November 17th 1974.

Dear Folks,
    A quickie. Second half of the letter I wrote when I was in the field. I got back to Addis last Thursday. And thereby hangs a tale, of which more shortly.

  Inbetweentimes, I’ve had a letter from Dad, for which ta. So Dad beat Yvonne at chess; I haven’t played now for literally months. I last had three games about nine or ten weeks ago with a surveyor when I was in the field. He was pretty good, and I had a real hard time beating him 2-1. It seems Fischer may not meet Karpov next year for the world championship match. I hope he does, it will be an interesting match. If they do meet, I fancy Karpov to take the title after Fischer leaves in protest at something or other, and so defaults. I think Fischer is still the best player in the world. And possibly, ever. And Muhammad Ali beat Foreman. I was really pleased about that, I never thought he would do it. 

  Two other guys have moved into my flat at present, as they are newly arrived and have no place else. Probably one will stay and share. It makes the rent a lot less. I can see this is going to be a rambling letter. One of these guys has a cassette recorder and a bunch of tapes, so now I’m listening to Beethoven, Rossini, theme music from Cabaret (remember it?), and A Clockwork Orange, to name but a few.

  Easy problem for Yvonne, or whoever wants to solve it: a man has some apples. To the first guy he meets, he gives half his apples plus half an apple. Same thing to the next guy he meets—half the apples he now has left plus half an apple. Then again the next guy, half what’s left plus half an apple. And the same with the fourth guy, half the apples he has left plus half an apple. He now has no apples left at all. If he had no half-apples to start with, and he never cut an apple in half, how many did he start out with? No catches, it’s just a question of working it out. Answer in next post.

  I’m ludicrously busy, there’s a mountain of work here in Addis, piled up while I was in the field. Today being Sunday, I only worked 5 hours, and last night was a pretty good night out. Out in the field, I was urgently needed at one point on Ray-1, Ray-3, and here in Addis simultaneously. I was on Ray-3 at the time. It’s so crazy I just try to keep cool and make out a list of priorities. And delegate as much as I possibly can.

  I told you I was probably going to Somalia in the New Year. It now seems I’ll be going to Chad or Houston instead. But this business is so fluid it’s impossible to plan even a day ahead. I’ll let you know where I’m going when I get there. I got 10 cartons of cigs (i.e., 2000) and two bottles of Chivas Regal scotch at less than half-price today, because of the duty-free deal. (I’m now listening to Bob Dylan; wow, memories).

  Incidentally, someone took a shot of me at the Gherbi wellshoot, setting up my instruments and about to press the “fire” button. And also on Ray-3, holding Princess. As soon as they’re processed and I get prints, I’ll send them to you. Sharon has sent me a Christmas card with her last letter. I must write to her after this. I guess my Christmas will be spent in 100F heat. Having spent so much time in the field, I’m quite brown. Or at least, my arms are, my face is now almost completely covered by hair, glasses and beard.

  We had a birthday party on Ray-3 when I was there. It got completely out of hand. Someone got a beer bottle right between the eyes, someone poured beer on my seat before I sat down, so I poured a bottle of beer all over him. Then I walked into the barbeque and nearly broke my leg. Then the guy whose birthday it was threw his birthday cake at a helper. Then all hell broke loose. Good fun. And we were all up at 5:45 the next morning to start work (I normally work 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the moment).

  Now the flight back; it was the DC-3 (actually, strictly speaking, it’s a C-47, a military aircraft that was a WW2 workhorse). About three or four seconds after takeoff, the right engine failed. We plunged towards the ground, the pilot feathered and restarted it, we climbed away. The whole thing probably only lasted a few seconds, but it was a hell of a long few seconds. Then, about thirty minutes short of Addis, the left engine stopped. We were quite high, about 12,000 ft, and began falling. The pilot was trying to restart the engine, but it wouldn’t start. We kept falling. I thought, Christ, this is it, it’s really happening. The guy opposite me fastened his seat belt and braced himself, still we fell out of the sky. I looked out and saw the ground hurtling up at me. I think I was too shocked to be scared. That came later.

  About 100 ft off the ground the engine caught. The pilot gunned both like crazy, and we pulled away. On our right, the trees were level with the wingtip and about six feet away. I tried to light a cigarette but I was shaking too bad. Scary. Whatever else, I can’t complain of lack of experience. I think nearly everything possible has happened to me now.

  Here in Addis, life is much as normal. The army shot seven people the other day, they were protesting about unemployment. No unemployment problems if you’re dead (I’m now listening to Bach). One of the company wives tried to get a job here recently, as a supermarket checkout girl. The pay was E$30 a month. She laughed at them, but that’s considered fair pay here.

  There are a couple of very small casinos here, so I played roulette a little while ago, and lost about £15. I’ve never done so badly, but there were only two tables, and it was very badly organised. I couldn’t get going. Also, a poker school is now fairly well-established. I won £40 on the turn of a card at the game before last. Overall, I’m slightly ahead. The stakes are fairly high; often, as much as £200 is at stake.

  However, I’m ok for money. I’ve got about £500 in the bank at the moment, and I expect to get a bonus this month and a very big rise in the New Year. The way things are in England now, I think I’ll stay away till about 1980.

  Well anyway, I’ll close here and write to Sharon. Thanks for all your letters, keep ’em coming. And try to get Yvonne to put pen to paper. I’ve only had one letter from her in months. So long for now,

  Love David.