“This,be it understood, is a Christmas letter. We wish you all a Merry Christmas. D. Burges and I are, this night, at a railway goods station rather cold and dinnerless and the prospect of being up all night for no reason at all. We had a very tedious journey in the train, also rather cold, but by filling the carriage up with hay we managed to make it very comfortable in the end. We stopped for a short time at a certain place you and I know. It was the terminus of a very pleasant trip we had just before we were engaged, when your Aunt Alys was so amusing. When this row ends we will go back and have tiffin at the same cafe. Now we are in billets in another town. The men are in barracks but the officers are in the town. I am billeted on a maker of paints; my arrival was rather comic. Knowing how much French I can speak you can imagine the scene, I expect. The landlady is very small and rather plain, wife of maker of paints. We had a long discussion as to whether she could give me some space to cook or not. It was eventually decided she could not, so we proceeded upstairs to view the chamber. Quite a nice looking room in which a charming-looking maiden, in an extraordinary dress, was making the bed. The room was evidently hers’s& she was very fed up at having to turn out, and when I could not understand a remark of the land-lady she repeated it at the top of her voice. I expect she will trot back again tonight as I am on this outpost job. Funny world. I took an hour to shave this morning not having to do so since we left England. I have come to the conclusion that a diary is beyond me, because (i) in this division we are not allowed to refer to places in a private diary until the event is a week old, therefore (ii)I should get horribly out of date and become inaccurate. I think that supplementing letters is just as good in the end. Please send me a refill for my oriflux lamp on receipt of this – The lamp is most useful…..”
It is likely that the billet was in Aire. An oriflux lamp was an early electric torch/signalling lamp.