VILLA SIMONT, 8.1.39

Cost of sending four rather heavy parcels to England, about Frs. 400. Two others not quite so heavy about Frs. 100 the two. The red tape in post offices here even worse than in France. The two which E. and I dispatched personally took over two hours. First about half an hour’s wait to get a place at the counter. This is not due to Xmas, as it is always much the same. The endless filling up of forms and the usual search by the officials through large books to find out which forms should be used. Then the usual complaint that the parcels were insufficiently secure. One had not thick enough string, the other which was enveloped in cloth had to be sewn up. Then a complaint because the parcels were not sealed. Fresh journey to buy sealing wax. This kind of thing seems inseparable from French post offices. Notice that most of the minor officials here, of the type who in India would be Indians, are French. Eg. all the post-office clerks and the clerks in the other offices, and even most of the traffic policemen. Supply of native clerks evidently does not exist. Most Arabs who are in contact with Europeans speak a little French,  but have not yet met an Arab whose French seemed to be perfect.

On Xmas eve there was a very heavy frost here, which did a good deal of damage. From the type of vegetation and what the Arabs say I do not think this can be usual. Notice, however, that oranges and lemons were quite unaffected by it.

The French here seem to take even less notice of Xmas than in France. They celebrate New Year. Arabs all acquainted with New Year and use it as a pretext for begging. There are said to be less tourists than usual this year.

People gathering lucerne draw it up with their hands instead of cutting with the sickle, thus saving an inch or two on each plant. The people in the little walled village near the house give the impression of owning their land communally, as they all turn out and do the same jobs, weeding, ploughing, etc., together.

Examined recently the grave of what was evidently a fairly rich man, in a mud enclosure. A concrete grave of the usual pattern, with a sort of little oven evidently for burnt offerings at the head. No name on the grave. On a tree over the grave various little charms, a sort of little leather purse. Inside it a bunch of wool and a paper with writing.

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14 Responses to VILLA SIMONT, 8.1.39

  1. media scum says:

    GO said

    ” Notice that most of the minor officials here, of the type who in India would be Indians, are French. Eg. all the post-office clerks and the clerks in the other offices, and even most of the traffic policemen. Supply of native clerks evidently does not exist.”

    An intersting observation, and shows why the French exit from – say – Algeria was so bloody in terms of the resistence of the pied noirs as, compared to our own departure from India (at least as far as Brits were concerned)

  2. In my imaginary hearing, “Supply of native clerks evidently does not exist” is dripping with sarcasm. Is it?

    I find it interesting, George, that in your mention of the “impression” given by the people in the little walled village you didn’t say, “But I know better.”

    Also: Necrophilia is unattractive and you should stop your grave-digging activities immediately. Seriously.
    ~~~~~
    I see the Blair’s are getting ready to leave Morocco—after a stopover in the Atlas—by sending non-essentials back to England.

    I wonder if he sent back a bow-drill or bow-lathe.

  3. Wally says:

    “Oranges and lemons” say the bells of St. Clemons.

  4. Ed Webb says:

    The imperfect French,
    Tomb-worship, mud walls: for George
    it’s too alien

  5. What’s in those 4 heavy and 2 not quite so heavy parcels destination England? To whom are they addressed? I think if I was a postal clerk I’d have my suspicions too. George may not quite as innocent as he makes out, methinks. Why all this fuss about the post office? Something dodgy going on, perhaps?

  6. Exactly. And we all know, inwardly, the true mission of that pair of itinerant pigeons that blithely went on their way without leaving a forwarding address and their true connection to the Egg Count Code for which there is no cipher.
    ~~~~~
    “Notice, however, that oranges and lemons were quite unaffected by it.”
    “I say.”
    “Indeed.”
    “Rah-THER!”
    :shock:

  7. Actually, the 19th and 84th Fibonacci Numbers are rumored to be crucial elements of the non-existent cipher which has also been linked to the Seven Syllable Code and other unsubstantiated oddities.

    This Wormhole makes me feel like a co-conspirator sometimes. That’s why I can’t wait to get up into those Atlas Mountains and reconnoiter.

  8. Abram says:

    Does he REALLY use the term ‘Xmas’?

  9. itwasntme says:

    I notice he doesn’t trouble himself about digging into that little leather bag left at the grave to find out what’s inside. No undue “respect” for the rich dead man, an easy willingness to break and enter to gain information (clearly without intention of taking anything.)

    I love the talk about the post office. Irate grumbling at life’s stupidities which he needn’t bother E with, but needs to get out.

  10. Jake says:

    Media Scum said: ” . . . Algeria was so bloody in terms of the resistence of the pied noirs as, compared to our own departure from India (at least as far as Brits were concerned). ”
    “As far as the Brits were concerned,” probably bears repeating. The statement seems rather incomprehensible given the last 60-70 years of history in that part of the world. I.e., India-Pakistan. From a non-Brit point of view some would say that the departure left the sub-continent in a shambles, and the partition itself was a disaster. To wit: read any newspaper on recent events there. My appologies to the Greeks among us.

  11. Jens Rydholm says:

    I also found it interesting that he used the term Xmas, so I went and read about that term.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xmas

    Apparently the term has been in use for many years. Its been present on greeting cards etc. since the early 1900:s, and the X is used in ancient Christian art to represent Christ. The Christian aversion to the term is much more recent (earliest cited year 1948).

    Who knew? Now I know what to respond the next time someone criticizes me for using the term Xmas :-)

  12. media scum says:

    The point i was making was the obvious one that in British India we relied on a network of Indian civil service administrators to run the state, with a very small Britihs contingent. Obviouly our scuttle led to horrible and grisly consequences for thoie millions of Indians and Pakistanis caught up in the rush to establish the new states and the setting of boundaries – but unlike French North Africa, this passed by the bulk o fthe Brits who either got out, or settled down to live in reasonable comfot in the two new nations

  13. F Pelt says:

    I am writing in 2013, here after having rented an American edition of the diaries from the local library. I wonder about the discrepancy between the printed version and the one here. Mine says: “On a tree over the grave various little charms, bunches of wool etc., hanging. Stole one of the charms, a sort of little leather purse. Inside it a bunch of wool and a paper with writing.”

    That’s quite a discrepancy. It’s much more scandalous that he pockets the memento left to remember the dead.

  14. I think it might be an error in transcription onto the blog, as it says he stole them in UK edition we have here, too! I can’t seem to find that entry in the archive, but I will keep looking, and see if I can find a definitive answer.

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