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 An Opportunity to Show What I Can Do (part 2)

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Tim of Aclea

Posts : 370
Join date : 2011-12-31

PostAn Opportunity to Show What I Can Do (part 2)

As Leslie had commented, I was missing seeing Dorothy growing up but Vera wrote regularly keeping me up to date with how Dorothy was getting on. Vera was at this time sharing rooms in Prospect Street, Reading with a number of others including her father, her sister Violet Queenie and her sister in law Edith, who was married to Jack Peachey. Edith lived with their two daughters Mavis and Edith and Violet who had by now married Ron Chapman, an RAF navigator, and was expecting their first child. It was hoped at one time that Ron would be transferred to the Egypt and be able to visit me but instead he was transferred to the Uganda squadron.

Vera also wrote to me about other members of the family. “Joyce [my youngest sister] came this morning. She has started work at a place in Friars Street. I forget the name. She has started at £2 2s per week. I think this is very good. Young people of today get better opportunities than we did my darling. I wish you could have had the opportunity to show what you can do. Perhaps you will yet, who knows. Joyce thinks baby's lovely. She plays with her every dinner time.”

It was at the beginning of October I left the hospital and moved to the Con Depot, not far from where I was before. I was jolly glad to leave the hospital. I found it jolly boring after five months of enforced idleness and another chap and myself found ourselves looking after quite a few bed patients and cleaning the ward etc.; this together with the sormsheen, which is a very hot wind, did not make us feel too enthusiastic. This hot desert wind incidentally was incredible and left one gasping for air and perspiring intensely. It is just like opening the door of a very hot oven. The alternative to this was, of course, a very cold icy wind from the sea which is apt to cause sore throats, chills etc. and both are unwelcome. If only these places had some trees, it would help, but there was nothing but miles of sand.

Coming from hospital (dock) to Con camp was quite a business. One draws ones kit, hands in hospital blues and a dozen other jobs including a final formal 'once over' by the Chief MO who in our case happened to be quite a gentleman and did not look at us down his nose.

Arriving at Con camp, however, was the beginning of work again and after one reported to various offices, all placed conveniently apart, and collected additional kit, bedding, plate and bowl on the way one staggered along under a huge load just like the donkeys in here in Egypt. Then came the job of finding a tent and no one seems to welcome newcomers and when one finally barged or staggered into a tent with vacancies several faces looked up from a game of cards and informed one that there was a space on the 'deck', that is the floor and then they went on playing. When this was all over and I still lay on the floor like a wet rag, a whistle blew and we formed up on parade for dinner and marched off to the dining hall, quite like old times back in the 2/6th. The food was better than hospital but not in much quantity. The first night on the hard floor I slept very little and often I woke up in the middle of the night and brushed off the many ants who seemed to think I was a piece of cheese.

The sole topic of conversation in the camp was of a boat and going home. We did not know, of course, when that happy day would dawn but we all had our fingers secretly crossed and we all studied the stars and the latest 'griff' 'gen' or 'buzz' which is the service names for information. I went to the lido most days and in morning I practised the over-arm stroke and got on quite well.

Another topic of Vera’s letters was concerning her efforts to buy items of furniture for our rooms. In October she wrote “By the way, did I tell you I had bought a mirror towards our happy home - Queenie sold her dressing gown for £5. I shall sell mine if I can get the same price; the money will buy me something more useful. I went about a 4ft bed today (£8 10s) but as usual we were just too late.” Later on she wrote to advise me “I bought our bed today dearest, it cost £12 10s, as you can guess the prices of things now, still it seems quite nice, of course you can't really tell until it is delivered and you can give it a good look over. I had thought of trying to get a folding polished table and selling the other. Edith will give the same money I gave for it but one other big item I have to buy is linoleum. I have been about it this afternoon, it is hard to get, one place wanted £5.12.0 and another just under £7 but I'm going to try another couple of places tomorrow. I'm glad now I bought the canteen. One thing I should like to get when you come home darling is a wardrobe but I'll warn you, they are very expensive. So far I have not had to borrow money and I hope I shan't. I am closing my bank book for which I shall get £8 15s. All next week we hope to be very busy getting straight.”

A week later Vera advised me that “I bought a dressing table today, a small one with 3 drawers, also 3 mirrors, frameless, it was £7 15s. Personally I think it was a dreadful price but we need one. It is being delivered Tuesday. Anyway it will do for Dorothy's bedroom when we get the suite we are going to have one day. The linoleum was laid today and we moved Edith's bedroom furniture upstairs. Did I tell you I managed to get some cheaper after all and it is quite a good quality too. It is now costing £2 16s for my sitting room. This is a big improvement on £6. Tomorrow we shall have another go at straightening things out. I don’t think I've been in such a muddle.”

When Vera wrote at the end of October she told me that “I managed to get a bath today, it is really only big enough for Dorothy but was the only one I could get so we will have to make do. I had to pay £2 6s for it. Prices here are very high. I'm glad now we bought our rugs, they are unobtainable now. The big one looks very nice in our sitting room; I am also using the old small one there and keeping the pair for the bedroom. Our sitting room is beginning to look quite nice darling. It is not quite finished yet but Edith and I hope to have everything quite clean by next weekend. It has taken longer to straighten things out than we thought. We have still the top bedrooms and stairs to do. I very much doubt if I shall be able to save any money towards a coat, there is still quite a lot to get. I really want to get 3 laying hens as soon as possible. I could practically keep them on scraps and it is so nice having a few fresh eggs. They will cost about 25s to 30s each but will I think be a good investment. We really did get married just in time darling. I feel very sorry for people getting married now with some living on coupons and prices so high.”

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