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  • #6319

    In reply to: The Sexy Wooden Leg

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Calm yourself, Egbert, and sit down. And be quiet! I can barely hear myself think with your frantic gibbering and flailing around,” Olga said, closing her eyes.  “I need to think.”

    Egbert clutched the eiderdown on either side of his bony trembling knees and clamped his remaining teeth together, drawing ragged whistling breaths in an attempt to calm himself.  Olga was right, he needed to calm down. Besides the unfortunate effects of the letter on his habitual tremor, he felt sure his blood pressure had risen alarmingly.  He dared not become so ill that he needed medical assistance, not with the state of the hospitals these days. He’d be lucky to survive the plague ridden wards.

    What had become of him! He imagined his younger self looking on with horror, appalled at his feeble body and shattered mind.  Imagine becoming so desperate that he wanted to fight to stay in this godforsaken dump, what had become of him! If only he knew of somewhere else to go, somewhere safe and pleasant, somewhere that smelled sweetly of meadows and honesuckle and freshly baked cherry pies, with the snorting of pigs in the yard…

    But wait, that was Olga snoring. Useless old bag had fallen asleep! For the first time since Viktor had died he felt close to tears. What a sad sorry pathetic old man he’d become, desperately counting on a old woman to save him.

    “Stop sniveling, Egbert, and go and pack a bag.” Olga had woken up from her momentary but illuminating lapse.    “Don’t bring too much, we may have much walking to do. I hear the buses and trains are in a shambles and full of refugees. We don’t want to get herded up with them.”

    Astonished, Egbert asked where they were going.

    “To see Rosa. My cousins father in laws neice. Don’t look at me like that, immediate family are seldom the ones who help.  The distant ones are another matter.  And be honest Egbert,” Olga said with a piercing look, “Do we really want to stay here? You may think you do, but it’s the fear of change, that’s all. Change feels like too much bother, doesn’t it?”

    Egbert nodded sadly, his eyes fixed on the stain on the grey carpet.

    Olga leaned forward and took his hand gently. “Egbert, look at me.” He raised his head and looked into her eyes. He’d never seen a sparkle in her faded blue eyes before.  “I still have another adventure in me. How about you?”

    #6267
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    From Tanganyika with Love

    continued part 8

    With thanks to Mike Rushby.

    Morogoro 20th January 1941

    Dearest Family,

    It is all arranged for us to go on three months leave to Cape Town next month so
    get out your flags. How I shall love showing off Kate and John to you and this time
    George will be with us and you’ll be able to get to know him properly. You can’t think
    what a comfort it will be to leave all the worries of baggage and tipping to him. We will all
    be travelling by ship to Durban and from there to Cape Town by train. I rather dread the
    journey because there is a fifth little Rushby on the way and, as always, I am very
    queasy.

    Kate has become such a little companion to me that I dread the thought of leaving
    her behind with you to start schooling. I miss Ann and George so much now and must
    face separation from Kate as well. There does not seem to be any alternative though.
    There is a boarding school in Arusha and another has recently been started in Mbeya,
    but both places are so far away and I know she would be very unhappy as a boarder at
    this stage. Living happily with you and attending a day school might wean her of her
    dependance upon me. As soon as this wretched war ends we mean to get Ann and
    George back home and Kate too and they can then all go to boarding school together.
    If I were a more methodical person I would try to teach Kate myself, but being a
    muddler I will have my hands full with Johnny and the new baby. Life passes pleasantly
    but quietly here. Much of my time is taken up with entertaining the children and sewing
    for them and just waiting for George to come home.

    George works so hard on these safaris and this endless elephant hunting to
    protect native crops entails so much foot safari, that he has lost a good deal of weight. it
    is more than ten years since he had a holiday so he is greatly looking forward to this one.
    Four whole months together!

    I should like to keep the ayah, Janet, for the new baby, but she says she wants
    to return to her home in the Southern Highlands Province and take a job there. She is
    unusually efficient and so clean, and the houseboy and cook are quite scared of her. She
    bawls at them if the children’s meals are served a few minutes late but she is always
    respectful towards me and practically creeps around on tiptoe when George is home.
    She has a room next to the outside kitchen. One night thieves broke into the kitchen and
    stole a few things, also a canvas chair and mat from the verandah. Ayah heard them, and
    grabbing a bit of firewood, she gave chase. Her shouts so alarmed the thieves that they
    ran off up the hill jettisoning their loot as they ran. She is a great character.

    Eleanor.

    Morogoro 30th July 1941

    Dearest Family,

    Safely back in Morogoro after a rather grim voyage from Durban. Our ship was
    completely blacked out at night and we had to sleep with warm clothing and life belts
    handy and had so many tedious boat drills. It was a nuisance being held up for a whole
    month in Durban, because I was so very pregnant when we did embark. In fact George
    suggested that I had better hide in the ‘Ladies’ until the ship sailed for fear the Captain
    might refuse to take me. It seems that the ship, on which we were originally booked to
    travel, was torpedoed somewhere off the Cape.

    We have been given a very large house this tour with a mosquito netted
    sleeping porch which will be fine for the new baby. The only disadvantage is that the
    house is on the very edge of the residential part of Morogoro and Johnny will have to
    go quite a distance to find playmates.

    I still miss Kate terribly. She is a loving little person. I had prepared for a scene
    when we said good-bye but I never expected that she would be the comforter. It
    nearly broke my heart when she put her arms around me and said, “I’m so sorry
    Mummy, please don’t cry. I’ll be good. Please don’t cry.” I’m afraid it was all very
    harrowing for you also. It is a great comfort to hear that she has settled down so happily.
    I try not to think consciously of my absent children and remind myself that there are
    thousands of mothers in the same boat, but they are always there at the back of my
    mind.

    Mother writes that Ann and George are perfectly happy and well, and that though
    German bombers do fly over fairly frequently, they are unlikely to drop their bombs on
    a small place like Jacksdale.

    George has already left on safari to the Rufiji. There was no replacement for his
    job while he was away so he is anxious to get things moving again. Johnny and I are
    going to move in with friends until he returns, just in case all the travelling around brings
    the new baby on earlier than expected.

    Eleanor.

    Morogoro 26th August 1941

    Dearest Family,

    Our new son, James Caleb. was born at 3.30 pm yesterday afternoon, with a
    minimum of fuss, in the hospital here. The Doctor was out so my friend, Sister Murray,
    delivered the baby. The Sister is a Scots girl, very efficient and calm and encouraging,
    and an ideal person to have around at such a time.

    Everything, this time, went without a hitch and I feel fine and proud of my
    bouncing son. He weighs nine pounds and ten ounces and is a big boned fellow with
    dark hair and unusually strongly marked eyebrows. His eyes are strong too and already
    seem to focus. George is delighted with him and brought Hugh Nelson to see him this
    morning. Hugh took one look, and, astonished I suppose by the baby’s apparent
    awareness, said, “Gosh, this one has been here before.” The baby’s cot is beside my
    bed so I can admire him as much as I please. He has large strong hands and George
    reckons he’ll make a good boxer some day.

    Another of my early visitors was Mabemba, George’s orderly. He is a very big
    African and looks impressive in his Game Scouts uniform. George met him years ago at
    Mahenge when he was a young elephant hunter and Mabemba was an Askari in the
    Police. Mabemba takes quite a proprietary interest in the family.

    Eleanor.

    Morogoro 25th December 1941

    Dearest Family,

    Christmas Day today, but not a gay one. I have Johnny in bed with a poisoned
    leg so he missed the children’s party at the Club. To make things a little festive I have
    put up a little Christmas tree in the children’s room and have hung up streamers and
    balloons above the beds. Johnny demands a lot of attention so it is fortunate that little
    James is such a very good baby. He sleeps all night until 6 am when his feed is due.
    One morning last week I got up as usual to feed him but I felt so dopey that I
    thought I’d better have a cold wash first. I went into the bathroom and had a hurried
    splash and then grabbed a towel to dry my face. Immediately I felt an agonising pain in
    my nose. Reason? There was a scorpion in the towel! In no time at all my nose looked
    like a pear and felt burning hot. The baby screamed with frustration whilst I feverishly
    bathed my nose and applied this and that in an effort to cool it.

    For three days my nose was very red and tender,”A real boozer nose”, said
    George. But now, thank goodness, it is back to normal.

    Some of the younger marrieds and a couple of bachelors came around,
    complete with portable harmonium, to sing carols in the early hours. No sooner had we
    settled down again to woo sleep when we were disturbed by shouts and screams from
    our nearest neighbour’s house. “Just celebrating Christmas”, grunted George, but we
    heard this morning that the neighbour had fallen down his verandah steps and broken his
    leg.

    Eleanor.

    Morogoro Hospital 30th September 1943

    Dearest Family,

    Well now we are eight! Our new son, Henry, was born on the night of the 28th.
    He is a beautiful baby, weighing ten pounds three and a half ounces. This baby is very
    well developed, handsome, and rather superior looking, and not at all amusing to look at
    as the other boys were.George was born with a moustache, John had a large nose and
    looked like a little old man, and Jim, bless his heart, looked rather like a baby
    chimpanzee. Henry is different. One of my visitors said, “Heaven he’ll have to be a
    Bishop!” I expect the lawn sleeves of his nightie really gave her that idea, but the baby
    does look like ‘Someone’. He is very good and George, John, and Jim are delighted
    with him, so is Mabemba.

    We have a dear little nurse looking after us. She is very petite and childish
    looking. When the baby was born and she brought him for me to see, the nurse asked
    his name. I said jokingly, “His name is Benjamin – the last of the family.” She is now very
    peeved to discover that his real name is Henry William and persists in calling him
    ‘Benjie’.I am longing to get home and into my pleasant rut. I have been away for two
    whole weeks and George is managing so well that I shall feel quite expendable if I don’t
    get home soon. As our home is a couple of miles from the hospital, I arranged to move
    in and stay with the nursing sister on the day the baby was due. There I remained for ten
    whole days before the baby was born. Each afternoon George came and took me for a
    ride in the bumpy Bedford lorry and the Doctor tried this and that but the baby refused
    to be hurried.

    On the tenth day I had the offer of a lift and decided to go home for tea and
    surprise George. It was a surprise too, because George was entertaining a young
    Game Ranger for tea and my arrival, looking like a perambulating big top, must have
    been rather embarrassing.Henry was born at the exact moment that celebrations started
    in the Township for the end of the Muslim religious festival of Ramadan. As the Doctor
    held him up by his ankles, there was the sound of hooters and firecrackers from the town.
    The baby has a birthmark in the shape of a crescent moon above his left eyebrow.

    Eleanor.

    Morogoro 26th January 1944

    Dearest Family,

    We have just heard that we are to be transferred to the Headquarters of the
    Game Department at a place called Lyamungu in the Northern Province. George is not
    at all pleased because he feels that the new job will entail a good deal of office work and
    that his beloved but endless elephant hunting will be considerably curtailed. I am glad of
    that and I am looking forward to seeing a new part of Tanganyika and particularly
    Kilimanjaro which dominates Lyamungu.

    Thank goodness our menagerie is now much smaller. We found a home for the
    guinea pigs last December and Susie, our mischievous guinea-fowl, has flown off to find
    a mate.Last week I went down to Dar es Salaam for a check up by Doctor John, a
    woman doctor, leaving George to cope with the three boys. I was away two nights and
    a day and returned early in the morning just as George was giving Henry his six o’clock
    bottle. It always amazes me that so very masculine a man can do my chores with no
    effort and I have a horrible suspicion that he does them better than I do. I enjoyed the
    short break at the coast very much. I stayed with friends and we bathed in the warm sea
    and saw a good film.

    Now I suppose there will be a round of farewell parties. People in this country
    are most kind and hospitable.

    Eleanor.

    Lyamungu 20th March 1944

    Dearest Family,

    We left Morogoro after the round of farewell parties I had anticipated. The final
    one was at the Club on Saturday night. George made a most amusing speech and the
    party was a very pleasant occasion though I was rather tired after all the packing.
    Several friends gathered to wave us off on Monday morning. We had two lorries
    loaded with our goods. I rode in the cab of the first one with Henry on my knee. George
    with John and Jim rode in the second one. As there was no room for them in the cab,
    they sat on our couch which was placed across the width of the lorry behind the cab. This
    seat was not as comfortable as it sounds, because the space behind the couch was
    taken up with packing cases which were not lashed in place and these kept moving
    forward as the lorry bumped its way over the bad road.

    Soon there was hardly any leg room and George had constantly to stand up and
    push the second layer of packing cases back to prevent them from toppling over onto
    the children and himself. As it is now the rainy season the road was very muddy and
    treacherous and the lorries travelled so slowly it was dark by the time we reached
    Karogwe from where we were booked to take the train next morning to Moshi.
    Next morning we heard that there had been a washaway on the line and that the
    train would be delayed for at least twelve hours. I was not feeling well and certainly did
    not enjoy my day. Early in the afternoon Jimmy ran into a wall and blackened both his
    eyes. What a child! As the day wore on I felt worse and worse and when at last the train
    did arrive I simply crawled into my bunk whilst George coped nobly with the luggage
    and the children.

    We arrived at Moshi at breakfast time and went straight to the Lion Cub Hotel
    where I took to my bed with a high temperature. It was, of course, malaria. I always have
    my attacks at the most inopportune times. Fortunately George ran into some friends
    called Eccles and the wife Mollie came to my room and bathed Henry and prepared his
    bottle and fed him. George looked after John and Jim. Next day I felt much better and
    we drove out to Lyamungu the day after. There we had tea with the Game Warden and
    his wife before moving into our new home nearby.

    The Game Warden is Captain Monty Moore VC. He came out to Africa
    originally as an Officer in the King’s African Rifles and liked the country so much he left the
    Army and joined the Game Department. He was stationed at Banagi in the Serengetti
    Game Reserve and is well known for his work with the lions there. He particularly tamed
    some of the lions by feeding them so that they would come out into the open and could
    readily be photographed by tourists. His wife Audrey, has written a book about their
    experiences at Banagi. It is called “Serengetti”

    Our cook, Hamisi, soon had a meal ready for us and we all went to bed early.
    This is a very pleasant house and I know we will be happy here. I still feel a little shaky
    but that is the result of all the quinine I have taken. I expect I shall feel fine in a day or two.

    Eleanor.

    Lyamungu 15th May 1944

    Dearest Family,

    Well, here we are settled comfortably in our very nice house. The house is
    modern and roomy, and there is a large enclosed verandah, which will be a Godsend in
    the wet weather as a playroom for the children. The only drawback is that there are so
    many windows to be curtained and cleaned. The grounds consist of a very large lawn
    and a few beds of roses and shrubs. It is an ideal garden for children, unlike our steeply
    terraced garden at Morogoro.

    Lyamungu is really the Government Coffee Research Station. It is about sixteen
    miles from the town of Moshi which is the centre of the Tanganyika coffee growing
    industry. Lyamungu, which means ‘place of God’ is in the foothills of Mt Kilimanjaro and
    we have a beautiful view of Kilimanjaro. Kibo, the more spectacular of the two mountain
    peaks, towers above us, looking from this angle, like a giant frosted plum pudding. Often the mountain is veiled by cloud and mist which sometimes comes down to
    our level so that visibility is practically nil. George dislikes both mist and mountain but I
    like both and so does John. He in fact saw Kibo before I did. On our first day here, the
    peak was completely hidden by cloud. In the late afternoon when the children were
    playing on the lawn outside I was indoors hanging curtains. I heard John call out, “Oh
    Mummy, isn’t it beautiful!” I ran outside and there, above a scarf of cloud, I saw the
    showy dome of Kibo with the setting sun shining on it tingeing the snow pink. It was an
    unforgettable experience.

    As this is the rainy season, the surrounding country side is very lush and green.
    Everywhere one sees the rich green of the coffee plantations and the lighter green of
    the banana groves. Unfortunately our walks are rather circumscribed. Except for the main road to Moshi, there is nowhere to walk except through the Government coffee
    plantation. Paddy, our dog, thinks life is pretty boring as there is no bush here and
    nothing to hunt. There are only half a dozen European families here and half of those are
    on very distant terms with the other half which makes the station a rather uncomfortable
    one.

    The coffee expert who runs this station is annoyed because his European staff
    has been cut down owing to the war, and three of the vacant houses and some office
    buildings have been taken over temporarily by the Game Department. Another house
    has been taken over by the head of the Labour Department. However I don’t suppose
    the ill feeling will effect us much. We are so used to living in the bush that we are not
    socially inclined any way.

    Our cook, Hamisi, came with us from Morogoro but I had to engage a new
    houseboy and kitchenboy. I first engaged a houseboy who produced a wonderful ‘chit’
    in which his previous employer describes him as his “friend and confidant”. I felt rather
    dubious about engaging him and how right I was. On his second day with us I produced
    some of Henry’s napkins, previously rinsed by me, and asked this boy to wash them.
    He looked most offended and told me that it was beneath his dignity to do women’s
    work. We parted immediately with mutual relief.

    Now I have a good natured fellow named Japhet who, though hard on crockery,
    is prepared to do anything and loves playing with the children. He is a local boy, a
    member of the Chagga tribe. These Chagga are most intelligent and, on the whole, well
    to do as they all have their own small coffee shambas. Japhet tells me that his son is at
    the Uganda University College studying medicine.The kitchen boy is a tall youth called
    Tovelo, who helps both Hamisi, the cook, and the houseboy and also keeps an eye on
    Henry when I am sewing. I still make all the children’s clothes and my own. Life is
    pleasant but dull. George promises that he will take the whole family on safari when
    Henry is a little older.

    Eleanor.

    Lyamungu 18th July 1944

    Dearest Family,

    Life drifts quietly by at Lyamungu with each day much like the one before – or
    they would be, except that the children provide the sort of excitement that prohibits
    boredom. Of the three boys our Jim is the best at this. Last week Jim wandered into the
    coffee plantation beside our house and chewed some newly spayed berries. Result?
    A high temperature and nasty, bloody diarrhoea, so we had to rush him to the hospital at
    Moshi for treatment. however he was well again next day and George went off on safari.
    That night there was another crisis. As the nights are now very cold, at this high
    altitude, we have a large fire lit in the living room and the boy leaves a pile of logs
    beside the hearth so that I can replenish the fire when necessary. Well that night I took
    Henry off to bed, leaving John and Jim playing in the living room. When their bedtime
    came, I called them without leaving the bedroom. When I had tucked John and Jim into
    bed, I sat reading a bedtime story as I always do. Suddenly I saw smoke drifting
    through the door, and heard a frightening rumbling noise. Japhet rushed in to say that the
    lounge chimney was on fire! Picture me, panic on the inside and sweet smile on the
    outside, as I picked Henry up and said to the other two, “There’s nothing to be
    frightened about chaps, but get up and come outside for a bit.” Stupid of me to be so
    heroic because John and Jim were not at all scared but only too delighted at the chance
    of rushing about outside in the dark. The fire to them was just a bit of extra fun.

    We hurried out to find one boy already on the roof and the other passing up a
    brimming bucket of water. Other boys appeared from nowhere and soon cascades of
    water were pouring down the chimney. The result was a mountain of smouldering soot
    on the hearth and a pool of black water on the living room floor. However the fire was out
    and no serious harm done because all the floors here are cement and another stain on
    the old rug will hardly be noticed. As the children reluctantly returned to bed John
    remarked smugly, “I told Jim not to put all the wood on the fire at once but he wouldn’t
    listen.” I might have guessed!

    However it was not Jim but John who gave me the worst turn of all this week. As
    a treat I decided to take the boys to the river for a picnic tea. The river is not far from our
    house but we had never been there before so I took the kitchen boy, Tovelo, to show
    us the way. The path is on the level until one is in sight of the river when the bank slopes
    steeply down. I decided that it was too steep for the pram so I stopped to lift Henry out
    and carry him. When I looked around I saw John running down the slope towards the
    river. The stream is not wide but flows swiftly and I had no idea how deep it was. All I
    knew was that it was a trout stream. I called for John, “Stop, wait for me!” but he ran on
    and made for a rude pole bridge which spanned the river. He started to cross and then,
    to my horror, I saw John slip. There was a splash and he disappeared under the water. I
    just dumped the baby on the ground, screamed to the boy to mind him and ran madly
    down the slope to the river. Suddenly I saw John’s tight fitting felt hat emerge, then his
    eyes and nose. I dashed into the water and found, to my intense relief, that it only
    reached up to my shoulders but, thank heaven no further. John’s steady eyes watched
    me trustingly as I approached him and carried him safely to the bank. He had been
    standing on a rock and had not panicked at all though he had to stand up very straight
    and tall to keep his nose out of water. I was too proud of him to scold him for
    disobedience and too wet anyway.

    I made John undress and put on two spare pullovers and wrapped Henry’s
    baby blanket round his waist like a sarong. We made a small fire over which I crouched
    with literally chattering teeth whilst Tovelo ran home to fetch a coat for me and dry clothes
    for John.

    Eleanor.

    Lyamungu 16th August 1944

    Dearest Family,

    We have a new bull terrier bitch pup whom we have named Fanny III . So once
    more we have a menagerie , the two dogs, two cats Susie and Winnie, and
    some pet hens who live in the garage and are a real nuisance.

    As John is nearly six I thought it time that he started lessons and wrote off to Dar
    es Salaam for the correspondence course. We have had one week of lessons and I am
    already in a state of physical and mental exhaustion. John is a most reluctant scholar.
    “Why should I learn to read, when you can read to me?” he asks, and “Anyway why
    should I read such stupid stuff, ‘Run Rover Run’, and ‘Mother play with baby’ . Who
    wants to read about things like that? I don’t.”

    He rather likes sums, but the only subject about which he is enthusiastic is
    prehistoric history. He laps up information about ‘The Tree Dwellers’, though he is very
    sceptical about the existence of such people. “God couldn’t be so silly to make people
    so stupid. Fancy living in trees when it is easy to make huts like the natives.” ‘The Tree
    Dwellers is a highly imaginative story about a revolting female called Sharptooth and her
    offspring called Bodo. I have a very clear mental image of Sharptooth, so it came as a
    shock to me and highly amused George when John looked at me reflectively across the
    tea table and said, “Mummy I expect Sharptooth looked like you. You have a sharp
    tooth too!” I have, my eye teeth are rather sharp, but I hope the resemblance stops
    there.

    John has an uncomfortably logical mind for a small boy. The other day he was
    lying on the lawn staring up at the clouds when he suddenly muttered “I don’t believe it.”
    “Believe what?” I asked. “That Jesus is coming on a cloud one day. How can he? The
    thick ones always stay high up. What’s he going to do, jump down with a parachute?”
    Tovelo, my kitchen boy, announced one evening that his grandmother was in the
    kitchen and wished to see me. She was a handsome and sensible Chagga woman who
    brought sad news. Her little granddaughter had stumbled backwards into a large cooking
    pot of almost boiling maize meal porridge and was ‘ngongwa sana’ (very ill). I grabbed
    a large bottle of Picric Acid and a packet of gauze which we keep for these emergencies
    and went with her, through coffee shambas and banana groves to her daughter’s house.
    Inside the very neat thatched hut the mother sat with the naked child lying face
    downwards on her knee. The child’s buttocks and the back of her legs were covered in
    huge burst blisters from which a watery pus dripped. It appeared that the accident had
    happened on the previous day.

    I could see that it was absolutely necessary to clean up the damaged area, and I
    suddenly remembered that there was a trained African hospital dresser on the station. I
    sent the father to fetch him and whilst the dresser cleaned off the sloughed skin with
    forceps and swabs saturated in Picric Acid, I cut the gauze into small squares which I
    soaked in the lotion and laid on the cleaned area. I thought the small pieces would be
    easier to change especially as the whole of the most tender parts, front and back, were
    badly scalded. The child seemed dazed and neither the dresser nor I thought she would
    live. I gave her half an aspirin and left three more half tablets to be given four hourly.
    Next day she seemed much brighter. I poured more lotion on the gauze
    disturbing as few pieces as possible and again the next day and the next. After a week
    the skin was healing well and the child eating normally. I am sure she will be all right now.
    The new skin is a brilliant red and very shiny but it is pale round the edges of the burnt
    area and will I hope later turn brown. The mother never uttered a word of thanks, but the
    granny is grateful and today brought the children a bunch of bananas.

    Eleanor.

    c/o Game Dept. P.O.Moshi. 29th September 1944

    Dearest Mummy,

    I am so glad that you so enjoyed my last letter with the description of our very
    interesting and enjoyable safari through Masailand. You said you would like an even
    fuller description of it to pass around amongst the relations, so, to please you, I have
    written it out in detail and enclose the result.

    We have spent a quiet week after our exertions and all are well here.

    Very much love,
    Eleanor.

    Safari in Masailand

    George and I were at tea with our three little boys on the front lawn of our house
    in Lyamungu, Northern Tanganyika. It was John’s sixth birthday and he and Jim, a
    happy sturdy three year old, and Henry, aged eleven months, were munching the
    squares of plain chocolate which rounded off the party, when George said casually
    across the table to me, “Could you be ready by the day after tomorrow to go on
    safari?” “Me too?” enquired John anxiously, before I had time to reply, and “Me too?”
    echoed Jim. “yes, of course I can”, said I to George and “of course you’re coming too”,
    to the children who rate a day spent in the bush higher than any other pleasure.
    So in the early morning two days later, we started out happily for Masailand in a
    three ton Ford lorry loaded to capacity with the five Rushbys, the safari paraphernalia,
    drums of petrol and quite a retinue of servants and Game Scouts. George travelling
    alone on his monthly safaris, takes only the cook and a couple of Game Scouts, but this was to be a safari de luxe.

    Henry and I shared the cab with George who was driving, whilst John and Jim
    with the faithful orderly Mabemba beside them to point out the game animals, were
    installed upon rolls of bedding in the body of the lorry. The lorry lumbered along, first
    through coffee shambas, and then along the main road between Moshi and Arusha.
    After half an hour or so, we turned South off the road into a track which crossed the
    Sanya Plains and is the beginning of this part of Masailand. Though the dry season was
    at its height, and the pasture dry and course, we were soon passing small groups of
    game. This area is a Game Sanctuary and the antelope grazed quietly quite undisturbed
    by the passing lorry. Here and there zebra stood bunched by the road, a few wild
    ostriches stalked jerkily by, and in the distance some wildebeest cavorted around in their
    crazy way.

    Soon the grasslands gave way to thorn bush, and we saw six fantastically tall
    giraffe standing motionless with their heads turned enquiringly towards us. George
    stopped the lorry so the children could have a good view of them. John was enchanted
    but Jim, alas, was asleep.

    At mid day we reached the Kikoletwa River and turned aside to camp. Beside
    the river, under huge leafy trees, there was a beautiful camping spot, but the river was
    deep and reputed to be full of crocodiles so we passed it by and made our camp
    some distance from the river under a tall thorn tree with a flat lacy canopy. All around the
    camp lay uprooted trees of similar size that had been pushed over by elephants. As
    soon as the lorry stopped a camp chair was set up for me and the Game Scouts quickly
    slashed down grass and cleared the camp site of thorns. The same boys then pitched the tent whilst George himself set up the three camp beds and the folding cot for Henry,
    and set up the safari table and the canvas wash bowl and bath.

    The cook in the meantime had cleared a cool spot for the kitchen , opened up the
    chop boxes and started a fire. The cook’s boy and the dhobi (laundry boy) brought
    water from the rather muddy river and tea was served followed shortly afterward by an
    excellent lunch. In a very short time the camp had a suprisingly homely look. Nappies
    fluttered from a clothes line, Henry slept peacefully in his cot, John and Jim sprawled on
    one bed looking at comics, and I dozed comfortably on another.

    George, with the Game Scouts, drove off in the lorry about his work. As a Game
    Ranger it is his business to be on a constant look out for poachers, both African and
    European, and for disease in game which might infect the valuable herds of Masai cattle.
    The lorry did not return until dusk by which time the children had bathed enthusiastically in
    the canvas bath and were ready for supper and bed. George backed the lorry at right
    angles to the tent, Henry’s cot and two camp beds were set up in the lorry, the tarpaulin
    was lashed down and the children put to bed in their novel nursery.

    When darkness fell a large fire was lit in front of the camp, the exited children at
    last fell asleep and George and I sat on by the fire enjoying the cool and quiet night.
    When the fire subsided into a bed of glowing coals, it was time for our bed. During the
    night I was awakened by the sound of breaking branches and strange indescribable
    noises.” Just elephant”, said George comfortably and instantly fell asleep once more. I
    didn’t! We rose with the birds next morning, but breakfast was ready and in a
    remarkably short time the lorry had been reloaded and we were once more on our way.
    For about half a mile we made our own track across the plain and then we turned
    into the earth road once more. Soon we had reached the river and were looking with
    dismay at the suspension bridge which we had to cross. At the far side, one steel
    hawser was missing and there the bridge tilted dangerously. There was no handrail but
    only heavy wooden posts which marked the extremities of the bridge. WhenGeorge
    measured the distance between the posts he found that there could be barely two
    inches to spare on either side of the cumbersome lorry.

    He decided to risk crossing, but the children and I and all the servants were told to
    cross the bridge and go down the track out of sight. The Game Scouts remained on the
    river bank on the far side of the bridge and stood ready for emergencies. As I walked
    along anxiously listening, I was horrified to hear the lorry come to a stop on the bridge.
    There was a loud creaking noise and I instantly visualised the lorry slowly toppling over
    into the deep crocodile infested river. The engine restarted, the lorry crossed the bridge
    and came slowly into sight around the bend. My heart slid back into its normal position.
    George was as imperturbable as ever and simply remarked that it had been a near
    thing and that we would return to Lyamungu by another route.

    Beyond the green river belt the very rutted track ran through very uninteresting
    thorn bush country. Henry was bored and tiresome, jumping up and down on my knee
    and yelling furiously. “Teeth”, said I apologetically to George, rashly handing a match
    box to Henry to keep him quiet. No use at all! With a fat finger he poked out the tray
    spilling the matches all over me and the floor. Within seconds Henry had torn the
    matchbox to pieces with his teeth and flung the battered remains through the window.
    An empty cigarette box met with the same fate as the match box and the yells
    continued unabated until Henry slept from sheer exhaustion. George gave me a smile,
    half sympathetic and half sardonic, “Enjoying the safari, my love?” he enquired. On these
    trying occasions George has the inestimable advantage of being able to go into a Yogilike
    trance, whereas I become irritated to screaming point.

    In an effort to prolong Henry’s slumber I braced my feet against the floor boards
    and tried to turn myself into a human shock absorber as we lurched along the eroded
    track. Several times my head made contact with the bolt of a rifle in the rack above, and
    once I felt I had shattered my knee cap against the fire extinguisher in a bracket under the
    dash board.

    Strange as it may seem, I really was enjoying the trip in spite of these
    discomforts. At last after three years I was once more on safari with George. This type of
    country was new to me and there was so much to see We passed a family of giraffe
    standing in complete immobility only a few yards from the track. Little dick-dick. one of the smallest of the antelope, scuttled in pairs across the road and that afternoon I had my first view of Gerenuk, curious red brown antelope with extremely elongated legs and giraffe-like necks.

    Most interesting of all was my first sight of Masai at home. We could hear a tuneful
    jangle of cattle bells and suddenly came across herds of humped cattle browsing upon
    the thorn bushes. The herds were guarded by athletic,striking looking Masai youths and men.
    Each had a calabash of water slung over his shoulder and a tall, highly polished spear in his
    hand. These herdsmen were quite unselfconscious though they wore no clothing except for one carelessly draped blanket. Very few gave us any greeting but glanced indifferently at us from under fringes of clay-daubed plaited hair . The rest of their hair was drawn back behind the ears to display split earlobes stretched into slender loops by the weight of heavy brass or copper tribal ear rings.

    Most of the villages were set well back in the bush out of sight of the road but we did pass one
    typical village which looked most primitive indeed. It consisted simply of a few mound like mud huts which were entirely covered with a plaster of mud and cattle dung and the whole clutch of huts were surrounded by a ‘boma’ of thorn to keep the cattle in at night and the lions out. There was a gathering of women and children on the road at this point. The children of both sexes were naked and unadorned, but the women looked very fine indeed. This is not surprising for they have little to do but adorn themselves, unlike their counterparts of other tribes who have to work hard cultivating the fields. The Masai women, and others I saw on safari, were far more amiable and cheerful looking than the men and were well proportioned.

    They wore skirts of dressed goat skin, knee length in front but ankle length behind. Their arms
    from elbow to wrist, and legs from knee to ankle, were encased in tight coils of copper and
    galvanised wire. All had their heads shaved and in some cases bound by a leather band
    embroidered in red white and blue beads. Circular ear rings hung from slit earlobes and their
    handsome throats were encircled by stiff wire necklaces strung with brightly coloured beads. These
    necklaces were carefully graded in size and formed deep collars almost covering their breasts.
    About a quarter of a mile further along the road we met eleven young braves in gala attire, obviously on their way to call on the girls. They formed a line across the road and danced up and down until the lorry was dangerously near when they parted and grinned cheerfully at us. These were the only cheerful
    looking male Masai that I saw. Like the herdsmen these youths wore only a blanket, but their
    blankets were ochre colour, and elegantly draped over their backs. Their naked bodies gleamed with oil. Several had painted white stripes on their faces, and two had whitewashed their faces entirely which I
    thought a pity. All had their long hair elaborately dressed and some carried not only one,
    but two gleaming spears.

    By mid day George decided that we had driven far enough for that day. He
    stopped the lorry and consulted a rather unreliable map. “Somewhere near here is a
    place called Lolbeni,” he said. “The name means Sweet Water, I hear that the
    government have piped spring water down from the mountain into a small dam at which
    the Masai water their cattle.” Lolbeni sounded pleasant to me. Henry was dusty and
    cross, the rubber sheet had long slipped from my lap to the floor and I was conscious of
    a very damp lap. ‘Sweet Waters’ I felt, would put all that right. A few hundred yards
    away a small herd of cattle was grazing, so George lit his pipe and relaxed at last, whilst
    a Game Scout went off to find the herdsman. The scout soon returned with an ancient
    and emaciated Masai who was thrilled at the prospect of his first ride in a lorry and
    offered to direct us to Lolbeni which was off the main track and about four miles away.

    Once Lolbeni had been a small administrative post and a good track had
    led to it, but now the Post had been abandoned and the road is dotted with vigourous
    thorn bushes and the branches of larger thorn trees encroach on the track The road had
    deteriorated to a mere cattle track, deeply rutted and eroded by heavy rains over a
    period of years. The great Ford truck, however, could take it. It lurched victoriously along,
    mowing down the obstructions, tearing off branches from encroaching thorn trees with its
    high railed sides, spanning gorges in the track, and climbing in and out of those too wide
    to span. I felt an army tank could not have done better.

    I had expected Lolbeni to be a green oasis in a desert of grey thorns, but I was
    quickly disillusioned. To be sure the thorn trees were larger and more widely spaced and
    provided welcome shade, but the ground under the trees had been trampled by thousands of cattle into a dreary expanse of dirty grey sand liberally dotted with cattle droppings and made still more uninviting by the bleached bones of dead beasts.

    To the right of this waste rose a high green hill which gave the place its name and from which
    the precious water was piped, but its slopes were too steep to provide a camping site.
    Flies swarmed everywhere and I was most relieved when George said that we would
    stay only long enough to fill our cans with water. Even the water was a disappointment!
    The water in the small dam was low and covered by a revolting green scum, and though
    the water in the feeding pipe was sweet, it trickled so feebly that it took simply ages to
    fill a four gallon can.

    However all these disappointments were soon forgotten for we drove away
    from the flies and dirt and trampled sand and soon, with their quiet efficiency, George
    and his men set up a comfortable camp. John and Jim immediately started digging
    operations in the sandy soil whilst Henry and I rested. After tea George took his shot
    gun and went off to shoot guinea fowl and partridges for the pot. The children and I went
    walking, keeping well in site of camp, and soon we saw a very large flock of Vulturine
    Guineafowl, running aimlessly about and looking as tame as barnyard fowls, but melting
    away as soon as we moved in their direction.

    We had our second quiet and lovely evening by the camp fire, followed by a
    peaceful night.

    We left Lolbeni very early next morning, which was a good thing, for as we left
    camp the herds of thirsty cattle moved in from all directions. They were accompanied by
    Masai herdsmen, their naked bodies and blankets now covered by volcanic dust which
    was being stirred in rising clouds of stifling ash by the milling cattle, and also by grey
    donkeys laden with panniers filled with corked calabashes for water.

    Our next stop was Nabarera, a Masai cattle market and trading centre, where we
    reluctantly stayed for two days in a pokey Goverment Resthouse because George had
    a job to do in that area. The rest was good for Henry who promptly produced a tooth
    and was consequently much better behaved for the rest of the trip. George was away in the bush most of the day but he returned for afternoon tea and later took the children out
    walking. We had noticed curious white dumps about a quarter mile from the resthouse
    and on the second afternoon we set out to investigate them. Behind the dumps we
    found passages about six foot wide, cut through solid limestone. We explored two of
    these and found that both passages led steeply down to circular wells about two and a
    half feet in diameter.

    At the very foot of each passage, beside each well, rough drinking troughs had
    been cut in the stone. The herdsmen haul the water out of the well in home made hide
    buckets, the troughs are filled and the cattle driven down the ramps to drink at the trough.
    It was obvious that the wells were ancient and the sloping passages new. George tells
    me that no one knows what ancient race dug the original wells. It seems incredible that
    these deep and narrow shafts could have been sunk without machinery. I craned my
    neck and looked above one well and could see an immensely long shaft reaching up to
    ground level. Small footholds were cut in the solid rock as far as I could see.
    It seems that the Masai are as ignorant as ourselves about the origin of these
    wells. They do say however that when their forebears first occupied what is now known
    as Masailand, they not only found the Wanderobo tribe in the area but also a light
    skinned people and they think it possible that these light skinned people dug the wells.
    These people disappeared. They may have been absorbed or, more likely, they were
    liquidated.

    The Masai had found the well impractical in their original form and had hired
    labourers from neighbouring tribes to cut the passages to water level. Certainly the Masai are not responsible for the wells. They are a purely pastoral people and consider manual labour extremely degrading.

    They live chiefly on milk from their herd which they allow to go sour, and mix with blood that has been skilfully tapped from the necks of living cattle. They do not eat game meat, nor do they cultivate any
    land. They hunt with spears, but hunt only lions, to protect their herds, and to test the skill
    and bravery of their young warriors. What little grain they do eat is transported into
    Masailand by traders. The next stage of our journey took us to Ngassamet where
    George was to pick up some elephant tusks. I had looked forward particularly to this
    stretch of road for I had heard that there was a shallow lake at which game congregates,
    and at which I had great hopes of seeing elephants. We had come too late in the
    season though, the lake was dry and there were only piles of elephant droppings to
    prove that elephant had recently been there in numbers. Ngassamet, though no beauty
    spot, was interesting. We saw more elaborate editions of the wells already described, and as this area
    is rich in cattle we saw the aristocrats of the Masai. You cannot conceive of a more arrogant looking male than a young Masai brave striding by on sandalled feet, unselfconscious in all his glory. All the young men wore the casually draped traditional ochre blanket and carried one or more spears. But here belts and long knife sheaths of scarlet leather seem to be the fashion. Here fringes do not seem to be the thing. Most of these young Masai had their hair drawn smoothly back and twisted in a pointed queue, the whole plastered with a smooth coating of red clay. Some tied their horn shaped queues over their heads
    so that the tip formed a deep Satanic peak on the brow. All these young men wore the traditional
    copper earrings and I saw one or two with copper bracelets and one with a necklace of brightly coloured
    beads.

    It so happened that, on the day of our visit to Ngassamet, there had been a
    baraza (meeting) which was attended by all the local headmen and elders. These old
    men came to pay their respects to George and a more shrewd and rascally looking
    company I have never seen, George told me that some of these men own up to three
    thousand head of cattle and more. The chief was as fat and Rabelasian as his second in
    command was emaciated, bucktoothed and prim. The Chief shook hands with George
    and greeted me and settled himself on the wall of the resthouse porch opposite
    George. The lesser headmen, after politely greeting us, grouped themselves in a
    semi circle below the steps with their ‘aides’ respectfully standing behind them. I
    remained sitting in the only chair and watched the proceedings with interest and
    amusement.

    These old Masai, I noticed, cared nothing for adornment. They had proved
    themselves as warriors in the past and were known to be wealthy and influential so did
    not need to make any display. Most of them had their heads comfortably shaved and
    wore only a drab blanket or goatskin cloak. Their only ornaments were earrings whose
    effect was somewhat marred by the serviceable and homely large safety pin that
    dangled from the lobe of one ear. All carried staves instead of spears and all, except for
    Buckteeth and one blind old skeleton of a man, appeared to have a keenly developed
    sense of humour.

    “Mummy?” asked John in an urgent whisper, “Is that old blind man nearly dead?”
    “Yes dear”, said I, “I expect he’ll soon die.” “What here?” breathed John in a tone of
    keen anticipation and, until the meeting broke up and the old man left, he had John’s
    undivided attention.

    After local news and the game situation had been discussed, the talk turned to the
    war. “When will the war end?” moaned the fat Chief. “We have made great gifts of cattle
    to the War Funds, we are taxed out of existence.” George replied with the Ki-Swahili
    equivalent of ‘Sez you!’. This sally was received with laughter and the old fellows rose to
    go. They made their farewells and dignified exits, pausing on their way to stare at our
    pink and white Henry, who sat undismayed in his push chair giving them stare for stare
    from his striking grey eyes.

    Towards evening some Masai, prompted no doubt by our native servants,
    brought a sheep for sale. It was the last night of the fast of Ramadan and our
    Mohammedan boys hoped to feast next day at our expense. Their faces fell when
    George refused to buy the animal. “Why should I pay fifteen shillings for a sheep?” he
    asked, “Am I not the Bwana Nyama and is not the bush full of my sheep?” (Bwana
    Nyama is the native name for a Game Ranger, but means literally, ‘Master of the meat’)
    George meant that he would shoot a buck for the men next day, but this incident was to
    have a strange sequel. Ngassamet resthouse consists of one room so small we could
    not put up all our camp beds and George and I slept on the cement floor which was
    unkind to my curves. The night was bitterly cold and all night long hyaenas screeched
    hideously outside. So we rose at dawn without reluctance and were on our way before it
    was properly light.

    George had decided that it would be foolhardy to return home by our outward
    route as he did not care to risk another crossing of the suspension bridge. So we
    returned to Nabarera and there turned onto a little used track which would eventually take
    us to the Great North Road a few miles South of Arusha. There was not much game
    about but I saw Oryx which I had not previously seen. Soon it grew intolerably hot and I
    think all of us but George were dozing when he suddenly stopped the lorry and pointed
    to the right. “Mpishi”, he called to the cook, “There’s your sheep!” True enough, on that
    dreary thorn covered plain,with not another living thing in sight, stood a fat black sheep.

    There was an incredulous babbling from the back of the lorry. Every native
    jumped to the ground and in no time at all the wretched sheep was caught and
    slaughtered. I felt sick. “Oh George”, I wailed, “The poor lost sheep! I shan’t eat a scrap
    of it.” George said nothing but went and had a look at the sheep and called out to me,
    “Come and look at it. It was kindness to kill the poor thing, the vultures have been at it
    already and the hyaenas would have got it tonight.” I went reluctantly and saw one eye
    horribly torn out, and small deep wounds on the sheep’s back where the beaks of the
    vultures had cut through the heavy fleece. Poor thing! I went back to the lorry more
    determined than ever not to eat mutton on that trip. The Scouts and servants had no
    such scruples. The fine fat sheep had been sent by Allah for their feast day and that was
    the end of it.

    “ ‘Mpishi’ is more convinced than ever that I am a wizard”, said George in
    amusement as he started the lorry. I knew what he meant. Several times before George
    had foretold something which had later happened. Pure coincidence, but strange enough
    to give rise to a legend that George had the power to arrange things. “What happened
    of course”, explained George, “Is that a flock of Masai sheep was driven to market along
    this track yesterday or the day before. This one strayed and was not missed.”

    The day grew hotter and hotter and for long miles we looked out for a camping
    spot but could find little shade and no trace of water anywhere. At last, in the early
    afternoon we reached another pokey little rest house and asked for water. “There is no
    water here,” said the native caretaker. “Early in the morning there is water in a well nearby
    but we are allowed only one kerosene tin full and by ten o’clock the well is dry.” I looked
    at George in dismay for we were all so tired and dusty. “Where do the Masai from the
    village water their cattle then?” asked George. “About two miles away through the bush.
    If you take me with you I shall show you”, replied the native.

    So we turned off into the bush and followed a cattle track even more tortuous than
    the one to Lolbeni. Two Scouts walked ahead to warn us of hazards and I stretched my
    arm across the open window to fend off thorns. Henry screamed with fright and hunger.
    But George’s efforts to reach water went unrewarded as we were brought to a stop by
    a deep donga. The native from the resthouse was apologetic. He had mistaken the
    path, perhaps if we turned back we might find it. George was beyond speech. We
    lurched back the way we had come and made our camp under the first large tree we
    could find. Then off went our camp boys on foot to return just before dark with the water.
    However they were cheerful for there was an unlimited quantity of dry wood for their fires
    and meat in plenty for their feast. Long after George and I left our campfire and had gone
    to bed, we could see the cheerful fires of the boys and hear their chatter and laughter.
    I woke in the small hours to hear the insane cackling of hyaenas gloating over a
    find. Later I heard scuffling around the camp table, I peered over the tailboard of the lorry
    and saw George come out of his tent. What are you doing?” I whispered. “Looking for
    something to throw at those bloody hyaenas,” answered George for all the world as
    though those big brutes were tomcats on the prowl. Though the hyaenas kept up their
    concert all night the children never stirred, nor did any of them wake at night throughout
    the safari.

    Early next morning I walked across to the camp kitchen to enquire into the loud
    lamentations coming from that quarter. “Oh Memsahib”, moaned the cook, “We could
    not sleep last night for the bad hyaenas round our tents. They have taken every scrap of
    meat we had left over from the feast., even the meat we had left to smoke over the fire.”
    Jim, who of our three young sons is the cook’s favourite commiserated with him. He said
    in Ki-Swahili, which he speaks with great fluency, “Truly those hyaenas are very bad
    creatures. They also robbed us. They have taken my hat from the table and eaten the
    new soap from the washbowl.

    Our last day in the bush was a pleasantly lazy one. We drove through country
    that grew more open and less dry as we approached Arusha. We pitched our camp
    near a large dam, and the water was a blessed sight after a week of scorched country.
    On the plains to the right of our camp was a vast herd of native cattle enjoying a brief
    rest after their long day trek through Masailand. They were destined to walk many more
    weary miles before reaching their destination, a meat canning factory in Kenya.
    The ground to the left of the camp rose gently to form a long low hill and on the
    grassy slopes we could see wild ostriches and herds of wildebeest, zebra and
    antelope grazing amicably side by side. In the late afternoon I watched the groups of
    zebra and wildebeest merge into one. Then with a wildebeest leading, they walked
    down the slope in single file to drink at the vlei . When they were satisfied, a wildebeest
    once more led the herd up the trail. The others followed in a long and orderly file, and
    vanished over the hill to their evening pasture.

    When they had gone, George took up his shotgun and invited John to
    accompany him to the dam to shoot duck. This was the first time John had acted as
    retriever but he did very well and proudly helped to carry a mixed bag of sand grouse
    and duck back to camp.

    Next morning we turned into the Great North Road and passed first through
    carefully tended coffee shambas and then through the township of Arusha, nestling at
    the foot of towering Mount Meru. Beyond Arusha we drove through the Usa River
    settlement where again coffee shambas and European homesteads line the road, and
    saw before us the magnificent spectacle of Kilimanjaro unveiled, its white snow cap
    gleaming in the sunlight. Before mid day we were home. “Well was it worth it?” enquired
    George at lunch. “Lovely,” I replied. ”Let’s go again soon.” Then thinking regretfully of
    our absent children I sighed, “If only Ann, George, and Kate could have gone with us
    too.”

    Lyamungu 10th November. 1944

    Dearest Family.

    Mummy wants to know how I fill in my time with George away on safari for weeks
    on end. I do believe that you all picture me idling away my days, waited on hand and
    foot by efficient servants! On the contrary, life is one rush and the days never long
    enough.

    To begin with, our servants are anything but efficient, apart from our cook, Hamisi
    Issa, who really is competent. He suffers from frustration because our budget will not run
    to elaborate dishes so there is little scope for his culinary art. There is one masterpiece
    which is much appreciated by John and Jim. Hamisi makes a most realistic crocodile out
    of pastry and stuffs its innards with minced meat. This revolting reptile is served on a
    bed of parsley on my largest meat dish. The cook is a strict Mohammedan and
    observes all the fasts and daily prayers and, like all Mohammedans he is very clean in
    his person and, thank goodness, in the kitchen.

    His wife is his pride and joy but not his helpmate. She does absolutely nothing
    but sit in a chair in the sun all day, sipping tea and smoking cigarettes – a more
    expensive brand than mine! It is Hamisi who sweeps out their quarters, cooks
    delectable curries for her, and spends more than he can afford on clothing and trinkets for
    his wife. She just sits there with her ‘Mona Lisa’ smile and her painted finger and toe
    nails, doing absolutely nothing.

    The thing is that natives despise women who do work and this applies especially
    to their white employers. House servants much prefer a Memsahib who leaves
    everything to them and is careless about locking up her pantry. When we first came to
    Lyamungu I had great difficulty in employing a houseboy. A couple of rather efficient
    ones did approach me but when they heard the wages I was prepared to pay and that
    there was no number 2 boy, they simply were not interested. Eventually I took on a
    local boy called Japhet who suits me very well except that his sight is not good and he
    is extremely hard on the crockery. He tells me that he has lost face by working here
    because his friends say that he works for a family that is too mean to employ a second
    boy. I explained that with our large family we simply cannot afford to pay more, but this
    didn’t register at all. Japhet says “But Wazungu (Europeans) all have money. They just
    have to get it from the Bank.”

    The third member of our staff is a strapping youth named Tovelo who helps both
    cook and boy, and consequently works harder than either. What do I do? I chivvy the
    servants, look after the children, supervise John’s lessons, and make all my clothing and
    the children’s on that blessed old hand sewing machine.

    The folk on this station entertain a good deal but we usually decline invitations
    because we simply cannot afford to reciprocate. However, last Saturday night I invited
    two couples to drinks and dinner. This was such an unusual event that the servants and I
    were thrown into a flurry. In the end the dinner went off well though it ended in disaster. In
    spite of my entreaties and exhortations to Japhet not to pile everything onto the tray at
    once when clearing the table, he did just that. We were starting our desert and I was
    congratulating myself that all had gone well when there was a frightful crash of breaking
    china on the back verandah. I excused myself and got up to investigate. A large meat
    dish, six dinner plates and four vegetable dishes lay shattered on the cement floor! I
    controlled my tongue but what my eyes said to Japhet is another matter. What he said
    was, “It is not my fault Memsahib. The handle of the tray came off.”

    It is a curious thing about native servants that they never accept responsibility for
    a mishap. If they cannot pin their misdeeds onto one of their fellow servants then the responsibility rests with God. ‘Shauri ya Mungu’, (an act of God) is a familiar cry. Fatalists
    can be very exasperating employees.

    The loss of my dinner service is a real tragedy because, being war time, one can
    buy only china of the poorest quality made for the native trade. Nor was that the final
    disaster of the evening. When we moved to the lounge for coffee I noticed that the
    coffee had been served in the battered old safari coffee pot instead of the charming little
    antique coffee pot which my Mother-in-law had sent for our tenth wedding anniversary.
    As there had already been a disturbance I made no comment but resolved to give the
    cook a piece of my mind in the morning. My instructions to the cook had been to warm
    the coffee pot with hot water immediately before serving. On no account was he to put
    the pewter pot on the hot iron stove. He did and the result was a small hole in the base
    of the pot – or so he says. When I saw the pot next morning there was a two inch hole in
    it.

    Hamisi explained placidly how this had come about. He said he knew I would be
    mad when I saw the little hole so he thought he would have it mended and I might not
    notice it. Early in the morning he had taken the pewter pot to the mechanic who looks
    after the Game Department vehicles and had asked him to repair it. The bright individual
    got busy with the soldering iron with the most devastating result. “It’s his fault,” said
    Hamisi, “He is a mechanic, he should have known what would happen.”
    One thing is certain, there will be no more dinner parties in this house until the war
    is ended.

    The children are well and so am I, and so was George when he left on his safari
    last Monday.

    Much love,
    Eleanor.

     

    #6264
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    From Tanganyika with Love

    continued  ~ part 5

    With thanks to Mike Rushby.

    Chunya 16th December 1936

    Dearest Family,

    Since last I wrote I have visited Chunya and met several of the diggers wives.
    On the whole I have been greatly disappointed because there is nothing very colourful
    about either township or women. I suppose I was really expecting something more like
    the goldrush towns and women I have so often seen on the cinema screen.
    Chunya consists of just the usual sun-dried brick Indian shops though there are
    one or two double storied buildings. Most of the life in the place centres on the
    Goldfields Hotel but we did not call there. From the store opposite I could hear sounds
    of revelry though it was very early in the afternoon. I saw only one sight which was quite
    new to me, some elegantly dressed African women, with high heels and lipsticked
    mouths teetered by on their way to the silk store. “Native Tarts,” said George in answer
    to my enquiry.

    Several women have called on me and when I say ‘called’ I mean called. I have
    grown so used to going without stockings and wearing home made dresses that it was
    quite a shock to me to entertain these ladies dressed to the nines in smart frocks, silk
    stockings and high heeled shoes, handbags, makeup and whatnot. I feel like some
    female Rip van Winkle. Most of the women have a smart line in conversation and their
    talk and views on life would make your nice straight hair curl Mummy. They make me feel
    very unsophisticated and dowdy but George says he has a weakness for such types
    and I am to stay exactly as I am. I still do not use any makeup. George says ‘It’s all right
    for them. They need it poor things, you don’t.” Which, though flattering, is hardly true.
    I prefer the men visitors, though they also are quite unlike what I had expected
    diggers to be. Those whom George brings home are all well educated and well
    groomed and I enjoy listening to their discussion of the world situation, sport and books.
    They are extremely polite to me and gentle with the children though I believe that after a
    few drinks at the pub tempers often run high. There were great arguments on the night
    following the abdication of Edward VIII. Not that the diggers were particularly attached to
    him as a person, but these men are all great individualists and believe in freedom of
    choice. George, rather to my surprise, strongly supported Edward. I did not.

    Many of the diggers have wireless sets and so we keep up to date with the
    news. I seldom leave camp. I have my hands full with the three children during the day
    and, even though Janey is a reliable ayah, I would not care to leave the children at night
    in these grass roofed huts. Having experienced that fire on the farm, I know just how
    unlikely it would be that the children would be rescued in time in case of fire. The other
    women on the diggings think I’m crazy. They leave their children almost entirely to ayahs
    and I must confess that the children I have seen look very well and happy. The thing is
    that I simply would not enjoy parties at the hotel or club, miles away from the children
    and I much prefer to stay at home with a book.

    I love hearing all about the parties from George who likes an occasional ‘boose
    up’ with the boys and is terribly popular with everyone – not only the British but with the
    Germans, Scandinavians and even the Afrikaans types. One Afrikaans woman said “Jou
    man is ‘n man, al is hy ‘n Engelsman.” Another more sophisticated woman said, “George
    is a handsome devil. Aren’t you scared to let him run around on his own?” – but I’m not. I
    usually wait up for George with sandwiches and something hot to drink and that way I
    get all the news red hot.

    There is very little gold coming in. The rains have just started and digging is
    temporarily at a standstill. It is too wet for dry blowing and not yet enough water for
    panning and sluicing. As this camp is some considerable distance from the claims, all I see of the process is the weighing of the daily taking of gold dust and tiny nuggets.
    Unless our luck changes I do not think we will stay on here after John Molteno returns.
    George does not care for the life and prefers a more constructive occupation.
    Ann and young George still search optimistically for gold. We were all saddened
    last week by the death of Fanny, our bull terrier. She went down to the shopping centre
    with us and we were standing on the verandah of a store when a lorry passed with its
    canvas cover flapping. This excited Fanny who rushed out into the street and the back
    wheel of the lorry passed right over her, killing her instantly. Ann was very shocked so I
    soothed her by telling her that Fanny had gone to Heaven. When I went to bed that
    night I found Ann still awake and she asked anxiously, “Mummy, do you think God
    remembered to give Fanny her bone tonight?”

    Much love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Itewe, Chunya 23rd December 1936

    Dearest Family,

    Your Christmas parcel arrived this morning. Thank you very much for all the
    clothing for all of us and for the lovely toys for the children. George means to go hunting
    for a young buffalo this afternoon so that we will have some fresh beef for Christmas for
    ourselves and our boys and enough for friends too.

    I had a fright this morning. Ann and Georgie were, as usual, searching for gold
    whilst I sat sewing in the living room with Kate toddling around. She wandered through
    the curtained doorway into the store and I heard her playing with the paraffin pump. At
    first it did not bother me because I knew the tin was empty but after ten minutes or so I
    became irritated by the noise and went to stop her. Imagine my horror when I drew the
    curtain aside and saw my fat little toddler fiddling happily with the pump whilst, curled up
    behind the tin and clearly visible to me lay the largest puffadder I have ever seen.
    Luckily I acted instinctively and scooped Kate up from behind and darted back into the
    living room without disturbing the snake. The houseboy and cook rushed in with sticks
    and killed the snake and then turned the whole storeroom upside down to make sure
    there were no more.

    I have met some more picturesque characters since I last wrote. One is a man
    called Bishop whom George has known for many years having first met him in the
    Congo. I believe he was originally a sailor but for many years he has wandered around
    Central Africa trying his hand at trading, prospecting, a bit of elephant hunting and ivory
    poaching. He is now keeping himself by doing ‘Sign Writing”. Bish is a gentle and
    dignified personality. When we visited his camp he carefully dusted a seat for me and
    called me ‘Marm’, quite ye olde world. The only thing is he did spit.

    Another spitter is the Frenchman in a neighbouring camp. He is in bed with bad
    rheumatism and George has been going across twice a day to help him and cheer him
    up. Once when George was out on the claim I went across to the Frenchman’s camp in
    response to an SOS, but I think he was just lonely. He showed me snapshots of his
    two daughters, lovely girls and extremely smart, and he chatted away telling me his life
    history. He punctuated his remarks by spitting to right and left of the bed, everywhere in
    fact, except actually at me.

    George took me and the children to visit a couple called Bert and Hilda Farham.
    They have a small gold reef which is worked by a very ‘Heath Robinson’ type of
    machinery designed and erected by Bert who is reputed to be a clever engineer though
    eccentric. He is rather a handsome man who always looks very spruce and neat and
    wears a Captain Kettle beard. Hilda is from Johannesburg and quite a character. She
    has a most generous figure and literally masses of beetroot red hair, but she also has a
    warm deep voice and a most generous disposition. The Farhams have built
    themselves a more permanent camp than most. They have a brick cottage with proper
    doors and windows and have made it attractive with furniture contrived from petrol
    boxes. They have no children but Hilda lavishes a great deal of affection on a pet
    monkey. Sometimes they do quite well out of their gold and then they have a terrific
    celebration at the Club or Pub and Hilda has an orgy of shopping. At other times they
    are completely broke but Hilda takes disasters as well as triumphs all in her stride. She
    says, “My dear, when we’re broke we just live on tea and cigarettes.”

    I have met a young woman whom I would like as a friend. She has a dear little
    baby, but unfortunately she has a very wet husband who is also a dreadful bore. I can’t
    imagine George taking me to their camp very often. When they came to visit us George
    just sat and smoked and said,”Oh really?” to any remark this man made until I felt quite
    hysterical. George looks very young and fit and the children are lively and well too. I ,
    however, am definitely showing signs of wear and tear though George says,
    “Nonsense, to me you look the same as you always did.” This I may say, I do not
    regard as a compliment to the young Eleanor.

    Anyway, even though our future looks somewhat unsettled, we are all together
    and very happy.

    With love,
    Eleanor.

    Itewe, Chunya 30th December 1936

    Dearest Family,

    We had a very cheery Christmas. The children loved the toys and are so proud
    of their new clothes. They wore them when we went to Christmas lunch to the
    Cresswell-Georges. The C-Gs have been doing pretty well lately and they have a
    comfortable brick house and a large wireless set. The living room was gaily decorated
    with bought garlands and streamers and balloons. We had an excellent lunch cooked by
    our ex cook Abel who now works for the Cresswell-Georges. We had turkey with
    trimmings and plum pudding followed by nuts and raisons and chocolates and sweets
    galore. There was also a large variety of drinks including champagne!

    There were presents for all of us and, in addition, Georgie and Ann each got a
    large tin of chocolates. Kate was much admired. She was a picture in her new party frock
    with her bright hair and rosy cheeks. There were other guests beside ourselves and
    they were already there having drinks when we arrived. Someone said “What a lovely
    child!” “Yes” said George with pride, “She’s a Marie Stopes baby.” “Truby King!” said I
    quickly and firmly, but too late to stop the roar of laughter.

    Our children played amicably with the C-G’s three, but young George was
    unusually quiet and surprised me by bringing me his unopened tin of chocolates to keep
    for him. Normally he is a glutton for sweets. I might have guessed he was sickening for
    something. That night he vomited and had diarrhoea and has had an upset tummy and a
    slight temperature ever since.

    Janey is also ill. She says she has malaria and has taken to her bed. I am dosing
    her with quinine and hope she will soon be better as I badly need her help. Not only is
    young George off his food and peevish but Kate has a cold and Ann sore eyes and
    they all want love and attention. To complicate things it has been raining heavily and I
    must entertain the children indoors.

    Eleanor.

    Itewe, Chunya 19th January 1937

    Dearest Family,

    So sorry I have not written before but we have been in the wars and I have had neither
    the time nor the heart to write. However the worst is now over. Young George and
    Janey are both recovering from Typhoid Fever. The doctor had Janey moved to the
    native hospital at Chunya but I nursed young George here in the camp.

    As I told you young George’s tummy trouble started on Christmas day. At first I
    thought it was only a protracted bilious attack due to eating too much unaccustomed rich
    food and treated him accordingly but when his temperature persisted I thought that the
    trouble might be malaria and kept him in bed and increased the daily dose of quinine.
    He ate less and less as the days passed and on New Years Day he seemed very
    weak and his stomach tender to the touch.

    George fetched the doctor who examined small George and said he had a very
    large liver due no doubt to malaria. He gave the child injections of emertine and quinine
    and told me to give young George frequent and copious drinks of water and bi-carb of
    soda. This was more easily said than done. Young George refused to drink this mixture
    and vomited up the lime juice and water the doctor had suggested as an alternative.
    The doctor called every day and gave George further injections and advised me
    to give him frequent sips of water from a spoon. After three days the child was very
    weak and weepy but Dr Spiers still thought he had malaria. During those anxious days I
    also worried about Janey who appeared to be getting worse rather that better and on
    January the 3rd I asked the doctor to look at her. The next thing I knew, the doctor had
    put Janey in his car and driven her off to hospital. When he called next morning he
    looked very grave and said he wished to talk to my husband. I said that George was out
    on the claim but if what he wished to say concerned young George’s condition he might
    just as well tell me.

    With a good deal of reluctance Dr Spiers then told me that Janey showed all the
    symptoms of Typhoid Fever and that he was very much afraid that young George had
    contracted it from her. He added that George should be taken to the Mbeya Hospital
    where he could have the professional nursing so necessary in typhoid cases. I said “Oh
    no,I’d never allow that. The child had never been away from his family before and it
    would frighten him to death to be sick and alone amongst strangers.” Also I was sure that
    the fifty mile drive over the mountains in his weak condition would harm him more than
    my amateur nursing would. The doctor returned to the camp that afternoon to urge
    George to send our son to hospital but George staunchly supported my argument that
    young George would stand a much better chance of recovery if we nursed him at home.
    I must say Dr Spiers took our refusal very well and gave young George every attention
    coming twice a day to see him.

    For some days the child was very ill. He could not keep down any food or liquid
    in any quantity so all day long, and when he woke at night, I gave him a few drops of
    water at a time from a teaspoon. His only nourishment came from sucking Macintosh’s
    toffees. Young George sweated copiously especially at night when it was difficult to
    change his clothes and sponge him in the draughty room with the rain teeming down
    outside. I think I told you that the bedroom is a sort of shed with only openings in the wall
    for windows and doors, and with one wall built only a couple of feet high leaving a six
    foot gap for air and light. The roof leaked and the damp air blew in but somehow young
    George pulled through.

    Only when he was really on the mend did the doctor tell us that whilst he had
    been attending George, he had also been called in to attend to another little boy of the same age who also had typhoid. He had been called in too late and the other little boy,
    an only child, had died. Young George, thank God, is convalescent now, though still on a
    milk diet. He is cheerful enough when he has company but very peevish when left
    alone. Poor little lad, he is all hair, eyes, and teeth, or as Ann says” Georgie is all ribs ribs
    now-a-days Mummy.” He shares my room, Ann and Kate are together in the little room.
    Anyway the doctor says he should be up and around in about a week or ten days time.
    We were all inoculated against typhoid on the day the doctor made the diagnosis
    so it is unlikely that any of us will develop it. Dr Spiers was most impressed by Ann’s
    unconcern when she was inoculated. She looks gentle and timid but has always been
    very brave. Funny thing when young George was very ill he used to wail if I left the
    room, but now that he is convalescent he greatly prefers his dad’s company. So now I
    have been able to take the girls for walks in the late afternoons whilst big George
    entertains small George. This he does with the minimum of effort, either he gets out
    cartons of ammunition with which young George builds endless forts, or else he just sits
    beside the bed and cleans one of his guns whilst small George watches with absorbed
    attention.

    The Doctor tells us that Janey is also now convalescent. He says that exhusband
    Abel has been most attentive and appeared daily at the hospital with a tray of
    food that made his, the doctor’s, mouth water. All I dare say, pinched from Mrs
    Cresswell-George.

    I’ll write again soon. Lots of love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Chunya 29th January 1937

    Dearest Family,

    Georgie is up and about but still tires very easily. At first his legs were so weak
    that George used to carry him around on his shoulders. The doctor says that what the
    child really needs is a long holiday out of the Tropics so that Mrs Thomas’ offer, to pay all
    our fares to Cape Town as well as lending us her seaside cottage for a month, came as
    a Godsend. Luckily my passport is in order. When George was in Mbeya he booked
    seats for the children and me on the first available plane. We will fly to Broken Hill and go
    on to Cape Town from there by train.

    Ann and George are wildly thrilled at the idea of flying but I am not. I remember
    only too well how airsick I was on the old Hannibal when I flew home with the baby Ann.
    I am longing to see you all and it will be heaven to give the children their first seaside
    holiday.

    I mean to return with Kate after three months but, if you will have him, I shall leave
    George behind with you for a year. You said you would all be delighted to have Ann so
    I do hope you will also be happy to have young George. Together they are no trouble
    at all. They amuse themselves and are very independent and loveable.
    George and I have discussed the matter taking into consideration the letters from
    you and George’s Mother on the subject. If you keep Ann and George for a year, my
    mother-in-law will go to Cape Town next year and fetch them. They will live in England
    with her until they are fit enough to return to the Tropics. After the children and I have left
    on this holiday, George will be able to move around and look for a job that will pay
    sufficiently to enable us to go to England in a few years time to fetch our children home.
    We both feel very sad at the prospect of this parting but the children’s health
    comes before any other consideration. I hope Kate will stand up better to the Tropics.
    She is plump and rosy and could not look more bonny if she lived in a temperate
    climate.

    We should be with you in three weeks time!

    Very much love,
    Eleanor.

    Broken Hill, N Rhodesia 11th February 1937

    Dearest Family,

    Well here we are safe and sound at the Great Northern Hotel, Broken Hill, all
    ready to board the South bound train tonight.

    We were still on the diggings on Ann’s birthday, February 8th, when George had
    a letter from Mbeya to say that our seats were booked on the plane leaving Mbeya on
    the 10th! What a rush we had packing up. Ann was in bed with malaria so we just
    bundled her up in blankets and set out in John Molteno’s car for the farm. We arrived that
    night and spent the next day on the farm sorting things out. Ann and George wanted to
    take so many of their treasures and it was difficult for them to make a small selection. In
    the end young George’s most treasured possession, his sturdy little boots, were left
    behind.

    Before leaving home on the morning of the tenth I took some snaps of Ann and
    young George in the garden and one of them with their father. He looked so sad. After
    putting us on the plane, George planned to go to the fishing camp for a day or two
    before returning to the empty house on the farm.

    John Molteno returned from the Cape by plane just before we took off, so he
    will take over the running of his claims once more. I told John that I dreaded the plane trip
    on account of air sickness so he gave me two pills which I took then and there. Oh dear!
    How I wished later that I had not done so. We had an extremely bumpy trip and
    everyone on the plane was sick except for small George who loved every moment.
    Poor Ann had a dreadful time but coped very well and never complained. I did not
    actually puke until shortly before we landed at Broken Hill but felt dreadfully ill all the way.
    Kate remained rosy and cheerful almost to the end. She sat on my lap throughout the
    trip because, being under age, she travelled as baggage and was not entitled to a seat.
    Shortly before we reached Broken Hill a smartly dressed youngish man came up
    to me and said, “You look so poorly, please let me take the baby, I have children of my
    own and know how to handle them.” Kate made no protest and off they went to the
    back of the plane whilst I tried to relax and concentrate on not getting sick. However,
    within five minutes the man was back. Kate had been thoroughly sick all over his collar
    and jacket.

    I took Kate back on my lap and then was violently sick myself, so much so that
    when we touched down at Broken Hill I was unable to speak to the Immigration Officer.
    He was so kind. He sat beside me until I got my diaphragm under control and then
    drove me up to the hotel in his own car.

    We soon recovered of course and ate a hearty dinner. This morning after
    breakfast I sallied out to look for a Bank where I could exchange some money into
    Rhodesian and South African currency and for the Post Office so that I could telegraph
    to George and to you. What a picnic that trip was! It was a terribly hot day and there was
    no shade. By the time we had done our chores, the children were hot, and cross, and
    tired and so indeed was I. As I had no push chair for Kate I had to carry her and she is
    pretty heavy for eighteen months. George, who is still not strong, clung to my free arm
    whilst Ann complained bitterly that no one was helping her.

    Eventually Ann simply sat down on the pavement and declared that she could
    not go another step, whereupon George of course decided that he also had reached his
    limit and sat down too. Neither pleading no threats would move them so I had to resort
    to bribery and had to promise that when we reached the hotel they could have cool
    drinks and ice-cream. This promise got the children moving once more but I am determined that nothing will induce me to stir again until the taxi arrives to take us to the
    station.

    This letter will go by air and will reach you before we do. How I am longing for
    journeys end.

    With love to you all,
    Eleanor.

    Leaving home 10th February 1937,  George Gilman Rushby with Ann and Georgie (Mike) Rushby:

    George Rushby Ann and Georgie

    NOTE
    We had a very warm welcome to the family home at Plumstead Cape Town.
    After ten days with my family we moved to Hout Bay where Mrs Thomas lent us her
    delightful seaside cottage. She also provided us with two excellent maids so I had
    nothing to do but rest and play on the beach with the children.

    After a month at the sea George had fully recovered his health though not his
    former gay spirits. After another six months with my parents I set off for home with Kate,
    leaving Ann and George in my parent’s home under the care of my elder sister,
    Marjorie.

    One or two incidents during that visit remain clearly in my memory. Our children
    had never met elderly people and were astonished at the manifestations of age. One
    morning an elderly lady came around to collect church dues. She was thin and stooped
    and Ann surveyed her with awe. She turned to me with a puzzled expression and
    asked in her clear voice, “Mummy, why has that old lady got a moustache – oh and a
    beard?’ The old lady in question was very annoyed indeed and said, “What a rude little
    girl.” Ann could not understand this, she said, “But Mummy, I only said she had a
    moustache and a beard and she has.” So I explained as best I could that when people
    have defects of this kind they are hurt if anyone mentions them.

    A few days later a strange young woman came to tea. I had been told that she
    had a most disfiguring birthmark on her cheek and warned Ann that she must not
    comment on it. Alas! with the kindest intentions Ann once again caused me acute
    embarrassment. The young woman was hardly seated when Ann went up to her and
    gently patted the disfiguring mark saying sweetly, “Oh, I do like this horrible mark on your
    face.”

    I remember also the afternoon when Kate and George were christened. My
    mother had given George a white silk shirt for the occasion and he wore it with intense
    pride. Kate was baptised first without incident except that she was lost in admiration of a
    gold bracelet given her that day by her Godmother and exclaimed happily, “My
    bangle, look my bangle,” throughout the ceremony. When George’s turn came the
    clergyman held his head over the font and poured water on George’s forehead. Some
    splashed on his shirt and George protested angrily, “Mum, he has wet my shirt!” over
    and over again whilst I led him hurriedly outside.

    My last memory of all is at the railway station. The time had come for Kate and
    me to get into our compartment. My sisters stood on the platform with Ann and George.
    Ann was resigned to our going, George was not so, at the last moment Sylvia, my
    younger sister, took him off to see the engine. The whistle blew and I said good-bye to
    my gallant little Ann. “Mummy”, she said urgently to me, “Don’t forget to wave to
    George.”

    And so I waved good-bye to my children, never dreaming that a war would
    intervene and it would be eight long years before I saw them again.

    #6262
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    From Tanganyika with Love

    continued  ~ part 3

    With thanks to Mike Rushby.

    Mchewe Estate. 22nd March 1935

    Dearest Family,

    I am feeling much better now that I am five months pregnant and have quite got
    my appetite back. Once again I go out with “the Mchewe Hunt” which is what George
    calls the procession made up of the donkey boy and donkey with Ann confidently riding
    astride, me beside the donkey with Georgie behind riding the stick which he much
    prefers to the donkey. The Alsatian pup, whom Ann for some unknown reason named
    ‘Tubbage’, and the two cats bring up the rear though sometimes Tubbage rushes
    ahead and nearly knocks me off my feet. He is not the loveable pet that Kelly was.
    It is just as well that I have recovered my health because my mother-in-law has
    decided to fly out from England to look after Ann and George when I am in hospital. I am
    very grateful for there is no one lse to whom I can turn. Kath Hickson-Wood is seldom on
    their farm because Hicky is working a guano claim and is making quite a good thing out of
    selling bat guano to the coffee farmers at Mbosi. They camp out at the claim, a series of
    caves in the hills across the valley and visit the farm only occasionally. Anne Molteno is
    off to Cape Town to have her baby at her mothers home and there are no women in
    Mbeya I know well. The few women are Government Officials wives and they come
    and go. I make so few trips to the little town that there is no chance to get on really
    friendly terms with them.

    Janey, the ayah, is turning into a treasure. She washes and irons well and keeps
    the children’s clothes cupboard beautifully neat. Ann and George however are still
    reluctant to go for walks with her. They find her dull because, like all African ayahs, she
    has no imagination and cannot play with them. She should however be able to help with
    the baby. Ann is very excited about the new baby. She so loves all little things.
    Yesterday she went into ecstasies over ten newly hatched chicks.

    She wants a little sister and perhaps it would be a good thing. Georgie is so very
    active and full of mischief that I feel another wild little boy might be more than I can
    manage. Although Ann is older, it is Georgie who always thinks up the mischief. They
    have just been having a fight. Georgie with the cooks umbrella versus Ann with her frilly
    pink sunshade with the inevitable result that the sunshade now has four broken ribs.
    Any way I never feel lonely now during the long hours George is busy on the
    shamba. The children keep me on my toes and I have plenty of sewing to do for the
    baby. George is very good about amusing the children before their bedtime and on
    Sundays. In the afternoons when it is not wet I take Ann and Georgie for a walk down
    the hill. George meets us at the bottom and helps me on the homeward journey. He
    grabs one child in each hand by the slack of their dungarees and they do a sort of giant
    stride up the hill, half walking half riding.

    Very much love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 14th June 1935

    Dearest Family,

    A great flap here. We had a letter yesterday to say that mother-in-law will be
    arriving in four days time! George is very amused at my frantic efforts at spring cleaning
    but he has told me before that she is very house proud so I feel I must make the best
    of what we have.

    George is very busy building a store for the coffee which will soon be ripening.
    This time he is doing the bricklaying himself. It is quite a big building on the far end of the
    farm and close to the river. He is also making trays of chicken wire nailed to wooden
    frames with cheap calico stretched over the wire.

    Mother will have to sleep in the verandah room which leads off the bedroom
    which we share with the children. George will have to sleep in the outside spare room as
    there is no door between the bedroom and the verandah room. I am sewing frantically
    to make rose coloured curtains and bedspread out of material mother-in-law sent for
    Christmas and will have to make a curtain for the doorway. The kitchen badly needs
    whitewashing but George says he cannot spare the labour so I hope mother won’t look.
    To complicate matters, George has been invited to lunch with the Governor on the day
    of Mother’s arrival. After lunch they are to visit the newly stocked trout streams in the
    Mporotos. I hope he gets back to Mbeya in good time to meet mother’s plane.
    Ann has been off colour for a week. She looks very pale and her pretty fair hair,
    normally so shiny, is dull and lifeless. It is such a pity that mother should see her like this
    because first impressions do count so much and I am looking to the children to attract
    attention from me. I am the size of a circus tent and hardly a dream daughter-in-law.
    Georgie, thank goodness, is blooming but he has suddenly developed a disgusting
    habit of spitting on the floor in the manner of the natives. I feel he might say “Gran, look
    how far I can spit and give an enthusiastic demonstration.

    Just hold thumbs that all goes well.

    your loving but anxious,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 28th June 1935

    Dearest Family,

    Mother-in-law duly arrived in the District Commissioner’s car. George did not dare
    to use the A.C. as she is being very temperamental just now. They also brought the
    mail bag which contained a parcel of lovely baby clothes from you. Thank you very
    much. Mother-in-law is very put out because the large parcel she posted by surface
    mail has not yet arrived.

    Mother arrived looking very smart in an ankle length afternoon frock of golden
    brown crepe and smart hat, and wearing some very good rings. She is a very
    handsome woman with the very fair complexion that goes with red hair. The hair, once
    Titan, must now be grey but it has been very successfully tinted and set. I of course,
    was shapeless in a cotton maternity frock and no credit to you. However, so far, motherin-
    law has been uncritical and friendly and charmed with the children who have taken to
    her. Mother does not think that the children resemble me in any way. Ann resembles her
    family the Purdys and Georgie is a Morley, her mother’s family. She says they had the
    same dark eyes and rather full mouths. I say feebly, “But Georgie has my colouring”, but
    mother won’t hear of it. So now you know! Ann is a Purdy and Georgie a Morley.
    Perhaps number three will be a Leslie.

    What a scramble I had getting ready for mother. Her little room really looks pretty
    and fresh, but the locally woven grass mats arrived only minutes before mother did. I
    also frantically overhauled our clothes and it a good thing that I did so because mother
    has been going through all the cupboards looking for mending. Mother is kept so busy
    in her own home that I think she finds time hangs on her hands here. She is very good at
    entertaining the children and has even tried her hand at picking coffee a couple of times.
    Mother cannot get used to the native boy servants but likes Janey, so Janey keeps her
    room in order. Mother prefers to wash and iron her own clothes.

    I almost lost our cook through mother’s surplus energy! Abel our previous cook
    took a new wife last month and, as the new wife, and Janey the old, were daggers
    drawn, Abel moved off to a job on the Lupa leaving Janey and her daughter here.
    The new cook is capable, but he is a fearsome looking individual called Alfani. He has a
    thick fuzz of hair which he wears long, sometimes hidden by a dingy turban, and he
    wears big brass earrings. I think he must be part Somali because he has a hawk nose
    and a real Brigand look. His kitchen is never really clean but he is an excellent cook and
    as cooks are hard to come by here I just keep away from the kitchen. Not so mother!
    A few days after her arrival she suggested kindly that I should lie down after lunch
    so I rested with the children whilst mother, unknown to me, went out to the kitchen and
    not only scrubbed the table and shelves but took the old iron stove to pieces and
    cleaned that. Unfortunately in her zeal she poked a hole through the stove pipe.
    Had I known of these activities I would have foreseen the cook’s reaction when
    he returned that evening to cook the supper. he was furious and wished to leave on the
    spot and demanded his wages forthwith. The old Memsahib had insulted him by
    scrubbing his already spotless kitchen and had broken his stove and made it impossible
    for him to cook. This tirade was accompanied by such waving of hands and rolling of
    eyes that I longed to sack him on the spot. However I dared not as I might not get
    another cook for weeks. So I smoothed him down and he patched up the stove pipe
    with a bit of tin and some wire and produced a good meal. I am wondering what
    transformations will be worked when I am in hospital.

    Our food is really good but mother just pecks at it. No wonder really, because
    she has had some shocks. One day she found the kitchen boy diligently scrubbing the box lavatory seat with a scrubbing brush which he dipped into one of my best large
    saucepans! No one can foresee what these boys will do. In these remote areas house
    servants are usually recruited from the ranks of the very primitive farm labourers, who first
    come to the farm as naked savages, and their notions of hygiene simply don’t exist.
    One day I said to mother in George’s presence “When we were newly married,
    mother, George used to brag about your cooking and say that you would run a home
    like this yourself with perhaps one ‘toto’. Mother replied tartly, “That was very bad of
    George and not true. If my husband had brought me out here I would not have stayed a
    month. I think you manage very well.” Which reply made me warm to mother a lot.
    To complicate things we have a new pup, a little white bull terrier bitch whom
    George has named Fanny. She is tiny and not yet house trained but seems a plucky
    and attractive little animal though there is no denying that she does look like a piglet.

    Very much love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 3rd August 1935

    Dearest Family,

    Here I am in hospital, comfortably in bed with our new daughter in her basket
    beside me. She is a lovely little thing, very plump and cuddly and pink and white and
    her head is covered with tiny curls the colour of Golden Syrup. We meant to call her
    Margery Kate, after our Marj and my mother-in-law whose name is Catherine.
    I am enjoying the rest, knowing that George and mother will be coping
    successfully on the farm. My room is full of flowers, particularly with the roses and
    carnations which grow so well here. Kate was not due until August 5th but the doctor
    wanted me to come in good time in view of my tiresome early pregnancy.

    For weeks beforehand George had tinkered with the A.C. and we started for
    Mbeya gaily enough on the twenty ninth, however, after going like a dream for a couple
    of miles, she simply collapsed from exhaustion at the foot of a hill and all the efforts of
    the farm boys who had been sent ahead for such an emergency failed to start her. So
    George sent back to the farm for the machila and I sat in the shade of a tree, wondering
    what would happen if I had the baby there and then, whilst George went on tinkering
    with the car. Suddenly she sprang into life and we roared up that hill and all the way into
    Mbeya. The doctor welcomed us pleasantly and we had tea with his family before I
    settled into my room. Later he examined me and said that it was unlikely that the baby
    would be born for several days. The new and efficient German nurse said, “Thank
    goodness for that.” There was a man in hospital dying from a stomach cancer and she
    had not had a decent nights sleep for three nights.

    Kate however had other plans. I woke in the early morning with labour pains but
    anxious not to disturb the nurse, I lay and read or tried to read a book, hoping that I
    would not have to call the nurse until daybreak. However at four a.m., I went out into the
    wind which was howling along the open verandah and knocked on the nurse’s door. She
    got up and very crossly informed me that I was imagining things and should get back to
    bed at once. She said “It cannot be so. The Doctor has said it.” I said “Of course it is,”
    and then and there the water broke and clinched my argument. She then went into a flat
    spin. “But the bed is not ready and my instruments are not ready,” and she flew around
    to rectify this and also sent an African orderly to call the doctor. I paced the floor saying
    warningly “Hurry up with that bed. I am going to have the baby now!” She shrieked
    “Take off your dressing gown.” But I was passed caring. I flung myself on the bed and
    there was Kate. The nurse had done all that was necessary by the time the doctor
    arrived.

    A funny thing was, that whilst Kate was being born on the bed, a black cat had
    kittens under it! The doctor was furious with the nurse but the poor thing must have crept
    in out of the cold wind when I went to call the nurse. A happy omen I feel for the baby’s
    future. George had no anxiety this time. He stayed at the hospital with me until ten
    o’clock when he went down to the hotel to sleep and he received the news in a note
    from me with his early morning tea. He went to the farm next morning but will return on
    the sixth to fetch me home.

    I do feel so happy. A very special husband and three lovely children. What
    more could anyone possibly want.

    Lots and lots of love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 20th August 1935

    Dearest Family,

    Well here we are back at home and all is very well. The new baby is very placid
    and so pretty. Mother is delighted with her and Ann loved her at sight but Georgie is not
    so sure. At first he said, “Your baby is no good. Chuck her in the kalonga.” The kalonga
    being the ravine beside the house , where, I regret to say, much of the kitchen refuse is
    dumped. he is very jealous when I carry Kate around or feed her but is ready to admire
    her when she is lying alone in her basket.

    George walked all the way from the farm to fetch us home. He hired a car and
    native driver from the hotel, but drove us home himself going with such care over ruts
    and bumps. We had a great welcome from mother who had had the whole house
    spring cleaned. However George loyally says it looks just as nice when I am in charge.
    Mother obviously, had had more than enough of the back of beyond and
    decided to stay on only one week after my return home. She had gone into the kitchen
    one day just in time to see the houseboy scooping the custard he had spilt on the table
    back into the jug with the side of his hand. No doubt it would have been served up
    without a word. On another occasion she had walked in on the cook’s daily ablutions. He
    was standing in a small bowl of water in the centre of the kitchen, absolutely naked,
    enjoying a slipper bath. She left last Wednesday and gave us a big laugh before she
    left. She never got over her horror of eating food prepared by our cook and used to
    push it around her plate. Well, when the time came for mother to leave for the plane, she
    put on the very smart frock in which she had arrived, and then came into the sitting room
    exclaiming in dismay “Just look what has happened, I must have lost a stone!’ We
    looked, and sure enough, the dress which had been ankle deep before, now touched
    the floor. “Good show mother.” said George unfeelingly. “You ought to be jolly grateful,
    you needed to lose weight and it would have cost you the earth at a beauty parlour to
    get that sylph-like figure.”

    When mother left she took, in a perforated matchbox, one of the frilly mantis that
    live on our roses. She means to keep it in a goldfish bowl in her dining room at home.
    Georgie and Ann filled another matchbox with dead flies for food for the mantis on the
    journey.

    Now that mother has left, Georgie and Ann attach themselves to me and firmly
    refuse to have anything to do with the ayah,Janey. She in any case now wishes to have
    a rest. Mother tipped her well and gave her several cotton frocks so I suspect she wants
    to go back to her hometown in Northern Rhodesia to show off a bit.
    Georgie has just sidled up with a very roguish look. He asked “You like your
    baby?” I said “Yes indeed I do.” He said “I’ll prick your baby with a velly big thorn.”

    Who would be a mother!
    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. 20th September 1935

    Dearest Family,

    I have been rather in the wars with toothache and as there is still no dentist at
    Mbeya to do the fillings, I had to have four molars extracted at the hospital. George
    says it is fascinating to watch me at mealtimes these days because there is such a gleam
    of satisfaction in my eye when I do manage to get two teeth to meet on a mouthful.
    About those scissors Marj sent Ann. It was not such a good idea. First she cut off tufts of
    George’s hair so that he now looks like a bad case of ringworm and then she cut a scalp
    lock, a whole fist full of her own shining hair, which George so loves. George scolded
    Ann and she burst into floods of tears. Such a thing as a scolding from her darling daddy
    had never happened before. George immediately made a long drooping moustache
    out of the shorn lock and soon had her smiling again. George is always very gentle with
    Ann. One has to be , because she is frightfully sensitive to criticism.

    I am kept pretty busy these days, Janey has left and my houseboy has been ill
    with pneumonia. I now have to wash all the children’s things and my own, (the cook does
    George’s clothes) and look after the three children. Believe me, I can hardly keep awake
    for Kate’s ten o’clock feed.

    I do hope I shall get some new servants next month because I also got George
    to give notice to the cook. I intercepted him last week as he was storming down the hill
    with my large kitchen knife in his hand. “Where are you going with my knife?” I asked.
    “I’m going to kill a man!” said Alfani, rolling his eyes and looking extremely ferocious. “He
    has taken my wife.” “Not with my knife”, said I reaching for it. So off Alfani went, bent on
    vengeance and I returned the knife to the kitchen. Dinner was served and I made no
    enquiries but I feel that I need someone more restful in the kitchen than our brigand
    Alfani.

    George has been working on the car and has now fitted yet another radiator. This
    is a lorry one and much too tall to be covered by the A.C.’s elegant bonnet which is
    secured by an old strap. The poor old A.C. now looks like an ancient shoe with a turned
    up toe. It only needs me in it with the children to make a fine illustration to the old rhyme!
    Ann and Georgie are going through a climbing phase. They practically live in
    trees. I rushed out this morning to investigate loud screams and found Georgie hanging
    from a fork in a tree by one ankle, whilst Ann stood below on tiptoe with hands stretched
    upwards to support his head.

    Do I sound as though I have straws in my hair? I have.
    Lots of love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 11th October 1935

    Dearest Family,

    Thank goodness! I have a new ayah name Mary. I had heard that there was a
    good ayah out of work at Tukuyu 60 miles away so sent a messenger to fetch her. She
    arrived after dark wearing a bright dress and a cheerful smile and looked very suitable by
    the light of a storm lamp. I was horrified next morning to see her in daylight. She was
    dressed all in black and had a rather sinister look. She reminds me rather of your old maid
    Candace who overheard me laughing a few days before Ann was born and croaked
    “Yes , Miss Eleanor, today you laugh but next week you might be dead.” Remember
    how livid you were, dad?

    I think Mary has the same grim philosophy. Ann took one look at her and said,
    “What a horrible old lady, mummy.” Georgie just said “Go away”, both in English and Ki-
    Swahili. Anyway Mary’s references are good so I shall keep her on to help with Kate
    who is thriving and bonny and placid.

    Thank you for the offer of toys for Christmas but, if you don’t mind, I’d rather have
    some clothing for the children. Ann is quite contented with her dolls Barbara and Yvonne.
    Barbara’s once beautiful face is now pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle having come
    into contact with Georgie’s ever busy hammer. However Ann says she will love her for
    ever and she doesn’t want another doll. Yvonne’s hay day is over too. She
    disappeared for weeks and we think Fanny, the pup, was the culprit. Ann discovered
    Yvonne one morning in some long wet weeds. Poor Yvonne is now a ghost of her
    former self. All the sophisticated make up was washed off her papier-mâché face and
    her hair is decidedly bedraggled, but Ann was radiant as she tucked her back into bed
    and Yvonne is as precious to Ann as she ever was.

    Georgie simply does not care for toys. His paint box, hammer and the trenching
    hoe George gave him for his second birthday are all he wants or needs. Both children
    love books but I sometimes wonder whether they stimulate Ann’s imagination too much.
    The characters all become friends of hers and she makes up stories about them to tell
    Georgie. She adores that illustrated children’s Bible Mummy sent her but you would be
    astonished at the yarns she spins about “me and my friend Jesus.” She also will call
    Moses “Old Noses”, and looking at a picture of Jacob’s dream, with the shining angels
    on the ladder between heaven and earth, she said “Georgie, if you see an angel, don’t
    touch it, it’s hot.”

    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 17th October 1935

    Dearest Family,

    I take back the disparaging things I said about my new Ayah, because she has
    proved her worth in an unexpected way. On Wednesday morning I settled Kate in he
    cot after her ten o’clock feed and sat sewing at the dining room table with Ann and
    Georgie opposite me, both absorbed in painting pictures in identical seed catalogues.
    Suddenly there was a terrific bang on the back door, followed by an even heavier blow.
    The door was just behind me and I got up and opened it. There, almost filling the door
    frame, stood a huge native with staring eyes and his teeth showing in a mad grimace. In
    his hand he held a rolled umbrella by the ferrule, the shaft I noticed was unusually long
    and thick and the handle was a big round knob.

    I was terrified as you can imagine, especially as, through the gap under the
    native’s raised arm, I could see the new cook and the kitchen boy running away down to
    the shamba! I hastily tried to shut and lock the door but the man just brushed me aside.
    For a moment he stood over me with the umbrella raised as though to strike. Rather
    fortunately, I now think, I was too petrified to say a word. The children never moved but
    Tubbage, the Alsatian, got up and jumped out of the window!

    Then the native turned away and still with the same fixed stare and grimace,
    began to attack the furniture with his umbrella. Tables and chairs were overturned and
    books and ornaments scattered on the floor. When the madman had his back turned and
    was busily bashing the couch, I slipped round the dining room table, took Ann and
    Georgie by the hand and fled through the front door to the garage where I hid the
    children in the car. All this took several minutes because naturally the children were
    terrified. I was worried to death about the baby left alone in the bedroom and as soon
    as I had Ann and Georgie settled I ran back to the house.

    I reached the now open front door just as Kianda the houseboy opened the back
    door of the lounge. He had been away at the river washing clothes but, on hearing of the
    madman from the kitchen boy he had armed himself with a stout stick and very pluckily,
    because he is not a robust boy, had returned to the house to eject the intruder. He
    rushed to attack immediately and I heard a terrific exchange of blows behind me as I
    opened our bedroom door. You can imagine what my feelings were when I was
    confronted by an empty cot! Just then there was an uproar inside as all the farm
    labourers armed with hoes and pangas and sticks, streamed into the living room from the
    shamba whence they had been summoned by the cook. In no time at all the huge
    native was hustled out of the house, flung down the front steps, and securely tied up
    with strips of cloth.

    In the lull that followed I heard a frightened voice calling from the bathroom.
    ”Memsahib is that you? The child is here with me.” I hastily opened the bathroom door
    to find Mary couched in a corner by the bath, shielding Kate with her body. Mary had
    seen the big native enter the house and her first thought had been for her charge. I
    thanked her and promised her a reward for her loyalty, and quickly returned to the garage
    to reassure Ann and Georgie. I met George who looked white and exhausted as well
    he might having run up hill all the way from the coffee store. The kitchen boy had led him
    to expect the worst and he was most relieved to find us all unhurt if a bit shaken.
    We returned to the house by the back way whilst George went to the front and
    ordered our labourers to take their prisoner and lock him up in the store. George then
    discussed the whole affair with his Headman and all the labourers after which he reported
    to me. “The boys say that the bastard is an ex-Askari from Nyasaland. He is not mad as
    you thought but he smokes bhang and has these attacks. I suppose I should take him to
    Mbeya and have him up in court. But if I do that you’ll have to give evidence and that will be a nuisance as the car won’t go and there is also the baby to consider.”

    Eventually we decided to leave the man to sleep off the effects of the Bhang
    until evening when he would be tried before an impromptu court consisting of George,
    the local Jumbe(Headman) and village Elders, and our own farm boys and any other
    interested spectators. It was not long before I knew the verdict because I heard the
    sound of lashes. I was not sorry at all because I felt the man deserved his punishment
    and so did all the Africans. They love children and despise anyone who harms or
    frightens them. With great enthusiasm they frog-marched him off our land, and I sincerely
    hope that that is the last we see or him. Ann and Georgie don’t seem to brood over this
    affair at all. The man was naughty and he was spanked, a quite reasonable state of
    affairs. This morning they hid away in the small thatched chicken house. This is a little brick
    building about four feet square which Ann covets as a dolls house. They came back
    covered in stick fleas which I had to remove with paraffin. My hens are laying well but
    they all have the ‘gapes’! I wouldn’t run a chicken farm for anything, hens are such fussy,
    squawking things.

    Now don’t go worrying about my experience with the native. Such things
    happen only once in a lifetime. We are all very well and happy, and life, apart from the
    children’s pranks is very tranquil.

    Lots and lots of love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 25th October 1935

    Dearest Family,

    The hot winds have dried up the shamba alarmingly and we hope every day for
    rain. The prices for coffee, on the London market, continue to be low and the local
    planters are very depressed. Coffee grows well enough here but we are over 400
    miles from the railway and transport to the railhead by lorry is very expensive. Then, as
    there is no East African Marketing Board, the coffee must be shipped to England for
    sale. Unless the coffee fetches at least 90 pounds a ton it simply doesn’t pay to grow it.
    When we started planting in 1931 coffee was fetching as much as 115 pounds a ton but
    prices this year were between 45 and 55 pounds. We have practically exhausted our
    capitol and so have all our neighbours. The Hickson -Woods have been keeping their
    pot boiling by selling bat guano to the coffee farmers at Mbosi but now everyone is
    broke and there is not a market for fertilisers. They are offering their farm for sale at a very
    low price.

    Major Jones has got a job working on the district roads and Max Coster talks of
    returning to his work as a geologist. George says he will have to go gold digging on the
    Lupa unless there is a big improvement in the market. Luckily we can live quite cheaply
    here. We have a good vegetable garden, milk is cheap and we have plenty of fruit.
    There are mulberries, pawpaws, grenadillas, peaches, and wine berries. The wine
    berries are very pretty but insipid though Ann and Georgie love them. Each morning,
    before breakfast, the old garden boy brings berries for Ann and Georgie. With a thorn
    the old man pins a large leaf from a wild fig tree into a cone which he fills with scarlet wine
    berries. There is always a cone for each child and they wait eagerly outside for the daily
    ceremony of presentation.

    The rats are being a nuisance again. Both our cats, Skinny Winnie and Blackboy
    disappeared a few weeks ago. We think they made a meal for a leopard. I wrote last
    week to our grocer at Mbalizi asking him whether he could let us have a couple of kittens
    as I have often seen cats in his store. The messenger returned with a nailed down box.
    The kitchen boy was called to prize up the lid and the children stood by in eager
    anticipation. Out jumped two snarling and spitting creatures. One rushed into the kalonga
    and the other into the house and before they were captured they had drawn blood from
    several boys. I told the boys to replace the cats in the box as I intended to return them
    forthwith. They had the colouring, stripes and dispositions of wild cats and I certainly
    didn’t want them as pets, but before the boys could replace the lid the cats escaped
    once more into the undergrowth in the kalonga. George fetched his shotgun and said he
    would shoot the cats on sight or they would kill our chickens. This was more easily said
    than done because the cats could not be found. However during the night the cats
    climbed up into the loft af the house and we could hear them moving around on the reed
    ceiling.

    I said to George,”Oh leave the poor things. At least they might frighten the rats
    away.” That afternoon as we were having tea a thin stream of liquid filtered through the
    ceiling on George’s head. Oh dear!!! That of course was the end. Some raw meat was
    put on the lawn for bait and yesterday George shot both cats.

    I regret to end with the sad story of Mary, heroine in my last letter and outcast in
    this. She came to work quite drunk two days running and I simply had to get rid of her. I
    have heard since from Kath Wood that Mary lost her last job at Tukuyu for the same
    reason. She was ayah to twin girls and one day set their pram on fire.

    So once again my hands are more than full with three lively children. I did say
    didn’t I, when Ann was born that I wanted six children?

    Very much love from us all, Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 8th November 1935

    Dearest Family,

    To set your minds at rest I must tell you that the native who so frightened me and
    the children is now in jail for attacking a Greek at Mbalizi. I hear he is to be sent back to
    Rhodesia when he has finished his sentence.

    Yesterday we had one of our rare trips to Mbeya. George managed to get a couple of
    second hand tyres for the old car and had again got her to work so we are celebrating our
    wedding anniversary by going on an outing. I wore the green and fawn striped silk dress
    mother bought me and the hat and shoes you sent for my birthday and felt like a million
    dollars, for a change. The children all wore new clothes too and I felt very proud of them.
    Ann is still very fair and with her refined little features and straight silky hair she
    looks like Alice in Wonderland. Georgie is dark and sturdy and looks best in khaki shirt
    and shorts and sun helmet. Kate is a pink and gold baby and looks good enough to eat.
    We went straight to the hotel at Mbeya and had the usual warm welcome from
    Ken and Aunty May Menzies. Aunty May wears her hair cut short like a mans and
    usually wears shirt and tie and riding breeches and boots. She always looks ready to go
    on safari at a moments notice as indeed she is. She is often called out to a case of illness
    at some remote spot.

    There were lots of people at the hotel from farms in the district and from the
    diggings. I met women I had not seen for four years. One, a Mrs Masters from Tukuyu,
    said in the lounge, “My God! Last time I saw you , you were just a girl and here you are
    now with two children.” To which I replied with pride, “There is another one in a pram on
    the verandah if you care to look!” Great hilarity in the lounge. The people from the
    diggings seem to have plenty of money to throw around. There was a big party on the
    go in the bar.

    One of our shamba boys died last Friday and all his fellow workers and our
    house boys had the day off to attend the funeral. From what I can gather the local
    funerals are quite cheery affairs. The corpse is dressed in his best clothes and laid
    outside his hut and all who are interested may view the body and pay their respects.
    The heir then calls upon anyone who had a grudge against the dead man to say his say
    and thereafter hold his tongue forever. Then all the friends pay tribute to the dead man
    after which he is buried to the accompaniment of what sounds from a distance, very
    cheerful keening.

    Most of our workmen are pagans though there is a Lutheran Mission nearby and
    a big Roman Catholic Mission in the area too. My present cook, however, claims to be
    a Christian. He certainly went to a mission school and can read and write and also sing
    hymns in Ki-Swahili. When I first engaged him I used to find a large open Bible
    prominently displayed on the kitchen table. The cook is middle aged and arrived here
    with a sensible matronly wife. To my surprise one day he brought along a young girl,
    very plump and giggly and announced proudly that she was his new wife, I said,”But I
    thought you were a Christian Jeremiah? Christians don’t have two wives.” To which he
    replied, “Oh Memsahib, God won’t mind. He knows an African needs two wives – one
    to go with him when he goes away to work and one to stay behind at home to cultivate
    the shamba.

    Needles to say, it is the old wife who has gone to till the family plot.

    With love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 21st November 1935

    Dearest Family,

    The drought has broken with a bang. We had a heavy storm in the hills behind
    the house. Hail fell thick and fast. So nice for all the tiny new berries on the coffee! The
    kids loved the excitement and three times Ann and Georgie ran out for a shower under
    the eaves and had to be changed. After the third time I was fed up and made them both
    lie on their beds whilst George and I had lunch in peace. I told Ann to keep the
    casement shut as otherwise the rain would drive in on her bed. Half way through lunch I
    heard delighted squeals from Georgie and went into the bedroom to investigate. Ann
    was standing on the outer sill in the rain but had shut the window as ordered. “Well
    Mummy , you didn’t say I mustn’t stand on the window sill, and I did shut the window.”
    George is working so hard on the farm. I have a horrible feeling however that it is
    what the Africans call ‘Kazi buri’ (waste of effort) as there seems no chance of the price of
    coffee improving as long as this world depression continues. The worry is that our capitol
    is nearly exhausted. Food is becoming difficult now that our neighbours have left. I used
    to buy delicious butter from Kath Hickson-Wood and an African butcher used to kill a
    beast once a week. Now that we are his only European customers he very rarely kills
    anything larger than a goat, and though we do eat goat, believe me it is not from choice.
    We have of course got plenty to eat, but our diet is very monotonous. I was
    delighted when George shot a large bushbuck last week. What we could not use I cut
    into strips and the salted strips are now hanging in the open garage to dry.

    With love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 6th December 1935

    Dearest Family,

    We have had a lot of rain and the countryside is lovely and green. Last week
    George went to Mbeya taking Ann with him. This was a big adventure for Ann because
    never before had she been anywhere without me. She was in a most blissful state as
    she drove off in the old car clutching a little basket containing sandwiches and half a bottle
    of milk. She looked so pretty in a new blue frock and with her tiny plaits tied with
    matching blue ribbons. When Ann is animated she looks charming because her normally
    pale cheeks become rosy and she shows her pretty dimples.

    As I am still without an ayah I rather looked forward to a quiet morning with only
    Georgie and Margery Kate to care for, but Georgie found it dull without Ann and wanted
    to be entertained and even the normally placid baby was peevish. Then in mid morning
    the rain came down in torrents, the result of a cloudburst in the hills directly behind our
    house. The ravine next to our house was a terrifying sight. It appeared to be a great
    muddy, roaring waterfall reaching from the very top of the hill to a point about 30 yards
    behind our house and then the stream rushed on down the gorge in an angry brown
    flood. The roar of the water was so great that we had to yell at one another to be heard.
    By lunch time the rain had stopped and I anxiously awaited the return of Ann and
    George. They returned on foot, drenched and hungry at about 2.30pm . George had
    had to abandon the car on the main road as the Mchewe River had overflowed and
    turned the road into a muddy lake. The lower part of the shamba had also been flooded
    and the water receded leaving branches and driftwood amongst the coffee. This was my
    first experience of a real tropical storm. I am afraid that after the battering the coffee has
    had there is little hope of a decent crop next year.

    Anyway Christmas is coming so we don’t dwell on these mishaps. The children
    have already chosen their tree from amongst the young cypresses in the vegetable
    garden. We all send our love and hope that you too will have a Happy Christmas.

    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. 22nd December 1935

    Dearest Family,

    I’ve been in the wars with my staff. The cook has been away ill for ten days but is
    back today though shaky and full of self pity. The houseboy, who really has been a brick
    during the cooks absence has now taken to his bed and I feel like taking to Mine! The
    children however have the Christmas spirit and are making weird and wonderful paper
    decorations. George’s contribution was to have the house whitewashed throughout and
    it looks beautifully fresh.

    My best bit of news is that my old ayah Janey has been to see me and would
    like to start working here again on Jan 1st. We are all very well. We meant to give
    ourselves an outing to Mbeya as a Christmas treat but here there is an outbreak of
    enteric fever there so will now not go. We have had two visitors from the Diggings this
    week. The children see so few strangers that they were fascinated and hung around
    staring. Ann sat down on the arm of the couch beside one and studied his profile.
    Suddenly she announced in her clear voice, “Mummy do you know, this man has got
    wax in his ears!” Very awkward pause in the conversation. By the way when I was
    cleaning out little Kate’s ears with a swab of cotton wool a few days ago, Ann asked
    “Mummy, do bees have wax in their ears? Well, where do you get beeswax from
    then?”

    I meant to keep your Christmas parcel unopened until Christmas Eve but could
    not resist peeping today. What lovely things! Ann so loves pretties and will be
    delighted with her frocks. My dress is just right and I love Georgie’s manly little flannel
    shorts and blue shirt. We have bought them each a watering can. I suppose I shall
    regret this later. One of your most welcome gifts is the album of nursery rhyme records. I
    am so fed up with those that we have. Both children love singing. I put a record on the
    gramophone geared to slow and off they go . Georgie sings more slowly than Ann but
    much more tunefully. Ann sings in a flat monotone but Georgie with great expression.
    You ought to hear him render ‘Sing a song of sixpence’. He cannot pronounce an R or
    an S. Mother has sent a large home made Christmas pudding and a fine Christmas
    cake and George will shoot some partridges for Christmas dinner.
    Think of us as I shall certainly think of you.

    Your very loving,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 2nd January 1936

    Dearest Family,

    Christmas was fun! The tree looked very gay with its load of tinsel, candles and
    red crackers and the coloured balloons you sent. All the children got plenty of toys
    thanks to Grandparents and Aunts. George made Ann a large doll’s bed and I made
    some elegant bedding, Barbara, the big doll is now permanently bed ridden. Her poor
    shattered head has come all unstuck and though I have pieced it together again it is a sad
    sight. If you have not yet chosen a present for her birthday next month would you
    please get a new head from the Handy House. I enclose measurements. Ann does so
    love the doll. She always calls her, “My little girl”, and she keeps the doll’s bed beside
    her own and never fails to kiss her goodnight.

    We had no guests for Christmas this year but we were quite festive. Ann
    decorated the dinner table with small pink roses and forget-me-knots and tinsel and the
    crackers from the tree. It was a wet day but we played the new records and both
    George and I worked hard to make it a really happy day for the children. The children
    were hugely delighted when George made himself a revolting set of false teeth out of
    plasticine and a moustache and beard of paper straw from a chocolate box. “Oh Daddy
    you look exactly like Father Christmas!” cried an enthralled Ann. Before bedtime we lit
    all the candles on the tree and sang ‘Away in a Manger’, and then we opened the box of
    starlights you sent and Ann and Georgie had their first experience of fireworks.
    After the children went to bed things deteriorated. First George went for his bath
    and found and killed a large black snake in the bathroom. It must have been in the
    bathroom when I bathed the children earlier in the evening. Then I developed bad
    toothache which kept me awake all night and was agonising next day. Unfortunately the
    bridge between the farm and Mbeya had been washed away and the water was too
    deep for the car to ford until the 30th when at last I was able to take my poor swollen
    face to Mbeya. There is now a young German woman dentist working at the hospital.
    She pulled out the offending molar which had a large abscess attached to it.
    Whilst the dentist attended to me, Ann and Georgie played happily with the
    doctor’s children. I wish they could play more often with other children. Dr Eckhardt was
    very pleased with Margery Kate who at seven months weighs 17 lbs and has lovely
    rosy cheeks. He admired Ann and told her that she looked just like a German girl. “No I
    don’t”, cried Ann indignantly, “I’m English!”

    We were caught in a rain storm going home and as the old car still has no
    windscreen or side curtains we all got soaked except for the baby who was snugly
    wrapped in my raincoat. The kids thought it great fun. Ann is growing up fast now. She
    likes to ‘help mummy’. She is a perfectionist at four years old which is rather trying. She
    gets so discouraged when things do not turn out as well as she means them to. Sewing
    is constantly being unpicked and paintings torn up. She is a very sensitive child.
    Georgie is quite different. He is a man of action, but not silent. He talks incessantly
    but lisps and stumbles over some words. At one time Ann and Georgie often
    conversed in Ki-Swahili but they now scorn to do so. If either forgets and uses a Swahili
    word, the other points a scornful finger and shouts “You black toto”.

    With love to all,
    Eleanor.

    #6199
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    The philodendron leaf was so large that on it’s trajectory towards Finnley it caught a bottle a Bhum on the edge of the desk, causing it to topple onto the floor.

    “Now look what you’ve done, you clumsy thing!” exclaimed Liz.  “That was a gift from Godfrey!”

    “Don’t worry, he’ll never know,” replied Finnley, picking up the pieces.  “And don’t shout at me, after my, you know…”

    Liz softened and said gently, “Well speaking of brushes, dear, you’d be better cleaning that up with a dustpan and brush, or you might cut yourself.”

    #6168

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    FloveFlove
    Participant

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

    Or was it?

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

    “Maybe they are inside,” whispered Tara.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    #6166
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Grandpa,” Clara said, partly to distract him ~ poor dear was looking a little anxious ~ and partly because she was starting to get twangs of gilt about Nora, “Grandpa, do you remember that guy who used to make sculptures?  I can’t recall his name and need his phone number. Do you remember, used to see him driving around with gargoyles in the back of his truck. You look awfully pale, are you alright?”

    “No idea,” Bob replied weakly.

    Tell her! said Jane.

    “No!” Bob exclaimed, feeling vexed.  He wasn’t sure why, but he didn’t want to rush into anything. Why was Clara asking about the man whose phone number was on the note? What did she know about all this? What did he, Bob, know for that matter!

    “I only asked!” replied Clara, then seeing his face, patted his arm gently and said “It’s ok, Grandpa.”

    For the love of god will you just tell her! 

    “Tell who what?” asked Clara.

    “What! What did you say?” Bob wondered where this was going and if it would ever end. It began to feel surreal.

    They were both relieved when the door bell rang, shattering the unaccustomed tension between them.

    “Who can that be?” they asked in unison, as Clara rose from the table.

    Bob waited expectantly, pushing his plate away. It would take days to settle his digestive system down after all this upset at a meal time.

    “You look like you’ve just seen a ghost, Clara! Who was it?”  Bob said as Clara returned from the front door. “Not the water board again to cut us off I hope!”

    “It’s the neighbour, Mr Willets, he says he’s ever so sorry but his dogs, they got loose and got into some kind of a box on your property.  He said…”

    #6159
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Nora moves silently along the path, placing her feet with care. It is more overgrown in the wood than she remembers, but then it is such a long time since she came this way. She can see in the distance something small and pale. A gentle gust of wind and It seems to stir, as if shivering, as if caught.

    Nora feels strange, there is a strong sense of deja vu now that she has entered the forest.

    She comes to a halt. The trees are still now, not a leaf stirs. She can hear nothing other than the sound of her own breathing. She can’t see the clearing yet either, but she remembers it’s further on, beyond the next winding of the path. She can see it in her mind’s eye though, a rough circle of random stones, with a greenish liquid light filtering through. The air smells of leaf mould and it is spongy underfoot. There’s a wooden bench, a grassy bank, and a circular area of emerald green moss. Finn thinks of it as place of enchantment, a fairy ring.

    Wait! Who is Finn? Where is this story coming from that whispers in her ear as she makes her way through the woods to her destination, the halfway point of her clandestine journey? Who is Finn?

    She reaches the tiny shivering thing and sees that it is a scrap of paper, impaled on a broken branch. She reaches out gently and touches it, then eases if off the branch, taking care not to rip it further. There is a message scribbled on the paper, incomplete. meet me, is all it says now

    The crumpled up paper among the dead leaves beside the path catches her eye.  No, not impaled on a branch but still, a bit of paper catches her eye as the mysterious  ~ ephemeral, invisible ~ story teller continues softly telling her tale

    Finn feels dreamy and floaty. She smiles to herself, thinking of the purpose of her mission, feeling as though it is a message to her from the past. She is overwhelmed for a moment with a sense of love and acceptance towards her younger self. Yes, she whispers softly to the younger Finn, I will meet you at the fairy ring. We will talk a bit. Maybe I can help

    But wait, there is no meaningful message on the crumpled paper that Nora picks up and opens out. It’s nothing but a shopping receipt.  Disappointed, she screws it back up and aims to toss it into the undergrowth, but she hesitates.  Surely it can’t have no meaning at all, she thinks, not after the strange whispered story and the synchronicity of finding it just at that moment.  She opens it back up again, and reads the list of items.

    Olive oil, wine, wheat, garum…. wait, what? Garum? She looks at the date on the receipt ~ a common enough looking till roll receipt, the kind you find in any supermarket ~ but what is this date? 57BC?   How can that be?  Even if she had mistranslated BC ~ perhaps it means British Cooperative, or Better Compare or some such supermarket name ~  the year of 57 makes little sense anyway.  And garum, how to explain that! Nora only knows of garum in relation to Romans, there is no garum on the shelves between the mayonaisse and the ketchup these days, after all.

    Nora smooths the receipt and folds it neatly in half and puts it in her pocket.  The shadows are long now and she still has some distance to walk before the halfway village.  As she resumes her journey, she hears whispered in her ear: You unlocked the blue diamond mode. You’re on a quest now!

    Smiling now, she accelerates her pace.  The lowering sun is casting a golden light, and she feels fortified.

    #6139

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “I’m not paying for everyone’s bill!” shouted Vince, stamping his foot.

    “If you don’t pay the bill, I’ll call the police,” said the waitress, closing the door and turning the open sign to closed. She turned the key and put it in her apron pocket.  “Either you pay the bill or you wash the dishes.”

    Vince was just about the stamp his foot again and a look of anguish came over his face. Finton, the waitress, looked quizzically at him and reached out to touch his arm.  “Are you alright?”

    Then the floodgates opened and Vince collapsed in a chair, tears rolling down his face.  Finton sat down next to him and put her arm across his shoulders, patting him gently until the sobbing had subsided.

    “Now then, sir, why don’t you tell me all about it while you’re doing the dishes,” she said kindly, “I’d be happy to listen, and I can interrogate you too, if that’s what you’d like.”

    Vince wiped his eyes and blew his nose with a crumpled napkin, smearing strawberry jam across his cheeks.  Finton didn’t have the heart to tell him, and tried hard not to snigger.

    “Call me Vince,” he smiled weakly, and followed Finton into the kitchen.

    #6114

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Aunt April blew her nose loudly into a tissue.

    “Are you ready to talk, April?” asked Star gently.

    April nodded, took a sip from her tea, put it on the saucer and sighed loudly. “I’ll do my best. You see, everyone thinks Vince French is in a coma. But he isn’t. That isn’t Vince.”

    “Wait up, let me take notes,” said Tara. “So, how do you know that isn’t Vince French?”

    “The real Vince has a tattoo of a bell-bird on his right buttock.”

    Rosamund snorted. “Ooh, go Auntie April!”

    “I had my suspicions … so I had to see for myself. On pretext of being a nurse, I managed to inveigle myself into the institution where he is supposedly being kept to look at his derriere. There are other small differences too, but that clinched it for me.”

    Star nodded. “I see, well done! So you and Vincent French were having an …?”

    “A liaison of rather a passionate nature. Yes.”

    “And the wardrobe? The notes?”

    “I had the wardrobe sent up.”

    Tara looked puzzled. “But … what on earth for?”

    “Oh, the wardrobe is a red herring. I really just wanted to get rid of it and rather than send it to charity thought you girls might make use of it.”

    “And the notes? The fictitious Uncle Albie?” asked Star.

    April screwed up her face and giggled nervously. “Well, you are a struggling start-up business and there were no social media reviews to go by … so it was a test really. To see if you were good enough to take on the case.”

    Tara glowered at her. “And?”

    “You passed! Congratulations! As Rosamund may have told you, I am filthy rich and money is no object. We must get to the bottom of this mystery.”

    “Bottom,” said Rosamund and sniggered.

    #6105

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “It’s surprisingly roomy that wardrobe, isn’t it?” said Aunt April, somewhat placated by pizza.

    Rosamund nearly choked on an olive. Poor old auntie has lost it! “Roomy…what are you on about, Auntie eh?” she asked gently. After all got to be kind to the old dear—she is filthy rich.

    They both looked at the wardrobe.

    “Hmmm …I admit it doesn’t look that big from the outside but there’s that door at the back …”

    “Right, a door is there, Aunt April … how about a nice cuppa?”

    “Now, Rosamund, don’t you talk down to me, Young Lady. Once you get past all those coats … “ she paused to stroke the fur lovingly … “there is a door and behind the door is a room with a nice comfy sofa. I slept there last night.“

    #6104

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    TracyTracy
    Participant

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

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

    Rosamund reeled backwards.

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

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

    “Promise no pineapple?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

    #5959
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Dear Whale,

    Boredom rang the bell in the morning and I made the mistake of opening the door. I should have known better in this confinement time, they said the postman should leave the package at the door, or be at least at 2 to 3 meters from it when we open. Apparently boredom didn’t receive the notice, and I opened the door and let it in.

    Once it was there, nothing seemed interesting enough. I tried to show my guest a movie, or a series. New ones, old ones, none seemed to satisfy its taste. Even the expensive tea I opened just for the occasion and made for my guest tasted duller than gnat’s pee. I thought gnat’s pee might have been more exciting as I would have welcomed it as a new experience, but I’m certain it wasn’t that new to boredom.

    Boredom is like a crowd, it amplifies the bad mood, and paint dull all that it touches. I had received a set of twelve chromo therapy glasses, all making a beautiful rainbow in the box. I remembered being so excited when I had received that set, all those moments I would spend looking at the world in different colours. Why did I wait? Now I couldn’t even get close to the box. Boredom seemed so comfortable now that I felt tired at the idea of driving it out of my couch, not to mention driving it out of my apartment entirely.

    Boredom had not been passive as one could have thought. It had diligently painted everything in a shade of dull which made it hard for anything to catch my attention. Everything looked the same, I had become fun blind. Only the window started to look like a satisfactory exit. I had to trick my mind in thinking it too would be boring.

    But at the end of the afternoon the phone rang. I looked boredom into the dull of its eyes. I almost got drowned in it again almost losing any interest to answer. It made it drop its guard and I seized the moment to jump on my mobile. It was a friend from Spain.

    “You won’t believe it!” she said.

    I looked boredom in the eyes and I clearly could see it was afraid of what was coming. It was begging for mercy.

    “Try me,” I said to my friend.

    “I got a swarm of bees gathering on the top of my roof patio! I swear there are hundreds of them.”

    “What?” I was so surprised that I looked away through the window and lost sight of boredom. When I looked back at the couch, boredom was not there. I looked around trying to see if it could have hidden somewhere while my friend was talking about having put the dogs in the shed, not daring go feed the cats on the rooftop with all those bees swarming around. I could hear her hubbie in the background “Oh my! I think they are building something.

    My imagination worked faster than a pandemic and it had already built a manhattan beehive project. Despite my disbelief I had to face the fact that there were no traces of dull places anymore around me. I could almost see the swarm of bees getting the last touch in cleaning the dull-art boredom had crafted around so plainly while it was there.

    “Send me some pictures,” I said. “I want pictures!”

    #5751
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Why are you looking guilty?”  It was impossible for Godfrey to hide anything from Liz. She noticed at once the nervous tic in his left eye, and the way he was shuffling his feet around.  He was clearly rattled about something.

    “I’ve g g g ot a confession to m m make,” he stuttered. Liz had never heard Godfrey stutter before, and it was unheard of for him to make confessions.  Something was troubling her old friend greatly, and she was concerned.

    Liz sighed.  If only Finnley were here.  God knows where she was, gallivanting around and leaving Liz to deal with a demented Godfrey on her own, when she had so much writing to do.

    Moving the bowl of peanuts out of Godfrey’s reach, in case he choked on them in his stuttering condition, Liz gently suggested that he spill the beans and tell her all about it.

    “I put two of your characters in jail.”

    Liz gasped and her hand flew to her mouth.

    “And now,” Godfrey’s voice caught on a little sob,  “And now, I have to pay the bail money to get them out.”

    “Why not just get Mr August to talk Mellie Noma into paying it? She got the kid back ~ mysteriously, I must say, quite a gap in the tale there..”

    “Well it’s your book, so it’s your gap,” Godfrey retorted, reverting back to his old self.

    “Then what were you doing in it, putting my characters in jail?” Liz snapped back. “Go and get that bail paid so they can go to Australia. Otherwise you’re going to muck up another book.”

    #5376
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Aunt Idle:

    I don’t know how I restrained myself from throttling Finly when she finally handed me the letter from Corrie.  A whole week she’d had it,  and wouldn’t share it until she’d cleaned every last window. Some peoples priorities, I ask you!  The funny thing was that even when I had it in my hand I didn’t open it right away. Even with Mater and Bert breathing down my neck.

    It was something to savour, the feeling of having an unopened letter in ones hand.  Not that this looked like the letters we used to get years ago, all crisp and slim on white paper, addressed in fine blue ink. This was a bundle tied with a bit of wool pulled out of an old jumper by the look of it, all squiggly,  holding together several layers of yellowed thin cardboard and written on with a beetroot colour dye and a makeshift brush by the look of it.  The kind of thing that used to be considered natural and artistic, long ago, when such things were the fashion.  I suppose the fashion now, in such places where fashion still exists, is for retro plastic.  They said plastic litter wouldn’t decompose for hundreds of years, how wrong they were! I’d give my right arm now for a cupboard full of tupperware with lids. Or even without lids.  Plastic bottles and shopping bags ~ when I think back to how we used to hate them, and they’re like gold now.  Better than gold, nobody has any interest in gold nowadays, but people would sell their soul for a plastic bucket.

    I waited until the sun was going down, and sat on the porch with the golden rays of the lowering sun slanting across the yard.  I clasped the bundle to my heart and squinted into the sun and sighed with joyful anticipation.

    “For the love of god, will you get on with it!” said Bert, rudely interrupting the moment.

    Gently I pulled the faded red woolen string, and stopped for a moment, imaging the old cardigan that it might have been.

    I didn’t have to look at Mater to know what the expression on her face was, but I wasn’t going to be rushed.  The string fell into my lap and I turned the first piece of card over.

    There was a washed out picture of a rooster on it and a big fancy K.

    “Cornflakes!” I started to weep. “Look, cornflakes!”

    “You always hated cornflakes,” Mater said, missing the point as usual.  “You never liked packet cereal.”

    The look I gave her was withering, although she didn’t seem to wither, not one bit.

    “I used to like rice krispies,” Bert said.

    By the time we’d finished discussing cereal, the sun had gone down and it was too dark to read the letter.

    #5368
    AvatarJib
    Participant

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

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

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

    “Mayyyyy”.

    The shout startled them both.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    #5049
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Aunt Idle:

    Bert tells me it’s new years eve today.  Looking forward to the champagne and fireworks I said to him. Joking of course.  The wonder is that I even remembered what such things were.  Bert looked sharply at me then, bit strange it was.  Then he relaxed a bit and had a peculiar secretive smile on his face.  Of course that’s easy to say in retrospect, that he had a secretive smile on his face. But little did I know at the time.

    I’d been in the doldrums ever since that hot air balloon thing didn’t materialize into anything. I told Bert about it, and he went off down to the Brundy place, gone ages he was,  and came back saying it was nothing.  He had an odd spring in his step though which puzzled me a bit at the time, but I was so deflated after the excitement of thinking something might actually happen for a change, and when it didn’t, well, I couldn’t be bothered to think about Bert acting funny.

    When Bert had a shower and asked me to iron ~ iron, I ask you! ~ his best shirt, I was more depressed than ever. If Bert goes mad as well, then where will we be? I was already wondering if I’d started hallucinating and if that was a sign of madness.  I’d been catching glimpses of things out of the corner of my eye all week.  I’d even heard stifled giggles.  It was unnerving, I tell you.

    When Bert suggested I have a shower as well, and asked if I still had that red sequinned dress I started to worry.  What was he thinking? Then ~ get this ~ he asked if I had red knickers on.

    Bert! I said, aghast.

    He mumbled something about it being a tradition in Spain to wear red underpants on new years eve, and surely I hadn’t forgotten?

    I gently reminded him that we weren’t in Spain, and he said, You’re damn right this isn’t Kansas anymore, hooted with laughter, and fairly skipped out of the room.

    I sat there for a bit pondering all this and then thought, Hell, why not? Why not wear red knickers and that old red sequinned dress?  Why not have a shower as well?

    And much to my surprise I found I was humming a song and smiling to myself as I went to find that old red dress.

    #4871

    In reply to: Coma Cameleon

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Lord Gustard Willoughby Fergusson helped his wife Floribunda onto the camel,” Tibu spoke softly, gently turning the well worn page. “And clamboured onto his own. Cranky and Illi were mounted on donkeys, as were Tibn Zig and Tanlil Ubt, their local guides. Three hot dusty days, and two bitterly cold nights away lay their destination: Tsnit n’Agger and the home of the legendary giant of the Alal’ Azntignit.”

    A movement caught Tibu’s eye and he glanced up. She was still there, listening.

    He turned back to the book and continued reading. “Cranky was feeling like a fish out of water in the desert, but Illi had taken to it like a duck to water. Not that there was alot of water about in the desert, Cranky grumbled to herself. What she wouldn’t have given for a nice hot cup of tea and a crumpet.”

    “Hey, would you like a cup of tea?” she interrupted. “It’s such rotten weather to stand out here and I ~ well, I like just listening to you.”

    #4852
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    It had been a long day and MIB decided he could spare a few moments to recuperate before propelling himself at the speed of light to Destination D.

    Probaby better to let the targets get there first so there was no chance of detection.

    MIB sauntered to a nearby park bench and sat down. He then proceeded to take the water flask from his briefcase and gently unscrewed the top. After a surreptitious glance over his shoulder, he pulled the doll’s head out of the flask. “Oh for flove’s sake!” he said and quickly shoved it back in.

    “Target doll is Man in Black i.e. myself,” he said into his wrist watch. “It appears conscious detection of target is no longer necessary for Magpie to actualise dolls. Repeat, conscious detection of target NOT NECESSARY. Subliminal factors at play. Doll will be destroyed poste haste before activation takes effect.”

    He carefully pulled the doll out of the flask for a second time. He fingered the miniature moustache; the doll was perfect down to the last detail, even the small scar he had over his right eyebrow. He felt the back of the doll and pressed, relieved to feel the hardness of the key.

    As long as the key is still in the doll, activation can’t happen. What harm is there …

    He stuffed the doll back into the flask and put it back in his briefcase.

    #4775
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The wind swooshed in the garden, making fallen apples roll on the ground. The air had a lively smell of earth and decaying fruit, and the grass was still moist from the morning dew.
    The statue of Gorrash was facing East, and the rising sun was bringing golden hues to his petrified face. Little snoots were curled in glowing colourful balls of liquid fur around the statue, making it pulsate with a quieting purr. Around Gorrash, the slope was peppered with some of the gargoyles rejects that Eleri had made and couldn’t sell at the market. Still, instead of discarding them, she’d arranged a little forest of painted gargoyles as a sort of silent watchful army guarding Gorrash’s sleep.
    Rukshan liked to meditate at the place, it helped with the stress he’d felt at coming back from the last ordeals. He wouldn’t have thought, but his identity had felt more shaken than he knew. He wasn’t feeling at home with the Faes any longer, and there were few people who could relate to his adventures in the villages nearby, where he was nothing more than an ominous stranger. Retreating in the Fae’s dimension, hidden from all and mostly abandoned was a tempting thought, but he’d found it was a lure with empty promises. He still had work to do.

    Tak and Nesy were already awake and were coming back for the rest of the story.
    He’d started to tell them about the Giants, the old forgotten story which he’d learnt many years ago in his previous life as a Dark Fae. Both were captivated at the prowess displayed by the Master Craftsmen, the old Rings of Stones that they built, the Cairns of the Fallen, and the Fields of Chanting Boulders where magic rituals where performed.

    “Tell us more Rukshan!” they said. “Tell us more about the Three Giant Kings.”
    “Do you remember their names?” he smiled back at the children.
    “Yes! There was Ceazar…” Tak started
    “Caesar, yes” he corrected gently
    “… and Archimedes,” Tak continued hesitantly
    “Yes, and who was the third one?”
    “He had a long and strange name! Nesy, help me!”
    The girl tried to help him “It starts with a V”
    “Vergincetorix!” the answer came from behind a bush.

    Fox!” Nesy cried reproachfully. “It’s not even right! It’s Vercingetorix!”
    “Correct Nesy! And Fox, no need to lurk in the shadows, stories are not only for children you know.”

    Fox took a place near the gargoyle army garden, and a baby snoot jumped into his lap, cooing in vibrating mruii.

    “So what about these Kings do you want to know?” Rukshan asked.
    “Everything!” they all said in unison.
    “Oh well, in this case, let me retell you the story of the Golden Age of the Three Giant Kings, and how they saved their people from a terrible catastrophe.”

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