Saturday, 20th October (1917)

The farmers are spreading manure in little heaps all over the fields; they collect it during the year in huge pits close to their homes.  They appear to have no idea of sanitation and it is quite difficult to get water safe to drink.  Have been out for an evening stroll, and am just having some so-called beer in an Estaminet – “Au Charrons” – where the good lady knows less English than I do French.  The Tommies’ attempts to speak French to her are simply beautiful.  I reached a crossing in the road where there was a large crucifix standing up against the starry sky in which the new moon was just setting.  In the same quarter two searchlights were playing and an illuminated aeroplane sailing about like a demented planet dropping an occasional star-shell like an incandescent egg.  On the road nearby were rows and rows of dark motor lorries packed with troops.  It all struck me as an extraordinary jumble of past and present, peace and war, earthly and unearthly; a subject for a poem or a picture or a symphony for some daring modern genius.  Madam says she is 60 years old (certainly doesn’t look it) and finds it hard to pick up English at her age.

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