c/o G.P.O. LONDON.
DEC 6th 1942.
I have been very lucky with my mail this time in. Two parcels of books and three airgraphs from you, a letter from my mother and one from an old chum now serving with the Canadians somewhere in the Pacific. This is the letter I promised in that airgraph a few days ago. You ask me to write more airgraphs and write oftener, but there is no point in writing at sea as it is impossible to mail anything until I return. I could write more often in harbour but after I write one decent letter there isn’t much left to write about until I hear from you again. I’m sorry to hear you are not getting all my letters. Actually I only write about one a month on an average. Did you receive the stockings I sent about ten weeks ago? Perhaps when you write you will give me the dates marked on my letters so I can tell which ones you are getting. This one is being written at the rest camp. I’ve been here three days now and I’m going back tomorrow.
The weather has been very good up until today – it is pouring rain right now and is quite cold. The two previous days were cold and clear with bright sunshine – just like late fall at home. I believe I [told] you before that this camp is in a village high in the mountains. It is very good country for hiking in and a shipmate and I have covered quite a few miles in the last couple of days. So many in fact that all the muscles in my legs are quite sore today. Lack of practice I think. It is very bare looking country with little vegetation covering it. You should see the type of farming that is practised here! Being very mountainous the farms are practically built into their steep sides in the form of terraces. The walls supporting these terraces are constructed out of stone, which fortunately is a rather soft sort of limestone. These terraces are seldom more than a few yards wide, and serve as catchments for the little rain that falls in summer, also to prevent the soil from being washed away. The peasants are very poor and their methods of cultivation quite primitive. They still use the oxen-drawn wooden plow that was in use here probably two thousand years ago. The peasants themselves haven’t changed much – one sees types of dress and methods of transport reminiscent of biblical scenes. The land they farm here wouldn’t be considered good enough to graze sheep on in England. While hiking yesterday we found some wild crocuses growing among the rocks. It was quite a surprise. They were smaller than the cultivated crocus and all were a dark yellow color, but definitely crocuses. I also saw a pair of pied wagtails flying about. There was no mistaking these as they are quite common at home – and in England I believe. I took a number of photographs and I’m having them developed now so if there is any good ones among them I’ll enclose them with this letter. I’m sorry you haven’t received those photos I sent some months ago. I sent my mother some at the same time and she received them O.K.
Speaking of photographs your photos was a bit of a pleasant surprise to me. You seem to have your hair fixed a bit different than it was when last I saw you. You seem so happy and full of life. The handkerchief you sent reminds me that the one you sent last year was one of the few things that I was fortunate enough to have with me when I lost all my gear last summer. Thank your mother for me will you? It will come in quite handy now there is no more beard! The lavender I was able to identify, of course, but the sprig of conifer I’m not so sure about. It looks like white pine to me but I’m not certain. Next time you write tell me what it is just to satisfy my curiosity. Also give my thanks to Mary.
It is odd that you should be telling me about your discovery of A.G.Street just about two weeks after I had read his ‘Year of my Life’. Very interesting and very sensible sort of book I think. Yes, I have read Thomas Mann, though it was a few years ago now. I think you would enjoy his ‘Magic Mountain’. Rather long and involved but very good. Here are two that you might like – Andre Maurois ‘Silence of Col. Bramble’ and ‘Night flight’ by Saint-Exupery. I think I told you about the last one before. It’s quite good. I’ve just finished Sackville-West’s ‘All Passion Spent’. A beautiful story very well written. My mother has mailed me a bundle of Atlantic Monthly’s and Scribner’s but there is no sign of them yet.
In your last airgraph you said you had heard a little about me. Have we been in the newspapers again? We have had some very good luck lately. I expect it will be about five months before I return to England. It should be the summertime then and that just suits me fine. I’m certainly looking forward to it. If there is anything you would like me to bring back with me just name it and I’ll do my best. I believe I mentioned this before but I’m doing it again just in case you didn’t get that letter.
Well, Jim, this is a much longer letter than I usually write and as you can see there is still very little news in it. I’m in very good health as usual and quite happy. Thanks a lot for the Christmas present. Hope you received yours. Best of luck and keep smiling.