Friday, October 19th (1917)

Warwick and I took a stroll in the dark to a neighbouring village.  Most of the shopkeepers have converted their establishments into cafes or estaminets; so one looks into a cobbler’s shop and sees tommies scoffing eggs and ham round a table, Mere knitting in a corner, Pere mending shoes and les enfants crawling about the floor.  We went into an estaminet and had some very watery beer and stout and were gratuitously entertained by a squiffy Frenchy who looked like an engine driver and did stepdances and sang tommy songs in French – incongruous sound!  A candle or two seem to be the sole wartime illumination, so we didn’t see much.

7 p.m.  In an estaminet drinking Bock with W.  This town has a large church with the tall pointed spire which seems to be typical of French ecclesiastical architecture – something like a witch’s hat – and a large central square or market-place with a few more or less imposing buildings.  Every few 100 yds. one comes across a crucifix or shrine.  Sundials are to be seen on church fronts and I saw one yesterday accurately indicating the time.  There have been a motley collection of Frenchies in the estaminet tonight not forgetting an extremely garrulous old female who cooks, and who keeps popping in and out of the kitchen and jabbering excitedly.  The cultivation of the fields goes on apace all around.  The crops now growing and being harvested appear to be chiefly sugar-beet – something like mangel-wurzels – and beans.  The soil appears to be light and fertile.  The peasants often use antediluvian farm wagons and implements, wooden harrows etc, but not in every case.  Liquors and food and other commodities are by no means cheap – old hands tell us that they were early in the war.  I remark the absence of oak and other bushy trees.  The French appear to prefer the tall and slender varieties.

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