Bert McCallion watched as a smiling Rifleman Andy Hollinger emerged from the officers’ dug-out carrying a Hessian sack.
“Alright Bert?” smiled the good natured Hollinger as he squeezed past McCallion.
“Sticking it, Andy mate, just sticking it. What you got there then,” McCallion jerked his thumb at the lump in the sandbag.
Hollinger held up the sack like an angler offering a prize catch for judgement.
“My bloke just got himself a hamper from Fortnums, didn’t he. Mr. Hartley slipped me a can of tinned salmon and best of all, strawberry bleedin’ jam. Beats plum and apple hands down!” grinned Hollinger.
“How long you been working to him then Andy? I thought old Tommy Morgan had that job?” inquired McCallion.
Hollinger brought out a packet of five woodbine and offered McCallion a smoke.
“Tom’s out with trench fever, mate. I got assigned to Mr. Hartley just before we went over the bags up at Messines,” he said.
“You alright with that stuff?” asked Bert. “I mean, servant and all that?”
Hollinger shrugged his shoulders: “Don’t worry me none chum. I do his errands, keep his kit as clean as I can in this f..king place and get him a cup o’ char and a bite to eat when I’m asked. Aside from that it’s a cushy billet.
“I get off on me own for a fair bit and the Colour can’t nab you for work parties which is a bonus! Come to think of it, the hardest thing I do now is go and fetch their bleedin’ parcels from the Post Corporal or their clothes what’s been repaired.”
McCallion nipped the glowing end of the Woodbine and stuck the butt into his tunic pocket.
“You would have met my Amanda then,” he sighed.
“No mate. I heard about your girl but I never collected from them. I was meant to go down there the night before we were all marched off for the training camp before Messines but at the last minute, Mr. Hartley went down there himself. Said he fancied a walk.”
Hollinger plodded another few yards along the duckboards before turning with a wink: “Listen Bert, you need a bit of strawberry jam for your next loaf , you just give me a nod! Best o’ luck chum!”
But Bert McCallion’s thoughts were a million miles away from strawberry jam.