Wartime and pandemic: My uncle knew the former and I the latter. I think about the similarities, the uncertain future, the constant but low-level sense of unease. Most of all I think of how both Albert and myself were taken by surprise, to experience a familiar world so suddenly altered.
This is Albert’s first Christmas away from home. He updates his family on the success of the the Christmas party, paying particular attention to the food. If there was any kissing under the misletoe, then Albert kept it to himself.
Once again I am touched to read Albert’s remarks to my Mother Jean, albeit a mild reprimand for doing poorly in her arithmetic test. My Mum excelled at many things, but maths was never one of them.
A Merry Christmas to you all and here’s hoping to see you all very soon in the New Year.
Dear all (Mummy and Daddy and Peter and Jean, and Aunties Lizzie and Bertha and also Berty and everyone else).
This is a strange 24th of of December and Christmas Eve but it will be another day of rest tomorrow, which is one pleasant thing. We had our party which was really quite enjoyable and the cakes excellent then also trifles with real cream on top I don’t know where ever it all came from there must have been nearly a pint in all. During the afternoon of Sunday I heard the first part of the broadcast of the Messiah and wondered if you to heard it. Now that we have some new people catering for us we have the wireless since they have brought their own, an all mains Murphy with ABC tuning, something like the Bryan’s, a very good set. What we have is a speaker attached to a rediffusion system which seems to be very common here as there are wires across the streets, right and left. I am able to hear the news now and shall probably hear the King tomorrow.
I don’t know when you will receive this, being posted today. Your letter ,written on 19 December, did not arrive until yesterday and mine, which you have not received, was posted on the usual day I believe. I was rather disappointed that you did not put in those Dufoy prints. I was anxious to see what they turned out like – after having remembered that I still had the reel. I also had a letter from Castleton in which Geoff thanked me for the films. They included a 2/6d book of stamps. As regards the 5/- from Uncle Bernard, perhaps you could send it on if the postal order is still intact, otherwise don’t bother . But after buying my Christmas presents, few though they were, I have very little ready money left.
As for chocolate, we get some but not a great deal and just now there are great queues outside the NAAFI for cigarettes and chocolate, although not such large and disorderly ones as at Portswood.
I was very interested to see Phil’s letter and read what he has being doing. It seems that he is in quite safe area and that he is not having too bad time, in spite of what he says about it.
Dec 25 11am: We have just had breakfast and are listening to the church service on the home program . They are singing “Hark the Herald Angels sing” and it brings back to me happy memories of the many times I have been to Havant church on Christmas day; the same carols, the lesson from Isaiah and the Gospel from Saint Luke, about the shepherds at Bethlehem – it does make it a little like Christmas.
I do not know when this letter will reach you. Again I do not know where to send it. By the general slowness of the post I think I shall have to send it home. I will now thank you for the presents which I opened this morning. I am wearing a tie which is better one than our issued article and which I shall save for ‘best’ wear. The handkerchiefs would of course be very useful, though I have not quite so much use now as I nearly got rid of my cold, which has been rather troublesome.
So today I have eaten the cake and I must say that it is very nice and although I believe you said it was without eggs or something. I should not have thought so to eat it. It was lovely and fresh too, in spite of having been kept for a week. I have been eating the biscuits during the week too. I think the Chinese ones are the best, although the chocolate ones are almost or equally as good. The honey biscuits have a good flavour, although they are not so crisp and ‘biscuity’ as the others.
I have just been reading your letters and it is a pity I did not read them before, because I have not been to church and now it is too late to go to any of the morning services. You see, I have to get someone to wake me up if I want to get up earlier than about 10. I was called at 10 this morning.
As regards the rest of my present I think it would be best to get my watch done if that is possible. The ‘Hampshire Scene’ is in the Portswood library, the author is John Vesey Fitzgerald. I have an idea that folder of maps is a smaller scale than the books. I believe I have seen them. Anyway, as Phil has the Bartholomew’s book it will be nice for me to have a different one. They will also be able to revive memories of home and holidays for me, as well as help me to find my way around wherever I may get sent to.
As regards presents and things, I have not a great deal to show for this Christmas. I have had five cards up to date, though I have sent off a great deal more. I sent a card and letter to Mr and Mrs Gibbons in which I enquired about Jack. It is a good job that I did not send to him at Thorney Island. I have had two books from the girl who used to work at Hamble – one is a Dictionary of Photography, the other on the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. I have the one from Havant some while back, and last week Ron sent some handkerchiefs. I have just told you about Auntie Lily’s present and that I think completes the list.
This morning is fine and sunny and if the afternoon is as nice I may take a short walk in the country, though I must first of all write a letter to Joyce, who has been waiting about a fortnight or more for a reply to her last one.
My love to Peter and Jane Peter must tell Jean for me that even if someone has to be bottom for Arithmetic and even if we are not surprised, it would be better if she got more for it and does a bit better next time especially (I am sure Peter can tell her this) for so important subject as Arithmetic. I know she can do it and have no doubt that the trouble is only carelessness, so buck up Jean! I am glad that she has done so well English, French and History and that she takes an interest in the Art Club and enjoys it so much. There do not appear to be any marks for drawing or suchlike. But Jean, I don’t like your green ink although I like reading your letters!
I don’t know whether I can fill the rest of this sheet now. I have not even got some old men to talk about like Jean has, so I will close now, with love to you all from Albert.
P.S. This stamp on the envelope is the one off your letter before last! (saving paper). And give my Christmas greetings etc to Mrs Whatmore and Mrs Churchill (!).