Baker, James

Letter
Date:
February 8, 1942
To:
Mom
From:
Jim
Feb. 8th, 1943

Dear Mom,

A lovely long letter from you today which I must do my best to answer right away while I feel like it. I have just got in and changed my clothes for I was wet through. It has been raining all day and we have been drilling nearly all afternoon because Sir Arthur Longmore is coming to inspect us on Friday afternoon. He is an Air Vice-Marshall and a very big bug in the RAF. Sometimes I wish all big bugs would see how much trouble they cause to us when they come on these silly tours of theirs. It seems to be the only time we ever get the camp cleaned up and of course, we ourselves have to turn out as sharp as new pins.

Now first of all, I am afraid there is not very much more I can say about Aunt Ethel and Uncle Burt beyond what I have already said. They are just an ordinary everyday English married couple with no special virtues or vices. So far as I could find out, Uncle Burt has no hobbies beyond his work, which is a pastry chef. Auntie is small, merry, bright and untiring housewife and as far as I could see, a very good mother. She reminds me very much of Mrs. Messenger, has the same features, same untiring energy and the same bright merry eyes. She has rheumatism badly in both hands and feet, but still manages to get on very well. One thing I did notice which I thought very peculiar. Her hair is as black today as it was when she was twenty! But she dyes it - for when I was there, the white was beginning to show at the parting. Uncle is nearly bald with a snow white fringe.

They have a very comfortable home, one of the nicest working class homes I have been in in England. It is probably a council house though, which means that they rent it form the Hove City Council. They may be buying it though, I cannot say, as I didn't want to inquire too closely into their affairs. But they seemed to be fairly comfortable and to have very few worries. Olive has six children as you know but as I never saw them, I cannot say how many of each there are. I know they are all under twelve though, so should be quite a handful. Her husband is away in the Army and she has to manage all by herself. How she does it and still looks as young and girlish as she does, I'm sure I cannot say.

One boy is a corporal in the Army stationed in London at present. He was down for New Year's but of course, I wasn't there. He lives with his wife in town. The other boy - same age as myself, I met while I was down there. He is training as an Air Gunner and should be on operations by now as he was nearly ready to go when I was there. I did not like him particularly, as he seems to be the perfect Englishman, slow, stolid and content to let things remain as they are. Betty as you know, I was immensely taken with. She seems the best of the whole family and it was such a shame that her grief should have come upon her when it did because it cast a shadow over my whole stay. In fact, I got a letter from Uncle the other day in which he implored me to try help her, as Betty was living in a complete daze. She did not seem to know what she was doing half the time. She has joined the WAAF. and personally, I think that is about the best thing she could do under the circumstances. However, it has been a very terrible shock to her, I feel very sorry for her indeed.

Now for myself! This has been a very miserable week for me for more reasons than one. As you know, I have just come out of hospital after having had flu. I got it on my last weekend while I was in town. Mary was up at the same time and we had a wonderful 48 hrs. But all good things must come to an end I guess, so Mary and I have had a show-down. I told her exactly how I felt about her and it distressed her very much. You see, she doesn't love me, at least love me as I love her. She is quite willing to go on the way we have been going on as the closest of friends, but she says she "Is not" to use her own words "physically attracted to me!" It is very hard to try and explain all this to you in a letter for I am still very upset and rather bitter about the whole thing. It was a nasty shock to me because I do love her with my whole heart and I had rather foolishly imagined that she loved me in return. She does love me very much as a friend, but I am afraid my affection wants more than that. When I first read her letter, it just felt that the whole world turned to ashes in my mouth and nearly choked me. My heart was and still is very sore and my mind refused to look ahead into the long and seemingly empty future. I am gradually coming out of that first feeling of dumb despair and am beginning to hope again. I'm afraid I am putting this rather badly, but it is so hard to write dispassionately about something you feel so greatly, and I feel my love for Mary. She is everything that I cherish as an ideal, but she is greater than all ideals because she covers them with a cloak of her vivid, shining personality. When you read her letters, you will be able to see what I mean. She at least is a true friend to me and even that little is something to be thankful for. But I am sure that you would love her as your own daughter if you knew her. I cannot see how you could help yourself for everyone loves her from the very first time they meet her. I know I did although - since I have got to know her better, it has grown bigger and bigger within me until now, it consumes the whole of my being. I can only hope that maybe someday, she will return my affection. At least there is one consolation, she does not as yet love anyone else. So maybe - who knows? She is an Anglican - same as myself, but what is better still, we hold common ideals and ideas about life. She wants to travel as much as I do, and she is far better equipped to do so than I am because she speaks German and French fluently. She loves the country just as I do. About the only things she and I differ on are music - she likes jazz and I don't particularly, and she smokes cigarettes which I hate. But these things are only little things of no great importance, all the great things that really matter we see through the same eyes. And as well as all this, she is very beautiful, a beauty which quite takes your breath away, the type of girl that make a man's chest unconsciously stick out an extra inch or two when he is out walking with her. As I say, I am explaining all this very badly and probably would not fare any better if I was talking to you face to face because I'd probably be consumed with shyness. But I'll have to wait until I get home to try. It seems fairly definite that I will be coming home eventually but when, I cannot say. This waiting is very very hard and this last week especially, has been very hard because I have wanted - oh so badly! to run away and try to forget my aching heart. But I have not been able to.

I am glad to see that things have been so much easier for you during this past year and only hope that they continue to be so. Maybe you are at last getting the things that you so richly deserve and which you have denied yourself for so long. I do hope you and Dad will take that trip over here someday after the war. I have been longing for a $1000.00 to give you so you could do it. There are so many things I want you to see, so many things that I know would touch your heart just as they touched mine. But above all else, I hoped you could meet Aunt Ethel and Uncle Burt, Betty, Mrs. Beverly, Mary and Mr. and Mrs. Sayers. You and Mrs. Sayers would get along famously; you'd be bosom pals in a minute. I only hope that one day when this is all over, we'll all be able to meet and see London as it should be seen, with the lights aglow once more!

Many thanks for understanding about the deferred pay business, but I might as well leave it as it is right now because I am coming home so soon, that it will not be worth while, and on top of that, I shall need a little bit of it as soon as I get there for leave. I don't know how much they intend to give us, but I hope it will be at least 30 days. I had 31 days once before as you know, but it was on this side of the water.

Well, I guess that is all for now. Please excuse this long rambling account, I'm still a bit upset. I hope to see you soon.

Love to you all,

Jim

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