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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

      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

      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,

      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

      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

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

      Heaps of love to all,

      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

      Lots of love,

      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

      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

      With heaps of love,

      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

      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,

      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,

      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

      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

      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,

      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,

      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

      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,

      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,

      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,

      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

      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

      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,

      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,



        Phyllis Ellen Marshall

        1909 – 1983

        Phyllis Marshall


        Phyllis, my grandfather George Marshall’s sister, never married. She lived in her parents home in Love Lane, and spent decades of her later life bedridden, living alone and crippled with rheumatoid arthritis. She had her bed in the front downstairs room, and had cords hanging by her bed to open the curtains, turn on the tv and so on, and she had carers and meals on wheels visit her daily. The room was dark and grim, but Phyllis was always smiling and cheerful.  Phyllis loved the Degas ballerinas and had a couple of prints on the walls.

        I remember visiting her, but it has only recently registered that this was my great grandparents house. When I was a child, we visited her and she indicated a tin on a chest of drawers and said I could take a biscuit. It was a lemon puff, and was the stalest biscuit I’d ever had. To be polite I ate it. Then she offered me another one! I declined, but she thought I was being polite and said “Go on! You can have another!” I ate another one, and have never eaten a lemon puff since that day.

        Phyllis’s nephew Bryan Marshall used to visit her regularly. I didn’t realize how close they were until recently, when I resumed contact with Bryan, who emigrated to USA in the 1970s following a successful application for a job selling stained glass windows and church furnishings.

        I asked on a Stourbridge facebook group if anyone remembered her.

        AF  Yes I remember her. My friend and I used to go up from Longlands school every Friday afternoon to do jobs for her. I remember she had a record player and we used to put her 45rpm record on Send in the Clowns for her. Such a lovely lady. She had her bed in the front room.

        KW I remember very clearly a lady in a small house in Love Lane with alley at the left hand.  I was intrigued by this lady who used to sit with the front door open and she was in a large chair of some sort. I used to see people going in and out and the lady was smiling. I was young then (31) and wondered how she coped but my sense was she had lots of help.  I’ve never forgotten that lady in Love Lane sitting in the open door way I suppose when it was warm enough.

        LR I used to deliver meals on wheels to her lovely lady.

        I sent Bryan the comments from the Stourbridge group and he replied:

        Thanks Tracy. I don’t recognize the names here but lovely to see such kind comments.
        In the early 70’s neighbors on Corser Street, Mr. & Mrs. Walter Braithwaite would pop around with occasional visits and meals. Walter was my piano teacher for awhile when I was in my early twenties. He was a well known music teacher at Rudolph Steiner School (former Elmfield School) on Love Lane. A very fine school. I seem to recall seeing a good article on Walter recently…perhaps on the Stourbridge News website. He was very well known.
        I’m ruminating about life with my Aunt Phyllis. We were very close. Our extra special time was every Saturday at 5pm (I seem to recall) we’d watch Doctor Who. Right from the first episode. We loved it. Likewise I’d do the children’s crossword out of Woman’s Realm magazine…always looking to win a camera but never did ! She opened my mind to the Bible, music and ballet. She once got tickets and had a taxi take us into Birmingham to see the Bolshoi Ballet…at a time when they rarely left their country. It was a very big deal in the early 60’s. ! I’ve many fond memories about her and grandad which I’ll share in due course. I’d change the steel needle on the old record player, following each play of the 78rpm records…oh my…another world.

        Bryan continues reminiscing about Phyllis in further correspondence:

        Yes, I can recall those two Degas prints. I don’t know much of Phyllis’ early history other than she was a hairdresser in Birmingham. I want to say at John Lewis, for some reason (so there must have been a connection and being such a large store I bet they did have a salon?)
        You will know that she had severe and debilitating rheumatoid arthritis that eventually gnarled her hands and moved through her body. I remember strapping on her leg/foot braces and hearing her writhe in pain as I did so but she wanted to continue walking standing/ getting up as long as she could. I’d take her out in the wheelchair and I can’t believe I say it along …but down Stanley Road!! (I had subsequent nightmares about what could have happened to her, had I tripped or let go!) She loved Mary Stevens Park, the swans, ducks and of course Canadian geese. Was grateful for everything in creation. As I used to go over Hanbury Hill on my visit to Love Lane, she would always remind me to smell the “sea-air” as I crested the hill.
        In the earlier days she smoked cigarettes with one of those long filters…looking like someone from the twenties.

        I’ll check on “Send in the clowns”. I do recall that music. I remember also she loved to hear Neil Diamond. Her favorites in classical music gave me an appreciation of Elgar and Delius especially. She also loved ballet music such as Swan Lake and Nutcracker. Scheherazade and La Boutique Fantastic also other gems.
        When grandad died she and aunt Dorothy shared more about grandma (who died I believe when John and I were nine-months old…therefore early 1951). Grandma (Mary Ann Gilman Purdy) played the piano and loved Strauss and Offenbach. The piano in the picture you sent had a bad (wonky) leg which would fall off and when we had the piano at 4, Mount Road it was rather dangerous. In any event my parents didn’t want me or others “banging on it” for fear of waking the younger brothers so it disappeared at sometime.
        By the way, the dog, Flossy was always so rambunctious (of course, she was a JRT!) she was put on the stairway which fortunately had a door on it. Having said that I’ve always loved dogs so was very excited to see her and disappointed when she was not around. 

        Phyllis with her parents William and Mary Marshall, and Flossie the dog in the garden at Love Lane:

        Phyllis William and Mary Marshall


        Bryan continues:

        I’ll always remember the early days with the outside toilet with the overhead cistern caked in active BIG spider webs. I used to have to light a candle to go outside, shielding the flame until destination. In that space I’d set the candle down and watch the eery shadows move from side to side whilst…well anyway! Then I’d run like hell back into the house. Eventually the kitchen wall was broken through so it became an indoor loo. Phew!
        In the early days the house was rented for ten-shillings a week…I know because I used to take over a ten-bob-note to a grumpy lady next door who used to sign the receipt in the rent book. Then, I think she died and it became available for $600.00 yes…the whole house for $600.00 but it wasn’t purchased then. Eventually aunt Phyllis purchased it some years later…perhaps when grandad died.

        I used to work much in the back garden which was a lovely walled garden with arch-type decorations in the brickwork and semicircular shaped capping bricks. The abundant apple tree. Raspberry and loganberry canes. A gooseberry bush and huge Victoria plum tree on the wall at the bottom of the garden which became a wonderful attraction for wasps! (grandad called the “whasps”). He would stew apples and fruit daily.
        Do you remember their black and white cat Twinky? Always sat on the pink-screen TV and when she died they were convinced that “that’s wot got ‘er”. Grandad of course loved all his cats and as he aged, he named them all “Billy”.

        Have you come across the name “Featherstone” in grandma’s name. I don’t recall any details but Dorothy used to recall this. She did much searching of the family history Such a pity she didn’t hand anything on to anyone. She also said that we had a member of the family who worked with James Watt….but likewise I don’t have details.
        Gifts of chocolates to Phyllis were regular and I became the recipient of the overflow!

        What a pity Dorothy’s family history research has disappeared!  I have found the Featherstone’s, and the Purdy who worked with James Watt, but I wonder what else Dorothy knew.

        I mentioned DH Lawrence to Bryan, and the connection to Eastwood, where Bryan’s grandma (and Phyllis’s mother) Mary Ann Gilman Purdy was born, and shared with him the story about Francis Purdy, the Primitive Methodist minister, and about Francis’s son William who invented the miners lamp.

        He replied:

        As a nosy young man I was looking through the family bookcase in Love Lane and came across a brown paper covered book. Intrigued, I found “Sons and Lovers” D.H. Lawrence. I knew it was a taboo book (in those days) as I was growing up but now I see the deeper connection. Of course! I know that Phyllis had I think an earlier boyfriend by the name of Maurice who lived in Perry Barr, Birmingham. I think he later married but was always kind enough to send her a book and fond message each birthday (Feb.12). I guess you know grandad’s birthday – July 28. We’d always celebrate those days. I’d usually be the one to go into Oldswinford and get him a cardigan or pullover and later on, his 2oz tins of St. Bruno tobacco for his pipe (I recall the room filled with smoke as he puffed away).
        Dorothy and Phyllis always spoke of their ancestor’s vocation as a Minister. So glad to have this history! Wow, what a story too. The Lord rescued him from mischief indeed. Just goes to show how God can change hearts…one at a time.
        So interesting to hear about the Miner’s Lamp. My vicar whilst growing up at St. John’s in Stourbridge was from Durham and each Harvest Festival, there would be a miner’s lamp placed upon the altar as a symbol of the colliery and the bountiful harvest.

        More recollections from Bryan about the house and garden at Love Lane:

        I always recall tea around the three legged oak table bedecked with a colorful seersucker cloth. Battenburg cake. Jam Roll. Rich Tea and Digestive biscuits. Mr. Kipling’s exceedingly good cakes! Home-made jam.  Loose tea from the Coronation tin cannister. The ancient mangle outside the back door and the galvanized steel wash tub with hand-operated agitator on the underside of the lid. The hand operated water pump ‘though modernisation allowed for a cold tap only inside, above the single sink and wooden draining board. A small gas stove and very little room for food preparation. Amazing how the Marshalls (×7) managed in this space!

        The small window over the sink in the kitchen brought in little light since the neighbor built on a bathroom annex at the back of their house, leaving #47 with limited light, much to to upset of grandad and Phyllis. I do recall it being a gloomy place..i.e.the kitchen and back room.

        The garden was lovely. Long and narrow with privet hedge dividing the properties on the right and the lovely wall on the left. Dorothy planted spectacular lilac bushes against the wall. Vivid blues, purples and whites. Double-flora. Amazing…and with stunning fragrance. Grandad loved older victorian type plants such as foxgloves and comfrey. Forget-me-nots and marigolds (calendulas) in abundance.  Rhubarb stalks. Always plantings of lettuce and other vegetables. Lots of mint too! A large varigated laurel bush outside the front door!

        Such a pleasant walk through the past. 

        An autograph book belonging to Phyllis from the 1920s has survived in which each friend painted a little picture, drew a cartoon, or wrote a verse.  This entry is perhaps my favourite:

        Ripping Time


          Ellen (Nellie) Purdy

          My grandfathers aunt Nellie Purdy 1872-1947 grew up with his mother Mary Ann at the Gilmans in Buxton.  We knew she was a nurse or a matron, and that she made a number of trips to USA.

          I started looking for passenger lists and immigration lists (we had already found some of them, and my cousin Linda Marshall in Boston found some of them), and found one in 1904 with details of the “relatives address while in US”.

          October 31st, 1904, Ellen Purdy sailed from Liverpool to Baltimore on the Friesland. She was a 32 year old nurse and she paid for her own ticket. The address of relatives in USA was Druid Hill and Lafayette Ave, Baltimore, Maryland.

          I wondered if she stayed with relatives, perhaps they were the Housley descendants. It was her great uncle George Housley who emigrated in 1851, not so far away in Pennsylvania. I wanted to check the Baltimore census to find out the names at that address, in case they were Housley’s. So I joined a Baltimore History group on facebook, and asked how I might find out.  The people were so enormously helpful!  The address was the Home of the Friendless, an orphanage. (a historic landmark of some note I think), and someone even found Ellen Purdy listed in the Baltimore directory as a nurse there.

          She sailed back to England in 1913.   Ellen sailed in 1900 and 1920 as well but I haven’t unraveled those trips yet.

          THE HOME OF THE FRIENDLESS, is situated at the corner of Lafayette and Druid Hill avenues, Baltimore. It is a large brick building, which was erected at a cost of $62,000. It was organized in 1854.The chief aim of the founders of this institution was to respond to a need for providing a home for the friendless and homeless children, orphans, and half-orphans, or the offspring of vagrants. It has been managed since its organization by a board of ladies, who, by close attention and efficient management, have made the institution one of the most prominent charitable institutions in the State. From its opening to the present time there have been received 5,000 children, and homes have been secured for nearly one thousand of this number. The institution has a capacity of about 200 inmates. The present number of beneficiaries is 165. A kindergarten and other educational facilities are successfully conducted. The home knows no demonimational creed, being non-sectarian. Its principal source of revenue is derived from private contributions. For many years the State has appropriated different sums towards it maintenance, and the General Assembly of 1892 contributed the sum of $3,000 per annum.

          A later trip:   The ship’s manifest from May 1920 the Baltic lists Ellen on board arriving in Ellis Island heading to Baltimore age 48. The next of kin is listed as George Purdy (her father) of 2 Gregory Blvd Forest Side, Nottingham. She’s listed as a nurse, and sailed from Liverpool May 8 1920.

          Ellen Purdy


          Ellen eventually retired in England and married Frank Garbett, a tax collector,  at the age of 51 in Herefordshire.  Judging from the number of newspaper articles I found about her, she was an active member of the community and was involved in many fundraising activities for the local cottage hospital.

          Her obituary in THE KINGTON TIMES, NOVEMBER 8, 1947:
          Mrs. Ellen Garbett wife of Mr. F. Garbett, of Brook Cottage, Kingsland, whose funeral took place at St. Michael’s Church, Kingsland, on October 30th, was a familiar figure in the district, and by her genial manner and kindly ways had endeared herself to many.
          Mrs Garbett had had a wide experience in the nursing profession. Beginning her training in this country, she went to the Italian Riviera and there continued her work, later going to the United States. In 1916 she gained the Q.A.I.M.N.S. and returned to England and was appointed sister at the Lord Derby Military Hospital, an appointment she held for four years.

          We didn’t know that Ellen had worked on the Italian Riviera, and hope in due course to find out more about it.

          Mike Rushby, Ellen’s sister Kate’s grandson in Australia, spoke to his sister in USA recently about Nellie Purdy. She replied:   I told you I remembered Auntie Nellie coming to Jacksdale. She gave me a small green leatherette covered bible which I still have ( though in a very battered condition). Here is a picture of it.

          Ellen Purdy bible


            While Finnley was making the tea, Liz consulted the Possibe L’Oracle for a reading. It said:

            “We are the collective of the Ancient Draigh’Ones, we greet you and your queries, Liz.

             Well, well. Looking at the concepts you brought up in your last offering to this story thread, we couldn’t really pick up what your energy was trying to express.
            Forgive us, humans still elude us at times. 

             We must withhold points for continuity {audible snort} though, as it feels it needs to gather more support from your fellow companions {snort} for now. But who knows, you may just be a pioneer. Go on trailblazing Liz!

             Psst. We’ll give you a hint, here are some trending concepts here you may want to check out for yourself.”

            Perplexa the robot provided her typically superfluous additional information, with baffling lists of numbers, but Liz noted the many mentions of cleanliness and cleaning implements, and wondered why that hadn’t manifested into a marvelously clean house.

            Leaf (1 ), with mentions by Flove (1) — last seen in  #6198, 2 days ago
            Cleanliness (1 ), with mentions by Flove (1) — last seen in  #6200, 22 hours ago
            The Glow (1 ), with mentions by Flove (1) — last seen in  #6200, 22 hours ago
            The Edge (1 ), with mentions by Tracy (1) — last seen in  #6199, 2 days ago
            Cleaning tools (1 ), with mentions by Tracy (1) — last seen in  #6199, 2 days ago
            Brush (1 ), with mentions by Tracy (1) — last seen in  #6199, 2 days ago
            Jeffrey Combs (1 ), with mentions by Flove (1) — last seen in  #6198, 2 days ago
            The Times (1 ), with mentions by Flove (1) — last seen in  #6198, 2 days ago
            Drama (1 ), with mentions by Flove (1) — last seen in  #6198, 2 days ago
            Fern (1 ), with mentions by Flove (1) — last seen in  #6198, 2 days ago
            Time (1 ), with mentions by Flove (1) — last seen in  #6198, 2 days ago


            In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage


              The wardrobe was sitting solidly in the middle of the office, exactly where they had left it.

              Or was it?

              “I was expecting a room full of middle-aged ladies,” said Star, her voice troubled. She frowned at the wardrobe. “Has it moved a little do you think? I’m sure it was closer to the window before. Or was it smaller. There’s something different about it …”

              “Maybe they are inside,” whispered Tara.

              “What! All of them?” Star sniggered nervously.

              “We should check.” But Tara didn’t move— she felt an odd reluctance to approach the wardrobe. “You check, Star.”

              Star shook her head. “Where’s Rosamund? Checking wardrobes for middle-aged drug mules is the sort of job she should be doing.”

              “Are you looking for me?” asked a soft voice from the doorway. Tara and Star spun round.

              “Good grief!” exclaimed Tara. “Rosamund! What are you wearing?”

              Rosamund was dressed in a silky yellow thing that floated to her ankles. Her feet were bare and her long hair, usually worn loose, was now neatly plaited. Encircling the top of her head was a daisy chain. She smiled gently at Star and Tara. “Peace, my friends.” Dozens of gold bracelets jangled as she extended her hands to them. “Come, my dear friends, let us partake of carrot juice together.”


              In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage


                “Will you look at these prices!” exclaimed one of the middle aged ladies.

                Privately, Tara called them the miserable old bag and the crazy old witch, or Mob and Cow for ease of reference. Anyway, it was Mob who was banging on about the prices.

                “Feel free to take yourself somewhere cheaper to eat,” she snarled.

                “Oh, no, that’s okay, as long as you’re happy paying these outrageous prices.”

                Cow cackled. “I’ve not eaten for a month so bugger the prices! Not that I need to eat, airs good enough for me seeing as I have special powers. Still, a raspberry bun wouldn’t go amiss. Thank you, Ladies!”

                Star sighed heavily and glanced reproachfully at Rosamund.

                “Sorry, I were trying to help,” she said with a shrug.

                Tara scanned the room. The only other people in the cafe were an elderly gentleman reading the newspaper and a bedraggled mother with two noisy snot-bags in tow. Tara shuddered and turned her attention to the elderly man. “Those deep wrinkles and wasted muscles look genuine,” she whispered to Star. “There’s nobody here who could possibly be Vince French. I’m going to go and keep watch by the door.”

                “Good thinking,” said Star, after covertly checking her Lemoon quote of the day app on her phone; she realised uneasily she was increasingly relying on it for guidance. “There’s a sunny seat over there; I’ll grab a coffee and look inconspicuous by doing nothing. I don’t want to blow our cover.”

                Tara glared at her. “I saw you checking your app! What did the oracle say?”

                “Oh, just some crazy stuff.” She laughed nervously. “There is some kind of peace in not feelign like there’s anythign to do.

                “Well that’s not going to get us far, is it now?”


                In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage


                  “I think you’ve forgotten something, Star.”  Tara didn’t want to put a dampener on Star’s high spirits, but felt obliged to point out that New Zealand was still out of bounds with the quarantine restrictions.

                  “Not only that,” Tara continued, “Where exactly in New Zealand?”

                  This was unanswerable at this stage and was quickly forgotten.

                  “We can send Rosamund on a recce to find out more.  That way if she gets arrested for breaking the lockdown rules it won’t matter much and we can carry on solving the case.”

                  In response to Star’s look of outrage she added, “Well better than either of us getting locked up innit!”  Star had to agree.

                  “It will take two of us to keep an eye on Aunty April, anyway. And it would behoove us to have a thorough look at that wardrobe, and decipher those notes.  And check the lining of the fur coats. I read a book once and spies used morse code in the hem stitches for sending messages.”

                  “Do you know morse code?”

                  “Of course not, why would I?”

                  “Well then how will you know..?”

                  The conversation went on in a similar vein for some time.


                  In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage


                    No sooner had they reached for the drinks in the office cupboard, than the phone rang loudly.

                    Rosamund!” howled Star. “Where is that daft niece of yours, and what good is she if she doesn’t even answer the calls! Rosamund!”

                    “I thought you gave her the afternoon?” Tara mouthed while picking the annoying phone. “Cartwright and Wrexham Private Investigators, can I help you?”

                    Her face frowned. “Herself speaking.”

                    “Yes, we do private investigations. Very successfully I may say. Alright Ma’am, let me check my agenda.” She looked in the air, flipping an imaginary agenda. “Oh, you’re in luck, our 5pm just cancelled. Alright then, see you at our office. Au revoir.”

                    Tara hung up with a smile.

                    Star was busy slurping the mojito while struggling with the mint bits in her teeth. “What? Tell me this instant!”

                    “Our second case! Isn’t it exciting!”

                    “Sure thing, what it is this time? Evil possession?”

                    “Actually, it’s not that far off. Apparently, our ladyship needs a falgrante delicto of adultery. Her husband seems to be a cheating one, and with a twinge of double personality… Or at least that’s what she said.”

                    “Fantastic. Can’t wait for all the juicy details. I’ll go prepare my sequin red dress to set the honey trap darling.”

                    “Good lord, get a hold of yourself Star, it’s only been a day, and you’re ready to jump on the next passing horse as it were.”

                    “Who said you shouldn’t mix pleasure with business.”

                    “Right. Thought that was the reverse…”

                    “Tsk. Just to get the last word.”



                    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage


                      “A dil-do factory?” She was aghast. “A fucking carrot dildo factory?”

                      “Admit it, we’re rubbish at this” Tara said. “Even Rosamund may be better at this than us.”

                      “Oh don’t push it.” Star lit a large cigar, a nasty habit that cropped up when she was nervous. She blew a smoke ring and sighed. “At least the rogering was a nice change. Good clean sex, almost a spiritual experience.”

                      “Oh come now, with all the don’t-need-to-know details…”

                      “Well, don’t be such a prude, you were there after all. With all that luscious moaning. Haven’t seen you so flushed in ages…” Star tittered in that high-pitched laughter that could shatter crystal flutes.

                      “Wait… a minute.” Tara was having a brainwave. “We may have overlooked something.”

                      “What? In the sex department?”

                      “Shush, you lascivious banshee… In the flushed department.”

                      “What? Don’t speak riddles tart, I can’t handle riddles when my body’s aching from all that gymnastic.”

                      “Can’t you see? They got to get rid of the dissident stuff unfit for cultish dildoing, if you catch my drift.”

                      “Oh I catch it alright, but I’ve checked the loo… Oh, what? you mean the compost pile?”

                      “I’ve seen trucks parked out the back, they where labelled… Organic Lou’s Disposal Services… OLDS… That’s probably how they remove their archives, if you see what I mean.”

                      “Alright, alright, we’ll go investigate them tomorrow. Meanwhile, what about Mr French?” Star was puffing on her cigar making a good effort at trying to remember and link the details together.

                      “I have a theory. Although it usually would be more in your area of theories.”

                      “What? Alien abduction?”

                      “No, don’t be ridiculous. I’m talking time travel… Haven’t you noticed the scent of celery when we were at the mansion and the appartment?”

                      “A dead give-away for time-travelling shenanigans!”

                      “Exactly. And if I’m correct, might well be that it’s Mr French from the future who phoned us, before he returned to his timeline. Probably because he already knows we’re going to crack the case. Before we know.”

                      “Oh, that’s nice. Would have been nicer if he’d told us how to solve it instead, if he knew, from the future and all? Are you not sure he’s not from his past instead, like before he got in that dreadful car accident?”

                      “Oh well, doesn’t matter does it? And probably won’t any longer once we locate the Uncle Basil in the Drooling Home of Retired Vegetables.”


                        “Let’s begin,” said the teacher. She was short and seemed around sixty seven. She walked around the room like a tamer surrounded by wild beasts in a circus. Her dark hair was tied into a long braid falling on her straight back like an I. She wore a sari wrapped around her neatly. “I’m Ms Anika Koskinen, your cryogurt teacher today. You’ve got the recipe in front of you on the benches right with the glass and a bottle of water. The ingredients will be in the cabinets on your left and everything is referenced and written big enough for everyone to see.”

                        “Those benches look like the ones in chemistry class when I was in college,” said Glo. “I have bad memories of thoses.”

                        “You have bad memories, that’s all,” said Sha making them both laugh.

                        “But where’s Mavis?” whispered Glo after looking around the room at the other participants. A majority of women,  wrapped in colourful sarongs and a few older men.

                        “How do you want me to know? I was with you since we left the bungalow,” said Sharon who was trying to decipher the blurry letters on the recipe. “Their printer must be malfunctioning, it’s unreadable.”

                        “You should try putting on your glasses.”

                        “I didn’t bring’em, didn’t think we’d need to see anything.”

                        “Oh! There she is,” said Glo as Mavis just entered the room with her beach bag. “Mav! Weehoo! We’re here!”

                        “I saw you! no need to shout,” whispered Mavis loudly. She muttered some excuse to the teacher who had been giving them a stern look.

                        “I’m afraid you’ll have to go with your friends,” said Ms Koskinen, “We don’t have enough material for everyone.”

                        “Oh! That’ll be perfect,” said Mavis with a broad smile. “Hi girls,” she said while installing herself near Sha and Glo.

                        The teacher resumed her explanations of the procedure of making frozen yogurt, checking regularly if everyone had understood. She took everyone bobbing their head as a yes.

                        “Is he good looking?” asked Sha, showing one of the men who had been looking at them since Mavis arrival.

                        “You shouldn’t ask us,” said Glo, “our eyes are like wrinkles remover apps.”

                        “I think he looks better without glasses,” said Mavis.

                        After Ms Koskinen had finished giving them instructions, she told everyone to go take the ingredients and bring them back to their benches.

                        “I’m going,” said Sha who wanted to have a better look at the man.

                        “Don’t forget the recipe with the list of ingredients,” said Mavis waving the paper at her.

                        “Oh! Yes.”

                        She came back with the man helping her carry the tray of ingredients.

                        “Thank you Andrew,” said Sha when he put the tray on their bench.

                        “Oh you’re welcome. And those are your friend you told me about?”

                        “Yes! This is Gloria and this is Mavis.”

                        “Pleased to meet you,” said Andrew. “I’m Andrew Anderson. I suggested Sharon we could have lunch together after the workshop. I’d like you to meet my friends.”

                        “Of course!” said Sha. She winked at her friends who were too flabbergasted to speak.

                        “That’s settled then. We’ll meet at 1pm at my bungalow.”

                        “See you later,” said Sharon with a dulcet voice.

                        “What the butt was that all about?” asked Glo.

                        “Oh! You’ll thank me. I pretexted not to be able to find everything on the list and Andrew was very helpful. The man is charming, and his yacht makes you forget about his Australian accent. We’re going to have lunch on a yacht girls! That means we’re not stuck on the beach and can have some fun exploring around.”

                        Sha looked quite pleased with herself. She put a bottle of orange powder among the ingredients and said :”Now! Let’s make some wrinkle flattener ice cream, ladies. I took some extra tightener.”


                        In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage


                          The front door of Mr French had a certain Gothic quality to it which caught the eye of Star. She was a sucker for the glitz and the extravagant –the more garish, the better. Had she got her way, their office would be full of the cumbersome stuff. Catching the glint in Star’s green eyes, Tara rolled hers. She clanged the metal lion to signal their presence.

                          A decrepit butler called off their ruckus after what seemed like a pause in eternity. They could hear the rambling from a distance behind the door. “I’m coming! No need for such noise! Ah, these youngs nowadays, not a shred of patience!…”

                          “Are you sure about it Star? After all, the deposit check cleared, why should we be concerned about Mr French. And we still haven’t got much to go on about Uncle Basil…”

                          “Shttt, let me handle it,” replied Star shaping her face into a genial one, oozing honey and butterflies.

                          When the butler finally opened the door, he snapped her shut “We’re not interested in whatever… hem, services you’re offering Mesdames.”

                          Tara caught Star’s hand mid-air, as it was about to fly and land square on the rude dried up mummy’s face in front of them.

                          “Sir, you must have us confused. We’ve been hired a week ago by Mr French for a very private matter we cannot obviously discuss on the doorstep. Please check with Mr French, maybe?”

                          The butler’s face turned sour. “Yes of course, I understand. Then you should know Mr French has been in a coma since his dreadful accident last month. Since you have a direct line to him, I suggest you… call him?” And with that, he slammed the door shut on their faces.

                          “Rude!” Tara mouthed.

                          “At least, that tells us something my dear.”

                          “Don’t bait me like this. I’ll ask, what exactly?”

                          “That our Mr French is not who he says he is…”

                          “I wonder if it has something to do with the immense fortune he made with his voice…”

                          “That would be a very interesting question to answer indeed.”


                            “How in tarnation did ya do that?” Arthur looked at his wife suspiciously.

                            “Do what, honey?” Ella Marie replied, feigning innocence.

                            “This here lottery win! How did you do that? You aint been doing them there voodoo tricks again, have you? You promised…”

                            “Oh heck Art, it’s pure chance,  a million to one, you know that! We just got lucky, is all.”  But she couldn’t meet his eye.  “Well I had to do somethin’! It aint for us, it’s for those friends of Jacqui’s. When I heard they’d been locked up in jail on cooked up charges, after being so excited about visiting the family, well I couldn’t bear it.”

                            “You promised you wasn’t gonna do that hokey pokey stuff no more,” Arthur said.

                            “Yes but it aint for us. This is different, just a one time thing, helping out friends.  We can pay the bail money for ’em now and get ’em outta that stinking hellpit.  Aint no place for decent ladies, Art.”

                            “They’ll need some darned expensive lawyers to fight the Beige House, and fat chance of winning.” Art looked doubtful.

                            “Oh they won’t stick around to fight the case. I had this idea,” Ella Marie had that old twinkle in her eye that used to get Art all fired up, back in the day. “We’re gonna buy them a boat. I been talking to Jacqui ’bout it. An old flame of hers turned up who can sail the boat for them.”

                            “How big’s the boat?” asked Art, an idea brewing in his head. He’d always wanted to sail around the world.

                            “Well we aint bought the boat yet, Art, the lottery check only just arrived.  How ’bout we go down to Orange Beach Marina and see what’s for sale? We could have a seafood lunch, make a day of it.”

                            A big smile spread across the old mans face. ” Well, hell, Ella Marie, I guess we can do whatever we darn well please now!  Let’s do it! And,” he added, planting a loud smackeroo of a kiss on her forehead, “Let’s get a boat big enough for all of us.   I’ve got an adventure in me, afore I pop my clogs, I sure do.”


                              “Curiouser and curiouser” said Blithe after Hilda and Ric’s call led the improvised investigation to the doors of the Beige House. “It’s like those huge bills, I tend to find myself at the places I hate the most.”

                              The clue trails were solid. Track marks led to the Carpet cleaning business, and by following the plates of the van, and interrogating the suspicious yet gossipy neighbours (once she produced her P.I. badge), it was just a matter of time before they tracked the van’s whereabouts into Washingtown.

                              “I wonder what business they could have had there…”

                              Ricardo was doing his part too, tracking the social media feeds for anything hashtagged. Difficult to sort through, yet something came up.

                              Hilda, what do you think?” he showed the distracted journalist his finding. “Two au pairs arrested for credit fraud and a French maid wanted in relation with illegal immigration & anchor baby case.”

                              “I’m not sure, usually I would have jumped at the occasion…” Hilda was showing unusual restraint. Maybe the perspective of US prisons…

                              Thankfully Blithe Gambol raised to the challenge. “Of course, we must check that out. Can’t be a coincidence. Just… Remind me what the case was already?”


                                With her pink glove on and her lips apart, Liz passed her finger on the bookshelf. Making the most of the opportunity of Finnley’s excursion outside, Liz had pretexted she wanted to show Roberto how to check for dust. In truth, but she would never confess to it, except to Godfrey after a few drink and some cashew nuts later that day, in truth she had bought a new pink uniform for the gardener/handyman and wanted to see how it fitted him. Of course, she had ordered a few sizes under, so Roberto’s muscles bulged quite nicely under the fabric of the short sleeves, stretching the seam in a dangerously exciting way.

                                “What’s this book?” asked Roberto.

                                “What?” asked Liz who had been lost in one of the worst case scenario. Why would Roberto talk about something as undersexying as a book? Nonetheless, without wanting to, her eyes followed the gardener’s sexy arm down to his sexy finger pointing at the book spine and her brain froze on the title: “An Aesthetic of the Night Mare“, by Vanina Vain.

                                “What’s this book doing among my personal work?” she asked, all sexying forgotten.

                                “Don’t you remember?” asked Godfrey who happened to pass behind her. “Years ago when you still read your fanmail you answered one from a young girl wanting to follow in your footsteps. You sent her a handwritten copy of Rilke’s letter to a young poet. I wrote it myself and Finnley signed it for you. She’s so good at imitating your signature. Well anyway a few years later that girl finally published her first book and sent you a copy to thank you.”

                                “Have I read it?” Liz asked.

                                “You might have. But I’m not sure. It’s quite Gothic. The girl takes advantage of her sleep paralysis at night to do some crazy experiences.”

                                Liz had no recollection whatsoever of it, but that was not the point.

                                “Tsk. What’s it doing among my personal work bookshelves? Don’t we have somewhere else to put that kind of…”

                                “The trash you mean?” asked Finnley.

                                “Oh! You’re back”, said Liz.

                                “Tsk, tsk. Such disappointment in your voice. But I’m never far away, and luckily for some”, she added with a look at Roberto who was trying to stretch the sleeve without breaking the seam.


                                  “That trip of yours was surprisingly, or must I say, suspiciously long…” Lucinda gave them both a long glance full of innuendos, and added in case those were missed “where you on a honeymoon or something?”

                                  Shawn-Paul blushed to a shade of violent violet cramoisi, while Maeve just snatched her dog’s leash that Lucinda was handing her back rather nonchalantly.

                                  “Oh, you, will you just wipe the snark from your face, it’s making you look ten years older Luce. It wasn’t really a holiday if you must know everything.” She elbowed Shawn-Paul, who was looking vacantly at the tip of his shoes. “Why don’t you tell her?”

                                  “Why don’t you tell her?” he replied automatically.

                                  “It’s just been 6 months! Why do you make such a fuss about it?”

                                  “I’m not making a fuss, look who’s cranky! I can see you are venting your spleen on me after a sleepless night in the plane…”

                                  “Haha, yes”, Maeve admitted with a nervous chuckle. “The only thing that matters is we managed to collect the dolls and the keys, just don’t ask me how.”

                                  “You know I’ll ask.”

                                  “Yes, I know. Just… don’t.”

                                  “Fair enough. But it might be tough for me not to ask. I may forget… Besides, I must ask, do you have a secret benefactor that’s funding you all this time? Fabio’s kibble didn’t come free you know, you left me with barely enough for a week!”

                                  “Oh really? Dog’s kibble now? Let me make you a check right now.”

                                  “I think you need a good night of sleep.” Lucinda winked at Shawn-Paul, “him too. And we’ll talk later. I have tons of things to update you about my theater writing group. You might help me with the continuity bits… Waaa, calm down, no pressure!”


                                    It’s taking blimmin forever for the Oober to get here, and, wouldn’t you just know it, rain!

                                    “Hop in,” says the driver. He’s leaning over holding open the front door. An older chappie with a shiny forehead and rosacea. He definitely drinks. Maybe he’s come straight from the pub. Still, it’s raining and I’m late, so I hop in. In the back seat, mind. I’m not much of a one for talking.

                                    “I’m Finnley.” I crack a smile to make up for sitting in the back. It feels strange smiling. In my mind, there’s not much point to smiling. It just encourages people to be overly familiar.

                                    Bert,” he says. He’s Australian I think from the accent and his expression is more of a sneer than a smile. I reckon I pissed him off not getting in the front seat.  “F i n n l e y.” He sounds it out like he’s learning a new language. “Always thought that was a boy’s name?”

                                    “Can be either.”

                                    Do I look like a boy, Bert

                                    Anyhow, that’s enough chitchat for me. I get my phone out and make like I am checking for messages. Haha. As if.

                                    “Here on holiday, Finnley? Pity about the weather.”

                                    Oh here we go.

                                    “A job.”

                                    “Oh yeah, corker! Where’s that, Finnley?”

                                    “Washingtown Beige House, Bert.”

                                    I have to be honest, saying it out loud still gives me goosebumps. And Bert’s surprise doesn’t disappoint.


                                      I’ve been checking old records those past few days. Yes, I know, not much ever happens, and I’ve got a lot of time on my hands between my studies. Anyway, I read something rather odd about a bit of rare magic… Sorry, getting carried away again, I mean, I found a passing mention of Jasper.

                                      Guess, the letter is about our long lost brother that nobody ever mentioned. My sisters, with all of their flaws, which I don’t hate them for, have a keen sense of investigation. Must be in the genes, though it may have skipped over Aunt Dodo.

                                      That, or they have just sent a copy of the Boynitch manuscript to sent her into a spin, that wouldn’t be a first.


                                        Barron was not really a baby, more a toddler already. He was playing alone in his play fence, like he was usually left doing when his odd caretakers had gone for an escapade. After a while, he got bored cooing like a baby looking at shiny stuff and suckling at noisy things. After all, as not many had realized, he was blessed with a genius IQ — there was no point at hiding his smarts when no one was around.

                                        The house bulldog was sleeping nearby, snoozing like a roaring motorbike. Apart from that, this part of the House was quiet. Occasionally he could hear gurgling sounds coming from the badly soundproofed pipes of the old building. Somebody was having an industrious bowel movement. Hardly news material, his father would have say.

                                        He checked the e-zapwatch that his nannies had put on his wrist. Bad news. His kidnappers were late. He wondered if something had changed in the near perfect plan. Yet, he’d managed to have the money wired to the offshore account, while his contacts, codenames Jesús & Araceli (he wasn’t sure they were codenames at all) said it was in order for the baby abduction.

                                        He could hear suspicious sounds outside; the bulldog barely registered. What if some acolytes in the plan had bailed out? The sounds at his bedroom’s window could be his abductors, waiting for a way in.

                                        As usual, he would have to take matters in his own tiny hands, and let others get the credit for it.

                                        He peeled off one side of the net and tumbled outside of the playpen. Damn, these bodies were so difficult to manœuvre at times. Reaching the window would be difficult but not impossible. After dragging a chair, and a pile of cushions, he hoisted himself finally at reach of the latch, and flung it open. The brisk cold air from outside made his nose itch, and it was the last thing he remembered while he smelled the chloroform.


                                          Noor Mary Chowdhury had just been promoted to the role of housekeeper since the arrival of the new Iranian maid, May. It was a nice change of position but sadly the salary was not really following, she’ll have to talk to the chief of stuff, Mr August. She suspected him to have a crush on her and he might get a word in her favor to Mr Lump.

                                          “Tskk,” she said to May. “You’re not doing it right, rub gently with the newspaper to make the silver shine.”

                                          “Like that?” asked May. Norma bobbed her head the Indian way, and as May seemed a bit confused she added “close enough.”


                                          The shout startled them both.

                                          “Keep doing like that only. I’m the housekeeper, I’ll go check.”

                                          Norma went to the nursery room and her lips tightened when she saw the two au pair aunties slumped on the couch. June’s eyes were misty, she turned her bottle upside down to show it was empty. April was busy on her phone as usual, ignoring the maid as if she was insignificant.

                                          Norma snorted, she didn’t say anything but showed her disapproval silently. June’s breath could make an elephant drunk while sitting on its back and April was so ugly she would make it run away.

                                          “I’m not your maid,” the housekeeper said.

                                          “Oh that’s right!” said June to April “Coz she’s got a PhD!” and they laughed.

                                          It hurt but Norma kept her lips tight and left the room. She bumped into Mr August Finest and her mind went blank. He was tall and wore a handsome moustache. She had forgotten she wanted to talk to him about her salary.


                                            “Well, where were we?” Jerk took the articles where he left them when he got up to check the price on one lacking a barcode.
                                            The blip blip resumed, with the impatient twitching lady pouncing on the items as soon as they passed the scanning, to cram them into her compostable bag.

                                            Days were stretching in ennui, and he started to feel like an android. At least, the rhythmical blips and “Have a good day, thank you for your purchase” were now part of his muscle memory, and didn’t require much paying attention to.

                                            He’d renewed the yearly fee to maintain his group website yesterday, but he wasn’t sure why he did it. There were still the occasional posts on the groups he was managing, but the buzz had died already. People had moved to other things, autumn for one. Really, what was the point of maintaining it for 3 posts a week (and those were good weeks, of course not counting the spam).

                                            There was fun occasionally, but more often than not, there were harangues.
                                            He wondered what archetype he was in his life story; maybe he was just a background character, and that was fine, so long as he wasn’t just a supporting cast to another megalomaniac politician.

                                            The apartment blocks were he was living were awfully quiet. His neighbours were still in travel, he wondered how they could afford it. Lucinda was completely immersed in her writing courses, and Fabio was still around amazingly – Lucinda didn’t look like she could even care of herself, so a dog… Meanwhile, the town council was envisaging a “refresh” of their neighborhood, but he had strong suspicion it was another real-estate development scheme. Only time would tell. He wasn’t in a rush to jump to the conclusion of an expropriation drama —leave that to Luce.

                                            Friday would have been her 60th brithday (funny typo he thought). Their dead friend’s birthday would still crop up in his calendar, and he liked that they were still these connections at least. Did she move on, he wondered. Sometimes her energy felt present, and Lucinda would argue she was helping her in her writing endeavours. He himself wasn’t sure, those synchronicities were nice enough without the emphatic spiritualist extrapolations.

                                            “Happy birthday Granola.” he said.


                                            Another crack appeared on the red crystal into which Granola was stuck for what felt like ages.

                                            “About time!” she said. “I wonder if they have all forgotten about me now.”

                                            She looked closely at the crack. There was an opening, invisible, the size of an atom. But maybe, just maybe, it was just enough for her to squeeze in. She leaned in and focused on the little dot to escape.

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