Baker, James

Letter
Date:
September 6, 1941
To:
Mom
From:
Jim
CMC
Borden, Hants
Sept. 6th 1941

Dear Mom,

I cannot remember when last I wrote to you but I think it was more than a week ago. Time seems to slip by so unobtrusively, especially when one is busy as I have been for the past few weeks. I don't know whether I wrote to you before or after I left Taplow or not. Anyway I left there on the 26th day of August and that night we arrived at the new No. 1 Canadian Hospital in Birmingham. It is not in Birmingham - really, but in a tiny suburb about six miles out of the city. The hospital is not 1/4 so nice as Taplow because it is so new and they have not settled down to any routine as yet. There are not the same conveniences and the hospital is not so well laid out. But at least we were allowed more liberty up there than at Taplow. I was out every day from 1.30 afternoon until 10.00 PM. The busses never charged us when we rode them and one cinema in town never charged us anything to see the show. I didn't go to the show only once. I went to the theatre instead and saw a repertoire company. I don't know whether you appreciate the great difference between the cinema and the theatre or not. In Canada we are so careless about those delicate shades of meaning. But over here all those little delicacies are scrupulously observed and no one would dream of saying going to a show if they were going to the theatre. And usually "going to the theatre" means a supper party after the theatre party is over. Well as I say, I went to the theatre and saw a very good play "The Second Mrs. Franklin". It was very good - and it should have been because if this had been peace time, it probably would have been showing - or playing in London. But since the war all the West End audiences have been evacuated and so all the theatres have followed them. London is no longer the centre of gay night life as it used to be. Provincial cities like Manchester, Nottingham, Liverpool, Leeds have stolen that title from gay old London and I doubt very much if it will ever recover its former position.

I did not like Birmingham very much. It was so dirty and crowded and squalid as all manufacturing cities are. And it was ugly, so very ugly. But its people were beautiful because they have stood up so magnificently to the terrible bombing. Nearly every third building in the centre of the city is in ruins, mere heaps of rubble, broken bricks, twisted girders - flung out like despairing arms from a broken corpse, littered glass and tattered shreds of cloth flapping disconsolately in the breeze. O - it tears at your heart to see these old buildings that once had so much beauty, a beauty of age and respect - almost veneration, thus destroyed. I know it must affect English people even more than it does me because they are so steeped in their historical associations. But they never say very much, just carry on!

On Tuesday last I left Birmingham on my way to Brixham, which is the Convalescent camp at Torquay in Devon. But we had to come to the Can. Medical Centre in Borden first and when we got here, we found that the convoy had already left so we would have to wait until Friday. Of course we were all very disappointed but decided to make the best of it. I was only a few hundred feet from the barracks where I had been before so I decided to start looking up my old friends again. I found Ralph Stenton still playing the organ over in the Borden Club and I had a swell evening talking and singing with him. If you remember I have told you of him before. Then on Thurs. I went into Farnham which is quite a decent-sized town about 10 miles away. I saw a show, had supper and came home. And on Friday I had a relapse: my arm had become infected and discharging more abundantly and I was ordered back to bed. And on Friday morning the convoy left for Brixham, so I have to wait until Tuesday to get the next one. The arm is much better now and nearly clean again. But you see the great trouble is that it is still open. It has no scab on it and one won't form. A pus keeps welling up from deep down under the flesh. I can't understand it. And the bone underneath is extremely sore to touch. I can stand no pressure on it, at all. I am afraid I am going to have a rather large(ish) scar for the sides of the incision have spread apart and won't come together. I wish I knew what was wrong, it is beginning to worry me. It should at least have stopped discharging by now. The operation was July 30th and here it is Sept. 6th. And I am getting so sick of hospital and have had no Canadian mail for weeks...at least I have only had a tiny dribble - six letters in as many weeks, and I used to get so many! I haven't even had an English letter and I used to get at least five a week. There must be a huge consignment waiting for me somewhere....I wish I knew where. I got a parcel the other day from Ruth Cotter - a girl I am writing to in Margaret, Manitoba, but that is all.

Well, I can't think of anymore news just now. Write again soon even if you don't get any answers for as I say, I never seem to notice the passage of time anymore.

Love to all,

Jim



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