I have been trying to remember some ludicrous mispronunciations by the men last night, one was Robing Hood, another was rhetoric used, very pompously, i.e., a certain play was very rhetoric. The man addressed asked: How the blanket he could be expected to know the meaning of that? There is a half-Italian here named Romano, but all the Sergeants call his name out as Romeo. Another’s name is Sugrue, which gets much mauling, the latest being Sorgee. Satterthwaite baffles them all.
(At Farnham Soldiers’ Home) Out side 11 a.m. roaming around the countryside. Imagine our feeling when after putting on the eggs we had ordered, Mrs. Crondall proudly marched in with a whole apple pie. Lunch over we proceeded through the village slaying en route a tiny snake wriggling across the road. You may think us pretty mad – always going in much the same directions, but for myself I prefer to get to know one place well rather than glimpses of several – one gets a kind of affection and feeling of proprietorship towards a village like Crondall.
Last night in the pub at Fleet we had an amusing conversation with an old horny and almost inarticulate villager. His voice was dry like crackling twigs and he had a face like an old bird all covered with grey stubble. He cracked of things long ago, when there was only one “Poob” in Aldershot and told us what he considered the salient event of his youth – mostly an unintelligible story about a stubborn donkey. They are a rough lot in this hut, but don’t pretend to be anything else. Yesterday at physical jerks I was as R. would say “affected in the risible”. At halftime we do various capers, intended I suppose to relax the muscles, in a ring bent double, and the instructor goes round and hands a strap surreptitiously to anyone, who immediately belabours his right-hand neighbour, continuing all round the ring until he completes the circuit. Well, I had the strap given to me and on commencing to attack found my victim to be a very hard faced man (afterwards killed) of about 40, with a drooping lip-weed, who squared round and refused to flee. On my letting out with the strap he countered by a clout with one hand and a kick in the rear with the other foot; result hilarity, and disorganisation of class. Accompanied by R. and one Jull,* from Hamilton who paints, after lunch (at which I sampled my first Bloater), we sauntered down the road to Pilcot. Officer with a very Tory accent accompanied by two ladies came up and asked to see our sketches, which we had to produce. He and his sister bestowed unqualified praise on them all, evidently being easily pleased. As we were an hungered and there was nowhere else to get sup or bite, what did we? Why, what other than back to Crondall and eat “Mrs. Crondall” out of house and home?
[*Ted Jull, who remained a friend of Lincoln’s after the war].
The idiots that be, have made us change huts again and I am with a different set of chaps from whom I know. However there is a certain interest in making their acquaintance. Returned after some light refreshment out beneath the twinkling but unknown stars, to find half the camp in its usual state of pay-night inebriety – they call it being stunned. I enjoy the vagaries of boozed soldiers, they usually get happy tight.
[“The spirit of the troops is excellent”, cartoon of boozed NZ artilleryman by H. P. Watson, copy supplied by Nigel Robson with thanks]
Just seen a lovely triangular pillow fight between two bald-headed men and a thin chap. Physical drill at 2 p.m. is a disgusting innovation and gives us all indigestion. R. materialised with hands-full of boot protectors, whereat we stole, boots in hand to the parson’s hut, where a cobbler’s last was secreted. There we made the walls shake belabouring our nether gear with the remains of a poker, then strode iron-shod into the night – to what Ultima Thule? what “wished and glorious metropolis”?* – Crondall. The air was cool and clear but nothing to the beer. You will be surmising that we were over-bibulous but no – 3 half pints of the best bitter and all the fitter, returned we to durance vile. At one stage we bellowed Up from Somerset to the alley’s titanic (not of cypress but elms) and probably to the astonishment of wakeful cottagers. The landlady of the pub at Crondall gave me a farthing.
[Physical training exercises at the New Zealand Artillery camp, Ewshot, 1/2-014102-G, National Library]
* The phrase “Wished and glorious metropolis” may be from “Marpessa”, by Stephen Phillips.
Or since thou art a woman, thou shalt have
More tender tasks; to steal upon the sea,
A long expected bliss to tossing men.
Or build upon the evening sky some wished
And glorious metropolis of cloud.
For the last 3 days I have been shaking and rattling my watch in vain endeavours to make it go. Today I wound it up and it went. This morning two or three of us were on a leisurely job in a shed where there were a couple of white-wash buckets, when a rather timid new chum asked if he could borrow one of the said buckets. The reply from one of the old hands, without flinching a muscle, and which the enquirer took quite seriously was: you can have it; one of the diggers was “going to whitewash the nose-bags but there isn’t time to do it now”.
8 p.m. The official end of summer has come and the clocks were put back an hour this morning. It is now dark by about 7 p.m. Fields are often dotted with mole-hills – small heaps of loose earth thrown up by the creatures. Autumn tints are beginning to be noticeable. An interesting feature of Farnham is the Almshouses – often very handsome comfortable-looking buildings. Everywhere are cottages and houses with Virginia creeper climbing over them, now a blaze of colour. In England one is struck with the stability of things – where we would have a wooden culvert or length of piping they will build one of bricks or stone like a complete little bridge, – a cow-byre or piggery will be, as often as not, a solid brick building. So much more care is taken and economy exercised. Instead of turning a mob of sheep helter-skelter into a field of kale or rape or turnip, they put half a dozen at a time into a movable pen about 5 yards square until they have eaten every scrap enclosed by it, then move it on, until the whole field has been eaten, not trampled into the ground. How good are the cloud and sky effects here. This is no doubt accountable from the fact that England being nearer the pole the sun is at a lower angle than with us and strikes the clouds more in the flanks.
Hunted up the ancient wag and did eat of his victuals. Having run up a reasonable account, and being still unsatisfied we vaunted to the Y.M.C.A. and topped off with tea and cake. I find R. one of those people I can get on with. He has savvy and a certain appreciativeness and personality that make him attractive and different from the average sapling, the dash of Irish, I think.