‘Keep it off the carpet’ (1945)

'Keep it off the carpet'

‘… and Keep it off the Carpet!’

Thinking what it would be like being back home again, knowing that some habits learned at Changi may stick, such as smashing open and grating a coconut in the lounge room, now that would really go down well!! Des also emphasized the contrast to what he was experiencing when he painted this: hard labor, no clothes, little in furnishings, hard surfaces, cramped quarters, no women; to comfortable clothes, soft lounges, soft carpets, privacy, neat environment, pleasant woman, table set.

Note the back pack and water canteen in the background.

‘In order to cope, I believe, most men surrounded themselves in their own personal and protective armour. Mine, as I have already written, was work, an almost obsessive sense of duty; for others it was humour or religious faith; and for nearly all of us, it was the setting of a deadline: ‘home by Christmas’ or ‘home for my wife’s birthday, or some other date of personal significance. In establishing a mental goal to work towards we were focussing on a future life which we could anticipate living and, in the process, attempt to reject the reality of what we were experiencing, deferring our disappointment. Keeping an ‘end point’ in mind, even though deep down we know it was artificial, gave us hope – one of the most powerful weapons in the limited armoury of defence we could own. If we were to not only survive but also remain sane, it was all we could do.

Source: A Doctors War, by Dr Rowley Richards, pg 157, Harper Collins Publishers, 2006.