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.”She shook her head.“I’d really prefer to give it a miss.”“Oh, Andrea, don’t take that attitude, please.Now that you’ve joined me, it’s only natural for us to be invited to garrison functions.”“.where I’m expected to make small talk with the wives.I’ve met a few of them at the NAAFI already.All they can talk about is their husband’s careers or their wretched children!” She sighed.“All right, I suppose there’s no alternative – as long as you don’t expect me to wear a long dress.”“Don’t be absurd – it’s not a ball.You’ve got lots of smart outfits, one of which will suffice.”“Oh, stop being be so pompous, Charlie, or I swear I’ll wear a pair of frayed jeans and trainers instead!”Suitably togged up (I wore a dinner jacket), we made our way on foot to the parade ground in front of the Fortress at half past five; the event being due to commence at six o’clock.Once there, we were confronted by a diminutive major dressed in full mess kit who was shooing the men and women into separate lines and telling them to form up in order of rank before the General and his wife.This led to some confusion when it came to our turn.“Jag Courtley is how you’re described here, but you must have a rank!”“It’s not Jag anybody,” I said crossly, “but Judge Courtley and as a member of the judiciary I don’t have a rank.”“Civilians: always causing problems!” he muttered.“Well, as you’re a judge you must be high up the order of precedence so you’d better go up first and be presented to the Hudibrasses before anybody else.”Being a warm and sunny day, the General and his wife stood on a raised dais just outside the Fortress’s main entrance.In order to get to them, it was necessary to climb up a set of steps.The General was a well-built man with a beefy face and swollen nose which was pitted and as red as a plum.By contrast, Lady Hudibrass possessed a broad shark-like face with tiny, glittering eyes.Her mouth was stretched into a rictus grin and displayed prominent yellowing teeth.Andrea was first up to the terrace to meet Lady Hudibrass’s outstretched hand.“Pegeline Hudibrass, my dear – and you might be?”“Andrea Courtley.”“Oh, my dear, one meets so many wives on these occasions that names don’t really mean anything.What’s your husband’s cap badge?”Andrea burst out laughing.“Cap badge? The last time Charlie wore a cap was when he was in the cubs, aged eight!”Lady Hudibrass’s eyes vanished into slits.“Surely he’s in the army – or, perhaps, the RAF?”There was a sneer in her tone.“No, he’s a judge, actually, and nothing to do with the forces.”“Ah, one of those jag chappies.”The General, having overheard, advanced on me and pumped my hand with vigour.“Sent out to keep us on the straight and narrow, eh? Welcome anyway.Oh, hello! Tony.” He broke off to speak to an officer standing just behind me, so I caught the tail end of Andrea’s conversation.“My dear, you must so feel like a fish out of water but, be that as it may, do come to our BWAG meeting next week.”“BWAG?”“British Wives’ Action Group.Set up to help the female dependents of the soldiers posted to the garrison.”“I may be a wife, Lady Hudibrass, but I’m not a stamp.Also, I’m quite capable of making a life for myself, thank you!”* * *“Not a huge success that, was it?”I couldn’t keep the irritation out of my voice when we arrived back home.After the rather painful introduction process, we stayed for the parade but departed before the drinks and refreshments in the marquee.“Well, that woman shouldn’t have been so patronizing.”“I know, I know, but as we’re living in a kind of military colony now you need to be adaptable.”“Damn you, Charlie! Adaptable to what? Knuckle down, you mean.I won’t have it.Remember, I had a life of my own before coming here.”“Darling, you don’t want to be left out on a limb here, do you?”“Of course not.I might get a job, in time.I see there’s a sort of charity shop on camp.They always want volunteers, but first I’m going to get a dog.”“A dog?”“Why not? After all, we’ve no children to look after.Also, these days we can bring a dog back to England as long as it has the correct inoculations without worrying about quarantine.With you away a lot, I need some company.Moreover, there are excellent walks around here too with all these woodlands which are ideal for a dog.”I nodded.Brockendorf Garrison had been built from scratch on the site of a forest which had once contained weekend villas belonging to wealthy Dusseldorfers.Besides, I rather fancied a dog myself.A few days later, Andrea duly found an advertisement in the Garrison Echo, the camp’s newspaper.“Charlie, I’ve just spotted an ad from a lady offering puppies for sale.Miniature Schnauzers, in fact.I love those little dogs.Remember the one we used to see being walked up on Devil’s Dyke in Brighton? They’re German too, which seems appropriate, although you would hardly think we were living in a foreign country in this benighted place,” she said [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]