Saturday, 28 March 2009

The Scraper's Diary, March 4th to April 13th 1947

Perhaps I'd better let the scraper and the diary of his tour of Germany get a word in edgeways again; here he is still in the UK, in Halesowen.

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And now, three days before I sail for Germany with the band, let me acquaint you with my companions. A mixed lot, as you will always find in any barrack room, but, perhaps, a milder kind than most, having to some degree one thing in common, and that thing, music.

Technically speaking, few of them are musical, but all are instrumentalists, though for a variety of reasons, and in varying degrees of proficiency.

To start with, there's Hank, a long, drooping product of a country town, with a broad Southern accent. He is a violinist of average ability, and a keen concert goer. He knows the keys, opus number and main themes of most major works, and has the disconcerting habit of singing the noisiest of these themes at the top of his voice, while imitating the motions of a trombone with his hands.

Len, a fair-sized ex-miner who is trying to get back to the pits, where he knows he will be medically discharged. He is the pianist, dark with a pimply face and a spreading imagination.

Ginger, the lance bombardier of our room, is average size with an unambitious moustache. He plays swing trumpet and is a natural comedian.

Ken, Ray, Consus, Peter, Jock and many more of them, and I've realized just how impossible it is to convey to someone else how different they all are, how individual, and yet how united. I can't tell you what they look like, let alone how their characters are so different.

They are just a gang of blokes, a decent crowd and I'm glad to be one of them for a while.

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Wednesday, March 5th - Hull

We rose yesterday at five thirty, washed, breakfasted and finished our preparations for the journey.

The truck was late, and though we loaded quickly and travelled fast to Salisbury, we missed our train and the next one was slow.

Loading and unloading lorries and trains, - the band luggage is large, heavy and unwieldy - and then playing cards in trains; that is about all I did yesterday. We arrived here at eight thirty, ate, drew blankets and went to bed. I dreamed of loading and unloading lorries and trains.

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