I am sitting in the mess tent at one of the tables after it has received its evening scrubbing. It is about 6:30 P.M., fine at present but with a shower coming on. He have had dry, hot weather for over a month but today we have had heavy showers. This morning I was on ‘coal fatigue’ which consists of wheeling six barrows of coal from the yard about two hundred yards up the road and slitting some wood. It is heavy work but doesn’t last long and then you have all the rest of the day off. The rest of to day I have spent very lazily lying in the tent napping and looking over a bundle of old letters before destroying them , for by this time they have reached such an enormous quantity that I have had to destroy most of them. I haven’t had any mail from home from several days now and I am hoping to get some to morrow morning.
It will be two weeks to morrow since I left the hospital and the least I think I have succeeded in landing five days sick leave! I got the doctor who attended me at the Isolation Hospital to recommend me for leave and Mr Bell, who has been very kind to me all along, though I don’t consider him a model officer in some respects, has done all in his power to push it through. The Cap. Told him that I should have to get it approved by the M.V. at the camp here so I paraded sick this morning and got his approval somewhat reluctantly (on his part I mean) He was a new man to the job and didn’t seem to know whether I ought to get it or not. As a matter of fact, according to the rules of the camp, I shouldn’t have, for the simple reason that Col. Hall, the M.O. in charge of the camp hospital absolutely refuses to grant sick leave for measles. However if the Cap. Doesn’t take it into his head to send the letter to him I shall be all right and shall have succeeded once more in putting one over on the army ! I had thought of going up to Scotland, but owing to the fact I am a little short of case, that it is a long way to go, that I haven’t much time and that I want to see Bill I have decided to go up to town again and perhaps run up to Cambridge. I want to call on some people in London this time, particularly Miss Des Brisay and Mrs. Farmer who is now staying in town.
Speaking of Mrs. Farmer reminds me that I must tell you about her extraordinary son. If there ever was a case of a woman’s soul in a man’s body there is one. Farmer is the joke of the whole camp on account of his fussy, old woman like ways. He is always fussing about his own person, scraping, powdering, and washing himself and always worrying and biting his fingers about things that may never happen. Of course I do the same but I keep it quiet while Farmer [?] tells everybody in the com about it. For example he has started to worry about whether the soldiers will be allowed to travel on trains Christmas day and if he is on a march or a cycle ride and happens to be next to somebody to whom he has only spoken a couple of times before, he will talk the whole time about the question and go into his whole family history to explain how it will effect him. Even worse than this is his propensity for flowers, tea with ten lumps of sugar to a cup, perfume, and pussycats. He goes to Church principally to sniff incense. He loves to lie on his back while somebody tickles his nose with a straw, strokes his hair, or tickles him until he shrieks hysterically. If you tell him facts he won’t believe you, but if you tell him there is a letter for him in the Orderly room at midnight he will go down and get it or that we are going to the Falkland Islands in a weeks time to patrol the coast he will write to his sister about it. Yet in many ways he seems to enjoy his life lots more than anybody in the army I think and can keep up on the cycle rides. The only thing that utterly confounds him is the ‘obstacles.’
The obstacle course is a new thing which we started into last week. It consists of leaping a hurdle, vaulting a higher one, jumping several trenches, leaping over one on to a parapet, leaping a combination of trench and hurdle, climbing up a rope hand over hand and finally getting over a perfectly smooth wall about ten or twelve feet high, and walking a beam propped up the same distance above the ground. The first couple of times I had a good deal of difficulty myself and I still can’t make the rope though that is considered one of the easiest and can’t always get over the wall. But poor Harold can’t manage anything and is placed in an almost unbearably humiliating position. He jumps into a ditch or cracks his shins on a hurdle while the profane [?] vulgar howls and rolls on the ground and the serjeant curses him for a clumsy fool right and left. Such are the horrors of war.
Friday of the week before last we took a twenty seven mile ride. We rode at a terrific speed all the way and I couldn’t keep up but came in about ten minutes late. It is great fun going down the hills here. We absolutely go thirty or forty miles an hour [?]ting the wheel get its full speed and raise such a cloud of dust that you can’t see anything. We have good strong brakes on the wheels so there isn’t much danger as the roads are smooth though I must confess I get a thrill when we take a curve at the bottom of a good steep slope. But climbing the hills is a different matter. I get right out of puff immediately and have to get off before we reach the top. It is a strange life. I am sure that I weigh more and have more muscle that I did before I joined but my [?] is worse and I have a considerable amount of indigestion. The life seems to both benefit and harm you. In this particular ride of which I have been speaking we passed through a quiet village called Wotton Basset. We stopped there for a rest and had liquid refreshment at an old inn. The village consisted of one long street with stores and parks on either side. It was a [?]tten borough of Bolinghoke’s in Queen Anne’s time I believe.
This week we have been doing a good deal of extended order work on foot. Once we were set on night manouvers on wheels. It was a beautiful moonlight night and we didn’t ride fast so it was quite enjoyable. Friday we went out on patrol work. We wheeled to the village of Marlborough about six miles to the east and then scattered in little parties to patrol the roads. It was just no 5 platoon that was doing this and it was much nicer than when the whole cop is along. Mr. Bell had a diluted ordnance map of the district and we were able to see what we were doing so that it was quite interesting.
The thing I am extremely dissatisfied with at present in the fact that I can’t keep clean. We have so little room in the tent and the facilities for washing are so poor that I just can’t be bothered. There are supposed to be a few baths, but they are only open from five to six and are always hopelessly crowded so when I simply have to have one I go into Swindon and get a real good one for a sixpence. I hear for washing our dishes we have one little kettle about a cubit foot in its dimensions half full of water. When a hundred and fifty men have washed their plates in this it gets thicker than soup. What one has to do is to use lots of sud and cold water. I am enclosing a snap which one of the fellows to showing the way our kit have to be laid outside the tents. Also that agreement form. Don’t be surprised if I write some day asking for the assigned pay because I think it is worth while to take all the leave I can get. The war [?] is pretty fair but I am afraid we shall have to abandon all hope of peace this year. I have [?] longing at times to get back to my books) I shall never be a man of action that’s sane – and I want [?] to Canada. Much love [;ease send this letter to Mother. I shall write to her next. Hoping and trust[?] [?] well I can.
As ever yours affectionately,