Tuesday, 2 June 2009

12 August 1942

Alarm went last night at 9pm.  Lights out.  Also alarm twice during the night and during this morning.  Definitely practice.  Did not sleep too well, suspect a broken rib.  Pain continuous and troublesome in movement and breathing.  Will consult doctor on Friday if no improvement – and if he comes.  He did not turn up yesterday nor on the previous doctor’s day last Friday.  Overweg, the medical attendant, told us then there was a new doctor and would accept no orders for so called medical supplies for that reason.  These supplies included sugar, soya sauce, powdered condensed milk etc made up by the chemists shops to look like medicines.  On a packet of sugar, for example, is a label stating ‘Sach. Album (Latin for white sugar) One tablespoonful 3 times daily’ and soya is described as ‘Extr. Hispidae’ or ‘Prophyl Malaria as formerly’.  Milk has no longer been procurable for about 6 weeks now.  It will be  a pity if we cannot obtain further supplies but as we are now more accustomed to the very plain diet, that will not upset us so much as it would have, say, a couple of months ago.


Alex Simpson had received his early training in a lawyer’s office and that influence was evident in the deliberation with which he spoke and acted.  Very long winded on occasion, he just escaped being a bore.  In appearance he was of average height, rather thin faced, with dark brown hair and moustache sprinkled with grey and blue eyes behind his pince nez.  His nose was rather red as is usually the case with dyspeptic persons.  By the very deliberateness which was as dear to him in his lawyer like manner, he greatly irritated those whose maxims were speed in action and quickness of decision.  Unfortunately, to his own detriment, two of those who took exception to this manner were Sir Thomas himself and James Fiddes.  He was no sycophant and, although it was unwise, there was much to be admired in his attitude to the Actuary.  If Sir Thomas emerged from his sanctum to consult his accountant and the latter happened to be engaged in writing at the moment, Simpson would keep the Actuary waiting at his desk while he calmly completed the sentence (he was a deliberate in writing as in speech) and then raise his head and regarding Sir Thomas with a bland smile, would say ‘Well, Sir Thomas?’  That this attitude did not endear him to his chief speaks for itself.  But it was of James Fiddes he had most to beware.  This was evident to the most junior.  Fiddes had an ingratiating manner where Sir Thomas was concerned and his feeling of enmity towards Simpson was very evident.  Simpson was between two fires, therefore, as represented by his chief’s dislike of his independent manner and the enmity of his immediate inferior.  As was to be foreseen, this situation resulted, I believe, in Simpson's being worked out of his position in the Bank some years after I had left the service.  There was not a trace of snobbishness about Simpson, witness my own aspirations in regard to his daughter, he would kowtow to nobody and was, in general, kindly and considerate to the staff.  But he did lack the necessary force of personality to succeed in his attitude and principles.  As Douglas Campbell, who had the gift of summing up a man’s character in a few words, said of him, ‘Simpson is a human man, but he is not a manly man’.


Out from 4.15 to 6pm.  Two ball games.  Did not take part in physical exercises on account of rib.  Hear that Fatty was bitten in the thigh by a dog last night.  The second officer is still with us however.


Speaking of Fiddes once, Doug remarked ‘Fiddes is a man to whom music means tinkling sounds on a piano’.  And that indeed typified James Fiddes in a nutshell.  He was a man to whom the arts were so many closed books, a cold, calculating, efficient human machine.  He had a brilliantly logical brain and was obviously destined to rise high, which I understood he did in later years when all the Savings Bank in Scotland were brought under one organisation.  In appearance he was tall, well built and very blond and active in movement.  He spoke rapidly and incisively.  His walk was peculiar for a man of his build.  He always took short quick steps raising himself each time in the toes of the foot on the ground while the other foot was advancing, with the result that his progress was a continual bobbing up and down, as well as a forward movement.  Frankly, I did not like the man.  Toadyism and ruthlessness have always disgusted me and in my opinion Fiddes had more than a small share of both these qualities.  I may be wronging the man in this judgment but as he evidently disliked me I may be pardoned somewhat for my prejudice.

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