This is the 27th and final episode of the Scraper's Diary, continued from the previous post.
Sunday, April 13th, 1947
We are in one of those long, twelve-tabled carriages.
Ginger and I sit at one table, Jack is opposite, across the corridor. Ray and Taff are reading at another, and a solo school is going strong next to them, Stan, Bob, Jock and Ken. A few more of our blokes are situated at strategic points, while two tables are occupied by some arty civvies who travelled over on the boat, a perfumed black man, a precious man in blue, and two sycophantic women.
" . . . a perfectly divine little man who cooked like an angel . . . "
"entrance to a mine, in five letters - - -"
"Cor, - - - me, I've saved the wrong bloody suit"
"Ever read this? It's a smashing book".
"No darling, no trouble at all; he just said, 'anything to declare, sweetheart', and I said, 'no, nothing at all', and I walked right through".
"Got a pen, old man?"
"No bombs fallen round here, makes a change, don't it?"
"Remember that tart in Husum?"
"Keep your mind on the bloody game, will you".
"Home at last. Good old England again".
"I darned nearly scuttled myself, when we went in".
"Couldn't speak a word of English".
"You might give me a gasper, darling, I'm positively dying for a smoke".
"One more revoke from you, Say, and you'll get . . . ."
" only two cigarettes too . . . ."
And the dead trees stretching themselves before the real awakening, and the few, high, expansive clouds in a dreamless sky.
I have compiled a separate list of all the articles bought on the black or grey markets in Germany during the six weeks we spent there; others in the band bought - and stole - far more. In my pack and music case I have 2 watches, camera equipment, a lighter, some lace, toys, jewellery, a pen, an electric iron, German stamps, sheet music, wooden plates, books and scent. I spent a grand total of 1185 cigarettes, one ounce of tobacco, thirteen bars of soap, two bars of chocolate and three and a quarter pounds of coffee. These cost me the princely sum of £3.1.10.
Not bad, but, as I said, this is modest compared to some blokes' loot.
I can't read anymore for a bit. The bright sunlight on my face draws my eyes outward to the swelling hills and the rich brown fields. Old hedgerows reflecting the sun, two brilliant lovers laughing in a field, a quiet stream shuffling over stones; the sudden, cool blazing of a bridge, fields still flooded here and there, and trees whose bareness in the new warmth seems a freedom rather than a martyrdom. English telegraph wires and England racing into my Spring life at fifty miles an hour, and laughing away there, chuffed to busting.
I feel fine and clean and unusually young. The country is lovely and it is England. All I want now is a drop of leave. And a drop of tea, how could I forget that, a cup of tea.
Cuxhavn, Harburg, Celle, Minden, Bad Oeynhausen, Bielefeld, Hamm, Duesseldorf, Wuppertal, Moenchen-Gladbach, Cologne, Dortmund, Osnabrueck, Oldenburg, Wilhelmshavn, Bremen, Verden, Muensterlager, Soltau, Hamburg, Husum, Itzehoe, Rendsburg, Kiel, then Hamburg and Cuxhavn again.
And now it is all history.
We are now at Basingstoke, for half an hour. A line of us in the buffet discovered a mirror on the opposite wall, which reflected all of us at once. all waiting to be served mugs of tea.
Larkhill, Royal Artillery Camp, Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, Monday, April 14th, 1947
The sun is shining brightly. The lady in the cigarette shop asks how we enjoyed the trip. The lady in the newsagent's asks how the weather was, 'it's been so terrible here'. The lady in the chemist's says that I can't get quinine without a prescription.
This is England, and the sun is shining.
In the cookhouse, the tables are dirty, the meat is tough, the greens are uneatable. The washing up water is dirty and insufficient. The A.T.S. servers are rude.
This is Larkhill, my Larkhill, and I'm back, and I know I'm back.