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14A Randolph Gardens
Maida Vale NW6
My dear kids -
As usual I'm laps behind with my news to you, but London & specialing takes quite a lot of coping with - 'tis all night duty I've been doing & I find it a full time job in my old age - still I must admit I like the University College Hospital & they are all so good to me there - I'm getting to be known now & night Sister is awfully decent, she asks for me whenever she has a nice patient, or anything interesting comes along so I daren't say I don't like night duty - 'tis much better to remain in their good graces - which really isn't hard -
I've this week been specialing a lad with an appendix - a nice young thing - Commander in the R.N. - aged about 33 - full of beans & you know what the Navy are like - I had him for 3 nights & didn't do a thing for him - he was quite OK - wanted to frivoale (?) & play cards half the night - about 11pm we'd settle down for the night. I used to doze in a big chair under a rug in between night Sister's rounds - I finished the week out with Dr Gregg - he had tonsillitis & was pretty sick for a few nights - then Sister said she had a convalescent patient going to the country who wanted to take a nurse home with her for a few days - not unnaturally I rushed it & here we all are - down at a lovely hotel like Woodlands Park - at Witley, its in Surrey too - I expect I shall finish my week with her - but it has been quite a nice break after night duty - I've nothing to do - the woman is a nice youngish soul, whose husband is a major in the Indian Army & is at the moment in Lahore - she had her gall bladder removed & is quite OK - she just wants company - suits me well - I have lovely long nights in bed & don't rise until 8am - retire early - yum yum - the place is like Woodlands, too - the inmates are all aged about 70 years - all rickety retired folk - but the countryside is perfectly lovely - we've so far had marvellous weather - nice warmish days with quite warmish sunshine - I can remember this time last year it was filthy - think dense fog - rain & ice on the grounds - but so far we've escaped this awful state - this is of course typical of England - one never knows from one second to another, what the weather will do. But the autumn leaves haven't all come off the trees yet & the landscape is a symphony in golden browns with the deep green pines to finish off - very, very lovely. The people here are awfully nice to us - they take us out driving daily & on Thursday some old boy - retired Army Captain is going to take us over to see some hunting - a meeting of the foxhounds at Midhurst - Lord Cowdrays pack I believe the correct expression is - I'm looking forward immensely to this - I've never seen one yet you know - so I expect I shall be yelling Tally-ho for a bit after. I know this part of the countryside pretty well, the Aldersons have taken me all around here so I feel quite at home.
On Armistice Day I rushed straight off duty at 8.30am & tore down to take up my position at the Cenotaph - I was lucky enough to get into the second row almost directly opposite to where the King places the wreath. I had to stand from 8.45am until well 10.30am - rather strenuous after night duty, but well worth it - I had a wonderful view until the Guardsmen came & lined the route opposite the marked out area, but even then I saw nearly all - the only thing I missed was the King just as he was bending down with the wreath - the Guardsmen's bearskins hid him from sight, but only for a wee while. Twas a lovely day for Nov 11th, cool - but the sun shone gently & clearly down onto Whitehall - Nelson took a long look at the crowds from his spot way up in the air - I'll never forget how I felt - standing in the crowd, looking up towards Trafalgar Square in the lovely morning & thinking here I am, actually seeing this ceremony I often see on the screen & in papers -
Things start happening about 10.30am when all the troops come to line the route - the Army, Navy - all very gay & dashing & the Air Force, very young & clean-looking - then the Life Guards & ordinary Guardsmen - the only disappointment of course is they all have their greatcoats hiding their gay uniforms, for even tho tisn't wet - this is November & cool - poor King George V got his first chill at the Cenotaph, remember - But this year Nov 11th was such a glorious day I did feel they could be a little less muffled - after the Guardsmen came the choir boys with the Bishop of London, & the ex-servicemen lined up further down. The Cenotaph looked very fine - it isrigidly plain but very impressive & the only inscription is 'Our Glorious Dead' - the flags of the Dominions flapped gently either side & somehow one felt very - well - I s'pose - good - just standing there in the midst of masses of people, feeling the loyalty almost - it is amazing this crowd in London - I was jammed up on a lad from Perthshire in Scotland all in a mass of Harris Tweeds - who was prolonging his holiday in London especially to see the ceremony - nearby was another lad who had been up all night making munitions, an old street cleaner and a doctor from New Zealand getting his F.R.C.S. - one chats to everyone in a crowd ye ken - then well-dressed well to do folk all stand shoulder to shoulder with nitwits of flappers - salesgirls & etc - but one & all this year the question on everyone's lips was 'where is the King' - we must see the King - believe me, for all Mr Chamberlain's popularity - the King still comes first with everyone - they all feel he has done his job awfully well & of course, is very much the man - you can imagine how thrilled I was when Mr Bruce - our Stanley Melbourne, looking much older, but just as nice as ever, led the Dominion High Commissioners out & stood close to the Cenotaph with our wreath. Presently Queen Mary, the Queen - looking rather nice for her - in all black, without any silly little fur around her neck & a rather wide turned-back brim on her hat - The Duchess of Kent - looking really awfully thin & extraordinary looking - she has awful dark circles under her eyes, the black frock accentuated her thinness & a silly little hat cocked over one eye with a high Alexandra feather floating above it - it made her neck look about 2ft long - the story floats about that she has rather a strenuous time - the Duke is pretty gay - they all seem to think here that is why he is being dispatched to Australia with lots of hopes - but somehow I can't feel that is quite true - they wouldn't send him out there to a responsible job if they thought he'd do foolish things - tis too small (the population I mean) for him to do too much - but I quite agree with you all, the Gloucesters would have been a howling success out at home - she is so marvellous - never does the wrong thing & he is obviously more devoted to her now than when they were first married - that they do all the diplomatic things here - they are so useful in England tis said the Government wouldn't even consider sending them away - sp from now on the King & Gloucester have to hold the fort here for all State occasions - but I digress - at 5 minutes to 11 out walked my lovely King - he always knocks me over, each time I see him anew, with his cheery brown face, neat tidy figure & very normal every day naturalness - he had on Naval Uniform under a big coat - (so did the Duke of Kent) but the King looked wonderful when he stepped back & stood to attention for the 2 minutes silence - you've seen it on the films ere this & loved it - but dears you were not standing in Whitehall when Big Ben chimed 11am on Armistice Day 1938 & the absolute uncanny stillness that descended on the whole world (or so it seemed) at that moment - everyone stood silent & like statues were all the people who were on rooftops - not a sound could be heard from where we were - only a bird singing & just at the end, a Guardsman fell flat on his face like a toy soldier, with his arms still stiff at his sides - really it is tremendously impressive - but I think our dawn service must be just a little more so - only we haven't the setting NOR the King with us - but after the silence came the short address by the Bishop, a prayer, then 'God Save our King' never before have I heard it sung so sincerely, not lustily & loudly - but just like a prayer - I was thrilled to bits. The King went off - then all the Diplomats - and the Band played stirring music - mostly all wartime songs of course, the masses of people on the pavement all joining in loudly - we had to wait until all the soldiers & ex-servicemen had filed past before we were allowed to go away - after this I went down to the lovely old Abbey - couldn't get inside of course - but planted a poppy in the Field of Remembrance - then I took a milkshake with the lad from Scotland, home to bed, almost pop-eyed at 2.30pm to find a nice batch of Australian letters - including yours Ned - good little horse - keep up the good work - I never find them dull - glad Mill is enjoying her stay in Sydney - gosh I bet young Peter will be twisting his granny around his fingers in no time now - Don't spoil the lad my pets - but I do know how hard it is not to - a big hug to you all -
Ere this you have seen & heard Nellie - I'm beginning to wonder how she's feeling about being back - of course the novelty hasn't worn off yet - she will be much happier at home than here methinks - she was always undecided about thinks over here - doesn't she look snappy tho' - the trip has done her the world of good - hope it lasts - I've had a few letters from her en route & she seems to be having a very gay time - with some old dentist chappie -
Xmas is almost upon us my pets - this time next year I shall be on my way home - if my plans don't go astray - I'm going to work like a black & save all I can until mid-February - Muriel Neesham & I so badly want to go winter sporting in Switzerland - the trip isn't so expensive, tis the gear that is the unnecessary expense - but here's hoping - I simply can't go back without seeing snow & sampling winter sports - then I shall come back & save up ready to go home - if Earle is in Fiji I'll come home via Panama - America is too expensive, but the New Zealand Line ships call at Fiji so they would be OK - I still ove being here in every way - but all the girls are going back - I don't know many others, I should go crackers being here alone - besides I'd like to see you all - very much - heaven alone knows whether I'll be able to settle down, but we'll let the future take care of itself - the present is the most important -
Best love my pets - I must get all my Xmas cards off when I get back to town -don't forget to write me all long letters - that's all I want - & some snaps.
All my love,