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    TracyTracy
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    From Tanganyika with Love

    continued  ~ part 4

    With thanks to Mike Rushby.

    Mchewe Estate. 31st January 1936

    Dearest Family,

    Life is very quiet just now. Our neighbours have left and I miss them all especially
    Joni who was always a great bearer of news. We also grew fond of his Swedish
    brother-in-law Max, whose loud ‘Hodi’ always brought a glad ‘Karibu’ from us. His wife,
    Marion, I saw less often. She is not strong and seldom went visiting but has always
    been friendly and kind and ready to share her books with me.

    Ann’s birthday is looming ahead and I am getting dreadfully anxious that her
    parcels do not arrive in time. I am delighted that you were able to get a good head for
    her doll, dad, but horrified to hear that it was so expensive. You would love your
    ‘Charming Ann’. She is a most responsible little soul and seems to have outgrown her
    mischievous ways. A pity in a way, I don’t want her to grow too serious. You should see
    how thoroughly Ann baths and towels herself. She is anxious to do Georgie and Kate
    as well.

    I did not mean to teach Ann to write until after her fifth birthday but she has taught
    herself by copying the large print in newspaper headlines. She would draw a letter and
    ask me the name and now I find that at four Ann knows the whole alphabet. The front
    cement steps is her favourite writing spot. She uses bits of white clay we use here for
    whitewashing.

    Coffee prices are still very low and a lot of planters here and at Mbosi are in a
    mess as they can no longer raise mortgages on their farms or get advances from the
    Bank against their crops. We hear many are leaving their farms to try their luck on the
    Diggings.

    George is getting fed up too. The snails are back on the shamba and doing
    frightful damage. Talk of the plagues of Egypt! Once more they are being collected in
    piles and bashed into pulp. The stench on the shamba is frightful! The greybeards in the
    village tell George that the local Chief has put a curse on the farm because he is angry
    that the Government granted George a small extension to the farm two years ago! As
    the Chief was consulted at the time and was agreeable this talk of a curse is nonsense
    but goes to show how the uneducated African put all disasters down to witchcraft.

    With much love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 9th February 1936

    Dearest Family,

    Ann’s birthday yesterday was not quite the gay occasion we had hoped. The
    seventh was mail day so we sent a runner for the mail, hoping against hope that your
    parcel containing the dolls head had arrived. The runner left for Mbeya at dawn but, as it
    was a very wet day, he did not return with the mail bag until after dark by which time Ann
    was fast asleep. My heart sank when I saw the parcel which contained the dolls new
    head. It was squashed quite flat. I shed a few tears over that shattered head, broken
    quite beyond repair, and George felt as bad about it as I did. The other parcel arrived in
    good shape and Ann loves her little sewing set, especially the thimble, and the nursery
    rhymes are a great success.

    Ann woke early yesterday and began to open her parcels. She said “But
    Mummy, didn’t Barbara’s new head come?” So I had to show her the fragments.
    Instead of shedding the flood of tears I expected, Ann just lifted the glass eyes in her
    hand and said in a tight little voice “Oh poor Barbara.” George saved the situation. as
    usual, by saying in a normal voice,”Come on Ann, get up and lets play your new
    records.” So we had music and sweets before breakfast. Later I removed Barbara’s
    faded old blond wig and gummed on the glossy new brown one and Ann seems quite
    satisfied.

    Last night, after the children were tucked up in bed, we discussed our financial
    situation. The coffee trees that have survived the plagues of borer beetle, mealie bugs
    and snails look strong and fine, but George says it will be years before we make a living
    out of the farm. He says he will simply have to make some money and he is leaving for
    the Lupa on Saturday to have a look around on the Diggings. If he does decide to peg
    a claim and work it he will put up a wattle and daub hut and the children and I will join him
    there. But until such time as he strikes gold I shall have to remain here on the farm and
    ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’.

    Now don’t go and waste pity on me. Women all over the country are having to
    stay at home whilst their husbands search for a livelihood. I am better off than most
    because I have a comfortable little home and loyal servants and we still have enough
    capitol to keep the wolf from the door. Anyway this is the rainy season and hardly the
    best time to drag three small children around the sodden countryside on prospecting
    safaris.

    So I’ll stay here at home and hold thumbs that George makes a lucky strike.

    Heaps of love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 27th February 1936

    Dearest Family,

    Well, George has gone but here we are quite safe and cosy. Kate is asleep and
    Ann and Georgie are sprawled on the couch taking it in turns to enumerate the things
    God has made. Every now and again Ann bothers me with an awkward question. “Did
    God make spiders? Well what for? Did he make weeds? Isn’t He silly, mummy? She is
    becoming a very practical person. She sews surprisingly well for a four year old and has
    twice made cakes in the past week, very sweet and liberally coloured with cochineal and
    much appreciated by Georgie.

    I have been without George for a fortnight and have adapted myself to my new
    life. The children are great company during the day and I have arranged my evenings so
    that they do not seem long. I am determined that when George comes home he will find
    a transformed wife. I read an article entitled ‘Are you the girl he married?’ in a magazine
    last week and took a good look in the mirror and decided that I certainly was not! Hair dry,
    skin dry, and I fear, a faint shadow on the upper lip. So now I have blown the whole of
    your Christmas Money Order on an order to a chemist in Dar es Salaam for hair tonic,
    face cream and hair remover and am anxiously awaiting the parcel.

    In the meantime, after tucking the children into bed at night, I skip on the verandah
    and do the series of exercises recommended in the magazine article. After this exertion I
    have a leisurely bath followed by a light supper and then read or write letters to pass
    the time until Kate’s ten o’clock feed. I have arranged for Janey to sleep in the house.
    She comes in at 9.30 pm and makes up her bed on the living room floor by the fire.

    The days are by no means uneventful. The day before yesterday the biggest
    troop of monkeys I have ever seen came fooling around in the trees and on the grass
    only a few yards from the house. These monkeys were the common grey monkeys
    with black faces. They came in all sizes and were most entertaining to watch. Ann and
    Georgie had a great time copying their antics and pulling faces at the monkeys through
    the bedroom windows which I hastily closed.

    Thomas, our headman, came running up and told me that this troop of monkeys
    had just raided his maize shamba and asked me to shoot some of them. I would not of
    course do this. I still cannot bear to kill any animal, but I fired a couple of shots in the air
    and the monkeys just melted away. It was fantastic, one moment they were there and
    the next they were not. Ann and Georgie thought I had been very unkind to frighten the
    poor monkeys but honestly, when I saw what they had done to my flower garden, I
    almost wished I had hardened my heart and shot one or two.

    The children are all well but Ann gave me a nasty fright last week. I left Ann and
    Georgie at breakfast whilst I fed Fanny, our bull terrier on the back verandah. Suddenly I
    heard a crash and rushed inside to find Ann’s chair lying on its back and Ann beside it on
    the floor perfectly still and with a paper white face. I shouted for Janey to bring water and
    laid Ann flat on the couch and bathed her head and hands. Soon she sat up with a wan
    smile and said “I nearly knocked my head off that time, didn’t I.” She must have been
    standing on the chair and leaning against the back. Our brick floors are so terribly hard that
    she might have been seriously hurt.

    However she was none the worse for the fall, but Heavens, what an anxiety kids
    are.

    Lots of love,
    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. 12th March 1936

    Dearest Family,

    It was marvellous of you to send another money order to replace the one I spent
    on cosmetics. With this one I intend to order boots for both children as a protection from
    snake bite, though from my experience this past week the threat seems to be to the
    head rather than the feet. I was sitting on the couch giving Kate her morning milk from a
    cup when a long thin snake fell through the reed ceiling and landed with a thud just behind
    the couch. I shouted “Nyoka, Nyoka!” (Snake,Snake!) and the houseboy rushed in with
    a stick and killed the snake. I then held the cup to Kate’s mouth again but I suppose in
    my agitation I tipped it too much because the baby choked badly. She gasped for
    breath. I quickly gave her a sharp smack on the back and a stream of milk gushed
    through her mouth and nostrils and over me. Janey took Kate from me and carried her
    out into the fresh air on the verandah and as I anxiously followed her through the door,
    another long snake fell from the top of the wall just missing me by an inch or so. Luckily
    the houseboy still had the stick handy and dispatched this snake also.

    The snakes were a pair of ‘boomslangs’, not nice at all, and all day long I have
    had shamba boys coming along to touch hands and say “Poli Memsahib” – “Sorry
    madam”, meaning of course ‘Sorry you had a fright.’

    Apart from that one hectic morning this has been a quiet week. Before George
    left for the Lupa he paid off most of the farm hands as we can now only afford a few
    labourers for the essential work such as keeping the weeds down in the coffee shamba.
    There is now no one to keep the grass on the farm roads cut so we cannot use the pram
    when we go on our afternoon walks. Instead Janey carries Kate in a sling on her back.
    Janey is a very clean slim woman, and her clothes are always spotless, so Kate keeps
    cool and comfortable. Ann and Georgie always wear thick overalls on our walks as a
    protection against thorns and possible snakes. We usually make our way to the
    Mchewe River where Ann and Georgie paddle in the clear cold water and collect shiny
    stones.

    The cosmetics parcel duly arrived by post from Dar es Salaam so now I fill the
    evenings between supper and bed time attending to my face! The much advertised
    cream is pink and thick and feels revolting. I smooth it on before bedtime and keep it on
    all night. Just imagine if George could see me! The advertisements promise me a skin
    like a rose in six weeks. What a surprise there is in store for George!

    You will have been wondering what has happened to George. Well on the Lupa
    he heard rumours of a new gold strike somewhere in the Sumbawanga District. A couple
    of hundred miles from here I think, though I am not sure where it is and have no one to
    ask. You look it up on the map and tell me. John Molteno is also interested in this and
    anxious to have it confirmed so he and George have come to an agreement. John
    Molteno provided the porters for the journey together with prospecting tools and
    supplies but as he cannot leave his claims, or his gold buying business, George is to go
    on foot to the area of the rumoured gold strike and, if the strike looks promising will peg
    claims in both their names.

    The rainy season is now at its height and the whole countryside is under water. All
    roads leading to the area are closed to traffic and, as there are few Europeans who
    would attempt the journey on foot, George proposes to get a head start on them by
    making this uncomfortable safari. I have just had my first letter from George since he left
    on this prospecting trip. It took ages to reach me because it was sent by runner to
    Abercorn in Northern Rhodesia, then on by lorry to Mpika where it was put on a plane
    for Mbeya. George writes the most charming letters which console me a little upon our
    all too frequent separations.

    His letter was cheerful and optimistic, though reading between the lines I should
    say he had a grim time. He has reached Sumbawanga after ‘a hell of a trip’, to find that
    the rumoured strike was at Mpanda and he had a few more days of foot safari ahead.
    He had found the trip from the Lupa even wetter than he had expected. The party had
    three days of wading through swamps sometimes waist deep in water. Of his sixteen
    porters, four deserted an the second day out and five others have had malaria and so
    been unable to carry their loads. He himself is ‘thin but very fit’, and he sounds full of
    beans and writes gaily of the marvellous holiday we will have if he has any decent luck! I
    simply must get that mink and diamonds complexion.

    The frustrating thing is that I cannot write back as I have no idea where George is
    now.

    With heaps of love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 24th March 1936

    Dearest Family,
    How kind you are. Another parcel from home. Although we are very short
    of labourers I sent a special runner to fetch it as Ann simply couldn’t bear the suspense
    of waiting to see Brenda, “My new little girl with plaits.” Thank goodness Brenda is
    unbreakable. I could not have born another tragedy. She really is an exquisite little doll
    and has hardly been out of Ann’s arms since arrival. She showed Brenda proudly to all
    the staff. The kitchen boy’s face was a study. His eyes fairly came out on sticks when he
    saw the dolls eyes not only opening and shutting, but moving from side to side in that
    incredibly lifelike way. Georgie loves his little model cars which he carries around all day
    and puts under his pillow at night.

    As for me, I am enchanted by my very smart new frock. Janey was so lavish with
    her compliments when I tried the frock on, that in a burst of generosity I gave her that
    rather tartish satin and lace trousseau nighty, and she was positively enthralled. She
    wore it that very night when she appeared as usual to doss down by the fire.
    By the way it was Janey’s turn to have a fright this week. She was in the
    bathroom washing the children’s clothes in an outsize hand basin when it happened. As
    she took Georgie’s overalls from the laundry basket a large centipede ran up her bare
    arm. Luckily she managed to knock the centipede off into the hot water in the hand basin.
    It was a brute, about six inches long of viciousness with a nasty sting. The locals say that
    the bite is much worse than a scorpions so Janey had a lucky escape.

    Kate cut her first two teeth yesterday and will, I hope, sleep better now. I don’t
    feel that pink skin food is getting a fair trial with all those broken nights. There is certainly
    no sign yet of ‘The skin he loves to touch”. Kate, I may say, is rosy and blooming. She
    can pull herself upright providing she has something solid to hold on to. She is so plump
    I have horrible visions of future bow legs so I push her down, but she always bobs up
    again.

    Both Ann and Georgie are mad on books. Their favourites are ‘Barbar and
    Celeste” and, of all things, ‘Struvel Peter’ . They listen with absolute relish to the sad tale
    of Harriet who played with matches.

    I have kept a laugh for the end. I am hoping that it will not be long before George
    comes home and thought it was time to take the next step towards glamour, so last
    Wednesday after lunch I settled the children on their beds and prepared to remove the ,
    to me, obvious down on my upper lip. (George always loyally says that he can’t see
    any.) Well I got out the tube of stuff and carefully followed the directions. I smoothed a
    coating on my upper lip. All this was watched with great interest by the children, including
    the baby, who stood up in her cot for a better view. Having no watch, I had propped
    the bedroom door open so that I could time the operation by the cuckoo clock in the
    living room. All the children’s surprised comments fell on deaf ears. I would neither talk
    nor smile for fear of cracking the hair remover which had set hard. The set time was up
    and I was just about to rinse the remover off when Kate slipped, knocking her head on
    the corner of the cot. I rushed to the rescue and precious seconds ticked off whilst I
    pacified her.

    So, my dears, when I rinsed my lip, not only the plaster and the hair came away
    but the skin as well and now I really did have a Ronald Coleman moustache – a crimson
    one. I bathed it, I creamed it, powdered it but all to no avail. Within half an hour my lip
    had swollen until I looked like one of those Duckbilled West African women. Ann’s
    comments, “Oh Mummy, you do look funny. Georgie, doesn’t Mummy look funny?”
    didn’t help to soothe me and the last straw was that just then there was the sound of a car drawing up outside – the first car I had heard for months. Anyway, thank heaven, it
    was not George, but the representative of a firm which sells agricultural machinery and
    farm implements, looking for orders. He had come from Dar es Salaam and had not
    heard that all the planters from this district had left their farms. Hospitality demanded that I
    should appear and offer tea. I did not mind this man because he was a complete
    stranger and fat, middle aged and comfortable. So I gave him tea, though I didn’t
    attempt to drink any myself, and told him the whole sad tale.

    Fortunately much of the swelling had gone next day and only a brown dryness
    remained. I find myself actually hoping that George is delayed a bit longer. Of one thing
    I am sure. If ever I grow a moustache again, it stays!

    Heaps of love from a sadder but wiser,
    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. 3rd April 1936

    Dearest Family,

    Sound the trumpets, beat the drums. George is home again. The safari, I am sad
    to say, was a complete washout in more ways than one. Anyway it was lovely to be
    together again and we don’t yet talk about the future. The home coming was not at all as
    I had planned it. I expected George to return in our old A.C. car which gives ample
    warning of its arrival. I had meant to wear my new frock and make myself as glamourous
    as possible, with our beautiful babe on one arm and our other jewels by my side.
    This however is what actually happened. Last Saturday morning at about 2 am , I
    thought I heard someone whispering my name. I sat up in bed, still half asleep, and
    there was George at the window. He was thin and unshaven and the tiredest looking
    man I have ever seen. The car had bogged down twenty miles back along the old Lupa
    Track, but as George had had no food at all that day, he decided to walk home in the
    bright moonlight.

    This is where I should have served up a tasty hot meal but alas, there was only
    the heal of a loaf and no milk because, before going to bed I had given the remaining
    milk to the dog. However George seemed too hungry to care what he ate. He made a
    meal off a tin of bully, a box of crustless cheese and the bread washed down with cup
    after cup of black tea. Though George was tired we talked for hours and it was dawn
    before we settled down to sleep.

    During those hours of talk George described his nightmarish journey. He started
    up the flooded Rukwa Valley and there were days of wading through swamp and mud
    and several swollen rivers to cross. George is a strong swimmer and the porters who
    were recruited in that area, could also swim. There remained the problem of the stores
    and of Kianda the houseboy who cannot swim. For these they made rough pole rafts
    which they pulled across the rivers with ropes. Kianda told me later that he hopes never
    to make such a journey again. He swears that the raft was submerged most of the time
    and that he was dragged through the rivers underwater! You should see the state of
    George’s clothes which were packed in a supposedly water tight uniform trunk. The
    whole lot are mud stained and mouldy.

    To make matters more trying for George he was obliged to live mostly on
    porters rations, rice and groundnut oil which he detests. As all the district roads were
    closed the little Indian Sores in the remote villages he passed had been unable to
    replenish their stocks of European groceries. George would have been thinner had it not
    been for two Roman Catholic missions enroute where he had good meals and dry
    nights. The Fathers are always wonderfully hospitable to wayfarers irrespective of
    whether or not they are Roman Catholics. George of course is not a Catholic. One finds
    the Roman Catholic missions right out in the ‘Blue’ and often on spots unhealthy to
    Europeans. Most of the Fathers are German or Dutch but they all speak a little English
    and in any case one can always fall back on Ki-Swahili.

    George reached his destination all right but it soon became apparent that reports
    of the richness of the strike had been greatly exaggerated. George had decided that
    prospects were brighter on the Lupa than on the new strike so he returned to the Lupa
    by the way he had come and, having returned the borrowed equipment decided to
    make his way home by the shortest route, the old and now rarely used road which
    passes by the bottom of our farm.

    The old A.C. had been left for safe keeping at the Roman Catholic Galala
    Mission 40 miles away, on George’s outward journey, and in this old car George, and
    the houseboy Kianda , started for home. The road was indescribably awful. There were long stretches that were simply one big puddle, in others all the soil had been washed
    away leaving the road like a rocky river bed. There were also patches where the tall
    grass had sprung up head high in the middle of the road,
    The going was slow because often the car bogged down because George had
    no wheel chains and he and Kianda had the wearisome business of digging her out. It
    was just growing dark when the old A.C. settled down determinedly in the mud for the
    last time. They could not budge her and they were still twenty miles from home. George
    decided to walk home in the moonlight to fetch help leaving Kianda in charge of the car
    and its contents and with George’s shot gun to use if necessary in self defence. Kianda
    was reluctant to stay but also not prepared to go for help whilst George remained with
    the car as lions are plentiful in that area. So George set out unarmed in the moonlight.
    Once he stopped to avoid a pride of lion coming down the road but he circled safely
    around them and came home without any further alarms.

    Kianda said he had a dreadful night in the car, “With lions roaming around the car
    like cattle.” Anyway the lions did not take any notice of the car or of Kianda, and the next
    day George walked back with all our farm boys and dug and pushed the car out of the
    mud. He brought car and Kianda back without further trouble but the labourers on their
    way home were treed by the lions.

    The wet season is definitely the time to stay home.

    Lots and lots of love,
    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. 30th April 1936

    Dearest Family,

    Young George’s third birthday passed off very well yesterday. It started early in
    the morning when he brought his pillow slip of presents to our bed. Kate was already
    there and Ann soon joined us. Young George liked all the presents you sent, especially
    the trumpet. It has hardly left his lips since and he is getting quite smart about the finger
    action.

    We had quite a party. Ann and I decorated the table with Christmas tree tinsel
    and hung a bunch of balloons above it. Ann also decorated young George’s chair with
    roses and phlox from the garden. I had made and iced a fruit cake but Ann begged to
    make a plain pink cake. She made it entirely by herself though I stood by to see that
    she measured the ingredients correctly. When the cake was baked I mixed some soft
    icing in a jug and she poured it carefully over the cake smoothing the gaps with her
    fingers!

    During the party we had the gramophone playing and we pulled crackers and
    wore paper hats and altogether had a good time. I forgot for a while that George is
    leaving again for the Lupa tomorrow for an indefinite time. He was marvellous at making
    young George’s party a gay one. You will have noticed the change from Georgie to
    young George. Our son declares that he now wants to be called George, “Like Dad”.
    He an Ann are a devoted couple and I am glad that there is only a fourteen
    months difference in their ages. They play together extremely well and are very
    independent which is just as well for little Kate now demands a lot of my attention. My
    garden is a real cottage garden and looks very gay and colourful. There are hollyhocks
    and Snapdragons, marigolds and phlox and of course the roses and carnations which, as
    you know, are my favourites. The coffee shamba does not look so good because the
    small labour force, which is all we can afford, cannot cope with all the weeds. You have
    no idea how things grow during the wet season in the tropics.

    Nothing alarming ever seems to happen when George is home, so I’m afraid this
    letter is rather dull. I wanted you to know though, that largely due to all your gifts of toys
    and sweets, Georgie’s 3rd birthday party went with a bang.

    Your very affectionate,
    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. 17th September 1936

    Dearest Family,

    I am sorry to hear that Mummy worries about me so much. “Poor Eleanor”,
    indeed! I have a quite exceptional husband, three lovely children, a dear little home and
    we are all well.It is true that I am in rather a rut but what else can we do? George comes
    home whenever he can and what excitement there is when he does come. He cannot
    give me any warning because he has to take advantage of chance lifts from the Diggings
    to Mbeya, but now that he is prospecting nearer home he usually comes walking over
    the hills. About 50 miles of rough going. Really and truly I am all right. Although our diet is
    monotonous we have plenty to eat. Eggs and milk are cheap and fruit plentiful and I
    have a good cook so can devote all my time to the children. I think it is because they are
    my constant companions that Ann and Georgie are so grown up for their years.
    I have no ayah at present because Janey has been suffering form rheumatism
    and has gone home for one of her periodic rests. I manage very well without her except
    in the matter of the afternoon walks. The outward journey is all right. George had all the
    grass cut on his last visit so I am able to push the pram whilst Ann, George and Fanny
    the dog run ahead. It is the uphill return trip that is so trying. Our walk back is always the
    same, down the hill to the river where the children love to play and then along the car
    road to the vegetable garden. I never did venture further since the day I saw a leopard
    jump on a calf. I did not tell you at the time as I thought you might worry. The cattle were
    grazing on a small knoll just off our land but near enough for me to have a clear view.
    Suddenly the cattle scattered in all directions and we heard the shouts of the herd boys
    and saw – or rather had the fleeting impression- of a large animal jumping on a calf. I
    heard the herd boy shout “Chui, Chui!” (leopard) and believe me, we turned in our
    tracks and made for home. To hasten things I picked up two sticks and told the children
    that they were horses and they should ride them home which they did with
    commendable speed.

    Ann no longer rides Joseph. He became increasingly bad tempered and a
    nuisance besides. He took to rolling all over my flower beds though I had never seen
    him roll anywhere else. Then one day he kicked Ann in the chest, not very hard but
    enough to send her flying. Now George has given him to the native who sells milk to us
    and he seems quite happy grazing with the cattle.

    With love to you all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 2nd October 1936

    Dearest Family,

    Since I last wrote George has been home and we had a lovely time as usual.
    Whilst he was here the District Commissioner and his wife called. Mr Pollock told
    George that there is to be a big bush clearing scheme in some part of the Mbeya
    District to drive out Tsetse Fly. The game in the area will have to be exterminated and
    there will probably be a job for George shooting out the buffalo. The pay would be
    good but George says it is a beastly job. Although he is a professional hunter, he hates
    slaughter.

    Mrs P’s real reason for visiting the farm was to invite me to stay at her home in
    Mbeya whilst she and her husband are away in Tukuyu. Her English nanny and her small
    daughter will remain in Mbeya and she thought it might be a pleasant change for us and
    a rest for me as of course Nanny will do the housekeeping. I accepted the invitation and I
    think I will go on from there to Tukuyu and visit my friend Lillian Eustace for a fortnight.
    She has given us an open invitation to visit her at any time.

    I had a letter from Dr Eckhardt last week, telling me that at a meeting of all the
    German Settlers from Mbeya, Tukuyu and Mbosi it had been decided to raise funds to
    build a school at Mbeya. They want the British Settlers to co-operate in this and would
    be glad of a subscription from us. I replied to say that I was unable to afford a
    subscription at present but would probably be applying for a teaching job.
    The Eckhardts are the leaders of the German community here and are ardent
    Nazis. For this reason they are unpopular with the British community but he is the only
    doctor here and I must say they have been very decent to us. Both of them admire
    George. George has still not had any luck on the Lupa and until he makes a really
    promising strike it is unlikely that the children and I will join him. There is no fresh milk there
    and vegetables and fruit are imported from Mbeya and Iringa and are very expensive.
    George says “You wouldn’t be happy on the diggings anyway with a lot of whores and
    their bastards!”

    Time ticks away very pleasantly here. Young George and Kate are blooming
    and I keep well. Only Ann does not look well. She is growing too fast and is listless and
    pale. If I do go to Mbeya next week I shall take her to the doctor to be overhauled.
    We do not go for our afternoon walks now that George has returned to the Lupa.
    That leopard has been around again and has killed Tubbage that cowardly Alsatian. We
    gave him to the village headman some months ago. There is no danger to us from the
    leopard but I am terrified it might get Fanny, who is an excellent little watchdog and
    dearly loved by all of us. Yesterday I sent a note to the Boma asking for a trap gun and
    today the farm boys are building a trap with logs.

    I had a mishap this morning in the garden. I blundered into a nest of hornets and
    got two stings in the left arm above the elbow. Very painful at the time and the place is
    still red and swollen.

    Much love to you all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 10th October 1936

    Dearest Family,

    Well here we are at Mbeya, comfortably installed in the District Commissioner’s
    house. It is one of two oldest houses in Mbeya and is a charming gabled place with tiled
    roof. The garden is perfectly beautiful. I am enjoying the change very much. Nanny
    Baxter is very entertaining. She has a vast fund of highly entertaining tales of the goings
    on amongst the British Aristocracy, gleaned it seems over the nursery teacup in many a
    Stately Home. Ann and Georgie are enjoying the company of other children.
    People are very kind about inviting us out to tea and I gladly accept these
    invitations but I have turned down invitations to dinner and one to a dance at the hotel. It
    is no fun to go out at night without George. There are several grass widows at the pub
    whose husbands are at the diggings. They have no inhibitions about parties.
    I did have one night and day here with George, he got the chance of a lift and
    knowing that we were staying here he thought the chance too good to miss. He was
    also anxious to hear the Doctor’s verdict on Ann. I took Ann to hospital on my second
    day here. Dr Eckhardt said there was nothing specifically wrong but that Ann is a highly
    sensitive type with whom the tropics does not agree. He advised that Ann should
    spend a year in a more temperate climate and that the sooner she goes the better. I felt
    very discouraged to hear this and was most relieved when George turned up
    unexpectedly that evening. He phoo-hood Dr Eckhardt’s recommendation and next
    morning called in Dr Aitkin, the Government Doctor from Chunya and who happened to
    be in Mbeya.

    Unfortunately Dr Aitkin not only confirmed Dr Eckhardt’s opinion but said that he
    thought Ann should stay out of the tropics until she had passed adolescence. I just don’t
    know what to do about Ann. She is a darling child, very sensitive and gentle and a
    lovely companion to me. Also she and young George are inseparable and I just cannot
    picture one without the other. I know that you would be glad to have Ann but how could
    we bear to part with her?

    Your worried but affectionate,
    Eleanor.

    Tukuyu. 23rd October 1936

    Dearest Family,

    As you see we have moved to Tukuyu and we are having a lovely time with
    Lillian Eustace. She gave us such a warm welcome and has put herself out to give us
    every comfort. She is a most capable housekeeper and I find her such a comfortable
    companion because we have the same outlook in life. Both of us are strictly one man
    women and that is rare here. She has a two year old son, Billy, who is enchanted with
    our rolly polly Kate and there are other children on the station with whom Ann and
    Georgie can play. Lillian engaged a temporary ayah for me so I am having a good rest.
    All the children look well and Ann in particular seems to have benefited by the
    change to a cooler climate. She has a good colour and looks so well that people all
    exclaim when I tell them, that two doctors have advised us to send Ann out of the
    country. Perhaps after all, this holiday in Tukuyu will set her up.

    We had a trying journey from Mbeya to Tukuyu in the Post Lorry. The three
    children and I were squeezed together on the front seat between the African driver on
    one side and a vast German on the other. Both men smoked incessantly – the driver
    cigarettes, and the German cheroots. The cab was clouded with a blue haze. Not only
    that! I suddenly felt a smarting sensation on my right thigh. The driver’s cigarette had
    burnt a hole right through that new checked linen frock you sent me last month.
    I had Kate on my lap all the way but Ann and Georgie had to stand against the
    windscreen all the way. The fat German offered to take Ann on his lap but she gave him
    a very cold “No thank you.” Nor did I blame her. I would have greatly enjoyed the drive
    under less crowded conditions. The scenery is gorgeous. One drives through very high
    country crossing lovely clear streams and at one point through rain forest. As it was I
    counted the miles and how thankful I was to see the end of the journey.
    In the days when Tanganyika belonged to the Germans, Tukuyu was the
    administrative centre for the whole of the Southern Highlands Province. The old German
    Fort is still in use as Government offices and there are many fine trees which were
    planted by the Germans. There is a large prosperous native population in this area.
    They go in chiefly for coffee and for bananas which form the basis of their diet.
    There are five British married couples here and Lillian and I go out to tea most
    mornings. In the afternoon there is tennis or golf. The gardens here are beautiful because
    there is rain or at least drizzle all the year round. There are even hedge roses bordering
    some of the district roads. When one walks across the emerald green golf course or
    through the Boma gardens, it is hard to realise that this gentle place is Tropical Africa.
    ‘Such a green and pleasant land’, but I think I prefer our corner of Tanganyika.

    Much love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe. 12th November 1936

    Dearest Family,

    We had a lovely holiday but it is so nice to be home again, especially as Laza,
    the local Nimrod, shot that leopard whilst we were away (with his muzzleloader gun). He
    was justly proud of himself, and I gave him a tip so that he could buy some native beer
    for a celebration. I have never seen one of theses parties but can hear the drums and
    sounds of merrymaking, especially on moonlight nights.

    Our house looks so fresh and uncluttered. Whilst I was away, the boys
    whitewashed the house and my houseboy had washed all the curtains, bedspreads,
    and loose covers and watered the garden. If only George were here it would be
    heaven.

    Ann looked so bonny at Tukuyu that I took her to the Government Doctor there
    hoping that he would find her perfectly healthy, but alas he endorsed the finding of the
    other two doctors so, when an opportunity offers, I think I shall have to send Ann down
    to you for a long holiday from the Tropics. Mother-in-law has offered to fetch her next
    year but England seems so far away. With you she will at least be on the same
    continent.

    I left the children for the first time ever, except for my stay in hospital when Kate
    was born, to go on an outing to Lake Masoko in the Tukuyu district, with four friends.
    Masoko is a beautiful, almost circular crater lake and very very deep. A detachment of
    the King’s African Rifles are stationed there and occupy the old German barracks
    overlooking the lake.

    We drove to Masoko by car and spent the afternoon there as guests of two
    British Army Officers. We had a good tea and the others went bathing in the lake but i
    could not as I did not have a costume. The Lake was as beautiful as I had been lead to
    imagine and our hosts were pleasant but I began to grow anxious as the afternoon
    advanced and my friends showed no signs of leaving. I was in agonies when they
    accepted an invitation to stay for a sundowner. We had this in the old German beer
    garden overlooking the Lake. It was beautiful but what did I care. I had promised the
    children that I would be home to give them their supper and put them to bed. When I
    did at length return to Lillian’s house I found the situation as I had expected. Ann, with her
    imagination had come to the conclusion that I never would return. She had sobbed
    herself into a state of exhaustion. Kate was screaming in sympathy and George 2 was
    very truculent. He wouldn’t even speak to me. Poor Lillian had had a trying time.
    We did not return to Mbeya by the Mail Lorry. Bill and Lillian drove us across to
    Mbeya in their new Ford V8 car. The children chattered happily in the back of the car
    eating chocolate and bananas all the way. I might have known what would happen! Ann
    was dreadfully and messily car sick.

    I engaged the Mbeya Hotel taxi to drive us out to the farm the same afternoon
    and I expect it will be a long time before we leave the farm again.

    Lots and lots of love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Chunya 27th November 1936

    Dearest Family,

    You will be surprised to hear that we are all together now on the Lupa goldfields.
    I have still not recovered from my own astonishment at being here. Until last Saturday
    night I never dreamed of this move. At about ten o’clock I was crouched in the inglenook
    blowing on the embers to make a fire so that I could heat some milk for Kate who is
    cutting teeth and was very restless. Suddenly I heard a car outside. I knew it must be
    George and rushed outside storm lamp in hand. Sure enough, there was George
    standing by a strange car, and beaming all over his face. “Something for you my love,”
    he said placing a little bundle in my hand. It was a knotted handkerchief and inside was a
    fine gold nugget.

    George had that fire going in no time, Kate was given the milk and half an aspirin
    and settles down to sleep, whilst George and I sat around for an hour chatting over our
    tea. He told me that he had borrowed the car from John Molteno and had come to fetch
    me and the children to join him on the diggings for a while. It seems that John, who has a
    camp at Itewe, a couple of miles outside the township of Chunya, the new
    Administrative Centre of the diggings, was off to the Cape to visit his family for a few
    months. John had asked George to run his claims in his absence and had given us the
    loan of his camp and his car.

    George had found the nugget on his own claim but he is not too elated because
    he says that one good month on the diggings is often followed by several months of
    dead loss. However, I feel hopeful, we have had such a run of bad luck that surely it is
    time for the tide to change. George spent Sunday going over the farm with Thomas, the
    headman, and giving him instructions about future work whilst I packed clothes and
    kitchen equipment. I have brought our ex-kitchenboy Kesho Kutwa with me as cook and
    also Janey, who heard that we were off to the Lupa and came to offer her services once
    more as ayah. Janey’s ex-husband Abel is now cook to one of the more successful
    diggers and I think she is hoping to team up with him again.

    The trip over the Mbeya-Chunya pass was new to me and I enjoyed it very
    much indeed. The road winds over the mountains along a very high escarpment and
    one looks down on the vast Usangu flats stretching far away to the horizon. At the
    highest point the road rises to about 7000 feet, and this was too much for Ann who was
    leaning against the back of my seat. She was very thoroughly sick, all over my hair.
    This camp of John Molteno’s is very comfortable. It consists of two wattle and
    daub buildings built end to end in a clearing in the miombo bush. The main building
    consists of a large living room, a store and an office, and the other of one large bedroom
    and a small one separated by an area for bathing. Both buildings are thatched. There are
    no doors, and there are no windows, but these are not necessary because one wall of
    each building is built up only a couple of feet leaving a six foot space for light and air. As
    this is the dry season the weather is pleasant. The air is fresh and dry but not nearly so
    hot as I expected.

    Water is a problem and must be carried long distances in kerosene tins.
    vegetables and fresh butter are brought in a van from Iringa and Mbeya Districts about
    once a fortnight. I have not yet visited Chunya but I believe it is as good a shopping
    centre as Mbeya so we will be able to buy all the non perishable food stuffs we need.
    What I do miss is the fresh milk. The children are accustomed to drinking at least a pint of
    milk each per day but they do not care for the tinned variety.

    Ann and young George love being here. The camp is surrounded by old
    prospecting trenches and they spend hours each day searching for gold in the heaps of gravel. Sometimes they find quartz pitted with little spots of glitter and they bring them
    to me in great excitement. Alas it is only Mica. We have two neighbours. The one is a
    bearded Frenchman and the other an Australian. I have not yet met any women.
    George looks very sunburnt and extremely fit and the children also look well.
    George and I have decided that we will keep Ann with us until my Mother-in-law comes
    out next year. George says that in spite of what the doctors have said, he thinks that the
    shock to Ann of being separated from her family will do her more harm than good. She
    and young George are inseparable and George thinks it would be best if both
    George and Ann return to England with my Mother-in-law for a couple of years. I try not
    to think at all about the breaking up of the family.

    Much love to all,
    Eleanor.

     

    #6260
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    From Tanganyika with Love

    With thanks to Mike Rushby.

    • “The letters of Eleanor Dunbar Leslie to her parents and her sister in South Africa
      concerning her life with George Gilman Rushby of Tanganyika, and the trials and
      joys of bringing up a family in pioneering conditions.

    These letters were transcribed from copies of letters typed by Eleanor Rushby from
    the originals which were in the estate of Marjorie Leslie, Eleanor’s sister. Eleanor
    kept no diary of her life in Tanganyika, so these letters were the living record of an
    important part of her life.

    Prelude
    Having walked across Africa from the East coast to Ubangi Shauri Chad
    in French Equatorial Africa, hunting elephant all the way, George Rushby
    made his way down the Congo to Leopoldville. He then caught a ship to
    Europe and had a holiday in Brussels and Paris before visiting his family
    in England. He developed blackwater fever and was extremely ill for a
    while. When he recovered he went to London to arrange his return to
    Africa.

    Whilst staying at the Overseas Club he met Eileen Graham who had come
    to England from Cape Town to study music. On hearing that George was
    sailing for Cape Town she arranged to introduce him to her friend
    Eleanor Dunbar Leslie. “You’ll need someone lively to show you around,”
    she said. “She’s as smart as paint, a keen mountaineer, a very good school
    teacher, and she’s attractive. You can’t miss her, because her father is a
    well known Cape Town Magistrate. And,” she added “I’ve already written
    and told her what ship you are arriving on.”

    Eleanor duly met the ship. She and George immediately fell in love.
    Within thirty six hours he had proposed marriage and was accepted
    despite the misgivings of her parents. As she was under contract to her
    High School, she remained in South Africa for several months whilst
    George headed for Tanganyika looking for a farm where he could build
    their home.

    These details are a summary of chapter thirteen of the Biography of
    George Gilman Rushby ‘The Hunter is Death “ by T.V.Bulpin.

     

    Dearest Marj,
    Terrifically exciting news! I’ve just become engaged to an Englishman whom I
    met last Monday. The result is a family upheaval which you will have no difficulty in
    imagining!!

    The Aunts think it all highly romantic and cry in delight “Now isn’t that just like our
    El!” Mummy says she doesn’t know what to think, that anyway I was always a harum
    scarum and she rather expected something like this to happen. However I know that
    she thinks George highly attractive. “Such a nice smile and gentle manner, and such
    good hands“ she murmurs appreciatively. “But WHY AN ELEPHANT HUNTER?” she
    ends in a wail, as though elephant hunting was an unmentionable profession.
    Anyway I don’t think so. Anyone can marry a bank clerk or a lawyer or even a
    millionaire – but whoever heard of anyone marrying anyone as exciting as an elephant
    hunter? I’m thrilled to bits.

    Daddy also takes a dim view of George’s profession, and of George himself as
    a husband for me. He says that I am so impulsive and have such wild enthusiasms that I
    need someone conservative and steady to give me some serenity and some ballast.
    Dad says George is a handsome fellow and a good enough chap he is sure, but
    he is obviously a man of the world and hints darkly at a possible PAST. George says
    he has nothing of the kind and anyway I’m the first girl he has asked to marry him. I don’t
    care anyway, I’d gladly marry him tomorrow, but Dad has other ideas.

    He sat in his armchair to deliver his verdict, wearing the same look he must wear
    on the bench. If we marry, and he doesn’t think it would be a good thing, George must
    buy a comfortable house for me in Central Africa where I can stay safely when he goes
    hunting. I interrupted to say “But I’m going too”, but dad snubbed me saying that in no
    time at all I’ll have a family and one can’t go dragging babies around in the African Bush.”
    George takes his lectures with surprising calm. He says he can see Dad’s point of
    view much better than I can. He told the parents today that he plans to buy a small
    coffee farm in the Southern Highlands of Tanganyika and will build a cosy cottage which
    will be a proper home for both of us, and that he will only hunt occasionally to keep the
    pot boiling.

    Mummy, of course, just had to spill the beans. She said to George, “I suppose
    you know that Eleanor knows very little about house keeping and can’t cook at all.” a fact
    that I was keeping a dark secret. But George just said, “Oh she won’t have to work. The
    boys do all that sort of thing. She can lie on a couch all day and read if she likes.” Well
    you always did say that I was a “Lily of the field,” and what a good thing! If I were one of
    those terribly capable women I’d probably die of frustration because it seems that
    African house boys feel that they have lost face if their Memsahibs do anything but the
    most gracious chores.

    George is absolutely marvellous. He is strong and gentle and awfully good
    looking too. He is about 5 ft 10 ins tall and very broad. He wears his curly brown hair cut
    very short and has a close clipped moustache. He has strongly marked eyebrows and
    very striking blue eyes which sometimes turn grey or green. His teeth are strong and
    even and he has a quiet voice.

    I expect all this sounds too good to be true, but come home quickly and see for
    yourself. George is off to East Africa in three weeks time to buy our farm. I shall follow as
    soon as he has bought it and we will be married in Dar es Salaam.

    Dad has taken George for a walk “to get to know him” and that’s why I have time
    to write such a long screed. They should be back any minute now and I must fly and
    apply a bit of glamour.

    Much love my dear,
    your jubilant
    Eleanor

    S.S.Timavo. Durban. 28th.October. 1930.

    Dearest Family,
    Thank you for the lovely send off. I do wish you were all on board with me and
    could come and dance with me at my wedding. We are having a very comfortable
    voyage. There were only four of the passengers as far as Durban, all of them women,
    but I believe we are taking on more here. I have a most comfortable deck cabin to
    myself and the use of a sumptuous bathroom. No one is interested in deck games and I
    am having a lazy time, just sunbathing and reading.

    I sit at the Captain’s table and the meals are delicious – beautifully served. The
    butter for instance, is moulded into sprays of roses, most exquisitely done, and as for
    the ice-cream, I’ve never tasted anything like them.

    The meals are continental type and we have hors d’oeuvre in a great variety
    served on large round trays. The Italians souse theirs with oil, Ugh! We also of course
    get lots of spaghetti which I have some difficulty in eating. However this presents no
    problem to the Chief Engineer who sits opposite to me. He simply rolls it around his
    fork and somehow the spaghetti flows effortlessly from fork to mouth exactly like an
    ascending escalator. Wine is served at lunch and dinner – very mild and pleasant stuff.
    Of the women passengers the one i liked best was a young German widow
    from South west Africa who left the ship at East London to marry a man she had never
    met. She told me he owned a drapers shop and she was very happy at the prospect
    of starting a new life, as her previous marriage had ended tragically with the death of her
    husband and only child in an accident.

    I was most interested to see the bridegroom and stood at the rail beside the gay
    young widow when we docked at East London. I picked him out, without any difficulty,
    from the small group on the quay. He was a tall thin man in a smart grey suit and with a
    grey hat perched primly on his head. You can always tell from hats can’t you? I wasn’t
    surprised to see, when this German raised his head, that he looked just like the Kaiser’s
    “Little Willie”. Long thin nose and cold grey eyes and no smile of welcome on his tight
    mouth for the cheery little body beside me. I quite expected him to jerk his thumb and
    stalk off, expecting her to trot at his heel.

    However she went off blithely enough. Next day before the ship sailed, she
    was back and I saw her talking to the Captain. She began to cry and soon after the
    Captain patted her on the shoulder and escorted her to the gangway. Later the Captain
    told me that the girl had come to ask him to allow her to work her passage back to
    Germany where she had some relations. She had married the man the day before but
    she disliked him because he had deceived her by pretending that he owned a shop
    whereas he was only a window dresser. Bad show for both.

    The Captain and the Chief Engineer are the only officers who mix socially with
    the passengers. The captain seems rather a melancholy type with, I should say, no
    sense of humour. He speaks fair English with an American accent. He tells me that he
    was on the San Francisco run during Prohibition years in America and saw many Film
    Stars chiefly “under the influence” as they used to flock on board to drink. The Chief
    Engineer is big and fat and cheerful. His English is anything but fluent but he makes up
    for it in mime.

    I visited the relations and friends at Port Elizabeth and East London, and here at
    Durban. I stayed with the Trotters and Swans and enjoyed myself very much at both
    places. I have collected numerous wedding presents, china and cutlery, coffee
    percolator and ornaments, and where I shall pack all these things I don’t know. Everyone has been terribly kind and I feel extremely well and happy.

    At the start of the voyage I had a bit of bad luck. You will remember that a
    perfectly foul South Easter was blowing. Some men were busy working on a deck
    engine and I stopped to watch and a tiny fragment of steel blew into my eye. There is
    no doctor on board so the stewardess put some oil into the eye and bandaged it up.
    The eye grew more and more painful and inflamed and when when we reached Port
    Elizabeth the Captain asked the Port Doctor to look at it. The Doctor said it was a job for
    an eye specialist and telephoned from the ship to make an appointment. Luckily for me,
    Vincent Tofts turned up at the ship just then and took me off to the specialist and waited
    whilst he extracted the fragment with a giant magnet. The specialist said that I was very
    lucky as the thing just missed the pupil of my eye so my sight will not be affected. I was
    temporarily blinded by the Belladona the eye-man put in my eye so he fitted me with a
    pair of black goggles and Vincent escorted me back to the ship. Don’t worry the eye is
    now as good as ever and George will not have to take a one-eyed bride for better or
    worse.

    I have one worry and that is that the ship is going to be very much overdue by
    the time we reach Dar es Salaam. She is taking on a big wool cargo and we were held
    up for three days in East london and have been here in Durban for five days.
    Today is the ninth Anniversary of the Fascist Movement and the ship was
    dressed with bunting and flags. I must now go and dress for the gala dinner.

    Bless you all,
    Eleanor.

    S.S.Timavo. 6th. November 1930

    Dearest Family,

    Nearly there now. We called in at Lourenco Marques, Beira, Mozambique and
    Port Amelia. I was the only one of the original passengers left after Durban but there we
    took on a Mrs Croxford and her mother and two men passengers. Mrs C must have
    something, certainly not looks. She has a flat figure, heavily mascared eyes and crooked
    mouth thickly coated with lipstick. But her rather sweet old mother-black-pearls-type tells
    me they are worn out travelling around the world trying to shake off an admirer who
    pursues Mrs C everywhere.

    The one male passenger is very quiet and pleasant. The old lady tells me that he
    has recently lost his wife. The other passenger is a horribly bumptious type.
    I had my hair beautifully shingled at Lourenco Marques, but what an experience it
    was. Before we docked I asked the Captain whether he knew of a hairdresser, but he
    said he did not and would have to ask the agent when he came aboard. The agent was
    a very suave Asian. He said “Sure he did” and offered to take me in his car. I rather
    doubtfully agreed — such a swarthy gentleman — and was driven, not to a hairdressing
    establishment, but to his office. Then he spoke to someone on the telephone and in no
    time at all a most dago-y type arrived carrying a little black bag. He was all patent
    leather, hair, and flashing smile, and greeted me like an old and valued friend.
    Before I had collected my scattered wits tthe Agent had flung open a door and
    ushered me through, and I found myself seated before an ornate mirror in what was only
    too obviously a bedroom. It was a bedroom with a difference though. The unmade bed
    had no legs but hung from the ceiling on brass chains.

    The agent beamingly shut the door behind him and I was left with my imagination
    and the afore mentioned oily hairdresser. He however was very business like. Before I
    could say knife he had shingled my hair with a cut throat razor and then, before I could
    protest, had smothered my neck in stinking pink powder applied with an enormous and
    filthy swansdown powder puff. He held up a mirror for me to admire his handiwork but I
    was aware only of the enormous bed reflected in it, and hurriedly murmuring “very nice,
    very nice” I made my escape to the outer office where, to my relief, I found the Chief
    Engineer who escorted me back to the ship.

    In the afternoon Mrs Coxford and the old lady and I hired a taxi and went to the
    Polana Hotel for tea. Very swish but I like our Cape Peninsula beaches better.
    At Lorenco Marques we took on more passengers. The Governor of
    Portuguese Nyasaland and his wife and baby son. He was a large middle aged man,
    very friendly and unassuming and spoke perfect English. His wife was German and
    exquisite, as fragile looking and with the delicate colouring of a Dresden figurine. She
    looked about 18 but she told me she was 28 and showed me photographs of two
    other sons – hefty youngsters, whom she had left behind in Portugal and was missing
    very much.

    It was frightfully hot at Beira and as I had no money left I did not go up to the
    town, but Mrs Croxford and I spent a pleasant hour on the beach under the Casurina
    trees.

    The Governor and his wife left the ship at Mozambique. He looked very
    imposing in his starched uniform and she more Dresden Sheperdish than ever in a
    flowered frock. There was a guard of honour and all the trimmings. They bade me a warm farewell and invited George and me to stay at any time.

    The German ship “Watussi” was anchored in the Bay and I decided to visit her
    and try and have my hair washed and set. I had no sooner stepped on board when a
    lady came up to me and said “Surely you are Beeba Leslie.” It was Mrs Egan and she
    had Molly with her. Considering Mrs Egan had not seen me since I was five I think it was
    jolly clever of her to recognise me. Molly is charming and was most friendly. She fixed
    things with the hairdresser and sat with me until the job was done. Afterwards I had tea
    with them.

    Port Amelia was our last stop. In fact the only person to go ashore was Mr
    Taylor, the unpleasant man, and he returned at sunset very drunk indeed.
    We reached Port Amelia on the 3rd – my birthday. The boat had anchored by
    the time I was dressed and when I went on deck I saw several row boats cluttered
    around the gangway and in them were natives with cages of wild birds for sale. Such tiny
    crowded cages. I was furious, you know me. I bought three cages, carried them out on
    to the open deck and released the birds. I expected them to fly to the land but they flew
    straight up into the rigging.

    The quiet male passenger wandered up and asked me what I was doing. I said
    “I’m giving myself a birthday treat, I hate to see caged birds.” So next thing there he
    was buying birds which he presented to me with “Happy Birthday.” I gladly set those
    birds free too and they joined the others in the rigging.

    Then a grinning steward came up with three more cages. “For the lady with
    compliments of the Captain.” They lost no time in joining their friends.
    It had given me so much pleasure to free the birds that I was only a little
    discouraged when the quiet man said thoughtfully “This should encourage those bird
    catchers you know, they are sold out. When evening came and we were due to sail I
    was sure those birds would fly home, but no, they are still there and they will probably
    remain until we dock at Dar es Salaam.

    During the morning the Captain came up and asked me what my Christian name
    is. He looked as grave as ever and I couldn’t think why it should interest him but said “the
    name is Eleanor.” That night at dinner there was a large iced cake in the centre of the
    table with “HELENA” in a delicate wreath of pink icing roses on the top. We had
    champagne and everyone congratulated me and wished me good luck in my marriage.
    A very nice gesture don’t you think. The unpleasant character had not put in an
    appearance at dinner which made the party all the nicer

    I sat up rather late in the lounge reading a book and by the time I went to bed
    there was not a soul around. I bathed and changed into my nighty,walked into my cabin,
    shed my dressing gown, and pottered around. When I was ready for bed I put out my
    hand to draw the curtains back and a hand grasped my wrist. It was that wretched
    creature outside my window on the deck, still very drunk. Luckily I was wearing that
    heavy lilac silk nighty. I was livid. “Let go at once”, I said, but he only grinned stupidly.
    “I’m not hurting you” he said, “only looking”. “I’ll ring for the steward” said I, and by
    stretching I managed to press the bell with my free hand. I rang and rang but no one
    came and he just giggled. Then I said furiously, “Remember this name, George
    Rushby, he is a fine boxer and he hates specimens like you. When he meets me at Dar
    es Salaam I shall tell him about this and I bet you will be sorry.” However he still held on
    so I turned and knocked hard on the adjoining wall which divided my cabin from Mrs
    Croxfords. Soon Mrs Croxford and the old lady appeared in dressing gowns . This
    seemed to amuse the drunk even more though he let go my wrist. So whilst the old
    lady stayed with me, Mrs C fetched the quiet passenger who soon hustled him off. He has kept out of my way ever since. However I still mean to tell George because I feel
    the fellow got off far too lightly. I reported the matter to the Captain but he just remarked
    that he always knew the man was low class because he never wears a jacket to meals.
    This is my last night on board and we again had free champagne and I was given
    some tooled leather work by the Captain and a pair of good paste earrings by the old
    lady. I have invited them and Mrs Croxford, the Chief Engineer, and the quiet
    passenger to the wedding.

    This may be my last night as Eleanor Leslie and I have spent this long while
    writing to you just as a little token of my affection and gratitude for all the years of your
    love and care. I shall post this letter on the ship and must turn now and get some beauty
    sleep. We have been told that we shall be in Dar es Salaam by 9 am. I am so excited
    that I shall not sleep.

    Very much love, and just for fun I’ll sign my full name for the last time.
    with my “bes respeks”,

    Eleanor Leslie.

    Eleanor and George Rushby:

    Eleanor and George Rushby

    Splendid Hotel, Dar es Salaam 11th November 1930

    Dearest Family,

    I’m writing this in the bedroom whilst George is out buying a tin trunk in which to
    pack all our wedding presents. I expect he will be gone a long time because he has
    gone out with Hicky Wood and, though our wedding was four days ago, it’s still an
    excuse for a party. People are all very cheery and friendly here.
    I am wearing only pants and slip but am still hot. One swelters here in the
    mornings, but a fresh sea breeze blows in the late afternoons and then Dar es Salaam is
    heavenly.

    We arrived in Dar es Salaam harbour very early on Friday morning (7 th Nov).
    The previous night the Captain had said we might not reach Dar. until 9 am, and certainly
    no one would be allowed on board before 8 am. So I dawdled on the deck in my
    dressing gown and watched the green coastline and the islands slipping by. I stood on
    the deck outside my cabin and was not aware that I was looking out at the wrong side of
    the landlocked harbour. Quite unknown to me George and some friends, the Hickson
    Woods, were standing on the Gymkhana Beach on the opposite side of the channel
    anxiously scanning the ship for a sign of me. George says he had a horrible idea I had
    missed the ship. Blissfully unconscious of his anxiety I wandered into the bathroom
    prepared for a good soak. The anchor went down when I was in the bath and suddenly
    there was a sharp wrap on the door and I heard Mrs Croxford say “There’s a man in a
    boat outside. He is looking out for someone and I’m sure it’s your George. I flung on
    some clothes and rushed on deck with tousled hair and bare feet and it was George.
    We had a marvellous reunion. George was wearing shorts and bush shirt and
    looked just like the strong silent types one reads about in novels. I finished dressing then
    George helped me bundle all the wedding presents I had collected en route into my
    travelling rug and we went into the bar lounge to join the Hickson Woods. They are the
    couple from whom George bought the land which is to be our coffee farm Hicky-Wood
    was laughing when we joined them. he said he had called a chap to bring a couple of
    beers thinking he was the steward but it turned out to be the Captain. He does wear
    such a very plain uniform that I suppose it was easy to make the mistake, but Hicky
    says he was not amused.

    Anyway as the H-W’s are to be our neighbours I’d better describe them. Kath
    Wood is very attractive, dark Irish, with curly black hair and big brown eyes. She was
    married before to Viv Lumb a great friend of George’s who died some years ago of
    blackwater fever. They had one little girl, Maureen, and Kath and Hicky have a small son
    of three called Michael. Hicky is slightly below average height and very neat and dapper
    though well built. He is a great one for a party and good fun but George says he can be
    bad tempered.

    Anyway we all filed off the ship and Hicky and Cath went on to the hotel whilst
    George and I went through customs. Passing the customs was easy. Everyone
    seemed to know George and that it was his wedding day and I just sailed through,
    except for the little matter of the rug coming undone when George and I had to scramble
    on the floor for candlesticks and fruit knives and a wooden nut bowl.
    Outside the customs shed we were mobbed by a crowd of jabbering Africans
    offering their services as porters, and soon my luggage was piled in one rickshaw whilst
    George and I climbed into another and we were born smoothly away on rubber shod
    wheels to the Splendid Hotel. The motion was pleasing enough but it seemed weird to
    be pulled along by one human being whilst another pushed behind.  We turned up a street called Acacia Avenue which, as its name implies, is lined
    with flamboyant acacia trees now in the full glory of scarlet and gold. The rickshaw
    stopped before the Splendid Hotel and I was taken upstairs into a pleasant room which
    had its own private balcony overlooking the busy street.

    Here George broke the news that we were to be married in less than an hours
    time. He would have to dash off and change and then go straight to the church. I would
    be quite all right, Kath would be looking in and friends would fetch me.
    I started to dress and soon there was a tap at the door and Mrs Hickson-Wood
    came in with my bouquet. It was a lovely bunch of carnations and frangipani with lots of
    asparagus fern and it went well with my primrose yellow frock. She admired my frock
    and Leghorn hat and told me that her little girl Maureen was to be my flower girl. Then
    she too left for the church.

    I was fully dressed when there was another knock on the door and I opened it to
    be confronted by a Police Officer in a starched white uniform. I’m McCallum”, he said,
    “I’ve come to drive you to the church.” Downstairs he introduced me to a big man in a
    tussore silk suit. “This is Dr Shicore”, said McCallum, “He is going to give you away.”
    Honestly, I felt exactly like Alice in Wonderland. Wouldn’t have been at all surprised if
    the White Rabbit had popped up and said he was going to be my page.

    I walked out of the hotel and across the pavement in a dream and there, by the
    curb, was a big dark blue police car decorated with white ribbons and with a tall African
    Police Ascari holding the door open for me. I had hardly time to wonder what next when
    the car drew up before a tall German looking church. It was in fact the Lutheran Church in
    the days when Tanganyika was German East Africa.

    Mrs Hickson-Wood, very smart in mushroom coloured georgette and lace, and
    her small daughter were waiting in the porch, so in we went. I was glad to notice my
    friends from the boat sitting behind George’s friends who were all complete strangers to
    me. The aisle seemed very long but at last I reached George waiting in the chancel with
    Hicky-Wood, looking unfamiliar in a smart tussore suit. However this feeling of unreality
    passed when he turned his head and smiled at me.

    In the vestry after the ceremony I was kissed affectionately by several complete
    strangers and I felt happy and accepted by George’s friends. Outside the church,
    standing apart from the rest of the guests, the Italian Captain and Chief Engineer were
    waiting. They came up and kissed my hand, and murmured felicitations, but regretted
    they could not spare the time to come to the reception. Really it was just as well
    because they would not have fitted in at all well.

    Dr Shircore is the Director of Medical Services and he had very kindly lent his
    large house for the reception. It was quite a party. The guests were mainly men with a
    small sprinkling of wives. Champagne corks popped and there was an enormous cake
    and soon voices were raised in song. The chief one was ‘Happy Days Are Here Again’
    and I shall remember it for ever.

    The party was still in full swing when George and I left. The old lady from the ship
    enjoyed it hugely. She came in an all black outfit with a corsage of artificial Lily-of-the-
    Valley. Later I saw one of the men wearing the corsage in his buttonhole and the old
    lady was wearing a carnation.

    When George and I got back to the hotel,I found that my luggage had been
    moved to George’s room by his cook Lamek, who was squatting on his haunches and
    clapped his hands in greeting. My dears, you should see Lamek – exactly like a
    chimpanzee – receding forehead, wide flat nose, and long lip, and such splayed feet. It was quite a strain not to laugh, especially when he produced a gift for me. I have not yet
    discovered where he acquired it. It was a faded mauve straw toque of the kind worn by
    Queen Mary. I asked George to tell Lamek that I was touched by his generosity but felt
    that I could not accept his gift. He did not mind at all especially as George gave him a
    generous tip there and then.

    I changed into a cotton frock and shady straw hat and George changed into shorts
    and bush shirt once more. We then sneaked into the dining room for lunch avoiding our
    wedding guests who were carrying on the party in the lounge.

    After lunch we rejoined them and they all came down to the jetty to wave goodbye
    as we set out by motor launch for Honeymoon Island. I enjoyed the launch trip very
    much. The sea was calm and very blue and the palm fringed beaches of Dar es Salaam
    are as romantic as any bride could wish. There are small coral islands dotted around the
    Bay of which Honeymoon Island is the loveliest. I believe at one time it bore the less
    romantic name of Quarantine Island. Near the Island, in the shallows, the sea is brilliant
    green and I saw two pink jellyfish drifting by.

    There is no jetty on the island so the boat was stopped in shallow water and
    George carried me ashore. I was enchanted with the Island and in no hurry to go to the
    bungalow, so George and I took our bathing costumes from our suitcases and sent the
    luggage up to the house together with a box of provisions.

    We bathed and lazed on the beach and suddenly it was sunset and it began to
    get dark. We walked up the beach to the bungalow and began to unpack the stores,
    tea, sugar, condensed milk, bread and butter, sardines and a large tin of ham. There
    were also cups and saucers and plates and cutlery.

    We decided to have an early meal and George called out to the caretaker, “Boy
    letta chai”. Thereupon the ‘boy’ materialised and jabbered to George in Ki-Swaheli. It
    appeared he had no utensil in which to boil water. George, ever resourceful, removed
    the ham from the tin and gave him that. We had our tea all right but next day the ham
    was bad.

    Then came bed time. I took a hurricane lamp in one hand and my suitcase in the
    other and wandered into the bedroom whilst George vanished into the bathroom. To
    my astonishment I saw two perfectly bare iron bedsteads – no mattress or pillows. We
    had brought sheets and mosquito nets but, believe me, they are a poor substitute for a
    mattress.

    Anyway I arrayed myself in my pale yellow satin nightie and sat gingerly down
    on the iron edge of the bed to await my groom who eventually appeared in a
    handsome suit of silk pyjamas. His expression, as he took in the situation, was too much
    for me and I burst out laughing and so did he.

    Somewhere in the small hours I woke up. The breeze had dropped and the
    room was unbearably stuffy. I felt as dry as a bone. The lamp had been turned very
    low and had gone out, but I remembered seeing a water tank in the yard and I decided
    to go out in the dark and drink from the tap. In the dark I could not find my slippers so I
    slipped my feet into George’s shoes, picked up his matches and groped my way out
    of the room. I found the tank all right and with one hand on the tap and one cupped for
    water I stooped to drink. Just then I heard a scratchy noise and sensed movements
    around my feet. I struck a match and oh horrors! found that the damp spot on which I was
    standing was alive with white crabs. In my hurry to escape I took a clumsy step, put
    George’s big toe on the hem of my nightie and down I went on top of the crabs. I need
    hardly say that George was awakened by an appalling shriek and came rushing to my
    aid like a knight of old.  Anyway, alarms and excursions not withstanding, we had a wonderful weekend on the island and I was sorry to return to the heat of Dar es Salaam, though the evenings
    here are lovely and it is heavenly driving along the coast road by car or in a rickshaw.
    I was surprised to find so many Indians here. Most of the shops, large and small,
    seem to be owned by Indians and the place teems with them. The women wear
    colourful saris and their hair in long black plaits reaching to their waists. Many wear baggy
    trousers of silk or satin. They give a carnival air to the sea front towards sunset.
    This long letter has been written in instalments throughout the day. My first break
    was when I heard the sound of a band and rushed to the balcony in time to see The
    Kings African Rifles band and Askaris march down the Avenue on their way to an
    Armistice Memorial Service. They looked magnificent.

    I must end on a note of most primitive pride. George returned from his shopping
    expedition and beamingly informed me that he had thrashed the man who annoyed me
    on the ship. I felt extremely delighted and pressed for details. George told me that
    when he went out shopping he noticed to his surprise that the ‘Timavo” was still in the
    harbour. He went across to the Agents office and there saw a man who answered to the
    description I had given. George said to him “Is your name Taylor?”, and when he said
    “yes”, George said “Well my name is George Rushby”, whereupon he hit Taylor on the
    jaw so that he sailed over the counter and down the other side. Very satisfactory, I feel.
    With much love to all.

    Your cave woman
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. P.O. Mbeya 22 November 1930

    Dearest Family,

    Well here we are at our Country Seat, Mchewe Estate. (pronounced
    Mn,-che’-we) but I will start at the beginning of our journey and describe the farm later.
    We left the hotel at Dar es Salaam for the station in a taxi crowded with baggage
    and at the last moment Keith Wood ran out with the unwrapped bottom layer of our
    wedding cake. It remained in its naked state from there to here travelling for two days in
    the train on the luggage rack, four days in the car on my knee, reposing at night on the
    roof of the car exposed to the winds of Heaven, and now rests beside me in the tent
    looking like an old old tombstone. We have no tin large enough to hold it and one
    simply can’t throw away ones wedding cake so, as George does not eat cake, I can see
    myself eating wedding cake for tea for months to come, ants permitting.

    We travelled up by train from Dar to Dodoma, first through the lush vegetation of
    the coastal belt to Morogoro, then through sisal plantations now very overgrown with
    weeds owing to the slump in prices, and then on to the arid area around Dodoma. This
    part of the country is very dry at this time of the year and not unlike parts of our Karoo.
    The train journey was comfortable enough but slow as the engines here are fed with
    wood and not coal as in South Africa.

    Dodoma is the nearest point on the railway to Mbeya so we left the train there to
    continue our journey by road. We arrived at the one and only hotel in the early hours and
    whilst someone went to rout out the night watchman the rest of us sat on the dismal
    verandah amongst a litter of broken glass. Some bright spark remarked on the obvious –
    that there had been a party the night before.

    When we were shown to a room I thought I rather preferred the verandah,
    because the beds had not yet been made up and there was a bucket of vomit beside
    the old fashioned washstand. However George soon got the boys to clean up the
    room and I fell asleep to be awakened by George with an invitation to come and see
    our car before breakfast.

    Yes, we have our own car. It is a Chev, with what is called a box body. That
    means that sides, roof and doors are made by a local Indian carpenter. There is just the
    one front seat with a kapok mattress on it. The tools are kept in a sort of cupboard fixed
    to the side so there is a big space for carrying “safari kit” behind the cab seat.
    Lamek, who had travelled up on the same train, appeared after breakfast, and
    helped George to pack all our luggage into the back of the car. Besides our suitcases
    there was a huge bedroll, kitchen utensils and a box of provisions, tins of petrol and
    water and all Lamek’s bits and pieces which included three chickens in a wicker cage and
    an enormous bunch of bananas about 3 ft long.

    When all theses things were packed there remained only a small space between
    goods and ceiling and into this Lamek squeezed. He lay on his back with his horny feet a
    mere inch or so from the back of my head. In this way we travelled 400 miles over
    bumpy earth roads and crude pole bridges, but whenever we stopped for a meal
    Lamek wriggled out and, like Aladdin’s genie, produced good meals in no time at all.
    In the afternoon we reached a large river called the Ruaha. Workmen were busy
    building a large bridge across it but it is not yet ready so we crossed by a ford below
    the bridge. George told me that the river was full of crocodiles but though I looked hard, I
    did not see any. This is also elephant country but I did not see any of those either, only
    piles of droppings on the road. I must tell you that the natives around these parts are called Wahehe and the river is Ruaha – enough to make a cat laugh. We saw some Wahehe out hunting with spears
    and bows and arrows. They live in long low houses with the tiniest shuttered windows
    and rounded roofs covered with earth.

    Near the river we also saw a few Masai herding cattle. They are rather terrifying to
    look at – tall, angular, and very aloof. They wear nothing but a blanket knotted on one
    shoulder, concealing nothing, and all carried one or two spears.
    The road climbs steeply on the far side of the Ruaha and one has the most
    tremendous views over the plains. We spent our first night up there in the high country.
    Everything was taken out of the car, the bed roll opened up and George and I slept
    comfortably in the back of the car whilst Lamek, rolled in a blanket, slept soundly by a
    small fire nearby. Next morning we reached our first township, Iringa, and put up at the
    Colonist Hotel. We had a comfortable room in the annex overlooking the golf course.
    our room had its own little dressing room which was also the bathroom because, when
    ordered to do so, the room boy carried in an oval galvanised bath and filled it with hot
    water which he carried in a four gallon petrol tin.

    When we crossed to the main building for lunch, George was immediately hailed
    by several men who wanted to meet the bride. I was paid some handsome
    compliments but was not sure whether they were sincere or the result of a nice alcoholic
    glow. Anyhow every one was very friendly.

    After lunch I went back to the bedroom leaving George chatting away. I waited and
    waited – no George. I got awfully tired of waiting and thought I’d give him a fright so I
    walked out onto the deserted golf course and hid behind some large boulders. Soon I
    saw George returning to the room and the boy followed with a tea tray. Ah, now the hue
    and cry will start, thought I, but no, no George appeared nor could I hear any despairing
    cry. When sunset came I trailed crossly back to our hotel room where George lay
    innocently asleep on his bed, hands folded on his chest like a crusader on his tomb. In a
    moment he opened his eyes, smiled sleepily and said kindly, “Did you have a nice walk
    my love?” So of course I couldn’t play the neglected wife as he obviously didn’t think
    me one and we had a very pleasant dinner and party in the hotel that evening.
    Next day we continued our journey but turned aside to visit the farm of a sprightly
    old man named St.Leger Seaton whom George had known for many years, so it was
    after dark before George decided that we had covered our quota of miles for the day.
    Whilst he and Lamek unpacked I wandered off to a stream to cool my hot feet which had
    baked all day on the floor boards of the car. In the rather dim moonlight I sat down on the
    grassy bank and gratefully dabbled my feet in the cold water. A few minutes later I
    started up with a shriek – I had the sensation of red hot pins being dug into all my most
    sensitive parts. I started clawing my clothes off and, by the time George came to the
    rescue with the lamp, I was practically in the nude. “Only Siafu ants,” said George calmly.
    Take off all your clothes and get right in the water.” So I had a bathe whilst George
    picked the ants off my clothes by the light of the lamp turned very low for modesty’s
    sake. Siafu ants are beastly things. They are black ants with outsized heads and
    pinchers. I shall be very, very careful where I sit in future.

    The next day was even hotter. There was no great variety in the scenery. Most
    of the country was covered by a tree called Miombo, which is very ordinary when the
    foliage is a mature deep green, but when in new leaf the trees look absolutely beautiful
    as the leaves,surprisingly, are soft pastel shades of red and yellow.

    Once again we turned aside from the main road to visit one of George’s friends.
    This man Major Hugh Jones MC, has a farm only a few miles from ours but just now he is supervising the making of an airstrip. Major Jones is quite a character. He is below
    average height and skinny with an almost bald head and one nearly blind eye into which
    he screws a monocle. He is a cultured person and will, I am sure, make an interesting
    neighbour. George and Major Jones’ friends call him ‘Joni’ but he is generally known in
    this country as ‘Ropesoles’ – as he is partial to that type of footwear.
    We passed through Mbeya township after dark so I have no idea what the place
    is like. The last 100 miles of our journey was very dusty and the last 15 miles extremely
    bumpy. The road is used so little that in some places we had to plow our way through
    long grass and I was delighted when at last George turned into a side road and said
    “This is our place.” We drove along the bank of the Mchewe River, then up a hill and
    stopped at a tent which was pitched beside the half built walls of our new home. We
    were expected so there was hot water for baths and after a supper of tinned food and
    good hot tea, I climbed thankfully into bed.

    Next morning I was awakened by the chattering of the African workmen and was
    soon out to inspect the new surroundings. Our farm was once part of Hickson Wood’s
    land and is separated from theirs by a river. Our houses cannot be more than a few
    hundred yards apart as the crow flies but as both are built on the slopes of a long range
    of high hills, and one can only cross the river at the foot of the slopes, it will be quite a
    safari to go visiting on foot . Most of our land is covered with shoulder high grass but it
    has been partly cleared of trees and scrub. Down by the river George has made a long
    coffee nursery and a large vegetable garden but both coffee and vegetable seedlings
    are too small to be of use.

    George has spared all the trees that will make good shade for the coffee later on.
    There are several huge wild fig trees as big as oaks but with smooth silvery-green trunks
    and branches and there are lots of acacia thorn trees with flat tops like Japanese sun
    shades. I’ve seen lovely birds in the fig trees, Louries with bright plumage and crested
    heads, and Blue Rollers, and in the grasslands there are widow birds with incredibly long
    black tail feathers.

    There are monkeys too and horrible but fascinating tree lizards with blue bodies
    and orange heads. There are so many, many things to tell you but they must wait for
    another time as James, the house boy, has been to say “Bafu tiari” and if I don’t go at
    once, the bath will be cold.

    I am very very happy and terribly interested in this new life so please don’t
    worry about me.

    Much love to you all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate 29th. November 1930

    Dearest Family,

    I’ve lots of time to write letters just now because George is busy supervising the
    building of the house from early morning to late afternoon – with a break for lunch of
    course.

    On our second day here our tent was moved from the house site to a small
    clearing further down the slope of our hill. Next to it the labourers built a ‘banda’ , which is
    a three sided grass hut with thatched roof – much cooler than the tent in this weather.
    There is also a little grass lav. so you see we have every convenience. I spend most of
    my day in the banda reading or writing letters. Occasionally I wander up to the house site
    and watch the building, but mostly I just sit.

    I did try exploring once. I wandered down a narrow path towards the river. I
    thought I might paddle and explore the river a little but I came round a bend and there,
    facing me, was a crocodile. At least for a moment I thought it was and my adrenaline
    glands got very busy indeed. But it was only an enormous monitor lizard, four or five
    feet long. It must have been as scared as I was because it turned and rushed off through
    the grass. I turned and walked hastily back to the camp and as I passed the house site I
    saw some boys killing a large puff adder. Now I do my walking in the evenings with
    George. Nothing alarming ever seems to happen when he is around.

    It is interesting to watch the boys making bricks for the house. They make a pile
    of mud which they trample with their feet until it is the right consistency. Then they fill
    wooden moulds with the clayey mud, and press it down well and turn out beautiful shiny,
    dark brown bricks which are laid out in rows and covered with grass to bake slowly in the
    sun.

    Most of the materials for the building are right here at hand. The walls will be sun
    dried bricks and there is a white clay which will make a good whitewash for the inside
    walls. The chimney and walls will be of burnt brick and tiles and George is now busy
    building a kiln for this purpose. Poles for the roof are being cut in the hills behind the
    house and every day women come along with large bundles of thatching grass on their
    heads. Our windows are modern steel casement ones and the doors have been made
    at a mission in the district. George does some of the bricklaying himself. The other
    bricklayer is an African from Northern Rhodesia called Pedro. It makes me perspire just
    to look at Pedro who wears an overcoat all day in the very hot sun.
    Lamek continues to please. He turns out excellent meals, chicken soup followed
    by roast chicken, vegetables from the Hickson-Woods garden and a steamed pudding
    or fruit to wind up the meal. I enjoy the chicken but George is fed up with it and longs for
    good red meat. The chickens are only about as large as a partridge but then they cost
    only sixpence each.

    I had my first visit to Mbeya two days ago. I put on my very best trousseau frock
    for the occasion- that yellow striped silk one – and wore my wedding hat. George didn’t
    comment, but I saw later that I was dreadfully overdressed.
    Mbeya at the moment is a very small settlement consisting of a bundle of small
    Indian shops – Dukas they call them, which stock European tinned foods and native soft
    goods which seem to be mainly of Japanese origin. There is a one storied Government
    office called the Boma and two attractive gabled houses of burnt brick which house the
    District Officer and his Assistant. Both these houses have lovely gardens but i saw them
    only from the outside as we did not call. After buying our stores George said “Lets go to the pub, I want you to meet Mrs Menzies.” Well the pub turned out to be just three or four grass rondavels on a bare
    plot. The proprietor, Ken Menzies, came out to welcome us. I took to him at once
    because he has the same bush sandy eyebrows as you have Dad. He told me that
    unfortunately his wife is away at the coast, and then he ushered me through the door
    saying “Here’s George with his bride.” then followed the Iringa welcome all over again,
    only more so, because the room was full of diggers from the Lupa Goldfields about fifty
    miles away.

    Champagne corks popped as I shook hands all around and George was
    clapped on the back. I could see he was a favourite with everyone and I tried not to be
    gauche and let him down. These men were all most kind and most appeared to be men
    of more than average education. However several were unshaven and looked as
    though they had slept in their clothes as I suppose they had. When they have a little luck
    on the diggings they come in here to Menzies pub and spend the lot. George says
    they bring their gold dust and small nuggets in tobacco tins or Kruschen salts jars and
    hand them over to Ken Menzies saying “Tell me when I’ve spent the lot.” Ken then
    weighs the gold and estimates its value and does exactly what the digger wants.
    However the Diggers get good value for their money because besides the drink
    they get companionship and good food and nursing if they need it. Mrs Menzies is a
    trained nurse and most kind and capable from what I was told. There is no doctor or
    hospital here so her experience as a nursing sister is invaluable.
    We had lunch at the Hotel and afterwards I poured tea as I was the only female
    present. Once the shyness had worn off I rather enjoyed myself.

    Now to end off I must tell you a funny story of how I found out that George likes
    his women to be feminine. You will remember those dashing black silk pyjamas Aunt
    Mary gave me, with flowered “happy coat” to match. Well last night I thought I’d give
    George a treat and when the boy called me for my bath I left George in the ‘banda’
    reading the London Times. After my bath I put on my Japanese pyjamas and coat,
    peered into the shaving mirror which hangs from the tent pole and brushed my hair until it
    shone. I must confess that with my fringe and shingled hair I thought I made quite a
    glamourous Japanese girl. I walked coyly across to the ‘banda’. Alas no compliment.
    George just glanced up from the Times and went on reading.
    He was away rather a long time when it came to his turn to bath. I glanced up
    when he came back and had a slight concussion. George, if you please, was arrayed in
    my very best pale yellow satin nightie. The one with the lace and ribbon sash and little
    bows on the shoulder. I knew exactly what he meant to convey. I was not to wear the
    trousers in the family. I seethed inwardly, but pretending not to notice, I said calmly “shall
    I call for food?” In this garb George sat down to dinner and it says a great deal for African
    phlegm that the boy did not drop the dishes.

    We conversed politely about this and that, and then, as usual, George went off
    to bed. I appeared to be engrossed in my book and did not stir. When I went to the
    tent some time later George lay fast asleep still in my nightie, though all I could see of it
    was the little ribbon bows looking farcically out of place on his broad shoulders.
    This morning neither of us mentioned the incident, George was up and dressed
    by the time I woke up but I have been smiling all day to think what a ridiculous picture
    we made at dinner. So farewell to pyjamas and hey for ribbons and bows.

    Your loving
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. Mbeya. 8th December 1930

    Dearest Family,

    A mere shadow of her former buxom self lifts a languid pen to write to you. I’m
    convalescing after my first and I hope my last attack of malaria. It was a beastly
    experience but all is now well and I am eating like a horse and will soon regain my
    bounce.

    I took ill on the evening of the day I wrote my last letter to you. It started with a
    splitting headache and fits of shivering. The symptoms were all too familiar to George
    who got me into bed and filled me up with quinine. He then piled on all the available
    blankets and packed me in hot water bottles. I thought I’d explode and said so and
    George said just to lie still and I’d soon break into a good sweat. However nothing of the
    kind happened and next day my temperature was 105 degrees. Instead of feeling
    miserable as I had done at the onset, I now felt very merry and most chatty. George
    now tells me I sang the most bawdy songs but I hardly think it likely. Do you?
    You cannot imagine how tenderly George nursed me, not only that day but
    throughout the whole eight days I was ill. As we do not employ any African house
    women, and there are no white women in the neighbourhood at present to whom we
    could appeal for help, George had to do everything for me. It was unbearably hot in the
    tent so George decided to move me across to the Hickson-Woods vacant house. They
    have not yet returned from the coast.

    George decided I was too weak to make the trip in the car so he sent a
    messenger over to the Woods’ house for their Machila. A Machila is a canopied canvas
    hammock slung from a bamboo pole and carried by four bearers. The Machila duly
    arrived and I attempted to walk to it, clinging to George’s arm, but collapsed in a faint so
    the trip was postponed to the next morning when I felt rather better. Being carried by
    Machila is quite pleasant but I was in no shape to enjoy anything and got thankfully into
    bed in the Hickson-Woods large, cool and rather dark bedroom. My condition did not
    improve and George decided to send a runner for the Government Doctor at Tukuyu
    about 60 miles away. Two days later Dr Theis arrived by car and gave me two
    injections of quinine which reduced the fever. However I still felt very weak and had to
    spend a further four days in bed.

    We have now decided to stay on here until the Hickson-Woods return by which
    time our own house should be ready. George goes off each morning and does not
    return until late afternoon. However don’t think “poor Eleanor” because I am very
    comfortable here and there are lots of books to read and the days seem to pass very
    quickly.

    The Hickson-Wood’s house was built by Major Jones and I believe the one on
    his shamba is just like it. It is a square red brick building with a wide verandah all around
    and, rather astonishingly, a conical thatched roof. There is a beautiful view from the front
    of the house and a nice flower garden. The coffee shamba is lower down on the hill.
    Mrs Wood’s first husband, George’s friend Vi Lumb, is buried in the flower
    garden. He died of blackwater fever about five years ago. I’m told that before her
    second marriage Kath lived here alone with her little daughter, Maureen, and ran the farm
    entirely on her own. She must be quite a person. I bet she didn’t go and get malaria
    within a few weeks of her marriage.

    The native tribe around here are called Wasafwa. They are pretty primitive but
    seem amiable people. Most of the men, when they start work, wear nothing but some
    kind of sheet of unbleached calico wrapped round their waists and hanging to mid calf. As soon as they have drawn their wages they go off to a duka and buy a pair of khaki
    shorts for five or six shillings. Their women folk wear very short beaded skirts. I think the
    base is goat skin but have never got close enough for a good look. They are very shy.
    I hear from George that they have started on the roof of our house but I have not
    seen it myself since the day I was carried here by Machila. My letters by the way go to
    the Post Office by runner. George’s farm labourers take it in turn to act in this capacity.
    The mail bag is given to them on Friday afternoon and by Saturday evening they are
    back with our very welcome mail.

    Very much love,
    Eleanor.

    Mbeya 23rd December 1930

    Dearest Family,

    George drove to Mbeya for stores last week and met Col. Sherwood-Kelly VC.
    who has been sent by the Government to Mbeya as Game Ranger. His job will be to
    protect native crops from raiding elephants and hippo etc., and to protect game from
    poachers. He has had no training for this so he has asked George to go with him on his
    first elephant safari to show him the ropes.

    George likes Col. Kelly and was quite willing to go on safari but not willing to
    leave me alone on the farm as I am still rather shaky after malaria. So it was arranged that
    I should go to Mbeya and stay with Mrs Harmer, the wife of the newly appointed Lands
    and Mines Officer, whose husband was away on safari.

    So here I am in Mbeya staying in the Harmers temporary wattle and daub
    house. Unfortunately I had a relapse of the malaria and stayed in bed for three days with
    a temperature. Poor Mrs Harmer had her hands full because in the room next to mine
    she was nursing a digger with blackwater fever. I could hear his delirious babble through
    the thin wall – very distressing. He died poor fellow , and leaves a wife and seven
    children.

    I feel better than I have done for weeks and this afternoon I walked down to the
    store. There are great signs of activity and people say that Mbeya will grow rapidly now
    owing to the boom on the gold fields and also to the fact that a large aerodrome is to be
    built here. Mbeya is to be a night stop on the proposed air service between England
    and South Africa. I seem to be the last of the pioneers. If all these schemes come about
    Mbeya will become quite suburban.

    26th December 1930

    George, Col. Kelly and Mr Harmer all returned to Mbeya on Christmas Eve and
    it was decided that we should stay and have midday Christmas dinner with the
    Harmers. Col. Kelly and the Assistant District Commissioner came too and it was quite a
    festive occasion, We left Mbeya in the early afternoon and had our evening meal here at
    Hickson-Wood’s farm. I wore my wedding dress.

    I went across to our house in the car this morning. George usually walks across to
    save petrol which is very expensive here. He takes a short cut and wades through the
    river. The distance by road is very much longer than the short cut. The men are now
    thatching the roof of our cottage and it looks charming. It consists of a very large living
    room-dinning room with a large inglenook fireplace at one end. The bedroom is a large
    square room with a smaller verandah room adjoining it. There is a wide verandah in the
    front, from which one has a glorious view over a wide valley to the Livingstone
    Mountains on the horizon. Bathroom and storeroom are on the back verandah and the
    kitchen is some distance behind the house to minimise the risk of fire.

    You can imagine how much I am looking forward to moving in. We have some
    furniture which was made by an Indian carpenter at Iringa, refrectory dining table and
    chairs, some small tables and two armchairs and two cupboards and a meatsafe. Other
    things like bookshelves and extra cupboards we will have to make ourselves. George
    has also bought a portable gramophone and records which will be a boon.
    We also have an Irish wolfhound puppy, a skinny little chap with enormous feet
    who keeps me company all day whilst George is across at our farm working on the
    house.

    Lots and lots of love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate 8th Jan 1931

    Dearest Family,

    Alas, I have lost my little companion. The Doctor called in here on Boxing night
    and ran over and killed Paddy, our pup. It was not his fault but I was very distressed
    about it and George has promised to try and get another pup from the same litter.
    The Hickson-Woods returned home on the 29th December so we decided to
    move across to our nearly finished house on the 1st January. Hicky Wood decided that
    we needed something special to mark the occasion so he went off and killed a sucking
    pig behind the kitchen. The piglet’s screams were terrible and I felt that I would not be
    able to touch any dinner. Lamek cooked and served sucking pig up in the traditional way
    but it was high and quite literally, it stank. Our first meal in our own home was not a
    success.

    However next day all was forgotten and I had something useful to do. George
    hung doors and I held the tools and I also planted rose cuttings I had brought from
    Mbeya and sowed several boxes with seeds.

    Dad asked me about the other farms in the area. I haven’t visited any but there
    are five besides ours. One belongs to the Lutheran Mission at Utengule, a few miles
    from here. The others all belong to British owners. Nearest to Mbeya, at the foot of a
    very high peak which gives Mbeya its name, are two farms, one belonging to a South
    African mining engineer named Griffiths, the other to I.G.Stewart who was an officer in the
    Kings African Rifles. Stewart has a young woman called Queenie living with him. We are
    some miles further along the range of hills and are some 23 miles from Mbeya by road.
    The Mchewe River divides our land from the Hickson-Woods and beyond their farm is
    Major Jones.

    All these people have been away from their farms for some time but have now
    returned so we will have some neighbours in future. However although the houses are
    not far apart as the crow flies, they are all built high in the foothills and it is impossible to
    connect the houses because of the rivers and gorges in between. One has to drive right
    down to the main road and then up again so I do not suppose we will go visiting very
    often as the roads are very bumpy and eroded and petrol is so expensive that we all
    save it for occasional trips to Mbeya.

    The rains are on and George has started to plant out some coffee seedlings. The
    rains here are strange. One can hear the rain coming as it moves like a curtain along the
    range of hills. It comes suddenly, pours for a little while and passes on and the sun
    shines again.

    I do like it here and I wish you could see or dear little home.

    Your loving,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 1st April 1931

    Dearest Family,

    Everything is now running very smoothly in our home. Lamek continues to
    produce palatable meals and makes wonderful bread which he bakes in a four gallon
    petrol tin as we have no stove yet. He puts wood coals on the brick floor of the kitchen,
    lays the tin lengh-wise on the coals and heaps more on top. The bread tins are then put
    in the petrol tin, which has one end cut away, and the open end is covered by a flat
    piece of tin held in place by a brick. Cakes are also backed in this make-shift oven and I
    have never known Lamek to have a failure yet.

    Lamek has a helper, known as the ‘mpishi boy’ , who does most of the hard
    work, cleans pots and pans and chops the firewood etc. Another of the mpishi boy’s
    chores is to kill the two chickens we eat each day. The chickens run wild during the day
    but are herded into a small chicken house at night. One of the kitchen boy’s first duties is
    to let the chickens out first thing in the early morning. Some time after breakfast it dawns
    on Lamek that he will need a chicken for lunch. he informs the kitchen boy who selects a
    chicken and starts to chase it in which he is enthusiastically joined by our new Irish
    wolfhound pup, Kelly. Together they race after the frantic fowl, over the flower beds and
    around the house until finally the chicken collapses from sheer exhaustion. The kitchen
    boy then hands it over to Lamek who murders it with the kitchen knife and then pops the
    corpse into boiling water so the feathers can be stripped off with ease.

    I pointed out in vain, that it would be far simpler if the doomed chickens were kept
    in the chicken house in the mornings when the others were let out and also that the correct
    way to pluck chickens is when they are dry. Lamek just smiled kindly and said that that
    may be so in Europe but that his way is the African way and none of his previous
    Memsahibs has complained.

    My houseboy, named James, is clean and capable in the house and also a
    good ‘dhobi’ or washboy. He takes the washing down to the river and probably
    pounds it with stones, but I prefer not to look. The ironing is done with a charcoal iron
    only we have no charcoal and he uses bits of wood from the kitchen fire but so far there
    has not been a mishap.

    It gets dark here soon after sunset and then George lights the oil lamps and we
    have tea and toast in front of the log fire which burns brightly in our inglenook. This is my
    favourite hour of the day. Later George goes for his bath. I have mine in the mornings
    and we have dinner at half past eight. Then we talk a bit and read a bit and sometimes
    play the gramophone. I expect it all sounds pretty unexciting but it doesn’t seem so to
    me.

    Very much love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate 20th April 1931

    Dearest Family,

    It is still raining here and the countryside looks very lush and green, very different
    from the Mbeya district I first knew, when plains and hills were covered in long brown
    grass – very course stuff that grows shoulder high.

    Most of the labourers are hill men and one can see little patches of cultivation in
    the hills. Others live in small villages near by, each consisting of a cluster of thatched huts
    and a few maize fields and perhaps a patch of bananas. We do not have labour lines on
    the farm because our men all live within easy walking distance. Each worker has a labour
    card with thirty little squares on it. One of these squares is crossed off for each days work
    and when all thirty are marked in this way the labourer draws his pay and hies himself off
    to the nearest small store and blows the lot. The card system is necessary because
    these Africans are by no means slaves to work. They work only when they feel like it or
    when someone in the family requires a new garment, or when they need a few shillings
    to pay their annual tax. Their fields, chickens and goats provide them with the food they
    need but they draw rations of maize meal beans and salt. Only our headman is on a
    salary. His name is Thomas and he looks exactly like the statues of Julius Caesar, the
    same bald head and muscular neck and sardonic expression. He comes from Northern
    Rhodesia and is more intelligent than the locals.

    We still live mainly on chickens. We have a boy whose job it is to scour the
    countryside for reasonable fat ones. His name is Lucas and he is quite a character. He
    has such long horse teeth that he does not seem able to close his mouth and wears a
    perpetual amiable smile. He brings his chickens in beehive shaped wicker baskets
    which are suspended on a pole which Lucas carries on his shoulder.

    We buy our groceries in bulk from Mbeya, our vegetables come from our
    garden by the river and our butter from Kath Wood. Our fresh milk we buy from the
    natives. It is brought each morning by three little totos each carrying one bottle on his
    shaven head. Did I tell you that the local Wasafwa file their teeth to points. These kids
    grin at one with their little sharks teeth – quite an “all-ready-to-eat-you-with-my-dear” look.
    A few nights ago a message arrived from Kath Wood to say that Queenie
    Stewart was very ill and would George drive her across to the Doctor at Tukuyu. I
    wanted George to wait until morning because it was pouring with rain, and the mountain
    road to Tukuyu is tricky even in dry weather, but he said it is dangerous to delay with any
    kind of fever in Africa and he would have to start at once. So off he drove in the rain and I
    did not see him again until the following night.

    George said that it had been a nightmare trip. Queenie had a high temperature
    and it was lucky that Kath was able to go to attend to her. George needed all his
    attention on the road which was officially closed to traffic, and very slippery, and in some
    places badly eroded. In some places the decking of bridges had been removed and
    George had to get out in the rain and replace it. As he had nothing with which to fasten
    the decking to the runners it was a dangerous undertaking to cross the bridges especially
    as the rivers are now in flood and flowing strongly. However they reached Tukuyu safely
    and it was just as well they went because the Doctor diagnosed Queenies illness as
    Spirillium Tick Fever which is a very nasty illness indeed.

    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 20th May 1931

    Dear Family,

    I’m feeling fit and very happy though a bit lonely sometimes because George
    spends much of his time away in the hills cutting a furrow miles long to bring water to the
    house and to the upper part of the shamba so that he will be able to irrigate the coffee
    during the dry season.

    It will be quite an engineering feat when it is done as George only has makeshift
    surveying instruments. He has mounted an ordinary cheap spirit level on an old camera
    tripod and has tacked two gramophone needles into the spirit level to give him a line.
    The other day part of a bank gave way and practically buried two of George’s labourers
    but they were quickly rescued and no harm was done. However he will not let them
    work unless he is there to supervise.

    I keep busy so that the days pass quickly enough. I am delighted with the
    material you sent me for curtains and loose covers and have hired a hand sewing
    machine from Pedro-of-the-overcoat and am rattling away all day. The machine is an
    ancient German one and when I say rattle, I mean rattle. It is a most cumbersome, heavy
    affair of I should say, the same vintage as George Stevenson’s Rocket locomotive.
    Anyway it sews and I am pleased with my efforts. We made a couch ourselves out of a
    native bed, a mattress and some planks but all this is hidden under the chintz cover and
    it looks quite the genuine bought article. I have some diversions too. Small black faced
    monkeys sit in the trees outside our bedroom window and they are most entertaining to
    watch. They are very mischievous though. When I went out into the garden this morning
    before breakfast I found that the monkeys had pulled up all my carnations. There they
    lay, roots in the air and whether they will take again I don’t know.

    I like the monkeys but hate the big mountain baboons that come and hang
    around our chicken house. I am terrified that they will tear our pup into bits because he is
    a plucky young thing and will rush out to bark at the baboons.

    George usually returns for the weekends but last time he did not because he had
    a touch of malaria. He sent a boy down for the mail and some fresh bread. Old Lucas
    arrived with chickens just as the messenger was setting off with mail and bread in a
    haversack on his back. I thought it might be a good idea to send a chicken to George so
    I selected a spry young rooster which I handed to the messenger. He, however,
    complained that he needed both hands for climbing. I then had one of my bright ideas
    and, putting a layer of newspaper over the bread, I tucked the rooster into the haversack
    and buckled down the flap so only his head protruded.

    I thought no more about it until two days later when the messenger again
    appeared for fresh bread. He brought a rather terse note from George saying that the
    previous bread was uneatable as the rooster had eaten some of it and messed on the
    rest. Ah me!

    The previous weekend the Hickson-Woods, Stewarts and ourselves, went
    across to Tukuyu to attend a dance at the club there. the dance was very pleasant. All
    the men wore dinner jackets and the ladies wore long frocks. As there were about
    twenty men and only seven ladies we women danced every dance whilst the surplus
    men got into a huddle around the bar. George and I spent the night with the Agricultural
    Officer, Mr Eustace, and I met his fiancee, Lillian Austin from South Africa, to whom I took
    a great liking. She is Governess to the children of Major Masters who has a farm in the
    Tukuyu district.

    On the Sunday morning we had a look at the township. The Boma was an old German one and was once fortified as the Africans in this district are a very warlike tribe.
    They are fine looking people. The men wear sort of togas and bands of cloth around
    their heads and look like Roman Senators, but the women go naked except for a belt
    from which two broad straps hang down, one in front and another behind. Not a graceful
    garb I assure you.

    We also spent a pleasant hour in the Botanical Gardens, laid out during the last
    war by the District Commissioner, Major Wells, with German prisoner of war labour.
    There are beautiful lawns and beds of roses and other flowers and shady palm lined
    walks and banana groves. The gardens are terraced with flights of brick steps connecting
    the different levels and there is a large artificial pond with little islands in it. I believe Major
    Wells designed the lake to resemble in miniature, the Lakes of Killarney.
    I enjoyed the trip very much. We got home at 8 pm to find the front door locked
    and the kitchen boy fast asleep on my newly covered couch! I hastily retreated to the
    bedroom whilst George handled the situation.

    Eleanor.

    #6253
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    My Grandparents Kitchen

    My grandmother used to have golden syrup in her larder, hanging on the white plastic coated storage rack that was screwed to the inside of the larder door. Mostly the larder door was left propped open with an old flat iron, so you could see the Heinz ketchup and home made picallilli (she made a particularly good picallili), the Worcester sauce and the jar of pickled onions, as you sat at the kitchen table.

    If you were sitting to the right of the kitchen table you could see an assortment of mismatched crockery, cups and bowls, shoe cleaning brushes, and at the back, tiny tins of baked beans and big ones of plum tomatoes,  and normal sized tins of vegetable and mushroom soup.  Underneath the little shelves that housed the tins was a blue plastic washing up bowl with a few onions, some in, some out of the yellow string bag they came home from the expensive little village supermarket in.

    There was much more to the left in the awkward triangular shape under the stairs, but you couldn’t see under there from your seat at the kitchen table.  You could see the shelf above the larder door which held an ugly china teapot of graceless modern lines, gazed with metallic silver which was wearing off in places. Beside the teapot sat a serving bowl, squat and shapely with little handles, like a flattened Greek urn, in white and reddish brown with flecks of faded gilt. A plain white teapot completed the trio, a large cylindrical one with neat vertical ridges and grooves.

    There were two fridges under the high shallow wooden wall cupboard.  A waist high bulbous old green one with a big handle that pulled out with a clunk, and a chest high sleek white one with a small freezer at the top with a door of its own.  On the top of the fridges were biscuit and cracker tins, big black keys, pencils and brittle yellow notepads, rubber bands and aspirin value packs and a bottle of Brufen.  There was a battered old maroon spectacle case and a whicker letter rack, letters crammed in and fanning over the top.  There was always a pile of glossy advertising pamphlets and flyers on top of the fridges, of the sort that were best put straight into the tiny pedal bin.

    My grandmother never lined the pedal bin with a used plastic bag, nor with a specially designed plastic bin liner. The bin was so small that the flip top lid was often gaping, resting on a mound of cauliflower greens and soup tins.  Behind the pedal bin, but on the outer aspect of the kitchen wall, was the big black dustbin with the rubbery lid. More often than not, the lid was thrust upwards. If Thursday when the dustbin men came was several days away, you’d wish you hadn’t put those newspapers in, or those old shoes!  You stood in the softly drizzling rain in your slippers, the rubbery sheild of a lid in your left hand and the overflowing pedal bin in the other.  The contents of the pedal bin are not going to fit into the dustbin.  You sigh, put the pedal bin and the dustbin lid down, and roll up your sleeves ~ carefully, because you’ve poked your fingers into a porridge covered teabag.  You grab the sides of the protruding black sack and heave. All being well,  the contents should settle and you should have several inches more of plastic bag above the rim of the dustbin.  Unless of course it’s a poor quality plastic bag in which case your fingernail will go through and a horizontal slash will appear just below rubbish level.  Eventually you upend the pedal bin and scrape the cigarette ash covered potato peelings into the dustbin with your fingers. By now the fibres of your Shetland wool jumper are heavy with damp, just like the fuzzy split ends that curl round your pale frowning brow.  You may push back your hair with your forearm causing the moisture to bead and trickle down your face, as you turn the brass doorknob with your palm and wrist, tea leaves and cigarette ash clinging unpleasantly to your fingers.

    The pedal bin needs rinsing in the kitchen sink, but the sink is full of mismatched saucepans, some new in shades of harvest gold, some battered and mishapen in stainless steel and aluminium, bits of mashed potato stuck to them like concrete pebbledash. There is a pale pink octagonally ovoid shallow serving dish and a little grey soup bowl with a handle like a miniature pottery saucepan decorated with kitcheny motifs.

    The water for the coffee bubbles in a suacepan on the cream enamelled gas cooker. My grandmother never used a kettle, although I do remember a heavy flame orange one. The little pan for boiling water had a lip for easy pouring and a black plastic handle.

    The steam has caused the condensation on the window over the sink to race in rivulets down to the fablon coated windowsill.  The yellow gingham curtains hang limply, the left one tucked behind the back of the cooker.

    You put the pedal bin back it it’s place below the tea towel holder, and rinse your mucky fingers under the tap. The gas water heater on the wall above you roars into life just as you turn the tap off, and disappointed, subsides.

    As you lean over to turn the cooker knob, the heat from the oven warms your arm. The gas oven was almost always on, the oven door open with clean tea towels and sometimes large white pants folded over it to air.

    The oven wasn’t the only heat in my grandparents kitchen. There was an electric bar fire near the red formica table which used to burn your legs. The kitchen table was extended by means of a flap at each side. When I was small I wasn’t allowed to snap the hinge underneath shut as my grandmother had pinched the skin of her palm once.

    The electric fire was plugged into the same socket as the radio. The radio took a minute or two to warm up when you switched it on, a bulky thing with sharp seventies edges and a reddish wood effect veneer and big knobs.  The light for my grandfathers workshop behind the garage (where he made dentures) was plugged into the same socket, which had a big heavy white three way adaptor in. The plug for the washing machine was hooked by means of a bit of string onto a nail or hook so that it didn’t fall down behing the washing machine when it wasn’t plugged in. Everything was unplugged when it wasn’t in use.  Sometimes there was a shrivelled Christmas cactus on top of the radio, but it couldn’t hide the adaptor and all those plugs.

    Above the washing machine was a rhomboid wooden wall cupboard with sliding frsoted glass doors.  It was painted creamy gold, the colour of a nicotine stained pub ceiling, and held packets of Paxo stuffing and little jars of Bovril and Marmite, packets of Bisto and a jar of improbably red Maraschino cherries.

    The nicotine coloured cupboard on the opposite wall had half a dozen large hooks screwed under the bottom shelf. A variety of mugs and cups hung there when they weren’t in the bowl waiting to be washed up. Those cupboard doors seemed flimsy for their size, and the thin beading on the edge of one door had come unstuck at the bottom and snapped back if you caught it with your sleeve.  The doors fastened with a little click in the centre, and the bottom of the door reverberated slightly as you yanked it open. There were always crumbs in the cupboard from the numerous packets of bisucits and crackers and there was always an Allbran packet with the top folded over to squeeze it onto the shelf. The sugar bowl was in there, sticky grains like sandpaper among the biscuit crumbs.

    Half of one of the shelves was devoted to medicines: grave looking bottles of codeine linctus with no nonsense labels,  brown glass bottles with pills for rheumatism and angina.  Often you would find a large bottle, nearly full, of Brewers yeast or vitamin supplements with a dollar price tag, souvenirs of the familys last visit.  Above the medicines you’d find a faded packet of Napolitana pasta bows or a dusty packet of muesli. My grandparents never used them but she left them in the cupboard. Perhaps the dollar price tags and foreign foods reminded her of her children.

    If there had been a recent visit you would see monstrous jars of Sanka and Maxwell House coffee in there too, but they always used the coffee.  They liked evaporated milk in their coffee, and used tins and tins of “evap” as they called it. They would pour it over tinned fruit, or rhubard crumble or stewed apples.

    When there was just the two of them, or when I was there as well, they’d eat at the kitchen table. The table would be covered in a white embroidered cloth and the food served in mismatched serving dishes. The cutlery was large and bent, the knife handles in varying shades of bone. My grandfathers favourite fork had the tip of each prong bent in a different direction. He reckoned it was more efficient that way to spear his meat.  He often used to chew his meat and then spit it out onto the side of his plate. Not in company, of course.  I can understand why he did that, not having eaten meat myself for so long. You could chew a piece of meat for several hours and still have a stringy lump between your cheek and your teeth.

    My grandfather would always have a bowl of Allbran with some Froment wheat germ for his breakfast, while reading the Daily Mail at the kitchen table.  He never worse slippers, always shoes indoors,  and always wore a tie.  He had lots of ties but always wore a plain maroon one.  His shirts were always cream and buttoned at throat and cuff, and eventually started wearing shirts without detachable collars. He wore greeny grey trousers and a cardigan of the same shade most of the time, the same colour as a damp English garden.

    The same colour as the slimy green wooden clothes pegs that I threw away and replaced with mauve and fuschia pink plastic ones.  “They’re a bit bright for up the garden, aren’t they,” he said.  He was right. I should have ignored the green peg stains on the laundry.  An English garden should be shades of moss and grassy green, rich umber soil and brick red walls weighed down with an atmosphere of dense and heavy greyish white.

    After Grandma died and Mop had retired (I always called him Mop, nobody knows why) at 10:00am precisely Mop would  have a cup of instant coffee with evap. At lunch, a bowl of tinned vegetable soup in his special soup bowl, and a couple of Krackawheat crackers and a lump of mature Cheddar. It was a job these days to find a tasty cheddar, he’d say.

    When he was working, and he worked until well into his seventies, he took sandwiches. Every day he had the same sandwich filling: a combination of cheese, peanut butter and marmite.  It was an unusal choice for an otherwise conventional man.  He loved my grandmothers cooking, which wasn’t brilliant but was never awful. She was always generous with the cheese in cheese sauces and the meat in meat pies. She overcooked the cauliflower, but everyone did then. She made her gravy in the roasting pan, and made onion sauce, bread sauce, parsley sauce and chestnut stuffing.  She had her own version of cosmopolitan favourites, and called her quiche a quiche when everyone was still calling it egg and bacon pie. She used to like Auntie Daphne’s ratatouille, rather exotic back then, and pronounced it Ratta Twa.  She made pizza unlike any other, with shortcrust pastry smeared with tomato puree from a tube, sprinkled with oregano and great slabs of cheddar.

    The roast was always overdone. “We like our meat well done” she’d say. She’d walk up the garden to get fresh mint for the mint sauce and would announce with pride “these runner beans are out of the garding”. They always grew vegetables at the top of the garden, behind the lawn and the silver birch tree.  There was always a pudding: a slice of almond tart (always with home made pastry), a crumble or stewed fruit. Topped with evap, of course.

    #6246
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Florence Nightingale Gretton

    1881-1927

    Florence’s father was Richard Gretton, a baker in Swadlincote, Derbyshire. When Richard married Sarah Orgill in 1861, they lived with her mother, a widow, in Measham, Ashby de la Zouch in Leicestershire. On the 1861 census Sarah’s mother, Elizabeth, is a farmer of two acres.

    (Swadlincote and Ashby de la Zouch are on the Derbyshire Leicestershire border and not far from each other. Swadlincote is near to Burton upon Trent which is sometimes in Staffordshire, sometimes in Derbyshire. Newhall, Church Gresley, and Swadlincote are all very close to each other or districts in the same town.)

    Ten years later in 1871 Richard and Sarah have their own place in Swadlincote, he is a baker, and they have four children. A fourteen year old apprentice or servant is living with them.

    In the Ashby-de-la-Zouch Gazette on 28 February 1880, it was reported that Richard Gretton, baker, of Swadlincote, was charged by Captain Bandys with carrying bread in a cart for sale, the said cart not being provided with scales and weights, according to the requirements of the Act, on the 17th January last.—Defendant pleaded guilty, but urged in extenuation of the offence that in the hurry he had forgotten to put the scales in the cart before his son started.—The Bench took this view of the case, regarding it as an oversight, and fined him one shilling only and costs.  This was not his only offence.

    In 1883, he was fined twenty shillings, and ten shillings and sixpence costs.

    Richard Gretton

    By 1881 they have 4 more children, and Florence Nightingale is the youngest at four months. Richard is 48 by now, and Sarah is 44. Florence’s older brother William is a blacksmith.

    Interestingly on the same census page, two doors down Thomas and Selina Warren live at the Stanhope Arms.  Richards son John Gretton lives at the pub, a 13 year old servant. Incidentally, I noticed on Thomas and Selena’s marriage register that Richard and Sarah Gretton were the witnesses at the wedding.

    Ten years later in 1891, Florence Nightingale and her sister Clara are living with Selina Warren, widow, retired innkeeper, one door down from the Stanhope Arms. Florence is ten, Clara twelve and they are scholars.
    Richard and Sarah are still living three doors up on the other side of the Stanhope Arms, with three of their sons. But the two girls lived up the road with the Warren widow!

    The Stanhope Arms, Swadlincote: it’s possible that the shop with the awning was Richard Gretton’s bakers shop (although not at the time of this later photo).

    Stanhope Arms

     

    Richard died in 1898, a year before Florence married Samuel Warren.

    Sarah is a widowed 60 year old baker on the 1901 census. Her son 26 year old son Alf, also a baker,  lives at the same address, as does her 22 year old daughter Clara who is a district nurse.

    Clara Gretton and family, photo found online:

    Clara Gretton

     

    In 1901 Florence Nightingale (who we don’t have a photograph of!) is now married and is Florrie Warren on the census, and she, her husband Samuel, and their one year old daughter Hildred are visitors at the address of  Elizabeth (Staley)Warren, 60 year old widow and Samuel’s mother, and Samuel’s 36 year old brother William. Samuel and William are engineers.

    Samuel and Florrie had ten children between 1900 and 1925 (and all but two of them used their middle name and not first name: my mother and I had no idea until I found all the records.  My grandmother Florence Noreen was known as Nora, which we knew of course, uncle Jack was actually Douglas John, and so on).

    Hildred, Clara, Billy, and Nora were born in Swadlincote. Sometime between my grandmother’s birth in 1907 and Kay’s birth in 1911, the family moved to Oldswinford, in Stourbridge. Later they moved to Market Street.

    1911 census, Oldswinford, Stourbridge:

    Oldswinford 1911

     

    Oddly, nobody knew when Florrie Warren died. My mothers cousin Ian Warren researched the Warren family some years ago, while my grandmother was still alive. She contributed family stories and information, but couldn’t remember if her mother died in 1929 or 1927.  A recent search of records confirmed that it was the 12th November 1927.

    She was 46 years old. We were curious to know how she died, so my mother ordered a paper copy of her death certificate. It said she died at 31 Market Street, Stourbridge at the age of 47. Clara May Warren, her daughter, was in attendance. Her husband Samuel Warren was a motor mechanic. The Post mortem was by Percival Evans, coroner for Worcestershire, who clarified the cause of death as vascular disease of the heart. There was no inquest. The death was registered on 15 Nov 1927.

    I looked for a photo of 31 Market Street in Stourbridge, and was astonished to see that it was the house next door to one I lived in breifly in the 1980s.  We didn’t know that the Warren’s lived in Market Street until we started searching the records.

    Market Street, Stourbridge. I lived in the one on the corner on the far right, my great grandmother died in the one next door.

    Market Street

     

    I found some hitherto unknown emigrants in the family. Florence Nightingale Grettons eldest brother William 1861-1940 stayed in Swadlincote. John Orgill Gretton born in 1868 moved to Trenton New Jersey USA in 1888, married in 1892 and died in 1949 in USA. Michael Thomas born in 1870 married in New York in 1893 and died in Trenton in 1940. Alfred born 1875 stayed in Swadlincote. Charles Herbert born 1876 married locally and then moved to Australia in 1912, and died in Victoria in 1954. Clara Elizabeth was a district nurse, married locally and died at the age of 99.

    #6227
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    The Scottish Connection

    My grandfather always used to say we had some Scottish blood because his “mother was a Purdy”, and that they were from the low counties of Scotland near to the English border.

    My mother had a Scottish hat in among the boxes of souvenirs and old photographs. In one of her recent house moves, she finally threw it away, not knowing why we had it or where it came from, and of course has since regretted it!  It probably came from one of her aunts, either Phyllis or Dorothy. Neither of them had children, and they both died in 1983. My grandfather was executor of the estate in both cases, and it’s assumed that the portraits, the many photographs, the booklet on Primitive Methodists, and the Scottish hat, all relating to his mother’s side of the family, came into his possession then. His sister Phyllis never married and was living in her parents home until she died, and is the likeliest candidate for the keeper of the family souvenirs.

    Catherine Housley married George Purdy, and his father was Francis Purdy, the Primitive Methodist preacher.  William Purdy was the father of Francis.

    Record searches find William Purdy was born on 16 July 1767 in Carluke, Lanarkshire, near Glasgow in Scotland. He worked for James Watt, the inventor of the steam engine, and moved to Derbyshire for the purpose of installing steam driven pumps to remove the water from the collieries in the area.

    Another descendant of Francis Purdy found the following in a book in a library in Eastwood:

    William Purdy

    William married a local girl, Ruth Clarke, in Duffield in Derbyshire in 1786.  William and Ruth had nine children, and the seventh was Francis who was born at West Hallam in 1795.

    Perhaps the Scottish hat came from William Purdy, but there is another story of Scottish connections in Smalley:  Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745.  Although the Purdy’s were not from Smalley, Catherine Housley was.

    From an article on the Heanor and District Local History Society website:

    The Jacobites in Smalley

    Few people would readily associate the village of Smalley, situated about two miles west of Heanor, with Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 – but there is a clear link.

    During the winter of 1745, Charles Edward Stuart, the “Bonnie Prince” or “The Young Pretender”, marched south from Scotland. His troops reached Derby on 4 December, and looted the town, staying for two days before they commenced a fateful retreat as the Duke of Cumberland’s army approached.

    While staying in Derby, or during the retreat, some of the Jacobites are said to have visited some of the nearby villages, including Smalley.

    A history of the local aspects of this escapade was written in 1933 by L. Eardley-Simpson, entitled “Derby and the ‘45,” from which the following is an extract:

    “The presence of a party at Smalley is attested by several local traditions and relics. Not long ago there were people living who remember to have seen at least a dozen old pikes in a room adjoining the stables at Smalley Hall, and these were stated to have been left by a party of Highlanders who came to exchange their ponies for horses belonging to the then owner, Mrs Richardson; in 1907, one of these pikes still remained. Another resident of Smalley had a claymore which was alleged to have been found on Drumhill, Breadsall Moor, while the writer of the History of Smalley himself (Reverend C. Kerry) had a magnificent Andrew Ferrara, with a guard of finely wrought iron, engraved with two heads in Tudor helmets, of the same style, he states, as the one left at Wingfield Manor, though why the outlying bands of Army should have gone so far afield, he omits to mention. Smalley is also mentioned in another strange story as to the origin of the family of Woolley of Collingham who attained more wealth and a better position in the world than some of their relatives. The story is to the effect that when the Scots who had visited Mrs Richardson’s stables were returning to Derby, they fell in with one Woolley of Smalley, a coal carrier, and impressed him with horse and cart for the conveyance of certain heavy baggage. On the retreat, the party with Woolley was surprised by some of the Elector’s troopers (the Royal army) who pursued the Scots, leaving Woolley to shift for himself. This he did, and, his suspicion that the baggage he was carrying was part of the Prince’s treasure turning out to be correct, he retired to Collingham, and spent the rest of his life there in the enjoyment of his luckily acquired gains. Another story of a similar sort was designed to explain the rise of the well-known Derbyshire family of Cox of Brailsford, but the dates by no means agree with the family pedigree, and in any event the suggestion – for it is little more – is entirely at variance with the views as to the rights of the Royal House of Stuart which were expressed by certain members of the Cox family who were alive not many years ago.”

    A letter from Charles Kerry, dated 30 July 1903, narrates another strange twist to the tale. When the Highlanders turned up in Smalley, a large crowd, mainly women, gathered. “On a command in Gaelic, the regiment stooped, and throwing their kilts over their backs revealed to the astonished ladies and all what modesty is careful to conceal. Father, who told me, said they were not any more troubled with crowds of women.”

    Folklore or fact? We are unlikely to know, but the Scottish artefacts in the Smalley area certainly suggest that some of the story is based on fact.

    We are unlikely to know where that Scottish hat came from, but we did find the Scottish connection.  William Purdy’s mother was Grizel Gibson, and her mother was Grizel Murray, both of Lanarkshire in Scotland.  The name Grizel is a Scottish form of the name Griselda, and means “grey battle maiden”.  But with the exception of the name Murray, The Purdy and Gibson names are not traditionally Scottish, so there is not much of a Scottish connection after all.  But the mystery of the Scottish hat remains unsolved.

    #4763
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Charter ,” said Liz munching on her spread of bollocks jam on bread… “Are you going to say we need a charter too?”

    #4755
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “Welcome, Everyone!” said Mater. She had entered unnoticed and was standing in the doorway regarding the assembled group and looking rather more lewd than welcoming. She had worn a pantsuit for the occasion, a relic from the 70’s made of red garbardine. Fortunately, the forgiving nature of garbardine added a little stretch, but even so the cloth clung rather too tightly to Mater’s curves.
    “Oh, lord love ya! “ said Finly. “Look at you! You’ve not dusted that pantsuit off since you got it out of the chest, have you!” She hit Mater with her duster and a cloud of dust enveloped her.
    “Way to go, Mater!” said Devan.
    “What are you doing, crazy old woman?” shrieked Dodo. Unfortunately her mouth was full of bread roll and it sounded more like, “Woowawuooingwazyolewoom?”
    “She’s aboriginal?” asked Sanso looking at Dodo with interest.
    Prune snorted. “We aren’t quite sure where she is from but she is an interesting specimen.”
    “I expect she is rip snorting drunk again,” said Mater after the dust had subsided. “Anyway, I just want to say it is a pleasure to have you all here. I hope you are finding enough to eat. If you need anything, Bert here is your man.”
    “Thanks ever so much,” said Arona, smiling charmingly and gently wiping the lizard with her paper table napkin before popping it back under her turban.
    Bert grunted and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “We aren’t used to this many folk staying at one time,” he said. “But yeah, welcome all. So, what are you all here for?”
    “It’s to do with a doll, actually,” said Maeve. Shawn Paul looked at her, impressed with her boldness.
    “A key,” said Arona, waving the key in the air.
    Mater stumbled and reached out to the door frame for support.
    “Bloody hell,” said Bert.

    #4470
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Despite using his human form frequently, Tak was at heart still the same little gibbon his friend had found in the bamboo forest.

    A lot of his inner turmoil had been transformed, like a new skin on a wound, especially after the ceremony. He no longer felt the weight of the other lives they had lived, nor the stir of revenge that was festering inside. His heart was like a forest after a fire, growing anew, fresh below the cover of dead ashes.

    During the past months, he had been mostly busy with himself. He couldn’t avoid the classes that Rukshan would teach him in the morning, but it still left a good deal of free time. He would wander in the nearby woods, listening to the sounds, exploring where it felt safe enough, and at times jumping from branch to branch in his gibbon form.
    He could feel Fox was a bit envious at times —struggling too much to retain his human form. It would become more difficult with the age, to stay longer in a form especially if you started to master it later in age. So he had to enjoy and relish the fact he was still young.

    In the forest, he had felt disturbance, but nothing like the ghosts that had chased them a long time back. There was work done at a distance, and it displaced creatures, the forest was angry. His companions too, and Fox was talking about doing sabotage work. Rukshan had asked him to take no part in it, but there was no telling how long he could resist the call.

    When he entered that night back in the cabin, there was a strange smell, something subtle and precious, like smokey and peppered with ambergris and with a feel of dew on a fresh lettuce. It came from a small package on the drawer in the burka lady’s quarter.
    It smelt too good. Surreptitiously he entered the room and opened the little thing, there was a creamy substance in it. Surely some nice spread for freshly baked bread.
    He couldn’t resist, the smell was tantalising. He dipped one finger, licked it, and… wow… in three quick gulps, licked the whole thing clear.

    Tak was at heart still the same mischievous little gibbon his mother loved so much.

    #4404
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Liz left her bed at 8:30am, wearing only her pink and blue doubled cotton night gown, a perfect hair and her fluffy pink blue mules. She had been thinking about her characters while the sun was trying to rise with great difficulty. Liz couldn’t blame the Sun as temperatures had dropped dramatically since the beginning of winter and the air outside was really cold.

    When Liz was thinking about her writings and her characters, she usually felt hungry. Someone had told her once that the brain was a hungry organ and that you needed fuel to make it work properly. She didn’t have a sweet tooth, but she wouldn’t say no to some cheesy toast, any time of the day.

    She had heard some noise coming from the kitchen, certainly Finnley doing who knows what, although certainly not cleaning. It might be the association between thinking about her characters and the noise in the kitchen that triggered her sudden craving for a melted slice of cheese on top of a perfectly burnished toast. The idea sufficed to make her stomach growl.

    She chuckled as she thought of inventing a new genre, the toast opera. Or was it a cackle?

    As she was lost in her morning musings, her mules gave that muffled slippery sound on the floor that Finnley found so unladylike. Liz didn’t care, she even deliberately slowed her pace. The slippery sound took on another dimension, extended and stretched to the limit of what was bearable even for herself. Liz grinned, thinking about Finnley’s slight twitching right eye as she certainly was trying to keep her composure in the kitchen.

    Liz, all cheerful, was testing the differences between a chuckle and a cackle when she entered the kitchen. She was about to ask Finnley what she thought about it when she saw a small person in a yellow tunic and green pants, washing the dishes.

    Liz stopped right there, forgetting all about chuckles and cackles and even toasts.

    “Where is Finnley?” she asked, not wanting to appear the least surprised. The small person turned her head toward Liz, still managing to keep on washing the dishes. It was a girl, obviously from India.

    “Good morning, Ma’am. I’m Anna, the new maid only.”

    “The new… maid?”

    Liz suddenly felt panic crawling behind her perfectly still face. She didn’t want to think about the implications.

    “Why don’t you use the dishwasher?” she asked, proud that she could keep the control of her voice despite her hunger, her questions about chuckles and cackles, and…

    “The dirty dishes are very less, there is no need to use the dishwasher only.”

    Liz looked at her bobbing her head sideways as if the spring had been mounted the wrong way.

    “Are you alright?” asked Anna with a worried look.

    “Of course, dear. Make me a toast with a slice of cheese will you?”

    “How do I do that?”

    “Well you take the toaster and you put the slice of bread inside and pushed the lever down… Have you never prepared toasts before?”

    “No, but yes, but I need to know how you like it only. I want to make it perfect for your liking, otherwise you won’t be satisfied.” The maid suddenly looked lost and anxious.

    “Just do as you usually do,” said Liz. “Goddfrey?” she called, leaving the kitchen before the maid could ask anymore questions.

    Where was Goddfrey when she needed him to explain everything?

    “You need me?” asked a voice behind her. He had appeared from nowhere, as if he could walk through the walls or teleport. Anyway, she never thought she would be so relieved to see him.

    “What’s that in the kitchen?”

    “What’s what? Oh! You mean her. The new maid.”

    He knew! Liz felt a strange blend of frustration, despair and anger. She took mental note to remember it for her next chapter, and came back to her emotional turmoil. Was she the only one unaware of such a bit change in her home?

    “Well, she followed us when we were in India. We don’t know how, but she managed to find a place in one of your trunks. Finnley found her as she had the porter unpacked the load. It seems she wants to help.”

    #4314
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    After days and days, there was no signs of the others.

    Rukshan had hoped they would manifest as easily as the Hermit had, without much effort on his part.
    But they had remained silent, and even the ghosts seemed to have subsided in another dimension. He couldn’t feel them any longer. It was as though his realisation had made them disappear, or change course for a while.

    He hadn’t come any closer to the inner ring of trees though, and he’d come to the conclusion that there was surely some piece missing. He was reminded of the map that the cluster of seven had found at the beginning of the story, so they could reach the magic Gem inside the Gods’ Heartswood. There was no telling if such a map existed or if it did, what form it had —after all, the story seemed to be a little too simplified.

    He was trying to figure out which was his character, and which of the curse he had inherited. The curse was rather easy he’d thought… Knowledge. It had always been his motivation, and the encounter with the Queen and the taking of the potion had keenly reminded him that for all his accumulated knowledge, he was missing the biggest part. The knowledge of himself, and who he really was. It was constantly eluding him, and he was starting to doubt even his own memories at times.

    For the past few days, having finished the last morsel of fay bread in his bag, he was subsisting on roots, mushrooms and fresh rainwater cupped in leaves and last bits of snow in treeholes. It was time to get moving, as the weather had started to change. The snow was receding too.

    Even if his quest wasn’t as sure as before, he knew he had to find a way to reach these six others, and try to figure out what they could do, or undo.

    He had a strong suspicion that the potion maker was linked to this story. Her potion had activated something deep in him, and it seemed to share the same source of power.

    With that resolution in mind, he took the path retracing his steps back to the cottage and the outside world.

    #4310
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Glynis had been staying with the Bakers for a few weeks now, since the night of the storm.

    She had taken refuge on their porch, as the gale tore through the pitch black streets, blowing anything not nailed down along in its wake. Intending to leave early before anyone in the house was up, she found a dry corner and wrapping her burka tightly around herself for warmth, she fell into a deep, exhausted sleep.

    “Well, what have we here! Good Lord, girl, you must be freezing!” said a booming male voice. Glynis started awake, trying to work out where she was.

    “This is no place to be in a storm. Come inside to the warm,” the man continued. And before she could gather her senses and protest, he took hold of her arm and gently but firmly pulled her into a cosy warm kitchen already filled with the delicious aroma of baking bread.

    “Anne!” he called to his wife, “look what I found on the front porch!”

    “Oh you poor dear! You are shivering! Come with me and let’s get you into some dry clothes.”

    Anne Baker was a portly woman with a purple scar covering a large part of her face. Glynis never mentioned the scar and likewise the Bakers never said a word about the dragon scales, seeming completely unperturbed by Glynis’s unusual appearance. In fact, in their kindly presence, Glynis sometimes found herself forgetting.

    To repay their kindness, Glynis helped with the baking. With her knowledge of herbs, she had created several new recipes which had proved to be most popular with the customers. This delighted the Bakers; they were people who were passionate about what they did and every little detail mattered. They rose early, often before the sun was up, to lovingly prepare the dough; in their minds they were not merely selling bread; they were selling happiness.

    Glynis was most surprised the day the stone parrot arrived in the mail.

    “This is very peculiar. Who is this “laughing crone” and what does she want with me,” said Glynis to the stone parrot. “I wonder, did Aunt Bethell send you to me? She is very good at stories — perhaps she sent me the dream as well.”

    But surely Aunt Bethell would not call herself a laughing crone! No, that is definitely not her style!

    Glynis stared at the concrete parrot and an uneasy feeling had come over her. “You are alive inside that concrete, aren’t you,” she whispered, patting the stone creature gently. “Have you too been caught in the spell of some malevolent magician?”

    #4299
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Glynnis, late with her mornings work after her lengthy dream journal entry, was initially irritated with the interruption of the postman.

    “Leave it in the letter box!” she called. “I am up to my elbows in bread dough!”

    “I can’t, it’s too heavy,” the postman replied, “And you have to sign for it, anyway. And I’m not taking it back to the post office, it’s put my back out carrying it here already,” he added.

    Sighing and wiping her floury hands on her apron, Glynnis opened the door a few inches and extended her hand through the gap.

    “You’ll need two hands, Ducky,” he said, thinking to himself, what an ungrateful wretch!

    Exasperated, she flung the door open. The postman handed her a large stone parrot. A hand written note was attached to its neck with a blue ribbon.

    “A Gift of Appreciation” was all it said, in a rather untidy almost indecipherable script.

    “Oh, a gift,” said Glynnis softly, mollified. “But from who?”

    “Says it’s from the Laughing Crone on the return address. Now just sign here Ducky, and I’ll be on my way.”

    #4253
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Slowly and methodically, Glynis cleared away the rest of the broken glass. Her morning porage, one of the small luxuries she purchased with the coins she received for her potions, was bubbling gently on the stove top. A cup of rosemary tea sat brewing on the kitchen table.

    Next to the map.

    Glynis was not a believer in coincidence. She knew there were some who might say the picture had just happened to fall from the wall that morning. Perhaps the hook which for all these years held on so stoically was weakened over time and had chosen that moment —that very moment— to finally give in.

    Yes for sure, this is what some would say, shaking their heads at any superstitious nonsense about things being ‘meant to be’.

    But Glynis was not one of those people. As a child growing up she had been fed magic the way other children might be fed bread. And though there were times she had battled it, she knew magic was embedded in her heart, in every breath she took.

    “I breathe the Wisdom of Ages,” she said quietly, comforted by the words.

    She had sensed for a while that things were moving. She would wake in the morning, still fatigued from restless uneasy dreams, and know that all was no longer well with her world.

    Could she resist that call? she wondered. What would happen if she just ignored it? Would the heavens open and lightening strike her? Or would she just slowly wither away and become the old crone others already saw?

    And what would it matter anyway?

    She touched her face with her hand, tracing the outlines of the scales. Nausea rose in her gut and she felt her chest constrict.

    Breathe.

    Breathe.

    Calming herself, Glynis sat down at the table with her porage and rosemary tea to inspect the map.

    #4249
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Margoritt Loursenoir wrapped a thick blanket around her shoulders. The window of her lodge was open to the chill outside, but she would keep the windows open as much as she could bear, for she’d missed the fresh air for a long time inside the city.
    The view of the forest was also a renewed pleasure, she could stay in meditation in front of the window for hours, as if looking at a moving picture, a better work than any painter from the city would ever accomplish.
    Besides, she liked being wrapped in a shawl like these women from the far away east she admired so much for their strength and independence.

    She’d come there to rekindle her inspiration. In the City of the Seven Hills, she had risen to quite a fame with her literary works, even though her works were deemed fictional, and that she was a woman.
    To her, they weren’t fictions. They were just the order of things revealed, the natural evolution of things, a glimpse of what was to come if the civilisation were to keep its greedy pace.

    That rheumatism is killing me she looked at her hands, swollen after yesterday’s rain. An old lady like me, and that lifestyle… for how long… She would need to return for a needle session in the City. Already the supplies she’d brought were becoming scarce. She would go find some mushrooms and roots later, but for now she didn’t want to worry about that.
    There was something irremediably irreconcilable about life here and life there. She was aware of the artificial nature of her escapades, but every time she moved out of the bustling city, into the enchanted woods, she would see it. Magic was still alive here, not as strong as before, but still very much alive.

    Rising from her chair, she put the last of her bread’s crumbs on the windowsill. The crumbs she’d put yesterday were still there, untouched. There were hardly any birds left during winter, merely a few suspicious crows who never came too close.

    It was time for her morning writing session.

    #4244
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Fox ran through the city, enjoying his transient invisibility. He didn’t have to care about people, he didn’t feel the social burden of being himself. He had fun brushing past the legs of men to frighten them, biting the dresses of women to make them drop their baskets. One of them contained some freshly baked meatloaf. Fox got rid of the bread and swallowed the meat. He laughed with his fox’s laugh at the puzzled look of a child seeing the meat disappear in mid air.

    At first, Fox enjoyed being invisible tremendously. Then, he felt a bit lonely. No one was there to see him have fun. Furthermore, he had no idea how long of it remained. The woman had said one hour. His problem was that in his fox form, he wasn’t so good at keeping track of time. The fun of the invisibility wearing off, he decided to go back to the forest. He would get back his clothes and meet with the woman in his human form.

    He followed the scent of the autumn leaves.

    After barely five minutes, he noticed that people were going in the same direction. How unusual, Fox thought. He kept on running. After another five minutes, he felt a tingling feeling. Then, he heard the familiar shout accompanying his being seen.

    Fox had mixed feelings. At the same time he felt relieved —he was happy to be back into the world—, and he felt annoyed by what he considered to be an unnecessary mishap. He felt his heartbeat speeding up and prepared himself to the chase. But nobody seemed to care about the shout. People looked hypnotized and simply didn’t pay attention to him even though they looked at him running past them.

    How unusual, he thought again.

    Fifteen minutes later, he stopped in front of a fence that wasn’t there in the early morning. It was not so high that he couldn’t jump over it and continue on his way to the forest. But he stayed there a few seconds, too startled to think anything. He got out of his own puzzlement when he heard a whine. It was coming from his own mouth. It was so unusual that it helped him got rid off the spell that surrounded the fence. It seemed to be powerful enough to make people believe they couldn’t go past it into the forest.

    Very clever, he thought. Whoever erected this fence, they were no ordinary man or woman. Fox thought about the old young witch who gave him the potion but readily shook the idea away. This is something else, he decided. His nose became itchy, Fox needed to find out who created this thing. Maybe they knew about the burning smell.

    Fox left the flow of people still following the fence to some unknown destination and jumped over into the forest. The feeling was the same on the other side. A repelling spell. But once on this side of the fence, it had a different flavour. This one talked about danger of leaving the forest, whereas in the city it whispered about the danger of going into the forest. Fox didn’t feel surprised. It was simply another odd occurence.

    He took a deep breath, enjoying the rich scents of the soil and the trees. The smell of the little animals close to the ground, and those of the birds in the air above. The odorant track left by a wild boar. Among all those scents, one was quite unique and remarkable. The gentleman of the forests, Fox thought. What is he doing here? Whatever the explanation was, the wise ape and would certainly have answers. After all, he was the one who taught a little fox the art of human shapeshifting.

    Fox began to run deep into the forest. His heart beating fast at the idea to see his old master. He had totally forgotten about the dwarf and his strange companion, or about the kind witch and her potions. He only felt hope in his heart and cold winter air on his snout. Leading him to some resolution.

    #3806

    In reply to: Mandala of Ascensions

    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “Simulation complete”
    Master Medlik reappeared on the City above Ascension Island.

    He’d been careful to take the second right at the light tunnel entrance. You can never trust those bureaucrats to process your Id right, and they would just love to put you on another loop of incarnation, just for the spite of it. But he remembered the door from his first awakening. They’d changed its place a few times, patched it and all, but it would always reappear at a convenient place with the proper state of mind.

    Anyway, the simulation didn’t go very pleasantly. Of course, the model was a crude representation of Earth as it was, but it was supposed to be the base model for Earth 5D, and so far, they couldn’t get it right. Super-powers, teleportation, faster-than-light travel and technological progress didn’t bring any wisdom.
    Before that, he’d tried progress along the lines of open borders and property self-regulation. That no man carries more than he can take, to avoid the big conglomerates conundrums. Well, that fared hardly better than collectivism, and didn’t bring any compassion.

    Those parameters were difficult to tinker with. Progress was a delicate flower, and like a bread sourdough, needed careful attention in the cultivation process.

    He wouldn’t listen to the little voice. But it was growing louder.

    #3221
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Mirabelle and Adeline sat in the morning sun on the verandah, appreciatively nibbling the perfectly formed sliced toasted bread and marmalade.
    Almost six months had passed since they’d been found on the beach, confused and soaked, babbling incoherently. An early morning beach walker had found them (she had wondered if she was dreaming or hallucinating), and had attempted to engage them in conversation. A rudimentary smattering of French acquired during a grape picking sojourn in France many years ago helped. Much of what the bizarrely clad group said was incomprehensible, but it was clear that they were lost and hungry, so Lisa invited them back home with her. They were reluctant to get into the car, fearing a trap, and when she started the engine, they panicked and scrambled to get back out until Boris calmed them down and suggested they had better trust this stranger because frankly, what were their options? She seemed kind and helpful, even if she was shockingly under dressed with her legs exposed for all to see, and had an invisible and very noisy horse pulling her carriage.
    Lisa lived in a relatively new community of creative and forward thinking individuals who were in the process of renovating an abandoned village in the orange groves. They called the village the Trading Post, a name that was a loose play on words on the social media platform where they had first become acquainted and traded and shared posts. They were a diverse assortment of people from all over the world, united with the common goal of experimenting with a new type of anarchist culture, a novel creative and expansive playful approach that was becoming increasingly popular.
    Pierre and Étienne’s knowledge of French had come to the rescue upon the first arrival of the group, as they unraveled their strange tale. After much confusing conversation and translations for the rest of the occupants of the village, it became clear that the group were time travelers, although somewhat accidental and clearly unprepared.
    While the travelers rested after an unfamiliar but welcome meal, the villagers discussed the situation with much interest and curiosity. It was decided that they would keep the news of the travelers a secret for the time being, and gradually assist them with learning about their new timeframe, current customs and the local languages.

    #2802

    In reply to: Snowflakes of Tens

    EricEric
    Keymaster

    After having had a wheel ride in the garden, Grandpa Wrick came back a little less in-tense.

    “Mmm, I suppose this game isn’t as much fun as I expected. I want to give it another try, adding a little something more.” he said to the kids when their cartoon had finished. India Louise, Cuthbert, and their friends Flynn and of course Lisbelle (who had been quiet in the background, playing with her pet rabbit Ginger) started listening with a mild interest —the whimsical Lord Wrick having proved countless times he had no qualms at making a fool of himself, and thus at entertaining children.

    “What I want to achieve, by playing this game of snowflakes,” he said after a pause “is paying more attention at your stream of consciousness.”

    “You see, I’ve been reading the classical Circle of Eights countless times in my young age, and dear old Yurara didn’t have much interest in creating links between her narratives. This is what I want to do with this game: pay attention to the links.

    In this game of snowflakes, the stories (flakes) matter less than the links you build between them, and thus the pattern that is created.
    We have the choice to continue and detail the previous story, in which case, the link is obvious, or we may want to start another one. But we need to know what, from the previous entry, prompted you to create that special new story you are about to write or tell.

    Just like in a dream, when you explore a scene, some object will jump at your attention, and propel you to another dream story. Just like that, I want to spend more time exploring the transitions between each scenes and story blurbs that we tell. The links don’t necessarily have to be an object, of course not.
    It can be an idea, a theme, a music, virtually anything, provided that it can make some sense as to why it is used as a transition…”

    Seeing the children waiting for more, he pursued: “a good introduction to this game would be for you to try to follow your train of thoughts during the day. Try to do mentally that small exercise before you go to sleep, and remember the transitions of your whole day, and you’ll see how complex it can become, how often you pass and zap from one thing to another.

    Take even one event that lasts a few minutes like eating a honey sandwich at breakfast, can make you think of dozens of things like the texture of the bread, the fields of wheat, or the butter, the glass jar filled with honey and the bees that made it, the swarm of bees can carry you even further into another time, or towards a bear or into a movie maybe.

    I want that you pause to take time to break this down, so that your audience can follow the transition from one story to another, and that it makes perfect sense for them.”

    #2440
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Meanwhile, Phurt was distraught.
    Perhaps it was an unfortunate consequence of her experimental breading but the thing was… she didn’t seem capable of spawning anything else than little hot buns.

    #2413
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Fwick’s bladder was boiling, and pressing him for a release. That was that little minute of inattention that cost him the equally little spider, and nearly his life.

    While he was blaming and swearing at the bitter butter, he had not noticed that the amount of butter he’d prepared wouldn’t nearly have been enough to bread the spider, since the spider had already ingested the mighty yeast —as much by an insane curiosity as by bouts of bloody hunger— and as it happens, the yeast was starting to take effect.

    As the weather was still a tad on the cold side in Peasland, there was a sane amount of logs piled up against the stove, which was roaring in delight well-fed as it was. It was giving the little spider ideas, as well as a newfound strength and breadth (and some beard too, but it didn’t really matter… yet, at least).

    So while Fwick was moaning of delight at emptying said bladder into the loo, a bloody blunder was looming more than he could see.

    The little spider started to outgrow the little matchbox, which ceded without much resistance, nor any noise.
    The middle-sized spider then started to outgrow the table, which in turn ceded in a mild crack.
    Finally, the big-sized spider now dying for a breakfast the size of a cow jumped by the window which jarred at the impact and finally, as all objects learn in good time when dealing with the spider, ceded to release the hungry bearded nine-eyed now-not-so-little deadly spider with a squeaking mwahahing voice.

    That was the voice of the spider by the way, not that of the window, which didn’t have a voice to start with, even in Peasland.

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