This letter is out of order in these blog posts, but the list of blogs shows where it should fit.
24.2.70 [Typed on both sides of three and a half narrow and short, pale green, sheets of paper]
Dear Mum, I was all set to sit down and write to you and discovered I seem to have run out of air letters, so I hope the look of this didn’t shock you too much. Still no news from the CIB which naturally enough I’m finding a bit distressing. The stage we’re at, at the moment, is that of the girl making up her mind what she thinks of me from the scanty information she has and the shocking photo. Obviously it’s a difficult task! I can’t contact her personally at all until after she has replied to the CIB to say she’ll have an ‘introduction arranged for her’ and then they write to me again, and tell me I can write to her but still through them ˗ Oh! What a complicated business! It’s only after she then replies directly to me that either of us finds out who the other is and where they live! The more I think about it the funnier it seems. I’m glad I went into that like that because it’s shown me the funny side of it that I’d lost sight of. I read a little CTS pamphlet the other day which had a quotation from a poem by Francis Thompson (whom personally I don’t much care for but who seems in this case to have come up with a very nice little saying). It was:
Is my gloom after all
Shade of His hand outstretched caressingly?
Shade of His hand outstretched caressingly?
which, once you’ve worked out the slightly upside down grammar is rather to the point, though in our usual way we manage to think God is mismanaging things for us instead of probably (quite definitely!) the other way around.
I had Michael T and a girlfriend of his, Mickey, and Kevin Rowlands up to lunch on Sunday afternoon, and though Kevin bought a bottle of vino with him (I have bought one and so had Mike) he doesn’t drink, and so we other three, possibly a little rudely, but....sat round and drank off one bottle ˗ the other two can now wait for another party sometime! He seems a pleasant sort of chap though not a conversationalist to any degree which makes things a little difficult (and Mike wasn’t as co-operative in this department as usual; he’s getting all introspective lately) but we all survived, and he has returned the compliment and I’ll have to wend my way down to his flat (with two other guys and four cats and three dogs!) sometime when he calls to arrange a date. I hope he’s more at home in his own place. There’s not much of the theatrical about him ˗ he strikes me as one of those totally theatre people whom you could still pass on the street and barely notice. He’s tall, a little heavier than that photo Mrs Leslie showed us, and generally quiet. And strangely enough reminds me a lot of Kevin Flaherty. (Have you ever noticed how people of the same name tend to have certain characteristics [in common]? Or am I just making that up to suit my argument? But even in our family at home the various namesakes are all more than a little alike, whether they would necessarily admit it or not.) (Perhaps it’s just what we take from the name: when we meet someone else of the same name as someone we already know we start to look for similarities.)
Well, I started my new job yesterday, with the worst nerves I’ve had in a long while; though it may also have been the fact that I slept very badly the night before. I had thought I’d grown over all that sort of thing, but it would appear not. I certainly wasn’t the only one ˗ even our instructress, a Mrs Bullitt (would you believe?) seemed nervous, which was rather nice. She’s nothing that her name might imply; it has rather Dickensian overtones, and one imagines a gaunt upright severe person who has a not a jot of patience with dunderheads. She is, however, a littler lady, about 5’2” or 3” with a pleasant though tired expression and isn’t always quite with what is going on, so that her smile tends to follow after the joke, and after everyone else has laughed. She is inclined to not always quite say what she means though generally the meaning is clear, and only needs verification. That is the classroom Mrs Bullitt. The extra-tutorial Mrs B is even more pleasant, not so tired, taller (?), and ever so slightly livelier. I hesitate to think that it’s because she has been doing the job for a good while, but I suspect that’s the case. She is probably in her late forties, though the classroom Mrs Bullitt seems somewhat older.
Did I tell you that we have seven weeks training before we’re let loose on the public? I think they have to have us at some stage before that but I’m not sure. And we’re paid throughout ˗ though 2/- less for some reason, per week. We spend this time round Cannon St or Wren House, which is opposite St Paul’s. So it’s an area I’ve not really spent a great deal of time in before and it’s rather interesting. One of the other men and myself went for a walk at lunchtime today and went over the London Bridge where they are at present building a new one while the other is shipped, stone by stone, to America. The Tower is five minutes’ walk away, and it’s altogether one of the older parts of London. I go to Liverpool St on a real train, not a tube, from the station three minutes away (instead of ten or twenty as they were before) and it’s 6d cheaper than before, and then walk for about seven minutes down to Cannon St. One could go by the main roads from Liverpool St to C. St, but fortunately the ancient residents of London beat pathways between all these which still exist in the form of one-way alleyways, and by following about four of these down, I save quite a bit of time. They all connect to each other practically, so obviously I’m following in the footsteps of some old Londoner who wasn’t bother to spend his time touring back and forth when he could go direct.
Our class has already dwindled from eleven to eight in the first two days: two of them never arrived and one middle-aged lady just didn’t come back today. The rest of the class consists of two other men (thank God ˗ one poor bloke two weeks ahead of us got stuck by himself in a class of women) (and spends his afternoon teas alone. He seems a nice enough guy, though not bubbling with personality ˗ how cruel can women be? And anyway I thought they were the predatory sex? What are they doing?) [More to the point, perhaps, what on earth am I talking about?] one of whom is probably somewhere along the line of Jewish extraction and is called Jerry Levi, and seems a not too bad guy, married with a couple of kids, thin (don’t be fooled by the two cardigans, his wife, I have no doubt, has made him wear under his shirt) with a wide grin of a mouth, and a smoker’s ˗ a heavy smoker’s ˗ laugh. About 45, let’s say.
The other guy is Larry Boyles (what a name, I ask you?) ˗ huge, weighs sixteen stone, looks about 25 or so, but an Eastender, which means he has a certain non-youthful characteristic. For example, he talks like an old man, seems to find life just a little on the puzzling side, and never manages to hear what you say in quite the way you say it, because like most Eastenders, he assumes what you are going to say and gives the answer to that, when in fact you may have been a little more subtle. Perhaps it’s me ˗ I don’t speak so good, maybe?
The women are two middle-aged buddies (though I suspect they’d never met before yesterday), both divorcees-again-married, both the bright sparks of the company; a quality of their age more than their personalities, since one who is married to an American (previously to a Chinese!) and who has lived around the world for some years has few of the qualities one associates with a well-travelled person, and the other, who used to work at Scotland Yard (and who claimed she’d heard and seen everything there ˗ I felt like telling here where I’d been for the last six months!!) and who has been nicknamed Fuzz, seems only to be a cynic, and doesn’t really the true appreciation of the funny side of life that makes a cynic bearable.
There are two quite young girls (one named Miss Weller, who, being an Eastender, reminds me irresistibly of Sam Weller in Pickwick Papers) and a girl of I suppose twenty-two or so, who is something like a beanstalk in a mini-skirt, with glasses. But everybody is very friendly in that they return your smiles and only laugh at you because they’re glad they didn’t put their foot in it.
The building is very hot in true Civil Service style ˗ though as everybody is at pains to point out, the Post Office is now a Corporation not a Govt. Dept., and I stopped wearing the t-shirt that I had on under my shirt today in order to try and let a little air in. I always thought that 60o was the sort of comfortable temperature but I’ve seldom struck a place that is as cool as that. (The theatres here, particularly the Opera Houses, are horribly hot in winter.)
About your [Bonus] Bond(s) ˗ I hope that you eventually get something out of them ˗ it would be nice for you to be provided with a decent sort of ‘pension’ as it were for your old age. (I mean when you’re pushing one hundred or so!)
About the books: it seems that we’ve nearly got everything sorted out again. Would it seem like very bad manners on my part if sometime in the near future I made up another little list? You could stop two or three of these postal orders you aren’t supposed to be sending me to compensate, couldn’t you? It’s some odds and sods books which I’ll think about; but one or two may come in handy for the teacher’s exam. Doris had a friend of long-standing over here who died recently and left her all his music. Perhaps I should say that he left me and some other pupils all his music, as this is where it seems to be finally ending up. I have bought one lot from her so far for a £1(quite how the economics work out I don’t know) which in fact would have cost me a lot more, secondhand, to buy and even more new. About £10 at least. So I’m glad. And I’ve bought some other music off her that is old stuff she no longer can use, for very minimal amounts, which will come in handy for sightreading and perhaps teaching music.
Remember Margaret from work, at the cinema? We had a huge chat on the last night, when she stayed right through my working hours sitting just to talk. I’ve given her my phone number and she’s already rung me once since ˗ and I told her she must come up for a meal, because for a start she lives on her own. I don’t think there is any danger of things getting involved ˗ I hope not; perhaps I’m a bit thick where women are concerned, but from what she has said (I’ve had a good deal of her history) it seems unlikely that she is interested in me for any other reason than friendship. Friendship in the quite ordinary sense. Oh dear, I hope things won’t be messy. No, I don’t think they will. What’s this? [the last line ran downhill on the page.] Love Mike.
[The last half page has a line across the top: Been trying to think what to do with this]