up and down, noisily, waiting for a lavatory to become vacant. Joe Meek came in, glanced at the three closed doors and said, “Hullo Steve! You waiting...?” “Yes!” I cut in viciously, with cunning intent, “I've been here 10 minutes, waiting for a crap, but those three fellers stuck in there aren't moving a bit!” I made this bitter comment loudly, and immediately there was a rustling of paper in two of the three lavatories. Whether this was conscience or coincidence, I don't know!

Free cinema show. Five rows of wicker chairs for officers; two rows of wicker chairs for orderlies, eight rows of tightly packed no-leg-room forms for patients and other ranks.

There was music. We waited. Three or four officers and two sisters came in. The orderlies were allowed to occupy two more rows of chairs. The lights dimmed, and Joe Meek, Taffy the Commando and a few more, snaked into some empty chairs also. I moved hesitantly after them, instead of in a brisk, decided manner; saw a furious RAMC sergeant coming, and slunk back to my uncomfortable form behind two ceiling baulks of timber which obscured the screen. The sergeant ignored those who'd acted swiftly!

He strode up to me, glared and snarled savagely, “Can't you behave? Cut it out!”
My offence was only that of taking three steps away from my seat and three steps back. But I responded to his remarks like a good soldier ie I cringed humbly and said nothing. As I did so, I became conscious that the cinema music-box was grinding out that particular bit of “Marching through Georgia” which declaims grandly: “Hurrah! Hurrah! For the flag that makes us free!” Quite appropriate, what?

The chair I'd aimed for, remained vacant right through the show. I behaved well, and didn't try to sit in it again.


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