Yesterday we went in the truck to Iserlohn for a day off. A practically undamaged town, but quite uninteresting. On entering these places now, I behave almost like a soldier, and head straight for the Naafi, or the Y.M.C.A.
Having got lost on the road, we got back at 12.20 am, - two hours for what, on the right road, is only 30 km.
Everyone is very short of cigarettes, as our ration hasn't been issued this week, and we've disposed of our stocks.
"I wish I 'adn't come, straight I do", says Ginger in his best stage-comedian manner. "I could be all snug in bed, instead of getting bumped around on the wrong road. I'm bloody jarred off, straight I am".
"Like a flippin Sunday School outing, ain't it", says Stan. " 'ave you brought the sandwiches, Teacher?"
"Now don't worry me, dear", says Ginger, "just sit still like a good girl, and we'll be at Sarfend before you know what's up".
"Better than the old picnic party", I say, "with Dad and Ma and all the kids all dolled up for the day".
"And all the kids holding their spades and buckets" says Stan, "and getting covered with sand on the way back".
"Cor yes", says Ginger, "And old Grandma. She's been looking forward to the trip for weeks, and then gets a splitting headache, and only comes so as not to spoil it for the rest of 'em, and only makes it worse".
"And then they get on the tram", I say, " And Ma remembers she's left the gas on".
"And Dad's left the tickets behind", says Ginger. "Funny how these families always take a packet of sandwiches to eat in the old train, even if they're only in it for ten flippin' minutes".
"Then they get in the train", says Stan, "and Dad sits up straight and looks round at his flock, and gets out his old pipe and the newspaper and starts readin', and sits all anyhow till the Missus kicks him, and he sits up all straight again".
"I took the Missus to Brighton once", says Ginger, "and we got into the train coming back and saw a family party get into the train opposite, in the last carriage. You know, Dad sits there all proud and counts the kids and Ma says 'ave you got everything, dear?' and he says 'Yes', and looks all proud and all the kids are laughing away, and then the train goes out and leaves their carriage behind and he looks out of the window and says 'Strewth, the bloody train's gone', and all the kids get cryin' and the Missus starts naggin' and Dad loses his temper, and they march off, and Ma says 'It's ruined my day, I wish I'd never come" and he kicks the boy to stop him hollerin'. We nearly killed ourselves laughing".
"And they always have packets of winkles", I say, "or shrimps and chuck the shells all over the place".
"And the old business man in the carriage", says Stan, " right in the corner, all dolled up and one of the kids sits next to him and he pats him and says "Hullo, sonny, go away, you sticky little thing".
"Something always goes wrong", says Ginger, "and Ma gets naggin' and wishes she hadn't come and they leave something in the train. Laugh? I kill myself every time".
"This is Iserlohn", says someone.
"It's not, ye know"
"It is, ye know"
"It's not, ye know"
"It is, ye know"
Ginger sighs. "I wish I 'adn't come", he says, "Straight, I do. I'm bloody jarred off. Roll on, roll bloody on".
I am again forced, in the queue before the Y.M.C.A. shop, to realize just how much bartering means to the average soldier.
"What've they got, soap? that's worth ten", meaning cigarettes. or -
"Pity the coffee's finished, that's worth forty" -
Still, why should I worry? I who think of coach trips in terms of solo schools?
I picked up part of some deceased creature's jaw-bone from a pile of rubble this afternoon.
Sets you thinking, you know.