Neil – Mother: 24 Apr 1919

Dear Mother,
Letters from NZ are few and far between now,- everyone the same,- something wrong with the mail, I think. Mail boats have been quarantined for ‘flu, I think. I received my certificates and a letter from you dated 16-2-19

Sorry I missed that mail, but it mxxx xxx lxxx (silver fish have damaged along a fold in the letter) a mail for a very short period when you did not get one from Mac either. I have never missed writing for more than a fortnight and very seldom for more than 10 days. More clothes seem to have been less wearable that I guessed, but of course it won’t matter now that the Govt. has so kindly made arrangments about keeping me. You jumped to the conclusion that I was going to stay this side very quickly. If I had not got the scholarship I should not have been able to do it. It is funny by the way, that none of you noticed it in the paper. It was cabled and published before you wrote this letter. I didn’t see it myself, but Mac saw it in a paper that came over.

Roy seems to be getting ambitious, but there is nothing like asking for things.

You ask about food & prices. An ordinary dinner & coffee in a middle class restaurant costs 4/-. A suit costs £8-8-0. Socks (prewar NZ 1/9) costs 4/3. Boots (NZ 21/-) £2-5-0. And shirts and things all up in proportion. Coal is very expensive. It will be an item at College.

Yes, we get cake in England of a sort, nothing like the NZ sort though. Trot will vouch for that.

Thank Vic for his offer of assistance which now of course won’t be required. Eric Watkin also offered to finance me,- I must inherit an honest face!

I think anyone with a bit of common sense ought to be able to knock out some money on this side where common sense is the exception and stupidity the rule. I shall be at College only six months in the year, so some money ought to flow my way during the rest of the time. If I can earn a bit I may be able to get a trip home sooner than I expected.

I am still a little uncertain what to specialise in at Cambridge besides Maths. If I stuck absolutely to Maths I can only take up teaching or lecturing in N.Z. and there is not a great deal of money in that. The same thing applies to chemistry and Physics. I don’t like the idea of Electrical work much, and if I take on any other kind of Engineering I shall not be able to make anything out of it unless I go to India or Africa or some God forsaken savage hole like that. If I take on Actuarial & Insurance computation there is the chance of good money but only in Europe or America. The only real paying game in NZ seems to be farming and one doesn’t need a Cambridge education for that.

Another thing, I don’t think I’ll be able to take the high honours necessary for a lectureship or a professorship. I feel certain I am not as mathematically bright as I was before I came away. A razor is not much good for shaving after you’ve been sharpening pencils with it. And I think my “temper” (ament) is too lazy for there to be much hope of getting “re-set”. I seem to be quite regaining my faculty for talking rot,- result of warmer weather, I suppose.

This is a dull old hole,- and I’ll have to live in it some time. I see on a list that I am second to last of the General Educational Instructors for demobilisation.