I have now received both your letters mailed on May 18. The one via Florida arrived today—the other on the 28th.
I went on another transit trip last week. On the way to Bathurst we stopped at a French town to pick up a load of fruit. It was a very neat little town with fine modern buildings and some streets with four rows of leafy trees down them that met in a shady arch at their tops. There was a much more clearly defined white district than in British towns but their stores were pitifully stocked—rows and rows of bare shelves which was such a contrast to the stores themselves and the generally neat appearance of the town. One chap wanted to buy the shoes off our feet at 2000 francs or £10 officially but £5 locally. They are so short of things that it is surprising they can offer such fabulous amounts for shoes. It was bad luck that my navigator was unable to come on the trip because he knows the language. As it was we had a difficult time trying to remember a few words. I got out of the place a few postage stamps and one drink at a sidewalk cafe (typically French). We left after lunch and had a very dicey takeoff. This port is exposed to the sea except for a breakwater and so always has a swell. Add to this a strong cross wind and various steel barges and buoys to dodge and you have excitement. Also the breakwater was too short so that when we skimmed past the end of it we hit the open swell which really threw us around. Fortunately the flight commander, our best pilot, was doing the driving.
Next day in relatively calm water we called in for another load. This time I acquired 300 francs but by the time the transaction was accomplished all the stores (I had previously seen some ivory that I wanted) had closed for their lengthy noon siesta. So I still have the francs. The crew spent theirs on 10 bottles of muscat. I flew the kite home and on arrival found a thunderstorm at base. I didn’t waste time in a normal circuit, but made half a circle at 500 feet and came in. Even so I came all the way down to 200 ft. before you could see it would be clear enough to land. Immediately afterwards it really closed in—the rain just pelted down. We were just in time.
That night there was a big mess party using up our surplus funds in free drinks and food. It is a long time since I have seen such a spread. A long table down our lengthy dining hall covered with great plates of cold chicken, anchovy eggs, asparagus on toast, radishes, pineapples, bananas etc. The mess was decorated with palm leaves and many whole pawpaw trees so quite like a jungle clearing. For music we had that same wild band that we met at the transient camp on our arrival. It was quite a show.
Recently I had my first glass of coconut milk. It is queer tasting stuff and looks more like water than milk. I like the meat too even if I never liked shredded coconut.
Yesterday we went to a different and particularly beautiful beach. To get there we had to walk through a village and I was impressed by the cleanliness of the place and neatness of the huts. A lot of the natives were on the beach so it was something like a Sunday afternoon at English bay on a smaller scale. Here I got checked out solo in a native canoe. It was great sport but extremely hard to balance being round bottomed and only just wide enough to sit in. You have to use the paddle to balance. My boat was about twelve feet long, very light and thin walled though axed out from a single log. wonderful workmanship.
I got some material today. There’s about six yards so if 3 is really enough for a dress I’ll give the rest to Freda. I would like to get something for Valery but don’t know just what she would like. I asked before I left and she said silk handkerchiefs for pa. I haven’t found any decent ones yet. I am very glad to hear Dick Ford is back in England. Uncle Geoff says that Tom was very well treated after the first month. I haven’t heard from Peter since I have been out here.
With love from Tony.
[Note: Transcription provided by collection donor.]