This interlude was inspired by Joyce Grenfell’s war diaries.
Dear Miss Grenfell
I hope you don’t mind me writing to you like this after all this time. It’s a good few years since we met, but we had such a good talk then that I felt sure you’d remember me. What with that and my injuries. I wasn’t easy on the eye. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror for months after I got blasted.
Just to remind you – it was 1944 in
. You came to the hospital to sing for us. I was so excited to see you because I knew of
your work before the war. Just to know
that you were coming was such a tonic. I
expect a lot of the men told you that, but it is true. A real lady from dear
old Italy , with a beautifully clear
voice coming to sing just for us. We
were like boys waiting for our birthday to come. You didn’t let us down either, Miss Grenfell.
A lovely mix of songs - some to remind us of home and some to make us
smile. The chap in the bed next to me
couldn’t smile so he had to make do with shedding a couple of tears instead. He
assured me in his funny way afterwards that these were tears of joy, and I
believe him. When you had finished
singing, you came around and chatted to us and spent a great deal of time on
this. Some of those Ensa types flew in
and flew straight back out again with barely a word for us. But you gave us all of your attention that
evening. Then you saw me and settled
down next to my bed for a good few minutes.
I can’t tell you how much that perked me up. Not just that I got special attention from
you, but also because you didn’t show any disgust at how I looked. If the singing job ever packs up, nursing is
the job for you, dear Miss G! We had a
very intimate chat, and I just couldn’t help but pour my worries out to
you. I told you that I was worried about
how my wife would take to me when she finally saw me again. I had night terrors where she abandoned me
for someone who hadn’t had half his face blown off. You didn’t fob me off, tell me that I didn’t
look that bad like one or two of the younger nurses did. But you told me truth that I was grateful
for. You told me that if my wife was a
decent woman who truly loved me then my injuries would make no difference. Otherwise, you said, perhaps I would do well
to find another wife anyway! Common
sense of course, but I hadn’t got much of that left and I am so grateful to you
for showing me the way to go. London
Well, now I’m all demobbed and the hospitals have done what they can. Thanks to a couple of decent surgeons things don’t look too bad. But I wanted to share with you the joy I did find back home. My
Doris has been
the angel that I hoped she would be and we managed to pick up where we left
off, just about. Not only that, we have
a baby. I hoped and hoped for a little
girl so we could name her Joyce. This
time it was a boy though and we have called him Norman. But I won’t stop until there is a girl! I’ll let you know when little Joyce arrives.