Baker, James

Letter
Date:
January 3, 1943
To:
Mom
From:
Jim
Jan. 3, 1943

Dear Mom,

Well, I have another adventure to record this time.... it was very peculiar how it happened to me. But first, I had better explain what it was, hadn't I? I had tea yesterday with the Major of Hereford! You wouldn't think that searching for a bath would lead to that would you? But it did and happened this way. Yesterday was Saturday and we had the afternoon off so Butler - my new English pal, and I decided we would go into Hereford and get a bath at the Public Bath as we have none in Camp, only showers and they weren't working. Well, we got into town after standing in a 200 yd. long queue and waiting ¾ of an hour for a bus. But when we got to the Baths, we found a huge notice outside ‘Closed Till Further Notice Owing to a Burst Boiler'. Well of course, this "cheesed" us very considerably, but "by hook or by crook" we were determined to get a bath. I thought for a while, then happened to think that the WVS. might have a list of civilians who supplied hospitality to troops and would perhaps give us a bath. So around we went to the ‘Soldier's Club' and I walked up to the lady in the office ‘bold as brass' although inwardly I was quacking because you must admit, a bath is a very peculiar request. But they didn't have a list at all. The old lady (who was a lovely person, very nice with snow white hair and no wrinkles at all though she must have been nearly 60) was very sympathetic though and offered to send us around to her house where her husband could perhaps help us. So we went around and sure enough, Mr. Barnsley was there and led us straight upstairs to the bathroom. When we came down again, the maid took us along to the library where Mr. Barnsley was waiting with a table loaded down with afternoon tea. We had a lovely tea and talked for several hours and during the course of the discussions, we discovered that our host was the Major of Hereford! He had been Major for about 5 yrs. now and has a stock of amusing stories to tell about things that have happened here during his term in office. He showed us photographs of himself in full majoral robes greeting the King on the station platform when he came down here a couple of years ago. He also showed us his collection of lances, spears, hunting horns, swords, sabres, muskets and pistols. He has a lovely old house with one of the most beautiful oak-panelled libraries I have ever been in, and that is quite a few as you know. So that is how I came to have tea with the Major of Hereford. He was very curious about Canada and I talked for nearly 2 hours, all he did was listen and ask questions. But when he was satisfied, I turned the tables on him and began to question him about Hereford. This is a Cathedral city and a Market Town. That may look very Irish, but it is quite true nevertheless. The main industries are mainly sidelines of agriculture pursuits. They have the largest cider factory in the world here - Bulmaris, and several others as well so you can see, they grow a lot of apples. They also have a few tile and pottery factories but they are not very important. The main source of income is the dairy herds as this is the home of Hereford cattle. They have a market here every Saturday and it is very interesting. I went to see it yesterday before we started to look for the bath. Every stall is a tea shop, but that doesn't matter: that's peculiar to the English. After tea we went to the show: saw Bette Davis, Olivier de Havilland and George Brent in "In This Our Life". It is a very powerful picture, magnificently acted. Then we joined another 200 yard queue and came home. We had supper sitting on my bed: from parcels.

I have had only 3 Canadian parcels so far - yours included, but I have had several English presents. Mary sent me a St. Christopher medallion, St. Christopher was the patron saint of all travellers as you know, so I welcome it. Mrs. Beverly also sent me a book of poems and two girls at the Club also sent me books, so I have lots of reading. Mrs. Sayers sent me "Lord Jim" by Conrad. They are all fine. The Edwards at Brighton sent me a card and Betty wrote to me. They haven't heard any more news of Billie who is Betty's boyfriend. He must be either a ‘prisoner of war' or dead. You remember I told you his bomber had been shot down recently. My back Canadian mail has also caught up with me - I got 14 letters in two days, so I have a lot of writing to do. There were 3 letters from you alone - 2 air mail. By the way, I gave Sheila's silk stockings to Mary. She was very glad to get them too. I haven't managed to get to see Mrs. Bemrose again either, but I am still writing to her. She is very busy just now: fire watching, etc. I wrote to Stanley and Burt as soon as I got your letters. I couldn't before because I didn't know their addresses.
I do not know anything more about whether I am coming home or not, but the rumours seem all against at present. However, we can only wait and hope. I go on seven days leave again on the 16th of Jan. I am going to see Mary again. She may be moved down to London by then so I can also see Mrs. Sayers and Mrs. Beverly. Well, I guess that is all the news for now.

Love to you all as always,

Jim



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