Lawrence of Algiers (1802 – 1880)

Lawrence lived in Algiers for a great deal of his rather lengthy life. Born in Aberdeen, he became a very unsuccessful and unhappy businessman as he tried for years to make his living running tours around the town. He joined the French Foreign Legion in 1835 when his tax debts (and personal borrowings for a proposed tea importing business) became such that his health was threatened. Life would surely be better, and longer, elsewhere.

 He experienced his first action for the Legion when he was sent to Spain. Being a quick learner he soon became a commander of men, most of whom he saved from death at one time or another. They respected his quick thinking and ability to survive in the most hostile of conditions. When the Legion was dissolved in 1838 he was at a loss, but spent his time in Algiers bumming around and trying to not to get into too much debt. As soon as he heard the Foreign Legion had been re-formed, he joined once again. He stayed in the Legion until 1860, when he retired.

 His expertise in desert survival was much sought-after and he found himself earning a living by teaching specialist desert skills to promising soldiers. He became quite a celebrity among the soldiers, but he always kept his head and, it was rumoured, the head of one of his previous enemies. So long in the desert had made him quite eccentric and he was heard to remark that it gave him someone to talk to and that two heads were always better than one.

 His students and employers were always amazed by his calmness in adversity and relaxed attitude, but Lawrence refused to divulge his secrets to anybody but his individual students, and he made them all promise that they would keep quiet. It was his last trainee, Henri Napoleon deVere, who was able to write down some of his key points and shed light on his calm manner.

 At the age of seventy-eight Lawrence took DeVere out for a crash course in survival in the Ahaggar Mountains in the south of Algeria. After some three days of living off the land Lawrence was becoming increasingly confused and said, ‘Bugger it, I think I’m lost, son!’ They found a cave and his last words to DeVere were, ‘Right, this will do sunshine. Did you bring the hash pipe? We’re lost, and I can’t quite remember who I am. Who are you? Perhaps I’ve had a bit too much sun. Oh yeah…and don’t sit on one of these scorpions like I have, they’re pretty deadly…did you hear wha…’

 DeVere took his notes and then spent three days finding his way out. Some of Lawrence’s gems of wisdom for the aspiring desert operative were somewhat coloured by his life experience, but included:

 Life is like a sandstorm; if you’re not paying attention it will creep up on you, disorientate you, scour and shred you, and suffocate you. So watch out for sandstorms, and always have some whisky and hash pipe to hand.

 You should see the desert as your friend. It hides you from your enemies and provides sanctuary and peace of mind. And by the way, it looks even better after a good go on the hash pipe.

There is always tomorrow, so find a shady tree and wait for it…and make sure you have your hash pipe and whisky with you.

 If you find yourself lost in the desert, out of water, completely alone, and without a hat, your probably buggered. At least you can enjoy the coming thirst driven delusion and delirium before you die. If you still have your hash pipe, I suggest you use it.

 The shifting sands of the desert will always hide your tracks. So always take a compass you idiot otherwise you’ll get lost! Have I mentioned the whisky and the hash pipe?

About George Fripley
I am a writer who enjoys writing humour, satire, poetry and sometimes a bit of philosophy. I live in Perth, Western Australia and occasionally get a poem or article published. It's all good fun! I have two books available for unwary readers, Grudges, Rumours and Drama Queens- The Civil Servant's Manual (This contains all that anybody could ever want to know about why government runs so slowly) and More Gravy Please! - the Politician's Handbook. (available through Amazon)

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