Baker, James

Letter
Date:
January 23, 1940
To:
Mom
From:
Jim
Aldershot, England
Jan. 23, 1940

Dear Mom,

I was very happily surprised today. I received four letters today and one parcel. The letters were from you, Blake and Sadie. The other letter and the parcel were from Mrs. Thrift. She sent two lovely pairs of socks and a handkerchief. I have written her a letter thanking her for them. I hope you won't miss me too much. After all I had to go away sometime and though I now know what homesickness is and how my heart longs for someone very dear to me I am trying to remember that it is my duty to go. It is very hard and at times I am very homesick but there is no more pining for something that is impossible for attainment.

I am glad you received the picture OK. I will admit it was a lovely picture but I still can't see how it could possibly be me. It's far too handsome. I gave one to Sadie too. She got it delivered on Xmas morning. She mentions it in the letter I got today. I received the parcel with the money, belt, badge OK some days ago. I shone the badge up right away and I wear it pinned inside my jacket all the tie. It is going to be my good luck piece.

About my verses. I have been thinking of all the different papers that would be likely to take them. So far as I can see our best bet would be to send all the sea poems to the "Atlantic Monthly". All the others (and the sea poems too) could go to any good magazine that publishes poetry. That is a good suggestion of yours; that about getting in touch with Major Clarke. He might be able to help me more than anyone else because he is a friend of Aunt Minnie's. I sincerely hope that something or someone will accept them for me, it will give me a foothold from which I can go on to bigger and better things. After all if some people can earn good money for writing: why can't I?

As you say the "Tears" was not as good as "Autumn". I think it was because "Autumn" was purely and simply an inspirational poem whereas "Tears" I had to think about and work over. Quite a lot of my poetry is like that. Some of it is pure inspiration. It is just as though my mind was a blackboard on which the words are written. I just sit down and hold my pencil over the paper. Then the words appear and I write them down without any conscious effort on my part. Then when I read them over, I find they need very little altering. "Song of a Sea Captain", "A Day", "Autumn", Impresario" and "Life and Death" are all what I call inspirational poems. The difference between the two kinds is at once noticeable on reading them over. Don't you think so? But enough of my poetry.

I got your letter with the $4 OK and it certainly was welcome. I was pretty flat then. I am keeping my diary pretty well regularly but sometimes it is very hard to find anything to put it. I don't think you need to worry about my getting swell-headed. I've done nothing yet to get swell-headed over.

My goodness it certainly is a surprise to her that Norah Bren is married although I certainly expected it would be Arthur Benoit. It seems not two or three months ago that I went to school with her. She can't be much more than 20 or 21 years at the most. I'm going to write her and congratulate her. Better late than never.

Will you please tell Mrs. Sheppard that I am very sorry but I lost her brother's address and I could not remember his name so I was not able to look him up in Winnipeg. I'm extremely sorry. I would have liked to meet him and give him her message.

Do you know that you know more about the special courses for soldier's than we do? We have never heard a word about them. Also the special trips organized by the Can. Legion are news to me. I'm afraid that the 2nd Division will get all those extras. We came too soon. No one seemed to expect us. Our supplies are still in Canada and everything is a general muddle. We cannot draw socks or underwear although we need them desperately because there are none to draw. We also need medical supplies. The boys are sick with flu and colds - temperatures ranging from 100 to 105 degrees; the hospitals are not fit to house cattle in. Immense draughty buildings with no heat they are. Spinal Meningitis is running through the Scottish who are in camp wit us so we have to sleep with all our windows open; even thought the weather is extremely cold. Even under seven army blankets I still shiver myself to sleep.

The weather has been extreme here. 17 degrees below zero - the coldest in history was recorded the night before last. We nearly froze to death even though our barracks are the warmest in the camp. It is snowing now - 3 ins. in 24 hours. And this is England! Give me Canada any time!

I am very pleased to hear about Bob. Will you please try and give me his address. I would like to get in touch with him again.

The latest rumours - and pretty persistent rumours they are, are that we are to go to Egypt. I sincerely hope so. There is no place I would rather see in all the world (unless it is White Rock). We have heard that our Ordnance has pith helmets and summer drill all ready to issue to us. At least we won't freeze to death...probably die of heat. Owell we are in the hands of Fate; or rather the War Office. I guess I'll close now.

Love as ever
JIM

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