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the newcomers shiny new furniture, big wide beds, plus

sofas, armchairs, wardrobes, tables, stools, bookshelves,

bedside tables, night lights, lace curtains in the windows,

drapes. There weren’t many private homes that were as nice

as those rooms. Also, in each room there was a radio, a rug

on the floor, a mirror on the wall.

When we lived in that barracks, we had iron bunk beds and

one wardrobe between six of us. The most you could do was

hang your suit in there if you had one. You kept the rest of

your things in a suitcase under your bed, or in old cookie

boxes or cigarette cartons. No one would have dreamed of

putting drapes on our windows, let alone lace curtains. It

was difficult enough to get your turn at the soap or the

towel. We bought a piece of calico and hung it over the

window on nails at night. Or a mirror. The only mirrors

were in the shared bathroom, nearly all of them cracked.

Most of the time you had to use a cracked mirror to shave,

brush your hair, or for example to squeeze your zits, or tie

your necktie on a Sunday. And if you just wanted to take a

look at yourself, you looked like you were made of broken

pieces like the mirror. In the cafeteria they gave the new

guys a separate area by the windows – that was where they

had their tables. However late they came, those tables were

always free and waiting for them. No one else dared sit

there. There were times when all the other tables were

occupied, and however much you were in a hurry because

you were in the middle of an urgent job, you still had to

wait till someone finished eating, even though those other