Baker, James

Letter
Date:
March 1, 1942
To:
Mom
From:
Jim
Mar. 1st, 1942 - Ward 9

Dear Mom,

Well here I am again....Sunday morning and time to write the weekly news letter although it has come to mean more than that to me. I am still in bed with the mumps but getting better rapidly now. My temperature is nearly back to normal again. For the past 12 days it has averaged 101 degrees and has left me pretty weak. But they are feeding me well on extras so I shouldn't take long to get on my feet again. My arm is nearly completely healed so when I get on my feet again, it shouldn't hold me in here very much longer. As soon as I get out of here I expect to go on leave, the doctor is going to recommend it for he says I need a rest. I hate the thought of going to Brixham for it has been taken over by a French-Canadian Unit whose Colonel is a very hard man. He has turned the place into a virtual concentration camp and the boys say it is horrible down there now. They have to do 3 hrs. PT. a day and go on 10 mile route marches and then no passes at night. I suppose the idea is to try to harden the boys up again after their spell in hospital. Anyway this doctor of mine doesn't agree with it at all and very few of the boys under him go down to Brixham. Instead, he recommends them for leave or discharges them from here perfectly fit so they can go straight back to their units. I am going to Northern Wales this time. Do you remember me speaking of a girl whom I met quite a while ago called Penelope Williams? I met her up at Witney when I went there on leave. She has invited me up to her home several times and I think I will accept the invitation. I will see some new country, have a chance to rest and be with friends, so the three necessities are answered. Penny lives at a place called Parcian, Marion Glas, Anglessy. If you want to look it up on the map, find Liverpool. Then follow the coast southward till you reach an island called Anglessy. The station is ‘Red Wharf Bay'. It sounds very romantic and I gather from Penny that it is quite a place. It is going to be nice to get back to the sea again. I never knew how attached I was to it till I had to go away from it. I do hope I can go there soon. Her mother runs a Convalescent Home for British Soldiers, so I should be in good hands.

Mrs. Sayers and Mary have written several letters and Mary sent me a huge bundle of books so I have enough reading material to last quite awhile. She has got over the pneumonia and is now convalescing down at Brighton. I wrote to Mrs. Lees nearly a month ago but I haven't got a reply. I don't know whether to write again or not. I suppose she must feel rather hurt that I didn't write for so long.

I showed my poems to the padre of the hospital here and he gave them back to me with a note inside them which I am sending on to you. I am also enclosing an American Outpost Magazine which has an article describing Mrs. Sayers work. She was very proud and happy for after 31/2 months, she at last winning recognition for her Department.

Now about the typewriter. I think it would be a good idea to buy it now for many reasons. One: after the war is over they are going to be a terrible price and I can see no reason for paying a % into the pocket of some profiteer, can you? Two: you would be using it until I come back. There must be many ways in which you can use a typewriter now that you are Pres. of the Women's Auxiliary and I know it will give you great pleasure to have one again. And three: when I do come home, I can start right away learning how to use it if I haven't learnt over here. So I advise you to go ahead and buy it if you can afford to do so. I don't mind what make it is as long as it is good. A Royal or a Remington are both good makes. I have played around with a Royal office machine and they are good. But it must be a Portable. No other kind is any good to me for very obvious reasons. I leave it entirely up to your judgement for I think you should have had enough experience with typewriters not to be fooled by them. Another thing: if you do get one I want you to let Burt have full use of it on the understanding that he learns how to use it properly and doesn't play around with it. Otherwise, it is to be denied him altogether. I don't think a knowledge of how to type ever did anyone any harm and only wish I had had a chance to learn when I was younger. It gets harder every year I guess. How I wish I had thought of the typewriter sooner. I would have asked you to spend that $10.00 from Aunt Minnie toward it instead of asking for the cigarette case. But it is too late I guess.

There was a curious incident happened outside my door the other day. It was about 2 o'clock and a dull sleepy afternoon and I was just about asleep when I suddenly heard a clear sharp little voice pipe "Do you want any visitors?" and there standing in the doorway were two of the most attractive children I have ever seen, a little boy about nine and a little girl about seven. They were clean and most attractively dressed. The little girl looked like a fairy with long pigtails and a green dress and the boy was a little imp if ever I saw one. But the thing that struck me about them was that they weren't shy at all in fact, they were far too intensely curious for that. But they weren't bold either - in spite of the fact that a very rougish smile hovered over the face of the little girl. I saw all this in a flash as it were and then I was talking to them as though I had known them all my life, as though it were the most natural thing in the world to see two such unexpected visitors on my doorstep. I told them as nicely as I could that they must go away because I was in quarantine. I shall never forget the shadow of disappointment which crossed their faces and I must admit I was very disappointed myself for I did feel lonely. But they just turned and walked away. I have often wondered since who they were and if I shall ever see them again...I should like to because only once before have I ever seen any children like them. It was on the train going to London. I had a 3rd class carriage all to myself and had just settled quietly down in one corner when the train pulled into Guildford. I was busy looking out the window at the station when I heard the door open and a very beautiful girl about 19 stood there. She was dressed (I remember very plainly) in a grey check suit and had no hat, her stockings had been mended several times and her shoes - though slightly worn, were nevertheless very clean and attractively tiny. Her eyes were
grey and as they looked into mine, she smiled and said "Please, may we sit down?" I said "Certainly, by all means!" and she turned and said to someone out of sight along the corridor "Here Jan and Myra!" and then I felt suddenly overwhelmed by an army of children. There were only two of them but I never encountered such a burst of energy in my life! They chattered and bounced around, laughed and sang and danced on the floor of the swaying car. Such singing I have never heard before and never will again. And their dancing! It was exquisite. And when I had applauded them, they more or less subsided.

In the corner of the car I got talking to the older girl and a boy - or rather young man, called Peter who was with her. I gathered they were Hungarians whose father and mother had brought them all over to England just after Hitler invaded Poland. They were of a noble family and were all very interested in the folksongs and music of their native lands. Those were the songs I had just heard. "But it was so hard trying to remember all those things so far from home in a strange country!" We continued talking and I gathered the little boy and girl were her brother and sister while Peter was her fiance who had just found her a few weeks ago after having lost her for over three years.

Peter was in the Polish Army in Britain. When they found out I was a Canadian they began to question me about Canada: what was it like to live in such a huge country and I tried to tell them. I shall never forget how they all four hung on my word as I described the beauties of British Columbia. "Oh, I should like to go there when the war is over" said the girl. "But I don't suppose I ever shall!" I was just going to ask her why not when the train pulled in to Clapham Junction. "Come!" she said collecting the children like two packages one in either hand, "We get out here!" and amid a chorus of "Good byes" and "God be with you" on either side, they disappeared into the crowded station. I never saw them again.

I have often wondered where they are now and what they are doing. Those two little children with their magical voices and wonderful feet, Peter with his slow smile and quaint hesitating speech and Helene with her grey eyes and serene unconscious beauty.
They are gone: just one of those incidents that enlivens train journeys...but I have not somehow been able to forget them. Those children were so unusual and Helene - well Helene was very beautiful! It is over five months since they disappeared into the crowd at Clapham Station but I can still see them. I guess that's all for now Mom. I'm nearly better. Write soon and often.

Love to you all,

Jim



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