Friday, 8 May 2009

6 August 1942

A calamity occurred in my cell this morning.  I had just dozed off after having been wakened at 5 am by the clatter attendant on breakfast preparation when I was rudely shaken into consciousness by a dull explosion.  I was lying with my face to the wall and turning round quickly and raising my head I was astonished to see high up on the opposite wall a large splash of some dark brown fluid splattered in all directions.  It was only  when a second later I felt and saw spots of the same fluid falling on me and the bed clothes that I realised what had happened.  On top of the cupboard above the bed there was a large bottle of soya sauce which I had placed in a lying position and the stuff must have fermented and blew the cork out like a bottle of champagne.  Ye Gods!  What a mess!  The whole cell, floor, walls and ceiling even, was bespattered with soya sauce in varying degree.  My pyjamas, the blankets and the mattress have a large share.  It has taken me the whole morning and forenoon to put things to rights.  I have had to wash my blankets, a big job when you have only one small zinc basin to do the washing and I am hoping for steady sunlight this afternoon to dry them.  Fortunately, the guard was changed a few days ago and I have now dared to hang the blankets out at the window, a proceeding which would have been certain to ensure me some hearty wallops from B the B if he had still been here.  We were let out at 10.30 am today – by mistake.  Few steps along the corridor and we were sent back and locked up again.  The east wing went out and had exercise and handball games in the south west triangle.  I expect it will be our turn this afternoon.  PB has gone and Fatty (our favourite so far) is again in charge.  he took part himself in one of the ball games appearing to enjoy himself hugely and proving himself a good sportsman, taking everything in good part and laughing heartily at his own mistakes.  We feel quite cheered up as a result.  Out wing (the south) was left out this afternoon from 4 to 5.30 as we expected and we had a pleasant time.  We were also exercised in the SW triangle, a run of about 10 times round the field followed by physical jerks.  Two handball games.  Then first bath in two days.  Supper red rice, half duck egg, boiled tapioca and usual veg soup.  Also my extra plate of boiled white rice and 2 bananas.  Exchanged ‘Pimpernel’ with Raymond for Dutch book ‘Onder het juk’ (Yoke of Bondage) by H Bong.


While waiting in the Head Office of the Bank in Union Terrace to be interviewed for the advertised vacancy my attention was attracted to a man of about 30 years of age engaged in some task at the main counter.  He was of average height, slimly built with very sharp features, keen dark brown eyes and almost black close curling hair.  In fact he attracted me so much that I found myself wishing that I should be engaged if for no other reason than to have the opportunity of making his acquaintance.  It must have been fated, for this was Douglas Campbell who was to become the only real friend I have ever had and whose influence will remain with me all my life.  Doug was a brilliantly clever man with an extensive knowledge and intense appreciation of the arts in general and literature in particular.  He it was who introduced me to the real world of letters and to the higher realms of music, in fact to an appreciation of the higher things of life in general.  If ever there was a square peg in a round hole it was Douglas Campbell in the Aberdeen Savings Bank, although to be quite frank I do not know where exactly he would have fitted in.  He was  a combination  of revolutionary in matters of convention, socialistic idealist and agnostic in belief – and his own worst enemy.  He judged himself very hardly, being extremely sensitive as to his faults, to such an extent in fact that it is my opinion that he would have made much more of his opportunities and abilities if he had not been so critical of his own shortcomings.  His greatest failing was that of indulging in periodical drinking bouts which sometimes lasted for days and which led him into strange and often undesirable company.  He had always spoken to me quite frankly of this failing – but I only saw him once in an intoxicated condition and it almost broke my heart.  He arrived at our house in Sunnybank Place late one evening very badly intoxicated, almost speechless, and I remember mother  having him lie down on a couch in front of the fire while she did all in her power to sober him up as far as possible.  I am not ashamed to admit that I broke down and cried like a child when I saw Doug lying there in that condition.  It was my first experience of an intoxicated person at close quarters, which in itself was a great shock, but the fact that it was this dear friend whom I practically idolised who was in this condition was too much for me.  It was by no means that I had, as one may be inclined to think, discovered my idol to have feet of clay.  That did not enter into my feeling at all.  It was the pity of it all which affected me so strongly, the realisation of the ‘what might have been’' for Doug if he had not been cursed with such a failing.  His friendship meant even more to me that ever after this revelation of human weakness.  It may seem strange that such a friendship should have been possible between a youth of 17 and a man twice his age, but the reason was simple.  Doug had never grown up and his boyish spirits were on many occasions more exuberant than my own.  It was his suggestion, one Sunday when we were walking round by the lighthouse, that we should set his bowler hat on a rock as a target for our marksmanship with throwing pebbles.  We threw stones at that hat for at least half an hour and Doug’s enjoyment at this defiance of such a convential symbol and glee when he scored a hit, were, I believe even greater than my own.  We used to go for long cycle runs together out into the country and there he opened my eyes to the beauties of nature.  For four years I had this wonderful companionship which, towards the end of that period, was more or less interrupted by reason of anther attachment, natural to my years, which I had formed.  It may be foolish of me, but I have always felt that if my allegiance had not been divided, I might have been instrumental in averting the tragedy of Doug’s passing.  Or it was perhaps fated to be so, as Doug himself had a love in his life, the object of which, with characteristic self depreciation, he regarded as one as far beyond the reach of his unworthiness as the stars.  One Sunday his cycle and boots were found on the top of the cliffs between Aberdeen and Cove and it is presumed that he had thrown himself into the sea at that point.  I never heard of his body having been recovered.

Let the following, which I wrote in my notebook at that time, be his epitaph:

The Guide took Youth by the hand and led him down the Way of Life.
And as they went he pointed out on each side many
Doors which Youth had not observed in his impulsiveness
As he impatiently strode along the Way, with
Eyes fixed straight ahead.
And of those doors there were many which stood invitingly open,
Some only half a jar, and a few which were tightly closed.
’By these and these’, said the Guide, pointing to the doors,
’Shalt thou gain what thou most desirest’.
And Youth so journed long by the Way and entered many doors.
Those things which he saw and learned beyond the doors
Made the Way seem a happier and brighter one
Than it had appeared hitherto.
Beauty appeared everywhere – in everything.
And those of the doors which were tightly closed
Yielded the richest treasures.
The Guide was always near, counselling Youth against
Rash and hasty judgment of those things in which
At first glance beauty and purity seemed non existent.
And Youth was I – and the Guide the best friend Youth ever had.


I have lost a friend, a dear friend, and grieve deeply.
I ask myself,’Why do I grieve?’
The answer comes - ‘It is your sense of loss which is causing your grief’.
My sense of loss!  That sounds selfish – and it IS selfish.
Here I am, professing a belief in another and better
World and yet grieving that my friend has crossed
To the happiness and peace of the other side.
I have no cause to grieve for him if this is my belief -
and it IS my belief.
Therefore, what I call my grief is merely a revulsion
Of feeling caused by a selfishness
Which disturbs my mental equilibrium.

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