No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood,
R.T.9th Battn. R.T.R.
Jess, dear: There is little I can tell you this evening… principally owing to adverse conditions for writing. I will try and describe my immediate surroundings… but you will have to use your imagination. I am sitting in the kitchen-cum-living room of a typical working class Flemish family… father, mother and young son. It is an average sized room, oblong in shape, spotlessly clean, but with little evidence of comfort. At one end of the room, shining vividly, is the inevitable “kachel” or stove. These stoves are different from anything we have in England, so I cannot make comparisons. But from what I have seen of them, they are the pride and joy of most housewives in Belgium and Flanders… made of highly polished steel, perhaps stainless, they respond willingly to polishing and always look clean. Upon the flat topped warming plate of the kachel, is a jug of coffee… it wouldn’t be a respectable kachel without the coffee jug.
The room furniture consists of a plain wooden cupboard for pots etc, a small table, a sink in the corner with running water, half a dozen kitchen chairs, and one wicker chair before which stands a spinning wheel. The walls are cream distempered, with a few family photographs, a mirror, and a crucifix… two crucifixes in fact. The floor is bare… a composite concrete substance, clean but cold. Even the bedroom floors are made of this same ‘concrete’. In this room, the family seem to spend all their time. The remainder of the house is almost bare, particularly the bedrooms: the family do not sleep in them owing to their fear of flying bombs: they all sleep in the cellar.
The wife has spent much time this afternoon and evening spinning wool on the machine. It seems to be an accepted part of her housework and is not just a war-time necessity. She knits gloves, socks, pullovers etc. from the wool she spins. I imagine she has little else to do with her time… there being so little furniture to create ‘housework’… and not much food to involve large dinners. The husband is a coal miner. He looks ill, with his pale face and drawn features. His arm is badly scarred from a recent accident down the pit… but he is now working again in spite of partial paralysis in his hand. The little boy ought to be at school… but education is non-existent here just now.
Eight of us are sleeping in this house tonight: I am lucky and will be sleeping in the only bed upstairs… the rest of the lads will sleep on the floor. On the Kachel, we have a pot of water… and as soon as it boils, there will be tea… for all of us. Meanwhile, the room is rather full, and there is a hell of a din… with the ‘purr’ of the spinning machine in the background. I feel sorry for the husband: he is obviously tired from his day’s work, and we have undoubtedly upset his evening’s peace. But he almost insisted upon us sleeping here… Perhaps he is happy to be offering us some hospitality.
A dull day, but it is not raining: It must be three days since we saw any rain… almost a drought by comparison with the weather of the last four or five weeks. I sincerely hope you have had better weather at home.
Once again, circumstances have prevented me from receiving any mail for about four days… but it cannot be long now before I collect a bunch of letters… but it cannot be helped, Jess… we will just have to grin and bear it.
Must leave you now dear.
Hope to write again tomorrow.
Am awaiting full details of my pay modifications from ‘records’. Will let you have necessary information for Mr. Morgan as soon as poss.