Monday, 8 March 2010

The Scraper's Diary, April 6th, 1947

Easter Sunday,  Itzehoe

It has occurred to me that I haven't really described any of the tour, as I set out to do.

This is largely because to a string-player like myself, it is more like an unconducted, paid Cook's Tour than a tour of duty. I have played three times in the last fortnight; once in the O.Rs dining hall at Munsterlager and once in the Sergeant's Mess here, and once unofficially; a few little quartets I had arranged from Orlando Gibbons and Giles Farnaby.

We travel about, but journeys are much the same everywhere. We have our own coach, and I win money at whist every time we travel for more than half an hour.

Having travelled away from the Rhineland, through Brunswick, to Schleswig-Holstein, I still feel that it is the character of the country that is missing, the air has no personality. Further North, the people seem better fed and clothed, more contented, the shops have more in them. Probably they endured no shell fire here.

The soldiers try to make what they can out of the people and the people try, more successfully, to get all they can from us. The only air about is lethargy, dangerous lethargy.

I have become accustomed to bomb damage, a strange tongue, and traffic on the right by now. The only things that still seem strange are the black market and the tarts.

As I found occasion to say this morning, this is indeed a country of 'brothelly' love.

And now it is Easter Sunday morning and the maids have just cleaned the room, Mike is lying on his bed, reading, dictionary at hand, and I am sitting at the table, writing this, thinking nothing in particular and feeling hungry.


Husum, Easter Monday

We arrived here this morning after a four hour journey. The country up here is flat and flooded and most uninspired in the cheerless light of a wet day. The streets are long and quaint and the windmills only add to the Dutch character of the views. The string orchestra has just finished playing in the barracks here, amid ribald remarks from our overworked military and dance-band colleagues.

Two or three days ago, Mike, Len, Derek and myself decided that, if opportunity arose, we would get drunk on spirits before we returned to Larkhill, partly in vague celebration, and largely because spirits are so much cheaper over here. The opportunity arose last night, when, by sundry wangling, we obtained permission from the manager to buy gin, which is normally reserved for sergeants only.

By going to the serving hatch in turns, in order not to arouse the barman's suspicions, we managed to buy and consume six gins, two cakes and two German cocktails (which we decided were constituted of cascura and coughcure) each. One of the cocktails was contributed by a slightly merry B.M., and we were quite merry ourselves by this time. We soon fell to singing and telling stories. Mike bought a round of beer, which I refused to drink and the three of them became rather drunk on the strength of it. Supper came and went and Mike and Derek grew rather uncontrollable. Derek started playing the piano quite indescribably and Mike wandered round telling a revolting story, which took him ten minutes to finish - once.

Eventually, they were persuaded to go to bed. Derek, having been assisted to his room, insisted on going round most rooms, saying good night to people. After two of these trips I locked him in his room.
Mike was a little pugnacious and unsteady, but otherwise normal.

Meanwhile, I was feeling almost sober, but I had a headache, and my eyes refused to focus on anything without a struggle. However, having finally seen Mike, Derek and Len in bed, I retired myself and closed my eyes. Immediately I did that, everything began to move to the left, at first slowly and then accelerando, until I opened my eyes suddenly to stop fainting, and when everything skidded to a halt, it was almost as bad.

Eventually, I got to sleep and slept heavily until seven. When I woke, I felt like an innocent, albeit a bit bruised.

There's been a rumour that we'll reach Larkhill next Sunday night.

Roll on, roll bloody on.


  1. What an adventure this getting tipsy in a foreign bar – not something I can relate to, so I read it like a story in a book. If feels more like non-fiction though, and it is well written. I find it very enjoyable and am waiting to read more of this Scraper’s diary. You have a knack for keeping your readers' interest, Friko.

  2. Having been tipsy myself in college this is familiar. What is not familiar is the obvious post-traumatic syndrome that villagers were going through.

  3. The scraper has a great sense of humor; brothelly love. He can't convince me that tarts weren't every place they were stationed, though. The Army attracts 'tarts' like flies no matter what country they are in.

  4. He certainly tries to make the best of his predicaments. Brothelly love!!! Love his gusto "roll on, bloody roll on". What an attitude - perhaps it kept him alive ... I hope.

  5. I'm really enjoying this diary and the scraper's dry wit.

  6. I smiled at 'Brothelly love', and I distinctly remember that feeling when closing my eyes, everything shifting wildly to the left. Looking forward to more of the Scraper already.

  7. Friko, are you channeling this guy? It's almost spooky, how real this story feels.

  8. Vagabonde - thank you Vagabonde, It's the scraper's character which is the real draw here.

    Tabor - the story is as real as I can make it and a lot of it is based on contemporary records.

    Darlene - my scraper was brought up in a "careful" environment and to him this sort of thing was strange.

    Bonnie - the scraper was a survivor, too detached to come to any real harm.

    Vicki Lane - Thank you Vicki, he'd be pleased to hear that.

    Martin H - boys will be boys and although he was a very gentle sort of chap he, like everyone else, had his moments.

    Deborah - Chanelling? As in from the "other side"? Nah, I don't do esp. (although, come to think of it.....)

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