Baker, James

Letter
Date:
November 1, 1942
To:
Mom
From:
Jim
Nov. 1st, 1942

Dear Mom,

I have had two letters from you this week: one airgraph and one ordinary mail. I am glad that Stanley got home and back again and only wish I was in his shoes. I started this letter yesterday - which was Sunday, but never finished it because I was ‘browned off'. We have started a new programme in our flight in which we are divided up into 3 sections of 15 men each. Each section flies every day either in the morning or in the afternoon but one section flies all day every third day. But yesterday when I was supposed to fly all day, it rained and snowed all day and the black flag (no flying) was up all day long. I was pretty disgusted. I have completed 7 hrs. and 35 mins. and am waiting for my 8 hour test. But today though the sun is shining, there is a very heavy ground haze so again there is no flying. If this keeps up I will be here for Xmas and I certainly wouldn't look forward to that. This is a pretty awful place except that we are flying which is really what we want to do. I had a day off on Friday and went to Birmingham. I have described it before and that first impression still sticks. Nothing very exciting happened to me there. We got a ride with some insurance broker or other and we had quite an argument with him about civilization and England after the war.

I didn't tell you did I? I went into Coventry one day just after I came here and heard the London Philharmonic Orchestra playing at the Hippodrome. My seat cost 5 shillings but I was very lucky to get one at all, because the house was absolutely sold out. It was a wonderful programme as you can imagine. I can't explain why but there has definitely been a revival of appreciation for classical and serious music in this country. There is a distinct feeling of sympathy and enjoyment between the audience and the orchestra that I have seldom felt before. They are not the ‘dry as dust' presentations one would imagine but they are alive and very very real. The audience takes a lively interest and actually lives on each note of music! You can feel the breathless hush as the harp slowly picks out a lovely passage, the ripple of excitement which gradually swells and rushes through the hall as the music quickens and livens, and the enthusiastic heart-swelling applause at the end has to be heard to be believed. They had a very good programme as you can see for I have enclosed it. But the best two parts of the evening are not even mentioned. One - the first, occurred during the performance of ‘Facade' by William Walton. It is a musical buffoonery and is full of comical little incidents played or the instruments that almost lend you to believe that someone is playing a mistake. The conductor must have sensed this feeling from the audience for after the second skitch, he suddenly laid down his baton and turning to the audience, said "Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you will enter into the spirit in which this piece was written. It was intended as a musical mockery and must be accepted as such. Please believe me, we're playing the right notes!" As you can imagine there was a tremendous bust of laughter...but the second and to me greatest tribute of all, occurred after the programme was over. There was a tremendous ovation, the conductor took three bows, the soloist took two, the leader took one and still, the people weren't satisfied. They wanted more music. So the orchestra consented to play again. And can you guess what they chose to play? "The Star Spangled Banner". And never in my life have I heard such applause and cheers as greeted the end of this piece! The audience simply rose as a house and cheered and cheered until they were hoarse and their hands were sore. The - by now, bewildered conductor came out again and again and after the third call, he held up his hands for silence and when he had obtained it said: "But we have no more music! What shall we do? Play it again?" And from the audience came a mighty shout "You play it again!" And play it they did, magnificently! It was a tremendous evening, one of the most enjoyable I have had for a long time.

Well Mom, your son may have his heart in his flying but his head is certainly not there, just yet. I had my first test today and I'm afraid I flunked it rather badly. My take-off was wobbly and I tried to land three times and couldn't. Every time, I overshot the drone by miles and had to go around again. Finally my instructor had to bring her in so I could land. The only thing that bolsters up my morale at all is the fact that nearly every great flyer of the past took over 12 hrs. to fly and in some cases were nearly given up as hopeless. So maybe there is hope for me yet...

I have explained about my expectation of seeing you soon. So I hope you will excuse me if I don't send any Xmas presents this year. I had hoped - and still hope, that I shall be my own Xmas present but if I shouldn't, I'll wait until I am home to buy them, as it is absolutely impossible to buy anything over here. Everything is rationed or so fantastically priced as to be quite beyond my pocket, even at my increased salary. So I'm waiting till I get home. By the way when you get this, don't send me any more parcels from then on as I shall probably be going Overseas very shortly afterwards. Well, goodbye for now.

Love to all as always,

Jim



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