Baker, James

Letter
Date:
August 12, 1942
To:
Mom
From:
Jim
August 12th, 1942

Dear Mom,

Many thanks for the parcel which arrived OK. yesterday. Everything in it was in fine condition except that the toffee was just a wee bit soft. It is the first time it has been that way. I am deciding to keep all the stuff myself as I have no way of getting it down to London except by repacking it and anyway, the wedding is all over and David is away to sea by now. I only ever saw him once but I have told you about that. The stockings were fine and now I don't know what to do with them as they are a bit late to give. Maybe Mary can use them. I know she can certainly use the bobby pins because the last time I was out with her she was telling me how glad she was to have just picked up a package of bobby pins. So evidently they are now very scarce over here. So I'll write and ask her about the stockings. You need never mind about the content of your parcels. They are always perfect, the best I ever get. And anyway, it is not the content of your parcel so much as the idea behind it. The butter cake and cheese were especially welcome.

Well, I have nearly completed the second week of my training. I was out on the ranges last week and certainly surprised the instructor. He was going to bet me he could make a better score that I could. I was going to take him on only I didn't have 2/6 handy. Anyway I shot the pants off him, made a 110 out of 125 and he only made 101. I put 5 bullets in one test in a little hole which is pretty good shooting (if I do say so myself). We also do clay-pigeon shooting but I haven't had a try at that yet. I suppose the idea is to teach you to be quick in you estimation of angles and speed of flight. The Morse is coming along too, also Navigation and my other subjects. We have to learn a new gun too, Browning. And from what I have seen of it so far, it's going to be a very hard gun to learn. I cannot see why we have to learn our guns - for when we cannot possibly get to them when we are fighting, in case anything goes wrong. But it's on the syllabus so we learn it. We have also had five lessons on dinghy drill and parachute jumping. Evidently they take no chances; you must know all about a parachute before you can leave the ground in a plane. Aircraft recognition is hard and so is Law, but I enjoy it all very much.

We work all day long and the only day we have to ourselves is Sunday and then we have a church parade till 10 AM. But from then on (to 10.30 PM.) the day is ours. Saturday night we stay out to midnight!

I have only been to one dance in about 6 months. I wish I knew how to dance because I miss so darn much fun but I never seem to find anyone who can teach me and I don't see how I can pick it up by myself. I hope Stan and Burt can dance by this time.

I got a letter from Mary today. She is down in Devon on Dartsmoor having her summer holidays. When I was in London there was a rumour that we were going to be posted to Torquay in Devon and Mary and I were looking forward to having some fun, but here I am in Scarborough and she's in Torquay.

You mentioned in your last letter that the government was going to subsidize soldiers wishing to go to University after the war. Well, I have seen something to that effect over here and I have been thinking about it. I think I would like to take a degree in Commerce or Economics, something solid upon which I could build for there is a definite future for young men after this war rebuilding our countries and trying to rectify past mistakes. A knowledge of Economics therefore is essential. Journalism would be a means to an end then and I could take it as my minor subject. Do you think this could be possible? I am also going to have quite a useful knowledge of aircraft, flying, aeronautics and navigation before I am through this present course, so I may have something to use after all when this war is over.

I am not exactly sure whether I am glad to hear Alf has arrived or not, but if you don't mind him, I'm sure I shouldn't. I never did like him very much. Stan doesn't seem to either.

Mother, I must really ask you not to keep harping about Alf's sister. I don't want to see them and I told you how uncomfortable is was when I went to see Aunt Millie. I was never so uncomfortable at any time in my life. She is so depressing in everything she says and does and so narrow and bigotted in her ways that honestly, I would rather not have to see her again. So please - if you don't mind, I would rather not see them.

I have not met Lewis yet, although I have heard from him several times. I do not suppose I will meet him now unless I ‘accidentally' run into him. I can't remember anything about him but judging by his letters, I don't think I would like him very much.

Did you not know that it is a crime to send maps of cities or countries out of England? Who can say what vital information may not be marked upon them? Or a key might be sent separately to go with a certain map. So I am afraid I will not be able to get you a map, much as I would like to. But I am sure you can buy a good map of England in any map-maker in Vancouver and then you can see the various places I mention for yourself. For instance, I am now in Scarborough. Mary is in Paigntoor near Torquay in Devon. She goes riding on Dartmoor next to the River Dart.

I am afraid you have the wrong idea regarding the food over here now Mom. Granted the food one gets at these grand places has higher sounding names and very fancy sauces etc. but I would rather tuck in to one of your meals the way you used to serve them than the best meal I have ever eaten over here. There are so many things that make a meal an enjoyable thing, and one of them is atmosphere. It is impossible to obtain the maximum comfort and feeling of relaxation and happiness in a restaurant where you are eating in public. I have enjoyed meals that Mary and I have cooked in the kitchen of their flat far more than any meal I ever had at the Grosvenor Hotel or the Shanghai Restaurant or the Grille Room of the Dorchester or the Casa Pepe, simply because we cooked it and ate it together, we could be natural and laugh and talk and wave a chop stick around while we talked if we wanted to. I tell you that I'd give a month's pay to be able to sit down to a deep apple pie the way you make them. And it is so long since I have tasted home-made bread and butter that I have completely forgotten what it tastes like! O for the smell of the hot loaves as they sit crackling, golden brown upon the table. It is such a little thing but you can't guess what those little things mean after you have not seen or heard them for a long time. And as for the wines over here, I wouldn't trade one glass of your cherry wine for all the bottles of foreign wine I have drunk since I came over. Of them all, I like sherry best but it is impossible to buy sherry now. What they sell as sherry is as bitter as wormwood and very hard on the palate. Well, write again soon.

Love to all,

Jim



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