So great was my anxiety to do right by my son that I even went without the chance of getting a pair of boots to fit me in order to hitch-hike to my mysterious town X to look for a birthday card. I didn’t get the postcard I wanted and now it looks as if I will never get my boots, for it will be at least five days before I’m free to go through that way! This for a bunch of brats who never seem to realise they have a father except when they want something! Seriously, I walked myself dizzy, after a nightmare journey in a jeep often axle-deep in yellow Normandy mud, trying to get a birthday card. When I saw these I fell on them with a cry of delight, for it seemed they solved the problem not only for me but for four other fellows who wanted cards for wives, sisters and mothers. They all seemed relieved to have got some sort of card they could send. While I was at it I found a box of Xmas cards, so I nailed a few of those for myself, well in advance. I may never need them on this side of the Channel the way things are going! One of the shops I was in sold a lot of religious stuff and I saw a soldier buy two very nice modern statuettes of the Virgin and Infant for 25/– the two, which I thought was fairly cheap really. I don’t know what prices in England are like for similar things (I should say they were over 18 inches tall and beautifully finished), but I’d have said he got them half price. I could just imagine the pleasure they would give anyone who is that way inclined. After that I kept an eye open for a nice vase or something similar, but could not see anything within reason for size or cost, but I’ll try to pick up some souvenirs for the house if I can. In one of the back streets I saw a nice little frock for a baby about 12 months old – pale pink (a nice pink) with little shoulder straps. It did look nice and was priced 129 francs – practically 13/–. The same thing almost was priced 300 francs in one of the bigger shops round the corner and not 100 yards away! We are forbidden to buy baby clothes, but if you tell me what would be best to get, I’ll try to get some odd things when we get settled down at wherever it is we are going. I’ve a good idea but can’t tell you other than to say it will probably be more of a town than this is – which is probably just as well for the winter.
Now I think that is all there’s to be said about yesterday, except that on the way back we got lost through taking a lorry that was going roughly in the same general direction. As many of these roads look alike, we didn’t notice him fork off and we found ourselves stranded, but eventually got back in time for tot and supper, by which time it was very nearly blackout and bedtime. Like the animals, we go to bed with the sun.
By the way, if ever you do send a parcel to me, I’d like you to enclose a jar (not tube) of Field Day or Shavex, razor blades and a candle or two. The latter can be very useful in a life like this and I should have had enough sense to bring one. I’m not asking for a parcel because I’ll let you know, honestly, when I do want one and DON’T send anything until I say so, please.
While I was out yesterday, your un-numbered letter of August 26 arrived containing Wendy’s letter, which I thought was better written than any so far. Will you tell her so, please? She adds, above her sketch of herself with a pram, “and would you tell me what the sprise”! Is this cryptic bit of pidgin English meant to convey that you haven’t told them of the happy(?) event and that you want me to tell them? Or is it something I’ve written in her letter and forgotten about? Now this is MOST important, so please answer this point without fail in your next letter and don’t have me writing frantically for an answer because I cannot write to Wendy until I get your answer to that query. I sometimes wonder if you read my letters at all. Several times I’ve had to ask repeatedly for an answer to specific questions. Other times I write about 14 pages which you dispose of in two sentences or, even more airily, with the phrase “I don’t think there’s anything special in your letters so night night…” and off you go to bed! I must try that technique sometime!
Thanks for all the gardening news and I’m glad to hear you are not overdoing things there. I was interested to hear about the allotment show and was sorry to hear there were no rabbits etc. The children would be quite disappointed – and so would Noni! I liked that story. It doesn’t seem a year since we were there, does it? I can’t say I like the story about Michael’s “imagination” which might easily, as you know, well be called cunning. He’s under a bad influence with those older boys and it is going to be fatal if he finds he can get away with it. You’ll be more on your guard now, so keep a close eye on him, love. A certain amount of “imagination” is all very well, but it can go too far. One of the snags about people having a free gangway down our garden is that they seem to be using it as a right of way! We don’t want our kids mixed up in the escapades of other lads – they’ll think up enough mischief of their own as they grow up, or at least Michael will for I don’t think little girls are so susceptible to that sort of thing. There’s no point in worrying about what is past and gone, and even greater danger in dwelling on it. All you can do is keep your eyes open in the future to see it doesn’t happen again and I know you’ll do that. I’m disappointed because Michael has been so good lately, hasn’t he?
Well, love, that’s all the news there is except to say that according to daily orders it had been hoped to introduce leave for naval personnel, but that this is now impossible for the time being because of the progress of the campaign, which is now in what is hoped will prove its last stages! The sugar on the pill.
Well, dearest, I must catch the post. Tomorrow you’ll be on your way to Wales, so I suppose the children are going round boasting their heads off! And I suppose you will never get them to sleep tonight. Well, I hope you will have nice weather and that by the time you get this you are feeling the benefit of the change and rest. All my love to you, sweet.
Ever your own,
Page 2 of Arthur’s “wall paper” ‘Courseulles Courant’, dated 1 September 1944.
I’m writing a rather hurried note tonight to catch tomorrow’s post for several reasons. Although I’m due to be off after lunch tomorrow, there’s a fair amount in the offing. For one thing there’s the first sports meeting here and as there’s 3,000 francs in prizes there is bound to be a good deal of interest in the event. Instead of going out anywhere, I’ll probably stay on and do something for my rag. Today, incidentally, the news was so good it ran to three pages of typescript (and then because of time I had to cut like hell on what I should have liked to do) and one full-page map brought up to date with red arrows! It seems to have made a good impression for there was a meeting of the entertainments committee tonight at which there was a demand for a bigger circulation. With the erection of our board we now have a circulation of two copies! However, my arch enemies the Wrens have asked for a copy for their quarters, the officers want a copy, so do the engineers and the P.O.’s mess. Fame at last. What annoys me is that if I had a radio and a typewriter I could make a really good show of it. Yet the other morning I asked a naval officer for the loan of one of his three typewriters for the news, he was quite snooty and said the news sheet was of no importance. Had he been mad busy I could have understood it, but those machines were idle! However, there is talk now of having it copied on some sort of duplicating machine and if it comes to anything we should find a good deal more interest in it. So far I’ve had neither the time nor the opportunity to do anything with the domestic side, but the suggestion at the meeting was that I should be given some help. I have got hold of quite a bright youngster who is all for it and who will be quite disappointed if it falls through, so we’ll see what happens.
I’ve strayed a good deal from the original intention of this note, but I was trying to give you an idea of why I won’t have much chance to write tomorrow. In the evening we will have a “go as you please” concert, which should produce some fun and some copy.
If I can manage it, I’m sending a couple of parcels to Crosby this weekend. They contain, among other things, some of my old navy clothes which I won’t be wanting here and also a new towel which I’d like you to save for me. The important thing is that I’d like you to unpack them at once and wash any odd things necessary, in case I should need them again in a hurry. Don’t forget, love, unpack them at once and not two or three days later.
I’ve had two letters from you today which I’ll answer as soon as I get a chance.
Latest drip about Wrens: I was having a petrol tin bath behind a very inadequate canvas screen when a couple of the hard-faced bitches came wandering up a path within eight or ten yards of us! I damn near threw my tin of soapy water over them. I object to being pried upon while I’m bathing in such crude circumstances. If we can’t be given the hot and cold water installations they enjoy, at least we are entitled to privacy.
Well, love, that is all for today – drips and all! Hope you are feeling up to things after the rush of getting ready and getting away. I’m looking forward to hearing how you are getting on and what the children’s reactions are. All my love to you, dearest.
Ever your own,
Thank you very much for your letter and drawing. I am glad you are in class three. Do you like Miss Mitchell? Here is a French postcard for your birthday and I hope you will have a nice birthday tea though it will not be a party, will it? Have a nice holiday, son.
Lots of love from