No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood.
British Army Exhibition
British Army Staff
My Darling: We have had a spot of rain today: it is raining at this moment in fact – and that is news of the first magnitude so far as I am concerned. But it is still very hot… too hot for comfort and sightseeing.
I spent an hour at the exhibition this morning, and have since done very little. I wanted to see a bit more of Paris, but I think my reserves of energy must have been used up or something. Anyhow, the mere thought of trudging around in the heat made me sweat, so I discarded the idea and spent the morning reading in a comfortable room in the canteen. And this afternoon I have had a little ‘washday’:- one shirt and two hankies… and haven’t left the hotel. If the present shower ceases in time, I would like to go and have a browse beside the river this evening: it should be much pleasanter after the rain. God! Jess – I do miss you these days, darling. I have so much time to myself… and there are so many things we could do together. I always imagine you are with me – and I talk to you in my mind. But there is a limit to what one’s mind can do. It cannot furnish the friendly hand-clasp, or the exquisite aura of your physical presence. (…) Nor do I hear the music of your voice: just one little “ah! Trevy” from your lips would be a priceless pleasure for me just now, sweetheart. I know I am love-sick – and home-sick too… but knowing my trouble doesn’t make it any the easier to bear. It’s just one of those things.
The mail is a nuisance. I have had no more letters since the two on Tuesday. I don’t even know whether you know I am in Paris. But you must have received my letter from Lengerich written on the 8th or 9th, and perhaps several others since.
With this letter, I am enclosing some photos which I had taken here: it was Jim Bevan’s fault, but that’s by the way. I shall not be at all surprised if you write and tell me that you have burned the lot. For a shoddy imitation of a ‘Mona Liza’ smirk, they take some beating. I hate trying to pose: it seems so stupid. The photographer does a lot of ‘press’ work and he has taken some snaps of the exhibition “Churchill” with our crew: I will send you some when they are ready. (Click here to see the Paris Exhibition photos.)
What do you think of world affairs now, Jess? I see that Poland has repeated her grabbing tactics by marching into Teschen. After the last war (I mean the 1914/18 one!) she grabbed territory awarded to Russia. And these same damned Poles expect us to sympathise with them. There were two of them in the train coming down to Paris. They told us many blood-curdling stories about the Russians. But when one or two of us reminded them that we admired Russia as a British ally, they shut up and sulked for the rest of the journey.
And I wonder what De Gaulle is up to. He has been hawking that darned Sultan of Morocco around Paris for the past week. Roads are always closed and traffic diverted when the Sultan journeys forth. I asked a gendarme what it was all about and he said that this is always done for someone with the status of an ‘Emperor’. Emperor indeed! By permission of De Gaulle, I presume. It makes me heave. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if all British troops are asked to leave Paris soon. It would be just like De Gaulle to show his contempt for Britain with some such gesture. I don’t like the fellow, Jess. It is against all my instincts to trust any regular soldier anywhere… especially when he starts bleating about goodwill and kindness and peace and justice. They all use the same language.
I have had my walk after all. It stopped raining about 7.00 pm, and the place was much fresher afterwards. I went by Metro to the Place de la Concorde, and then strolled down to the river and along the quayside for about a mile. It was very pleasant… altho’ slightly embarrassing at times. One can’t always walk about looking rigidly ahead… especially when there are so many things to see. Unfortunately a roving eye is apt to see too much in Paris in the evenings. And that is because the local courting couples appear to be entirely oblivious to the rest of humanity. I’m sure they don’t mind being observed, otherwise they would seek more seclusion, but it is apt to be disconcerting to an observer.
I don’t quite know how to regard the procedure of love-making in Paris. At first, I couldn’t believe my own eyes, but now I have got used to it. The daily performances always start in the tube, first thing after breakfast. Without fail, there is always at least one couple in the compartment embracing and kissing violently. They remind me of Budgerigars – those little birds which spend their time rubbing noses and ‘kissing’. This is no exaggeration, Jess. I was amazed to see it at first, but have now got used to it. Quite often I have been walking along a road, when suddenly a ‘couple’ in front have stopped, flung their arms around each other… and ceased to worry about the world. Passers-by just ignore them: it is, apparently, a local custom.
It is a bit nauseating to me Jess:- not because I disapprove of the action itself, (I very much approve in fact, don’t I?!?) but because I regard such behaviour as intensely personal and more or less sacred between lovers. Love is a personal thing dear: it becomes sullied in public. But apparently the French people have a different view-point… or perhaps their love is more importunate, but more fleeting than ours. It is difficult to say:- I only know that I prefer not to see young couples almost making a travesty of something which has given me exquisite happiness, and so enriched my life. Don’t you feel the same, Jessie Mine? I think you do.
But I am wandering: My walk took me to Les Invalides and I walked around the entire building, including the elaborate Tomb of Napoleon at the rear. I must try and arrange to see inside the latter before I depart. I believe it is quite interesting. Eventually, I landed back at the Concorde and returned by Metro for supper. Not a very spectacular evening, but it was nice to see the river and inhale some cool clean air.
When you were in Paris, darling, did you notice the enormous number of monuments and commemorative buildings there are in the place? It beats London hollow in this respect. And after this war, I’ll bet there will be many more of them… springing up like mushrooms. De Gaulle himself is sure to have at least a dozen. I saw the first reserved site for a statue this evening – beside the Invalides. A hoarding has been erected bearing the legend “Ici s’elevait La Statue du Général Mangin. Détruite par Hitler Le 18 Juin 1940”. I wonder what De Gaulle will do about a statue for General Giraud! Oh! There is another little thing that puzzles me: why are there so few public clocks in Paris? I can’t recall having seen one yet: I seem to be always wanting to know the time (my watch has conked) but have usually to ask a passing Yankee. It seems a strange omission, but maybe the French are inherently opposed to clocks which only remind them of the passage of time. Perhaps they (clocks) are inimical to the leisurely cafe-lounging life of so many of the people here.
And now to bed. There is sure to be at least one letter for me tomorrow.
Good night, Jess… And you are the loveliest wife in the world – I say you are – and I know.