As I get back into the habit of jotting down what has happened through the day, English words that I am acquiring during my daily conversation start to pepper my writing. The English language is very contrary and word positioning in the sentence is back to front compared to Italian. All the same, it is thrilling to be one of the first to hear news and then pass it onto my compatriots. As I pass by, a whistle or a pat on the back stops me. ‘Cosa succede? What’s happening? Any news?’ I won’t lie, it makes me feel important. But I also know that I am helping provide some news as I, like all my compatriots, am starved for information about the outside world. Soon, others start to learn English, realising the importance and advantage of this skill. There is such a transient population in the camp that having more than a few English words in my vocabulary is very handy.
Twice a week, goods are distributed that have obviously arrived from outside the camp. They are a mix of clothing, essential toiletries, and other things that provide us with a modicum of decency. One of the guards doesn’t mind responding to my queries about the growing population of prisoners and army personnel. ‘There are always opportunities for small businesses to flourish in war-time. The general public is migrating here and providing services to support our expansion. There is even an opportunity for POWs to go and work in the re-opened Cullinan and Premier mines, if you’re interested?’ I shake my head. I don’t want to work in the mines, even though the thought of finding diamonds is alluring. No, I will be more suited to taking stock and distributing goods, much like what I used to do when I was a civilian. But the tricky part is working out how to get into that line of work.
Just to prove to myself that I still have my bargaining skills, I sell one of my blue shirts for twenty pennies. That is more than the pay I get for working in the kiln for two days. I feel rich! With that money, I buy eighty Ottoman cigarettes, a number of boxes of matches, and two small pots of jam. Over the next few days, I surreptitiously supply them to a number of colleagues and make a small profit in the process. After a few interested enquiries, it seems that chocolate is also much sought after. I promise that I will look into sourcing this.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish