When last I left you I was anticipating a pleasant morning’s potato and onion peeling, but my hopes were frustrated by the substitution in a later edict of “Butchers Shop” for “Cook House”. The work did not take above a couple of hours, but — well you know how fond I am of raw meat and scrubbing greasy floors. I often wonder what some of the perkier individuals would look like were they asked to put their patriotism to the test by, say, carrying half a dozen carcasses of mutton out of the nether slums of the ship, up a precipitous stairway and into the evil-smelling den of the fleshers. Pouff! There is now a “Submarine guard”, armed men posted round the fore-parts of the vessel looking out for submarines or mines. It doesn’t make us nervous, only blasphemous at the prospect of more frequent duty. It is difficult to see what use the rifles would be. Received wireless indicating that America seems to be on the move towards joining the Allies. You would have been amused to see me last night yelling such devotional exercises as “In the sweet bye and bye” – “When the roll is called up younger” at a service held by the Methodist Chaplain.
This morning, we went through the irksome performance of “kit inspection”, having to lug all our belongings, mattresses etc. up on the deck and display our wares there – pack them all up again and carry them back where they came from. Our half-crown band is wailing somewhere amidships (so called because it owes its existence to a subscription of 2/6 per man levied prior to our departure). Tomorrow I shall have another glimpse of the life of a scullion, being on cook-house fatigue, peeling spuds etc. The band has after long practice learnt the pathetic strains of “Sweet Genivive” which it now repeats ad nauseam. Wild statements that we are under invisible escort of a cruiser that only approaches at nightfall. Sweep-stakes are regularly got up on the ship’s run.
Life-boat drill: – Four blasts of the whistle sounded about 11 a.m. and we all fell down the gangways, donned out life-belts, and “fell in” round our life boats. This usually occurs on Saturday mornings. News is very scarce with us. If I repeat, that I have, on several occasions, obtained uninterrupted views of the vasty deep, I exhaust the day’s possibilities.
On Fridays we always get fish for breakfast and rabbit for dinner so we look forward to it gastronomically. Had tug-o-war and wrestling on the deck. Have I mentioned the brown gulls that are now accompanying us? They are very neat, sleek-looking chaps with knowing eyes; about the size of a molyhawk.
Beautiful weather and quite warm. Came off boat guard about 9 a.m. and have been pretty sleepy all day. Patriotic speeches made by officers and chaplain this afternoon. Am trying to grow a moustache. Coleridge knew something when he said “The sky and the sea and the sea and the sky, lay like a load on my weary eye”. And yet he had never been on the ocean, which shows the power of imagination. Further war news received by wireless. For some time past the ship’s lights have been darkened. Even the usual masthead navigation lights extinguished.
All boats have now been swung out in readiness and an extra guard mounted. Saw a remarkable rainbow this morning, encircling the stern of the ship; quite small and almost the entire circle visible owing to its unusual nearness. Nurse said Kokiri was the perfect gentleman and that right up to his last gasp he always thanked them for anything done for him. Only when he was delirious did he speak in Maori showing that his education (Te Aute) was so complete that he normally thought in English. Received wireless news today, the first we have had of the outside world.
The voyage has really been hopelessly uneventful and though the weather has been phenomenally fine for these waters, it has been a bleak and cheerless business for one used to a climate like ours, or rather yours. Notice: – “Men are warned to remove their dentures before vomiting”.