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Friday, 21 June 2013

Over there

Monday, June 21st., Paris.

After much waiting I am finally on my way to the French Front. As late as last Wednesday the telegram  granting permission had still not arrived. And on Friday I paid three visits to Godfrey, Mair's secretary, to get my passport for France and police pass. In the end the police pass was wrongly filled up. And the passport had been marked 'Havre' instead of 'Boulogne', although no passengers are allowed to land at Havre.

Victoria Station 7.45. Given a form to fill up. Couldn't get a big bag through without registering. People coming off train. Shabby, respectable girls etc. Hot summer's morning. Soldiers. Officers. Staff officers on train.
A general: crossed sword and baton with star: "What I should really like to know is, how they relieve those trenches at night."

Fine voyage.

My police pass saved me a great deal of trouble of waiting at Folkestone, more at Boulogne. Channel covered with shipping. Boom for several miles outside Folkestone, buoyed at about every hundred yards.
Stationary Hospital 13 at Boulogne

Impression at Boulogne of men of military age not engaged, similar to that at Folkestone.
Arrival of bevy of nurses, white starched muslin blue- and red- edged in car at 'Stationary Hospital'. Arrival of Army Postal Van, with legends about Y.M.C.A. and Kaiser written in finger in the white dust on the sides.

Etaples. Hospitals and Camp. As English as England. Hay in some places made and laid in cocks. Arrived Abbeville 4.15, having taken three hours to do 80 or 90 kil. The whole line, station and scene, make an impression like perpetual Sunday, except for soldiers and camps.

Amiens. Very old man in a new long blue blouse and swagger check trousers showing beneath. Probably had retired and been brought back again.

Paris. I had at first a rather false impression about streets; in big streets over half the shops were closed. Then I recollected that the hour was after 7. A peculiar feeling certainly all over Paris. No autobuses, but trams. Few taxis. I saw the horse bus Madeleine-Bastille, with a woman in charge, bareheaded and with a great black bag over her abdomen. About 40; on easy terms with the passengers.
Mair and I went to Godebski's after dinner. Godebski would not believe that 33 submarines sunk. Very harsh on Italy.
See also, 'Parisian Culture' - May 29th., http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/parisian-culture.html
Paris even darker than London. Same impression in Paris as in London of young men not in uniform.

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