No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood, R.T.
9th Battn. R.T.R.
Jess, darling: I am finding it damnably hard to write letters in my new Dutch home. Conditions are seemingly ideal… warm and cozy room, good light, table, chairs etc… the sort of place I have dreamed about for writing volumes to you… And yet, it will be a marvel if I manage half a dozen pages in a couple of hours. My host and hostess, the Boh’s are the trouble. They simply will not leave me alone. And, to be quite honest, I am getting a bit tired of being fussed over, and being forced to be perpetually struggling to understand them. Mrs. B. is the main trouble. She doesn’t seem to realise that I want to write. Every few moments she trots in here from the kitchen, and starts talking away. She rambles on endlessly. She knows that I don’t understand, but that doesn’t worry her. Whenever I reply, as I usually do “nix verstaand”, she simply carries on saying the same thing in a different way. I have borrowed an English-Dutch dictionary, and this has proved very useful, particularly when I want to say something… But here again there is a snag. Mr. Boh seems to find much pleasure in reading this dictionary, and every time he finds a word with the same pronunciation and meaning in Dutch and English, he interrupts my writing to tell me – And there are thousands of such words!
This morning I wrote to Auntie Gertie and Ted Hinson: it took me over three hours to write eight pages! But I suppose I shouldn’t grouse. I am really very comfortable, and being well looked after… and the Boh’s are really only trying to be kind and helpful. They are a good hearted couple.
I will enclose Auntie G’s letter with this, but will prepare you in advance for a minor shock. She says she is saving the paintings of my great-grandparents for me and “little Richard”! (aka Barry, or ‘Poppet’, RTG’s baby son.) Well: you have seen those paintings, Jess: you know what they are. And I have a pretty shrewd idea of what you are thinking about them. I agree with you. But… do you know what I have done? I have written and thanked her for them! I look at it this way… It will perhaps be several years before there is any chance of the darned things being transferred to our home… And when we ultimately do get them, we will probably be able to dispose of them without causing offence to anyone. This will be especially easy if we do not acquire them until Auntie’s death. You see, I know the pictures have been intended for me: father told me years ago. He had a certain amount of pride in them, likewise Aunt G. And Auntie has been a sort of guardian of them, on my behalf. To tell her outright now that we don’t want the damned things would be, to my mind, needlessly unkind. It is so much easier to accept her good intentions, and so avoid causing unnecessary unpleasantness. After all, she is really quite an old lady: I would hate to upset her. I hope you agree with me, Jessie mine.
I have explained to her the reason for your non-appearance at Blackburn with Barry: she ought to have known it is impossible anyway… under present circumstances. But I have told her that we have accommodation for her at Hazel Grove if she would like to visit you… And I don’t for a moment think she will.
I knew I would be interrupted… and for your information, I am seething with rage at this moment. Up to now, I have behaved towards Mrs BOH with scrupulous courtesy… Yes Sir!.. but am wondering how much longer I can endure it. Jess… you have no idea how I’m being tormented… I can’t stand it much longer. Do you know what they did last night? They woke me up just as I’d gone to sleep to tell me that they had placed a “chamber” in my bedroom to save me running downstairs during the night! I am now living in perpetual torment… in fear of Mrs. B. insisting upon holding me over the damned thing when I go to bed. A few moments ago, she almost dragged my boots off my feet… and literally threatened to bash me for objecting to her cleaning them.
She has made a fruit tart for me… an enormous thing about 15 inches in diameter and filled with cherries: the pastry is about an inch thick… and one tiny ‘finger’ is as much as I can possibly manage in any one day. But she keeps yanking the thing out and shoving whacking great slices before me… I can’t eat it… but she won’t let me refuse. Jess… darling Jess… please promise you won’t ever make any cherry tarts for me: I have already eaten more than a lifetime’s supply.
Last evening, I was trying to write… but Mr. B. was reading the dictionary: I tried so hard to shake him off, but he was bothered by the meaning, and use of, our word “sir”, and seemed determined to get to the bottom of it. I ‘sweat’ buckets-full over that word, but after about an hour, he understood, or said he did… And then came another… what is an English “gentleman”? Oh God! Whyfore cast ye such torment upon thy brethren? An English ‘Gentleman’ indeed! How explain that they are an extinct species?.. More sweat: more headache. I nearly tore the dictionary to pieces seeking the answer.
Mrs. Boh now wants to wash my dirty clothes, but they were only done for me about four days ago by my former hostess. I am in a dilemma: if I don’t give her something to wash, she will tear every rag from my body, and do it while I wait. I have got until tomorrow to solve the problem…
Jess… I will not survive. Do you know what she has just told me? Tomorrow she is going to bake another tart for me… an apple tart! And I haven’t half eaten the bloody cherries yet! I can’t hold out much longer: I will have to use my wits. Please pray for me darling… pray like bloody-hell: I need it.
I have read Stan’s letters: they are interesting and well written… but please forgive me for not commenting upon them. I am too hot and bothered just now for learned discussions. I will return the letters by this, or some other post: they may be too bulky for one envelope. You may find another enclosure with this letter… a few foreign stamps for Bryan, including some charming portraits of our old friend Adolf. You will also find Ted Hinson’s letter. Speaking of enclosures, I think I must have forgotten the ‘News Letter’ mentioned recently. I have found a copy amongst my papers, and can’t account for it. I will send it with this, or later.
And now I must leave you, dear one. I have been hours and hours trying to write the foregoing: it is now bed-time…
Good night, my love…