Thursday, February 05, 2009

Saturday 27th May – Monday 29th May 1944

Hot sunshine for my journey from London to Essex. I still wore my “suits civilian” but now with neat shirt, collar and tie, Dunn hat and brown shoes. My sole visible Army link was my bulging kit bag, marked “870844 Cpl. SJ Dawson EY”.

When I walked up to the back door of Terori I was confronted by the spectacle of Vi literally foaming at the mouth – she had been cleaning her teeth with camphorated chalk. Eyes bulging she staggered past me and spat into a flower bed. Then she was able to speak. But I spoke first, “I'm being discharged!' I cried happily, “I'm on 28 days leave!”

A few hours later – a blazing summer afternoon – I sat on a fence smoking stinking herbal tobacco whilst I waited for April to come. I was dressed comfortably, wearing a khaki shirt instead of collar and tie. Then the bus stopped and April alighted, dressed delightfully as a Swiss peasant girl.

No kiss when we met; that was according to plan. Our first kiss was in bed at night.
This was Whitsuntide and they were hot, glorious summer days without a single worry or care, not even a small one. I actually tried to recollect something which had to be worried about, but there was nothing, absolutely nothing.

Most of the time I wore shorts and a bush shirt with bulging pockets, and April an astonishing succession of glamourous beach suits. We lounged in the garden until we were sunburnt and had to lie on the bed and rub Coty's into each other. Another ritual was the anointing of April's gnat bites with Milton's.

One afternoon April took me wandering on the hills above Terori, she in a skirted beach dress, I in shorts and bush shirt, and I was shown a sand pit where she used to slide on her childish bottom. “If I get another thorn, you'll have to carry me pick-a-back across this prickly field,” she said, after many halts. A few minutes later I was transformed into a horse whilst she prattled of a lady who dwelt in a tower and was pursued by a wicked knight. We came home carrying wild roses.

We sat in the garden once, and talked of past years when our knowing was young, explaining and laughing at old, small mysteries. Only twice in this fine Whitsuntide we looked like lovers and each time Vi happened to suddenly appear on some mundane business and laughed at us.

Once April had been overcome with emotion – I think after discussing the “squeegy” spot on her bot. (actually mine and it had been painfully pricked and squeezed that morning!) - and drooped her head against my knee so that her lovely hair (which s gloriously grown longer) fell forward.

Later, when we were in the sitting room and she was reading aloud from her diary, an intonation of her voice stirred me, made something go click! somewhere and looking up I saw her leaning against the table as she read. She was wearing a white, loose-fitting tennis jacket over her beach costume. I shivered and something went click! again, inside me. When April finished reading I stood up with (on this occasion) unconscious dramatic effect, kissed her and said, “I've just realised that you are the sort of girl I always wanted to marry.” She gazed at me wide-eyed and solemn and at that romantic instant Violet appeared in the doorway, cried “oooer!” and covered her face with her apron.

Both our moods changed in a flash, we roared in mirth.


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