October 1st 1974

Dear Folks,
  By now you should have had the postcards I sent from Kenya. I finally got back from the field last Tuesday, after 5 weeks out among the snakes and scorpions. The dog on Ray-2 found a scorpion two nights running: he just plays with them, it’s amazing that he doesn’t get stung. So, he’s a good guard dog.

  Our crews are starting to become a menagerie. What with dogs, cheetahs, monkeys and so on, now Ray-2 has acquired four ostriches! Four ostrich eggs, they were, but three of them hatched the other day. I watched one hatch, in fact. They’re funny little things, they look like tufts of grass when they’re not moving—very good camouflage. Then they get up and stagger about, and fall over. I’ll have to get a movie-camera, and make my own Walt Disney films.

  Then somebody on Ray-1 bought a chicken and a rooster a few weeks ago. Now, of course, there are hundreds of chickens running all over the place. I think they’re going to have a barbeque one night. Still, all the crews still manage to get some work done, despite being part-time zookeepers/farmers.

  I’d intended coming back to Addis last Thursday, but Ray-2 needed help, so I cancelled my flight, and arranged to come back Saturday. Friday afternoon Ray-1 needed me again, so I cancelled my flight again. On Monday I was called to Ray-3, and I’d hardly landed when Ray-1 were screaming for me again. So I fixed up Ray-3, went back to Ray-1, and everything was ok by Tuesday morning. Waiting for the plane on Tuesday, I was tempted to sabotage the radio, so that I could get out before anybody else called me. But I got on to the plane and made it back. There was a sheep on the DC-3 back to Addis—one of the locals was bringing it into town to sell. As I say, I sometimes wonder what business I’m in.

  Michel, the other supervisor I’m relieving, has been on local leave in Addis, and is going to France at the weekend. He should be back around the middle of December, so I’ll be in Ethiopia and/or Somalia until then, for sure. After that, they may send me somewhere else, or they might keep us both in Addis and give us more countries to look after. Probably Pakistan, maybe Egypt as well. I think I’m going to ask for another big rise, say in about six weeks’ time, if I’ve been running everything on my own ok till then. Trouble is, I’m never going to be able to return to England. If I got a job at home paying £3,000 a year, I’d still be earning much less than I am now. I suppose I’d get used to it again, though I can’t imagine living on thirty bob a week and roll-ups, though I did for nearly six months before.

  Anyway, when I got back to Addis they gave me a ticket to Nairobi, and said have a week off. There’s a new company policy now, that every two or three months we get a free air-ticket worth about £120. So you can go to Nairobi, Cairo, Mombasa, the Seychelles. Very nice. I reckon I’ll have spent about £150 of my own money this week, though.

  So, I had a very nice flight to Nairobi. Some slight turbulence before landing, but I’ve got so used to flying around the desert in beat-up old death-traps that should have been scrapped, I’d forgotten how smooth a big jet was. Incidentally, I reckon I’ll have flown at least 20,000 air miles this year so far. But I still find it exciting.

  The currency regulations in African countries are complicated, and it took me an afternoon in Addis and about two hours in Nairobi to get my money here. I had to convert £100 sterling into Ethiopian dollars, then to U.S. dollars, then to Kenyan shillings. And fill in endless forms and answer questions, and so on.

  Nairobi is very British, in fact, much more so than Addis. There’s Woolworths and Barclays Bank, English cars driving on the left, it’s hard to believe you’re in Africa. It looks like Notting Hill except that it’s much cleaner and brighter here.

  Well anyway, on Saturday I went to Nairobi Game Park and Animal Orphanage, saw all the leopards, jackals and hippos in the wild. Home from home, though some Americans I was with were overcome, and took about a thousand photos. Then on Sunday I went out to Mountain Lodge, a look-out right by a waterhole where all the animals come to drink in the evening. Same kind of place as Treetops, which you’ve probably heard of, and, as you can see from the cards, it’s beautifully designed. The pictures were taken with the photographer’s back to Mount Kenya, which is a pity. In fact, as you look out from the balcony here, there’s the waterhole, the jungle behind, and Mt Kenya rising huge behind it all. And the sounds—there’s dead silence except for the constant chirrup of the cicadas, the snorts of rhino, the sudden cackle of a hyena, or the deafening screech that’s the warning cry of the tree-ibis (very strange creature). And, of course, beautiful sunsets.

  I got back to Nairobi Monday afternoon, and I’ll spend the next couple of days writing letters and shopping. There are hundreds of souvenirs I could buy—jewellery, clothes, carvings. Also there are some great bookshops, crammed with Penguins, and a complete range of cassettes. I’ve bought four cassettes and some books already, and I expect I’ll get some more before I leave.

  Meanwhile, in Addis, Selaisse is deposed and the army can’t make up its mind what it’s doing. Things are still fairly peaceful though, at present. They’re trying to get Selaisse’s money now (reputed to be as much as £200 million), but he doesn’t want to hand it over.

  And in England, meanwhile, all the papers seem to be prophesying doom, unemployment, inflation, and an election nobody wants. I think I’ll stay out of England for the next couple of years.

  So long for now, anyway, write soon. Like to hear from Rosie and Yvonne, how their holiday went, and I hope you’ve left the shop for good now, Mum. Paignton should be quiet for the next six months now. So long,

  Love David.