We have also heard fairy-tale like rumours of an advance of Four Thousand Yards in France, but I have not seen it in black and white yet.
Having so few men available there are not many parades, in fact from 7 to 8 a.m. about four times a week is all that I’ve been putting in. And as a tactful Turk sank the barge containing all my Company’s documents sometime in July there is an agreeable shortage of office business. So I am left to pass a day of cultured leisure and to meditate on the felicity of the Tennysonian “infinite torment of flies.” I read Gibbon and Tennyson and George Eliot and the Times by turns, with intervals of an entertaining work, the opening sentence of which is “Birds are warm-blooded vertebrate animals oviparous and covered with feathers, the anterior limbs modified into wings, the skull articulating with the vertebral column by a single occipital condyle” and so on. I also work spasmodically at Hindustani. I rather fancy my handwriting in the Perso-Arabic script. Arabic proper I am discouraged from by the perverse economy of its grammar and syntax. It needs must have two plurals, one for under ten and one for over, twenty-three conjugations, and yet be without the distinction of past and future. Which is worse even than the Hindustani alphabet with no vowels and four z’s—so unnecessary, isn’t it, as my Aunts would say.
* * * * *
September 29, 1915.
TO HIS FATHER.
One’s system has got so acclimatised to high temperatures that I find it chilly and want my greatcoat to sit in at any temperature under 80 deg., under 100 deg. is noticeably warm.
The men are getting livelier already and the sick list will soon, I hope, shrink. The chief troubles are dust and flies. About four days per week a strong and often violent wind blows from the N.W., full of dust from the desert, and this pervades everything. The moment the wind stops the flies pester one. They all say that this place is flyless compared to Nasiriyah, where they used to kill a pint and a half a day by putting saucers of formalin and milk on the mess table and still have to use one hand with a fan all the time while eating with the other, to prevent getting them into their mouths. Here it is only a matter of half a dozen round one’s plate—we feed on the first floor, which is a gain. In the men’s bungalows I try to keep them down by insisting on every scrap of food being either swept away or covered up: and the presence or absence of flies is incidentally a good test as to whether the tables and mugs, etc., have been properly cleaned. They are worse in the early morning. When I ride through the town before breakfast they settle all up the sunny side of me from boot to topi, about two to the square inch, and nothing but hitting them will make them budge. They are disgusting