P.O. Box 1214,

May 23rd 1975.

Dear Folks,

  Sorry about the long gap between letters, and I hope this gets to you before you go off on holiday. Thanks, first, to all for cards, letters and so on. I had quite a good birthday, of which more later, glad you got my birthday cheque to Rosie and Mum ok. No doubt there’ll be wild all-night parties every night when there’s only Rosie and Yvonne at home.

  Anyway, here I am out in the bush listening to Radio Kuwait, and I’ve had a few adventures since I last wrote. So, to carry on from there; I told you I was on the new crew, Ray-2, where I’m writing this. So, after that I went back to town and hung around for a few days, doing very little, playing with the ComMand, getting a bit bored. Then Tawassul Khan came over again from London to check things out, and to placate Conoco (who we’re working for here), but that’s just a lot of complicated company politics and is not very interesting. Anyway, Tawassul and I went to the other crew, Ray-1, to stir things up a bit. I was there for a while, about three weeks in fact, operating the equipment and checking it out until the guy whose job it is to do that got there.

  Anyway, so to hell with all that. The country where Ray-1 is working is phenomenal; it looks like the Westerns you see on TV—desert, great buttes, mesas and wadis, sudden, sheer canyons. And of course we have to move everything overland, since there’s no way you can get a plane in there. I drove a truck a few days—I’ll do anything—and that was quite an experience. Yvonne might appreciate it: imagine driving a clapped-out ten-ton truck with no brakes up a one-in-six (like the hill up to Gibson Road) except leaning sideways at ten degrees over loose rock, so you have to rev like hell to keep the thing moving crabwise when there’s three hundred feet of nothing about six feet away on your left, and you either keep going or you don’t make it.

  So much for that. The country is really spectacular though, I’ve never seen anything so wild and unspoiled. There’s really something about living like that that kind of gets to you. I was up at 5:15 every morning to take out the truck containing the equipment, with, of course, all the local labourers and helpers, in Bedfords and various other bits of clapped-out gear. Anyway. For three weeks I was up at sunrise (and sunrise and sunset are all you read about in novels. There’s no way you can describe it, it’s got to be seen—like you can’t describe the taste of papaya or camel’s milk unless you’ve tried it) and taking the gear out to the line. On the way we spotted several tribes of baboons, a pair of jackals in the same place every day, gazelle, cheetahs, while the sun grew warm, and all around was towering cliffs, vast canyons; well, it beats catching the 207 bus from Ealing in a bleak February drizzle, at least. This is a rotten country from the point of view of entertainment, in the European style, as I’ve said before, but there are some fantastic sights. I only wish I could take photographs.

  So, I was working 19 hours a day for the first ten days there, until things got organised. Meanwhile, food was running out, but we weren’t worried because there was supposed to be a supply truck coming in. Then the rains came.

   I was out in the bush about ten miles from camp with one of the other guys, and all the helpers, running the equipment. Around two-thirty, one of the helpers came up, pointed north-east, and said, “Rains coming, very bad.” We could actually see the rain coming towards us, so we packed up and within five minutes we were soaked to the skin. It only took about ten seconds to get soaked, but about five minutes for the rain proper to reach us. So we told the locals to head back in the Bedfords, while we took off in a Landrover. The rain was coming down in solid sheets, you couldn’t see ten yards ahead. The bush dust turned to mud instantly, and we were out throwing branches and rocks under the wheels, shouting to each other through the hammering rain while the Landrover groaned and slouched and ground its way through the sludge until we got to a rocky area that was fairly ok. We drove down a wadi to find a river that hadn’t been there six hours before, and after a few minutes’ consideration decided to try it. We made it ok, water washing over the windscreen, and the Landrover sounding like a motorboat. Eventually we got back to camp, to find all the tents washed out, and no supply truck. Then we found out who was missing.

  It had taken us about three and a half hours to travel the ten miles back to camp, and when, about eight o’ clock there were still ten Somalis missing, we sent out another truck to look for them. It came back a couple of hours later saying it couldn’t find them, so two of our guys went out in a Landrover. The rain had eased by now, and there was a group of five soaking wet guys sitting around in a wet mess tent playing scrabble and waiting for news. About midnight we lost radio contact with our two guys, but about one-thirty we just got through to the lost truck with the ten Somalis, and found out where they were. Next morning at six I went out in a Landrover with another guy, and it was like nothing had happened. The sun was blazing down, all was normal except that the long-dead dry-brown bush had suddenly come alive, and everywhere was green. Amazing transformation. So, at around ten we met the Landrover that had gone out the night before, to discover they’d found the lost guys at around three the previous morning.

  That was it. There was no more rain, and four days later our supply truck got through (we were just discussing who we should eat first) carrying, apart from food and water, beer! That was May 13th. So the next night we all got spaced out in honour of my birthday and the next day I struggled out of bed at six, looked at breakfast and went back. So, a couple of days later the guy who was supposed to run the equipment arrived, by truck, from an airstrip further south. And I went back to town, for two days.

  I had a really good pet on Ray-1. He’s a kind of Wolf Spider, very big. About 5½ inches across, or the size of a human hand. I’ve called him Mackintosh, and I feed him flies and beetles when he lets me. He’s very independent. And quite fierce, too—he eats scorpions. His front legs are extremely strong, and he uses them to break off the scorpion’s sting before he eats it. He’s good, Mackintosh. He lives in the corner of my tent, above my head.

  Now on Ray-2 there’s chirpy-chirpy and cheep-cheep. These are two birds (feathered kind) who were abandoned by their mother. Strange story, really; originally a pair of birds—quite pretty, yellow breasts, brown bib, black feathers—nested in one of our trailers. Of the four eggs, one baby died at birth, one died yesterday. We moved camp, and Mum followed, and all she does now is to keep an eye on things. We feed them minced meat, and now we have two healthy, very tame birds who are just learning to fly. So, as usual, in-between finding oil we’re adopting wildlife.

  Well, chirpy and cheep are doing ok and I’m going to wind up here, because tomorrow’s a plane day. I’ll fill in the period between leaving Ray-1 and now in my next letter. Meantime, have a good holiday, parents, and so long for now.

  Love David.