Thursday, April 21, 2005


If any one reading this is living in Cambridge then I would highly recommend a restaurant on Hills Road called Kami’s (named after the proprietor).  It serves delectable Italian and Greek food.  We celebrated Doug’s forthcoming 87th birthday there last night.  Doug dressed in his Special Services jacket and looked rather dapper.  He was, as usual, insecure in unfamiliar surroundings.  I had my usual Moussaka and Doug had spaghetti in tomato and herb sauce.  (Do I sound like Michael Winner in his column in The Sunday Times.)  I took my dictaphone in case Doug had any good stories to tell.

Doug said the meal reminded him of his time in Sicily.  He had somehow become separated from his Commando Unit.  His shirt was encrusted with grime and sweat.  He came across a well and stripped to the waist, preparing to wash the garment.  He found it impossible to draw water from the well.  He had always had the luxury of running water. A voice called out to him in Italian: ‘Can I help?’ He turned and was confronted by a dark-haired girl in her late teens who was vaguely pretty, round-faced and of peasant stock.  She and Doug conversed in a mixture of English and Italian.  Her name was Gina and she was the only one of her siblings who could read and write.  She took him back to an old stone farmhouse with walls that were several feet thick.  The Patriarch of the family was sitting in a rocking chair.  The girl introduced Doug to her father in a rapid stream of Italian that even he, who was fairly fluent in the language, found hard to follow. To his surprise the old farmer spoke to him in English in a broad American accent.

‘Hi there, soldier.’

‘You’re American?’

‘No, but I spent twenty years in New York.’

Doug stayed with this family for several weeks. Each night he joined them for dinner.  The large family gathered around the huge wooden table in the kitchen and ate communally.  Plates of pasta in tomato sauce were placed in the centre of the table and the dinner guests helped themselves while a tureen of wine was passed around.

Doug decided to return to his unit when the ‘patriarch’ started to make hints about a marriage between him and his daughter Gina.  So he said farewell and made his way down the dirt road, away from the old farmhouse with Gina screaming and crying after him.

‘Oh, she did put on a show,’ said Doug.

I suppose she had a dream of escaping rural life and being whisked away to England by a handsome British soldier.  But she was to be disappointed because of the vow that Doug made when he joined his Commando Unit that he would never become involved romantically with a woman.  And he kept that promise until he returned to England in 1944 and met his wife.

Throughout the evening Doug addressed the staff in Italian although most of them hadn’t a clue what he was saying.  The proprietor came out to greet us warmly as I am a regular customer there.

I got my usual glass of white wine ‘on the house’.

And some more material for my novel from Doug.


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