Baker, James

Letter
Date:
January 10, 1942
To:
Mom
From:
Jim
London
Jan. 10th, 1942

Dear Mom,

Please don't get the idea from the address on this letter that I have had the great good fortune to be moved to London. No, I am just up here on a weekend leave. I have been very lucky lately getting so much leave, but I am afraid I have been rather taking advantage of my opportunity; they will probably catch up with me soon and clamp down though. They usually do.

Well I am in London staying at the house of a friend of mine. In my last few letters I think I have mentioned Mary Beverly and her mother quite a good deal, haven't I? They have been wonderfully kind to me in every way and through them (some time ago) I met their cousin - Lancelot Spencer; usually called Lance because he hates the name Lancelot. He immediately invited me to stay with him the next I came up to London. I decided I would do so this time. He has a very nice comfortable home here, one servant and his brother - who is someone's Parliamentary Private Secretary, stays with him as much as he can. Lance is a very nice man, very clever, well-travelled, an interesting talker, an absolute panic when it comes to telling funny stories and above all else, wonderfully kind to me. He has invited me today to go with him to West Wortlespoon (or something like that - anyway) where he is to address a Liberal meeting. I am going to meet Edward Fulton who is the editor of London's Picture Post, the "Life" of England. (I mean what the magazine "Life" is to America, "Picture Post" is to England.) Lance had been telling me some funny stories about him but they were private so I am afraid I can't tell you. Then tonight we are coming back here to supper with Mrs. Beverly and then we will go to the Player's Club where we will meet Mary. So it promises to be a lovely day, even though it is cold and miserable outside.

I am writing this sitting by the fire. I have just had breakfast with Capt. Spicer (Capt. Spicer is navy, Lance is Army) and Lance. I am happy and at complete peace with the world. Lance has just shown me his hens; incidentally he has eight ‘Rhode Island Reds' which he keeps in the backyard - a tiny plot of ground about as big as our front lawn. He calls them after his eight sisters, which I thought was immensely funny! I do not know whether his sisters were flattered or not but I am sure they should be, for the hens are all sober hard-working girls. They lay on the average of five eggs a day between them which is very good, I think. Sandhurst - the servant, looks after the hens.

Lance showed me over the house last night and really, it is a comfortable place. There are three stories to it: a basement, a ground floor and the upstairs. Basements over here are not the same as ours for here they are regarded as part of the living quarters and in them are usually the kitchen, pantry, servants' rooms and maybe a breakfast room and a bathroom. That is what there is here anyway. Then on the ground floor there is a study, a den, a bathroom and a toilet. Oh yes! on the ground floor there is also a parlor and dining room which I forgot about. But the most interesting room of all in the little private bar. It is an exact miniature of a famous American bar in New York, even down to the brass foot-rail and high stools. There is a long gilt mirror on the wall and an imposing array of bottles, all the implements of the barman's trade, including the beer taps under the counter, books of cocktail recipes and other counter ornaments all in miniature. The most interesting things of all are the two framed menus on the wall and some lovely Spanish posters advertising bull fights. The two Russian menus have a very interesting history which Lance told me.

In 1912, in the time of the unfortunate last Czar's reign, the Russian Parliament - or Dumas, sent out a delegation to London to visit the House of Commons and the House of Lords. When they returned to Moscow they were so enthusiastic about the wonderful hospitality they had received at the hands of the English people that out of gratitude, they extended an invitation to an English delegation to come to Moscow and visit them. And of the delegation which went was Lance's father and mother, for Lance's father was a member of the House of Commons at that time. Of course, they were royally entertained by the Czar, travelled by special train, ate delightful Russian food at huge banquets and generally had a wonderful time and these two menus are momentous of two of those state banquets held in the Kremlin. There are some signatures of various Russian nobles and famous Englishmen so they are really quite valuable, apart from their value as keepsakes. The posters advertising the bull fights are also quite interesting because they are so vividly colorful. Lance picked them up in Valucia and Grenados in 1939 when he was in Spain on holidays. He has a delightful way of taking his holidays too - I might say, for though he is comparitively well off, he takes his holidays by booking passage on a tiny, dirty tramp steamer plying the coastal waters of Europe and just wanders with the ship, seeing odd corners of the country never even dreamt of by the ordinary traveller. I think that is a lovely idea, don't you? Lance was telling about the first bull fight he ever saw and from what he says, they must be about the most exciting thing in the whole world, I hope I am able to see at least one before I die. He says "I know they are absolutely all wrong, unsportsmanlike, cruel, bloodthirsty, demoralizing and everything else but still, there is something about the universal excitement, something about the drama of the whole thing that grips you and you are thrilled like you've never been thrilled before! For one man to appear alone in the midst of a vast open space with the eyes of about 20,000 people fastened hungrily upon him is drama, but when you add the fact that this colorful man is a hero in the eyes if all those people and then when you add that this man in front of all these people is willingly taking his life in his hands that he may amuse them, you have drama of the very highest order. And the color! You have never seen anything like it! It seems as though a flower bed had suddenly burst into blossom under the brilliant golden sunlight. Up to the time of the fiesta all the women wear black matillas but on this day, they suddenly don dazzling white headdresses which absolutely sparkle they are so white. Their skirts and blouses are of every imaginable color and the men have borrowed for a day the plummage of peacocks and are really dazzling!" It must be a glorious sight and hope to one day see it.



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