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Updated July 2012

T. E. Lawrence to his mother


2 February 1934

I have been here for about a fortnight, overseeing for the Air Ministry the test of a new group of motor-boat engines. As the factory is working two shifts, I have been kept very long hours, and have had no time at all to spare. Shortly before I left Southampton a letter came from you. You had been away from the Hospital for a change, and were sorry to be back in your flat land, with its muddy walks. I suppose the winter is nearly over, and conditions will soon be fairer.

We do not seem to succeed in getting many letters through to one another! You ask again about that Odyssey. Of course it never arrived. People have little conscience about books. Do not worry about it. I can easily get another. There are sixty or so yet unsold, and sooner or later the publisher, the printer and myself will share them out!

Other news? Why, very little. The Air Ministry still allow me a reasonably free hand with boats and engines, and so they get the boats and engines that I want, and not always what they want. I have just over a year of my time to serve, and shall then fall quietly into Clouds Hill and stay quiet for a while, to see what it feels like. I have a queer sense that it is all over - all the active part of my life, I mean; and that retirement from the R.A.F. is also retirement from the stream. I shall be 46; which is neither young nor old; too young to be happy doing nothing, but too old for a fresh start. However there is nothing that I want to do, and nothing particularly that I am glad to have done. So I am unlikely to live either in the past or in the future. Man is not an animal in which intelligence can take much pride. The cottage is finished, so far as its main lines go. The tinkering with details will be distraction for my leisure. You see, since I grew up I have never been at leisure at all. It will be a radical and not very enjoyable change.

Sometimes I think of writing a little picture of the R.A.F. and sometimes of wandering across England and Scotland by Brough and afoot. There will be time for both things, won’t there? By rearranging my investments I shall bring their yield up to £2 a week, and that will easily keep me. Thanks to the R.A.F. and its twelve years of simple company, I have learnt to be very comfortable on little. I have settled on £2 a week because that leaves me free of income tax. I have not seen the cottage for a month, so cannot tell if Pat has finished the water-pool (Shaw's Puddle we are going to call it, in derision) whose brickwork was held up by the frost. We have made it nearly forty feet long and seven feet wide, to hold 7,000 gallons. It lies under the chestnut trees below the wild end of Mrs. Knowles' garden, just opposite my long upstairs window. For the moment it shows, rather; but there is a bank of rhododendrons in front of it, and in two years or so it will be quite invisible from the cottage and the road. It is only two feet lower than the ram, and so has a good fall all over the park. I have put a fire hydrant thread on the outlet pipe, so that the Tank Corps can run a hose straight out from it. And in warm weather Bill will be able to swim in it - all supposing the cement does not crack and disappoint us. The Arab doors are going to close one end of the glass house that covers the pool. Parsons, Mrs. Hardy's carpenter, is repairing them. More expense: but I hated to have them lying about, wasted.


Source: HL 835-6
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 15 February 2006


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