Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas at Sea

Last month I spent time reading Elizabeth David's Christmas book.  It was a mixture of memories, recipes and quotes from other authors about Christmas in their distant pasts, or while at war, as this Graham Greene passage is, part of his printed diaries from World War II.

"Christmas Day started at 11 in the morning with a bottle of champagne to cure the hangover.  Round-the-Empire broadcast and the King's rather lugubrious speech at lunch.  Dinner with a huge menu.  Hors d'oeuvre, soup, fried whiting, tinned asparagus, roast turkey and chipolatas, plum pudding, grapefruit ice.  It was like peace.  Toasts to the King, Churchill, Roosevelt (for W.) Sikorski (for the Pole), etc.  Then the captain, mate and the chief came to the smoking-room.  A shy R.N.V.R. officer tried to play hymns (the only tunes he knew), but the atmosphere by that time  was not propitious.  Played Sing, Say or Pay.  Broke up traditionally at midnight with Auld Lang Syne, and afterward I settled down to chess with the Pole. One was less homesick than one had expected.  Presumably that was the drink.  Woke up at about 5 in the morning with an explosion; I thought that one of the convoy had caught it, but it must have been the clap of the wind as we changed course."

From the author's diary of a convoy to West Africa, December 1941, Graham Greene "In Search of a Character", The Bodley Head, 1961.

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