blackout to a small town nearby. Was almost killed by derby-hatted Englishmen tearing along in the dark on bicycles with no lights! At a pub I had a glass of English beer—which cost me two bob, six pence, along with some kind of meat pie .
Hello, sweetheart ,
Today is typically an English day—in other words, it’s raining lightly, and it’s damp and cold. Our barracks are made of brick and stone, as are nearly all structures in the Isles, due to the scarcity of wood. There are four of us to a room, and we have double-decked beds. There are two lockers and two small “chester drawers,” as my mother used to say. We eat in a mess hall similar to the one in the States. However, we use our mess kits and canteen cups to hold the food and coffee, and fall in a wash-up line at the end of each meal .
At the Officers’ Club here we may buy English ale between 6 and 10 in the evening and see a free picture show. Yesterday I went over but was unable to get a seat .
Today was wet and cloudy, and there is no moon whatever tonight. On our way to the mess hall in the blackout we manage not to bump into each other by rattling our mess kits .
Our room has a coal stove with a terrific capacity for fuel, and it keeps a guy busy throwing coal into it. I think the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do in the line of duty is getting out of bed in the shivering morning to build a fire in the little monstrosity! Luckily I have my long-handled G.I. drawers. Yesterday, I very ingeniously bored a hole in His Majesty’s floor and installed a piece of pipe on our wash-stand, so that now, instead of having to go outside both to get and dispose of our water, we merely go out to get it. Also built a wooden contraption which I’m using as a clothes-line and wardrobe, but which I’m going to use to hang myself from if I don’t get a letter from you soon!
Love you to death, baby!
He could have been writing from Boy Scout camp, he thought. Such schoolbook phrasings! Of course he couldn’t tell her much under the censorship rules. And he didn’t want to tell some things. The dull smack of enemy shells hitting the plane. The noise up there in the sky when the guns opened up. The giant yellow and orange and red flowers bursting open far below—the beautiful blasts of the bombs his plane dropped.
Dearest Loretta ,
Hootie, Tony and I hopped the bus into a town in this vicinity last night, and after shaking, bouncing and shivering for an hour (the “bus” is a plain old G.I. truck), the driver stopped and said, “Here we are, men—the ‘Target for Tonight.’ ” Believe me, it was a matter of taking his word for it! It was strange to walk through the fairly crowded streets of this town, hearing voices but seeing only vague forms and shadowy outlines of buildings .
We found the Red Cross and had a cup of coffee and asked about the nightlife of the metropolis—said nightlife consisted of a skating rink, two cinemas, and a few pubs. We chose the best-recommended pub, got directions, and found it, with a few sneaky blinks of my “torch,” as a flashlight is called here, and divine intuition. It was a barn-like pavilion with a bar and dance floor and a band. The band, let me tell you, wouldn’t worry Harry James very much! During the evening they played “Missouri Waltz” and “Pennies from Heaven”—highly corned-up versions, too .
The high point of the evening was a raffle. When the fellow came around selling the tickets, due to my uncanny ability to get mixed up on the English language and monetary system, I gave him two half crowns, thinking that would buy two tickets. Instead of two, he gave me thirty-six (!) tickets, so of course I won the damned prize, which was a bottle of Scotch whiskey! That sure beat the pub’s weak beer .
We had to leave at ten o’clock to catch the truck back “home,” and we made it just in time. We had one of those famous fogs last night, and that plus the blackout really obscured the streets and
Günter Grass, Breon Mitchell