No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood.
British Army Exhibition
British Army Staff
Jess Darling: I seem to have little to talk about today – apart from another peep at the city which I enjoyed this evening. I will tell you where I have been – you can follow the route on the map if you wish.
First of all, the Place de la Bastille, where the fairground is still operating and catering for large crowds. I walked down the Boulevard Bourdon, (or is it Avenue Bourdon?) and spent half an hour or so watching the bargemen in the river basin. The Seine barges are very large, and are literally floating homes for the bargees: this evening most of the barges carried well stocked clothes lines – carrying everything from sheets to knickers! I crossed the river via the Pont d’Austerlitz and found myself facing a long and beautifully kept garden, with a large building at the far end of the garden: this was the Natural History Museum, and Botanical Gardens. I only had time to skirt the fringe of the gardens and the adjoining zoo, but it looked very interesting so I intend to go again and see it properly, perhaps on Saturday.
Next, I walked westwards along the south bank of the river (Quai St Bernard) and then crossed over to St Louis Isle via the Pont Sully. Here, it was rather nice to see many people bathing and swimming in the river from the promenade encircling the island. Across to City Isle, and then back to the south side of the river to have a look at Notre Dame from the Bd. Montebello: this is the loveliest view of all in my opinion, much better than the front view of the cathedral.
I was a bit fagged by this time, having spent some time mooching around the two islands, particularly City Isle with its Conciergerie, Palais de Justice next door and its ancient houses and clock tower – so I walked across the Pont Neuf (the oldest bridge in Paris – 1578) and caught the Metro to the Opera. From there, I walked along the Bd. Des Italiens, bought yesterday’s M/c Guardian, and entered the Naafi “Imperial Club” for a read and a cup of tea. The weather has been brilliant, as usual, and I really enjoyed my evening’s stroll.
I like wandering around Paris, Jess. It is impossible not to be interested, no matter in which direction one chooses to walk. If there are no historical buildings, or lovely boulevards, or scenes of the river, – there are always people… and the French people are nice to be amongst, on the whole. Sometimes I am very amused by a street squabble: it may only be caused by someone stepping on someopne else’s corn or something, but from the gesticulating and arguing that ensues, it may be a dispute over a priceless gem.
And then there are the artists – the painters. They arrive with all their paraphernalia, unfold a canvas seat, and just squat down at any odd part of the city… and immediately get busy. I think in England, we would be looked upon as rude if we stood behind a painter and watched his efforts from over his shoulder… we might eved be ‘shood’ off for our trouble – but here, the artists don’t seem to care a damn, and there are always groups of civvys standing around, watching. I join them, quite often.
It is a friendly city: it seems to me that the inherent friendliness and good humour of the ordinary people places them far above the rancour and unpleasantness of politics. Sometimes, I feel dreadfully sorry to see, perhaps, a decrepit old man going round picking up cigarette ends from the gutters and pavements. They have no other means of acquiring smokes. There is one fellow who always stands at the head of the queue outside the Allied Forces cinema. His ‘stand’ must be worth a small fortune. Smoking is not allowed in Paris cinemas, so everyone ‘dimps’ his cigarette as he (or she) enters the cinema… and the old man at the door gets the ‘dimp’, very often a freshly lighted cigarette. He must certainly get much more tobacco than he can smoke, in this manner. And in the hotel here, the ash trays in our bedrooms must be a perfect Godsend to the male staff. The cigarette ends are usually broken up, and the tobacco re-rolled by hand into ciggys: fortunately for the French, cigarette-papers seem to be quite plentiful.
There is still no further news of our departure, so it looks quite possible to me that we will be staying for at least a few days after the closing date. I hope we do: I can stand this life until my leave.
I am enclosing one or two more photographs, also a view of the Chaillot Palace from the Eiffel Tower. The ornamental layout in the centre foreground is the fountain I spoke about a few days ago.
And now, my love – it is bedtime once again: I hope there will be a letter or two for me tomorrow. I have had no news since Tuesday – and it seems an awful long time to wait for news of my sweetheart and her sweetheart.
Au revoir, Jessie Mine