The “Sparrows” were very surprised to see me again, and got me a feed of eggs and bacon in about five minutes. I hanker for the briny deep – even coming to the coast is something. Between Exeter and Newton Abbot the train follows the coast past Dawlish, Teigmouth, etc. – ripping places for sketching – distant towns across estuaries, low blue hills, broken by spire and castle, old vessels on mudbanks, fishing craft, and the like.
Watched a seaplane at close quarters, starting off and dashing away like an angry swan.
Snowballing is the order of the day: no one exempt either by rank or sex; had even to eat our meals under a continuous bombardment.
Walk to Bulford village; where the thatched cottages along the riverside, with patches of snow on their brown roofs, formed many a pretty picture, and the fruit trees laden with feathery snow seemed to have anticipated their blossoming time. Had to pass through a snowball barrage put up by youngsters behind a hedge.
I have put in for leave – till 7th April.
To Salisbury by motor bus. Outstanding attraction the Cathedral, which is beautifully situated on a wide green enclosure, grit with trees and half-encircled by the curve of a river. It has a tall graceful spire. The interior is very spacious, and built with a handsome blending of white and dark columns of granite, of immense height. Tombs, effigies, and entablatures of ancient date. The exterior very handsome and imposing, rich in sculptured figures recessed into the stone walls, all tinted by the inimitable hand of time. Quaint old gateways lead from different quarters of the city into the Cathedral Close.
My vis-a-vis on the bus was the “Female Hun”, in company with most of her dupes, and amusing it was to recognise the troupe, without their warpaint, off for an outing.
Y.M.C.A Preacher last night was having what he called “Question Night”, and it was interesting to note the skill with which he introduced religion into his answers. He is most drastic – no theatre going – no Sunday games.
“Punctured” this afternoon, and my arm is pretty stiff.
The Female Hun was a wild and melodramatic affair.
In afternoon went for a good tramp with a hut-fellow, visiting the picturesque village of Figeldean, where the “Village Smithy” stands under its spreading chestnut tree, and across the road the little stone church, where the brawny smith heard his daughter’s voice. I sharpened my jack-knife on the smith’s grindstone. The smithy door is covered with the names of visitors. The tree in its winter nudity looks very old.
[Image: Postcard of Smithy at Figheldean, Salisbury Plain. Sourced from ‘Living Histories’, University of New Castle, Australia.]
The education scheme, excellent in theory, is proving little short of a farce in practice.
Theatre in full swing here. Tonight I treat myself to “The Female Hun”!
Bitter weather, the breeze cuts like a razor. In the afternoon to Stonehenge. Certainly miraculous how pre-historic people could have put those stones there. I was astonished at their colossal size, showing again how useless are illustrations and descriptions of places to those who have not seen them. No experience can be got vicariously.
Snowed all last night and today. They have educational classes and route marches on alternate days, so that either the morning or afternoon of each day is free. But in the evening, by going to what appeared to be a magic lantern lecture, proved to be an illustrated hymn recital, so had to sit for an hour singing “when the roll is called up yonder” etc.
Larkhill Camp, a few miles from Sling – a most dreary spot.
[Image: Lark Hill, Wiltshire, England, 1917-02. Snow covers the ground and the roofs of a long row of corrugated iron huts occupied by the 3rd Australian Training Battalion at its camp on Salisbury Plain. The hut in the foreground (left) is the Quartermaster’s Office and Store. Standing in front of it is an officer who is well rugged up against the cold. Australian War Memorial, Accession No. P02321.059]
After endless vacillations J. and I made a decision to come down to London, so as to have two whole days here before our leave expires. Set out sight-seeing, visiting first the British Museum, to look at the Elgin Marbles. Thence to the Tate Gallery to find after a long meander that it is still closed. Tried the Royal Academy – doesn’t open till the end of the week. Found an exhibition of watercolours, but doesn’t open until Monday. So we had many rebuffs.
On Sunday morning we paid a visit to Petticoat Lane, where the Jew cheap-jacks hold their Sunday babel. The noise, the press, and the language were astonishing. We partook of a ‘tout suite’ meal – cook and waiter in one – skewers your sausage and dabs your vegetables, slabs a hunk of meat on the top, and there you are.
After a look round the embankment, we went off to a concert at the Queen’s Hall, which was splendid. Reached Stretton, where J’s cousins live, and passed a very pleasant evening: regaled with a variety of good things, and the true hospitality of English ladies, of whom his three maiden aunts are charming examples.
On Monday we again sought out the watercolour exhibition – “soldiers admission free”. Spent over two hours there – the pictures representing all the best known watercolour artists of the day.
Last night, being given a buckshee ticket, I went to a play at the New Theatre, called “The Chinese Puzzle”, which I liked very well. The plot was clever, and the acting very good.
[Image: Photograph of Lincoln Lee, no date and location unknown – appears to be outside a bookshop]