August 7 1999
10 Forsythia Grove
CORSETTSHIRE ZY6 4GT
My Dear Ralph
I am sorry dear. I have, indeed, been heavily-occupied in digging a large garden hole and am concerned, in more ways than one, that I might fall into it.
Do, please, be careful not to antagonize your prospective nursing tutor when your course begins in September. You will remember what happened when you got on the wrong side of Miss Fothergill during your (fairly) recent sojourn at the Wortlewell Drug Rehabilitation Clinic? Your escape from surgical lobotomy was by a very narrow squeak indeed – and we don’t want a repeat performance!
Your mention of the lady doctor, Thule Hendrikkson, has provoked several memories of my visit to Thule Air Base in the mid-1970’s. It was just after the conclusion of the Vietnam war and America was once again financially able to catch up with the Russian stockpile of Intercontinental (and submarine-launched) Ballistic Missiles. As I recall it pet, the Russian submarine missiles had an effective range of 3,500 miles and there were 375 submarines deployed in their carriage.
Naturally, the colossal fire power represented by the above was the subject of constant scrutiny by those of us working in the arena of counter-intelligence. I was only an assistant director of the Special Intelligence Service (SIS) at the time, but – one week towards the end of 1975 – I was detailed to fly (with colleagues) to Thule on a liaison mission. You need special attire, believe me dear, to equip you for the bone-frosting chill assailing you when your aeroplane door opens on to the permafrost of NW Greenland. Located at 750 miles north of the arctic circle conditions are unimaginable. And isolated in the extreme.
I myself would not be eager to experience near-permanent conditions of very low light and the probability of sudden white-outs in the form of delta-level storms. It is also very difficult to depart from Thule Air Base owing to the infrequency with which planes land upon the landing strip. We had to stay a whole week and this was certainly an opportunity to observe how some American servicemen whiled away their tour. I was able to discern (through binoculars from our dorm) quite some crates of whisky – and what may have been multiple copies of ‘PlayBabe’ – being stashed in a fairly-proximate aircraft hangar. And, if it hadn’t been for the time it would have taken to don an allocated pair of snow shoes, I would have been importuning for some of these supplies myself (naturally not the ‘PlayBabe’ option) . . .
I do hope that nowadays, in 1998, American servicemen (and women) have more to do during a winter sojourn at Thule Air Base. Perhaps they have built a gym? Perhaps internet technology will have leaped and bounded far ahead? In the summer, of course, for at least four months, there is sufficient daylight for one to join a narwhal-hunting expedition or trips over the ice in a dog-drawn sled. And who could be a philistine (or grump) then?