Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Proper decorum

It is a regrettable fact that many girls and women seemed to regard the arrival of the Japs in Bandoeng as a signal to display more openly that they had ever seemed to do, their feminine charms, by lavish make up and by going about the streets in attire which left little or nothing to the imagination. All too brief shorts were unfortunately only too common, for instance, and it is bitter to have to record that the Japanese themselves put a stop to this immodest behaviour on the part of the European fair sex. It was made known through the medium of the press that the Japanese authorities did not favour and would not countenance any but the most proper and conventional female attire, nor would the use of lipstick or other 'come hither' cosmetics be tolerated. There are rumours of girls who had ignored this order being publicly humiliated, by punishment but I do not know if this definite occurred.

Many shopkeepers, particularly those stocking watches, cameras and spectacles had a difficult time because they were besieged by Jap soldiers who would pay, and in 'banana' money, only a fraction of the marked price of the articles. Protest in many instances was met by a slap in the face. It is true, however, that if the shopkeeper was fortunate to get hold of an officer the latter saw to it that the soldier paid in full price, but in Jap money, of course. Generally, however, barefaced robbery of this nature was the order of the day.

On Saturday afternoon, Ena, who had more nerve and initiative than I have, suggested that we should cycle up to Dennenlust and see how 'Sunny Corner' as faring under Jap occupation. We set off and as we were pushing our cycles up the steep hill to the house, a truck loaded with Japs roared past us up the road. The Nips all grinned at us and some of them waved. I swore, thinking that they were jeering at the sight of the once proud Europeans reduced to trundling push bikes up a hill.

But I was wrong. When we reached 'Sunny Corner' we found that these were the very Nips occupying the house and that, having recognised us, they were merely giving us greeting. There must have been about forty of them altogether, and there seemed to be as many outside the house as inside. Their Lieutenant was not in evidence.

We were ushered into the house in the centre of this band which immediately surrounded. They were all very friendly, and one of them who knew about three words of English, was at great pains enthusiastically assisted by half a dozen others, to explain to us through the medium of his limited vocabulary and much sign language that they would be leaving the house the following Thursday. While this was going on, one Jap, stark naked walked quite unconcernedly through the room into the bedroom.

One of the Nips took me by the arm and indicated that I was to go with in the direction of the kitchen. I said quickly to Ena "Stick close to me, I don't want to leave you alone with these guys".

He led us straight to the bathroom, threw open the door and there was disclosed to our startled gaze another Japanese in the bath arrayed in his birthday suit.

Our guide kept jabbering a long story to us but of which we naturally could not understand one word. Despairing at last of this method of conveying his meaning to us, he grasped my hand and slipped it into the water in the bath. Then he took Ena's hand and repeated the action. The Jap in the bath calmly proceeded with his ablutions during this procedure, taking not the slightest notice of us.

At length it dawned on us what it was all about. Some months previously we had installed an 'Esse' cooker image (similar to an Aga) with complete hot water installation. The 'Esse' is a heat storage range which burns continuously day and night only requiring servicing twice a day, morning and evening, with a hopper full of charcoal. When we left the house I had been at pains to explain hastily as best as I could to the Lieutenant what he had to do to keep the stove going but he had quite obviously not got the idea. When the Japs arrived they had found hot water in the bathroom but they had let the fire go out and now the tap was running cold. This was what the Jap was now asking us to explain, but it just couldn't be done and eventually he and we had to give it up as a bad job.

Several Japs now took us on an inspection tour of the house and showed us how cupboards etc had been sealed by them with strips of paper and they were obviously anxious to impress the fact that, apart from shifting around the furniture to suit their convenience our belongings were intact and untouched. To this day we do not understand their solicitude in this connection as it is so at variance with all that we experience later.

When we left 'Sunny Corner' the whole crowd saw us off and, as far as we could make out, seemed to be inviting us to call again soon. Once down the hill and out of sight, Ena and I nearly fell off our bikes laughing at the memory the naked Japs in the bath!

**** to be continued


Devin said...

You writing is amazing.You are very talented:0)

kim* said...

yes devin, so detailed like a movie.