Saturday, January 03, 2009

Wednesday 7th April 1943

First impressions of this place are not very good. This ward is a big, bleak sort of room and they seem very keen on bullshit. At present, I think I'll get no better here, perhaps worse; but we'll see how it is when I settle down. The Sailor, Taffy, Jock, Chief Rampelli – and I think Joe Louis, Gasasiui, Paras and his Greek sergeant – are in ward 37. This is a “closed ward” for bad cases; no visitors, barred windows and all that sort of thing.

At breakfast I met Ed Din, Chadwick, Paddy and the others. Din said, “Hamad in talata-talateen. Want shufti you.” I went along to ward 33 and found Hamad, Mizrahi and dear old King Kong incarcerated there. I was allowed to talk to them through the windows (through iron bars!). “Hullo my friend!” said Hamad. He shook hands and then, to my delight, muttered something and placed his hand on his heart in the ceremonial Moslem style. “This good man! King!” he told Said, (a nice Arab from my ward) who had accompanied me. “Yes!” I responded, “This man also King – of Hedjaz, Yemen and Palestine.”

Hamad has fine manners. For instance when someone else began speaking to him in Arabic, Hamad was not ignorant enough to leave me out of it. He translated back into English for me, although the conversation did not concern me.

My chief confederates in my own ward – 36 – are Said, Dipuditsa, and Masobanks. I act as translator and general protector for these last two, who know as much English as I know Bechuana. This evening I took them to see old King Kong – Ramatodi. He was pathetically pleased to have visitors who spoke his own tongue. He still goes in for gloomy headshakings, followed by a puzzled yet whimsical smile. It is difficult to know who is more ugly – King Kong or Dipuditsa.

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