Sunday, February 01, 2009

Saturday 8th April 1944

I had to go into the town of Newcastle this afternoon, as I wanted some air mail letter forms, cigarettes, petrol-lighter fuel and the luxury of a hot bath. Now that I've been, I won't make another trip , if it can be avoided. I obtained the cigarettes, and air mail forms (one each for Robin in Canada, Jack Chenery in Egypt and Dick at Freetown) but to my surprise I could not find a shop which sold petrol lighter fuel; there were always plenty around London. Also I had a decent hot bath at the Corporation Baths.

But Newcastle is deadly! Crowds and crowds of people, all chattering in the queer sing-song Northumbrian dialect. There was no room on the trams – which were grim and apparently square-wheeled vehicles – no room on the pavements, and no room in the cafes. I had the deuce of a job to get a meal at all but eventually got into a cinema cafe after queueing for a long time. When I did get in there was hardly anything to eat, and no sugar for the tea or mustard for the half-cooked sausages. I compared this with the efficient Lyons and ABC systems in London – and wondered.
A few local people whom I questioned said dourly that it was always the same around Tyneside; other places seemed to be well organised but here they just muddles through.

So, disliking Newcastle and it's vast crowds I came back to the camp at 7 o'clock. I felt tired and stiff-muscled in the legs, too, for this morning there was strenuous physical training. I weakly struggled through some arm exercises in the gym, jumped 4 foot 6 inches in the high jump and 13 foot in the long jump, and ran in a field adjoining the gym. I finished forth (out of four) in the 100 yards in 13 seconds and ran tenth (out of sixty) in the mile in 5:56 seconds. My God! It was cold there! My teeth chattered until my jaws ached. I only began to feel warm during the last lap of the mile!

The weather is still cold, but dry. We now have a fire in the Nissen hut so it is quite warm there until the fire goes out, late at night.


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