David to May Holzminden Letter No 25 July 1st 1918
I have not had a letter from you since I wrote to you last, and only one from Mum. Your last was No 116. I hope nothing is wrong. None of your books have arrived either but I expect they will shortly. In the meantime I still seem to feel to have a lot of work ahead of me. I have just started doing the quantities of the house, but of course it is all very indefinite simply because practically every item I come to I want to discuss with you. I have got hold of a book on American houses which is pretty good, but there are no really very new ideas in it, although of necessity their methods differ from ours on a number of points owing, more particularly, to the climate – still there are a number of things which we might easily adopt with advantage. For instance they apparently sometimes have a permanent pipe put through the house for connecting up to a vacuum cleaner from the street, so that the whole of the dirt is simply sucked straight outside which seems rather good. We ourselves must certainly have some sort of portable arrangement anyhow.
I have also been reading an American book on small holdings, but it is not very good. It talks a good deal about the enormous number of dollars that various people, including infants at school, had made out of pieces of land from the size of a postage stamp upwards, but beyond that it did not contain a great deal of information.
With regard to your beach hut, the material from the army huts which will be sold after the war do extremely well for that sort of thing, but I guess it will be used for a thousand and one other things too. Talking about the house, I know you see the local as well as the other papers sometimes. Will you look out for any land sales and make a note of the particulars and prices and send them to me, so that we can get some sort of rough idea of the cost of land per acre. If it is not too late, will you ask Mum to keep an account of the amount of fruit she gets from the gooseberry bushes.
In some of your letters you ask if I am growing a beard. I have not reached that stage yet, although some of the fellows here have, one of them in particular is a fearful looking object. His beard has grown very bushy and in the wrong places. I have never seen anything quite like it, it is unique. He’s an awful warning to the rest of us. Did I tell you I have had another letter from the Lodge. At their last meeting they apparently passed a resolution wishing the absent members a speedy return etc etc.
The last two or three parcels from home have been addressed by you. It is nice to think you helped to pack them. By the way, in that February letter I think I told you I had received the second copy of your photo. It was good of you to send two, so as to make sure of my getting it. I am very glad you are taking your girls out again this year and I am most anxious to get your letter describing the whole affair. Didn’t the booking office people think you had rather a large family? But why don’t you go about more, I wish you would. On the first of June I wrote a post card to Cox direct, telling them to pay any balance over £25 to Mum. Will you please ask her to see if they got this.
I have broken two teeth off my plate which is a nuisance to say the least of it, as I have now got a rough edge which makes my tongue sore.
I think something must have gone wrong with the works of the Board of Education, as they have sent me four books viz River and Canal Engineering, Maccauly’s History of England, and The Clerk of Works, all of which of course you yourself have already sent through Batsfords, and you remember a few weeks ago they sent me a parcel with three of four of the other books, amongst others Lockwoods book; which you had already sent. I wonder how they got hold of the names of these. However they will not be wasted as I have passed them on to the library. I have finished my poultry course and have got some sort of a rough idea of things, but I must get a book to read it up, if we ever want to do anything in this way. And that reminds me, I have just taken up another subject which is Dutch. Truly in time I shall have a nodding acquaintance with a number of things and not know much of anything. So far have had one lesson, just sufficient to have hit up against the first big difficulty. I have found out that they pronounce their g as hg with a guttural sound, which is a regular tongue twister. I am learning Dutch from a South African who of course has only Cape Dutch, but still it is good enough for what I want. We are a most cosmopolitan crowd in the camp, drawn from all the ends of the earth. The other day I was talking to a man who was in Japan and came home to join up. I think he was in a shipping office. I sit at table at meals with a man from Buenos Ayres, and I sleep opposite a man who was clearing timber to make a farm on Prince Edward Island off the West Coast of British Columbia. At one time we had four of the Indian officers here, but of course they have gone to Holland.
I have had one copy of the “Architect” and one of “The Builder” both for May 17th. It is good to see these old papers again, even advertisements that somebody’s asphalte is now being used by everyone and somebody else’s paint is like nothing on earth, are most interesting. Please thank Mum very much for them. I have passed them on to three or four other fellows here.
In a few days I shall have done twelve month “time”. It seems an age. A an today asked me, if when, I went to Holland, (the fact of seeing others going to Holland, you get into the way of looking forward to going yourself, although it is still a long way off) I was going to have my wife over there, as he had heard that this might be possible. I said I hoped so. But still I don’t want to go to Holland, I want to get home to you.