Saturday, February 07, 2009

Monday 3rd July 1944

(Inward-sweating people pressed
tightly in the airless Tube;
thrusting crowds in Piccadilly;
clammy rain and broken glass)

That – in blank verse – comprises my impressions of the morning journey to Town; and the evening return home could be the same reversed. Thank heavens I'm working in London for a few months, not a lifetime.

It was rather dirty and disorderly in the office – and rain was pouring into the top floor, which had been torn open by the blast of Friday night's robot bomb. Nearly all windows had been smashed and a few doors torn off their hinges, but casualties were only small – three girls cut by fragmenting glass.

In the morning I just buggered about but in the afternoon I was given books and a desk and put to work. It has to do with figures and some arithmetic is involved. Seems very complicated. I worked laboriously, slowly re-checking my work line by line before making entries in the huge ledger of multitudinous columns. It has to Balance at the end, so I must not lose any gallons, tons, pounds, or shillings by entering in the wrong column!

Hours are 9:30a.m. to 5:30p.m. and I'm advised to take a 3-monthly season ticket from Essex. Nothing is known about my salary however. Mr FCR said vaguely, “Oh, I expect it will be the same as before. Don't worry about that, Stephen J.”

During my idle morning I studied the report book of the offices' ARP squad. The diary for last Friday included the laconic entry: “12:50 hrs. Bomb. (extensive damage here)” Last night's report stated: “July 2nd /3rd 2355 hrs. Bomb very near. 37 bombs during night. No incidents in Area 240E”

Robot bombs are being discussed everywhere – in tubes, streets, cafes... Each time the office phone tinkled, bombs were discussed in addition to business. The Second Front has quite faded as a topic of conversation!


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