JUST A DAY
In the distance a faint yet penetrating sound pierces the wall of semi-consciousness. A bugle! Why, of course, "Reveille."
With forefinger crooked, I coax back to life that part of my facial anatomy termed "eyelid," and with startling suddenness, realize
that it is time I was "up and doing." By now I am fully awake; I see what a glorious morning I have awakened to. It is the sort of
morning one reads about in books of life in the wide open spaces. You know the type of book I mean:—"Pushing back the flap
of his tent he perceived the warm-tinted dawn flooding the horizon with rays of promised sunshine." Such a morning has
dawned, and those rays of promised sunshine make one feel good to be alive. .
Hastily covering the lower portion of my body with trousers, boots, etc., I begin the round of jobs which I have been doing for the
past eighteen months. That sheet has to be folded that way, that blanket this way, the mackintosh so. This, my first job of the day,
I considered done satisfactory, there were others who might think otherwise, of course. For instance, that House Master fellow,
he'll have quite different views to mine; anyway, let it go at that. I study the work chart for awhile, thinking to myself: "Why must
these jobs have to be done every day; why not miss them now and again?" Thoughts of House Master again alters the trend of
my thinking. I find my allotted task at last, one of rubbing. Now that small, insignificant word "rubbing," has, and can still be, a
word to inflict painful thoughts. I well remember a dull monotonous voice saying, "Go on, get on with it, can't yer?" However,
rubbing was my job, and rubbing I started to do. So, with a flourish of my rubbing cloth and a tentative dip into the Ronuk, I
started upon my allotted portion. Eventually, after about twelve hours of this, a superior sort of chap, a Prefect, informed me that
I could " pack up." So, grabbing the remainder of my raiment, I sally forth to bathe my body and make myself generally presentable.
Just as I give the final touch to my hair, with the aid of a little tap cream, a raucous siren sounds; to me this means that I have just
ten minutes' grace before my fast is broken. And in ten minutes, lo, I enter a well-lighted, cheerful room, with just a dash of bird life
here and there, my head filled with visions of slices of pig and, perhaps, an effort from a chicken. Alas, 'twas just a dream! On the
table is that old "stand-by," rounds, margarine and a fish cake. Quite good fare this, though, when washed down with a mug of tea
or coffee. Feeling refreshed with the repast, I wait in silence for the advent of those cheerful faces who come each morning to say
sweet words to me, and sing a note or two of praise.
At last I am in the grand open air; the morning is still fine, the sun still shining, so, methinks, I had better make my boots shiny, too.
Just as I put a last light polish to my boots, another blast from that siren tells me that I must line up with my fellows to have outer
coverings, etc., inspected. Whilst waiting, that vision of a House Master materializes in form, and I greet him with a sweet
"Good Morning, Sir!" Eventually, I am allowed to leave the whereabouts of my inspection, after having been informed by a certain
gentleman that he would fain have speech with me. Could it possibly be that I had done something wrong the previous day?
After that last little conversation, I wend my steps towards a compartment, or shop, fitted with benches, tools and all kinds of
machinery, a compartment which I shall enter for the next eighteen months. It is here that I am hoping to gain sufficient knowledge
to keep mind, body and soul together, when eventually I sally forth into the bitter world. Let me just dwell for a few moments on
the sounds that greet me on entering. There is just a faint murmur of voices mingled with a suggestion of rowdiness here and there,
then—silence. As though from some unseen source, there suddenly comes to one's ears the sounds of whirling wheels, the musical
swish of belts, the sharp metallic clang of hammers, and overall, in that vast jungle of sounds, one that seems to say, "I can't stop!
I can't stop! !" I carry on in this atmosphere for three and a half hours, until my body at last cries out for rest and refreshment. A
bugle sound, and I am allowed to go once again into the glorious sunshine.
After the "rigors" of the morning's work, I feel free to frolic in the green fields and restore my jaded nerves. Once more that
raucous siren curtails my freedom. This time for my mid-day meal. The viands I soon dispose of are of no mean assortment, in
fact, they range as high sometimes as "Dogs and Mash." Probably, you may not know what I mean, but I can assure you they are
'Tis finished; again the sunshine and a little exercise with football or cricket bat, according to the calendar. If of a studious nature,
one may dwell in the maturing atmosphere of a well-stocked library. Alas, too soon that siren informs me that it is time to wend
my way towards the " hives of industry." I arrive, and again that whirl and swish of wheels assails my ears, that steady sound of,
"I can't stop! I can't stop! !" During the morning I may have felt quite fresh, and worked quite well, but now, as afternoon is
wearing steadily to a close, I begin to feel the strain of the day creeping over me. It is with an inward groan of joy that I am at last
allowed to cast down my tools, and take the air once again.
Out in the open it is surprising how fresh I suddenly become. Maybe I indulge in a swift game of table tennis with my fellows,
or perchance I stroll round to my club room for a game of billiards. My thirst, also that siren, tells me that I must once again
The atmosphere in my cheerful dining-room at this time of day sometimes gets a little strong and loud. Perhaps it is only that I,
with my fellow beings, feel that the hard doings of the day are closing to an end; anyhow, we do feel free to have a good friendly
chat, and if one fellow gets mixed up with another chap's marg.— well, that's his look-out.
After tea, I am able to receive still further information in quite a number of subjects, partaken, perhaps, in a lighter mood, For
myself, I just keep to tour. I find that these just about fill up my evenings. Of course, I can, if I wish, have a flutter at some
gymnastic work, or even pick up a bit of knowledge on the cornet or some other musical instrument.
The sun has long vanished over the western horizon, and I myself, am beginning to feel the strains of a day well spent. So, at close
of day, I unfold those sheets and blankets, after quietly meditating for a minute or two, climb thankfully into bed, and as the strains
of the bugle in the far distance faintly murmur the ,"Last Post," I fall asleep.
H. S. R.
The Goldonian Christmas 1938