Baker, James

Letter
Date:
February 21, 1942
To:
Mom
From:
Jim
Feb. 21st, 1942 - Ward 9

Dear Mom,

This is not going to be a very newsy letter I am afraid because there is not very much that is new going on just now, at least if there is, I'm not aware of it. But I will try by best to make it interesting by telling you about some of the little things that happen yet, which make life so very livable. Anyway, you always say it is the little things in life that are worth living for and I am beginning to find out just how right you are, you nearly always are you know. It has really been a wonderful discovery to find out how well the comparitively simple philosophy of life that you have equipped me with (as I at first thought to my disadvantage but have subsequently discovered is an immense help) has stood up to all the tests and stresses imposed upon it by the life into which I have been thrown more or less. I wonder how Burt will and Stan is finding their ideas and ideals stand up. I wish Stan would write to me. I want to know what he is thinking and how he finds life now that he is working. You know in some respects, I envy him for at least he is doing something that I have never yet had an opportunity of doing: he is earning a living. One certainly can't say that we soldiers earn a living. At least I should say that we haven't yet. I guess the time will come when we shall have earned not only our own lives but the lives of a good many other people as well - who are without doubt, never worrying their heads about it. The world is so very selfish isn't it? But why must I always think of these things?!!

I got a very humorous letter from Hilary this morning. Rather a pathetic letter too because so obviously, she is trying to keep up her spirits. I thought it was a very brave little letter. You see she has been very sick with pneumonia and I guess she nearly pegged-out and then she developed neuritis and altogether, has had a bad time. And then this rather pathetic little letter this morning. There are some things that compensate for all the miseries and black spots of humanity en masse, aren't there? I am sending the letter on to you so you can laugh too, although you - not having the personal knowledge of the incidents described, may not see the humour that lies in them. Breeze is her dog, a very old bitch with a wheezy cough. Tomkins is her Tom cat, an old ‘dog' if ever there was one but lovable just like his human counterpart. Mrs. Tortoiseshell is a beautiful Persian cat next door, an aristocrat from next door and does she ever know it! Poor Tom, I can just imagine the merry dance she leads him.

The comics were included in the letter. Hilary always saves them for me because - apart from their humour, I enjoy studying them. They are such illuminating flashes of English simple life as it is over here today. This man ‘Lee' seems to be able to take an ordinary everyday occurrence and by a flash of genius transform it into a complete picture of one of the facets of the life of a whole nation. And they are so complete in detail too, and what isn't there has been suggested in a most unmistakeable way. Perhaps because I am more familiar with these everday scenes, I can see more in them than you will be able to but I think at least Dad will be able to understand them. Take for instance: No. 2,322 ‘Stylish Worker'. There is in one flash, a facet of national life today: ‘Women in Industry'...they are taking the place of men who have been called up. And into the staid rather stuffy atmosphere of ‘Industrial Workshops' they are bringing the rather petty frivolities that are the breath of life to them. This may seem rather overdone but I have actually seen things like this. Notice the house in the background, the iron rail, the street, the surrounding houses. It will give you an idea of how people of this type live over here. No. 2,324 ‘Scientific War' also gives an idea of the next step up in the social scale, the successful small business man, bank clerk and the like: the typical suburbanite. Notice the wall instead of the railing, the wider street, the more fashionable clothes, even the expression of smug self-satisfaction that seems to be lurking everywhere and which makes these places such hell-holes for me, is there expressed in some completely intangible way. And then there is No. 2,313: ‘Life Can Be So Dull'. This is the upper crust with a vengeance...this is Society with a capital S. It is in all probability Hyde Park in London for that is certainly Park Lane and the Dorchester in the background. This expresses that completely detatched air of boredom - so wholly English as completely a part of an English gentleman's defensive armour as the crease in his trousers or the shine on his boots. Of course, all gentlemen are now officers and it is strange how many are very very successful bomber pilots. I fully believe that this is the way in which they view their escapades and that is where our bombers have it all over the Germans.

Then No. 2,314 ‘Business as Usual' another aspect of ‘Women in Industry'. Notice the shaded lights - ever present reminder of the blackout, the Hombry (black) and the umbrella, the badge of Suburbanite that stamps him unmistakably wherever he goes. Every morning thousands of these creatures are to be seen travelling into the City to business and every evening these same thousands travel out to their houses again. In busses, in tubes, in trains - hurrying and scurrying they come flowing in steadily for about two hours. Then they vanish completely until it is time to go home again. A most curious phenomenon! I have often tried to find out where they go during the day but have never been successful. They just appear in the morning and then again at night...in between, they vanish.

No. 2,313 ‘Browned-Off Feeling' is the British Soldier at his best. It is completely impossible to describe it. You have to be a soldier to feel and understand this one. Dad will appreciate it. No. 2,323 ‘Considerate Soldier' is another aspect of national effort, the "help a soldier campaign". Due to the shortage of money in most soldier's pockets and the great distances most of them have to travel to get home on leave, the motoring public are being asked to help by giving lifts to men in uniform whenever possible. And I must say they are doing it. I have ridden into London at least a hundred times and never once paid a fare. It is an immense help - if as I often have, you start off with less than 5 bob in your pocket and have to pay for a place to sleep and buy your ticket back in the morning. But it is worth it just to see your friends.

Well Mom, I guess that is all for now. I am still in Quarantine with my mumps: but no complications seem likely to develop. I have written quite a little lately: including some poetry which I will send later. Good bye for now. Write again soon. Last letter I have is dated Jan. 9th....got it the other day

Love to all,

Jim



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