Letters from Poolewe - Part 2

Monday, 21 February 1944.

[Opened by Examiner. 4/96.]

Last night was the first time I'd been in to Poolewe, which is about two and a half miles from camp. Besides an odd house or two and a small hotel there's only one other main building, which is the YMCA hostel, a veritable haven in the wilds, for here there is a large reading and writing room full of poetry books and fiction, with writing tables and easy chairs, and a wide bay window giving a delightful outlook on Loch Ewe. It's a glorious place for a quiet holiday. Even the dustman, tipping the hamlet's rubbish into the sea and causing the seagulls to fly screaming round, adds to the picturesqueness of the scene. Although Loch Ewe is a tidal loch there are several fresh-water birds at the waters edge; several different kinds of ducks and even, I think, some curlews, which are not usually associated with water at all. Ever since last Monday the main topic of conversation has been what to do with the free day when it came along. I originally thought of spending it walking or borrowing a bike (as it's possible to do from here) and seeing some of the country further afield, but we've been walking all the week and, as everyone says, seeing the whole of the surrounding countryside will be compulsory sooner or later throughout the course, so I've decided to make it a complete change and remain in the reading room at the hostel, admiring the view across the bay as I write from one of the writing tables and later sinking into one of the armchairs by the fire with a book, moving only to go down to the dining room below for lunch and tea and catching the lorry back to camp at 10 this evening. Many people got sleeping-out passes and stayed at the hostel last night. I think I will, another week. I lost no time getting here this morning, however: it's only 10 a.m. now.

If I'd written more last night I meant to mention the tests on various obstacles we had in the afternoon. Two hours were down in the programme as 'Fun and Games'. I half expected it to be a fearful misnomer for some particularly rough and tumble exercise, but as it happened it was quite fun, the main qualities demanded being a head for heights and a fairly good sense of balance. We were marked on the number of obstacles we could complete in four minutes: full marks, 50. I managed to get only 34. Out of twenty of us in the platoon, 7 got over that and 2 got full marks, which was extremely good. Two unlucky people sprained their ankles but not badly. The cure for a sprained ankle used to be to rest it and leave it bound up. Since a few months ago, however, the thing to do has been just to bandage the ankle to support it and make the patient keep on walking about even though it hurts him. According to the MO, who gave us a talk on this, among other things, this is the only way to get the ankle really strong again.

We had a very well conducted service yesterday morning by a padre who had come up from Inverness for the weekend.