I’m taking advantage of ANZAC holiday to catch up on a few letters. (The day on which we remember our ‘finest hour’ when thousands of NZ soldiers were killed on the hills of Gallipoli in the 1st War – we humans must have the brains of peas!)
X rang and [partner] talked with him – I was quite glad to miss him actually. He was a young Lieutenant when Y and I were in Algiers – i/c a ‘small boat’ and whilst waiting for the invasion of Sicily he and some 8 others helped collate the Operation Orders for some 2 weeks.
Yes, X was the Art Director there and… when he went to Woburn Abbey in the war I joined them as soon as I could get away. There were some 10 people from [the company] there, oddly. X must be getting on now, when I was 18 I thought him pretty aged!!
It’s always nice to have a good excuse to ring you. I was talking this morning about the miserableness of lack of communication for people overseas during the war – it would have been wonderful in those days if one had been given a ration of one call every three months, or something! It is quite a different sort of communication to hear a voice as against reading writing (let alone typescript – though that does mean more on the page).
He was for a time on the Queen Elizabeth at a time during the war when she was used carrying 15,000 troops at a time from USA to Britain, and about 1,200 sick or prisoners on the way back. She apparently did not usually have an escort, but relied on her speed (something like 36 knots flat-out, if I remember rightly). He told me of an occasion when she was to rendezvous off Milford Haven with two cruisers who would look after her. Before long there was a radio warning of submarines and an order to adopt ‘Zigzag R’ (which involved full speed). No sooner had she worked up to that than one of the cruisers flashed a plaintive message, ‘Wait for me’!
“We were invited to a Malay wedding. The bride and groom wore beautiful costumes of cotton and gold thread woven. This was called songket. They looked lovely. The whole ceremony took place without the bride! And they only came together after all the vows were taken! And yesterday I went hiking in the forest. I saw lots of weird and wonderful insects and animals.”
“Have just spent a delightful week in Israel – but so busy sightseeing that I got no cards written. This church [on postcard] is relatively modern, but very beautiful. Beneath is the (possible) court of the High Priest with a prison alongside, and in the garden beyond is a street which definitely dates back to the time of Christ. But interesting as Jerusalem is, I found the countryside even more memorable. This year the spring has been wet, and everywhere is carpeted with wild flowers, tiny and delicate – even on the bare rock of the desert. Quite amazing!”
“Up in the Pyrenees – croissants and local apricot jam breakfast – hot sun just over mountains. Taking little local train higher up today.”
“Inside a pyramid at Cairo was not exactly inspiring, nor was Jesus’ birth place in Bethlehem, but I am glad to have had the experience all the same!”
“So far, so good – in spite of the aborted coup. Now that Gorbachev is back, the Muscovites seem happier. We are leaving on our way to Siberia, 4 nights on the trans-Siberian train. A few of my ‘comrades’ play Scrabble so it should be a very pleasant journey.”
[Ebeltoft] “This is the perfect place for a holiday – delightfully quaint little town bordered by beaches and sheltered by tree covered hills full of flowers – if only they could get the weather right too! It’s wet, windy and cold!”
[Meeru Island, Maldives] “This is certainly a beautiful place (coups apart!). The water is so warm and clear azure blue, perfect for snorkelling with amazing range of coral and fish. The accommodation is fairly basic in bungalows on the beach but it’s very clean.”
[Alghero, Sardinia] “So far, so good but today some undesired clouds are lurking here and there. / Have played a few games of Scrabble but concentration is difficult after a pasta meal and plenty of wine, or with the Med. lapping gently at ones feet./ And I, sober, still managed to lose, but consoled myself with plenty of gelati which are grand!/ We went to the hills by coach for a Shepherds’ Picnic consisting of lamb stew, fresh curd cheese, sucking [sic] pig and all the red wine we could drink./ Drank two glasses of unadulterated wine so no complaint, real achievement! On the whole people are helpful as to our pigeon [sic] Italian.”
[Arizona] “I love this [Hopi] pottery, wish I could buy some of the Kachinas too. Never mind – better not to acquire too many material possessions. The Hopi and especially the Navajo weaving is so beautiful that I could buy up all the blankets. They are incredibly expensive though – so no hope.”
“Have seen trees so big you can drive through the middle and even a hollow one where 23 horses were stabled by US Army!”
“… a very hairy drive of about 15km over riverbed stones – the road wove back and forth over the bed, and in a couple of places had water (v. shallow). The map had a thick dotted red line for this section, where it should have been thin – then I never would have attempted it. However we all survived – 2 women + 1 car. Was too preoccupied to even think of photos.”
“As usual I find the beauty of the little chapel overwhelming. We managed to enjoy a minute of peace before a flood of huge Americans in shorts invaded the tranquillity.” [Oh dear – even postcards can be non-PC!]
“One day I went on the big tour that went to the Blue Mountains and some caves… we saw the B. Mts, very beautiful but no time to go on an overhead trolley thing as we had to get on to the caves, like temples. I now know I’ve done caves, they all look the same to me, except these after we’d been in them 10 minutes and gone up 80 steps, and there were some 200 more to come, I felt quite faint, and thought it would be easier to get out now than an hour later…”
“…a colleague at work confessed that she had been defrauding the company by not banking cash taken from clients… She was fired but what a mess to sort out! …The company has employed a Credit Controller…”
“After the Spring Harvest Festival we were given a magnificent lunch picnic in the shelter of the old prison walls. It seemed rather awful to be throwing away so many card and plastic plates and cups when 150 years ago several men were hanged 20 yards away after a prison uprising about the withdrawal of their own pannikins granted by one Governor with enlightened ideas, and withdrawn by the sadist who replaced him.”
“Fifty years since I went to war on a 2/11d ticket from Charing Cross – makes me feel OLD!”
Two reports of the same event
“With the present ‘gag’ on our local media during the State of Emergency, you are probably better informed than we are! … yes, it IS very worrying and frightening… and it is now closer to home than ever before – last Saturday night’s bombing on our beach front was a mere two miles away – the explosion we heard while watching television was a sound which is becoming all too familiar…”
“Well, despite the bombs going off here things are still very much together and life goes on. The car bomb which almost demolished a beach front hotel a week ago was quite something… Our secretary lives in the adjoining block of flats. There was considerable damage to windows… right up to the 20th (top) floor of the building…”