October 22nd 1974.

Dear Folks,
   I’ve been incredibly busy since I got back from Kenya. As you know, I’d spent several weeks in the field on the Ray crews before I went to Nairobi, and everything has been piling up in my office in Addis—field instruments and equipment to be troubleshot, piles of paperwork, the ComMand. Then on the Saturday, while I was still in the process of trying to sort out what was to be done first, the Manager walked into my office and said, “There’s a well to be shot at Gherbi. Special plane leaves in three hours.”

  So I had just that time to get all my gear together, pack, and get out to the airport. It was a very fast plane, and I got to Gherbi around 3 p.m., only an hour’s flight. And then everything went wrong.

  At Gherbi, I found there was no dynamite, though I’d been told there was already 400lbs there. It took frantic calls all over the place before I located any, and 24 hours before it arrived. Meantime, I set up my instruments and checked them out, and everybody on the rig played darts and complained about waiting. Finally the dynamite arrived, and on the second test shot my instruments failed. It took me until the evening of that day to fix everything, and since it’s too dangerous to play with dynamite at night, I postponed the shoot until the next day. At five the next morning I started again, test shots were fine; I took the first real shot, and the dynamite didn’t explode. Three more shots also failed, and then I discovered that the charge was being lowered wrong. Finally, I did the wellshoot, and got back Wednesday. Everything that could go wrong, did. Still the story has a happy ending. The geophysicist from Tenneco said that the records I’d got from the shoot were the best he’d ever seen.

  Now, on Thursday, I have to go out to Ray-2 to sort out a problem there, then on to Ray-3 to do the new experimental exploration method. I hope to get back to Addis on Tuesday next, but as soon as the crews know I’m in the field, it’s almost impossible to get away. Incidentally, I don’t think I’ve actually told you my title; in case you want to know, I’m now Technical Supervisor for all of Ethiopia.

  I’ve been working 12 hours a day seven days a week back in Addis since Gherbi, writing reports, analysing tests, supplying the crews, troubleshooting. Then today we had a bug in the ComMand system. It took a lot of hard work to figure out that the problem was a bad program. Which is a great relief for me—I don’t have to fix the problem, London will do that, because they wrote it. But if the bug had been mine, I’d have had to fix it, of course.

  That’s about it to date. Unfortunately, it now looks impossible that I’ll be home for Christmas. There’s a fantastic amount to do here, I’m deliberately not working more than 12 hours a day, except in emergencies, because I’d only burn myself out.

  Incidentally, unrelated to the above, but on the subject of the experimental work on Ray-3 next week, I’ll be working with a geophysicist whose salary is £1400 per month. His name is S. K. Paul, from Pakistan. I’ve been working with him briefly here in Addis, and we’ve been out many times socially. Dinner at the Hilton—on him—three times. He’s a real nice guy, but probably he’ll be leaving at the end of the month.

  Now, things are changing here. The situation, of course, is still rather unstable, and Tenneco have now moved out all their families. Also, they are shutting down Ray-2 at the end of the year and currently plan to move completely out of Ethiopia by May/June 1975. We’ve found one gas well, and some oil, but it’s not worth piping the oil to Addis, too expensive. And Ethiopia is effectively landlocked, so it’d cost even more to pipe it to a port. Not to mention the politics. So Tenneco is currently reckoning on two more rig sites, then moving out.

  However, I’m currently scheduled to go to Somalia around December/January to start up a new Ray crew there. That will probably take a couple of months. It’s almost impossible to plan ahead in this business, as I’ve said before, but I’d guess in June next year I’ll be sent to Karachi or Cairo. I’ll really try to take some leave between now and then.

  Thanks, by the way, for Katarina’s address. I wrote to her, and she wrote back in excellent English, asking all kinds of questions. So I’ll try now to write back again, as soon as I finish this letter. I got Rosie’s and Yvonne’s cards from Majorca, though no letters. I’m sure there must be a wealth of experiences there—sorry, I got Rosie’s of Oct 3rd, I’m rather behind in my correspondence with everybody. I got Dad’s of Oct 14th, and also one from July, which had no stamp on, but got to me eventually. By the way, I can’t remember whether I told you, I bought half-a-dozen new cassettes in Nairobi. I’m listening to Joni Mitchell and Beethoven as I write. Which is nice.

  Things here are still fairly peaceful, much more so than in March, when the rioting was really bad. The military government is trying to instil a spirit of national solidarity, but there are too many different tribes for it to really work. No-one really knows what’s going to happen, but they are definitely going to try the former governors and ministers. But before any sentences are passed, they’ll have to decide what to do with Selaisse—who, by the way, is under house-arrest at a hotel requisitioned by the army. My flat, by the way, was part of Selaisse’s estate, and has now also been taken over by the army. It doesn’t affect me much, except I’m not sure who to pay the rent to anymore.

  I read all about the election in England. I think a Labour government with a small majority might work very well for the next couple of years. It’ll enable the government to cope with the unions, but also pursue some decent social policies without having to really push for nationalisation. Also, I think a referendum on the E.E.C. is a very democratic thing to do.

  Well, anyway, enough for now. Write soon,

  Love David.

P.S. I’ve had a beard again for the last six weeks.