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    TracyTracy
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    From Tanganyika with Love

    continued part 7

    With thanks to Mike Rushby.

    Oldeani Hospital. 19th September 1938

    Dearest Family,

    George arrived today to take us home to Mbulu but Sister Marianne will not allow
    me to travel for another week as I had a bit of a set back after baby’s birth. At first I was
    very fit and on the third day Sister stripped the bed and, dictionary in hand, started me
    off on ante natal exercises. “Now make a bridge Mrs Rushby. So. Up down, up down,’
    whilst I obediently hoisted myself aloft on heels and head. By the sixth day she
    considered it was time for me to be up and about but alas, I soon had to return to bed
    with a temperature and a haemorrhage. I got up and walked outside for the first time this
    morning.

    I have had lots of visitors because the local German settlers seem keen to see
    the first British baby born in the hospital. They have been most kind, sending flowers
    and little German cards of congratulations festooned with cherubs and rather sweet. Most
    of the women, besides being pleasant, are very smart indeed, shattering my illusion that
    German matrons are invariably fat and dowdy. They are all much concerned about the
    Czecko-Slovakian situation, especially Sister Marianne whose home is right on the
    border and has several relations who are Sudentan Germans. She is ant-Nazi and
    keeps on asking me whether I think England will declare war if Hitler invades Czecko-
    Slovakia, as though I had inside information.

    George tells me that he has had a grass ‘banda’ put up for us at Mbulu as we are
    both determined not to return to those prison-like quarters in the Fort. Sister Marianne is
    horrified at the idea of taking a new baby to live in a grass hut. She told George,
    “No,No,Mr Rushby. I find that is not to be allowed!” She is an excellent Sister but rather
    prim and George enjoys teasing her. This morning he asked with mock seriousness,
    “Sister, why has my wife not received her medal?” Sister fluttered her dictionary before
    asking. “What medal Mr Rushby”. “Why,” said George, “The medal that Hitler gives to
    women who have borne four children.” Sister started a long and involved explanation
    about the medal being only for German mothers whilst George looked at me and
    grinned.

    Later. Great Jubilation here. By the noise in Sister Marianne’s sitting room last night it
    sounded as though the whole German population had gathered to listen to the wireless
    news. I heard loud exclamations of joy and then my bedroom door burst open and
    several women rushed in. “Thank God “, they cried, “for Neville Chamberlain. Now there
    will be no war.” They pumped me by the hand as though I were personally responsible
    for the whole thing.

    George on the other hand is disgusted by Chamberlain’s lack of guts. Doesn’t
    know what England is coming to these days. I feel too content to concern myself with
    world affairs. I have a fine husband and four wonderful children and am happy, happy,
    happy.

    Eleanor.

    Mbulu. 30th September 1938

    Dearest Family,

    Here we are, comfortably installed in our little green house made of poles and
    rushes from a nearby swamp. The house has of course, no doors or windows, but
    there are rush blinds which roll up in the day time. There are two rooms and a little porch
    and out at the back there is a small grass kitchen.

    Here we have the privacy which we prize so highly as we are screened on one
    side by a Forest Department plantation and on the other three sides there is nothing but
    the rolling countryside cropped bare by the far too large herds of cattle and goats of the
    Wambulu. I have a lovely lazy time. I still have Kesho-Kutwa and the cook we brought
    with us from the farm. They are both faithful and willing souls though not very good at
    their respective jobs. As one of these Mbeya boys goes on safari with George whose
    job takes him from home for three weeks out of four, I have taken on a local boy to cut
    firewood and heat my bath water and generally make himself useful. His name is Saa,
    which means ‘Clock’

    We had an uneventful but very dusty trip from Oldeani. Johnny Jo travelled in his
    pram in the back of the boxbody and got covered in dust but seems none the worst for
    it. As the baby now takes up much of my time and Kate was showing signs of
    boredom, I have engaged a little African girl to come and play with Kate every morning.
    She is the daughter of the head police Askari and a very attractive and dignified little
    person she is. Her name is Kajyah. She is scrupulously clean, as all Mohammedan
    Africans seem to be. Alas, Kajyah, though beautiful, is a bore. She simply does not
    know how to play, so they just wander around hand in hand.

    There are only two drawbacks to this little house. Mbulu is a very windy spot so
    our little reed house is very draughty. I have made a little tent of sheets in one corner of
    the ‘bedroom’ into which I can retire with Johnny when I wish to bathe or sponge him.
    The other drawback is that many insects are attracted at night by the lamp and make it
    almost impossible to read or sew and they have a revolting habit of falling into the soup.
    There are no dangerous wild animals in this area so I am not at all nervous in this
    flimsy little house when George is on safari. Most nights hyaenas come around looking
    for scraps but our dogs, Fanny and Paddy, soon see them off.

    Eleanor.

    Mbulu. 25th October 1938

    Dearest Family,

    Great news! a vacancy has occurred in the Game Department. George is to
    transfer to it next month. There will be an increase in salary and a brighter prospect for
    the future. It will mean a change of scene and I shall be glad of that. We like Mbulu and
    the people here but the rains have started and our little reed hut is anything but water
    tight.

    Before the rain came we had very unpleasant dust storms. I think I told you that
    this is a treeless area and the grass which normally covers the veldt has been cropped
    to the roots by the hungry native cattle and goats. When the wind blows the dust
    collects in tall black columns which sweep across the country in a most spectacular
    fashion. One such dust devil struck our hut one day whilst we were at lunch. George
    swept Kate up in a second and held her face against his chest whilst I rushed to Johnny
    Jo who was asleep in his pram, and stooped over the pram to protect him. The hut
    groaned and creaked and clouds of dust blew in through the windows and walls covering
    our persons, food, and belongings in a black pall. The dogs food bowls and an empty
    petrol tin outside the hut were whirled up and away. It was all over in a moment but you
    should have seen what a family of sweeps we looked. George looked at our blackened
    Johnny and mimicked in Sister Marianne’s primmest tones, “I find that this is not to be
    allowed.”

    The first rain storm caught me unprepared when George was away on safari. It
    was a terrific thunderstorm. The quite violent thunder and lightening were followed by a
    real tropical downpour. As the hut is on a slight slope, the storm water poured through
    the hut like a river, covering the entire floor, and the roof leaked like a lawn sprinkler.
    Johnny Jo was snug enough in the pram with the hood raised, but Kate and I had a
    damp miserable night. Next morning I had deep drains dug around the hut and when
    George returned from safari he managed to borrow an enormous tarpaulin which is now
    lashed down over the roof.

    It did not rain during the next few days George was home but the very next night
    we were in trouble again. I was awakened by screams from Kate and hurriedly turned up
    the lamp to see that we were in the midst of an invasion of siafu ants. Kate’s bed was
    covered in them. Others appeared to be raining down from the thatch. I quickly stripped
    Kate and carried her across to my bed, whilst I rushed to the pram to see whether
    Johnny Jo was all right. He was fast asleep, bless him, and slept on through all the
    commotion, whilst I struggled to pick all the ants out of Kate’s hair, stopping now and
    again to attend to my own discomfort. These ants have a painful bite and seem to
    choose all the most tender spots. Kate fell asleep eventually but I sat up for the rest of
    the night to make sure that the siafu kept clear of the children. Next morning the servants
    dispersed them by laying hot ash.

    In spite of the dampness of the hut both children are blooming. Kate has rosy
    cheeks and Johnny Jo now has a fuzz of fair hair and has lost his ‘old man’ look. He
    reminds me of Ann at his age.

    Eleanor.

    Iringa. 30th November 1938

    Dearest Family,

    Here we are back in the Southern Highlands and installed on the second floor of
    another German Fort. This one has been modernised however and though not so
    romantic as the Mbulu Fort from the outside, it is much more comfortable.We are all well
    and I am really proud of our two safari babies who stood up splendidly to a most trying
    journey North from Mbulu to Arusha and then South down the Great North Road to
    Iringa where we expect to stay for a month.

    At Arusha George reported to the headquarters of the Game Department and
    was instructed to come on down here on Rinderpest Control. There is a great flap on in
    case the rinderpest spread to Northern Rhodesia and possibly onwards to Southern
    Rhodesia and South Africa. Extra veterinary officers have been sent to this area to
    inoculate all the cattle against the disease whilst George and his African game Scouts will
    comb the bush looking for and destroying diseased game. If the rinderpest spreads,
    George says it may be necessary to shoot out all the game in a wide belt along the
    border between the Southern Highlands of Tanganyika and Northern Rhodesia, to
    prevent the disease spreading South. The very idea of all this destruction sickens us
    both.

    George left on a foot safari the day after our arrival and I expect I shall be lucky if I
    see him occasionally at weekends until this job is over. When rinderpest is under control
    George is to be stationed at a place called Nzassa in the Eastern Province about 18
    miles from Dar es Salaam. George’s orderly, who is a tall, cheerful Game Scout called
    Juma, tells me that he has been stationed at Nzassa and it is a frightful place! However I
    refuse to be depressed. I now have the cheering prospect of leave to England in thirty
    months time when we will be able to fetch Ann and George and be a proper family
    again. Both Ann and George look happy in the snapshots which mother-in-law sends
    frequently. Ann is doing very well at school and loves it.

    To get back to our journey from Mbulu. It really was quite an experience. It
    poured with rain most of the way and the road was very slippery and treacherous the
    120 miles between Mbulu and Arusha. This is a little used earth road and the drains are
    so blocked with silt as to be practically non existent. As usual we started our move with
    the V8 loaded to capacity. I held Johnny on my knee and Kate squeezed in between
    George and me. All our goods and chattels were in wooden boxes stowed in the back
    and the two houseboys and the two dogs had to adjust themselves to the space that
    remained. We soon ran into trouble and it took us all day to travel 47 miles. We stuck
    several times in deep mud and had some most nasty skids. I simply clutched Kate in
    one hand and Johnny Jo in the other and put my trust in George who never, under any
    circumstances, loses his head. Poor Johnny only got his meals when circumstances
    permitted. Unfortunately I had put him on a bottle only a few days before we left Mbulu
    and, as I was unable to buy either a primus stove or Thermos flask there we had to
    make a fire and boil water for each meal. Twice George sat out in the drizzle with a rain
    coat rapped over his head to protect a miserable little fire of wet sticks drenched with
    paraffin. Whilst we waited for the water to boil I pacified John by letting him suck a cube
    of Tate and Lyles sugar held between my rather grubby fingers. Not at all according to
    the book.

    That night George, the children and I slept in the car having dumped our boxes
    and the two servants in a deserted native hut. The rain poured down relentlessly all night
    and by morning the road was more of a morass than ever. We swerved and skidded
    alarmingly till eventually one of the wheel chains broke and had to be tied together with
    string which constantly needed replacing. George was so patient though he was wet
    and muddy and tired and both children were very good. Shortly before reaching the Great North Road we came upon Jack Gowan, the Stock Inspector from Mbulu. His car
    was bogged down to its axles in black mud. He refused George’s offer of help saying
    that he had sent his messenger to a nearby village for help.

    I hoped that conditions would be better on the Great North Road but how over
    optimistic I was. For miles the road runs through a belt of ‘black cotton soil’. which was
    churned up into the consistency of chocolate blancmange by the heavy lorry traffic which
    runs between Dodoma and Arusha. Soon the car was skidding more fantastically than
    ever. Once it skidded around in a complete semi circle so George decided that it would
    be safer for us all to walk whilst he negotiated the very bad patches. You should have
    seen me plodding along in the mud and drizzle with the baby in one arm and Kate
    clinging to the other. I was terrified of slipping with Johnny. Each time George reached
    firm ground he would return on foot to carry Kate and in this way we covered many bad
    patches.We were more fortunate than many other travellers. We passed several lorries
    ditched on the side of the road and one car load of German men, all elegantly dressed in
    lounge suits. One was busy with his camera so will have a record of their plight to laugh
    over in the years to come. We spent another night camping on the road and next day
    set out on the last lap of the journey. That also was tiresome but much better than the
    previous day and we made the haven of the Arusha Hotel before dark. What a picture
    we made as we walked through the hall in our mud splattered clothes! Even Johnny was
    well splashed with mud but no harm was done and both he and Kate are blooming.
    We rested for two days at Arusha and then came South to Iringa. Luckily the sun
    came out and though for the first day the road was muddy it was no longer so slippery
    and the second day found us driving through parched country and along badly
    corrugated roads. The further South we came, the warmer the sun which at times blazed
    through the windscreen and made us all uncomfortably hot. I have described the country
    between Arusha and Dodoma before so I shan’t do it again. We reached Iringa without
    mishap and after a good nights rest all felt full of beans.

    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate, Mbeya. 7th January 1939.

    Dearest Family,

    You will be surprised to note that we are back on the farm! At least the children
    and I are here. George is away near the Rhodesian border somewhere, still on
    Rinderpest control.

    I had a pleasant time at Iringa, lots of invitations to morning tea and Kate had a
    wonderful time enjoying the novelty of playing with children of her own age. She is not
    shy but nevertheless likes me to be within call if not within sight. It was all very suburban
    but pleasant enough. A few days before Christmas George turned up at Iringa and
    suggested that, as he would be working in the Mbeya area, it might be a good idea for
    the children and me to move to the farm. I agreed enthusiastically, completely forgetting
    that after my previous trouble with the leopard I had vowed to myself that I would never
    again live alone on the farm.

    Alas no sooner had we arrived when Thomas, our farm headman, brought the
    news that there were now two leopards terrorising the neighbourhood, and taking dogs,
    goats and sheep and chickens. Traps and poisoned bait had been tried in vain and he
    was sure that the female was the same leopard which had besieged our home before.
    Other leopards said Thomas, came by stealth but this one advertised her whereabouts
    in the most brazen manner.

    George stayed with us on the farm over Christmas and all was quiet at night so I
    cheered up and took the children for walks along the overgrown farm paths. However on
    New Years Eve that darned leopard advertised her presence again with the most blood
    chilling grunts and snarls. Horrible! Fanny and Paddy barked and growled and woke up
    both children. Kate wept and kept saying, “Send it away mummy. I don’t like it.” Johnny
    Jo howled in sympathy. What a picnic. So now the whole performance of bodyguards
    has started again and ‘till George returns we confine our exercise to the garden.
    Our little house is still cosy and sweet but the coffee plantation looks very
    neglected. I wish to goodness we could sell it.

    Eleanor.

    Nzassa 14th February 1939.

    Dearest Family,

    After three months of moving around with two small children it is heavenly to be
    settled in our own home, even though Nzassa is an isolated spot and has the reputation
    of being unhealthy.

    We travelled by car from Mbeya to Dodoma by now a very familiar stretch of
    country, but from Dodoma to Dar es Salaam by train which made a nice change. We
    spent two nights and a day in the Splendid Hotel in Dar es Salaam, George had some
    official visits to make and I did some shopping and we took the children to the beach.
    The bay is so sheltered that the sea is as calm as a pond and the water warm. It is
    wonderful to see the sea once more and to hear tugs hooting and to watch the Arab
    dhows putting out to sea with their oddly shaped sails billowing. I do love the bush, but
    I love the sea best of all, as you know.

    We made an early start for Nzassa on the 3rd. For about four miles we bowled
    along a good road. This brought us to a place called Temeke where George called on
    the District Officer. His house appears to be the only European type house there. The
    road between Temeke and the turn off to Nzassa is quite good, but the six mile stretch
    from the turn off to Nzassa is a very neglected bush road. There is nothing to be seen
    but the impenetrable bush on both sides with here and there a patch of swampy
    ground where rice is planted in the wet season.

    After about six miles of bumpy road we reached Nzassa which is nothing more
    than a sandy clearing in the bush. Our house however is a fine one. It was originally built
    for the District Officer and there is a small court house which is now George’s office. The
    District Officer died of blackwater fever so Nzassa was abandoned as an administrative
    station being considered too unhealthy for Administrative Officers but suitable as
    Headquarters for a Game Ranger. Later a bachelor Game Ranger was stationed here
    but his health also broke down and he has been invalided to England. So now the
    healthy Rushbys are here and we don’t mean to let the place get us down. So don’t
    worry.

    The house consists of three very large and airy rooms with their doors opening
    on to a wide front verandah which we shall use as a living room. There is also a wide
    back verandah with a store room at one end and a bathroom at the other. Both
    verandahs and the end windows of the house are screened my mosquito gauze wire
    and further protected by a trellis work of heavy expanded metal. Hasmani, the Game
    Scout, who has been acting as caretaker, tells me that the expanded metal is very
    necessary because lions often come out of the bush at night and roam around the
    house. Such a comforting thought!

    On our very first evening we discovered how necessary the mosquito gauze is.
    After sunset the air outside is thick with mosquitos from the swamps. About an acre of
    land has been cleared around the house. This is a sandy waste because there is no
    water laid on here and absolutely nothing grows here except a rather revolting milky
    desert bush called ‘Manyara’, and a few acacia trees. A little way from the house there is
    a patch of citrus trees, grape fruit, I think, but whether they ever bear fruit I don’t know.
    The clearing is bordered on three sides by dense dusty thorn bush which is
    ‘lousy with buffalo’ according to George. The open side is the road which leads down to
    George’s office and the huts for the Game Scouts. Only Hasmani and George’s orderly
    Juma and their wives and families live there, and the other huts provide shelter for the
    Game Scouts from the bush who come to Nzassa to collect their pay and for a short
    rest. I can see that my daily walk will always be the same, down the road to the huts and
    back! However I don’t mind because it is far too hot to take much exercise.

    The climate here is really tropical and worse than on the coast because the thick
    bush cuts us off from any sea breeze. George says it will be cooler when the rains start
    but just now we literally drip all day. Kate wears nothing but a cotton sun suit, and Johnny
    a napkin only, but still their little bodies are always moist. I have shorn off all Kate’s lovely
    shoulder length curls and got George to cut my hair very short too.

    We simply must buy a refrigerator. The butter, and even the cheese we bought
    in Dar. simply melted into pools of oil overnight, and all our meat went bad, so we are
    living out of tins. However once we get organised I shall be quite happy here. I like this
    spacious house and I have good servants. The cook, Hamisi Issa, is a Swahili from Lindi
    whom we engaged in Dar es Salaam. He is a very dignified person, and like most
    devout Mohammedan Cooks, keeps both his person and the kitchen spotless. I
    engaged the house boy here. He is rather a timid little body but is very willing and quite
    capable. He has an excessively plain but cheerful wife whom I have taken on as ayah. I
    do not really need help with the children but feel I must have a woman around just in
    case I go down with malaria when George is away on safari.

    Eleanor.

    Nzassa 28th February 1939.

    Dearest Family,

    George’s birthday and we had a special tea party this afternoon which the
    children much enjoyed. We have our frig now so I am able to make jellies and provide
    them with really cool drinks.

    Our very first visitor left this morning after spending only one night here. He is Mr
    Ionides, the Game Ranger from the Southern Province. He acted as stand in here for a
    short while after George’s predecessor left for England on sick leave, and where he has
    since died. Mr Ionides returned here to hand over the range and office formally to
    George. He seems a strange man and is from all accounts a bit of a hermit. He was at
    one time an Officer in the Regular Army but does not look like a soldier, he wears the
    most extraordinary clothes but nevertheless contrives to look top-drawer. He was
    educated at Rugby and Sandhurst and is, I should say, well read. Ionides told us that he
    hated Nzassa, particularly the house which he thinks sinister and says he always slept
    down in the office.

    The house, or at least one bedroom, seems to have the same effect on Kate.
    She has been very nervous at night ever since we arrived. At first the children occupied
    the bedroom which is now George’s. One night, soon after our arrival, Kate woke up
    screaming to say that ‘something’ had looked at her through the mosquito net. She was
    in such a hysterical state that inspite of the heat and discomfort I was obliged to crawl into
    her little bed with her and remained there for the rest of the night.

    Next night I left a night lamp burning but even so I had to sit by her bed until she
    dropped off to sleep. Again I was awakened by ear-splitting screams and this time
    found Kate standing rigid on her bed. I lifted her out and carried her to a chair meaning to
    comfort her but she screeched louder than ever, “Look Mummy it’s under the bed. It’s
    looking at us.” In vain I pointed out that there was nothing at all there. By this time
    George had joined us and he carried Kate off to his bed in the other room whilst I got into
    Kate’s bed thinking she might have been frightened by a rat which might also disturb
    Johnny.

    Next morning our houseboy remarked that he had heard Kate screaming in the
    night from his room behind the kitchen. I explained what had happened and he must
    have told the old Scout Hasmani who waylaid me that afternoon and informed me quite
    seriously that that particular room was haunted by a ‘sheitani’ (devil) who hates children.
    He told me that whilst he was acting as caretaker before our arrival he one night had his
    wife and small daughter in the room to keep him company. He said that his small
    daughter woke up and screamed exactly as Kate had done! Silly coincidence I
    suppose, but such strange things happen in Africa that I decided to move the children
    into our room and George sleeps in solitary state in the haunted room! Kate now sleeps
    peacefully once she goes to sleep but I have to stay with her until she does.

    I like this house and it does not seem at all sinister to me. As I mentioned before,
    the rooms are high ceilinged and airy, and have cool cement floors. We have made one
    end of the enclosed verandah into the living room and the other end is the playroom for
    the children. The space in between is a sort of no-mans land taken over by the dogs as
    their special territory.

    Eleanor.

    Nzassa 25th March 1939.

    Dearest Family,

    George is on safari down in the Rufigi River area. He is away for about three
    weeks in the month on this job. I do hate to see him go and just manage to tick over until
    he comes back. But what fun and excitement when he does come home.
    Usually he returns after dark by which time the children are in bed and I have
    settled down on the verandah with a book. The first warning is usually given by the
    dogs, Fanny and her son Paddy. They stir, sit up, look at each other and then go and sit
    side by side by the door with their noses practically pressed to the mosquito gauze and
    ears pricked. Soon I can hear the hum of the car, and so can Hasmani, the old Game
    Scout who sleeps on the back verandah with rifle and ammunition by his side when
    George is away. When he hears the car he turns up his lamp and hurries out to rouse
    Juma, the houseboy. Juma pokes up the fire and prepares tea which George always
    drinks whist a hot meal is being prepared. In the meantime I hurriedly comb my hair and
    powder my nose so that when the car stops I am ready to rush out and welcome
    George home. The boy and Hasmani and the garden boy appear to help with the
    luggage and to greet George and the cook, who always accompanies George on
    Safari. The home coming is always a lively time with much shouting of greetings.
    ‘Jambo’, and ‘Habari ya safari’, whilst the dogs, beside themselves with excitement,
    rush around like lunatics.

    As though his return were not happiness enough, George usually collects the
    mail on his way home so there is news of Ann and young George and letters from you
    and bundles of newspapers and magazines. On the day following his return home,
    George has to deal with official mail in the office but if the following day is a weekday we
    all, the house servants as well as ourselves, pile into the boxbody and go to Dar es
    Salaam. To us this means a mornings shopping followed by an afternoon on the beach.
    It is a bit cooler now that the rains are on but still very humid. Kate keeps chubby
    and rosy in spite of the climate but Johnny is too pale though sturdy enough. He is such
    a good baby which is just as well because Kate is a very demanding little girl though
    sunny tempered and sweet. I appreciate her company very much when George is
    away because we are so far off the beaten track that no one ever calls.

    Eleanor.

    Nzassa 28th April 1939.

    Dearest Family,

    You all seem to wonder how I can stand the loneliness and monotony of living at
    Nzassa when George is on safari, but really and truly I do not mind. Hamisi the cook
    always goes on safari with George and then the houseboy Juma takes over the cooking
    and I do the lighter housework. the children are great company during the day, and when
    they are settled for the night I sit on the verandah and read or write letters or I just dream.
    The verandah is entirely enclosed with both wire mosquito gauze and a trellis
    work of heavy expanded metal, so I am safe from all intruders be they human, animal, or
    insect. Outside the air is alive with mosquitos and the cicadas keep up their monotonous
    singing all night long. My only companions on the verandah are the pale ghecco lizards
    on the wall and the two dogs. Fanny the white bull terrier, lies always near my feet
    dozing happily, but her son Paddy, who is half Airedale has a less phlegmatic
    disposition. He sits alert and on guard by the metal trellis work door. Often a lion grunts
    from the surrounding bush and then his hackles rise and he stands up stiffly with his nose
    pressed to the door. Old Hasmani from his bedroll on the back verandah, gives a little
    cough just to show he is awake. Sometimes the lions are very close and then I hear the
    click of a rifle bolt as Hasmani loads his rifle – but this is usually much later at night when
    the lights are out. One morning I saw large pug marks between the wall of my bedroom
    and the garage but I do not fear lions like I did that beastly leopard on the farm.
    A great deal of witchcraft is still practiced in the bush villages in the
    neighbourhood. I must tell you about old Hasmani’s baby in connection with this. Last
    week Hasmani came to me in great distress to say that his baby was ‘Ngongwa sana ‘
    (very ill) and he thought it would die. I hurried down to the Game Scouts quarters to see
    whether I could do anything for the child and found the mother squatting in the sun
    outside her hut with the baby on her lap. The mother was a young woman but not an
    attractive one. She appeared sullen and indifferent compared with old Hasmani who
    was very distressed. The child was very feverish and breathing with difficulty and
    seemed to me to be suffering from bronchitis if not pneumonia. I rubbed his back and
    chest with camphorated oil and dosed him with aspirin and liquid quinine. I repeated the
    treatment every four hours, but next day there was no apparent improvement.
    In the afternoon Hasmani begged me to give him that night off duty and asked for
    a loan of ten shillings. He explained to me that it seemed to him that the white man’s
    medicine had failed to cure his child and now he wished to take the child to the local witch
    doctor. “For ten shillings” said Hasmani, “the Maganga will drive the devil out of my
    child.” “How?” asked I. “With drums”, said Hasmani confidently. I did not know what to
    do. I thought the child was too ill to be exposed to the night air, yet I knew that if I
    refused his request and the child were to die, Hasmani and all the other locals would hold
    me responsible. I very reluctantly granted his request. I was so troubled by the matter
    that I sent for George’s office clerk. Daniel, and asked him to accompany Hasmani to the
    ceremony and to report to me the next morning. It started to rain after dark and all night
    long I lay awake in bed listening to the drums and the light rain. Next morning when I
    went out to the kitchen to order breakfast I found a beaming Hasmani awaiting me.
    “Memsahib”, he said. “My child is well, the fever is now quite gone, the Maganga drove
    out the devil just as I told you.” Believe it or not, when I hurried to his quarters after
    breakfast I found the mother suckling a perfectly healthy child! It may be my imagination
    but I thought the mother looked pretty smug.The clerk Daniel told me that after Hasmani
    had presented gifts of money and food to the ‘Maganga’, the naked baby was placed
    on a goat skin near the drums. Most of the time he just lay there but sometimes the witch
    doctor picked him up and danced with the child in his arms. Daniel seemed reluctant to
    talk about it. Whatever mumbo jumbo was used all this happened a week ago and the
    baby has never looked back.

    Eleanor.

    Nzassa 3rd July 1939.

    Dearest Family,

    Did I tell you that one of George’s Game Scouts was murdered last month in the
    Maneromango area towards the Rufigi border. He was on routine patrol, with a porter
    carrying his bedding and food, when they suddenly came across a group of African
    hunters who were busy cutting up a giraffe which they had just killed. These hunters were
    all armed with muzzle loaders, spears and pangas, but as it is illegal to kill giraffe without
    a permit, the Scout went up to the group to take their names. Some argument ensued
    and the Scout was stabbed.

    The District Officer went to the area to investigate and decided to call in the Police
    from Dar es Salaam. A party of police went out to search for the murderers but after
    some days returned without making any arrests. George was on an elephant control
    safari in the Bagamoyo District and on his return through Dar es Salaam he heard of the
    murder. George was furious and distressed to hear the news and called in here for an
    hour on his way to Maneromango to search for the murderers himself.

    After a great deal of strenuous investigation he arrested three poachers, put them
    in jail for the night at Maneromango and then brought them to Dar es Salaam where they
    are all now behind bars. George will now have to prosecute in the Magistrate’s Court
    and try and ‘make a case’ so that the prisoners may be committed to the High Court to
    be tried for murder. George is convinced of their guilt and justifiably proud to have
    succeeded where the police failed.

    George had to borrow handcuffs for the prisoners from the Chief at
    Maneromango and these he brought back to Nzassa after delivering the prisoners to
    Dar es Salaam so that he may return them to the Chief when he revisits the area next
    week.

    I had not seen handcuffs before and picked up a pair to examine them. I said to
    George, engrossed in ‘The Times’, “I bet if you were arrested they’d never get
    handcuffs on your wrist. Not these anyway, they look too small.” “Standard pattern,”
    said George still concentrating on the newspaper, but extending an enormous relaxed
    left wrist. So, my dears, I put a bracelet round his wrist and as there was a wide gap I
    gave a hard squeeze with both hands. There was a sharp click as the handcuff engaged
    in the first notch. George dropped the paper and said, “Now you’ve done it, my love,
    one set of keys are in the Dar es Salaam Police Station, and the others with the Chief at
    Maneromango.” You can imagine how utterly silly I felt but George was an angel about it
    and said as he would have to go to Dar es Salaam we might as well all go.

    So we all piled into the car, George, the children and I in the front, and the cook
    and houseboy, immaculate in snowy khanzus and embroidered white caps, a Game
    Scout and the ayah in the back. George never once complain of the discomfort of the
    handcuff but I was uncomfortably aware that it was much too tight because his arm
    above the cuff looked red and swollen and the hand unnaturally pale. As the road is so
    bad George had to use both hands on the wheel and all the time the dangling handcuff
    clanked against the dashboard in an accusing way.

    We drove straight to the Police Station and I could hear the roars of laughter as
    George explained his predicament. Later I had to put up with a good deal of chaffing
    and congratulations upon putting the handcuffs on George.

    Eleanor.

    Nzassa 5th August 1939

    Dearest Family,

    George made a point of being here for Kate’s fourth birthday last week. Just
    because our children have no playmates George and I always do all we can to make
    birthdays very special occasions. We went to Dar es Salaam the day before the
    birthday and bought Kate a very sturdy tricycle with which she is absolutely delighted.
    You will be glad to know that your parcels arrived just in time and Kate loved all your
    gifts especially the little shop from Dad with all the miniature tins and packets of
    groceries. The tea set was also a great success and is much in use.

    We had a lively party which ended with George and me singing ‘Happy
    Birthday to you’, and ended with a wild game with balloons. Kate wore her frilly white net
    party frock and looked so pretty that it seemed a shame that there was no one but us to
    see her. Anyway it was a good party. I wish so much that you could see the children.
    Kate keeps rosy and has not yet had malaria. Johnny Jo is sturdy but pale. He
    runs a temperature now and again but I am not sure whether this is due to teething or
    malaria. Both children of course take quinine every day as George and I do. George
    quite frequently has malaria in spite of prophylactic quinine but this is not surprising as he
    got the germ thoroughly established in his system in his early elephant hunting days. I
    get it too occasionally but have not been really ill since that first time a month after my
    arrival in the country.

    Johnny is such a good baby. His chief claim to beauty is his head of soft golden
    curls but these are due to come off on his first birthday as George considers them too
    girlish. George left on safari the day after the party and the very next morning our wood
    boy had a most unfortunate accident. He was chopping a rather tough log when a chip
    flew up and split his upper lip clean through from mouth to nostril exposing teeth and
    gums. A truly horrible sight and very bloody. I cleaned up the wound as best I could
    and sent him off to the hospital at Dar es Salaam on the office bicycle. He wobbled
    away wretchedly down the road with a white cloth tied over his mouth to keep off the
    dust. He returned next day with his lip stitched and very swollen and bearing a
    resemblance to my lip that time I used the hair remover.

    Eleanor.

    Splendid Hotel. Dar es Salaam 7th September 1939

    Dearest Family,

    So now another war has started and it has disrupted even our lives. We have left
    Nzassa for good. George is now a Lieutenant in the King’s African Rifles and the children
    and I are to go to a place called Morogoro to await further developments.
    I was glad to read in today’s paper that South Africa has declared war on
    Germany. I would have felt pretty small otherwise in this hotel which is crammed full of
    men who have been called up for service in the Army. George seems exhilarated by
    the prospect of active service. He is bursting out of his uniform ( at the shoulders only!)
    and all too ready for the fray.

    The war came as a complete surprise to me stuck out in the bush as I was without
    wireless or mail. George had been away for a fortnight so you can imagine how
    surprised I was when a messenger arrived on a bicycle with a note from George. The
    note informed me that war had been declared and that George, as a Reserve Officer in
    the KAR had been called up. I was to start packing immediately and be ready by noon
    next day when George would arrive with a lorry for our goods and chattels. I started to
    pack immediately with the help of the houseboy and by the time George arrived with
    the lorry only the frig remained to be packed and this was soon done.

    Throughout the morning Game Scouts had been arriving from outlying parts of
    the District. I don’t think they had the least idea where they were supposed to go or
    whom they were to fight but were ready to fight anybody, anywhere, with George.
    They all looked very smart in well pressed uniforms hung about with water bottles and
    ammunition pouches. The large buffalo badge on their round pill box hats absolutely
    glittered with polish. All of course carried rifles and when George arrived they all lined up
    and they looked most impressive. I took some snaps but unfortunately it was drizzling
    and they may not come out well.

    We left Nzassa without a backward glance. We were pretty fed up with it by
    then. The children and I are spending a few days here with George but our luggage, the
    dogs, and the houseboys have already left by train for Morogoro where a small house
    has been found for the children and me.

    George tells me that all the German males in this Territory were interned without a
    hitch. The whole affair must have been very well organised. In every town and
    settlement special constables were sworn in to do the job. It must have been a rather
    unpleasant one but seems to have gone without incident. There is a big transit camp
    here at Dar for the German men. Later they are to be sent out of the country, possibly to
    Rhodesia.

    The Indian tailors in the town are all terribly busy making Army uniforms, shorts
    and tunics in khaki drill. George swears that they have muddled their orders and he has
    been given the wrong things. Certainly the tunic is far too tight. His hat, a khaki slouch hat
    like you saw the Australians wearing in the last war, is also too small though it is the
    largest they have in stock. We had a laugh over his other equipment which includes a
    small canvas haversack and a whistle on a black cord. George says he feels like he is
    back in his Boy Scouting boyhood.

    George has just come in to say the we will be leaving for Morogoro tomorrow
    afternoon.

    Eleanor.

    Morogoro 14th September 1939

    Dearest Family,

    Morogoro is a complete change from Nzassa. This is a large and sprawling
    township. The native town and all the shops are down on the flat land by the railway but
    all the European houses are away up the slope of the high Uluguru Mountains.
    Morogoro was a flourishing town in the German days and all the streets are lined with
    trees for coolness as is the case in other German towns. These trees are the flamboyant
    acacia which has an umbrella top and throws a wide but light shade.

    Most of the houses have large gardens so they cover a considerable area and it
    is quite a safari for me to visit friends on foot as our house is on the edge of this area and
    the furthest away from the town. Here ones house is in accordance with ones seniority in
    Government service. Ours is a simple affair, just three lofty square rooms opening on to
    a wide enclosed verandah. Mosquitoes are bad here so all doors and windows are
    screened and we will have to carry on with our daily doses of quinine.

    George came up to Morogoro with us on the train. This was fortunate because I
    went down with a sharp attack of malaria at the hotel on the afternoon of our departure
    from Dar es Salaam. George’s drastic cure of vast doses of quinine, a pillow over my
    head, and the bed heaped with blankets soon brought down the temperature so I was
    fit enough to board the train but felt pretty poorly on the trip. However next day I felt
    much better which was a good thing as George had to return to Dar es Salaam after two
    days. His train left late at night so I did not see him off but said good-bye at home
    feeling dreadful but trying to keep the traditional stiff upper lip of the wife seeing her
    husband off to the wars. He hopes to go off to Abyssinia but wrote from Dar es Salaam
    to say that he is being sent down to Rhodesia by road via Mbeya to escort the first
    detachment of Rhodesian white troops.

    First he will have to select suitable camping sites for night stops and arrange for
    supplies of food. I am very pleased as it means he will be safe for a while anyway. We
    are both worried about Ann and George in England and wonder if it would be safer to
    have them sent out.

    Eleanor.

    Morogoro 4th November 1939

    Dearest Family,

    My big news is that George has been released from the Army. He is very
    indignant and disappointed because he hoped to go to Abyssinia but I am terribly,
    terribly glad. The Chief Secretary wrote a very nice letter to George pointing out that he
    would be doing a greater service to his country by his work of elephant control, giving
    crop protection during the war years when foodstuffs are such a vital necessity, than by
    doing a soldiers job. The Government plan to start a huge rice scheme in the Rufiji area,
    and want George to control the elephant and hippo there. First of all though. he must go
    to the Southern Highlands Province where there is another outbreak of Rinderpest, to
    shoot out diseased game especially buffalo, which might spread the disease.

    So off we go again on our travels but this time we are leaving the two dogs
    behind in the care of Daniel, the Game Clerk. Fanny is very pregnant and I hate leaving
    her behind but the clerk has promised to look after her well. We are taking Hamisi, our
    dignified Swahili cook and the houseboy Juma and his wife whom we brought with us
    from Nzassa. The boy is not very good but his wife makes a cheerful and placid ayah
    and adores Johnny.

    Eleanor.

    Iringa 8th December 1939

    Dearest Family,

    The children and I are staying in a small German house leased from the
    Custodian of Enemy Property. I can’t help feeling sorry for the owners who must be in
    concentration camps somewhere.George is away in the bush dealing with the
    Rinderpest emergency and the cook has gone with him. Now I have sent the houseboy
    and the ayah away too. Two days ago my houseboy came and told me that he felt
    very ill and asked me to write a ‘chit’ to the Indian Doctor. In the note I asked the Doctor
    to let me know the nature of his complaint and to my horror I got a note from him to say
    that the houseboy had a bad case of Venereal Disease. Was I horrified! I took it for
    granted that his wife must be infected too and told them both that they would have to
    return to their home in Nzassa. The boy shouted and the ayah wept but I paid them in
    lieu of notice and gave them money for the journey home. So there I was left servant
    less with firewood to chop, a smokey wood burning stove to control, and of course, the
    two children.

    To add to my troubles Johnny had a temperature so I sent for the European
    Doctor. He diagnosed malaria and was astonished at the size of Johnny’s spleen. He
    said that he must have had suppressed malaria over a long period and the poor child
    must now be fed maximum doses of quinine for a long time. The Doctor is a fatherly
    soul, he has been recalled from retirement to do this job as so many of the young
    doctors have been called up for service with the army.

    I told him about my houseboy’s complaint and the way I had sent him off
    immediately, and he was very amused at my haste, saying that it is most unlikely that
    they would have passed the disease onto their employers. Anyway I hated the idea. I
    mean to engage a houseboy locally, but will do without an ayah until we return to
    Morogoro in February.

    Something happened today to cheer me up. A telegram came from Daniel which
    read, “FLANNEL HAS FIVE CUBS.”

    Eleanor.

    Morogoro 10th March 1940

    Dearest Family,

    We are having very heavy rain and the countryside is a most beautiful green. In
    spite of the weather George is away on safari though it must be very wet and
    unpleasant. He does work so hard at his elephant hunting job and has got very thin. I
    suppose this is partly due to those stomach pains he gets and the doctors don’t seem
    to diagnose the trouble.

    Living in Morogoro is much like living in a country town in South Africa, particularly
    as there are several South African women here. I go out quite often to morning teas. We
    all take our war effort knitting, and natter, and are completely suburban.
    I sometimes go and see an elderly couple who have been interred here. They
    are cold shouldered by almost everyone else but I cannot help feeling sorry for them.
    Usually I go by invitation because I know Mrs Ruppel prefers to be prepared and
    always has sandwiches and cake. They both speak English but not fluently and
    conversation is confined to talking about my children and theirs. Their two sons were
    students in Germany when war broke out but are now of course in the German Army.
    Such nice looking chaps from their photographs but I suppose thorough Nazis. As our
    conversation is limited I usually ask to hear a gramophone record or two. They have a
    large collection.

    Janet, the ayah whom I engaged at Mbeya, is proving a great treasure. She is a
    trained hospital ayah and is most dependable and capable. She is, perhaps, a little strict
    but the great thing is that I can trust her with the children out of my sight.
    Last week I went out at night for the first time without George. The occasion was
    a farewell sundowner given by the Commissioner of Prisoners and his wife. I was driven
    home by the District Officer and he stopped his car by the back door in a large puddle.
    Ayah came to the back door, storm lamp in hand, to greet me. My escort prepared to
    drive off but the car stuck. I thought a push from me might help, so without informing the
    driver, I pushed as hard as I could on the back of the car. Unfortunately the driver
    decided on other tactics. He put the engine in reverse and I was knocked flat on my back
    in the puddle. The car drove forward and away without the driver having the least idea of
    what happened. The ayah was in quite a state, lifting me up and scolding me for my
    stupidity as though I were Kate. I was a bit shaken but non the worse and will know
    better next time.

    Eleanor.

    Morogoro 14th July 1940

    Dearest Family,

    How good it was of Dad to send that cable to Mother offering to have Ann and
    George to live with you if they are accepted for inclusion in the list of children to be
    evacuated to South Africa. It would be wonderful to know that they are safely out of the
    war zone and so much nearer to us but I do dread the thought of the long sea voyage
    particularly since we heard the news of the sinking of that liner carrying child evacuees to
    Canada. I worry about them so much particularly as George is so often away on safari.
    He is so comforting and calm and I feel brave and confident when he is home.
    We have had no news from England for five weeks but, when she last wrote,
    mother said the children were very well and that she was sure they would be safe in the
    country with her.

    Kate and John are growing fast. Kate is such a pretty little girl, rosy in spite of the
    rather trying climate. I have allowed her hair to grow again and it hangs on her shoulders
    in shiny waves. John is a more slightly built little boy than young George was, and quite
    different in looks. He has Dad’s high forehead and cleft chin, widely spaced brown eyes
    that are not so dark as mine and hair that is still fair and curly though ayah likes to smooth it
    down with water every time she dresses him. He is a shy child, and although he plays
    happily with Kate, he does not care to play with other children who go in the late
    afternoons to a lawn by the old German ‘boma’.

    Kate has playmates of her own age but still rather clings to me. Whilst she loves
    to have friends here to play with her, she will not go to play at their houses unless I go
    too and stay. She always insists on accompanying me when I go out to morning tea
    and always calls JanetJohn’s ayah”. One morning I went to a knitting session at a
    neighbours house. We are all knitting madly for the troops. As there were several other
    women in the lounge and no other children, I installed Kate in the dining room with a
    colouring book and crayons. My hostess’ black dog was chained to the dining room
    table leg, but as he and Kate are on friendly terms I was not bothered by this.
    Some time afterwards, during a lull in conversation, I heard a strange drumming
    noise coming from the dining room. I went quickly to investigate and, to my horror, found
    Kate lying on her back with the dog chain looped around her neck. The frightened dog
    was straining away from her as far as he could get and the chain was pulled so tightly
    around her throat that she could not scream. The drumming noise came from her heels
    kicking in a panic on the carpet.

    Even now I do not know how Kate got herself into this predicament. Luckily no
    great harm was done but I think I shall do my knitting at home in future.

    Eleanor.

    Morogoro 16th November 1940

    Dearest Family,

    I much prefer our little house on the hillside to the larger one we had down below.
    The only disadvantage is that the garden is on three levels and both children have had
    some tumbles down the steps on the tricycle. John is an extremely stoical child. He
    never cries when he hurts himself.

    I think I have mentioned ‘Morningside’ before. It is a kind of Resthouse high up in
    the Uluguru Mountains above Morogoro. Jess Howe-Browne, who runs the large
    house as a Guest House, is a wonderful woman. Besides running the boarding house
    she also grows vegetables, flowers and fruit for sale in Morogoro and Dar es Salaam.
    Her guests are usually women and children from Dar es Salaam who come in the hot
    season to escape the humidity on the coast. Often the mothers leave their children for
    long periods in Jess Howe-Browne’s care. There is a road of sorts up the mountain side
    to Morningside, but this is so bad that cars do not attempt it and guests are carried up
    the mountain in wicker chairs lashed to poles. Four men carry an adult, and two a child,
    and there are of course always spare bearers and they work in shifts.

    Last week the children and I went to Morningside for the day as guests. John
    rode on my lap in one chair and Kate in a small chair on her own. This did not please
    Kate at all. The poles are carried on the bearers shoulders and one is perched quite high.
    The motion is a peculiar rocking one. The bearers chant as they go and do not seem
    worried by shortness of breath! They are all hillmen of course and are, I suppose, used
    to trotting up and down to the town.

    Morningside is well worth visiting and we spent a delightful day there. The fresh
    cool air is a great change from the heavy air of the valley. A river rushes down the
    mountain in a series of cascades, and the gardens are shady and beautiful. Behind the
    property is a thick indigenous forest which stretches from Morningside to the top of the
    mountain. The house is an old German one, rather in need of repair, but Jess has made
    it comfortable and attractive, with some of her old family treasures including a fine old
    Grandfather clock. We had a wonderful lunch which included large fresh strawberries and
    cream. We made the return journey again in the basket chairs and got home before dark.
    George returned home at the weekend with a baby elephant whom we have
    called Winnie. She was rescued from a mud hole by some African villagers and, as her
    mother had abandoned her, they took her home and George was informed. He went in
    the truck to fetch her having first made arrangements to have her housed in a shed on the
    Agriculture Department Experimental Farm here. He has written to the Game Dept
    Headquarters to inform the Game Warden and I do not know what her future will be, but
    in the meantime she is our pet. George is afraid she will not survive because she has
    had a very trying time. She stands about waist high and is a delightful creature and quite
    docile. Asian and African children as well as Europeans gather to watch her and George
    encourages them to bring fruit for her – especially pawpaws which she loves.
    Whilst we were there yesterday one of the local ladies came, very smartly
    dressed in a linen frock, silk stockings, and high heeled shoes. She watched fascinated
    whilst Winnie neatly split a pawpaw and removed the seeds with her trunk, before
    scooping out the pulp and putting it in her mouth. It was a particularly nice ripe pawpaw
    and Winnie enjoyed it so much that she stretched out her trunk for more. The lady took
    fright and started to run with Winnie after her, sticky trunk outstretched. Quite an
    entertaining sight. George managed to stop Winnie but not before she had left a gooey
    smear down the back of the immaculate frock.

    Eleanor.

     

    #6263
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    From Tanganyika with Love

    continued  ~ part 4

    With thanks to Mike Rushby.

    Mchewe Estate. 31st January 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

    With much love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 9th February 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

    Heaps of love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 27th February 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Lots of love,
    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. 12th March 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    With heaps of love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 24th March 1936

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Heaps of love from a sadder but wiser,
    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. 3rd April 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The wet season is definitely the time to stay home.

    Lots and lots of love,
    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. 30th April 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

    Your very affectionate,
    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. 17th September 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

    With love to you all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 2nd October 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

    Much love to you all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 10th October 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

    Your worried but affectionate,
    Eleanor.

    Tukuyu. 23rd October 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

    Much love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe. 12th November 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Lots and lots of love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Chunya 27th November 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Much love to all,
    Eleanor.

     

    #6253
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    My Grandparents Kitchen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    #6106

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Rosamund gaped at her aunt.  “Really, Auntie April? Wow!” She leaped up, not noticing her aunt smirk, and climbed into the wardrobe.

    Seizing the moment, April tossed her pizza aside and sprang over to to the wardrobe door, slammed it shut and turned the key.  Leaning her back on the locked door, she smiled triumphantly.

    The office door opened slowly, due to the melted cheese stuck on the carpet that had slid down the door when the pizza hit it.  Fortunately for April the door got stuck on an olive, providing a valuable few seconds in which to grab the broom and flee to the rest room before Star and Tara entered the room.

    “Don’t let me out until April!” a muffled voice joined the banging sounds coming from the wardrobe.

    “The client is still in the wardrobe!” Tara said, exasperated. “And where the hell is Rosamund? She was supposed to let that woman out! Useless, that’s what she is.”

    “Just ignore her until Rosamund comes back. Sounds like she’s gone a bit mental already anyway. Why does she want to stay in there until April? It’s months away.”

    “I’m going home, it’s been a long day. Come on, let’s leave a note for Rosamund to deal with it. She took long enough off work, now it’s our turn.”  Star didn’t need any more persuading.

    #6104

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Rosamund pressed her ear to the wardrobe door and listened.  Nothing.  She tapped gently. No response.  “Is there anyone in there?” she whispered.  She rapped on the door, harder this time. “Are you hungry?” she said loudly.  “Got a pizza ordered, you want one?”

    “Yes please,” came the muffled reply. “Ham and pineapple.”

    Rosamund reeled backwards.

    “Pineapple!”  Romamund was aghast. “Not on pizza!”

    “OK cheese and tomato then, just let me out! I’m desperate for a pee!” the voice was wheedling, and oddly familiar.

    “Promise no pineapple?”

    “For god’s sake woman, let me out! I promise!”

    Rosamund turned the key and quickly stepped back a few paces, grabbing the broom as a weapon. People trapped in wardrobes could be aggressive, she knew that much.

    The wardrobe rocked dangerously as a bulky shape emerged, swathed in mink.

    “Aunty April!” Rosamund gasped. “What are you doing in there!”

    April shook the moth eaten fur off her shoulders and smoothed the tangled hair back from her brow.  “I might ask you the same question, young lady!  Wait til your mother hears about this!  But first, point me in the direction of the rest rooms!”

    “Over there, ” Rosamund said weakly.  “I’ll order your pizza.”

    #6092
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    There’s nobody at all coming to see to my supper anymore, the girl that brought my lunch (a stale cheese sandwich again) said it was because of the curfew. I said, Oh the quarantine and she said, Oh no, not that anymore so I said Oh, is the virus over then, and she said Oh no, far from it, but that’s not what the curfew is for now, and I looked at her and wondered if they’d all lost their marbles.

    She said it’s Marshall law out there now and I smiled at that, I used to know a nice girl by the name of Marshall, can’t recall where from mind you, but anyway then I realized she meant martial law when she showed me her arm. Great big bruise there was, she said it was from a rubber bullet.   Seems to me they’re getting senile young these days and I wonder where it will all end.

    Then she starts telling me about piles of bricks everywhere, and I’m wondering where this is going because it makes no sense to me.  She says some people say there are piles of bricks appearing everywhere, but she can’t be sure, she said, because lots of other people are saying there aren’t any piles of bricks at all, and I’m thinking, who the hell cares so much about piles of bricks anyway?  Then she looks at me as if I’m the daft one.

    It’s a pity we don’t see piles of decent food appearing, I said, instead of bricks, looking pointedly at the cheese sandwich.  She said,  Think yourself lucky, with what can only be described as a dark look.

    I thought I’d change the subject, as we didn’t seem to be getting anywhere, and asked her if she’d be kind enough to pick me up some embroidery thread on her way past the emporium, and she made a peculiar noise and said Aint no shops open, they’re all boarded up. I was about to ask why, and she must have read my mind because she said, Riots, that’s why.

    It’s a good job my hip’s so much better now that the weather’s dry, because I’m going to have to make my escape soon and see what the hell’s going on out there.

    #5788
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The first thing the dwarf did was a finger of honor. “Take that darn blubbit queen!” he shouted before he crumbled butt naked down on the wooden floor surrounded by his former golden carapace. His skin was still glowing with a strange lucent light.

    “What did he say?” asked Fox.

    “What’s a blubbit?” asked Olliver.

    Glynis put her hands on the baby snoots eyes, but there were too many of them and she only had two hands.

    “Have you seen his skin?” asked Eleri.

    “Well yes, he’s butt naked,” said Kumihimo.

    Gorrash had had time to clear his mind and started to realise they were all looking at him.

    “I mean, he HAS a skin now,” insisted Eleri. “Smooth and… all that comes with it. Not his former rocky mossy textured whatever it was before even after daylight.”

    The dwarf who never had to worry about his own modesty before couldn’t quite grasp the meaning of that simple fact. “Am I still dreaming?” His stomach growled and he looked surprised at his belly. “Am I starving?” Fox laughed.

    Glynis brought the dwarf a blanket, and he marvelled at the roughness of it on his new skin. They all started to talk at the same time, wanting to know about the blubbits, about the new skin, asking Kumihimo and Rukshan how it was possible.

    “I don’t know,” they both said.

    “Well! I don’t know about you, but now that he has skin he can certainly appreciate some champagne with us!” said Margoritt, trotting to the kitchen. She came back with a bottle and a sabre. “Who wants to crack it open?”

    “Don’t forget the food,” said Glynis. “It’ll be his first time eating.” Olliver brought some leftovers of Jambalaya, salad and cheese among other things.

    “How can he eat so much?” would ask Eleri later.

    #4862
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “Init been quiet as being caught in the doldruffs, my Mavis?” Sha was sandwiched in the cryogenic apparatus like a tartine in a toaster, with her ample person protruding like cheese squeezed in too much.

    The door flung open.

    “Good Lord, aren’t them splendigious, those little tarts, meringue and all.”

    Berenice, Barb’s niece, trotting in his steps, taking her role as the new temp assistant very seriously was about to voice a response that he quickly tutted away. “I wasn’t talking to you.”

    “Took me a while to find out the thread though, buried through all that poubelle creative thinking and monologues, and bla and bla. Action all gone missing safe for a little excitement in Tik…” He stopped, looking around suspiciously. “They’re here, I know. Stop it, now. Hey. Shut up!”

    He turned to Berenice. “I wasn’t talking to you. Who are you by the way? Has Liz or Lucinda written you in?”

    Sha, and Glo, and Mavis, all squeezed in the cryotanks were not wasting a drop of the show.

    “He’s been acting all strange, since he cracked that red crystal.”
    “Shht, Glo. You don’t want him to get mad and stop all our beauty treatment. I can feel my skin tighten and dewrinkle.”
    “T’is like ironing, fussure. Some steam and a good hot iron to remove the wrinkles.”
    “Ahahah, wrinkles yourself, they’re more like crevices, hihihi!”
    “But first, nuffin like a ice treatment to tighten the glutes.”
    “Oh uhuh, haha, she said glutes like a snotty beauty specialist. Next she’ll say we need to do Pontius Pilates…”

    Berenice couldn’t help herself. She blurted out in one quick sentence “But what are you planning to do with them, Doctor?”

    He paused a moment his conversation with the invisible guests then turned nonchalently at B.

    “But just… perfecting them, sweet thing. Oh, and love what you did with the beehive.”

    #4857
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    WIB (workman in blue) opened his lunch box and unwrapped a sandwich. He sighed when he saw it was cheese and pickle again. It had been cheese and pickle all week, a sure sign that WAH (woman at home) wasn’t giving him the attention he deserved, throwing the easiest thing together day after day instead of planning a nice roast chicken dinner, with the prospect of a couple of days of savoury chicken sandwiches to take to work. She hadn’t even bothered to boil up a few hard boiled eggs for a bit of variety. He loved egg sandwiches. He wasn’t a hard man to please, he ruminated dolefully, chewing the cheese and pickle.

    He reached for his flask to wash it down with a gulp of tea, and noticed with some surprise that she’d bought him a new flask. His old one had a few dents in the screw on cup, and this one looked all shiny and new. Anxious to wash down the cheesy lump in his throat, he unscrewed the cap and poured the flask over the cup.

    But there was no tea in the flask, nothing poured out of it. He peered inside and shook it.

    “That woman’s lost her marbles!”

    It was the last straw. He stood up, shook the flask above his head, and roared incoherently.

    “Everything alright, mate?” asked his work colleague mildly. WIB2 was contentedly munching a juicy pink ham sandwich. He even had a packet of crisps to go with it, WIB1 noticed.

    “No tea? Fancy some of my coffee? Pass yer cup. What’s in the flask then, what’s rattling?”

    WAB1 sat back down on the low wall and upended the flask, pulling at a bit of black stuff that was protruding from the top.

    ““Maybe it’s full of banknotes!” WIB2 suggested.

    “It’s a fucking doll! What the..?”

    “Why did your old lady put a doll in your flask instead of tea, mate? Private joke or something, bit of a lark?” WIB2 elbowed WIB1 in the ribs playfully. “No?” he responded to WIB1’s scowl. “Maybe there’s something stitched inside it, then.”

    ~~~

    Lucinda, where is this going?”

    “I don’t fucking know, Helper Effy.”

    “I thought as much. Perhaps we’d better go back to the beginning.”

    #4853
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “He said he would come in 3 days only.” Fox said, not knowing whether it was too early or too late to rejoice.
    “That would have been Lheimoong’s birthday, the great Tribeltian philosopher.” Glynis said, as she tasted the sour milk from Emma the goat. She made a face. It was perfectly tart to mature into a fine cheese.
    “Pity though,” she mused licking her finger, “he’s been oddly quiet lately, though I’m sure his wisdom continues to guide us.”

    #4761
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Barbara’s office was dead silent apart from the regular bips of the machines. The whiteness of the painted walls made it feel like a psych ward. She shivered away the memories that were trying to catch her attention.

    It’s been two hours since the Doctor had locked himself up in his rage-release room, a spacious soundproofed room with padded walls. Not even a small window to look inside and check if his anger had subsided. Barbara clearly preferred the trauma of the shouts and cries and the broken plates that were hidden here and there for him to use when he needed most. But when he started his therapy with the AI psych module, the damn bot suggested he built that room in order to release his rage in a more intimate framework.
    Now the plates collected dust and the sessions in the room tended to last longer and longer.

    Today’s burst of rage had been triggered by the unexpected gathering of the guests at the Inn. The Doctor was drinking his columbian cocoa, a blend of melted dark chocolate with cheddar cheese, when the old hag in that bloody gabardine started her speech. The camera hidden in the eye of the fish by their agent, gave them a fisheye view of the room. It was very practical and they could see everything. The AI engineer module could recreate a 3D view of the room and anticipate the moves of all the attendees.

    When that girl with the fishnet handed out the keys for all to see and the other girl got the doll out, the Doctor had his attention hyper-focused. He wanted to see it all.
    Except there had been a glitch and images of granola cookies superimposed on the items.

    “Send the magpies to retrieve the items,” he said, nervousness making his voice louder.
    “Ahem,” had answered Barbara.
    “What?” The Doctor turned towards her. His eye twitched when he expected the worst, and it had been twitching fast.
    She had been trying to hide the fact that the magpies had been distracted lately, as she had clearly been herself since she had found that goldminer game on facebush.
    No need to delay the inevitable, she had thought. “The magpies are not in the immediate vicinity of the Inn.” In fact, just as their imprinting mother was busy digging digital gold during her work time, the magpies had found a new vein of gold while going to the Inn and Barbara had thought it could be a nice addition to her meager salary… to make ends meet at the end of the month.

    It obviously wasn’t the right time to do so. And she was worried about the Doctor now.

    To trump her anxiety, she was surfing the internet. Too guilty to play the gold miner, she was looking around for solutions to her boss’s stress. The variety and abundance of advertisement was deafening her eyes, and somewhere in a gold mine she was sure the magpies were going berserk too. She had to find a solution quickly.

    Barbara hesitated to ask the AI. But there were obviously too many solutions to choose from. Her phone buzzed. It was her mother.
    “I finally found the white jade masks. Bought one for you 2. It helps chase the mental stress away. You clearly need it.” Her mother had joined a picture of her wearing the mask on top of a beauty mask which gave her the look of a mummy. Her mother was too much into the woowoo stuffs and Barbara was about to send her a polite but firm no she didn’t want the mask. But the door of the rage-room opened and the Doctor went out. He had such a blissful look on his face. It was unnatural. Barbara had been suspecting the AI to brainwash the Doctor with subliminal messages during those therapy sessions. Maybe it also happened in the rage-room. The AI was using tech to control the Doctor. Barbara would use some other means to win him back.

    OK. SEND IT TO ME QUICK. she sent to her mother.

    #4404
    AvatarJib
    Participant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “The new… maid?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “How do I do that?”

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

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

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

    Where was Goddfrey when she needed him to explain everything?

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

    “What’s that in the kitchen?”

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

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

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

    #4267
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    When Rukshan awoke, all was quiet.
    The little cottage felt completely empty, even with the presence of Emma.
    He propped himself up, feeling hungry for the first time in many days.
    The light outside was pale, everything seemed covered in a dense white fog.

    There was a little note on the table.
    “In case you decide to wake up while we are out, don’t be alarmed, I have taken Tak outside gather some wood —the kid was growing too restless inside, and even though my legs are not as strong as they used to, I will enjoy a little walk as well. Help yourself to the cheese. M~”

    The fire had died in the chimney, so he started to clean the cinders and prepare some small wood for a little warmth.

    The feeling of unrooted emptiness lingered around. Maybe it was just the fog. He would enjoy it a little longer while it lasted, before all thoughts of duties and things to do would catch up with him.

    #4212
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The first thing Fox noticed when he woke up was that strong burning smell again. It had begun sooner, usually it was stronger in winter. The smell had been here for years, Fox knew it because he had a very strong sense of smell, but other people usually dismissed it as it mingled with the profusion of citadine smells.

    He lived just outside the city walls, in a small hut. He preferred being among trees and living animals. And as he had been told, the smell came from outside the city, nothing to worry about.

    This year it was different. The smell felt different. In his fantasies, Fox imagined it was the foul odor of an old dragon’s mouth that had eaten too much garlic. But in reality he didn’t know what it was, and that was the most frightening to him, not to know.

    He envied those who couldn’t smell it. Others who could would dismiss it as, once again, the effects of the coal mining industry outside the city. Fox had an uncle working at the mines, and the smell he brought back from underground was strong indeed, but very different.

    This day, Fox felt a new resolution dawn in his heart. He had to find the right people to talk to. Maybe they could do something about it. At least find its source. He took his pouch and filled it with crackers and cheese, his favourite kind of meal. Then, as he left his small hut, he had the feeling that he might not see it again. Anyway, it was just a hut.

    Fox didn’t know who he could talk to, and he didn’t know where to go. But he was confident he would find them and all would be solved.

    #3665
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Christmas! You’re kidding me! Is that why the plaza was full of donkeys and goat cheese and that dreadful jingly singly stuff? Bolt the doors quickly! Haki! Lock the gate! We don’t want anyone here full of good cheer or god forbid, bringing mince pies!”

    #3444
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    In an effort to shake off the troubling feelings that lingered long after she awoke, Mirabelle went to find Jack to tell him about her dream. She found him hunched over his computer, frowning.
    “Ah, Mirabelle, pull up a chair and let me tell you about the strange dream I had last night.”
    Intrigued, Mirabelle listened, saving her story until after he had finished relating his.
    “There are too many coincidences for this to not mean something ~ something important. The parallels are everywhere! Look!” he said pointing to the screen.
    “Crumbling cities, structures smashed to smithereens and clouds of dust, facades of houses blown off revealing ordinary objects and furnishings in hideous juxtapositions, and crazy angles. And look here” he said, “ nothing as far as the eye can see but rubble, but one wall left standing, almost intact, with the map still hanging on the wall.”
    Jack turned to Lisa with a tear in his eye, and with a shaking voice he said, “I dreamed of a city like this last night, with all the facades blown off the constructs, and all the people were faceless as if they were wearing masks, but no! not like masks, there were empty holes where the faces had been, like bottomless black holes that made me dizzy to look at them.”
    “But it was just a dream Jack” replied Mirabelle, wondering if she was reassuring Jack or herself. “It doesn’t mean anything, probably that cheese you had for supper.”
    Lisa was in the dream” Jack replied. “And Ivan, and Fanella.”
    Mirabelle shivered. “They’ve been gone a long time, do you think something’s happened to them?” she paused and then added, “I had a disturbing dream too. It was my parrot, HuHu. He was calling me, oh! he was calling and calling, but I couldn’t see him in the fog, as I tried to follow the sound of his squalking in the swirling mist, I’d hear him behind me ~ no matter which way I turned he was always behind me, as if I was always facing the wrong way.”
    “Well” said Jack, squaring his shoulders. “Faced with these two dreams, and with the delayed return of Lisa, Ivan and Fanella, I think we should face up to it and send a search party to the island. Now, enough of that long face, Mirabelle! Run along now and find Igor, and tell him to prepare for teleporting. He can go with you.”

    #3314
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Fanella gazed into the dying flames of the campfire, while her toasted cheese cooled. “2121, here I come!” she said in a confident sounding voice, but she shivered in apprehension. 2121, 2121, she repeated, watching the flames, 21 21 12, 21 12 12 1212….21 12…1212…. her eyes were getting heavy and she started to drift off. Is that a tractor coming up the beach? she wondered, Or a motorbike? The very ground was starting to rumble and vibrate.
    Suddenly she was wide awake, and the the flames were towering over her head. The heat was blistering and her head was filled with roaring sounds, and hissing snapping cracks. As she was standing there trying to make sense of her surroundings, someone slammed into her from behind, making her legs buckle ~ there were people running in all directions, carrying babies or buckets of water, portraits or small wooden chests or squalking chickens. It was mayhem in the narrow alleys between the burning houses, showers of sparks and choking blasts, ear splitting shrieks and blood curdling howls assaulted all her senses, as she spun around looking for a way out of this appalling scene.
    “Surely this isn’t the island in 2121!” she exclaimed in anguish. “But if it isn’t then where am I? And when?”
    “This is Southwark, wench, and I can’t believe we’re having another Great Fire already” replied a man in an arousing blue codpeice who was running along beside her. “If you want to get out of here alive, follow me!”
    Fanella was not in the habit of running after strange men, but she couldn’t take her eyes off that gorgeous blue codpiece.

    #3311
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    “Pierre is following us”, said Mirabelle.
    “Well, good for him”, retorted Lisa, “he’s been on the lazy slope lately. I’ve been worrying about him.”
    Mirabelle and Adeline gulped.
    “He’s not been so lazy, he’s been helping Fanella with her granite box”, said Adeline, thinking it might distract Lisa from the W-word.
    “A box ? What box ?”
    “It looked more like a stone coffin”, said Mirabelle always picky with words.

    Lisa stopped. She couldn’t believe she hadn’t been aware of Fanella’s latest fad. She turned, facing Pierre who unconsciously slowed down his pace. His face showing uncertainty.

    “The girls told me you were helping Fanella with a box”, said Lisa when Pierre was close enough. He looked at them and down to his feet.

    “She said it would help her relax”, he mumbled, “maybe she’s just taking a nap in her box”, he added, his voice trailing off.
    “That would be a hell of a nap! Show me.”

    Pierre took the lead and showed them to Fanella’s atelier. The tools were still there. The granite box was empty. Near the box was a tray with a cup of tea, full, and a few toasts with cheese. The tea was cold. The toasts untouched.

    #2903
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Terry was a bit confused by all these blinks in and out. He needed some cheese and decided to focus the multronic stream of his TTI (Time Travel Implant) to a fridge in the region called Spain.

    Unfortunately, the flux went right through a mousehole and he didn’t quite get to Spain. He was in a dark room. Noises were muffled here and there was no smell he could recognize. Before doing anything foolish, he turned on his night vision and everything appeared with cartoonish colours and enhanced black edges. It was the only one available when he borrowed it from Dr Frankenlaughner’s lab. You got used to it, eventually.

    The room was still dark, but a cartoonish dark. That was mysterious. A squirking sound, like an amazonian squirrel, startled him. His curiosity was picked. He took a piece of what was left of his Marie biscuit and began to walk as silently as he could toward the squirrel sound.

    #2524

    In reply to: Strings of Nines

    EricEric
    Keymaster

    If “ODD” is a pie and two halves,
    then a OO is two pies…
    The mag-pie stole the H
    from the owl… what a hoot!

    Yurick was wondering if this incursion into the meanders of the stories during business hours may take its toll on his remarkable efficiency…

    Strangely enough, the random quote, never shy of a wink was indicating that an egg was hatching. He was starting to wonder, after seeing that scientists were planning to grow broccoli and cabbages on the moon, that it was indeed not made of cheese, and that there probably was no more easy escape from the Ooh dimension than there was from the intricacies of their impetuous imagination.

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