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  • #6326

    In reply to: The Sexy Wooden Leg

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Stung by Egberts question, Olga reeled and almost lost her footing on the stairs. What had happened to her?  That damned selfish individualism that was running rampant must have seeped into her room through the gaps in the windows or under the door.  “No!” she shouted, her voice cracking.

    “Say it isn’t true, Olga,” Egbert said, his voice breaking.  “Not you as well.”

    It took Olga a minute or two to still her racing heart.  The near fall down the stairs had shaken her but with trembling hands she levered herself round to sit beside Egbert on the step.

    Gripping his bony knee with her knobbly arthritic fingers, she took a deep breath.

    “You are right to have said that, Egbert.  If there is one thing we must hold onto, it’s our hearts. Nothing else matters, or at least nothing else matters as much as that.  We are old and tired and we don’t like change. But if we escalate the importance of this frankly dreary and depressing home to the point where we lose our hearts…” she faltered and continued.  “We will be homeless soon, very soon, and we know not what will happen to us.  We must trust in the kindness of strangers, we must hope they have a heart.”

    Egbert winced as Olga squeezed his knee. “And that is why”, Olga continued, slapping Egberts thigh with gusto, “We must have a heart…”

    “If you’d just stop squeezing and hitting me, Olga…”

    Olga loosened her grip on the old mans thigh bone and peered into his eyes. Quietly she thanked him. “You’ve cleared my mind and given me something to live for, and I thank you for that. But you do need to launder your clothes more often,” she added, pulling a face. She didn’t want the old coot to start blubbing, and he looked alarmingly close to tears.

    “Come on, let’s go and see Obadiah. We’re all in this together. Homelessness and adventure can wait until tomorrow.”  Olga heaved herself upright with a surprising burst of vitality.   Noticing a weak smile trembling on Egberts lips, she said “That’s the spirit!”

    #6280
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    I started reading a book. In fact I started reading it three weeks ago, and have read the first page of the preface every night and fallen asleep. But my neck aches from doing too much gardening so I went back to bed to read this morning. I still fell asleep six times but at least I finished the preface. It’s the story of the family , initiated by the family collection of netsuke (whatever that is. Tiny Japanese carvings) But this is what stopped me reading and made me think (and then fall asleep each time I re read it)

    “And I’m not entitled to nostalgia about all that lost wealth and glamour from a century ago. And I am not interested in thin. I want to know what the relationship has been between this wooden object that I am rolling between my fingers – hard and tricky and Japanese – and where it has been. I want to be able to reach to the handle of the door and turn it and feel it open. I want to walk into each room where this object has lived, to feel the volume of the space, to know what pictures were on the walls, how the light fell from the windows. And I want to know whose hands it has been in, and what they felt about it and thought about it – if they thought about it. I want to know what it has witnessed.” ― Edmund de Waal, The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Family’s Century of Art and Loss

    And I felt almost bereft that none of the records tell me which way the light fell in through the windows.

    I know who lived in the house in which years, but I don’t know who sat in the sun streaming through the window and which painting upon the wall they looked at and what the material was that covered the chair they sat on.

    Were his clothes confortable (or hers, likely not), did he have an old favourite pair of trousers that his mother hated?

    There is one house in particular that I keep coming back to. Like I got on the Housley train at Smalley and I can’t get off. Kidsley Grange Farm, they turned it into a nursing home and built extensions, and now it’s for sale for five hundred thousand pounds. But is the ghost still under the back stairs? Is there still a stain somewhere when a carafe of port was dropped?

    Did Anns writing desk survive? Does someone have that, polished, with a vase of spring tulips on it? (on a mat of course so it doesn’t make a ring, despite that there are layers of beeswaxed rings already)

    Does the desk remember the letters, the weight of a forearm or elbow, perhaps a smeared teardrop, or a comsumptive cough stain?

    Is there perhaps a folded bit of paper or card that propped an uneven leg that fell through the floorboards that might tear into little squares if you found it and opened it, and would it be a rough draft of a letter never sent, or just a receipt for five head of cattle the summer before?

    Did he hate the curtain material, or not even think of it? Did he love the house, or want to get away to see something new ~ or both?

    Did he have a favourite cup, a favourite food, did he hate liver or cabbage?

    Did he like his image when the photograph came from the studio or did he think it made his nose look big or his hair too thin, or did he wish he’d worn his other waistcoat?

    Did he love his wife so much he couldn’t bear to see her dying, was it neglect or was it the unbearableness of it all that made him go away and drink?

    Did the sun slanting in through the dormer window of his tiny attic room where he lodged remind him of ~ well no perhaps he was never in the room in daylight hours at all. Work all day and pub all night, keeping busy working hard and drinking hard and perhaps laughing hard, and maybe he only thought of it all on Sunday mornings.

    So many deaths, one after another, his father, his wife, his brother, his sister, and another and another, all the coughing, all the debility. Perhaps he never understood why he lived and they did not, what kind of justice was there in that?

    Did he take a souvenir or two with him, a handkerchief or a shawl perhaps, tucked away at the bottom of a battered leather bag that had his 3 shirts and 2 waistcoats in and a spare cap,something embroidered perhaps.

    The quote in that book started me off with the light coming in the window and the need to know the simplest things, something nobody ever wrote in a letter, maybe never even mentioned to anyone.

    Light coming in windows. I remeber when I was a teenager I had a day off sick and spent the whole day laying on the couch in a big window with the winter sun on my face all day, and I read Bonjour Tristesse in one sitting, and I’ll never forget that afternoon.  I don’t remember much about that book, but I remember being transported. But at the same time as being present in that sunny window.

    “Stories and objects share something, a patina…Perhaps patina is a process of rubbing back so that the essential is revealed…But it also seems additive, in the way that a piece of oak furniture gains over years and years of polishing.”

    “How objects are handed on is all about story-telling. I am giving you this because I love you. Or because it was given to me. Because I bought it somewhere special. Because you will care for it. Because it will complicate your life. Because it will make someone else envious. There is no easy story in legacy. What is remembered and what is forgotten? There can be a chain of forgetting, the rubbing away of previous ownership as much as the slow accretion of stories. What is being passed on to me with all these small Japanese objects?”

    “There are things in this world that the children hear, but whose sounds oscillate below an adult’s sense of pitch.”

    What did the children hear?

    #6266
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    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.

     

    #6261
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    From Tanganyika with Love

    continued

    With thanks to Mike Rushby.

    Mchewe Estate. 11th July 1931.

    Dearest Family,

    You say that you would like to know more about our neighbours. Well there is
    not much to tell. Kath Wood is very good about coming over to see me. I admire her
    very much because she is so capable as well as being attractive. She speaks very
    fluent Ki-Swahili and I envy her the way she can carry on a long conversation with the
    natives. I am very slow in learning the language possibly because Lamek and the
    houseboy both speak basic English.

    I have very little to do with the Africans apart from the house servants, but I do
    run a sort of clinic for the wives and children of our employees. The children suffer chiefly
    from sore eyes and worms, and the older ones often have bad ulcers on their legs. All
    farmers keep a stock of drugs and bandages.

    George also does a bit of surgery and last month sewed up the sole of the foot
    of a boy who had trodden on the blade of a panga, a sort of sword the Africans use for
    hacking down bush. He made an excellent job of it. George tells me that the Africans
    have wonderful powers of recuperation. Once in his bachelor days, one of his men was
    disembowelled by an elephant. George washed his “guts” in a weak solution of
    pot.permang, put them back in the cavity and sewed up the torn flesh and he
    recovered.

    But to get back to the neighbours. We see less of Hicky Wood than of Kath.
    Hicky can be charming but is often moody as I believe Irishmen often are.
    Major Jones is now at home on his shamba, which he leaves from time to time
    for temporary jobs on the district roads. He walks across fairly regularly and we are
    always glad to see him for he is a great bearer of news. In this part of Africa there is no
    knocking or ringing of doorbells. Front doors are always left open and visitors always
    welcome. When a visitor approaches a house he shouts “Hodi”, and the owner of the
    house yells “Karibu”, which I believe means “Come near” or approach, and tea is
    produced in a matter of minutes no matter what hour of the day it is.
    The road that passes all our farms is the only road to the Gold Diggings and
    diggers often drop in on the Woods and Major Jones and bring news of the Goldfields.
    This news is sometimes about gold but quite often about whose wife is living with
    whom. This is a great country for gossip.

    Major Jones now has his brother Llewyllen living with him. I drove across with
    George to be introduced to him. Llewyllen’s health is poor and he looks much older than
    his years and very like the portrait of Trader Horn. He has the same emaciated features,
    burning eyes and long beard. He is proud of his Welsh tenor voice and often bursts into
    song.

    Both brothers are excellent conversationalists and George enjoys walking over
    sometimes on a Sunday for a bit of masculine company. The other day when George
    walked across to visit the Joneses, he found both brothers in the shamba and Llew in a
    great rage. They had been stooping to inspect a water furrow when Llew backed into a
    hornets nest. One furious hornet stung him on the seat and another on the back of his
    neck. Llew leapt forward and somehow his false teeth shot out into the furrow and were
    carried along by the water. When George arrived Llew had retrieved his teeth but
    George swears that, in the commotion, the heavy leather leggings, which Llew always
    wears, had swivelled around on his thin legs and were calves to the front.
    George has heard that Major Jones is to sell pert of his land to his Swedish brother-in-law, Max Coster, so we will soon have another couple in the neighbourhood.

    I’ve had a bit of a pantomime here on the farm. On the day we went to Tukuyu,
    all our washing was stolen from the clothes line and also our new charcoal iron. George
    reported the matter to the police and they sent out a plain clothes policeman. He wears
    the long white Arab gown called a Kanzu much in vogue here amongst the African elite
    but, alas for secrecy, huge black police boots protrude from beneath the Kanzu and, to
    add to this revealing clue, the askari springs to attention and salutes each time I pass by.
    Not much hope of finding out the identity of the thief I fear.

    George’s furrow was entirely successful and we now have water running behind
    the kitchen. Our drinking water we get from a lovely little spring on the farm. We boil and
    filter it for safety’s sake. I don’t think that is necessary. The furrow water is used for
    washing pots and pans and for bath water.

    Lots of love,
    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. 8th. August 1931

    Dearest Family,

    I think it is about time I told you that we are going to have a baby. We are both
    thrilled about it. I have not seen a Doctor but feel very well and you are not to worry. I
    looked it up in my handbook for wives and reckon that the baby is due about February
    8th. next year.

    The announcement came from George, not me! I had been feeling queasy for
    days and was waiting for the right moment to tell George. You know. Soft lights and
    music etc. However when I was listlessly poking my food around one lunch time
    George enquired calmly, “When are you going to tell me about the baby?” Not at all
    according to the book! The problem is where to have the baby. February is a very wet
    month and the nearest Doctor is over 50 miles away at Tukuyu. I cannot go to stay at
    Tukuyu because there is no European accommodation at the hospital, no hotel and no
    friend with whom I could stay.

    George thinks I should go South to you but Capetown is so very far away and I
    love my little home here. Also George says he could not come all the way down with
    me as he simply must stay here and get the farm on its feet. He would drive me as far
    as the railway in Northern Rhodesia. It is a difficult decision to take. Write and tell me what
    you think.

    The days tick by quietly here. The servants are very willing but have to be
    supervised and even then a crisis can occur. Last Saturday I was feeling squeamish and
    decided not to have lunch. I lay reading on the couch whilst George sat down to a
    solitary curry lunch. Suddenly he gave an exclamation and pushed back his chair. I
    jumped up to see what was wrong and there, on his plate, gleaming in the curry gravy
    were small bits of broken glass. I hurried to the kitchen to confront Lamek with the plate.
    He explained that he had dropped the new and expensive bottle of curry powder on
    the brick floor of the kitchen. He did not tell me as he thought I would make a “shauri” so
    he simply scooped up the curry powder, removed the larger pieces of glass and used
    part of the powder for seasoning the lunch.

    The weather is getting warmer now. It was very cold in June and July and we had
    fires in the daytime as well as at night. Now that much of the land has been cleared we
    are able to go for pleasant walks in the weekends. My favourite spot is a waterfall on the
    Mchewe River just on the boundary of our land. There is a delightful little pool below the
    waterfall and one day George intends to stock it with trout.

    Now that there are more Europeans around to buy meat the natives find it worth
    their while to kill an occasional beast. Every now and again a native arrives with a large
    bowl of freshly killed beef for sale. One has no way of knowing whether the animal was
    healthy and the meat is often still warm and very bloody. I hated handling it at first but am
    becoming accustomed to it now and have even started a brine tub. There is no other
    way of keeping meat here and it can only be kept in its raw state for a few hours before
    going bad. One of the delicacies is the hump which all African cattle have. When corned
    it is like the best brisket.

    See what a housewife I am becoming.
    With much love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. Sept.6th. 1931

    Dearest Family,

    I have grown to love the life here and am sad to think I shall be leaving
    Tanganyika soon for several months. Yes I am coming down to have the baby in the
    bosom of the family. George thinks it best and so does the doctor. I didn’t mention it
    before but I have never recovered fully from the effects of that bad bout of malaria and
    so I have been persuaded to leave George and our home and go to the Cape, in the
    hope that I shall come back here as fit as when I first arrived in the country plus a really
    healthy and bouncing baby. I am torn two ways, I long to see you all – but how I would
    love to stay on here.

    George will drive me down to Northern Rhodesia in early October to catch a
    South bound train. I’ll telegraph the date of departure when I know it myself. The road is
    very, very bad and the car has been giving a good deal of trouble so, though the baby
    is not due until early February, George thinks it best to get the journey over soon as
    possible, for the rains break in November and the the roads will then be impassable. It
    may take us five or six days to reach Broken Hill as we will take it slowly. I am looking
    forward to the drive through new country and to camping out at night.
    Our days pass quietly by. George is out on the shamba most of the day. He
    goes out before breakfast on weekdays and spends most of the day working with the
    men – not only supervising but actually working with his hands and beating the labourers
    at their own jobs. He comes to the house for meals and tea breaks. I potter around the
    house and garden, sew, mend and read. Lamek continues to be a treasure. he turns out
    some surprising dishes. One of his specialities is stuffed chicken. He carefully skins the
    chicken removing all bones. He then minces all the chicken meat and adds minced onion
    and potatoes. He then stuffs the chicken skin with the minced meat and carefully sews it
    together again. The resulting dish is very filling because the boned chicken is twice the
    size of a normal one. It lies on its back as round as a football with bloated legs in the air.
    Rather repulsive to look at but Lamek is most proud of his accomplishment.
    The other day he produced another of his masterpieces – a cooked tortoise. It
    was served on a dish covered with parsley and crouched there sans shell but, only too
    obviously, a tortoise. I took one look and fled with heaving diaphragm, but George said
    it tasted quite good. He tells me that he has had queerer dishes produced by former
    cooks. He says that once in his hunting days his cook served up a skinned baby
    monkey with its hands folded on its breast. He says it would take a cannibal to eat that
    dish.

    And now for something sad. Poor old Llew died quite suddenly and it was a sad
    shock to this tiny community. We went across to the funeral and it was a very simple and
    dignified affair. Llew was buried on Joni’s farm in a grave dug by the farm boys. The
    body was wrapped in a blanket and bound to some boards and lowered into the
    ground. There was no service. The men just said “Good-bye Llew.” and “Sleep well
    Llew”, and things like that. Then Joni and his brother-in-law Max, and George shovelled
    soil over the body after which the grave was filled in by Joni’s shamba boys. It was a
    lovely bright afternoon and I thought how simple and sensible a funeral it was.
    I hope you will be glad to have me home. I bet Dad will be holding thumbs that
    the baby will be a girl.

    Very much love,
    Eleanor.

    Note
    “There are no letters to my family during the period of Sept. 1931 to June 1932
    because during these months I was living with my parents and sister in a suburb of
    Cape Town. I had hoped to return to Tanganyika by air with my baby soon after her
    birth in Feb.1932 but the doctor would not permit this.

    A month before my baby was born, a company called Imperial Airways, had
    started the first passenger service between South Africa and England. One of the night
    stops was at Mbeya near my husband’s coffee farm, and it was my intention to take the
    train to Broken Hill in Northern Rhodesia and to fly from there to Mbeya with my month
    old baby. In those days however, commercial flying was still a novelty and the doctor
    was not sure that flying at a high altitude might not have an adverse effect upon a young
    baby.

    He strongly advised me to wait until the baby was four months old and I did this
    though the long wait was very trying to my husband alone on our farm in Tanganyika,
    and to me, cherished though I was in my old home.

    My story, covering those nine long months is soon told. My husband drove me
    down from Mbeya to Broken Hill in NorthernRhodesia. The journey was tedious as the
    weather was very hot and dry and the road sandy and rutted, very different from the
    Great North road as it is today. The wooden wheel spokes of the car became so dry
    that they rattled and George had to bind wet rags around them. We had several
    punctures and with one thing and another I was lucky to catch the train.
    My parents were at Cape Town station to welcome me and I stayed
    comfortably with them, living very quietly, until my baby was born. She arrived exactly
    on the appointed day, Feb.8th.

    I wrote to my husband “Our Charmian Ann is a darling baby. She is very fair and
    rather pale and has the most exquisite hands, with long tapering fingers. Daddy
    absolutely dotes on her and so would you, if you were here. I can’t bear to think that you
    are so terribly far away. Although Ann was born exactly on the day, I was taken quite by
    surprise. It was awfully hot on the night before, and before going to bed I had a fancy for
    some water melon. The result was that when I woke in the early morning with labour
    pains and vomiting I thought it was just an attack of indigestion due to eating too much
    melon. The result was that I did not wake Marjorie until the pains were pretty frequent.
    She called our next door neighbour who, in his pyjamas, drove me to the nursing home
    at breakneck speed. The Matron was very peeved that I had left things so late but all
    went well and by nine o’clock, Mother, positively twittering with delight, was allowed to
    see me and her first granddaughter . She told me that poor Dad was in such a state of
    nerves that he was sick amongst the grapevines. He says that he could not bear to go
    through such an anxious time again, — so we will have to have our next eleven in
    Tanganyika!”

    The next four months passed rapidly as my time was taken up by the demands
    of my new baby. Dr. Trudy King’s method of rearing babies was then the vogue and I
    stuck fanatically to all the rules he laid down, to the intense exasperation of my parents
    who longed to cuddle the child.

    As the time of departure drew near my parents became more and more reluctant
    to allow me to face the journey alone with their adored grandchild, so my brother,
    Graham, very generously offered to escort us on the train to Broken Hill where he could
    put us on the plane for Mbeya.

    Eleanor Rushby

     

    Mchewe Estate. June 15th 1932

    Dearest Family,

    You’ll be glad to know that we arrived quite safe and sound and very, very
    happy to be home.The train Journey was uneventful. Ann slept nearly all the way.
    Graham was very kind and saw to everything. He even sat with the baby whilst I went
    to meals in the dining car.

    We were met at Broken Hill by the Thoms who had arranged accommodation for
    us at the hotel for the night. They also drove us to the aerodrome in the morning where
    the Airways agent told us that Ann is the first baby to travel by air on this section of the
    Cape to England route. The plane trip was very bumpy indeed especially between
    Broken Hill and Mpika. Everyone was ill including poor little Ann who sicked up her milk
    all over the front of my new coat. I arrived at Mbeya looking a sorry caricature of Radiant
    Motherhood. I must have been pale green and the baby was snow white. Under the
    circumstances it was a good thing that George did not meet us. We were met instead
    by Ken Menzies, the owner of the Mbeya Hotel where we spent the night. Ken was
    most fatherly and kind and a good nights rest restored Ann and me to our usual robust
    health.

    Mbeya has greatly changed. The hotel is now finished and can accommodate
    fifty guests. It consists of a large main building housing a large bar and dining room and
    offices and a number of small cottage bedrooms. It even has electric light. There are
    several buildings out at the aerodrome and private houses going up in Mbeya.
    After breakfast Ken Menzies drove us out to the farm where we had a warm
    welcome from George, who looks well but rather thin. The house was spotless and the
    new cook, Abel, had made light scones for tea. George had prepared all sorts of lovely
    surprises. There is a new reed ceiling in the living room and a new dresser gay with
    willow pattern plates which he had ordered from England. There is also a writing table
    and a square table by the door for visitors hats. More personal is a lovely model ship
    which George assembled from one of those Hobbie’s kits. It puts the finishing touch to
    the rather old world air of our living room.

    In the bedroom there is a large double bed which George made himself. It has
    strips of old car tyres nailed to a frame which makes a fine springy mattress and on top
    of this is a thick mattress of kapok.In the kitchen there is a good wood stove which
    George salvaged from a Mission dump. It looks a bit battered but works very well. The
    new cook is excellent. The only blight is that he will wear rubber soled tennis shoes and
    they smell awful. I daren’t hurt his feelings by pointing this out though. Opposite the
    kitchen is a new laundry building containing a forty gallon hot water drum and a sink for
    washing up. Lovely!

    George has been working very hard. He now has forty acres of coffee seedlings
    planted out and has also found time to plant a rose garden and fruit trees. There are
    orange and peach trees, tree tomatoes, paw paws, guavas and berries. He absolutely
    adores Ann who has been very good and does not seem at all unsettled by the long
    journey.

    It is absolutely heavenly to be back and I shall be happier than ever now that I
    have a baby to play with during the long hours when George is busy on the farm,
    Thank you for all your love and care during the many months I was with you. Ann
    sends a special bubble for granddad.

    Your very loving,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate Mbeya July 18th 1932

    Dearest Family,

    Ann at five months is enchanting. She is a very good baby, smiles readily and is
    gaining weight steadily. She doesn’t sleep much during the day but that does not
    matter, because, apart from washing her little things, I have nothing to do but attend to
    her. She sleeps very well at night which is a blessing as George has to get up very
    early to start work on the shamba and needs a good nights rest.
    My nights are not so good, because we are having a plague of rats which frisk
    around in the bedroom at night. Great big ones that come up out of the long grass in the
    gorge beside the house and make cosy homes on our reed ceiling and in the thatch of
    the roof.

    We always have a night light burning so that, if necessary, I can attend to Ann
    with a minimum of fuss, and the things I see in that dim light! There are gaps between
    the reeds and one night I heard, plop! and there, before my horrified gaze, lay a newly
    born hairless baby rat on the floor by the bed, plop, plop! and there lay two more.
    Quite dead, poor things – but what a careless mother.

    I have also seen rats scampering around on the tops of the mosquito nets and
    sometimes we have them on our bed. They have a lovely game. They swarm down
    the cord from which the mosquito net is suspended, leap onto the bed and onto the
    floor. We do not have our net down now the cold season is here and there are few
    mosquitoes.

    Last week a rat crept under Ann’s net which hung to the floor and bit her little
    finger, so now I tuck the net in under the mattress though it makes it difficult for me to
    attend to her at night. We shall have to get a cat somewhere. Ann’s pram has not yet
    arrived so George carries her when we go walking – to her great content.
    The native women around here are most interested in Ann. They come to see
    her, bearing small gifts, and usually bring a child or two with them. They admire my child
    and I admire theirs and there is an exchange of gifts. They produce a couple of eggs or
    a few bananas or perhaps a skinny fowl and I hand over sugar, salt or soap as they
    value these commodities. The most lavish gift went to the wife of Thomas our headman,
    who produced twin daughters in the same week as I had Ann.

    Our neighbours have all been across to welcome me back and to admire the
    baby. These include Marion Coster who came out to join her husband whilst I was in
    South Africa. The two Hickson-Wood children came over on a fat old white donkey.
    They made a pretty picture sitting astride, one behind the other – Maureen with her arms
    around small Michael’s waist. A native toto led the donkey and the children’ s ayah
    walked beside it.

    It is quite cold here now but the sun is bright and the air dry. The whole
    countryside is beautifully green and we are a very happy little family.

    Lots and lots of love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate August 11th 1932

    Dearest Family,

    George has been very unwell for the past week. He had a nasty gash on his
    knee which went septic. He had a swelling in the groin and a high temperature and could
    not sleep at night for the pain in his leg. Ann was very wakeful too during the same
    period, I think she is teething. I luckily have kept fit though rather harassed. Yesterday the
    leg looked so inflamed that George decided to open up the wound himself. he made
    quite a big cut in exactly the right place. You should have seen the blackish puss
    pouring out.

    After he had thoroughly cleaned the wound George sewed it up himself. he has
    the proper surgical needles and gut. He held the cut together with his left hand and
    pushed the needle through the flesh with his right. I pulled the needle out and passed it
    to George for the next stitch. I doubt whether a surgeon could have made a neater job
    of it. He is still confined to the couch but today his temperature is normal. Some
    husband!

    The previous week was hectic in another way. We had a visit from lions! George
    and I were having supper about 8.30 on Tuesday night when the back verandah was
    suddenly invaded by women and children from the servants quarters behind the kitchen.
    They were all yelling “Simba, Simba.” – simba means lions. The door opened suddenly
    and the houseboy rushed in to say that there were lions at the huts. George got up
    swiftly, fetched gun and ammunition from the bedroom and with the houseboy carrying
    the lamp, went off to investigate. I remained at the table, carrying on with my supper as I
    felt a pioneer’s wife should! Suddenly something big leapt through the open window
    behind me. You can imagine what I thought! I know now that it is quite true to say one’s
    hair rises when one is scared. However it was only Kelly, our huge Irish wolfhound,
    taking cover.

    George returned quite soon to say that apparently the commotion made by the
    women and children had frightened the lions off. He found their tracks in the soft earth
    round the huts and a bag of maize that had been playfully torn open but the lions had
    moved on.

    Next day we heard that they had moved to Hickson-Wood’s shamba. Hicky
    came across to say that the lions had jumped over the wall of his cattle boma and killed
    both his white Muskat riding donkeys.
    He and a friend sat up all next night over the remains but the lions did not return to
    the kill.

    Apart from the little set back last week, Ann is blooming. She has a cap of very
    fine fair hair and clear blue eyes under straight brow. She also has lovely dimples in both
    cheeks. We are very proud of her.

    Our neighbours are picking coffee but the crops are small and the price is low. I
    am amazed that they are so optimistic about the future. No one in these parts ever
    seems to grouse though all are living on capital. They all say “Well if the worst happens
    we can always go up to the Lupa Diggings.”

    Don’t worry about us, we have enough to tide us over for some time yet.

    Much love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 28th Sept. 1932

    Dearest Family,

    News! News! I’m going to have another baby. George and I are delighted and I
    hope it will be a boy this time. I shall be able to have him at Mbeya because things are
    rapidly changing here. Several German families have moved to Mbeya including a
    German doctor who means to build a hospital there. I expect he will make a very good
    living because there must now be some hundreds of Europeans within a hundred miles
    radius of Mbeya. The Europeans are mostly British or German but there are also
    Greeks and, I believe, several other nationalities are represented on the Lupa Diggings.
    Ann is blooming and developing according to the Book except that she has no
    teeth yet! Kath Hickson-Wood has given her a very nice high chair and now she has
    breakfast and lunch at the table with us. Everything within reach goes on the floor to her
    amusement and my exasperation!

    You ask whether we have any Church of England missionaries in our part. No we
    haven’t though there are Lutheran and Roman Catholic Missions. I have never even
    heard of a visiting Church of England Clergyman to these parts though there are babies
    in plenty who have not been baptised. Jolly good thing I had Ann Christened down
    there.

    The R.C. priests in this area are called White Fathers. They all have beards and
    wear white cassocks and sun helmets. One, called Father Keiling, calls around frequently.
    Though none of us in this area is Catholic we take it in turn to put him up for the night. The
    Catholic Fathers in their turn are most hospitable to travellers regardless of their beliefs.
    Rather a sad thing has happened. Lucas our old chicken-boy is dead. I shall miss
    his toothy smile. George went to the funeral and fired two farewell shots from his rifle
    over the grave – a gesture much appreciated by the locals. Lucas in his day was a good
    hunter.

    Several of the locals own muzzle loading guns but the majority hunt with dogs
    and spears. The dogs wear bells which make an attractive jingle but I cannot bear the
    idea of small antelope being run down until they are exhausted before being clubbed of
    stabbed to death. We seldom eat venison as George does not care to shoot buck.
    Recently though, he shot an eland and Abel rendered down the fat which is excellent for
    cooking and very like beef fat.

    Much love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. P.O.Mbeya 21st November 1932

    Dearest Family,

    George has gone off to the Lupa for a week with John Molteno. John came up
    here with the idea of buying a coffee farm but he has changed his mind and now thinks of
    staking some claims on the diggings and also setting up as a gold buyer.

    Did I tell you about his arrival here? John and George did some elephant hunting
    together in French Equatorial Africa and when John heard that George had married and
    settled in Tanganyika, he also decided to come up here. He drove up from Cape Town
    in a Baby Austin and arrived just as our labourers were going home for the day. The little
    car stopped half way up our hill and John got out to investigate. You should have heard
    the astonished exclamations when John got out – all 6 ft 5 ins. of him! He towered over
    the little car and even to me it seemed impossible for him to have made the long
    journey in so tiny a car.

    Kath Wood has been over several times lately. She is slim and looks so right in
    the shirt and corduroy slacks she almost always wears. She was here yesterday when
    the shamba boy, digging in the front garden, unearthed a large earthenware cooking pot,
    sealed at the top. I was greatly excited and had an instant mental image of fabulous
    wealth. We made the boy bring the pot carefully on to the verandah and opened it in
    happy anticipation. What do you think was inside? Nothing but a grinning skull! Such a
    treat for a pregnant female.

    We have a tree growing here that had lovely straight branches covered by a
    smooth bark. I got the garden boy to cut several of these branches of a uniform size,
    peeled off the bark and have made Ann a playpen with the poles which are much like
    broom sticks. Now I can leave her unattended when I do my chores. The other morning
    after breakfast I put Ann in her playpen on the verandah and gave her a piece of toast
    and honey to keep her quiet whilst I laundered a few of her things. When I looked out a
    little later I was horrified to see a number of bees buzzing around her head whilst she
    placidly concentrated on her toast. I made a rapid foray and rescued her but I still don’t
    know whether that was the thing to do.

    We all send our love,
    Eleanor.

    Mbeya Hospital. April 25th. 1933

    Dearest Family,

    Here I am, installed at the very new hospital, built by Dr Eckhardt, awaiting the
    arrival of the new baby. George has gone back to the farm on foot but will walk in again
    to spend the weekend with us. Ann is with me and enjoys the novelty of playing with
    other children. The Eckhardts have two, a pretty little girl of two and a half and a very fair
    roly poly boy of Ann’s age. Ann at fourteen months is very active. She is quite a little girl
    now with lovely dimples. She walks well but is backward in teething.

    George, Ann and I had a couple of days together at the hotel before I moved in
    here and several of the local women visited me and have promised to visit me in
    hospital. The trip from farm to town was very entertaining if not very comfortable. There
    is ten miles of very rough road between our farm and Utengule Mission and beyond the
    Mission there is a fair thirteen or fourteen mile road to Mbeya.

    As we have no car now the doctor’s wife offered to drive us from the Mission to
    Mbeya but she would not risk her car on the road between the Mission and our farm.
    The upshot was that I rode in the Hickson-Woods machila for that ten mile stretch. The
    machila is a canopied hammock, slung from a bamboo pole, in which I reclined, not too
    comfortably in my unwieldy state, with Ann beside me or sometime straddling me. Four
    of our farm boys carried the machila on their shoulders, two fore and two aft. The relief
    bearers walked on either side. There must have been a dozen in all and they sang a sort
    of sea shanty song as they walked. One man would sing a verse and the others took up
    the chorus. They often improvise as they go. They moaned about my weight (at least
    George said so! I don’t follow Ki-Swahili well yet) and expressed the hope that I would
    have a son and that George would reward them handsomely.

    George and Kelly, the dog, followed close behind the machila and behind
    George came Abel our cook and his wife and small daughter Annalie, all in their best
    attire. The cook wore a palm beach suit, large Terai hat and sunglasses and two colour
    shoes and quite lent a tone to the proceedings! Right at the back came the rag tag and
    bobtail who joined the procession just for fun.

    Mrs Eckhardt was already awaiting us at the Mission when we arrived and we had
    an uneventful trip to the Mbeya Hotel.

    During my last week at the farm I felt very tired and engaged the cook’s small
    daughter, Annalie, to amuse Ann for an hour after lunch so that I could have a rest. They
    played in the small verandah room which adjoins our bedroom and where I keep all my
    sewing materials. One afternoon I was startled by a scream from Ann. I rushed to the
    room and found Ann with blood steaming from her cheek. Annalie knelt beside her,
    looking startled and frightened, with my embroidery scissors in her hand. She had cut off
    half of the long curling golden lashes on one of Ann’s eyelids and, in trying to finish the
    job, had cut off a triangular flap of skin off Ann’s cheek bone.

    I called Abel, the cook, and demanded that he should chastise his daughter there and
    then and I soon heard loud shrieks from behind the kitchen. He spanked her with a
    bamboo switch but I am sure not as well as she deserved. Africans are very tolerant
    towards their children though I have seen husbands and wives fighting furiously.
    I feel very well but long to have the confinement over.

    Very much love,
    Eleanor.

    Mbeya Hospital. 2nd May 1933.

    Dearest Family,

    Little George arrived at 7.30 pm on Saturday evening 29 th. April. George was
    with me at the time as he had walked in from the farm for news, and what a wonderful bit
    of luck that was. The doctor was away on a case on the Diggings and I was bathing Ann
    with George looking on, when the pains started. George dried Ann and gave her
    supper and put her to bed. Afterwards he sat on the steps outside my room and a
    great comfort it was to know that he was there.

    The confinement was short but pretty hectic. The Doctor returned to the Hospital
    just in time to deliver the baby. He is a grand little boy, beautifully proportioned. The
    doctor says he has never seen a better formed baby. He is however rather funny
    looking just now as his head is, very temporarily, egg shaped. He has a shock of black
    silky hair like a gollywog and believe it or not, he has a slight black moustache.
    George came in, looked at the baby, looked at me, and we both burst out
    laughing. The doctor was shocked and said so. He has no sense of humour and couldn’t
    understand that we, though bursting with pride in our son, could never the less laugh at
    him.

    Friends in Mbeya have sent me the most gorgeous flowers and my room is
    transformed with delphiniums, roses and carnations. The room would be very austere
    without the flowers. Curtains, bedspread and enamelware, walls and ceiling are all
    snowy white.

    George hired a car and took Ann home next day. I have little George for
    company during the day but he is removed at night. I am longing to get him home and
    away from the German nurse who feeds him on black tea when he cries. She insists that
    tea is a medicine and good for him.

    Much love from a proud mother of two.
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate 12May 1933

    Dearest Family,

    We are all together at home again and how lovely it feels. Even the house
    servants seem pleased. The boy had decorated the lounge with sprays of
    bougainvillaea and Abel had backed one of his good sponge cakes.

    Ann looked fat and rosy but at first was only moderately interested in me and the
    new baby but she soon thawed. George is good with her and will continue to dress Ann
    in the mornings and put her to bed until I am satisfied with Georgie.

    He, poor mite, has a nasty rash on face and neck. I am sure it is just due to that
    tea the nurse used to give him at night. He has lost his moustache and is fast loosing his
    wild black hair and emerging as quite a handsome babe. He is a very masculine looking
    infant with much more strongly marked eyebrows and a larger nose that Ann had. He is
    very good and lies quietly in his basket even when awake.

    George has been making a hatching box for brown trout ova and has set it up in
    a small clear stream fed by a spring in readiness for the ova which is expected from
    South Africa by next weeks plane. Some keen fishermen from Mbeya and the District
    have clubbed together to buy the ova. The fingerlings are later to be transferred to
    streams in Mbeya and Tukuyu Districts.

    I shall now have my hands full with the two babies and will not have much time for the
    garden, or I fear, for writing very long letters. Remember though, that no matter how
    large my family becomes, I shall always love you as much as ever.

    Your affectionate,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 14th June 1933

    Dearest Family,

    The four of us are all well but alas we have lost our dear Kelly. He was rather a
    silly dog really, although he grew so big he retained all his puppy ways but we were all
    very fond of him, especially George because Kelly attached himself to George whilst I
    was away having Ann and from that time on he was George’s shadow. I think he had
    some form of biliary fever. He died stretched out on the living room couch late last night,
    with George sitting beside him so that he would not feel alone.

    The children are growing fast. Georgie is a darling. He now has a fluff of pale
    brown hair and his eyes are large and dark brown. Ann is very plump and fair.
    We have had several visitors lately. Apart from neighbours, a car load of diggers
    arrived one night and John Molteno and his bride were here. She is a very attractive girl
    but, I should say, more suited to life in civilisation than in this back of beyond. She has
    gone out to the diggings with her husband and will have to walk a good stretch of the fifty
    or so miles.

    The diggers had to sleep in the living room on the couch and on hastily erected
    camp beds. They arrived late at night and left after breakfast next day. One had half a
    beard, the other side of his face had been forcibly shaved in the bar the night before.

    your affectionate,
    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. August 10 th. 1933

    Dearest Family,

    George is away on safari with two Indian Army officers. The money he will get for
    his services will be very welcome because this coffee growing is a slow business, and
    our capitol is rapidly melting away. The job of acting as White Hunter was unexpected
    or George would not have taken on the job of hatching the ova which duly arrived from
    South Africa.

    George and the District Commissioner, David Pollock, went to meet the plane
    by which the ova had been consigned but the pilot knew nothing about the package. It
    came to light in the mail bag with the parcels! However the ova came to no harm. David
    Pollock and George brought the parcel to the farm and carefully transferred the ova to
    the hatching box. It was interesting to watch the tiny fry hatch out – a process which took
    several days. Many died in the process and George removed the dead by sucking
    them up in a glass tube.

    When hatched, the tiny fry were fed on ant eggs collected by the boys. I had to
    take over the job of feeding and removing the dead when George left on safari. The fry
    have to be fed every four hours, like the baby, so each time I have fed Georgie. I hurry
    down to feed the trout.

    The children are very good but keep me busy. Ann can now say several words
    and understands more. She adores Georgie. I long to show them off to you.

    Very much love
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. October 27th 1933

    Dear Family,

    All just over flu. George and Ann were very poorly. I did not fare so badly and
    Georgie came off best. He is on a bottle now.

    There was some excitement here last Wednesday morning. At 6.30 am. I called
    for boiling water to make Georgie’s food. No water arrived but muffled shouting and the
    sound of blows came from the kitchen. I went to investigate and found a fierce fight in
    progress between the house boy and the kitchen boy. In my efforts to make them stop
    fighting I went too close and got a sharp bang on the mouth with the edge of an
    enamelled plate the kitchen boy was using as a weapon. My teeth cut my lip inside and
    the plate cut it outside and blood flowed from mouth to chin. The boys were petrified.
    By the time I had fed Georgie the lip was stiff and swollen. George went in wrath
    to the kitchen and by breakfast time both house boy and kitchen boy had swollen faces
    too. Since then I have a kettle of boiling water to hand almost before the words are out
    of my mouth. I must say that the fight was because the house boy had clouted the
    kitchen boy for keeping me waiting! In this land of piece work it is the job of the kitchen
    boy to light the fire and boil the kettle but the houseboy’s job to carry the kettle to me.
    I have seen little of Kath Wood or Marion Coster for the past two months. Major
    Jones is the neighbour who calls most regularly. He has a wireless set and calls on all of
    us to keep us up to date with world as well as local news. He often brings oranges for
    Ann who adores him. He is a very nice person but no oil painting and makes no effort to
    entertain Ann but she thinks he is fine. Perhaps his monocle appeals to her.

    George has bought a six foot long galvanised bath which is a great improvement
    on the smaller oval one we have used until now. The smaller one had grown battered
    from much use and leaks like a sieve. Fortunately our bathroom has a cement floor,
    because one had to fill the bath to the brim and then bath extremely quickly to avoid
    being left high and dry.

    Lots and lots of love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. P.O. Mbeya 1st December 1933

    Dearest Family,

    Ann has not been well. We think she has had malaria. She has grown a good
    deal lately and looks much thinner and rather pale. Georgie is thriving and has such
    sparkling brown eyes and a ready smile. He and Ann make a charming pair, one so fair
    and the other dark.

    The Moltenos’ spent a few days here and took Georgie and me to Mbeya so
    that Georgie could be vaccinated. However it was an unsatisfactory trip because the
    doctor had no vaccine.

    George went to the Lupa with the Moltenos and returned to the farm in their Baby
    Austin which they have lent to us for a week. This was to enable me to go to Mbeya to
    have a couple of teeth filled by a visiting dentist.

    We went to Mbeya in the car on Saturday. It was quite a squash with the four of
    us on the front seat of the tiny car. Once George grabbed the babies foot instead of the
    gear knob! We had Georgie vaccinated at the hospital and then went to the hotel where
    the dentist was installed. Mr Dare, the dentist, had few instruments and they were very
    tarnished. I sat uncomfortably on a kitchen chair whilst he tinkered with my teeth. He filled
    three but two of the fillings came out that night. This meant another trip to Mbeya in the
    Baby Austin but this time they seem all right.

    The weather is very hot and dry and the garden a mess. We are having trouble
    with the young coffee trees too. Cut worms are killing off seedlings in the nursery and
    there is a borer beetle in the planted out coffee.

    George bought a large grey donkey from some wandering Masai and we hope
    the children will enjoy riding it later on.

    Very much love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 14th February 1934.

    Dearest Family,

    You will be sorry to hear that little Ann has been very ill, indeed we were terribly
    afraid that we were going to lose her. She enjoyed her birthday on the 8th. All the toys
    you, and her English granny, sent were unwrapped with such delight. However next
    day she seemed listless and a bit feverish so I tucked her up in bed after lunch. I dosed
    her with quinine and aspirin and she slept fitfully. At about eleven o’clock I was
    awakened by a strange little cry. I turned up the night light and was horrified to see that
    Ann was in a convulsion. I awakened George who, as always in an emergency, was
    perfectly calm and practical. He filled the small bath with very warm water and emersed
    Ann in it, placing a cold wet cloth on her head. We then wrapped her in blankets and
    gave her an enema and she settled down to sleep. A few hours later we had the same
    thing over again.

    At first light we sent a runner to Mbeya to fetch the doctor but waited all day in
    vain and in the evening the runner returned to say that the doctor had gone to a case on
    the diggings. Ann had been feverish all day with two or three convulsions. Neither
    George or I wished to leave the bedroom, but there was Georgie to consider, and in
    the afternoon I took him out in the garden for a while whilst George sat with Ann.
    That night we both sat up all night and again Ann had those wretched attacks of
    convulsions. George and I were worn out with anxiety by the time the doctor arrived the
    next afternoon. Ann had not been able to keep down any quinine and had had only
    small sips of water since the onset of the attack.

    The doctor at once diagnosed the trouble as malaria aggravated by teething.
    George held Ann whilst the Doctor gave her an injection. At the first attempt the needle
    bent into a bow, George was furious! The second attempt worked and after a few hours
    Ann’s temperature dropped and though she was ill for two days afterwards she is now
    up and about. She has also cut the last of her baby teeth, thank God. She looks thin and
    white, but should soon pick up. It has all been a great strain to both of us. Georgie
    behaved like an angel throughout. He played happily in his cot and did not seem to
    sense any tension as people say, babies do. Our baby was cheerful and not at all
    subdued.

    This is the rainy season and it is a good thing that some work has been done on
    our road or the doctor might not have got through.

    Much love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 1st October 1934

    Dearest Family,

    We are all well now, thank goodness, but last week Georgie gave us such a
    fright. I was sitting on the verandah, busy with some sewing and not watching Ann and
    Georgie, who were trying to reach a bunch of bananas which hung on a rope from a
    beam of the verandah. Suddenly I heard a crash, Georgie had fallen backward over the
    edge of the verandah and hit the back of his head on the edge of the brick furrow which
    carries away the rainwater. He lay flat on his back with his arms spread out and did not
    move or cry. When I picked him up he gave a little whimper, I carried him to his cot and
    bathed his face and soon he began sitting up and appeared quite normal. The trouble
    began after he had vomited up his lunch. He began to whimper and bang his head
    against the cot.

    George and I were very worried because we have no transport so we could not
    take Georgie to the doctor and we could not bear to go through again what we had gone
    through with Ann earlier in the year. Then, in the late afternoon, a miracle happened. Two
    men George hardly knew, and complete strangers to me, called in on their way from the
    diggings to Mbeya and they kindly drove Georgie and me to the hospital. The Doctor
    allowed me to stay with Georgie and we spent five days there. Luckily he responded to
    treatment and is now as alive as ever. Children do put years on one!

    There is nothing much else to report. We have a new vegetable garden which is
    doing well but the earth here is strange. Gardens seem to do well for two years but by
    that time the soil is exhausted and one must move the garden somewhere else. The
    coffee looks well but it will be another year before we can expect even a few bags of
    coffee and prices are still low. Anyway by next year George should have some good
    return for all his hard work.

    Lots of love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. November 4th 1934

    Dearest Family,

    George is home from his White Hunting safari looking very sunburnt and well.
    The elderly American, who was his client this time, called in here at the farm to meet me
    and the children. It is amazing what spirit these old lads have! This one looked as though
    he should be thinking in terms of slippers and an armchair but no, he thinks in terms of
    high powered rifles with telescopic sights.

    It is lovely being together again and the children are delighted to have their Dad
    home. Things are always exciting when George is around. The day after his return
    George said at breakfast, “We can’t go on like this. You and the kids never get off the
    shamba. We’ll simply have to get a car.” You should have heard the excitement. “Get a
    car Daddy?’” cried Ann jumping in her chair so that her plaits bounced. “Get a car
    Daddy?” echoed Georgie his brown eyes sparkling. “A car,” said I startled, “However
    can we afford one?”

    “Well,” said George, “on my way back from Safari I heard that a car is to be sold
    this week at the Tukuyu Court, diseased estate or bankruptcy or something, I might get it
    cheap and it is an A.C.” The name meant nothing to me, but George explained that an
    A.C. is first cousin to a Rolls Royce.

    So off he went to the sale and next day the children and I listened all afternoon for
    the sound of an approaching car. We had many false alarms but, towards evening we
    heard what appeared to be the roar of an aeroplane engine. It was the A.C. roaring her
    way up our steep hill with a long plume of steam waving gaily above her radiator.
    Out jumped my beaming husband and in no time at all, he was showing off her
    points to an admiring family. Her lines are faultless and seats though worn are most
    comfortable. She has a most elegant air so what does it matter that the radiator leaks like
    a sieve, her exhaust pipe has broken off, her tyres are worn almost to the canvas and
    she has no windscreen. She goes, and she cost only five pounds.

    Next afternoon George, the kids and I piled into the car and drove along the road
    on lookout for guinea fowl. All went well on the outward journey but on the homeward
    one the poor A.C. simply gasped and died. So I carried the shot gun and George
    carried both children and we trailed sadly home. This morning George went with a bunch
    of farmhands and brought her home. Truly temperamental, she came home literally
    under her own steam.

    George now plans to get a second hand engine and radiator for her but it won’t
    be an A.C. engine. I think she is the only one of her kind in the country.
    I am delighted to hear, dad, that you are sending a bridle for Joseph for
    Christmas. I am busy making a saddle out of an old piece of tent canvas stuffed with
    kapok, some webbing and some old rug straps. A car and a riding donkey! We’re
    definitely carriage folk now.

    Lots of love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 28th December 1934

    Dearest Family,

    Thank you for the wonderful Christmas parcel. My frock is a splendid fit. George
    declares that no one can knit socks like Mummy and the children love their toys and new
    clothes.

    Joseph, the donkey, took his bit with an air of bored resignation and Ann now
    rides proudly on his back. Joseph is a big strong animal with the looks and disposition of
    a mule. he will not go at all unless a native ‘toto’ walks before him and when he does go
    he wears a pained expression as though he were carrying fourteen stone instead of
    Ann’s fly weight. I walk beside the donkey carrying Georgie and our cat, ‘Skinny Winnie’,
    follows behind. Quite a cavalcade. The other day I got so exasperated with Joseph that
    I took Ann off and I got on. Joseph tottered a few paces and sat down! to the huge
    delight of our farm labourers who were going home from work. Anyway, one good thing,
    the donkey is so lazy that there is little chance of him bolting with Ann.

    The Moltenos spent Christmas with us and left for the Lupa Diggings yesterday.
    They arrived on the 22nd. with gifts for the children and chocolates and beer. That very
    afternoon George and John Molteno left for Ivuna, near Lake Ruckwa, to shoot some
    guinea fowl and perhaps a goose for our Christmas dinner. We expected the menfolk
    back on Christmas Eve and Anne and I spent a busy day making mince pies and
    sausage rolls. Why I don’t know, because I am sure Abel could have made them better.
    We decorated the Christmas tree and sat up very late but no husbands turned up.
    Christmas day passed but still no husbands came. Anne, like me, is expecting a baby
    and we both felt pretty forlorn and cross. Anne was certain that they had been caught up
    in a party somewhere and had forgotten all about us and I must say when Boxing Day
    went by and still George and John did not show up I felt ready to agree with her.
    They turned up towards evening and explained that on the homeward trip the car
    had bogged down in the mud and that they had spent a miserable Christmas. Anne
    refused to believe their story so George, to prove their case, got the game bag and
    tipped the contents on to the dining room table. Out fell several guinea fowl, long past
    being edible, followed by a large goose so high that it was green and blue where all the
    feathers had rotted off.

    The stench was too much for two pregnant girls. I shot out of the front door
    closely followed by Anne and we were both sick in the garden.

    I could not face food that evening but Anne is made of stronger stuff and ate her
    belated Christmas dinner with relish.

    I am looking forward enormously to having Marjorie here with us. She will be able
    to carry back to you an eyewitness account of our home and way of life.

    Much love to you all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 5th January 1935

    Dearest Family,

    You cannot imagine how lovely it is to have Marjorie here. She came just in time
    because I have had pernicious vomiting and have lost a great deal of weight and she
    took charge of the children and made me spend three days in hospital having treatment.
    George took me to the hospital on the afternoon of New Years Eve and decided
    to spend the night at the hotel and join in the New Years Eve celebrations. I had several
    visitors at the hospital that evening and George actually managed to get some imported
    grapes for me. He returned to the farm next morning and fetched me from the hospital
    four days later. Of course the old A.C. just had to play up. About half way home the
    back axle gave in and we had to send a passing native some miles back to a place
    called Mbalizi to hire a lorry from a Greek trader to tow us home to the farm.
    The children looked well and were full of beans. I think Marjorie was thankful to
    hand them over to me. She is delighted with Ann’s motherly little ways but Georgie she
    calls “a really wild child”. He isn’t, just has such an astonishing amount of energy and is
    always up to mischief. Marjorie brought us all lovely presents. I am so thrilled with my
    sewing machine. It may be an old model but it sews marvellously. We now have an
    Alsatian pup as well as Joseph the donkey and the two cats.

    Marjorie had a midnight encounter with Joseph which gave her quite a shock but
    we had a good laugh about it next day. Some months ago George replaced our wattle
    and daub outside pit lavatory by a substantial brick one, so large that Joseph is being
    temporarily stabled in it at night. We neglected to warn Marj about this and one night,
    storm lamp in hand, she opened the door and Joseph walked out braying his thanks.
    I am afraid Marjorie is having a quiet time, a shame when the journey from Cape
    Town is so expensive. The doctor has told me to rest as much as I can, so it is
    impossible for us to take Marj on sight seeing trips.

    I hate to think that she will be leaving in ten days time.

    Much love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 18th February 1935

    Dearest Family,

    You must be able to visualise our life here quite well now that Marj is back and
    has no doubt filled in all the details I forget to mention in my letters. What a journey we
    had in the A.C. when we took her to the plane. George, the children and I sat in front and
    Marj sat behind with numerous four gallon tins of water for the insatiable radiator. It was
    raining and the canvas hood was up but part of the side flaps are missing and as there is
    no glass in the windscreen the rain blew in on us. George got fed up with constantly
    removing the hot radiator cap so simply stuffed a bit of rag in instead. When enough
    steam had built up in the radiator behind the rag it blew out and we started all over again.
    The car still roars like an aeroplane engine and yet has little power so that George sent
    gangs of boys to the steep hills between the farm and the Mission to give us a push if
    necessary. Fortunately this time it was not, and the boys cheered us on our way. We
    needed their help on the homeward journey however.

    George has now bought an old Chev engine which he means to install before I
    have to go to hospital to have my new baby. It will be quite an engineering feet as
    George has few tools.

    I am sorry to say that I am still not well, something to do with kidneys or bladder.
    George bought me some pills from one of the several small shops which have opened
    in Mbeya and Ann is most interested in the result. She said seriously to Kath Wood,
    “Oh my Mummy is a very clever Mummy. She can do blue wee and green wee as well
    as yellow wee.” I simply can no longer manage the children without help and have
    engaged the cook’s wife, Janey, to help. The children are by no means thrilled. I plead in
    vain that I am not well enough to go for walks. Ann says firmly, “Ann doesn’t want to go
    for a walk. Ann will look after you.” Funny, though she speaks well for a three year old,
    she never uses the first person. Georgie say he would much rather walk with
    Keshokutwa, the kitchen boy. His name by the way, means day-after-tomorrow and it
    suits him down to the ground, Kath Wood walks over sometimes with offers of help and Ann will gladly go walking with her but Georgie won’t. He on the other hand will walk with Anne Molteno
    and Ann won’t. They are obstinate kids. Ann has developed a very fertile imagination.
    She has probably been looking at too many of those nice women’s magazines you
    sent. A few days ago she said, “You are sick Mummy, but Ann’s got another Mummy.
    She’s not sick, and my other mummy (very smugly) has lovely golden hair”. This
    morning’ not ten minutes after I had dressed her, she came in with her frock wet and
    muddy. I said in exasperation, “Oh Ann, you are naughty.” To which she instantly
    returned, “My other Mummy doesn’t think I am naughty. She thinks I am very nice.” It
    strikes me I shall have to get better soon so that I can be gay once more and compete
    with that phantom golden haired paragon.

    We had a very heavy storm over the farm last week. There was heavy rain with
    hail which stripped some of the coffee trees and the Mchewe River flooded and the
    water swept through the lower part of the shamba. After the water had receded George
    picked up a fine young trout which had been stranded. This was one of some he had
    put into the river when Georgie was a few months old.

    The trials of a coffee farmer are legion. We now have a plague of snails. They
    ring bark the young trees and leave trails of slime on the glossy leaves. All the ring
    barked trees will have to be cut right back and this is heartbreaking as they are bearing
    berries for the first time. The snails are collected by native children, piled upon the
    ground and bashed to a pulp which gives off a sickening stench. I am sorry for the local
    Africans. Locusts ate up their maize and now they are losing their bean crop to the snails.

    Lots of love, 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.

    #6175
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “”Sorry, I’m only just telling you this about the note now, lovie. Your Grandma’s been on at me to tell you. Just in my thoughts I mean!” he added quickly.

    Jane smirked and tapped her forehead. “Careful, Old Man. She’ll think you’ve completely lost it!”

    Clara stared at him, a small frown creasing her brow. “So, the note said you were to call him?”

    Bob nodded uneasily. Clara had that look on her face. The one that means she aren’t happy with the way things are proceeding.

    “And then what?” asked Clara slowly.

    “I dunno.” Bob shrugged. “Guess they’d bury it again? They was pretty clear they didn’t want it found. Now, how about I put the kettle on?” Bob stood quickly and began to busy himself filling the jug with water from the tap.

    Clara shook her head firmly. “No.”

    “No to a cup of tea?”

    “No we can’t call this man.”

    “I don’t know Clara. It’s getting odd it is. Strangers leaving maps in collars and whatnot. It’s not right.”

    “Well, I agree it needs further investigation. But we can’t call him … not without knowing why and what’s in it.” She tapped her fingers on the table. “I’ll try and get hold of Nora again.”

    #6162
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    When Clara remembered who it was she knew in that little village, she realized she didn’t know how to contact him. She didn’t even know his name;  he made gargoyles and stone heads and statues, that was all she knew, and all the strange rumours and stories surrounding some of those statues, quite a local legend in a way. But what was his name?  He had a white donkey….

    Clara assured Nora that her friend was expecting her, keeping her fingers crossed that she would be able to find out who it was, contact him and ask for his assistance, before Nora arrived there.  It was a long shot, admittedly.

    By nightfall, Clara had not made contact, and was forced to rely on a miracle; or even to wash her hands of the whole thing: it was Noras’s trip after all.

    #6153
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “That horsetail has such long roots, otherwise I never would have dug so deep,” mused Clara. “Are you okay holding that end? Not too heavy for you?”

    Grandpa Bob grunted. The box was heavy—in more ways than one—but he wasn’t about to let Clara know he wasn’t up to it.

    “Let’s put it down there behind the lawn mower,” said Clara. “Do you think it will be safe there? We could cover it?” She ran her hand appreciatively over the shiny exterior  of the box; her fingers paused inquisitively at one end and she peered closely at the spot. “I think there is something here … an inscription or something!”

    “Probably just some old scratches,” muttered Grandpa Bob. He straightened up with a moan and rubbed his back.

    “No, look!” Clara was shining her phone torch at the area. “Look, it’s definitely letters of some sort. I’ll take a photo for Alienor!”

    #6026
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Dear Jorid Whale,

    My hands are shaking while I type this on the keyboard.

    I’m not sure which of last night’s dreams is the bizarrest. Bizarre in a fantastic way, although for certain people it might be called grotesque. I’m certain it has something to do with that book I ordered online last week. I don’t usually read books and certainly not like this one. But the confinement, it makes you consider making things out of your ordinary.

    It’s called The Enchanted Forest of Changes, by a Chinese artist Níngméng (柠檬). They say his artist name means lemon, but that some of his friends call him Níng mèng 凝梦 (curdle dreams), which to my ears sound exactly the same except a little bit angrier. I found out about him on a forum about creepy dolls abandoned in forests all around the world. Yeah exactly, the confinement effect again. Apparently it started with a few dolls in a forest in Michigan, and then suddenly people started to find them everywhere. I wonder if some people are really into the confinement thing or if it’s just me using that as a reason to stay home.

    Anyway, someone on that forum posted one of the picture of that book and it caught my eye. So much so that I dreamt of it the following night. So I bought the book and it’s mostly ink drawings, but they seem to speak directly to some part of you that you were not even aware you had. I almost hear whispers when I look at the drawings. And then I have those dreams.

    Last night I dreamt of a cat that had been reared as a boy. He even had the shape of one, but shorter maybe. He had learned to talk and use his paws as hands, his claws had grown into fingers, had lost most of his fur and he was wearing clothes. If I was amazed by such a feat, it kinda seemed normal for the people I met in that dream. It just took a lot of efforts, love and dedication to raise this kind of children.

    And Whale, I feel tingling in my arms. This morning you showed me the picture of a kitten! That’s not a mere coincidence. I’m feeling so excited, my hands are too slow to type what I want to write. I fear I’m going to forget an important detail.

    About the second dream. The world was in shock, there was this giant… thing that looked like a pistil and that had grown during the night in some arid area. It was taller than the tallest human made tower. Its extremity was cone shaped, and I confess that the whole thing looked like some kind of dick to me.

    Plants and trees had followed in the following days as if the pistil had changed the climatic conditions (autocorrect wanted to write climactic, is that you playing around?).

    The pistil was protected by some kind of field and it couldn’t be approached by everyone. Governments had tried, pharmaceutical companies had tried. People who wanted to make gold out of it, they were all rejected. But for some reason some people could approach. Anyone, not just the pure of hearts or the noble ones. Actually a whole bunch of weirdoes started to take their chances. Some were allowed in and some where not. Nobody knew what was the deciding factor.

    A friend of mine that I have not seen in years during my waking life, she came back and asked me to come with her. So we went and were allowed in. My recall of the events after that is fuzzy. But I get the strange impression that I will spend more time in there later on.

    [Edited in the afternoon]

    I don’t believe it! It’s on the news everywhere. It has even replaced the news about the virus and the confinement.

    Giant pistils have appeared around the world, but it seems only people who had been infected can see them.

    Crazy rumours run on the internet. Giant mass hallucination caused by the virus. Some people say it’s alien technology, spores engineered to control our brains.

    There is one not so far from where I live. Should I wait for Kady to call me?

    #5964
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    They walked through a labyrinth of tunnels which seemed to have been carved into a rocky mountain. The clicks and clacks of their high heels echoed in the cold silence meeting all of Sophie’s questions, leaving her wondering where they could be. Tightly held by her rompers she felt her fat mass wobbling like jelly around her skeleton. It didn’t help clear her mind which was still confused by the environment and the apparent memory loss concerning how she arrived there.

    Sophie couldn’t tell how many turns they took before Barbara put her six fingers hand on a flat rock at shoulders height. The rock around the hand turned green and glowed for two seconds; then a big chunk of rock slid to the side revealing a well designed modern style room.

    “Doctor, Sophie is here,” said Barbara when they entered.

    A little man was working at his desk. At least Sophie assumed it was his desk and that he was working. He was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and bermudas. The computer screen he was looking at projected a greenish tint onto his face, and it made him look just like the green man icon. Sophie cackled, a little at first.

    The Doctor’s hand tensed on the mouse and his eyebrows gathered like angry caterpillars ready to fight. He must have made a wrong move because a cascade of sound ending in a flop indicated he just died a death, most certainly on one of those facegoat addictive games.

    That certainly didn’t help muffle Sophie’s cackle until she felt Barbara’s six fingers seizing her shoulders as if for a Vulcan nerve pinch. Sophie expected to lose consciousness, but the hand was mostly warm, except for that extra finger which was cold and buzzing. The contact of the hand upon the latex gave off little squeaky sounds that made Sophie feel uncomfortable. She swallowed her anxiety and wished for the woman to remove her hand. But as she had  noticed more than once, wishes could take time and twists before they could be fulfilled.

    “Why do you have to ruin everything every time?” asked the Doctor. His face was now red and distorted.

    “Every time?” said Sophie confused.

    “Yes! You took your sleeper agent role too seriously. We couldn’t get any valuable intel and the whole doll operation was a fiasco. We almost lost the magpies. And now, your taste for uncharted drugs, which as a parenthesis I confess I admire your dedication to explore unknown territories for science… Anyway, you were all day locked up into your boudoir trying to contact me while I just needed you to look at computer screens and attend to meetings.”

    Sophie was too shocked to believe it. How could the man be so misinformed. She never liked computers and meetings, except maybe while looking online for conspiracy theories and aliens and going to comiccons. But…

    “Now you’re so addict to the drugs that you’re useless until you follow our rehab program.”

    “A rehab program?” asked Sophie, her voice shaking. “But…” That certainly was the spookiest thing she had heard since she had arrived to this place, and this made her speechless, but certainly not optionless. Without thinking she tried a move she had seen in movies. She turned and threw her mass into Barbara. The two women fell on the cold floor. Sophie heard a crack before she felt the pain in her right arm. She thought she ought to have persevered in her combat training course after the first week. But life is never perfect.

    “Suffice!” said the Doctor from above. “You’ll like it with the other guests, you’ll see. All you have to do is follow the protocol we’ll give you each day and read the documentation that Barbara will give you.”

    Sophie tried a witty answer but the pain was too much and it ended in a desperate moan.

    #5953
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Bubbling and turning from orange to green to duck blue, the potion was perfect and smelled of good work, a strong blend of cinnamon, cardamom and crushed cloves. She smiled broadly and poured the potion into five vials, which she gave to Rukshan. They were all gathered around her in the kitchen looking rather fascinated by the whole operation.

    “One for you, and one for each of the children,” Glynis said with a grin.

    “I’m not a kid,” said Fox.

    “Why only five?” asked Gorrash who suspected something was off. “We are Six. There’s Tak, Nessy, Olliver, Fox, Rukshan and I,” he said counting on his chubby fleshy fingers.

    “I don’t need a potion to go wherever I want,” said Olli with a grin.

    “Well,” started Glynis, “Despite your unique skill, Olliver, you still need the potion in order to thwart the control spells Leroway’s saucerers had scattered around the country,” Glynis said. “You all remember what happened to aunt Eleri last time she went out. You know how skilled she is when she need to sneak out. She barely escaped and Rukshan and I had a hard time turning off that dancing spell, which I’m sure is the least damaging one.”

    She looked at Gorrash with compassion but the light dimmed as a cloud passed in front of the sun outside. She pointed her finger at him. “Your immune system is still like one of a newborn. And I’d prefer you’d stay home and not go around during a beaver fever pandemic. There are plenty of things you can help me with!” Glynis showed the cauldron, vials and other utensils she used to make the potion, and the cake earlier, and yesterday’s dinner.

    “Well, if I have not to challenge my immune system…” Gorrash started.

    “You know better than to argue with me,” she said.

    Gorrash opened his mouth to say something but decided otherwise and ran away into the garden.

    Fox started to follow him.

    “Don’t said Rukshan. There’s nothing you can do.”

    “He’s my friend!” said Fox.

    #5951
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The latex rompers were shaping her old body in a way she quite enjoyed. It was like being back in her… she counted on her fingers to be sure. To be even surer she counted twice. Yes! It was like being back in the sixties, especially with the choice of colours that had been made by whomever had made the rompers. Her silhouette looked gorgeous, if you didn’t pay too much attention to the bingo wings and the pelican throat. She laughed. It was like seeing a superposition of a younger and an older self. She would have loved the face of Ricardo if he saw her like that. And the beehive haircut, it certainly was a good idea. She wondered if she was still under LSD. But the walls and the beehive hair seemed too solid for that.

    A sliding door that she had not noticed before opened.

    “Good to see you’re settling in,” said the woman who entered with a puff of bacon smell. “I’m Barbara.” She was holding a tray with a steaming plate of sweet peas and carrots. Sophie always had a sharp eye but couldn’t see any real bacon among the peas and the carrots. She smiled to the newcomer anyway. Barbara had the same latex rompers with the same colours. And she had a beehive haircut.

    “Hello! Barbara,” said Sophie. “I like that name. I knew a man once… well not that you’re a man. Are you? Anyway I see you have a beehive haircut too. Am I back in the sixties?” She realised she was a bit confused, not able to finish one sentence or follow a single narrative. But the smell of bacon was so unnerving.

    Barbara put the tray on the table.

    “Well, no,” she said to Sophie. “It’s just a haircut that I like and it’s very practical for all sort of things.” She reached into hers and got out a pen and a notebook. Sophie lifted her hand to her haircut.

    “Do I have?..”

    “No dear. But, I need your sign here… just a formality.” Barbara smiled and handed the notebook to Sophie along with the pen. Then she crossed her arms waiting. Her fingers were drumming on her soft pale skin and Sophie couldn’t help but notice that Barbara had six fingers on one of her hands.

    “Where am I?” she asked.

    #5648
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    It was the new moon. Rukshan had been walking into the dark of the forest for some time. The noises of nocturnal animals felt like deep silence after his return from the land of the Giants. There, day and night, the giants were restless. You could hear them growling and shouting. It didn’t matter if it was a nasty fight or a friendly brawl, the noise had been taxing for his nerves and his right eye was still twitching randomly.

    Rukshan stopped a moment. The silence almost made him cry of relief and he thought in that moment the enchanted forest deserved its name.

    He took a deep breath. His nose wiggled, tickled by the scent of smoke from a fire. He was close to his destination, then. He had been following symbols traced with moon paint on the trees, a trail that only his Fae eyes could see even without moonlight. Humans would not to see it the same way. This trail of symbols might even have been left for him by someone who wanted  to be found when he would come back.

    Rukshan had found the start of the trail by chance behind the cottage after diner today. He had told Glynis he needed fresh air. The truth was that he had been alone for so long now that having so many people around him made him feel a bit claustrophobic. He had spotted was a faint glow behind a jasmin bush and had thought it was one of the baby snoots. As he was feeling the need for some pet company he had walked up to the bush. Instead of a creature there was the first glowing symbol, a spiral with seven sticks that looked like a hand with seven fingers. Not long after Rukshan had found another symbol, and another. It was clear the hands made a trail for him to follow. So he had followed.

    Soon, he found a wooden shack. Smoke was coming out of a hole in its roof and light from the windows. Rukshan could hear two people talking together. One was asking questions and the other answering them. He recognised the voices.

    He didn’t bother to knock on the door.

    “So that’s where you’ve been going every night after diner”, Rukshan said to Fox.

    “I’ve been waiting for you”, said Kumihimo the shaman.

    “I’m her new apprentice”, said Fox. “You’ve been away for so long”, he added as if apologising for something.

    A wet and warm thing touched Rukshan’s hand. Ronaldo the donkey brayed to welcome him. “Of course you are here too”, said the Fae. He found an apple he had put in his pocket after diner and gave it to the donkey. Ronaldo rolled up its chops and gave a heehaw full of joy, sparkles in its eyes.

    “Good, you haven’t forgotten good manners”, said the shaman. “Now, seat! We have much to talk about.”

    #4788
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Tikfijikoo? I’ve never heard of an island called Tikfijikoo…” Shawn-Paul said once they were seated in the airplane.

    “Really?” Maeve was surprised. “My childhood was full of stories that happened in that island.”
    She was distracted though. She was sure she’d seen the man in black follow them through the customs and sneak into the plane. She had a doubt though, how could he have followed, the planed seemed so completely packed, she even wondered how Fergus had managed to get them tickets during what was surely peak season.

    It’s probably all in your mind… she said to herself.

    “What did you say?” Shawn-Paul inquired, fingers full of salt and a grin on his face after a violent struggle with the little bag of roasted pistachios the attendant had given him.

    “I said, you better rest. The trip is long, and you won’t sleep much in the next plane to the island. It’s not going to be a big and comfy plane, I can tell you.”

    #4712
    prUneprUne
    Participant

    It’s been only a day since I arrived, and I’m already over it. Nothing seems to have changed. What a drag this place is.

    Only Mater keeps surprising. She was a bit more emotional and hermitical than usual. Didn’t think those two cursors could move with her, but I guess she’s still has it in her.
    Aunt Dido said she’ll croak one day, and we’ll find her having spent her last breath lying in a fresh dug hole in the ground. I don’t know if that was her idea of a bad joke or a veiled menace, there’s no telling when she’s been smoking.

    Bert was all busy with things to repair and prepare, we barely had time to talk since I arrived. What a crowd-pleaser he’s become, don’t know what he gets out of this one-sided deal, with Dido having him wrapped around her fingers like this.

    That funny Dido is all over the place, and nowhere to be found, as usual. She said we’ll be expecting guests. She probably was high as a kite. Would be a first since ages.
    I wonder what would drag people here, it’s not like the place is on any maps, or on the way to a tourist spot. But who knows what instant instapound fame can do to lure people in the oddest spots… Been reading articles about those nincompoops going to severely polluted place to take selfies in front of azure acidic water pretending to be on Bora Bora. Wouldn’t be surprising if Clove or Corrie had started a trend on flabber just to prank us. Like using ///digger.unusually.playfully to send people in the middle of nowhere in search for gold…

    There were some leftovers in the fridge. I was ravenous, and almost ate all of the funky shredded chicken. Smokey taste, but okay. Finly had an horrified look on her face when she came back with the supplies, probably the shock of seeing me all grown up now.

    #4711
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The aircon was buzzing and Sophie walked in her pajamas through the open space to reach her dreaming base. That’s how she secretly called it. She could feel the eyes of her colleagues following her, and as usual she felt proud to be the center of attention. It didn’t matter that it was jealousy or anything else. People were looking at her and she was doing something different.

    Once in her base of operation, she settled on the couch and looked at the brew that had been brought for her. It was her second attempt at remote viewing the Doctor and this time she had requested a bucket and some padding around the sharp corners. She feared a little the unleashing of her wild nature, but in truth she had no idea what to expect. She had read on the Internet that there was nothing to fear and that there would be no side effects, and usually with her natural paranoia she would have double checked before using the drugs, but her obsession with the Doctors had rendered her a little bit… more reckless.

    She pinched her nose and swallowed the brew. One gulp. But some of it stayed in her mouth and nausea followed. She didn’t like the taste at all. Then she laid down the couch and waited. The effects weren’t long to come. Space lit up, soon followed by the usual geometrical dynamic animation and the strange floating spirits. One of them looked like her old nanny. She had a hair on her chin and Sophie couldn’t focus on anything else. The hair grew and multiplied on the face, it was soon a forest of wiggling glowing worms growing indefinitely.

    After what seemed an eternity to her, she saw the doors. A huge circle made of doors like a giant neckless. Sophie giggled at the typo especially that she could see the neckless giant now below the doors. It was definitely a male, with boobs covered by skulls.

    Find the door, she reminded herself. Her thought took the shape of a butterflowck —understand a flow of a flock of butterflies— that rippled in a pond of honey… suckles.

    It reached the door and she was sucked in.

    :fleuron:

    “Why are they doing this?” asked a male voice behind her. “They’re supposed to be magpies, not monkeys.”
    “I’m not sure,” said a bald woman with six fingers and an ethereal beehive hairdo. The strange thing was that she had a beard.
    “Do something quick. I need them operational soon” said the man, “You’re the one controlling them after all,” he added with poison in his voice.
    “Yes, Doctor.”

    Sophie startled at the name. She turned around and tried to look at the man, but he was headless, or rather pixelated. Shit! I watch too much science fiction, she thought.

    “Anyway,” he continued. What are the news on the dolls’ front?”
    “We are closing in on the next target, Doctor. It’s a small Inn in Australia where the vortex or probabilities converge. I took the liberty to send another sleeping agent there to steal the key and the list of other addresses from the dollmaker. He’s taking the same airplane as she is.”

    #4709
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The vibration of the phone on the table made Barbara jump and she almost deleted her report. Her heart was racing at the thought of erasing what took her an hour to write. She reminded herself to breath like she had learned during her hot yoga class the previous week. It quieted her heart a little and she checked her hair out of habit and winced when she felt the short haircut. She checked her phone.

    “Wonderful!” she said readjusting her glasses. A new acquisition, big and cat eye like, the brim covered with colourful strass. She couldn’t resist.
    She got up from her desk and adjusted her skirt with her six fingers hand. She went to the Doctor’s office and knocked three times on the door. A sleepy voice, a tad angry, asked from the other side: “What?”

    “It’s Barbara. Our undercover agent sent me a confirmation that the Dreamcatcher operation is a success. Subject zero has been activated unaware that you are manipulating her dreams.”

    #4672
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The machine clicked and buzzed, a belt reeled around a pulley before it finally flushed out a purple gooey juice.

    “Mmmm, I’ve always loved this power smoothie,” said the Doctor, “Made with five different purple berries and some other secret ingredients.” He licked his lips with such greediness, he looked like a kid he might have been once. His face was lit with the blinking lights of the other machine, the bigger one that had been his life work… so far, after his previous life work.

    “The subjects are livable,” said the assistant. “Pulses are steady and the brains well responding to the chemical stimulations, and the symbiosis with the new synthetic bodies seem to work smoothie…” He winced. “Sorry, it works smoothly.”

    “Good job,” said the Doctor looking at his assistant. He was trying to remember the young man’s name but it eluded him. The young man was slender and had six fingers on his left hand and the Doctor had hired him hoping it would make him work faster with computers, but it didn’t seem to have any correlation. It had only increased the chances of typoes, that in a way could be seen as computer code mutations, which could certainly give them some advantage over the competition at some point.

    After thirty seconds, the Doctor gave up trying to remember his assistant’s name and looked back at the seven pods. Marvels of technology, they were all shiny and antibacterial, the perfect combination for his SyFy operation.

    “Behold the rebirth of the Magpies,” he said. In his eyes the blinking lights reflected rhythmically. He slurped a mouthful of smoothie before continuing.
    “Faithful servants to me, the Doctor! They had been discarded into History’s junkyard, but I’ve saved them from oblivion and upgraded them. With their powerful new weapons and skills they are ready for their new mission.”
    The Doctor’s eyes opened like oysters. As nothing happened but the monotonous blinking of the machine’s lights, he said to his assistant. “Revive them now.”

    The assistant pushed a single red button on the control board and the bigger machine clicked and buzzed, a belt reeled around a pulley and the Doctor laughed madly.

    “Wake up, Magpies! Bring me the dolls and the dollmaker!”

    #4629
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Leörmn smiled a long smile.

    “What? Are you going to look at me stupidly and wait to say some mysterious nonsense? We haven’t got time for that.” Mandrake was clearly not impressed by the large scaleless pale dragon, with the green frills around the crest, reclining on the side of the pool, and still looking a few heads taller than him and Albie combined.

    “Of course not. Let me charge that for you.” With one flick of his long fingers, the dragon zapped the sabulmantium that was in the magical carry-all-you-can pouch the cat had at his belt.

    “Oh WAIT! Damn it, you ol’ reptile, you mind where you aim!” The zapping had gone a little too close.

    Leörmn smiled again, “Now, you wanted to know were she hides.” His smile disappeared. “I’m afraid there isn’t much I can do, she seems hidden from me too. But there is a chance. I’ve picked up her energy signature not so long ago. She’s in a different dimension, but never long at one place. For some reason, it’s like she’s entangled herself with other lives and get lost at times.”

    “Can you lead me to the place?”

    “Place & time, my friend. Yes, I believe I can. The Doline underground water tunnels can lead you to many places and times. I’ve drawn a path for you. Just take your scuba, and follow the glukenitch lights at the bottom.”

    Albie looked amazed and excited at the opportunity.

    The cat grunted in his whiskers “Don’t get excited lad. What he means is glukenitch poos.”

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