Baker, James

February 4, 1943
Feb. 4th, 1943

Dear Mum,
It is a long time since I have been able to write you an interesting letter for which my apologies, but the truth is that we have been having so many lectures on Security and the Dangerousness of careless talk that I guess they are beginning to sink in and upon examination, I find there is so little that can be written that does not come under that heading ‘Careless Talk'. Manchester is a place notorious for its ----. One can hardly call them spies, but they hang on the fringes of that enchanted circle ready to pick up and pass on interesting information. The women in particular are bad - in fact, I have never seen so many unattached females in any other city in England! They are like flies around a honey pot and just about as pestiforous! The man-shortage seems to be pretty acute and they go to almost any length to get one. A cadet told me about an encounter he had in a pub the other night and though I certainly would not have believed it a few months ago, I do now. The woman made a practicable proposition to him that if he would buy her drinks for the evening, she would see that he did not lack a bed to sleep in that night. I can quite believe it too. The increase in the amount of liquor consumed has increased enormously, although the actual amount of drunkenness one encounters is remarkably small because of the comparitive lack of potency in any liquor one can buy over here. I suppose the reason for the increase is psychological as well as economic. Certainly the average wage of the average wage-earner has risen enormously over here just as it has at home, but because of the rationing and coupon systems, there is nothing they can spend it on except on those things which are free from restriction, and there seems to be no immediate indication that the nation's beer barrel is running dry. In fact, it seems to be rather like the miracle of the Greek pitcher that fills itself from a spring in its bottom as soon as it was emptied. However, I have seen an unforgettable sight, one that no Englishman ever saw before a few months ago, and that was a pub that was closed and a sign tacked up on the door stating "Closed till Saturday. Sold out" and this was only Tuesday! And the yokels were gathered around outside in dumbfounded amazement, for this was something that neither they nor their fathers nor their father's father had ever seen before! What was the world coming to, that an honest man could not get his usual evening pint? That is one thing that we in Canada have no idea of, the village pub. It is not primarily a place to imbibe an intoxicating beverage that is, but a sideline. The pub is the common man's club where he foregathers in the evening after his work is over to sit around the fire and discuss the world with his friends, politics, religion, scandle, news, everything that affects the minds of thinking-men and women have been heard discussed at these fireside gatherings, and extremely interesting I have found them. There is such a wealth of wisdom found here that many of our leading statesmen might do well to come down and spend an evening amongst them. That is why I think Lance Spicer is on the right track. As you know, he is intending to stand as Liberal candidate for West Walthamston - a suburb of London, as soon as the war is over. And he has made it a part of his procedure that he goes on a "pub crawl" in West Walthamston about once a month. In that way, he gets to know the minds and opinions of his constituents much better than he otherwise would. Of course, they have no idea who he is as yet, which is to the good.

At present I am trussed up in bed in Station Sick Quarters getting over a dose of flu which I must have collected in London over the weekend. I wasn't feeling any too good on Monday or Tuesday, but didn't want to report sick unless I had too. But on Tuesday morning, a perfect beast of an NCO. made me go swimming even though I protested that I was feeling pretty rotten. I have never been able to understand the peculiar mentality of NCO.'s, and probably never shall. They seem incapable of independent action without authority. Because I had no doctor excusing me from swimming - and his orders were that everyone with no exemption went swimming, therefore swim I must. So I did, with the result that I went special sick at 4 o'clock in the afternoon with a temperature of 102 degrees, a raging headache and was whisked into hospital before I could say "Jack Robinson". I am now 3 days gone and nearly ready for discharge and when I do get out of here, I am going to look up that NCO. and tell him exactly what I think of him.

There doesn't seem to be anything else to say this time. The weather is always the same here, rain. No other news of importance that I can write, though I could tell a lot. Hope to do so soon.

Love to all as always,


Do you remember my description of Cliveden? Perhaps this will help you to understand why I love it so. Do you remember my description of the duel? And how disappointed I was that the lady was not beautiful? Well now you can see why I was disappointed. It is rather a coincidence that I am listening to Joyce Grenville on the radio whom you may remember I used to write about while I was at Taplow. It is making me quite homesick.

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