July 05, 1916
A great sheaf of mail reached me yesterday. Letters from Louie, Mr. & Mrs. Follows, Rex, Marjorie, Frances, yourself, - and a delicious screed from Dorothy Harrington. They kept me busy for some time, you may be sure; and this morning I hardly know where to begin in answering them.
By this time I suppose you are all at Cecebe and likely to be when this arrives, so I will answer all the family letters at once.
I am waiting eagerly to hear Rex's plans. I hope they may include a good holiday at "Valahalla" anyway. I so often wish he were with me to make sketches of this beautiful country. Last night we (Skilling & I) came home from Folkestone by the shore and stopped on the way for an hour under the sea wall. The tide was out and left a foreground of green slime-covered rocks and brown seaweed which would have caught the artist's eye I am sure. Of course the sea & the sky and the fishing smacks and all the rest of it would have done their part too. It was a most restful scene with, perhaps, a touch of the melancholy that somehow always seems to associate itself with the ebb-tide. There was present, however, a very good antidote in the shape of two lively damsels not quite free from traces of flapperhood, in charge of a sorely-tried chaperone. They were located about ten yards away and were apparently unable to deny themselves the romantic satisfaction of showing off a bit. One in particular showed great ingenuity in assuming postures & positions where her eyes could be used to the best advantage, and at the same time elude the watchful one. Of course we enjoyed the situation immensely, and furnished out quota to the entertainment by rendering "Stars of the Summer Night," "Nut Brown Maiden," and other old-timers for the benefit of the sad sea waves. We really made quite a hit. Even the Watchful One unbent so far as to join in the applause. (Skilling is very musical); and when the flight of time warned us barrackwards, we departed with all sorts of wishes for good luck waved after us.
My supply of socks is hardly touched as yet. I could perhaps do with a couple more pairs a bit lighter than most of those I brought; but don't make more than that anyway. For nobody knows when we may be shot over to France - providing our commissions come through - and then the heavy ones would be in order. I have abundance of them, however, and you need not bother about them till I really begin to use them.
I am glad you liked to snaps of Risboro. The huts there are of wood with corrugated iron on outside & roof. Here at Napier they are brick with slate roofs.
Surely I have given you our bill of far. It differs considerably here from that at Risboro. There we always had porridge for breakfast as well as meat, and nearly always some sort of dessert at dinner. The food here is much better cooked, however, and the desserts when we have them are fairly palatable. For breakfast we often have fish - mackerel, smoked herrings, etc. - ; next oftenest bacon or ham; and sometimes baked beans (canned); with all of course, bread and butter and tea. For dinner we get soup once or twice a week - usually very good - ; meat - beef or mutton, roast or stew - except on Fridays when we have fish; potatoes, sometimes peas or beans; occasionally dessert - rice, tapioca, sago, or bread pudding; no tea. For supper: tea, bread and butter; and either cheese, canned salmon, sardines, canned tomatoes, canned pine-apple, dried-apple sauce or baked beans. Then of course we have jam always unless as now we are able to get fresh cherries, strawberries, etc. We don't often go a meal without a bit of jam - somehow we crave it. A lot of the boys who like myself were not great jam eaters at home have remarked on the phenomenon.
All the news of "Valhalla" and the Lake and its people is of course of the deepest interest. Don't forget to remember me to the Blackmores, the Smiths, the Rousels and all the rest when you see them.
England is all agog at the beginning of the great offensive. So far it goes well; but I think we shall be wise if we do not raise too high our hopes for speedy termination of the war. The German line in Flanders will be a tough nut to crack. We met an Australian a few days ago back from the front. He was through the Gallipoli campaign; but what he said was that Gallipoli was a picnic compared to France. For my own part I regard this offensive as primarily a holding attack. We may break through but the great thing is that we shall compel the Germans to mass troops in Flanders and give the Russians a sporting chance. But it is all speculation.
Love to everybody,