Wednesday, 24 June 2009

16 August 1942

Last night lights dim till 9 pm then complete black out till 11 pm after which lights dim for the rest of night.  Rib still painful, pain now localised under right breast.  Twenty odd new people including 2 women, have arrived and are in the West wing.  Too far to see who or what they are.


Mention of John Wilkinson reminds me of a serious illness I had, in, I believe, 1932, of which John was the indirect cause but not in the least responsible.  He was a very fine swimmer and one Saturday afternoon while we were together in the Bathing Station of the Beach, I persuaded him to teach me to dive from the springboard.  I got the knack of it in due course and was so enthusiastic that I kept on diving long after John had left the bathing station.l  The same evening I had a bad headache with a dull throbbing in the ears and by the next morning I was in agony with earache and running a high fever.  The doctor was called, diagnosed abscesses in both ears and prescribed treatment.  For days I lay practically unconscious with the intense pain.  In due course, thanks to my mother’s careful nursing, the pain subsided, but leaving me as weak as a kitten – and stone deaf!  The doctor told my mother that there was nothing more to be done as both eardrums were perforated and that I would never recover my hearing.  Fortunately, I was not aware of the verdict, whcih was probably just as well and my mother refused to accept it.  on her own responsibility she intensified the treatment, washing out and dressing my ears every hour, day and night, and achieved a miracle.  My hearing gradually came back until eventually it was as good as formerly, probably better on account of the drastic clearing my ears had undergone during the treatment.  I owe the recovery of my sense of hearing to my mother alone, God bless her.  It was during those  years, too, when I took enthusiastically to the Muller System of physical training, to which I was introduced by Douglas Campbell, and there can be no doubt that this habit stood me in good stead in later life, building up, as it did, latent powers of resistance to disease and reserves of physical strength.  In my opinion, the Muller System stands alone and in view of its simplicity and the absence of any complicated or expensive apparatus in its execution, is within the reach of every young man or woman who is willing to sacrifice a few packets of cigarettes or a pound of chocolates to procure the book ‘My System’ which costs only a few shillings.  No investment will ever pay larger dividends.  The desire to get out  into the world still being strong within me, I tried on two occasions, before finally breaking away in 1926, to satisfy the urge of applying for a position, first with the Hudson’s Bay Company and later with a Bank in Cuba.  My lack of inches debarred me from consideration for the Hudson’s Bay appointment, the minimum height stipulated being 5ft 8ins, and in the second case, the conditions did not sufficiently appeal to me.  For a year or two, my wanderlust slumbered until in 1926 it was awakened by the fact of James Webster having secured a planting job in Java.  This started me off on hunting through the ‘situations vacant’ columns of the papers again and, sure enough, about the middle of August, and just as Jimmy Webster must have been disembarking in Java, the following advertisement appeared in the Scotsman, the newspaper which was to be found each morning on the counter at Head Office:

‘Assistant wanted for Rubber Plantation in Java.  Apply to Harrisons and Crosfield, Ltd, Gt Tower Street, London’

The same day I wrote applying for the position and a few days later received a questionnaire which I was requested to fill in and return.  This I did and then followed a few weeks of excited speculation and expectation.  In this interim my annual holiday, which I always took in the last week of August and the first week in September, intervened and it was after having been a week in Braemar that I received a forwarded telegram from London requesting me to submit myself to a designated doctor in Aberdeen for medical examination.  The telegram arrived on Friday evening and the next morning I started early to cycle the 16 miles to Ballater where I caught the train for Aberdeen.  Arrived there, I first dashed home to communicate the news and then proceeded as quickly as the tramcar could take me to the house of the doctor, whose name I forget, in Albyn Place.  Such was my excitement, that, between trams, I was under the urgent necessity of relieving myself in the public urinal at the King’s Statue, a circumstance which was to have a rather ludicrous consequence.  The doctor put me through examination which culminated, naturally, in the request for a urine sample.  Having never been examined in this exhaustive fashion before, the request, or rather command, was quite unexpected and as in addition the source of supply had been exhausted a very short time previously, I was quite nonplussed.  However, I had to make an effort, but after 5 minutes behind a screen with a tumbler in my hand, I had perforce to give it up as a bad job and to reappear shamefacedly with a still empty glass, confessing to the medically inability at that juncture to deliver the goods.  He looked at me with that half amused half contemptuous smile which doctors seem  to reserve for such a confession (I wonder why?) and then suggested that I should come back two hours later for the purpose.  I therefore returned home where I spent the time granted me in drinking glass after glass of water until I was almost in danger of drowning or, at least, of becoming completely waterlogged.  At the doctor’s house again at the appointed hour, the door, in answer to my ring, was opened by a very young and attractive maid who immediately asked me if I was Mr Smith, explaining that the doctor as not then at hoe but that I had to telephone him at a number she gave me.  From the half smile playing about her life I received a strong impression that this lass knew my secret.  I rang up the doctor on his own phone and he gave me clear instructions for finding the necessary receptacle which he had placed for me on a shelf in his surgery.  My suspicion that the maid knew what it was all about became a certainty when, after, hanging up the telephone and without having yet spoken a word, she said, ‘This way, Sir,’ showing me immediately into the surgery and the maid, still with a badly concealed amused expression on her face, showed me out of the house, which I left with a face as red as a beetroot and the fervent wish that I should obtain the Java appointment, if for no other reason than that I should not be exposed to the chance of coming face to face again with the girl in question.

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