Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (digital text)   Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 28-29 September 1926

page 1

I start this letter on a new pad with an
apology for perhaps missing a mail — I posted my last letter
at Suez, thinking that I should catch the next mail from
Gibraltar did not send anything from Naples & Toulon, with the
result that I now have four ports & a variety of other things
to chronicle. Also I am very foggy about dates & chronology,
hoping you will pardon a certain vagueness in reference
thereto. But as you can see from my present address written at
the head of this here letter, we are getting on to our destination;
this is Tuesday — we get to Plymouth on Thursday at 7am. & to Til-
on Friday morning. So things are moving. And I don't
know whether to post this on the boat & catch I suppose an Aus-
mail, or hang on to it & trust [unclear: to] a N.Z. mail going
immediately; however if you don't get it sooner you will get
it later, so it doesn't much matter. Pardon this writing,
which is due to the ship's rolling a bit, the pen being con-
liable to skid of a sudden. But the rolling is
nothing — we haven't had a day of really bad weather since
getting out of the Bight; & since leaving Colombo it has
been as calm as & sometimes [gap — reason: unclear] a good deal calmer than Wgton
harbour. The Mediterranean was like a millpond; the
Atlantic up to lunchtime today like a pool in the rocks. And
page 2 by gum we have been having some hummer natural phenomena —
suns like round balls of fire going down in clear skies over the
sea every night; last night an extraordinary dark [unclear: banking] of
clouds along the horizon like a huge forest over yellow land
till about ½ past 8, with the sea like a sheet of polished
dark wood; at late surnrise, quite red, this morning, over the
coast of Portugal; wonderful nights, thick with stars & the most
romantic moon in the world. I regret that I do not observe much
change in the heavens like the astronomical young heroes who
run away to sea; a star seems a star to me irrespective of
its name or position in the heavens. They're the same colour
anyhow, & there appear to be about the same number of them
on the whole. But I haven't counted them exactly.

Well, to get back to the strict narrative of my adventures:
we reached Suez about 10 Saturday night the 18th, & a
dark night it was. We saw in the lights in the distance strung
out in a long flat semi-circle, just after dinner & gradually
drew in & anchored till 2am. We weren't allowed off the ship,
but a crowd of maritime mechants were allowed on board
to sell Turkish delight & genuine amber necklaces & English
newspapers & La Vie Parisianne; but I didn't buy anything, though
I hung around & browsed. We had a Greek on board then, going
back to his fatherland after collected [sic: collecting] a w money & a wife & kid
in Australia this same bloke being an expert in perprecious
stones; & he by the exercise of rapid examination & vast gesticulation
brought the price of one necklace (genuine) down from about
page 3 25/- to 3/6. Which shows how you would be exploited if you
weren't careful. But some of these niggers look so darn
starved & miserable that it goes against your grain to argue
any point with you them. Others of course are big burly or
ingratiating personalitites that [unclear: win]; & you wouldn't mind [unclear: pinching]
the goods off them, but one of them looked so timid & half hearted
that I nearly bought his whole stock from him in pure com-
. However I didn't have any cash on me just then,
which saved me & probably him from a horrible debauch. We
thought of staying up & seeing the ship into the Canal, but con-
that it wouldn't pass the entrance till about 3 all
went to bed requesting the others to call us then; with the
result that nobody saw anything till broad daylight. Well,
the Canal's a great piece of work & you can well understand the
dirty scrabbling as to who shall have charge of it, politicians
& empires being what they are. On one side is sand, with
here & there a mob of niggers doing work, all by hand, on the
widening of the canal,a £12 or £14,000,000 job, & a few reels
of rusty barbed wire left over from the war; & on the other
the British zone of occupation, more or less neat & clean,
with some good lines of trees along the road. The railway
runs alongside the road again ; with very neat & well-built
stations nearly all with French names on notices eg: "Gare El
[unclear: Kautuah]" where the big Aus & NZ camp was during the
war. " It must have been a big place, if what's left is any
indication. It was very satisfying to observe some mirages on
page 4 this day; being cities & hills & running water & so on & so forth; so
you can take the yarns you read in the books as substantially
true. Otherwise there isn't much to record about this celebrated
canal bar the extremely odd sailing ships that evidently carry on
the local commerce — they have very broad bows coming up in
front like this Sketch diagram of side view of ship bow on Suez Canal. (side view) flat Sketch diagram of front view of ship bow on Suez Canal. front view. There is no
ship bow at all; it is the same width as the rest of the ship.

We reached Port Said about 2.30 & were immediatley assaulted
by thousands more niggers to do the coaling. Well, I never saw
anything more like hell. Talk of exploiting cheap colonial labour;
in about five minutes on both sides of the ship there was an
entirely black zone — the air so black that from up on the top
deck you could just see long lines of indistinct figures walked
up planks to tips in the side of the ship with no interval between
them whatsoever. The lighters were so crowded that how they man-
to do any work at all I don't know. They worked barefoot
& practically naked; how their feet escaped the spades with
which they were digging the coal into baskets is a miracle. One
poor devil got an eyefull of the stuff; & there he stood, agonising
& crying like a child, as we went past on our way to the
shore. Very pretty. You can easily see why mechanical labour-
saving inventions aren't needed here. Same thing in a modified
form at Naples; same getting still cleaner, at Gibraltar. However there
were diversions for members of the exploiting West like us; a conjuror
was on board about as soon as the ship anchored, & my word,
he did some clever things. He had a chicken secreted somewhere
"Gally, gally, gally!" was the constant mysterious cry of this genial
page 5 about his person, which he dragged out every now & again & caused
to lay boxes of matches & eat them with equal facility; or discovered
in gentlemen's waistcoat pockets or other curious & unimaginable
places. Likewise curious evolutions with an illimitable number
of corks & three tin cups & sixpences he threw over the side
with many apologies & recovered again; but it wasn't so much
the tricks, which were extraordinarily good of their kind, as the
amazing patter that proved the artist (I forgot to say that he chopped
the chicken's head off & put it on again — it was a real dinkum
chicken) He had a long string of names at command "the [unclear: McPhersons]"
"Mr Mackenzie", "Lady [unclear: Asquinti]" etc etc & he linked odd people
together as husband & wife ("Now you give this to your husband,
Lady [unclear: Asquint]") in a moment manner that gave great amusement to
all concerned. They were in fact like his Majesty at the Royal Aca
, observed to laugh heartily. So much for that. After a
good long wait we got into bo small boats & were rowed the
25 yards or so to shore & were in Egypt, the land of the Pharaohs,
the amorous adventures of Cleopatra, the Sphinx & Pyramids & other
historical phenomena. We met a new curse here, the licensed drago-
, who will follow you up for miles on the chance of a job.
However we weren't having any, preferring to walk around at
our own sweet will. And having escaped these we ran
into tents for exhibitions of the can-can, to which was
apparently added free beer, all described in the most seductive
language ("just round the corner, not far, have a glass
of beer, needn't stay if don't like, come on, can-can, naked
page 6 dancing"). But we all thought hard of our Aunties & turned
these very attractive invitations (several of them) down. It is too
sad to think what I have missed on my travels from a perhaps
exaggerated regard for Auntie's feelings. Not to mention Auntie
. However putting these things aside, as we did in actual
fact, if somewhat reluctantly, we walked up the main street &
along various side streets & examined every thing else that was
going. Antique horse-trams, sheiks, guttersnipes, what looked like illegitimate left-overs from the war, street-cleaners,
Arabs, Greeks & Dagos of all sorts & conditions, Egyptians, D donkeys,
café's in the approved style (wasn't it at Port Said, amid
said surroundings, that McFee's "Command" started? — well, I
could see the whole thing happening). We examined a Russian
orthodox church, well built, but full of shrines & a department
for selling tinpot little charms; & it was delightful to see Dun-
, the hardened rationalist, who was the only lad with small
change on him, tipping the man who showed us over with a
couple of bob for the Church funds. So much for the most
corrupt form of christianity. Then we followed up the trades of
a couple of mosques, the outside of one of which was pretty
good, & came finally to the sea beach, which was crowded &
filled with the most varigated colour. A soccer match, what looked
like firemen & were appearantly boy-scouts drilling, children
playing, all the fun of the fair, & everything in continual &
imminent danger of getting mixed up with everything else. All this
time we were taking pot-shots with our cameras ; while McG's
was going snap-snap-snap like a machine gun. The lad
page 7 brought about 180 V.P.K spools of film with him & takes about 30
pictures at each port — doors [unclear: odd] gates & the sides of houses &
heaven knows what. And some of them were worth taking. I
never saw a more extraordinary lot of houses. Some were quite
good blocks of flats; others were the same, damnable; but the
little 12ft side streets with their houses pass immagination. They
have two or three stories; they lean over at any angle, they bulge
awa inwards or outwards or both together, they have odd bits or
whole second stories patched up with what look like old fruit
cases; they appear to be full of people, & the family goats & hens
sniff & peck round in & out of the doors. These lanes are so
narrow that the houses seem to meet in a perspective of 20
feet or so. The extraordinary thing about the place is that most
of the kids seem perfectly healthy; & some of the Greek girls
are positively pretty; but jingo! I saw one baby I bet is
buried by now. I suppose the weaklings get killed off pretty
rapidly, & the survivors would thrive in hell. But the biggest
luck of the day was falling in with an enormous religious
festival. We saw little bits of processions gathering all
over the place all the afternoon & marching round with
drums & brilliant banners & a kid or two swinging incense;
& finally they all got together & we saw Lord knows how many
of them march up the street about six abreast. Old men,
young men, children, all in seperate divisions, in all imag-
sorts of garments, beating on little drums, singing in a
curious mechanical monotonous sing-song, more incense, hun-
page 8 dreds
of banners red, green, white, covered with crescents — I never
saw such a delightful romantic exhibition. Henning got into con-
with some sort of Frenchman (who however as H
pointed out with a sort of sad resignation made some bad
gramatical mistakes) & learned what all the noise was about —
it was the last day of the 7 or 10 or 11 (I forget which) days
of the celebration of the Prophet's birthday. Well, what I say is,
may my birthday be celebrated likewise 1300 years hence, &
give like gratification to some other genteel voyager. We arrived
back at the ship finally about 10 minutes before she sailed, at 7,
after running the gauntlet of numerous vendors of Turkish
delight & cigarettes & the enterprising bootblacks des so vividly etc
described by Keithles with his usual vividness & verve. I
repulsed one of these lads with some [unclear: warmth] when he arbitrarily took control of
my foot; for which however I was afterwards rather sorry, as
I don't like behaving like the Conquering Race. However they are
certainly confounded nuisances. On the advice of Stuart
whom we met with a cobber an expert inside outside a
café (S. leaving the boat at Port Said) we bought a couple of hundred best ag Turkish cigarettes for 5/- 100, after beating
the merchant down somewhat. I understand you pay about
6d each for these cigarettes in Sydney. So that's that. And
then coaling having finished & hell for the time being [gap — reason: unclear]
[gap — reason: unclear] abrogated & a dark gentleman who had positively guaranteed
to on receipt of a sufficient sum in cash (which he got) to dive off the
boat deck, swim under the ship to come up on the other side
page 9 & having failed to do so, on the plea that the water was too dark &
that he would do it first thing in the morning, we gave an in-
blast on our whistle, & left the Canal behind, & moved
into the Mediterranean. Here, having reached a spot where
imagin emotion & the historical imagination began to play
havoc with my brain, I shall call an interval & go up on to
the boat deck on spec of a game of quoit-tennis with the lads
& Whinfield before dinner.

McGrath has just come down & said there is nothing doing
upstairs so I suppose I had better get on with my romance.

  Wednesday 29th: I got fed up with writing at that stage & thought
I would finish up after dinner ; so I pounded out the 1st & 3rd movts.
of the Pathetic Sonata which a gent in the music room said was
very acceptable, viewed another sunset with admiration, fed, & yapped
a bit; & then going into aforesaid music room, was ordered to play
by a fat dictatorial lady from Melbourne called Mrs Percy [unclear: Turn-]
, whom I haven't mentioned before & can't be bothered des-
now; but I will give you a full description some day,
if not epistolary, then in my novel, or if not there in my famous
historical work on the 50th voyage of the R.M.S. Osterley, Sydney
to London, with remarks on the habits religion & social customs
of the inhabitants thereof. And this morning I decided that
there really wasn't any hurry, as I think the best thing will be
not to post this on the boat but to wait till I get to London on the
chance of a NZ mail going direct. So I spent the morning
writing the larger part of a magnificent epic in six cantos &
page 10 about 200 lines, heroic couplets entitled the Osterliad; this
fine work has for its hero the 3rd officer & is mainly descriptive
of his life, achievements & character, with some account of
the chief actions, meal, & events in which we have jointly
adventured. We are going to present it to him at lunch tomorrow with a
box of cigars we all came in on at Gibraltar, lunch that being the
last meal at which we shall see his cheery presence. At the
present moment Duncan is typing same to the dictation of Henning
which is a very cheerful sound for the creative artist. I need
hardly remark that the intellectual strain even on such a brain
as mine during the day has been immense. I may send it out
some day for your perusal, if it does not appear in my
collected poetical works; the trouble is that the bright humour
that it radiates, the finish, the wit, the subtle nature of the
mots & ripostes can only be fully apparent to one who has lived & al eaten in the select circle referred to. However no doubt a
woman of your discernment & sympathetic imagination could
readily penetrate the subtlest of references.

Well, to get back to the Mediterranean. It was traditionally
blue, but not bluer than the Red Sea or the Arabian Sea or
the Indian Ocean; still it was blue. But we didn't have very
brilliant weather so that may account for it. But jingo, the
deep, profound blue of the really deep sea is about the best
colour in the world; & if you look over the side of the
ship you can see deep clouds of green bubbles breaking in
the wave it throws off. Even in the Tasman they didn't have
page 11 this; neither did we get phosphorescent waves at night. But now I
have seen all the nautical wonders of the world — phosphor-
, flying fish, porpoises dashing & leaping hither & thither,
ships that pass in the night, likewise those that pass in the day-
time, this, that & the other thing, complete & up to date. You can't
What I haven't seen I've heard off at first hand. You can't sur-
me any more. Well, we didn't do anything in the
Med. for a couple of days but sail along pleasantly & play
the second games tournament; & here let me say that in this
& other competitions our party was remarkably successful. But
I shall confine myself mainly to my own deeds. I got wiped
out in the first round of nearly all the games, in the second
of quoit-tennis, but aha! in bucket quoits I survived to the
third round then, to the semi final, then to the final, when
I came up against Duncan. Well in the last throw I had six
quoits to get in to make a break & go on throwing when I
would indubitably have won. Alas! mag the strain of the great
contest was beginning to tell on my finely tempered spirit; I only
got four in & we finished up 24, 23, he being the victor by
1 point. He got a silver match-box; I got a bag of lollies, from
which I picked out all the chocolates & gave the rest to him.
Then came a gymkhana, in which [gap — reason: unclear] by a remarkable combina-
of skill & speed I won the egg & spoon race hands down
for which I got an order for 4/- on the barber's shop, & took it out
in a tobacco pouch. Then the night before we arrived at
Naples came a fancy-dress ball, to which we four lads went
page 12 in uniform rig-out as ghosts. We got a lot of cardboard from
Whinfield & made it into oblongular boxes, minus minus one
end, McG then painted four ghastly faces on same & we stuck
our heads in them, with eyeholes & ventilation ditto. We then
got four sheets from the steward & draped ourselves artistically
in same & were supplied with four peices of rusty chains by the
faithful Whinfield. And our state entry into the saloon for
dinner, barefoot, dragging our chains down the stairs with a
terrific clatter & perambulating all round the room to our
table was the chief & cardinal incident of the evening. Well, of
course they weren't prepared with four first places; so we all
got a special prize of a silver matchbox. I got another match-
for my prowess in the guessing competition; & I was
nearly sending one of these home for you to s suitably
inscribed, to show around to your friends; but I reflected
that you had a terrific lot of junk like this around the house
already, & that it would only mean more polishing for Auntie,
during process of which the silver would probably wear
off; so I put in two bob & swapped it for a chic little candlestick;
these things all have the ship's crest on, bar the tobacco pouch.
But Lord knows I am going to pack them all — a problem I
will have to face tomorrow.

Well, one day we came to the hills of Italy & the straits of Mes-
& Siciliy & memories of Garibaldi, my admiration for that
eminent swashbuckler growing a good deal when I saw the sort of country
he fought over; by gum! it is pleasant to get into a part of the
page 13 world that has some real history. By the way I can only regard
the Scylla & Charybdis yarns as gross exaggerations of the truth; I
couldn't see whirlpools or rocks enough to sink an old tin-can,
let alone the noble Ulysses. This merely confirms the opinion
I have held for a long time, that the ancients were great liars —
But what we saw were hummer hills, with vineyards growing on
them, or perhaps olive groves, & Roman aqueducts & ruined castles,
& an old fortress on a rock cliff, & river-torrents, & a fleet of
fishing-boats & dozens of small sailing-ships, & everything
else that could contribute to excite & enlarge the romantic
mind. However we didn't stop for this, but went straight
on to Naples, which we reached one night at 11pm being
due to depart again at 2; & it was 12 before the Dagos return-
home got their passports fixed up & we who didn't have
to get anything fixed up were allowed to go on shore. Now it's
a very funny thing that these foreign countries who are supposed
to be so particular about these details, let us casual visitors
land without any formality at all; while the only places at
which we have to show out darned passports are the two lands
of freedom, Ceylon & England. They didn't look at them at
Gibraltar, so obviously the whole business is a [unclear: footling] waste
of time & money. We were allowed on shore at last,
saying good bye here to one or two of our brightest & best
& likewise to some of our worst duds, & taking on board
a few newcomers. We thought we would see all we could
for the time of night, so we hired a car & a guide, who
page 14 was greatly impressed with the value of his own services, for
16/- 10/- each & ran all over the town. They say it is one of the
chief seats & repositories of dirt in Italy, but it looked all right
by moonlight, & the moon was full. We went round the
waterfront & up hills in two different directions, where
we looked at the city & the dim outline of Vesuvius,
which was smoking away quite impressively. (I forgot
to mention [unclear: Stromboli], an impressive impassive gaunt looking place
which we passed the day before, or it may have been the
same morning; why anybody wants to go & live there is more
than I can see understand; also Capri stirred me up, &
various other islands we passed, either before or after
Naples) We hopped out of the car beneath an old castle (built
1301 according to our guide) & I really felt that I had got
real history at last. They certainly built their castles for per-
. And we passed another fortress (1302) & convent-
monasteries & dozens of newly-built blocks of flats [gap — reason: unclear] -&
they were jolly jolly good too. If W'gton could build flats
like these I shouldn't mind going & living in one. And the
colours they use are delightful. While according to McG
Naples is supposed to be (besides the dirtiest) one of the feeblest
cities in Italy as regards modern architecture. Well, I'm
going to Italy anyhow. We managed to decipher various
Fascist notices & calls to duty; & succeeded in repelling
the efforts of the guide to get us into the can-can. We told him
we had come from Port Said, which finally shut him up —
page 15 but not before he had explained that the idea was to give in
living form the delightful poses characteristic of the wall paintings
of Pompeii. I pointed out to the lads that this was an excellent, per-
unique in their experience, opportunity to study history in
the flesh, & that historical study was now growing in importance,
being undoubtedly the chief of the modern humanities; but it was
no good, they were all hard at work thinking of their Aunties.
So that was the second chance we missed; & when we woke up
in the morning we were at sea.

And then we came to Toulon for another three hours, lost
most of our original passengers, & took on a huge number of tourists
& excursionists, a good many from the Ouvieto, also in har-
; these people for the sake of a sea-voyage I suppose come
out in one boat as far as Toulon & go back in the homeward
bound one. Funny way of spending a holiday. Of course they
get plenty of dancing & the opportunity of being sea-sick. But
what with this lot & a big crowd we picked up at Gibraltar
it makes the ship too darn full for us — too much like an
old-world-population-problem. They have to have two
sittings for lunch & dinner & we have had to fight for our
bre usual breakfast seats against two ancient doddering par-
— it resolves itself into a race to see who can get
there first, somebody invariably being left out; but the par-
always arrive among the first four, being keen on their
food in spite of extreme age. They induce a certain gloom also
where there was festivity; you can't argue when you are scattered
page 16 & that they are far too old to make it worth while pulling their
legs. I'm willing to bet they've never heard of [unclear: Dear lipe]. So
much for population problems. Except that as the old crowd
have the second sitting, it is very annoying not to be able to
get our usual possy in the lounge for coffee after dinner.
At Toulon we didn't do much but observe life. We had to leave
Henning at the Customs dept seeing about some bag s he was
sending to Paris & wandered up the streets — we had only an hour
actually on shore — bought a few papers, the die-hard ones & the
celebrated Communist rag "L'Humanit ié" at a shop where
McG was amazed to find that the woman didn't speak English.
I did the punchasing in my best linguistic manner, & was
delighted to find that when i said "deux" she knew that I
meant two. We also bought some stunner books, about maga-
size, in a new series, good paper & type, all illustrated
with first-class woodcuts — McG nearly went mad over
these. I bought Marie-Claire & Flaubert's "Trois Contes", Mac
three or four just for the pictures — they were 3 francs or 3 ½
2/6 – 3/- in pre-war currency; now equal to 6d or 7d.
The British are on a win in France ll all right. We then
thought we would sit down outside a café in the correct
style & break a bottle of wine between us; which we did
at what seemed the ridiculous price of 15 francs — 3d glass;
on working out which we felt very pleased with ourselves,
till Whinfield said we shouldn't on any account have paid
more than a franc. But 2d for 9 glasses seemed trading
page 17 a bit too much on the Gallic generosity of our gallant allies. How
ever it was apparently they who did the trading. Anyhow the
garçon was all that a French waiter in the flesh ought to be;
& he also understood my abbreviated demands for vin rouge.
Duncan & I fe decided to feign drunkeness for the benefit
of Miss Rowe when we got back to the ship, as she had been
telling us what a devil she was thought to be at Canterbury
& how she had really & truly once been drunk at the
Hermitage; but we put so much energy into our rehearsal that,
though we had Mac biting a bit during same we didn't have
enough strength left to simulate the after-effects of an orgy
when it came to lunch-time. You're damn bad [unclear: minces] any-
, says Whinfield. But I decided to go to France, also;
not for the vin rouge of which it would take about a barrel to make
a flea stagger, but on the strength of the cobbled streets & cheerful
waiters of Toulon. The hills round the harbour are a good deal
like parts of NZ too; though not so much as those on both
sides of the Straits of Messina. I say my first submarine
at Toulon too; also some antique-looking battleships that the
Duchess could run down.

Well, then we sailed away from the pleasant land
of France to Spain & Gibraltar. I won't enlarge on Gibraltar,
of which we didn't see a great deal; we only put in an hour
there, I bought two Times Litt. Supps. & climbed up above the old
ramparts on to the hill behind & walked down the main street,
but s that's about all. We put in 2 ½ hrs going across the bay
page 18 to Algeçiras to have a look at Spain. Well, Spain I am also going
to later on. A bright little town, Algeçiras, with a cathedral,
& numerous very tastefully dressed soldiers, & equally numerous
small boys whose only English word was "penny" & who for
some reason clustered all almost exclusivley round Henning; al-
there was a critical period when loud shouts from me of Vaya
al diavolo! Get out! Go to blazes! Imshi! seemed to have very
little effect. But Henning made the fatal mistake of putting
his hand in his pocket & producing an ancient cancelled Span-
coin they worked off on us at Toulon. I put my hand
in my pocket also (loud cheers) but all I produced was
my handkerchief, with which I wiped my face quite unfin-
. (groans) The place is up & down little hills all over the place,
the streets all cobbled, traction almost exclusively per donkeys
& mules, though there were a few decrepit looking carriages &
one or two motor-lorries for purposes of commerce. Everything
ambled rather than ran, & slouched rather than walked. There
were numerous little pubs, i.e. casas; kids whose simplicity
in dress seemed to consist mainly in the presence of a shirt
but the absence of trousers or the female substitute; women in
mantillas, but betraying na no sign of romantic sounthern beauty;
balconies galore, but nothing attractive-looking from them; &
men who might have stepped straight out of "Romance". There was
also an amiable gentlemen who once more wanted to show us
the can-can; but him we turned down again, though it appears
probable that the thought of out aunties will at this rate become
page 19 so familiar as to lose its efficacy.

I pause here to say that Eddystone is bright on the port side,
with two or three other minor lights strung out very low down
below it. Can this really be England? Well, well, well, well, well.
And we'll wake up in the morning & find ourselves in Plymouth
harbour. I can feel my inside quivering already. So Duncan
& Henning having finished theor arduous labours, we are going to
have a drink on the strength of it — But only lemon squash.

At Algeçiras we also investigated the cathedral, such as it
is; numerous effigies of saints, virgins, crucified Christs & so on,
dressed in real clothes, with lace handkerchiefs, or extremely
bloody hands & knees; the Mick church certainly goes in for a real-
art. We arrived just in time for a christening, very in-
, but requiring a painter to discribe in the half-light
with candles burning, rather than me, consummate master of
words though I doubtless am. The priest mumbled, & the
kid, about the size of a nine-pin, squalled & the father looked
proud & glad, & a vicious organ squealed & yelped the whole
time, from start to finish. And everybody went away satis-
, including us, who had seen superstition in its native
haunts. Then we ambled round in the dust & the sun to
the superior part of the town, past fishermen's houses to the
villas & gardens of the great & the hotel where the celebrated conference
was held that helped to cause the Great War: & so back to our
motor-boat, in which we proceeded to Gibraltar. It was a
beautiful Sunday afternoon & the white houses of Algeçiras
page 20 showed up well against the dark hills as we receded. And we
had the launch & two stalwart bronzed Spaniards at our
disposal for the whole afternoon for 5/- each. And the Med-
looked divine.

Then at 7 o'clock we drew out from Gibraltar & I quoted
Browning melodramatically & after dinner we entered on the
Atlantic & I saw a fresh ocean. Since when I have seen
no other. The Atlantic sunsets have equalled the best of
previous days, the sea has been as smooth, the Bay of Biscay
the smoothest of the lot, Whinfield & I versus Duncan &
Henning have had soome good games of tennis; & we have
seen the finish of our picture shows with Terence the
Troublesome Tike for the time being in the ascendant, the
serial brought to a triumphant & morally gratifying conclusion,
the final clutch in romantic circumstances on board a
liner outward homeward bound from Port Said, the villians satisfactorily
dead or suffering under their correct nemesis (or nemises or
neminises): & Harold Lloyd has performed in the last of
his antique comedies on this trip. So all things draw to a
close. Two more breakfasts, one more lunch, one more
dinner, & I shall be finished with this ship. A melancholy
thought, considering the standard of the meals. I send you
two or three menus for you to see how I progress. I am getting
a bit tight round the waistcoat anyhow. It will be a bit of a
crash to come down to baching after this.

McG has just done a lightning caricature of me which
I enclose also. And the ship has stopped to wait for the tide before
going into Plymouth. Close on midnight. 12.15 We're here. Plymouth Har
   on the port bow.
page 21 Oct 1st. here we are, stuck ignobly in a fog in the Thames estuary
after an over-night packing & an early breakfast & expectations of
being off the ship by about 10; & now it is ¼ to 11, & someone
says we have missed the tide; while I can hear the quartermaster sound-
, & every now & then the ship blows off steam lugubrious-
& the bell bangs & clangs away. We left Plymouth very
early yesterday morning & anchored off the [unclear: Nore] early this morn-
to wait for aforesaid tide. The Channel was as smooth as
this paper & the sight of England very stimulating; but when
we shall actually feel its hallowed soil beneath our sacrileg-
feet I don't know.

We handed over the Epic & the cigars yesterday at lunch
with great éclat, & the great man seemed extremely bucked,
so that is all right. He gave us a cigar each, too; so we
were likewise bucked.

I got my packing done pretty successfully this time, ex-
that I have to strap my rug & dressing gown & cushion on
to the outside of my suitcase, & get Henning to transport
a pair of shoes. I had a final gorge off Auntie's biscuits for
breakfast this morning & gave the small remainder away, not
wishing to have to cart a tin around with me. They were very
good biscuits & retained their savour remarkably well.

On going to bed last night I find found my cabin fes-
with green streamers, the life-belt tied to the electric-
fan, biscuits in my shoes & pyjama pocket & under the pillow,
a skull & crossbones [unclear: drored] on the looking-glass in toothpaste
page 22 & a glassful of a horrible mixture of water, some cough-
cure of Duncan's, tooth-paste & a liberal sprinkling of shaving-
powder. And when I went & woke up Duncan & put his
boots in his wash basin & turned the tap on he swore at me!
This is how we celebrate the the beginning of the conquest of the
Old World. And this is all to date. I suppose we shall be
having lunch on board now, no doubt much to the steward's

I hope you are looking after yourself with the meticulous
care for which you are not celebrated. I send my love to
all & sundry & close here lest I should have no time to
do so later on.

With said love I am etc


P.S. You might tell Joe I have read Sect Mencken's
book & enjoyed it very much; also it leant it to Whin-
, who lent it to the rest of the bridge, I hear; so he
has contributed much to the gaiety & instruction of the nations.
I have just about read all Hardy's collected poems, too, &
nearly a book on history, so I'm not doing badly — about
4 books in 6 weeks.
P.P.S. I should have sent Daddy birthday felicitations
before now, but I do herewith. If we ever arrive in
London I shall send something else. I have forgotten the
date of Frannie's Birthday, but anyhow I daresay the Customs
birds will pinch Keithles' parcel.

   2/10/26 Saturday: 1st morning in LondonS. Kensington: so far so good