A day of days! This morning out from 10 to 11 am. We were officially informed that the Nips have departed for good and that we shall henceforth be the responsibility of the Director and ordinary prison staff. It is too difficult to realise yet fully what this means, the tremendous relief from the strain under which we have lived for the past 5 months almost, to appreciate the fact that we can now live more or less normally and subject only to well defined restrictions. I have gone down on my knees today. Exchanged ‘The Alain Family’ yesterday for ‘Van Java’s Wegen’ by J E Jasper and that today for ‘Pension Vink’ by F de Sinclair. Mingail’s baby is 2 years old today. His own birthday was on 25 August and his wife’s on 27 July.
One of the first things I did when I was once settled in my bungalow was to purchase some hens. Being town bred this acquisition had great attraction for me and I was so impatient to see chickens hatching out that a few times a day I would left up the brooding hens from their nests to see if there was anything doing under them. After a few days of such inspection I became aware of an uncomfortable crawling sort of itch all over my body and by dint of careful scrutiny of my anatomy discovered that I was simply crawling with minute vermin known as hen lice. I do not know if fowls at home are subject to this particular pest but I can answer with conviction for those of Java. Needless to say, after this experience I was content to let nature take her course without further interference on my part and in due course had as many chickens as I could wish for, to my great pleasure and satisfaction. I have heard it said that a hen can be mesmerized by having its head inclined to a chalk line on the ground but have never tried this or seen it done. I can however vouch for the fact that if you take a chicken in your hands and turn it over quickly so that it lies on its back on the palm of one hand it will nine times out of ten stay in that position until you choose to put it on its feet again. Later on I increased my fowl possession by the addition of some ‘entoks’ which, I believe, are a cross between ducks and geese. They are good eating. Their eggs, also good, are, however, sterile. Entoks I should think, are the mules of the poultry world. I man mention that within less then a year my entire poultry yard was wiped out in the course of a few days by an epidemic of chicken cholera which swept with the rapidity of a forest fire through the district. I do not know sufficient about poultry at home to be able to tell whether or not such a disease is there prevalent, but in Java at any rate it is so common as to render any attempt at chicken farming a rather precarious undertaking. The course of the disease is rapid with about 24 hours only between infection and death. In my own stock, between 30 t0 40 hens died in a single night. The cholera strikes suddenly, the symptoms being inability to swallow and standing hunched up with the eyes partly or even completely closed. I have known a hen remain in the condition for days and die eventually of sheer starvation but this is not common. As I have said, death usually supervenes within 24 hours.
An issue of 3 packets of the ‘A’ cigarettes this afternoon. The ‘A’ which had evidently been pasted on to the packet, on being removed reveals a ‘V’. The cigs appear to be of Chinese manufacture and cost 6 cents per packet – Virginia and quite good.