Thursday, February 05, 2009

Friday 26th May 1944

I caught the 8:5a.m. London train without any difficulty and got a seat. Later the train became fairly crowded so I didn't occupy the seat all the way. Welwyn Garden City, and sunshine. The houses, houses, streets, cross-points, clumpity-clumpity, clumpity-clump, clumpity-clump, streets, cross points, sidings, factories, locomotives, shed, Kings Cross.

It was warm in London! Before going to the Family Central Control at Hampstead, I improved my appearance slightly – with a hair-cut. Finally I made a special journey to Camden Town and walked into Dunn's and bought a dark brown trilby hat. I put it on, looked in the mirror and adjusted it at a rakish angle – and felt the years slip away – 4 9/12 of them, at any rate.

I began – only began – to realise that perhaps khaki life really was all over. But I remembered the much younger face that had peered mockingly back at me from a looking-glass the last time I'd worn a hat like this. This new face was older, gloomier, tired; yet under the dark brown hat it showed younger than it had seemed in shaving mirrors lately – and certainly more hopeful.

“I'll bet that's your first hat for a while sir?” laughed the assistant. “Rather! Is it so obvious?” “Well! Haven't you just left the Army?” “Yes – thank God.” “I'll bet you're glad to be out,” he said, “And it's no wonder, from what I've heard of the Army.” I paid the bill (1/3 more than the pre-war price of a Dunn hat) and shouldering my kit bag came out into the warm, sunny street.

SJ Dawson, ex-serviceman. Civilian. No! Just SJ Dawson, one individual among many million other separate, un-regimented individuals. Here was the end of uniformity, senseless routine, mass living – and all the other things I'd hated. What next? That's the best of it, I've no idea! After all these years of a rigidly planned existence, I am in no hurry to plan my own future. Tomorrow is all I'm planning so far.

Tomorrow I see April again.

Conclusion of Summer Shower 1944


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