Baker, James

Letter
Date:
February 23, 1942
To:
Mom
From:
Jim
February 23rd, 1942 - Ward 9

Dear Mom,

How can I thank you all enough for the lovely parcel which arrived this afternoon. It is - I think, one of the nicest I have yet received, probably because it was unexpected and also because I am lying here in bed and anything makes an excitement. And also because I know of the loving care and thought that went into the packing of it. Thank you Bert and Grandpa too. I never realized there were so many different kinds of cigarettes!

But I must say that the contents of your letter which was enclosed came as a startling surprise Mother. How have I disappointed you; for all the way through I feel an air of disappointed reproval and I can't think what I said to make you so upset. You say that if I had waited till now to join up I would have stood a chance of getting somewhere. If, by getting somewhere you mean taking a commission, I do not agree with you at all. I was hopeless as a leader two years ago. How could I have led men when I wasn't sure of myself, couldn't even see which path I was to follow myself? How was I going to act as their councillor and advisor when I needed help and advice so badly myself? I couldn't even talk properly, I was never at my ease, my knowledge of the world was laughable, I would have been a clown and a fool! But now it is different. I have gained self-confidence, I know I could hold a commission now and be a credit both to it and to myself. I am resolved to waste no time when I do finally get out of here. All I need now is a chance to prove my worth and I am certain that that will come. I am afraid you do not realize just how great the change has been in me during these past two years. It must be very marked indeed, for even I can see it. Perhaps the fault lies in my letters for they are but a very poor second-best picture of my person and life. Physically the change is not very noticable but mentally, I am sure it is.

Now, you reprove me for not going to see more places in England and you mention Isle of Man, Cornwall, Loch Lomond and Devonshire; but Mother, did you ever stop to think how repulsive even the most beautiful scenery can be if you have no friends to turn to in your loneliness? I have not got one real friend in the Army, not one person with whom I can talk and to whom I can give the confidences and thoughts so necessary to complete satisfaction. That is why - when I get these intermittent holidays, I must go to friends so I can let out all my pent up emotions and ideas. Letters are not enough, there must be personal contact. You must realize just how lonely my life in the Army is to understand.
It is a bitter aching loneliness which I cannot alleviate because I can make no friends such as I want in the Army. They just are not there. They are interested in nothing but base coarse things and I cannot be happy doing these things. I know because I have tried and I cannot hide the feelings of disgust and loathing which rise up and almost choke me. I cannot stand the amused tolerance and open hostility with which the men greet my actions. So I go my way and let others go theirs. I do not interfere with them for I know it is useless. But I am aching all the time with the knowledge that I have no-one who feels the same way I do about things. That is why these months in hospital have been more bearable than otherwise for the men - when they come in here, seem to repress their bad sides and be more friendly and approachable. I can tolerate their company at least and that is more than I can do in a camp or barracks. I know I have said nothing about this before because I wanted to fight it out with myself. But you have seemingly not understood, so I have had to tell you. I hope you can see and appreciate my viewpoint now. Please do not think that I hold myself superior to them. It is just that I realize that the life they live and the life I lead are absolutely incompatible and if I want to avoid friction, I must keep away from them. That is what I have done. And anyway I cannot believe that this will be the last time I will see England, for at some time after the war, I intend to come back here. I am not going to come home and live the stuffy safe life that so many others are content to live. I am going to see things and know things before I die. My feet are too itchy. I could never settle down and hope you will not expect me to because if you do, I am afraid I am going to disappoint you.

I will try to remember what you said about greeting all my friends next time I speak. I certainly meant to but in the excitement last time, I somehow forgot. I got your two Air-graphs alright but I do not think that they are a very good success. There is so little you can say in them that I do not think they are worth the speed with which we get them. They only arrive 2 weeks before our other mail as it is and that - considering what you have to pay, is not very much. Of course - if there is anything important, they are very useful but otherwise, I do not like them very much. But send them if you want to, I really don't mind. I was just thinking of your purse.

You know sometime ago, you spoke about having my poems published in the form of a book, and some of my letters too. Did anything come of it? I have been working rather hard on them lately and I have more or less whipped them into shape. I have shown them to several friends: Mrs. Sayers, Mrs. Beverly, Mr. Spicer, the padre here at the hospital and others, and they all say that they should be published. So I am sincerely considering trying to find out the whys and wherfores of publishing, the terms and conditions and how much it would cost. I think Lance (Mary's uncle) should be able to help me there. But first I have to get a complete manuscript and I need a typewriter. I almost wish I had asked you to save the $10.00 from Aunt Minnie for one after the war (for I shall certainly need a portable later on); but I never thought of it. I'll have to try to get Mary to do it again, though I do hate to bother her again after all the trouble she went to last time. I believe very strongly in the saying "The surest way to lose a friend is some fine day to use a friend".

I was very sorry to hear you had a cold and do hope you have got over it by now. As for me, I've got the mumps and have been confined to bed for the past ten days. They were quite painful but the doctor says I am alright now.

Do you remember I wrote and tried to tell you about the new job I had been doing before I came in here? I am enclosing an article from an English paper which explains one phase of the work very well. This determines the mechanical abilities of the soldier's mind. There are many more tests but this will give you some idea of one of them.

I had a very delightful surprise the other day. I was listening to the Beaver Club Birthday Party and was wishing I could have been there when Gerry Wilmot suddenly announced that Ted Hockeridge from Vancouver was going to sing ‘Bury Me Out On The Lone Prairie". I went to school with Ted in fact, he was the boy I sang against in the festival that time at Abbotsford. So I wrote a letter to Gerry right away asking him to try and put Ted in touch with me. So I hope to be seeing or hearing from him soon. This is the first time I have heard of him since 1939.

Poor Grandpa, it must be rather dreadful for him. I hope he gets better soon. Does the warm weather in summer help him very much?

Many thanks for the photograph. It is very nice and gives a good idea of the interior of the clubhouse. No-one seems to have changed in any startling way. And I never have too many sox. About one pair per parcel seems to keep me going fine. There doesn't seem much else to say except ‘Thanks for everything'. I'll write Mrs. Fraser too.

Love to you all,

Jim



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