07 January 2018

London in the Phoney War

The end of September [1939] found Basil in a somewhat fretful mood. The air-raid scare seemed to be over for the time and those who had voluntarily fled from London were beginning to return, pretending that they had only been to the country to see that everything was alright there. The women and children of the poor, too, were flocking home to their evacuated streets. The newspapers said that the Poles were holding out; that their cavalry was penetrating deep into Germany; that the enemy was already short of motor oil; that Saarbrucken would fall to the French within a day or two; air raid wardens roamed the remote hamlets of the kingdom, persecuting yokels who walked home from the inn with glowing pipes. Londoners who were slow to acquire the habit of the domestic hearth, groped their way in darkness from one place of amusement to another, learning their destination by feeling the buttons on the commissionaires' uniforms; revolving, black glass doors gave access to a fairy land; it was as though, when children, they had been led blindfolded into a room with the lighted Christmas tree. The casualty list of street accidents became formidable and there were terrifying tales of footpads who leaped on the shoulders of old gentlemen on the very steps of their clubs, or beat them to jelly on Hay Hill.

- Evelyn Waugh, Put Out More Flags, London, 1942.
Post a Comment