Sunday May 20, 1917
My dear Gertrude,
I have dropped into this place again to have tea & to begin your letter. I only realized whilst I was on the car going back to Woolwich last night how near it was (that is from a mail point of view) to your birthday, so I will wish you a preliminary many happy returns of the day in case you don't receive the next, which I will make the birthday letter before the 11th.
I think I wrote you on Friday, so I have not much ground to cover for news purposes. After all I did not get out of barracks yesterday until two oclock. It had been dull all morning but by 1.30 it was pouring "to beat the band", not that that would take much doing in case of our band. Got my great coat well soaked before I got down to & on a car-they were all very full of course but managed to get to Waterloo Station by 2:.15 the time I told Berk I would meet him at the latest. His train was to leave at 5 for Winchester. I could see nothing of him so at 3.45 I went out to the Union Jack club & a nearby Y.M.C.A. but found him in neither. Came back to the station & at 4.30 he turned up. Found he had been in the station all the time & had just had tea in the station CafÃ©. We arranged to meet at the Cloak Room, I only knew of the main one, which was close to this departure platform. It appeared the was another, a small one, right at the other end of the station, near the entrance to the tube station & he only knew of that. However we had time to have a fair talk. He was looking very well - except for a rather big swelling on his neck which he does not know the nature of & is quite painful. He is going to make application for a Commission in the Engineers, but his regiment seem to put everything possible in the way of their men leaving, that its very doubtful if he will get it. I hope he does. Otherwise he will probably be back in France again in two weeks.
As I had a pass till midnight I had plenty of time on my hands after he left. It had cleared for the time so I walked over to Waterloo Bridge, the Thames as usual very interesting in all its varied groups, to the Strand. Australians & Canadians everywhere. If we can't get leave they can. I went down to the Basement Smoke Room of one of Lyons places for tea, half full of ladies these days, usually with soldiers. A Sudbury Canadian with two ladies came to my table. I am afraid some of these men will take back rather queer ideas of England. This man seemed to think all our war restrictions were quite normal matters. Of course the ladies put him right on the particular points he mentioned but there will be many a many won't have explained to him.
Eating is certainly a problem. Between 2 to 6 pm one can only spend 6- on a meal for the drink and flour part, this is you can have an egg or something extra. Yesterday I had 3 very thin afternoon tea like half slices of bread & butter, an egg & tea. The other party followed my example & then ordered a piece of cake each - the waitress offered to take the bread back & exchange for cake but said they could not have both. After 6, things are better & the price goes up to 1/3d (30 cents) but that does not include tea or drinks but does include eggs, meats, fruit etc.
I had a walk up Kingsway to Holborn - it is almost completely built up & makes a very imposing street, about the only entirely modern thoroughfare in London. There is a big Opera House on it or rather a building built as such by Hammerstein the American, but it was a failure & is now a Picture Show. The programme looking attractive I dropped in. The architecture outside is not by any means good, although not annoyingly bad, but inside it is quite without any architectural quality only size to make it important & that is rather a bad quality in Picture House.
There was one very good film, clearly funny & attractive but quite impossible, called "Miss George Washington" the extremely untruthful doings of a young lady who starts out by receiving the annual medal of the Washington Truth Society.
I had supper at an A.B.C. place in the Strand & walked along to Trafalgar Square & so by tube & tram to barracks by Ten 45.
As I see it is getting near 6.30 I will finish this up & give you an account of to-days proceedure in my midweek letter.
I just learnt an Army Rule which I never knew before yesterday. It is a crime for a soldier in a barrack room or on duty to whistle "The Dead March in Saul" or Chopin's Funeral March also "God Save the King". I have more than once in France joined in whistling the first of the three when we were marching to the docks in Calais.
Berkley tells me mother is looking fairly well & cheerful. His going home was just at the right time. Mother has always found May a trying month especially in Doncaster, so I am glad she has decided to go to the Hutchings at the end of the month. They live on Cannock Close in Staffordshire, rather bleach but high & healthy.
I hope you keep well & have made plans for plenty of holidays for the summer.
With best love,