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T. E. Lawrence to Dick Knowles


R.A.F. Depot,
Drigh Road,
Karachi

8.2.27.

Dear Dick,

Here we are again. The usual furlong and a half of address. A dry hole, on the edge of the Sind desert, which desert is a waste of sand and sandstone, with a plentiful stubble of cactus on its flat parts, and of tamarisk in its valleys. Over it blow hot and cold winds, very heavily laden with dust. We eat dust and breathe dust and think dust and hate dust on the days when dust-storms blow. At present, in the nominal winter, that is not often enough to be less than remarkable. In summer, they tell us genially, a little breeze rises every midday, blows a dust-gale every afternoon, and dies into a mere dust-soup at sunset. I'll write again in the hot weather, and enclose you a few grains of the local air as a sample, confirming or denying rumour

Life in the Depot? 'Cushy'. Work at 7.30 A.M. (parade in overalls). Knock off at 1 P.M. Every day is a half-day, except Thursday and Sunday, which are whole holidays. Church every other Sunday. Drill Parades bi-weekly when a big noise draws near - Sir Sam: the A.O.C.: the G.O.C. (insult to injury!): the King's Birthday: Armistice Day: and a local festivity, 'Proclamation Day'. Weekly or fortnightly when the horizon is clear. No P.T. Guards every two months. (I had six on the wretched boat coming out). No bugles in camp. Also no hot water, till I won a blow-lamp and a dope can, and began to boil myself every three days. Food excellent. Canteen vile. Karachi (place of limited amusement) seven miles off. No occupation for spare hours, and the spare hours make up 15/16 of life, apparently. No roads, fortunately, so I do not wish for a Brough. No wads, so I'm able to do without money. No pay either, to speak of. They keep you short, on 5 rupees a week, till the pay-sheets come out in five months time. By putting two weeks pay together I can get three gramophone records. So the Funeral March, and the Largo of Bach's Concerto for 2 violins in D, and Boccherini's Sonata in A are astonishing Room 2, which cherishes very fondly a preference for Rose Marie. There is a song going on now about 'I wish I'd never met you'. It isn't true, of the company to which I write. I do wish, hourly, that our great Imperial heritage of the East would go the way of my private property... however it's no use starting on that sadness, since my coming out here is my own (and unrepented) fault entirely. Often in the evening I go out to the music of the camel bells upon Drigh Road, and hang my topee on a cactus branch, and sit down under it, and weep, remembering Cranwell and the Great North Road. The camel-bells sound just like a water-tap dripping, drop, drop, drop, into a deep cistern. When they condescend to cease (which is when one or other camel in the string, feeling a natural urge in him, straddles his hind legs and drags or bumps his fellow-camels to a standstill) the quietude of the night smooths itself out like heaven. And the noblest star of all the heavens is one bright red one, whose 60 C.P. incandescent(?) bulb glows on the topmost pinnacle of the Canteen. Of course, as Posh would point out, you can't see it as far as you can the stars in Orion. All things appear to depend on the point of view.

Hoots.

T.E.S.

Source: DG 505-507
Checked: dn/
Last revised: 16 February 2006


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