Friday, 25 February 2011

9: Gardening - Part 1.

By now my shoes were wearing out rather rapidly. When we left Singapore in a hurry, I was unfortunately wearing my walking out shoes, which were allowed in the operation room. Most of the airmen were wearing their rubber soled boots which were far more durable. I had been putting anything and everything I could find, to put inside to block the holes in the soles, but now they were completely gone, I was left with just uppers. I had previously spoken to our N.C.O. about my predicament but he had told me no footwear was available.

That evening I showed him what was left of my shoes and told him I could not possibly wear them any longer, to which he agreed. He said he would see if anything could be done about it. He returned about half an hour later with a pair of Javanese army boots, size six, I wore size eight and a half to nine. They were made of green canvas with a stitched on leather heel, toe cap and laced up front. The N.C.O. said it was best he could do and suggested that I cut the toecaps off, which I did. They were far from comfortable, as too much of my food was poking out, but decided I would have to wear them or nothing the next day.

The march to work was agonising, my toes were cut and battered by the sharp stones, I tried in vain to walk holding my toes in the air. At work I cut the heels out of the boots, hoping I could distribute my feet better with less hangover at the front, but didn't seem to improve matters. I walked and worked in these for days until my toes were just one bloody mess, no skin was left under the toes and the tops were split open and full of dirt and dust.

I had to go to the M.O. eventually to see if I could be excused work. Fortunately there were not too many off sick at that time, there were a few men swollen up and suffering from Beri Beri and some cases of dysentery, so he said he would do his best and try and get me off. I wen to work the following day and was told that evening I was to work in the prison garden until my feet had healed, or until I could be supplied with some other footwear.

Next morning together with the other workers, about ten of us, we left the prison accompanied by one guard and reported for work in the garden which was about half an acre of fenced in land behind the prison which reached to the river, the Javanese huts being on the opposite bank. The first job given to me was a sit down one. I had to cut the spines from coconut palm fronts which I then bound together, making brooms for the prison use. I was allowed to make one for our cell. By the time I had made enough brooms my toes had started to heal, the wounds and gashes knitting together. I was then put to work in the growing area.

Growing in the garden were tomatoes, papayas, bananas and some root crops but no potatoes, which I understand had been tried but without success. The tomato plants apparently had started to grow after someone in the prison had eaten some tinned tomatoes in his possession, and the seed has passed through him into the toilet channel This passed through the garden on its way to the river, the see had germinated in the earth at the sides of the channel in the garden. Someone had recognised the plants, replanted them and they were now flourishing, and from that beginning we sometimes had tomato added to our soup.

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