12 Jun 1944, John Charter's wartime journal

Submitted by HK Bill on Fri, 01/07/2022 - 13:13

Hot plates are off! Alack and alas! Why must things get more difficult than they are already? We were told on Tuesday that for the rest of the week we should all be allowed only half our normal quota and that after Saturday they were to be used no more – no electrical appliances whatsoever; that means kettles, saucepans, irons etc. This is due to drastic retrictions which have recently been made in town where there are no longer any trams (including Peak Tram) or lifts working. It won’t be all fun in town, in the boiling hot weather, having to tramp along the streets and toil up six or eight stories to one’s office.

This camp was suddenly told it must reduce its electrical consumption by half. The committee decided that communal services such as the bakeries, electric water-boilers, clinic cooking etc. should use all available current (after 2 hours electric lighting per day was deducted from the total) and that private use of current must stop. This of course is the wisest thing. We must have a little boiling water for our tea and our home made coffee; and the bakeries and clinics are even more essential. People have really taken it most philosophically. We all feel it is a hell of a bore having to go back to filthy smoky chatties but we all feel it is a good sign - things are growing difficult for the Japs – no shipping available and therefore no coal for the dynamos.

I am quite amazed at Yvonne’s and my ‘sang froid’ because Fate has dealt us rather a vicious blow – but we don’t really care. For two or three months now we have been contemplating the purchase of another hot plate element wire. Some three months ago we heard of some more element wire that was available, going now at Y23 per piece. We hummed and hawed. Already there were rumours that hot plates would  be ‘off’ next week and MY23 seemed an awful lot of money (about 30/-) (pdv £ 67.50) and we hated to spend money on anything but food. So we decided to wait, especially as Maudie had kindly promised us her hot plate when she was repatriated. But repatriation never seemed to get any nearer and in the meantime Maudie’s hot plate wore out and she had to borrow another! So in the end Y and I decided we would risk the reduction in electrical current as, like everything else, it appeared as though that too was never going to materialise.

All this time Isa had very kindly lent us her plate (she cooked on Mr Lammert’s plate with the Bidwells and Mr Lammert) but we felt we could not go on using it forever; also we always had to make sure none of the others wanted to use it before we started (not that they often did, but we wanted to be independent); then , if ever we were given an amah’s room we should need our own and, finally, (looking a gift horse in the mouth) Isa’s was a rather slow hot plate!

I went to the man who dealt with the elements and found they were now Y35 (pdv £102). However, the price of all things has risen and as I proposed to conduct the transaction on the barter principle it did not matter. I exchanged one of my tropical palm-beach suits, which had been sent in, for the element. Three months ago the suit would probably have fetched only Y25. There had been trouble with the Japanese authorities over ‘trading’ with the Jap guards and this man said he would not let me have the element just then as it was hidden away. He offered to give me Y35 for the suit but I said I would wait and in the meantime I set about making a new plate (my first one I had given to Mr Lammert whose plate was not satisfactory). On Monday 5th he came along with the element and on Tuesday 6th we were told, “No more hot plates”!! However, I still have the element and one never knows! It may come in very handy yet - during the early days of our reoccupation of HK. And owing to Isa’s kindness we had never lacked cooking facilities. But really our experience with hot plates has been a trifle unfortunate.

Date(s) of events described