AS AN ARMY SISTER
‘Well, Sister,’ said the corporal cook you’re all right for your first seeing as how we got them chickens the Yanks sent over. We’ll stuff ‘em lovely and then we’ll have roast potatoes and Brussels’ ‘and sausages,’ I put in hopefully, ‘and bread sauce?’
The corporal inclined his head imperiously. ‘Bread sauce, yes. Sausages if you gets ‘em from NAAFI.’ I made a note of it in my little book feeling all domesticated and housekeeperish. It was at moments like this that I really enjoyed being mess sister for I loved the daily conference in the kitchen with my wonderful cooks who always put on clean aprons and coats for the occasion. We had long cosy talks about food but this was an extra special consultation - it was about the Christmas Dinner.
I asked how the pudding was getting on. Jenkins, the second cook spoke up; ‘ I sent home to my mam see for a recipe, Oh its lovely look you sister, in the bowl, see’ We went over to the huge bowl and I had a sniff and a stir. It looked good. ‘I’ve got to send over to the main kitchen for some spice,’ remarked the corporal. ‘Oh here it is,’ He took it from the orderly, peered at it, tasted a bit tentatively on his fingers ’you’re sure this is spice?’ he demanded of his underling and he turned to me . ’What do you think, sister ?’ I sniffed and tasted. ‘It seems like spice to me.’ ‘o.k’ shove it all in . I like ‘em nice and spicy.’ I left them to it and went about my business, well pleased with the way things were going. The dinner was going to be a great success, a proof of my efficiency and a triumph of organisation and team work. Perhaps I dreamed it would lead to promotion, a third pip or a decoration, the R.R.C. or a mention.
Later I looked down on the colourful scene from my stand on the serving table. The sisters were radiant in the glory of their scarlet and grey mess dresses and crackling clean white caps. The officers, who were behaving with unnatural correctness, were sartorially splendid in their natty service dress.
The Colonel, who heartily enjoyed his vitals, sat with matron at the head of the table. The soups and firsts had gone round slickly and I’d received an approving and relieved glance from matron who liked things just so. The worst was over. For there was no need to get psychotic about serving the pudding; it was in the bag. Everyone cheered when it was brought in and I lost no time in serving it out. ‘Don’t forget,’ I said to the orderly, ‘Colonel first then matron.’ Then the seniors were served. I paused with a complacent smile on my face to watch them sample our famous mum’s pudding.
The colonel took up his spoon with an expression of pleasant anticipation and the company politely followed suit.
A second later the colonel leapt to his feet with a roar, frenziedly clutching at his neck. His face was scarlet and he was gasping. ‘Water.’ he shouted. ’I’ve been poisoned.’ Then pandemonium broke loose. Everyone was puce in the face and gasping and yelling for water. I gazed in amazement at the extraordinary scene; had they gone berserk, run amok or was it just war on nerves. And then terror struck its deadly blow at my heart when I realized what had happened. I stood rooted to the spot with horror. I would be court martialled and drummed out of the army for the spice was curry. The Christmas pudding had been hotly curried. I could see there was only one thing for me to do and that was to commit honourable hari kari. The easier way out.