Tuesday, 29 December 2009

…. 5 September 1942

A day of days!  This morning out from 10 to 11 am.  We were officially informed that the Nips have departed for good and that we shall henceforth be the responsibility of the Director and ordinary prison staff.  It is too difficult to realise yet fully what this means, the tremendous relief from the strain under which we have lived for the past 5 months almost, to appreciate the fact that we can now live more or less normally and subject only to well defined restrictions.  I have gone down on my knees today.  Exchanged ‘The Alain Family’ yesterday for ‘Van Java’s Wegen’ by J E Jasper and that today for ‘Pension Vink’ by F de Sinclair.  Mingail’s baby is 2 years old today.  His own birthday was on 25 August and his wife’s on 27 July.


One of the first things I did when I was once settled in my bungalow was to purchase some hens.  Being town bred this acquisition had great attraction for me and I was so impatient to see chickens hatching out that a few times a day I would left up the brooding hens from their nests to see if there was anything doing under them.  After a few days of such inspection I became aware of an uncomfortable crawling sort of itch all over my body and by dint of careful scrutiny of my anatomy discovered that I was simply crawling with minute vermin known as hen lice.  I do not know if fowls at home are subject to this particular pest but I can answer with conviction for those of Java.  Needless to say, after this experience I was content to let nature take her course without further interference on my part and in due course had as many chickens as I could wish for, to my great pleasure and satisfaction.  I have heard it said that a hen can be mesmerized by having its head inclined to a chalk line on the ground but have never tried this or seen it done.  I can however vouch for the fact that if you take a chicken in your hands and turn it over quickly so that it lies on its back on the palm of one hand it will nine times out of ten stay in that position until you choose to put it on its feet again.  Later on I increased my fowl possession by the addition of some ‘entoks’ which, I believe, are a cross between ducks and geese.  They are good eating.  Their eggs, also good, are, however, sterile.  Entoks I should think, are the mules of the poultry world.  I man mention that within less then a year my entire poultry yard was wiped out in the course of a few days by an epidemic of chicken cholera which swept with the rapidity of a forest fire through the district.  I do not know sufficient about poultry at home to be able to tell whether or not such a disease is there prevalent, but in Java at any rate it is so common as to render any attempt at chicken farming a rather precarious undertaking.  The course of the disease is rapid with about 24 hours only between infection and death.  In my own stock, between 30 t0 40 hens died in a single night.  The cholera strikes suddenly, the symptoms being inability to swallow and standing hunched up with the eyes partly or even completely closed.  I have known a hen remain in the condition for days and die eventually of sheer starvation but this is not common.  As I have said, death usually supervenes within 24 hours.


An issue of 3 packets of the ‘A’ cigarettes this afternoon.  The ‘A’ which had evidently been pasted on to the packet, on being removed reveals a ‘V’.  The cigs appear to be of Chinese manufacture and cost 6 cents per packet – Virginia and quite good.

Monday, 14 December 2009

31 August 1942

Only one outing from 9.45 to 11 am.  Walk around and one ball game.  Some more people seem to have arrived and that is probably why no outing this afternoon, also no bath but I have just had a wash down with my flesh gloves so am not worrying very much.  Mingail got a parcel yesterday and I have profited there from to the extent of an orange, a bar of chocolate, three small biscuits, tow pieces of pisang saleh (banana) and 5 Mascot ‘Royal’ cigarettes.


It was during the period too that I was guilty of a very foolish and thoughtless action which had, however, its amusing side.  It was at the Chinese New Year which the Chinese celebrate with a seemingly endless stock of fireworks which they let off for days on end, culminating in one deafening mass explosion at the actual dawning of the new year.  Fenton and I, being what we were at that time, could not let this opportunity for further pranks pass and accordingly we purchased a stock of squibs large and small with which we proceeded to amuse ourselves.  In an effort to very the explosive effects of the large bombs we let some off under an inverted empty petrol tin and were gratified by seeing the tin rise about three or four feet into the air with the blast.  After a few times I said to Fenton, ‘I wonder what would happen if you were to sit on the tin?’ Fenton replied, ‘Try it and see.’  So in my weak mindedness I lit the fuse of the large squib, clapped the tin over it and sat down – but  not for long.  Even the memory of the subsequent proceedings causes me to squirm as I sit on my stool.  A few seconds later I was hopping around with my hands clapped to my posterior feeling as if I had been kicked by a horse, while Fenton was rolling on the ground in a fit of helpless laughter.  This instance reminds me of another foolish action of mine many years ago when I was about 15.  I had cycled into the country on Saturday afternoon to visit the Primrose family who were spending their summer holidays at a farm some miles from Aberdeen.  The son, Norman, and myself started amusing ourselves somersaulting over a heap of hay in the farmyard,  We did this by running at the heap and just in front of it putting our hands on the ground and throwing ourselves head over heels so tha we landed on our feet on the far side.  At length, encouraged by our prowess I suggested throwing ourselves over without using our hands and agreed to be the first to try the experiment.  So I ran towards the heap, pushed my head into the hay on the rear side and over I went.  My momentum was such, however, that when I landed on the other side my head kept on travelling and came down on my knees with such a whack that I was almost knocked unconscious.  My nose suffered most because the bridge of that organ came in violent contact with one bony knee.  Not only did my nose bleed freely but the blow raised a bump on my nose which, even after all these years, is still visible.


1 September 1942

Out today from 9.45 to 11 am and 3 to 4 pm.  shave with own razor in cell.  In the past 3 days I have exchanged ‘Woodstock’ for ‘A Scarlett Sin’ by A & C Askew, that for ‘Caucasion Tales’ in Dutch by Lee Tolstoi and that again for ‘Fromont Junior and Risler Senior’ by Alphonse Daudet.


2 September 1942

Fatty is back.  Out from 4.15 to 5.30 pm.  Two ball games.  Exchanged ‘Fromont’ for ‘Freely Forgiven’ by J B Horton & Kate Drew, which without reading have exchanged with Jack Husband for ‘The Alain Family’ by Alphone Karr.


3 September 1942

Out from 4.30 to 6.15 pm.  Run round, jerks.  Races of 100, 200, 400, 1000 metres.  Prize giving tomorrow.


4 September 1942

This was the 5th day of another reign of terror, hence the little writing done.  Out today from 10.45 to 11.30 am prize giving and jerks.  Less than half an hour later out again for inspection by big bug who together with all other jays took salute.  The BB’s informed us this afternoon that all had departed.  Very strange.

30 August 1942

No outing this morning probably on account of the ground being wet as a result of heavy rain overnight.  Out for a walk from 2 to 3.20 pm.  One ball game.  Saw Str.  Excellent Sunday supper again this afternoon.  Stewed potatoes and vegetables with a piece of meat.


From the time of my arrival on the Estate I had talked freely regarding the fact that I had become engaged before leaving home and that it was my intention to let my fiancee join me as soon as I had got together sufficient money for her passage.  The manager was going home on leave at the beginning of 1928 and proposed that Miss Simpson should travel with them on their return.  Fenton suggested that the idea at the back of FV’s mind was to procure gratis the services of somebody to help with the children.  He was probably correct in his surmise but the plan was very attractive to me as it was definitely preferable for the young lady to make the long journey in the company of the FV family than to travel such a long distance alone.  The matter was thus arranged accordingly and the FV family had already been in Europe for some time when the blow fell.  I cannot do better than to quote the correspondence which passed between the parties concerned, commencing with the letter which I received from my prospective father in law.  (The correspondence referred to will be inserted here when, if ever, opportunity offers.*)

So, as Robbie Burns says, ‘the best laid schemes a’mice and men gang aft agley’, but how often are we capable of appreciating the providence which seems at the time, to have dealt us a blow from which we shall never recover.  With now more than eight of the happiest years of my life behind me I can implicitly believe that whom the gods love, they chastise.  I can wish my former fiancĂ©e no better fate than to have had as much happiness in her second choice as I have experienced in mine.  While FV was on leave, Fenton was Acting Manager and acquitted himself in that capacity exceptionally well.  I must admit, however, after the office was closed at 5 o’clock, he and I used to fly kites, just like a couple of small boys, and to defy any semblance of authority by flying them right in front of the big house.  I am ashamed when I recall my annoyance the first time Fenton cut my kite loose in mid air having previously surreptitiously treated the string of his own with a preparation of powered glass.  Kite flying is a favourite pastime with the natives but I really do now know what they thought when they saw the manager and bookkeeper indulging in this, for us under the circumstances, high undignified amusement.  But I am afraid we enjoyed ourselves too much to worry about that.



* The correspondence disappeared during the Japanese occupation.