21st October, 1947
Dear Mother & Dad
Well, here I am more than 24 hours out and still on my feet. My Table Steward is most annoyed as he had on a bet with me that I wouldn't be down for lunch to-day. As a matter of fact, he greeted me with "Every time I see you, you're eating!" He's quite a comedian,and his name, poor soul is Percy.
It certainly has been pretty difficult getting around to-day, as the ship has been heaving from side to side, but I lay down on my bunk for a while after afternoon tea, and I felt fit for anything when I got up for dinner at 7p.m. This was supposed to be a meatless day but, nevertheless, there was cold tongue & ham, or sausages with saurkraut, for lunch, and for dinner there was braised liver, but apparently these things aren't regarded as meat. There's a three-course breakfast, and both lunch and dinner consist of five courses. To-night we had soup, grilled sole, then the liver with onions & lima beans, followed by pears and ice-cream. The finish up was coffee, biscuits and cheese.
An awful lot of the passengers have been sick to-day. If you don't see them careening along the corridors in a desperate attempt to get to the washrooms in time, then you find them lying prostrate in their bunks with the Stewardess ministering unto them with soda crackers and weak tea! I sure hope I can manage to avoid that sorry state. The only time I felt a bit queer was this afternoon when we had to stand about three-quarters of an hour waiting our turn to collect our Landing Tickets. The Smokeroom was crowded and stuffy, and a couple of times I thought the floor was coming up to hit me. However, the rest in my bunk made me O.K. again.
It's certainly marvellous standing on deck and watching the breakers surging away from the sides of the ship. Being surrounded by so much water makes one feel very small and unimportant.
I've arranged with the Bath Attendant to have a bath every morning before breakfast. It's salt water of course, and even the salt water soap they give you doesn't lather. However, it's nice and warm and helps to freshen you up. To-day, Louie and I made appointments with the hairdresser to have our hair shampooed and set on Friday afternoon, as we're supposed to dock on Saturday morning.
Last night we were at the pictures and saw "The Lisbon Story". It was a quite good and helped to pass the evening. When I got back to the Dormitory about 10:45 p.m., the girl in the bunk underneath said, "Well, and where have you been till this time of night!" It was quite funny. Another funny incident was when a wee tot of about three years old came up one morning and said to the woman in the next bunk who is travelling with her little daughter, "Is that your little girl sleeping there?, and, when the woman said yes, she came toddling up to me and, pointing to the girl in the bunk under mine, said, "And is that your little girl?" I assumed she was somebody's little girl but certainly not mine! Hardly possible considering the "little girl" in question is a couple of years older than me.
There are a lot of children on board; we have five toddlers in our cabin, and three tiny babies. hey're all awfully good though, and I've never even heard them during the night. There seems to be an awful lot of young couples emigrating with their families.
The Grade C passengers consist of Poles being repatriated, Jewish orphan children, and displaced persons. Their sleeping accommodation is on E Deck, right above the engines, and I believe it's pretty terrible. We don't see much of them, of course, as they have their own Dining Room and Lounge.
There's an old couple sitting at our table who look as if they'd just wandered in from Argyle Street. They're always first down for meals and don't bother about making polite conversation as long as they can get down to the job of eating. They just look the type who might have a barrow in the fruit market, and was I ever surprised to-night to learn that that's exactly what they do for a living. It must be a pretty good living at that as, apparently, this is their fourth trip across. The old lady said they just make the crossing whenever they feel like it!
The fare for Grade B accommodation is £45 to Halifax, and the train fare from Halifax to Vancouver is £25 inclusive of berthing accommodation. That's just one way, of course; I don't know how much the return fare would be.
The shops aboard ship seem to stock just about everything, and at very reasonable prices. Nylons at 7/6d, Ronson Lighters, Compacts, Sweaters, Slacks, Perfume, Toys and Dolls, Scarves, Parker Pens & Pencils, etc. Cigarettes are 6d for 25. I bought two packets of cigarettes and six chocolate bars yesterday, and got 8/- change from a 10/- note! All you have to do is walk up a gangplank and you're in another world. It doesn't seem right that there should be such a slender line of demarcation between a mere existence and a land of plenty.
Well, that's just about all for to-day, I guess, so I'll just have a stroll around the deck before turning in.
I think I'll just write a few lines this evening as we're right in the middle of a gale, which the steward tells me is coming from Bermuda, and the ship is heaving so much that I can hardly keep the pencil between my fingers. The Dining Saloon looked very empty when I was down for dinner as nearly everybody is sick. Louie and I have managed to keep up, but she couldn't make it at dinnertime to-night. She wasn't actually sick but the thought of going downstairs was too much for her. However, Percy made me up a couple of roast beef sandwiches for her, and, at the moment, we're sitting in the lounge waiting for the steward to bring us some gingerale. It's impossible to go out on deck as it takes three men all their time to force a door open, and, as the portholes have all been sealed up to prevent the spray coming in, the atmosphere is awfully close and stuffy. I hate the thought of going to bed to-night when there'll be no fresh air getting in. There are only half a dozen or so in the lounge just now. I guess most of the passengers are sea sick. I still haven't been sick but sometimes my head feels as if it were moving independently from my body.Plates have been crashing to the floor, right, left and centre. It's no wonder the fares are so dear if broken crockery is any indication!
They've just announced over the loudspeaker that owing to the weather conditions, the cinema show won't be held to-night, so you can guess how rough it is. The stewards are busy running around with great big ropes, goodness knows what for. Probably to lash us into our bunks!
I've solicited the information from the Cabin Steward that the "Aquitania" is 45,000 tons, and we're doing an average speed of 24 knots. Up till now, we've covered 1,594 miles. Of course, if the weather gets any worse, we may have to slow down a bit.We're scheduled to get to Halifax at 5 a.m. on Saturday so, all going well, should be off the ship about noon. However, there may be a bit of a delay in getting a train as there's only one line running out of Halifax. One train may be going to New York, one to Montreal, and so on, but, as only one can get away at a time, it'll all depend which one comes first. Still, I don't think I'll be sorry to see dry land again - even Halifax will look good!
That's all for to-night I think. Louie and I are the only ones left in the Lounge; we've had our gingerale (pardon me - a wave hit me) and I've helped her demolish her roast beef sandwiches, so we'll toddle up to the cabin. Cherio for now.
It's now 3 o'clock, and Louie and I are sitting in the Lounge waiting for afternoon tea to come up.I expect it will be 6 p.m. with you as the clocks on board are put back an hour every night. I didn't sleep so good last night as there was a lot of lightning and the ship was pitching and rolling like a cork. It didn't affect me as regards feeling sick, but the portholes in the cabins had to be sealed up and the atmosphere was like a boiler-house. My head felt like a balloon by morning, as most of the people in the cabin were being sick all night and the air was stifling. I was glad to get up on deck, despite the fact I was nearly washed overboard!
Even the Bath Attendant asked if I was going to risk having my bath this morning, the ship was rolling so much. However, I risked it anyway, and felt better afterwards.
I discovered what the ropes they brought out last night are for. They all them lifelines and lash them around the pillars throughout the ship so that staggering passengers can always have something to hold on to. Staggering is right - you'd need six legs to walk along the corridors!
After breakfast, Louie and I, and two of the fellows at our table, came up to the Lounge, where we sat chatting and consuming iced orange juice till lunchtime. I was feeling great by then, and absolutely starving as I was more than ready for my meal. To-day we had cream soup, cod crecy, braised beef with macedoine, cabbage & mashed potatoes, and blueberry pie. Was it good! Louie and I went up on deck afterwards for more than an hour and, honestly, it was absolutely marvellous. The breakers were practically coming up as far as A Deck where we were, and the aft end of the ship nearly disappeared from time to time, but although it was bitterly cold, it was really exhilerating and we were all aglow when we came in just now.
One of the P.O.'s on board is determined to take me to the pictures to-night at 8:45 p.m., and, said he, "If the pictures are cancelled again to-night, I'll meet you on the Boat Deck at 8:30." He's got a hope! I guess if they do hold the show to-night, Louie and I will go. It's Webster Booth and Anne Zeigler in "The Laughing Lady".
We may not get in to Halifax at 5 a.m. on Saturday after all, as we've had to make a detour to avoid going right into a hurricane, and I see
by the charts that our speed has dropped from 23.3 knots to 18 knots. Up till now though we've been doing an average of 500 miles a day.
Louie has just passed the remark that the Cunard Line ought to be paying us for travelling on their old ship in weather like this, and she's not far wrong. The wind this afternoon practically parted our hair in the middle, even through our scarves.
One of the fellows at our table remarked to an old lady, on his way to breakfast this morning, "I believe we touched bottom a couple of times last night", and then waited for her to laugh at his wit. Was he nonplussed when she looked up at him in great surprise and said in an awe-struck tone, "Did we?"!!
Ah, here's tea, thank goodness. I'll write some more to-morrow. At the moment I've got a date with a luscious-looking piece of sultana cake.
It's just about dinnertime but I think I'll manage to scrawl a few lines before it's announced. The cinema show was cancelled again last night so Louie & I, and two of the lads we've met sat in the Lounge drinking gingerale and playing Twenty Questions. From all accounts, we're going to be real late in getting into Halifax - even the Stewards say they haven't experienced a rougher crossing - and the speed dropped to only 6 knots during the night so we were practically at a standstill as regards getting any nearer our destination. However, it's really been much calmer since lunchtime to-day, and we seem to be getting some steam up again. The latest report is that we'll land Sunday morning.
It was fairly easy to get around the decks this afternoon, though you still have an inclination to run! You just can't help it. The four of us were right up on the Boat Deck and, gosh, was it ever cold. The wind was just like a knife. However, Grif (that's one of the fellows at our table - he's going to Toronto) and I braved the storm and played a couple of games of Shuffleboard. It was great fun though neither of us managed to score anything! After that we played tag between the funnels, to keep warm.
I had my hair done at 2 o'clock to-day and when I sauntered into the Lounge in time for afternoon tea, they all pretended they didn't know me. They said they thought it was a film star. Such sarcasm!
There's one wee girl on the ship who seem to have attached herself to me - in fact, I can't get rid of her! She's not three yet and, funnily enough, her name is also Patricia Ann. She was determined to write a letter to her Daddy so I had to guide her hand while she dictated what she wanted to say. I went, "Dear Daddy, I'll soon be home. Meet me at Canada and bring my bike. Love from Patricia Ann." She's a cute little thing though, and she loves when I bring out my embroidery threads. The colours seem to fascinate her, and I have to tell her over and over again what each one is.
Dinner's just been announced over the loudspeaker so I'll continue later. It's turkey to-night I know, because I asked the Steward at lunchtime!
I didn't get a chance to finish yesterday's activities last night, as there was a lot doing on board and it was about 1 a.m. before we got to bed. We got our turkey dinner all right. The menu was Cream of Celery Soup, Broiled Salmon with Parsley Sauce, Turkey a la King with Green Lima Beans au Beurre, and Boiled and Roast Potatoes, English Plum Pudding with Sweet Sauce, Fresh Fruit, Biscuits, Cheese and Coffee. Not bad, eh? Percy has autographed four of our menus for me, and I'll send you one of the dinner menus, to keep as a souvenir, when I finally reach Vancouver.
By the time dinner was over, we seemed to have got out of the storm and it was much calmer, so the four of us came up to the Lounge where "Bingo" was in full swing. It's a similar type of game to the Army one of "Housey-Housey". We played it for about half an hour, then went down to the pictures and saw "The Laughing Lady" with Anne Zeigler and Webster Booth. That finished up about 10:45 p.m. so we went up to the Smokeroom where a dance was in progress. We didn't dance much though, as it was awfully tiring trying to strain yourself against the heaving of the ship, so, after a while, we toddled back to the Lounge, and sat and talked and munched our way through two cans of salted peanuts and 6 bars of chocolate. It's the first chocolate I've eaten since on board, as I was scared to touch it while we were in the midst of the storm. I felt so proud of myself at never being sick and I didn't want to tempt fate too much! I ate plenty of barley-sugar between meals, and drank huge quantities of gingerale and, whether that had anything to do with it or not, I'm the only one in our Dormitory of 58 who never missed a meal.
The Stewardess was telling me this morning that there are over 300 children on board this trip. Rumour has it that we're due to land at Halifax at midnight tonight, and that we'll be having breakfast at 5 a.m. Sunday morning. I've really enjoyed the voyage immensely but I won't be sorry to start on the second stage of my journey. Louie and I washed through all our "smalls" last night so they'll be ready for ironing to-day before we pack our suitcases.
I expect it will be about three o'clock in the afternoon with you now, as we're five hours behind by this time. Is Dad going to the football I wonder, or will you be going down for 10d worth at the State.
It's a beautiful morning here - crisp and cold, and the sun shining like mad. It's difficult to imagine now that the weather during the past week has been so dreadful, because to-day the sea is as calm as a millpond, and they're even been able to dispense with the "lifelines" which were lashed up all over the ship. I'm glad they're away as I don't know how many times I forgot to duck underneath them and nearly decapitated myself!
There are lots of little birds flying around this morning, so we feel we can't be so very far away from land now.
By the way, I wrote you a letter from Southampton and posted it before the ship sailed last Monday afternoon. I'm wondering now if you received it as I've been told this morning that all mail posted aboard the ship was x-rayed in case anybody had enclosed any Ration Books or anything. As I enclosed my Clothing Coupon Book and my Sweets Coupons, I'm afraid that, if what I heard is true, my letter may have been destroyed. Anyway, let me know if you got it, won't you.
Well, I think I'll finish up now, and go up to see if they're selling Canadian Airmail stamps at the Post Office, so I can have this mailed whenever we reach Halifax.
I hope you had a very nice time in London, mother, and that you, dad, managed at home all right and aren't working too hard. Don't worry about me, as I'm managing very well and am feeling fine. Don't forget to send on my Insurance Policy when you get it from Mr. Darge, and please tell all the neighbours I was asking for them and think very often of their kindness. In the meantime, then, I'll close, and will write a further [?] when I start on my train journey.
All my love to you both,