Glasgow’s Miles Better

Going into a cinema with a pal, – he slipped and fell, – bouncing down three flights of stairs – (huge auditorium, banks of seats: wide aisles). – I followed at a run, then paused. – Girl sitting there said, – “I’ve seen you before.” – I: “Where?” – She: “In Glasgow.” – I: “How did you know?” – She: “I’d remember you anywhere.” – On waking, thought I should have given her – Address or telephone number. –

Woken by the muezzin. Where else but Baghdad? The boys are running around and screaming in the covered way, little tongues shrill as whistles, brown limbs flashing like flames. The faithful are being called to prayer, and I, the faithless, to another burning day.

Planning an expedition is smoke in a water-pipe, a shimmer on the horizon, the glint in an almond eye. It is easy to see myself, in the mind’s eye, climbing the face of a dune in desert robes – I who should now be tramping, in the flesh, through the rocky defiles of Luristan.

The first real lead so far was at the party I attended last night, the British at their least reserved. I got into conversation with the wife of some embassy official [horse-faced woman with a braying laugh], and soon found myself being introduced around as a “terribly clever young man.”

One or two of them seemed to know what I was talking about when I began to talk of the road to Turkestan, and I ended at last with some names and addresses of “people who might help.” “You need to join one of the regular caravans,” said one. “There are no regular caravans at this time of year,” riposted another. “Much better to conscript a guide and travel with his people.”

It ended where I thought it would. No-one knew of a suitable guide, for a destination so far-off, so fraught with peril: Persia, the Caucasus, and the shores of the Caspian sea. “You’ll get yourself shot if you go anywhere near the Bolshevik oil fields.” Some of them promised to keep an eye open, however.

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