Saturday, October 21, 2006

14 January 1955

With two American aircraft carriers, two British, one Yankee battleship, one heavy cruiser, two destroyers & God knows how many English escort ships anchored in & about the bay, Gibraltar’s businessmen must be among the most wealthy in the world. Even at one thirty this afternoon, the town’s narrow streets were crowded with a variety of uniforms—mostly blue.

Civilians were very much in the minority on the streets—most of them working in the shops & stores. Even of the civilian clothes seen, nine-tenths of them were American & British officers—it is not difficult to tell them apart.

Not wishing to cause any international ill-will, I still feel it necessary to say that the British have hideous taste in clothes. Brown—brown tweed, brown wool, brown flannel, brown Butch/golfing caps, brown shoes. Horrible pinstripes, obnoxious sharks-tooth patterns. And all of it seems planned so as to permit not a clash, but a dull thud. The cut of the suits seem to resemble most closely those of the American in 1918. The officers look like something out of Horatio Hornblower in physical make up—leathery, stiff upper-lipped, & very British. The enlisted men, especially the young, have soft white complexions & rosy cheeks; beneath their white caps with black bands proclaiming the name of their ship (HMS Delight; HMS Courage; HMS Pinafore) they look fresh from a doll factory. Their speech is fascinating—I love it, & wonder how we must sound to them.

Occasionally, to break the monotony of so much blue, one sees a British Marine—dressed, oddly enough, in brown wool, with flaming red covers on their bridge caps. And, very rarely, a Scot, with his plaid kilt, with a white tassel hanging from his side, & knee length socks. They are by far the most colorful sight I’ve seen. And, though they must get into countless fights over the fact that they wear "skirts," they are among the most attractive uniforms in the world.

The Ti had anchored out, about a ten minute ride from the pier; almost beside her lay the Lake Champlain, our sister ship. They look very powerful.

Unfortunately, we did not merely window shop. I ran out of money about five, & we came back to the ship. I’m quite happy with my purchases, & won’t describe them here because certain people for whom they are intended might read it.

When I get home, I plan to spread everything out on the living room floor—maybe we can even have a Christmas tree. The one thing I will mention, to soothe curiosity, is three Dutch clay pipes for Grandpa Margason. They’re made in Holland & are quite fragile, but they’re different & I hope he enjoys them. I had planned on getting him one of those long-stemmed varieties, but changed my mind when I saw these—I was almost tempted to take up pipe-smoking myself.

They’re small; one is hand painted & must be held like a cigarette to smoke, since the clay bowl becomes quite hot. The other two have different contrivances (one like a bull’s horns sticking forward from the base of the bowl) by which he can smoke & not burn his hand. No filters, though, something he might not appreciate.

Tomorrow is Sunday—Monday we leave for seven days at sea, & then pull in to Augusta, Sicily.

Tonite is Saturday, & it’s getting very late….

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