Tuesday, 19 May 2009

9 August 1942

Today being Sunday I observed the fact by lying in bed until almost 9 o’clock where I drank my coffee and indulged in the luxury of a Capstan cigarette.  I have still nine left of the tin I got on my birthday.  One learns thrift in such things under the present circumstances.  Allowing for the fact that I gave 20 away of the 50, I have been, I think very economical.  We get the prison issue of native tobacco every second day which is sufficient for about 6 or 7 thin cigarettes rolled in maize leaf which is also supplied, but never enough leaves for the amount of tobacco.  Everybody uses any kind of paper he can get hold of for rolling cigs, sticking them with the liquid off the breakfast rice porridge.  We have heard the sirens in Bandung four times today, at 9am, 9.20, 9.30 and 12.45 but as each time the signal known to us as the ‘all clear’ was given, we are not sure what it signified.  There was certainly great air activity today.  Very short outing from 10.50 to 11.30 but pleasant.  Just a run round and physical drill under the 2nd officer.  Exchanged ‘Onder het Juk’ for' ‘Memoirs of Sarah Bernhardt’, in Dutch, with young Allen.  Also exchanged my own book ‘Fate cannot harm me’ for the ‘Three Musketeers’ with Spit Jr.  A knock on the right rib from Ader’s elbow during the ball game the other day continues to be rather painful.  Forgot to mention that Minggail sprained his left foot rather badly in the same game.


The seven accepted cancellation, probably because they felt that they could not climb down after such a hold up.  I was terribly cast down and asked Mr Whyte if there was no possibility of continuing.  He replied that if I could find three other vocalists to form a quartette only, he would persuade Glentanar to continue this arrangement.  Within the week I had fulfilled the condition and, Mr Whyte being satisfied with the combination, the quartette was engaged on the old terms and completed the season with never a breakdown or the slightest unpleasantness.  The soprano was Miss Isabel Simpson, a member of the Bank staff and sister of the Beechgrove organist and to whom I latterly became engaged, my aunt Helen was the alto, and John Cooper, the bass.  John was in business as a ship chandler.  He had a rather big nose and was as self opinionated as the organ indicated, but a good fellow at heart.  On Guy Fawkes day of that same year he made me a present of an immense ship’s rocket with which we wound up a firework’s display at Mrs Simpson’s home, West Bungalow, Cults.  It was a most impressive burst of stars and I only hope that the Aberdeen lifeboat did not put out that night by mistake.  The St Thomas church engagement led to John Cooper and myself being asked in December to strengthen the tenor and bass parts in ‘The Yeoman of the Guard’ which Glentanar was producing himself and members of his house party in the leading roles and a choir of the Aboyne villagers.  We attended three or four rehearsals and what I recall most clearly is the intense cold and depth of snow which attended our journeys to Aboyne.  We travelled by rail, arriving at Aboyne about 5pm by which time it was already quite dark and floundered knee deep in snow to the hotel which was fortunately quite near to the station.  Rehearsal commenced at 8pm and lasted till sometimes after 11, but were very jolly.  Of the guests at Glentanar, I can recall only young Lord Waleran although there were titles enough in the bunch, I imagine.  I remember being quite startled on one occasion behind stage when Lady Something or other turned to me and said, ‘I have a hell of a cold’.  It quite upset my conception of a special representative from the D’Oyly Carte Company and was quite a success, thanks also to the conductor, Mr Whyte, who was, and still must be, a real genius.  I remember reading in the newspaper the following year that his own opera ‘The Forge’ had been produced in Aboyne.  I was in the service  of the Savings Bank for six and half years, sometimes working in the Head Office and at others in branch offices situated in different districts and suburbs of the town.  It was the custom to shift the junior staff from office to office about every 3 months and it was a very sensible arrangement as we learned to know each other very well and also became adapted to the ways of the various branch managers.  The branches were: Eastern at the corner of King Street next door to the North of Scotland Bank, Northern in George Street near Hutcheon Street, Rosemount, just opposite Esslemont Avenue, in Rosemoutn Place, Holburn, in Holburn Street near the junction with Great Western Road, Torry, in Menzies Road near Walker Road; and a small branch in the Spital near to Old Aberdeen.  There were also offices, open only from 6 –8pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, at Woodside, Bucksburn and later at Culter.  These three branches were in due course, given official rank and following the hours of the town offices which were 9.30 am to 3pm to Friday and 9.30 to 12 on Saturday, also 6-8pm on Mondays and Thursdays.  A short time previous to my leaving the service I was appointed agent of Culter Branch and nearly died of enuui.  On a busy day there sometimes as many as three people would come in.  Most days there was not a single depositor.  I have never felt so tired in all my life as I did during that period.  The shifting around of staff from office to office provided us with welcome variety as each branch brought us in contact with a different class of depositor.  At Eastern, for instance, we found the submerged wealth as represented by rag and bone merchants, Castlegate cheap jacks and fish vendors.  These last tested the powers of our stomachs,when they used to tip their taking on to the counter of a greasy, stinking sack and we had to count the money which was perfectly horrible with fish scales and slime.  Then there were the gentlemen of mysterious occupations who went about in shabby rags with dirty mufflers round their necks and who produced as much as £2 to £3 at a time from various portions of their raiment or anatomy.  And then the ladies who used to dive down into unmentionable regions – but ‘nuffsed’.  Torry catered, of course, mainly for the fisher folk of that district.  One peculiarity which was struck me there was the names of females.  It seemed that every girl and woman had a Christian name with the appendix ‘ina’ and as this was invariably stuck on to a male Christian name, the most surprising combinations often resulted.  A few examples which occur to my mind were, Jamesina, Johnina, Peterina, Albertina and Thomas or Tomina, while Georginas, and Williaminas were as countless as the stars.  Northern depositors were mostly of a mixed working class representing a variety of trades.  One man I remember, a baker, was a real miser and came regularly every pay day to deposit what must have been the major part of his earnings.  knowing as I did the average baker’s wage, I used to wonder how he lived.  He himself was mere skin and bone and I do hope he had no wife or family.  He paid in, it seemed, every possible penny, sometimes £2.17.10 or £3.1.1 (£2.87 in today’s money or just over $4 or £3.10 or just over $4.50) and on quite a few occasions was most upset when we refused to accept an extra half penny.  After receiving back his pass book he would stand at least 5 minutes gloating over it before sneaking furtively out of the office.  It was a disgusting sight.  Holburn saw much of the same class with a sprinkling of more well to do depositors from the west end.  In opening an account, we took particulars of name, address and occupation and it was at Holburn that I was puzzled by a young man’s describing his occupation as ‘farmer’s son’.  I don’t know yet what that means as an occupation.  We also had a ‘gentleman’ at Holburn.  The Rosemount clientele was rather superior middle class on the whole and usually somewhat snobbishly inclined as became the possessors of addresses in such places as Beechgrove Terrace, Mile End Avenue etc.

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