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Date: July 14th 1915

23rd. Bn.,
Dibgate, Shorncliffe,
July 14th, 1915.

My dear Mally:

It is a week since I have been able to write you at home. Time seems to fly past here and one cannot do more than one thing in an evening because the hour for retiring is earlier than in the more complex civilization of cities. So if I can’t sit right down to letter writing after tea I put it off to another evening. You know there is nothing that annoys me more than to have to grab up a pen, scratch a few lines, with love, etc., and then dash off to something else. Perhaps I haven’t the mental energy I should have, but these sudden transitions always leave me with a sense of the incompleteness of everything I have done. One’s aim should be to convey the impression in a letter that it is the one absorbing interest of the moment and that nothing else could possibly supervene. However, I am afraid that the vicissitudes of war may very probably teach me numerous lessons in conciseness and make it necessary no doubt to come back to a letter half a dozen times for each ten lines or so. Well we should worry; every experience has accompanying inconvenience, which in time possibly becomes a very useful habit.

Just at present I am lying full length on my sleeping bag and blankets, which are stretched across the floor of my tent. Clad in a khaki tunic, my old grey flannel trousers (remember) folded down over a pair of brown rubber boots, with two candle lanterns on the floor in front of me, a bottle of ink and your letter of June 18th beside me. I am doing my best to make some sort of a fist at writing. One’s wrist gets rather bored holding up a solid ivory dome for a half hour at a stretch so I have to make frequent stops to wax it along. Damn, just burnt my fingers picking up the blawsted lantern by a dooced hot part!! Help! Fire Extinguishers! Not that there is any danger of a conflagration for it is raining pink puppies outside in a way it has over here; no thunderstorms but just a steady all night rain. Some poor blighter with more energy than musical taste is banging away on a piano over in the officers’ mess, and Arnold is wheezing peacefully on the floor beside me. Young George is away in Folkestone visiting his family. Just handy to my reach is a ten pound tin box of Peek & Frean’s biscuits, so everything is ready for the final assault.

I had a short letter from Rona the other day in which she gives me the news that Frances Hazen (now Mrs. Malcolm McAvity) of St. John is here with her husband. I have been trying to locate him and believe he has some staff appointment. I should like to find him as I knew him at Varsity and should be very glad to know the fair daughter of our own Minister of Marine. She also mentions a letter which she says she sent two days before "giving me all the news", which however up to the present I have seen nothing of. I hope it has not gone astray.

I am so glad that you and Fern are doing a lot of paddling. It will do you both such a great deal of good and it is just the thing Fernie needs to fix up her back, poor dear. Be careful of your dear selves, though, and don’t take too many liberties with old Lake Ontario, for he is an ungrateful brute and entirely undependable. My, I can just see in my mind’s eye the beautiful old Humber Bay with the cars and trains flashing around it and the long, long row of lights at night. You know, Sis, there are few prettier sights than that same Bay in the morning, fairly early when the sun is shining on the point opposite and the water lies a calm and sullen grey with perhaps a light mist floating over it. In its way I have seen few finer sights and very few finer light effects than one may see there.

There goes the Last Post! 9.30 p.m. and still the blighter bangs on the piano. There certainly should be a time limit on camp pianos. Many a night I have listened to that infernal tin pan until the small hours wondering whether some people has ancestors related to the owl rather than the monkey. Of course a lot of the chaps are here convalescing and don’t do any work, and consequently don’t have to rise in the morning about the middle of the night.

Our dear friend Sam Hughes, or as they call him over here, Sham Shoes, is here and the bally fossil-tops over at Headquarters have issued orders that no leave is to be granted until he has seen fit to look us over and pronounce us satisfactory, after which the British War Office will have another go at us no doubt, just to make sure. Meanwhile 150 men are facing the prospect of being sent across at a moment’s notice without having been able to see their families here. We are only allowed to have 10% of the men away at a time, so it takes a long time to get through the company. I don’t mind men having to suffer any privation on service, but any of these fancy features interfering and practically outraging these men’s filial affections irritates me beyond control. Of course one has to put up with it, but it does one’s feelings as much good as a cake of Peters’ chocolate to curse the whole damn outfit within hearing of our very proper young Adjutant. A poopy little subaltern has to be discreet in the way he uses his tongue, but if it is ever my good fortune to get another step in rank there are some people in the army whom it will give me the greatest pleasure to state calmly but firmly my candid opinion of. The trouble is that usually all these things go up and up. If you complain all the satisfaction you get is ’’Well, its in orders”, Battalion, Brigade, Divisional or Army, and finally settle on the head of some fierce old buck with the crossed swords on his shoulder. One may at times be forcible with the Colonel, but Lord, you can’t pick flies off a General, y’know.

Last night Arnold and I went into town to get a bath after digging trenches all afternoon. We did it on the bicycles and after a bath (price 1s. at the Grand Hotel) and a shave we looked about four shades lighter and felt so fine that we dropped in to see Eleanor at the Lea’s Hotel. She had a Miss Worthington in to tea, whose brother was wounded at the front a couple of months ago. We liked them so well that we suggested the theatre and collected Marianne Merritt on the way. We toddled down the Leas to the pavilion where some vaudeville performance of the Stanley Adams type was being put on, but it wasn’t up to his artistic standard. However, we had a rippin’ time putting in choruses to all the songs and went home feeling cheered up a little. This military life develops either a ribald instinct or an almost stern asceticism. If one avoids the latter one almost inevitably lapses into the other (these two types of officer are as clear cut as is possible). So a little party is a great relief to the ones who reluctantly choose the monkish habit.

Have you heard anything from the Law Society as yet regarding my exams. I hope the worshipful benchers will be constrained to look favourably upon my petition. Perhaps Dad might find time, or Nennie, when in town, to run in and see Edwin Bell, the Secretary, in the East wing of Osgoode Hall some time. I am going to try and write him as he asked, but a personal interview might be helpful. He may, of course, be out of town for the summer, in which case don’t bother.

Well, dearest Mally, let me hear from you often. Letters are worth three meals as a nutritive to us expatriates. Let me know how Mother is keeping. I worry so about her sometimes that it makes me quite blue. Be good to my little Fernie and take care of your dear self. My best love to dear old Dad and tell him to scribble me a line once in awhile; also to that scallywag Kae. I shall write again as soon as possible. Tell Nennie I have just received this evening her letter of June 27th.

Love to all from your old brother,

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