Oriental Splendour and a good old sing song

Another week gone by and I am getting fatter than ever for although we have to work fairly hard we get plenty of rest during the day, and we are feed better than we ever expected, besides our allowance, we receive an extra eight and a half per day for food, so we get tinned fruits, sauces, and all sorts of extras.

Last Saturday Alf and I went for a tram ride to a place called Helonan about twenty miles south of Cairo and ruin for some miles along the river Nile and the Citadel bombarded some years ago. Some of the scenery along the Nile is very beautiful and also the sunsets. I'm not very sentimental of scenery matter as a rule, so if I say the place is pretty there must be something rather nice about it or I wouldn't notice it.

The big convalescent hospital is at Helanan where they send the wounded after than are pretty well right for a rest. I was speaking to one fellow who stopped seven shots from a machine gun (said he couldn't see them coming) and the only thing that seemed to worry him was to be sent home – all the wounded want to get back to the firing line.

We were also shown over the celebrated Sulphur bathes where the people with plenty of money come from all over the world to bathe their tired bodies (tired of doing nothing) at about five shilling to one pound at a time. I guess a three'd bath is good enough for me when I get back. We really had a good time. Its lovely to have someone like Alf to knock about with though I don't very often see him except at weekends, for we don't come in from drill till 7.30 and by the time tea is over it is 8.30 and we are glad to go to bed. I wouldn't like to say how many watermelons we finished off between us, anyhow, I can't bear the sight of one now. It took all the week to get right again. On the Sunday we went to Church together. It is really a mission but it is the best offering in Heliopolis. Alf played the piano for them.

Ernie is a store man and can never get away so I can very seldom get out with him. We generally yarn till bedtime or just slip for a few minutes into Helipolis for an ice-cream or lemon squash now and again, but he is on leave today and he wanted me to come into Cairo with him, but the place makes me sick so I didn't fancy it especially on a Sunday. He has never been in yet and if he goes today I don't think he will wish to go another time.

Ralph has gone to a Military School and will be away for a month or so. He is looking very well and says he never felt better in his life, although he was sick for a while on the boat. I wouldn't be surprised if get gets a commission before he comes back.

Harry Ivory commandeered me last night to play for him in the Sergeants Mess so we had a good old sing song, all the old favourites and a lot of the other fellows joining in the chorus. They got very chummy after awhile even though I was only a Private and I could have had drinks galore if the second hadn't filled me up.

Last Friday Ernie told me he was getting leave so I set my brain to work to see if I couldn't get leave too. So I thought of a certain little spring which I broke on the boat (not a spring belonging to the boat, but belonging to the clarionet so I got paraded to the O.C. And asked for leave to get it fixed which was granted, also tram fares, and then Ernie couldn't get off after all, so I had the journey on my own which was pretty slow.

The first thing I did after arriving in Cairo was to loose myself which I did in a very thorough manner, the streets run in all directions and like Mark Twain says...”straighter than corkscrew but not as straight as a rainbow” anyhow I at last found a tram track which I followed until I met a soldier who put me to rights. I found a music shop which took in repairs and then started for the Museum which I found was closed on Fridays so a got a guide and drove out to the Citadel which is an old fortress perched on a hill and was taken all through the big Mosque which Napoleon stripped of it gold and silver. There are big doors which were plated with gold and others with silver which he took to pay expenses with. All around the walls of the Mosque are holes of his cannon balls and in one part high up in the wall the canon ball still lies embedded in the stone.

Afterwards he took me to the Grand Mosque of Cairo. I have often heard the phrase Oriental Splendour and my word, you see it when you go to the big mosque. Fist they put big slippers on your feet before you are allowed to pass the portal. Inside the scene is marvellous, marble pillars of many different sorts and al the walls are faced with marble and alabaster and different kinds of clever inlaid work and they have the system of not having two things alike on all the walls, all the patterns are different, different colours, different stones, different carvings, some doors faced with gold, others with silver, copper, brass and ebony. The carpets on the floors were nearly one inch thick. The worshippers Mahomet didn't seem to mind our presence but continued to recite their prayers in their sing song way and do their physical jerks of bending and knelling and touching the ground with their foreheads and all sorts of funny capers.

Afterwards I went to some gardens where the Egyptian infantry band was playing and they didn't sound too bad either, they had 12 clarionets, two oboes, two flutes, two bass clarionets in addition to brass instruments and they played well for Egyptians.

So far the letters I have received have been a month old and I suppose mine are the same but aren't they welcome when they do come. I wish the mail would hurry up. We haven't had any for over a week now. The yarn went round yesterday that Germany was Suing for Peace and great was the rejoicing thereof with the prospects of home before us once more but there was nothing in the papers this morning, so things have settled down again.

Your eyes will be sore by the time you have read this so I will now close with love from the Soldier Boy.

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