No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood.
British Army Exhibition
British Army Staff
Jessie Mine: I don’t know whether it is the heat that has a peculiar effect on me, but my desire to go mooching round Paris seems to increase as it gets hotter. Today has been another scorcher – and, of course, I chose to go hiking… when I would no doubt have been better off taking life easy on a comfortable bed. This time, I have been to the Montparnasse district… the so-called artists homeland – and from there I wandered to the ‘Observatoire’ then to the Luxembourg Gardens and Palais where there is a grand pond for miniature yachts… and plenty of youngsters sailing their craft. I would have loved to muck-in with them… but then, fathers don’t play at yachting, do they… But just wait until Barry is older-!! After the yachts, I saw the ‘Pantheon’… and then once again to the Notre Dame cathedral. I gazed at it for a long time from across the river: it looks really lovely from this particular angle: the river too heightens the serenity and beauty of the view. I have a P/c shewing the cathedral exactly as I saw it this evening, and will enclose it if I can find an envelope large enough.
It was whilst I was leaning on the river parapet and enjoying a few day-dreams that a voice, with a Yankee twang, asked “qu’est ce que cette?” (I can’t spell this darned language!) When I had recovered from the shock of being addressed in French, I turned and answered “Notre Dame cathedral”. I saw three Yankee soldiers – typical ingenuous gum-chewing Yanks. My questioner then turned to his pals and said “Christ, he’s English”… and the surprise and tone of his voice implied that he’d discovered a real live specimen of an extinct species. I had to laugh. The Yank explained “its these goddamed uniforms: no-one knows who’s who in this joint”: he added “thanks pal; take it easy – c’mon fellas” – and away they went quite happily. They do tickle me, Jess. There is something very refreshing in their lack of self-consciousness and general easy going manner with strangers… And their phrasing! Well, it is hardly Kings English, but it is amusing. I am often told to “take it easy” after answering a query: I presume this is an invitation to relax after the strain of replying to them!
The confusion of uniforms, by the way, is quite a problem here. There are so many odd bits of different armies knocking around, and they all seem to be wearing British or American uniforms. The Poles and the French are the worst offenders. Each individual soldier seems to have his own ideas about his uniform, and the varieties are really amazing. Some of them seem to have a passion for lanyards: they wrap yards of the stuff around their shoulders, with tassles dangling all over the place. And medals! There must be some heroes in the French army: or maybe the decorations are awarded in anticipation, as it were-!
But I am wandering… By the time I had reached Notre Dame, I had tramped about four miles, and felt as though I had done forty. My legs had become kinda obstinate – so I found the nearest Metro and got back the easy way. Gosh! I was hot, Jess. I was hot when I woke up this morning… and I rolled out of bed into a tepid bath. But I’m alright, dear: this ‘bathing before breakfast’ idea sounds symptomatic, but it was only the heat: there is nothing wrong with my brain-pan.
Another letter today – a quick one too: it was only written on the 2nd. You know, Jess – there is one thing about you that can be called really startling. It is your amazing variety of violent desires or passions or whatever you like to call them. The latest example – well, gas-cookers and prams and electric washers and what nots have a certain dignity… but now you have come crashing down to some wretched little beetle-killer!! What can I do about it? I know your desires must be fulfilled… either by force, cajolery, or will-power… so if we don’t do something about the beetle-business, you will probably develop a frustration complex or something. I must see what I can do: we use insect killing stuff in the army for de-lousing ourselves: it is supposed to kill anything from bacteria to pink-elephants. Perhaps this is the stuff you have in mind. I will try and bring some home on my leave… before Barry develops a taste for beetle-flesh! Fancy the little imp chasing a beetle! I wish I could have seen him.
I have another more or less free day tomorrow, but don’t know what I will do yet. I am dying to go to the Louvre, but many of the famous exhibits have been stored away for safety… and the place seems to have been closed more than open lately. But the ‘Mona Lisa’ is now back, and the Venus de Milo and a few other ‘treasures’ so maybe it has become a public gallery once again. I may go tomorrow.
And now to bed.
Jess… can a person burst with love? I am getting worried about it… but am trying to survive. I think I may just about hold out until my next leave.
Good night, my darling
P.S. Will have to manufacture an envelope for this letter. Am enclosing two more views of the tank – one of the front, and the other of the ‘Qui s’y Frotte’ badge: the figures are only incidental. Rotten photos: too much sunlight. (Click here to see the Paris Exhibition photos.)