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    TracyTracy
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    From Tanganyika with Love

    continued part 9

    With thanks to Mike Rushby.

    Lyamungu 3rd January 1945

    Dearest Family.

    We had a novel Christmas this year. We decided to avoid the expense of
    entertaining and being entertained at Lyamungu, and went off to spend Christmas
    camping in a forest on the Western slopes of Kilimanjaro. George decided to combine
    business with pleasure and in this way we were able to use Government transport.
    We set out the day before Christmas day and drove along the road which skirts
    the slopes of Kilimanjaro and first visited a beautiful farm where Philip Teare, the ex
    Game Warden, and his wife Mary are staying. We had afternoon tea with them and then
    drove on in to the natural forest above the estate and pitched our tent beside a small
    clear mountain stream. We decorated the tent with paper streamers and a few small
    balloons and John found a small tree of the traditional shape which we decorated where
    it stood with tinsel and small ornaments.

    We put our beer, cool drinks for the children and bottles of fresh milk from Simba
    Estate, in the stream and on Christmas morning they were as cold as if they had been in
    the refrigerator all night. There were not many presents for the children, there never are,
    but they do not seem to mind and are well satisfied with a couple of balloons apiece,
    sweets, tin whistles and a book each.

    George entertain the children before breakfast. He can make a magical thing out
    of the most ordinary balloon. The children watched entranced as he drew on his pipe
    and then blew the smoke into the balloon. He then pinched the neck of the balloon
    between thumb and forefinger and released the smoke in little puffs. Occasionally the
    balloon ejected a perfect smoke ring and the forest rang with shouts of “Do it again
    Daddy.” Another trick was to blow up the balloon to maximum size and then twist the
    neck tightly before releasing. Before subsiding the balloon darted about in a crazy
    fashion causing great hilarity. Such fun, at the cost of a few pence.

    After breakfast George went off to fish for trout. John and Jim decided that they
    also wished to fish so we made rods out of sticks and string and bent pins and they
    fished happily, but of course quite unsuccessfully, for hours. Both of course fell into the
    stream and got soaked, but I was prepared for this, and the little stream was so shallow
    that they could not come to any harm. Henry played happily in the sand and I had a
    most peaceful morning.

    Hamisi roasted a chicken in a pot over the camp fire and the jelly set beautifully in the
    stream. So we had grilled trout and chicken for our Christmas dinner. I had of course
    taken an iced cake for the occasion and, all in all, it was a very successful Christmas day.
    On Boxing day we drove down to the plains where George was to investigate a
    report of game poaching near the Ngassari Furrow. This is a very long ditch which has
    been dug by the Government for watering the Masai stock in the area. It is also used by
    game and we saw herds of zebra and wildebeest, and some Grant’s Gazelle and
    giraffe, all comparatively tame. At one point a small herd of zebra raced beside the lorry
    apparently enjoying the fun of a gallop. They were all sleek and fat and looked wild and
    beautiful in action.

    We camped a considerable distance from the water but this precaution did not
    save us from the mosquitoes which launched a vicious attack on us after sunset, so that
    we took to our beds unusually early. They were on the job again when we got up at
    sunrise so I was very glad when we were once more on our way home.

    “I like Christmas safari. Much nicer that silly old party,” said John. I agree but I think
    it is time that our children learned to play happily with others. There are no other young
    children at Lyamungu though there are two older boys and a girl who go to boarding
    school in Nairobi.

    On New Years Day two Army Officers from the military camp at Moshi, came for
    tea and to talk game hunting with George. I think they rather enjoy visiting a home and
    seeing children and pets around.

    Eleanor.

    Lyamungu 14 May 1945

    Dearest Family.

    So the war in Europe is over at last. It is such marvellous news that I can hardly
    believe it. To think that as soon as George can get leave we will go to England and
    bring Ann and George home with us to Tanganyika. When we know when this leave can
    be arranged we will want Kate to join us here as of course she must go with us to
    England to meet George’s family. She has become so much a part of your lives that I
    know it will be a wrench for you to give her up but I know that you will all be happy to
    think that soon our family will be reunited.

    The V.E. celebrations passed off quietly here. We all went to Moshi to see the
    Victory Parade of the King’s African Rifles and in the evening we went to a celebration
    dinner at the Game Warden’s house. Besides ourselves the Moores had invited the
    Commanding Officer from Moshi and a junior officer. We had a very good dinner and
    many toasts including one to Mrs Moore’s brother, Oliver Milton who is fighting in Burma
    and has recently been awarded the Military Cross.

    There was also a celebration party for the children in the grounds of the Moshi
    Club. Such a spread! I think John and Jim sampled everything. We mothers were
    having our tea separately and a friend laughingly told me to turn around and have a look.
    I did, and saw the long tea tables now deserted by all the children but my two sons who
    were still eating steadily, and finding the party more exciting than the game of Musical
    Bumps into which all the other children had entered with enthusiasm.

    There was also an extremely good puppet show put on by the Italian prisoners
    of war from the camp at Moshi. They had made all the puppets which included well
    loved characters like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and the Babes in the Wood as
    well as more sophisticated ones like an irritable pianist and a would be prima donna. The
    most popular puppets with the children were a native askari and his family – a very
    happy little scene. I have never before seen a puppet show and was as entranced as
    the children. It is amazing what clever manipulation and lighting can do. I believe that the
    Italians mean to take their puppets to Nairobi and am glad to think that there, they will
    have larger audiences to appreciate their art.

    George has just come in, and I paused in my writing to ask him for the hundredth
    time when he thinks we will get leave. He says I must be patient because it may be a
    year before our turn comes. Shipping will be disorganised for months to come and we
    cannot expect priority simply because we have been separated so long from our
    children. The same situation applies to scores of other Government Officials.
    I have decided to write the story of my childhood in South Africa and about our
    life together in Tanganyika up to the time Ann and George left the country. I know you
    will have told Kate these stories, but Ann and George were so very little when they left
    home that I fear that they cannot remember much.

    My Mother-in-law will have told them about their father but she can tell them little
    about me. I shall send them one chapter of my story each month in the hope that they
    may be interested and not feel that I am a stranger when at last we meet again.

    Eleanor.

    Lyamungu 19th September 1945

    Dearest Family.

    In a months time we will be saying good-bye to Lyamungu. George is to be
    transferred to Mbeya and I am delighted, not only as I look upon Mbeya as home, but
    because there is now a primary school there which John can attend. I feel he will make
    much better progress in his lessons when he realises that all children of his age attend
    school. At present he is putting up a strong resistance to learning to read and spell, but
    he writes very neatly, does his sums accurately and shows a real talent for drawing. If
    only he had the will to learn I feel he would do very well.

    Jim now just four, is too young for lessons but too intelligent to be interested in
    the ayah’s attempts at entertainment. Yes I’ve had to engage a native girl to look after
    Henry from 9 am to 12.30 when I supervise John’s Correspondence Course. She is
    clean and amiable, but like most African women she has no initiative at all when it comes
    to entertaining children. Most African men and youths are good at this.

    I don’t regret our stay at Lyamungu. It is a beautiful spot and the change to the
    cooler climate after the heat of Morogoro has been good for all the children. John is still
    tall for his age but not so thin as he was and much less pale. He is a handsome little lad
    with his large brown eyes in striking contrast to his fair hair. He is wary of strangers but
    very observant and quite uncanny in the way he sums up people. He seldom gets up
    to mischief but I have a feeling he eggs Jim on. Not that Jim needs egging.

    Jim has an absolute flair for mischief but it is all done in such an artless manner that
    it is not easy to punish him. He is a very sturdy child with a cap of almost black silky hair,
    eyes brown, like mine, and a large mouth which is quick to smile and show most beautiful
    white and even teeth. He is most popular with all the native servants and the Game
    Scouts. The servants call Jim, ‘Bwana Tembo’ (Mr Elephant) because of his sturdy
    build.

    Henry, now nearly two years old, is quite different from the other two in
    appearance. He is fair complexioned and fair haired like Ann and Kate, with large, black
    lashed, light grey eyes. He is a good child, not so merry as Jim was at his age, nor as
    shy as John was. He seldom cries, does not care to be cuddled and is independent and
    strong willed. The servants call Henry, ‘Bwana Ndizi’ (Mr Banana) because he has an
    inexhaustible appetite for this fruit. Fortunately they are very inexpensive here. We buy
    an entire bunch which hangs from a beam on the back verandah, and pluck off the
    bananas as they ripen. This way there is no waste and the fruit never gets bruised as it
    does in greengrocers shops in South Africa. Our three boys make a delightful and
    interesting trio and I do wish you could see them for yourselves.

    We are delighted with the really beautiful photograph of Kate. She is an
    extraordinarily pretty child and looks so happy and healthy and a great credit to you.
    Now that we will be living in Mbeya with a school on the doorstep I hope that we will
    soon be able to arrange for her return home.

    Eleanor.

    c/o Game Dept. Mbeya. 30th October 1945

    Dearest Family.

    How nice to be able to write c/o Game Dept. Mbeya at the head of my letters.
    We arrived here safely after a rather tiresome journey and are installed in a tiny house on
    the edge of the township.

    We left Lyamungu early on the morning of the 22nd. Most of our goods had
    been packed on the big Ford lorry the previous evening, but there were the usual
    delays and farewells. Of our servants, only the cook, Hamisi, accompanied us to
    Mbeya. Japhet, Tovelo and the ayah had to be paid off and largesse handed out.
    Tovelo’s granny had come, bringing a gift of bananas, and she also brought her little
    granddaughter to present a bunch of flowers. The child’s little scolded behind is now
    completely healed. Gifts had to be found for them too.

    At last we were all aboard and what a squash it was! Our few pieces of furniture
    and packing cases and trunks, the cook, his wife, the driver and the turney boy, who
    were to take the truck back to Lyamungu, and all their bits and pieces, bunches of
    bananas and Fanny the dog were all crammed into the body of the lorry. George, the
    children and I were jammed together in the cab. Before we left George looked
    dubiously at the tyres which were very worn and said gloomily that he thought it most
    unlikely that we would make our destination, Dodoma.

    Too true! Shortly after midday, near Kwakachinja, we blew a back tyre and there
    was a tedious delay in the heat whilst the wheel was changed. We were now without a
    spare tyre and George said that he would not risk taking the Ford further than Babati,
    which is less than half way to Dodoma. He drove very slowly and cautiously to Babati
    where he arranged with Sher Mohammed, an Indian trader, for a lorry to take us to
    Dodoma the next morning.

    It had been our intention to spend the night at the furnished Government
    Resthouse at Babati but when we got there we found that it was already occupied by
    several District Officers who had assembled for a conference. So, feeling rather
    disgruntled, we all piled back into the lorry and drove on to a place called Bereku where
    we spent an uncomfortable night in a tumbledown hut.

    Before dawn next morning Sher Mohammed’s lorry drove up, and there was a
    scramble to dress by the light of a storm lamp. The lorry was a very dilapidated one and
    there was already a native woman passenger in the cab. I felt so tired after an almost
    sleepless night that I decided to sit between the driver and this woman with the sleeping
    Henry on my knee. It was as well I did, because I soon found myself dosing off and
    drooping over towards the woman. Had she not been there I might easily have fallen
    out as the battered cab had no door. However I was alert enough when daylight came
    and changed places with the woman to our mutual relief. She was now able to converse
    with the African driver and I was able to enjoy the scenery and the fresh air!
    George, John and Jim were less comfortable. They sat in the lorry behind the
    cab hemmed in by packing cases. As the lorry was an open one the sun beat down
    unmercifully upon them until George, ever resourceful, moved a table to the front of the
    truck. The two boys crouched under this and so got shelter from the sun but they still had
    to endure the dust. Fanny complicated things by getting car sick and with one thing and
    another we were all jolly glad to get to Dodoma.

    We spent the night at the Dodoma Hotel and after hot baths, a good meal and a
    good nights rest we cheerfully boarded a bus of the Tanganyika Bus Service next
    morning to continue our journey to Mbeya. The rest of the journey was uneventful. We slept two nights on the road, the first at Iringa Hotel and the second at Chimala. We
    reached Mbeya on the 27th.

    I was rather taken aback when I first saw the little house which has been allocated
    to us. I had become accustomed to the spacious houses we had in Morogoro and
    Lyamungu. However though the house is tiny it is secluded and has a long garden
    sloping down to the road in front and another long strip sloping up behind. The front
    garden is shaded by several large cypress and eucalyptus trees but the garden behind
    the house has no shade and consists mainly of humpy beds planted with hundreds of
    carnations sadly in need of debudding. I believe that the previous Game Ranger’s wife
    cultivated the carnations and, by selling them, raised money for War Funds.
    Like our own first home, this little house is built of sun dried brick. Its original
    owners were Germans. It is now rented to the Government by the Custodian of Enemy
    Property, and George has his office in another ex German house.

    This afternoon we drove to the school to arrange about enrolling John there. The
    school is about four miles out of town. It was built by the German settlers in the late
    1930’s and they were justifiably proud of it. It consists of a great assembly hall and
    classrooms in one block and there are several attractive single storied dormitories. This
    school was taken over by the Government when the Germans were interned on the
    outbreak of war and many improvements have been made to the original buildings. The
    school certainly looks very attractive now with its grassed playing fields and its lawns and
    bright flower beds.

    The Union Jack flies from a tall flagpole in front of the Hall and all traces of the
    schools German origin have been firmly erased. We met the Headmaster, Mr
    Wallington, and his wife and some members of the staff. The school is co-educational
    and caters for children from the age of seven to standard six. The leaving age is elastic
    owing to the fact that many Tanganyika children started school very late because of lack
    of educational facilities in this country.

    The married members of the staff have their own cottages in the grounds. The
    Matrons have quarters attached to the dormitories for which they are responsible. I felt
    most enthusiastic about the school until I discovered that the Headmaster is adamant
    upon one subject. He utterly refuses to take any day pupils at the school. So now our
    poor reserved Johnny will have to adjust himself to boarding school life.
    We have arranged that he will start school on November 5th and I shall be very
    busy trying to assemble his school uniform at short notice. The clothing list is sensible.
    Boys wear khaki shirts and shorts on weekdays with knitted scarlet jerseys when the
    weather is cold. On Sundays they wear grey flannel shorts and blazers with the silver
    and scarlet school tie.

    Mbeya looks dusty, brown and dry after the lush evergreen vegetation of
    Lyamungu, but I prefer this drier climate and there are still mountains to please the eye.
    In fact the lower slopes of Lolesa Mountain rise at the upper end of our garden.

    Eleanor.

    c/o Game Dept. Mbeya. 21st November 1945

    Dearest Family.

    We’re quite settled in now and I have got the little house fixed up to my
    satisfaction. I have engaged a rather uncouth looking houseboy but he is strong and
    capable and now that I am not tied down in the mornings by John’s lessons I am able to
    go out occasionally in the mornings and take Jim and Henry to play with other children.
    They do not show any great enthusiasm but are not shy by nature as John is.
    I have had a good deal of heartache over putting John to boarding school. It
    would have been different had he been used to the company of children outside his
    own family, or if he had even known one child there. However he seems to be adjusting
    himself to the life, though slowly. At least he looks well and tidy and I am quite sure that
    he is well looked after.

    I must confess that when the time came for John to go to school I simply did not
    have the courage to take him and he went alone with George, looking so smart in his
    new uniform – but his little face so bleak. The next day, Sunday, was visiting day but the
    Headmaster suggested that we should give John time to settle down and not visit him
    until Wednesday.

    When we drove up to the school I spied John on the far side of the field walking
    all alone. Instead of running up with glad greetings, as I had expected, he came almost
    reluctently and had little to say. I asked him to show me his dormitory and classroom and
    he did so politely as though I were a stranger. At last he volunteered some information.
    “Mummy,” he said in an awed voice, Do you know on the night I came here they burnt a
    man! They had a big fire and they burnt him.” After a blank moment the penny dropped.
    Of course John had started school and November the fifth but it had never entered my
    head to tell him about that infamous character, Guy Fawkes!

    I asked John’s Matron how he had settled down. “Well”, she said thoughtfully,
    John is very good and has not cried as many of the juniors do when they first come
    here, but he seems to keep to himself all the time.” I went home very discouraged but
    on the Sunday John came running up with another lad of about his own age.” This is my
    friend Marks,” he announced proudly. I could have hugged Marks.

    Mbeya is very different from the small settlement we knew in the early 1930’s.
    Gone are all the colourful characters from the Lupa diggings for the alluvial claims are all
    worked out now, gone also are our old friends the Menzies from the Pub and also most
    of the Government Officials we used to know. Mbeya has lost its character of a frontier
    township and has become almost suburban.

    The social life revolves around two places, the Club and the school. The Club
    which started out as a little two roomed building, has been expanded and the golf
    course improved. There are also tennis courts and a good library considering the size of
    the community. There are frequent parties and dances, though most of the club revenue
    comes from Bar profits. The parties are relatively sober affairs compared with the parties
    of the 1930’s.

    The school provides entertainment of another kind. Both Mr and Mrs Wallington
    are good amateur actors and I am told that they run an Amateur Dramatic Society. Every
    Wednesday afternoon there is a hockey match at the school. Mbeya town versus a
    mixed team of staff and scholars. The match attracts almost the whole European
    population of Mbeya. Some go to play hockey, others to watch, and others to snatch
    the opportunity to visit their children. I shall have to try to arrange a lift to school when
    George is away on safari.

    I have now met most of the local women and gladly renewed an old friendship
    with Sheilagh Waring whom I knew two years ago at Morogoro. Sheilagh and I have
    much in common, the same disregard for the trappings of civilisation, the same sense of
    the ludicrous, and children. She has eight to our six and she has also been cut off by the
    war from two of her children. Sheilagh looks too young and pretty to be the mother of so
    large a family and is, in fact, several years younger than I am. her husband, Donald, is a
    large quiet man who, as far as I can judge takes life seriously.

    Our next door neighbours are the Bank Manager and his wife, a very pleasant
    couple though we seldom meet. I have however had correspondence with the Bank
    Manager. Early on Saturday afternoon their houseboy brought a note. It informed me
    that my son was disturbing his rest by precipitating a heart attack. Was I aware that my
    son was about 30 feet up in a tree and balanced on a twig? I ran out and,sure enough,
    there was Jim, right at the top of the tallest eucalyptus tree. It would be the one with the
    mound of stones at the bottom! You should have heard me fluting in my most
    wheedling voice. “Sweets, Jimmy, come down slowly dear, I’ve some nice sweets for
    you.”

    I’ll bet that little story makes you smile. I remember how often you have told me
    how, as a child, I used to make your hearts turn over because I had no fear of heights
    and how I used to say, “But that is silly, I won’t fall.” I know now only too well, how you
    must have felt.

    Eleanor.

    c/o Game Dept. Mbeya. 14th January 1946

    Dearest Family.

    I hope that by now you have my telegram to say that Kate got home safely
    yesterday. It was wonderful to have her back and what a beautiful child she is! Kate
    seems to have enjoyed the train journey with Miss Craig, in spite of the tears she tells
    me she shed when she said good-bye to you. She also seems to have felt quite at
    home with the Hopleys at Salisbury. She flew from Salisbury in a small Dove aircraft
    and they had a smooth passage though Kate was a little airsick.

    I was so excited about her home coming! This house is so tiny that I had to turn
    out the little store room to make a bedroom for her. With a fresh coat of whitewash and
    pretty sprigged curtains and matching bedspread, borrowed from Sheilagh Waring, the
    tiny room looks most attractive. I had also iced a cake, made ice-cream and jelly and
    bought crackers for the table so that Kate’s home coming tea could be a proper little
    celebration.

    I was pleased with my preparations and then, a few hours before the plane was
    due, my crowned front tooth dropped out, peg and all! When my houseboy wants to
    describe something very tatty, he calls it “Second-hand Kabisa.” Kabisa meaning
    absolutely. That is an apt description of how I looked and felt. I decided to try some
    emergency dentistry. I think you know our nearest dentist is at Dar es Salaam five
    hundred miles away.

    First I carefully dried the tooth and with a match stick covered the peg and base
    with Durofix. I then took the infants rubber bulb enema, sucked up some heat from a
    candle flame and pumped it into the cavity before filling that with Durofix. Then hopefully
    I stuck the tooth in its former position and held it in place for several minutes. No good. I
    sent the houseboy to a shop for Scotine and tried the whole process again. No good
    either.

    When George came home for lunch I appealed to him for advice. He jokingly
    suggested that a maize seed jammed into the space would probably work, but when
    he saw that I really was upset he produced some chewing gum and suggested that I
    should try that . I did and that worked long enough for my first smile anyway.
    George and the three boys went to meet Kate but I remained at home to
    welcome her there. I was afraid that after all this time away Kate might be reluctant to
    rejoin the family but she threw her arms around me and said “Oh Mummy,” We both
    shed a few tears and then we both felt fine.

    How gay Kate is, and what an infectious laugh she has! The boys follow her
    around in admiration. John in fact asked me, “Is Kate a Princess?” When I said
    “Goodness no, Johnny, she’s your sister,” he explained himself by saying, “Well, she
    has such golden hair.” Kate was less complementary. When I tucked her in bed last night
    she said, “Mummy, I didn’t expect my little brothers to be so yellow!” All three boys
    have been taking a course of Atebrin, an anti-malarial drug which tinges skin and eyeballs
    yellow.

    So now our tiny house is bursting at its seams and how good it feels to have one
    more child under our roof. We are booked to sail for England in May and when we return
    we will have Ann and George home too. Then I shall feel really content.

    Eleanor.

    c/o Game Dept. Mbeya. 2nd March 1946

    Dearest Family.

    My life just now is uneventful but very busy. I am sewing hard and knitting fast to
    try to get together some warm clothes for our leave in England. This is not a simple
    matter because woollen materials are in short supply and very expensive, and now that
    we have boarding school fees to pay for both Kate and John we have to budget very
    carefully indeed.

    Kate seems happy at school. She makes friends easily and seems to enjoy
    communal life. John also seems reconciled to school now that Kate is there. He no
    longer feels that he is the only exile in the family. He seems to rub along with the other
    boys of his age and has a couple of close friends. Although Mbeya School is coeducational
    the smaller boys and girls keep strictly apart. It is considered extremely
    cissy to play with girls.

    The local children are allowed to go home on Sundays after church and may bring
    friends home with them for the day. Both John and Kate do this and Sunday is a very
    busy day for me. The children come home in their Sunday best but bring play clothes to
    change into. There is always a scramble to get them to bath and change again in time to
    deliver them to the school by 6 o’clock.

    When George is home we go out to the school for the morning service. This is
    taken by the Headmaster Mr Wallington, and is very enjoyable. There is an excellent
    school choir to lead the singing. The service is the Church of England one, but is
    attended by children of all denominations, except the Roman Catholics. I don’t think that
    more than half the children are British. A large proportion are Greeks, some as old as
    sixteen, and about the same number are Afrikaners. There are Poles and non-Nazi
    Germans, Swiss and a few American children.

    All instruction is through the medium of English and it is amazing how soon all the
    foreign children learn to chatter in English. George has been told that we will return to
    Mbeya after our leave and for that I am very thankful as it means that we will still be living
    near at hand when Jim and Henry start school. Because many of these children have to
    travel many hundreds of miles to come to school, – Mbeya is a two day journey from the
    railhead, – the school year is divided into two instead of the usual three terms. This
    means that many of these children do not see their parents for months at a time. I think
    this is a very sad state of affairs especially for the seven and eight year olds but the
    Matrons assure me , that many children who live on isolated farms and stations are quite
    reluctant to go home because they miss the companionship and the games and
    entertainment that the school offers.

    My only complaint about the life here is that I see far too little of George. He is
    kept extremely busy on this range and is hardly at home except for a few days at the
    months end when he has to be at his office to check up on the pay vouchers and the
    issue of ammunition to the Scouts. George’s Range takes in the whole of the Southern
    Province and the Southern half of the Western Province and extends to the border with
    Northern Rhodesia and right across to Lake Tanganyika. This vast area is patrolled by
    only 40 Game Scouts because the Department is at present badly under staffed, due
    partly to the still acute shortage of rifles, but even more so to the extraordinary reluctance
    which the Government shows to allocate adequate funds for the efficient running of the
    Department.

    The Game Scouts must see that the Game Laws are enforced, protect native
    crops from raiding elephant, hippo and other game animals. Report disease amongst game and deal with stock raiding lions. By constantly going on safari and checking on
    their work, George makes sure the range is run to his satisfaction. Most of the Game
    Scouts are fine fellows but, considering they receive only meagre pay for dangerous
    and exacting work, it is not surprising that occasionally a Scout is tempted into accepting
    a bribe not to report a serious infringement of the Game Laws and there is, of course,
    always the temptation to sell ivory illicitly to unscrupulous Indian and Arab traders.
    Apart from supervising the running of the Range, George has two major jobs.
    One is to supervise the running of the Game Free Area along the Rhodesia –
    Tanganyika border, and the other to hunt down the man-eating lions which for years have
    terrorised the Njombe District killing hundreds of Africans. Yes I know ‘hundreds’ sounds
    fantastic, but this is perfectly true and one day, when the job is done and the official
    report published I shall send it to you to prove it!

    I hate to think of the Game Free Area and so does George. All the game from
    buffalo to tiny duiker has been shot out in a wide belt extending nearly two hundred
    miles along the Northern Rhodesia -Tanganyika border. There are three Europeans in
    widely spaced camps who supervise this slaughter by African Game Guards. This
    horrible measure is considered necessary by the Veterinary Departments of
    Tanganyika, Rhodesia and South Africa, to prevent the cattle disease of Rinderpest
    from spreading South.

    When George is home however, we do relax and have fun. On the Saturday
    before the school term started we took Kate and the boys up to the top fishing camp in
    the Mporoto Mountains for her first attempt at trout fishing. There are three of these
    camps built by the Mbeya Trout Association on the rivers which were first stocked with
    the trout hatched on our farm at Mchewe. Of the three, the top camp is our favourite. The
    scenery there is most glorious and reminds me strongly of the rivers of the Western
    Cape which I so loved in my childhood.

    The river, the Kawira, flows from the Rungwe Mountain through a narrow valley
    with hills rising steeply on either side. The water runs swiftly over smooth stones and
    sometimes only a foot or two below the level of the banks. It is sparkling and shallow,
    but in places the water is deep and dark and the banks high. I had a busy day keeping
    an eye on the boys, especially Jim, who twice climbed out on branches which overhung
    deep water. “Mummy, I was only looking for trout!”

    How those kids enjoyed the freedom of the camp after the comparative
    restrictions of town. So did Fanny, she raced about on the hills like a mad dog chasing
    imaginary rabbits and having the time of her life. To escape the noise and commotion
    George had gone far upstream to fish and returned in the late afternoon with three good
    sized trout and four smaller ones. Kate proudly showed George the two she had caught
    with the assistance or our cook Hamisi. I fear they were caught in a rather unorthodox
    manner but this I kept a secret from George who is a stickler for the orthodox in trout
    fishing.

    Eleanor.

    Jacksdale England 24th June 1946

    Dearest Family.

    Here we are all together at last in England. You cannot imagine how wonderful it
    feels to have the whole Rushby family reunited. I find myself counting heads. Ann,
    George, Kate, John, Jim, and Henry. All present and well. We had a very pleasant trip
    on the old British India Ship Mantola. She was crowded with East Africans going home
    for the first time since the war, many like us, eagerly looking forward to a reunion with their
    children whom they had not seen for years. There was a great air of anticipation and
    good humour but a little anxiety too.

    “I do hope our children will be glad to see us,” said one, and went on to tell me
    about a Doctor from Dar es Salaam who, after years of separation from his son had
    recently gone to visit him at his school. The Doctor had alighted at the railway station
    where he had arranged to meet his son. A tall youth approached him and said, very
    politely, “Excuse me sir. Are you my Father?” Others told me of children who had
    become so attached to their relatives in England that they gave their parents a very cool
    reception. I began to feel apprehensive about Ann and George but fortunately had no
    time to mope.

    Oh, that washing and ironing for six! I shall remember for ever that steamy little
    laundry in the heat of the Red Sea and queuing up for the ironing and the feeling of guilt
    at the size of my bundle. We met many old friends amongst the passengers, and made
    some new ones, so the voyage was a pleasant one, We did however have our
    anxious moments.

    John was the first to disappear and we had an anxious search for him. He was
    quite surprised that we had been concerned. “I was just talking to my friend Chinky
    Chinaman in his workshop.” Could John have called him that? Then, when I returned to
    the cabin from dinner one night I found Henry swigging Owbridge’s Lung Tonic. He had
    drunk half the bottle neat and the label said ‘five drops in water’. Luckily it did not harm
    him.

    Jim of course was forever risking his neck. George had forbidden him to climb on
    the railings but he was forever doing things which no one had thought of forbidding him
    to do, like hanging from the overhead pipes on the deck or standing on the sill of a
    window and looking down at the well deck far below. An Officer found him doing this and
    gave me the scolding.

    Another day he climbed up on a derrick used for hoisting cargo. George,
    oblivious to this was sitting on the hatch cover with other passengers reading a book. I
    was in the wash house aft on the same deck when Kate rushed in and said, “Mummy
    come and see Jim.” Before I had time to more than gape, the butcher noticed Jim and
    rushed out knife in hand. “Get down from there”, he bellowed. Jim got, and with such
    speed that he caught the leg or his shorts on a projecting piece of metal. The cotton
    ripped across the seam from leg to leg and Jim stood there for a humiliating moment in a
    sort of revealing little kilt enduring the smiles of the passengers who had looked up from
    their books at the butcher’s shout.

    That incident cured Jim of his urge to climb on the ship but he managed to give
    us one more fright. He was lost off Dover. People from whom we enquired said, “Yes
    we saw your little boy. He was by the railings watching that big aircraft carrier.” Now Jim,
    though mischievous , is very obedient. It was not until George and I had conducted an
    exhaustive search above and below decks that I really became anxious. Could he have
    fallen overboard? Jim was returned to us by an unamused Officer. He had been found
    in one of the lifeboats on the deck forbidden to children.

    Our ship passed Dover after dark and it was an unforgettable sight. Dover Castle
    and the cliffs were floodlit for the Victory Celebrations. One of the men passengers sat
    down at the piano and played ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’, and people sang and a few
    wept. The Mantola docked at Tilbury early next morning in a steady drizzle.
    There was a dockers strike on and it took literally hours for all the luggage to be
    put ashore. The ships stewards simply locked the public rooms and went off leaving the
    passengers shivering on the docks. Eventually damp and bedraggled, we arrived at St
    Pancras Station and were given a warm welcome by George’s sister Cath and her
    husband Reg Pears, who had come all the way from Nottingham to meet us.
    As we had to spend an hour in London before our train left for Nottingham,
    George suggested that Cath and I should take the children somewhere for a meal. So
    off we set in the cold drizzle, the boys and I without coats and laden with sundry
    packages, including a hand woven native basket full of shoes. We must have looked like
    a bunch of refugees as we stood in the hall of The Kings Cross Station Hotel because a
    supercilious waiter in tails looked us up and down and said, “I’m afraid not Madam”, in
    answer to my enquiry whether the hotel could provide lunch for six.
    Anyway who cares! We had lunch instead at an ABC tea room — horrible
    sausage and a mound or rather sloppy mashed potatoes, but very good ice-cream.
    After the train journey in a very grimy third class coach, through an incredibly green and
    beautiful countryside, we eventually reached Nottingham and took a bus to Jacksdale,
    where George’s mother and sisters live in large detached houses side by side.
    Ann and George were at the bus stop waiting for us, and thank God, submitted
    to my kiss as though we had been parted for weeks instead of eight years. Even now
    that we are together again my heart aches to think of all those missed years. They have
    not changed much and I would have picked them out of a crowd, but Ann, once thin and
    pale, is now very rosy and blooming. She still has her pretty soft plaits and her eyes are
    still a clear calm blue. Young George is very striking looking with sparkling brown eyes, a
    ready, slightly lopsided smile, and charming manners.

    Mother, and George’s elder sister, Lottie Giles, welcomed us at the door with the
    cheering news that our tea was ready. Ann showed us the way to mother’s lovely lilac
    tiled bathroom for a wash before tea. Before I had even turned the tap, Jim had hung
    form the glass towel rail and it lay in three pieces on the floor. There have since been
    similar tragedies. I can see that life in civilisation is not without snags.

    I am most grateful that Ann and George have accepted us so naturally and
    affectionately. Ann said candidly, “Mummy, it’s a good thing that you had Aunt Cath with
    you when you arrived because, honestly, I wouldn’t have known you.”

    Eleanor.

    Jacksdale England 28th August 1946

    Dearest Family.

    I am sorry that I have not written for some time but honestly, I don’t know whether
    I’m coming or going. Mother handed the top floor of her house to us and the
    arrangement was that I should tidy our rooms and do our laundry and Mother would
    prepare the meals except for breakfast. It looked easy at first. All the rooms have wall to
    wall carpeting and there was a large vacuum cleaner in the box room. I was told a
    window cleaner would do the windows.

    Well the first time I used the Hoover I nearly died of fright. I pressed the switch
    and immediately there was a roar and the bag filled with air to bursting point, or so I
    thought. I screamed for Ann and she came at the run. I pointed to the bag and shouted
    above the din, “What must I do? It’s going to burst!” Ann looked at me in astonishment
    and said, “But Mummy that’s the way it works.” I couldn’t have her thinking me a
    complete fool so I switched the current off and explained to Ann how it was that I had
    never seen this type of equipment in action. How, in Tanganyika , I had never had a
    house with electricity and that, anyway, electric equipment would be superfluous
    because floors are of cement which the houseboy polishes by hand, one only has a
    few rugs or grass mats on the floor. “But what about Granny’s house in South Africa?’”
    she asked, so I explained about your Josephine who threatened to leave if you
    bought a Hoover because that would mean that you did not think she kept the house
    clean. The sad fact remains that, at fourteen, Ann knows far more about housework than I
    do, or rather did! I’m learning fast.

    The older children all go to school at different times in the morning. Ann leaves first
    by bus to go to her Grammar School at Sutton-in-Ashfield. Shortly afterwards George
    catches a bus for Nottingham where he attends the High School. So they have
    breakfast in relays, usually scrambled egg made from a revolting dried egg mixture.
    Then there are beds to make and washing and ironing to do, so I have little time for
    sightseeing, though on a few afternoons George has looked after the younger children
    and I have gone on bus tours in Derbyshire. Life is difficult here with all the restrictions on
    foodstuffs. We all have ration books so get our fair share but meat, fats and eggs are
    scarce and expensive. The weather is very wet. At first I used to hang out the washing
    and then rush to bring it in when a shower came. Now I just let it hang.

    We have left our imprint upon my Mother-in-law’s house for ever. Henry upset a
    bottle of Milk of Magnesia in the middle of the pale fawn bedroom carpet. John, trying to
    be helpful and doing some dusting, broke one of the delicate Dresden china candlesticks
    which adorn our bedroom mantelpiece.Jim and Henry have wrecked the once
    professionally landscaped garden and all the boys together bored a large hole through
    Mother’s prized cherry tree. So now Mother has given up and gone off to Bournemouth
    for a much needed holiday. Once a week I have the capable help of a cleaning woman,
    called for some reason, ‘Mrs Two’, but I have now got all the cooking to do for eight. Mrs
    Two is a godsend. She wears, of all things, a print mob cap with a hole in it. Says it
    belonged to her Grandmother. Her price is far beyond Rubies to me, not so much
    because she does, in a couple of hours, what it takes me all day to do, but because she
    sells me boxes of fifty cigarettes. Some non-smoking relative, who works in Players
    tobacco factory, passes on his ration to her. Until Mrs Two came to my rescue I had
    been starved of cigarettes. Each time I asked for them at the shop the grocer would say,
    “Are you registered with us?” Only very rarely would some kindly soul sell me a little
    packet of five Woodbines.

    England is very beautiful but the sooner we go home to Tanganyika, the better.
    On this, George and I and the children agree.

    Eleanor.

    Jacksdale England 20th September 1946

    Dearest Family.

    Our return passages have now been booked on the Winchester Castle and we
    sail from Southampton on October the sixth. I look forward to returning to Tanganyika but
    hope to visit England again in a few years time when our children are older and when
    rationing is a thing of the past.

    I have grown fond of my Sisters-in-law and admire my Mother-in-law very much.
    She has a great sense of humour and has entertained me with stories of her very
    eventful life, and told me lots of little stories of the children which did not figure in her
    letters. One which amused me was about young George. During one of the air raids
    early in the war when the sirens were screaming and bombers roaring overhead Mother
    made the two children get into the cloak cupboard under the stairs. Young George
    seemed quite unconcerned about the planes and the bombs but soon an anxious voice
    asked in the dark, “Gran, what will I do if a spider falls on me?” I am afraid that Mother is
    going to miss Ann and George very much.

    I had a holiday last weekend when Lottie and I went up to London on a spree. It
    was a most enjoyable weekend, though very rushed. We placed ourselves in the
    hands of Thos. Cook and Sons and saw most of the sights of London and were run off
    our feet in the process. As you all know London I shall not describe what I saw but just
    to say that, best of all, I enjoyed walking along the Thames embankment in the evening
    and the changing of the Guard at Whitehall. On Sunday morning Lottie and I went to
    Kew Gardens and in the afternoon walked in Kensington Gardens.

    We went to only one show, ‘The Skin of our Teeth’ starring Vivienne Leigh.
    Neither of us enjoyed the performance at all and regretted having spent so much on
    circle seats. The show was far too highbrow for my taste, a sort of satire on the survival
    of the human race. Miss Leigh was unrecognisable in a blond wig and her voice strident.
    However the night was not a dead loss as far as entertainment was concerned as we
    were later caught up in a tragicomedy at our hotel.

    We had booked communicating rooms at the enormous Imperial Hotel in Russell
    Square. These rooms were comfortably furnished but very high up, and we had a rather
    terrifying and dreary view from the windows of the enclosed courtyard far below. We
    had some snacks and a chat in Lottie’s room and then I moved to mine and went to bed.
    I had noted earlier that there was a special lock on the outer door of my room so that
    when the door was closed from the inside it automatically locked itself.
    I was just dropping off to sleep when I heard a hammering which seemed to
    come from my wardrobe. I got up, rather fearfully, and opened the wardrobe door and
    noted for the first time that the wardrobe was set in an opening in the wall and that the
    back of the wardrobe also served as the back of the wardrobe in the room next door. I
    quickly shut it again and went to confer with Lottie.

    Suddenly a male voice was raised next door in supplication, “Mary Mother of
    God, Help me! They’ve locked me in!” and the hammering resumed again, sometimes
    on the door, and then again on the back of the wardrobe of the room next door. Lottie
    had by this time joined me and together we listened to the prayers and to the
    hammering. Then the voice began to threaten, “If you don’t let me out I’ll jump out of the
    window.” Great consternation on our side of the wall. I went out into the passage and
    called through the door, “You’re not locked in. Come to your door and I’ll tell you how to
    open it.” Silence for a moment and then again the prayers followed by a threat. All the
    other doors in the corridor remained shut.

    Luckily just then a young man and a woman came walking down the corridor and I
    explained the situation. The young man hurried off for the night porter who went into the
    next door room. In a matter of minutes there was peace next door. When the night
    porter came out into the corridor again I asked for an explanation. He said quite casually,
    “It’s all right Madam. He’s an Irish Gentleman in Show Business. He gets like this on a
    Saturday night when he has had a drop too much. He won’t give any more trouble
    now.” And he didn’t. Next morning at breakfast Lottie and I tried to spot the gentleman in
    the Show Business, but saw no one who looked like the owner of that charming Irish
    voice.

    George had to go to London on business last Monday and took the older
    children with him for a few hours of sight seeing. They returned quite unimpressed.
    Everything was too old and dirty and there were far too many people about, but they
    had enjoyed riding on the escalators at the tube stations, and all agreed that the highlight
    of the trip was, “Dad took us to lunch at the Chicken Inn.”

    Now that it is almost time to leave England I am finding the housework less of a
    drudgery, Also, as it is school holiday time, Jim and Henry are able to go on walks with
    the older children and so use up some of their surplus energy. Cath and I took the
    children (except young George who went rabbit shooting with his uncle Reg, and
    Henry, who stayed at home with his dad) to the Wakes at Selston, the neighbouring
    village. There were the roundabouts and similar contraptions but the side shows had
    more appeal for the children. Ann and Kate found a stall where assorted prizes were
    spread out on a sloping table. Anyone who could land a penny squarely on one of
    these objects was given a similar one as a prize.

    I was touched to see that both girls ignored all the targets except a box of fifty
    cigarettes which they were determined to win for me. After numerous attempts, Kate
    landed her penny successfully and you would have loved to have seen her radiant little
    face.

    Eleanor.

    Dar es Salaam 22nd October 1946

    Dearest Family.

    Back in Tanganyika at last, but not together. We have to stay in Dar es Salaam
    until tomorrow when the train leaves for Dodoma. We arrived yesterday morning to find
    all the hotels filled with people waiting to board ships for England. Fortunately some
    friends came to the rescue and Ann, Kate and John have gone to stay with them. Jim,
    Henry and I are sleeping in a screened corner of the lounge of the New Africa Hotel, and
    George and young George have beds in the Palm Court of the same hotel.

    We travelled out from England in the Winchester Castle under troopship
    conditions. We joined her at Southampton after a rather slow train journey from
    Nottingham. We arrived after dark and from the station we could see a large ship in the
    docks with a floodlit red funnel. “Our ship,” yelled the children in delight, but it was not the
    Winchester Castle but the Queen Elizabeth, newly reconditioned.

    We had hoped to board our ship that evening but George made enquiries and
    found that we would not be allowed on board until noon next day. Without much hope,
    we went off to try to get accommodation for eight at a small hotel recommended by the
    taxi driver. Luckily for us there was a very motherly woman at the reception desk. She
    looked in amusement at the six children and said to me, “Goodness are all these yours,
    ducks? Then she called over her shoulder, “Wilf, come and see this lady with lots of
    children. We must try to help.” They settled the problem most satisfactorily by turning
    two rooms into a dormitory.

    In the morning we had time to inspect bomb damage in the dock area of
    Southampton. Most of the rubble had been cleared away but there are still numbers of
    damaged buildings awaiting demolition. A depressing sight. We saw the Queen Mary
    at anchor, still in her drab war time paint, but magnificent nevertheless.
    The Winchester Castle was crammed with passengers and many travelled in
    acute discomfort. We were luckier than most because the two girls, the three small boys
    and I had a stateroom to ourselves and though it was stripped of peacetime comforts,
    we had a private bathroom and toilet. The two Georges had bunks in a huge men-only
    dormitory somewhere in the bowls of the ship where they had to share communal troop
    ship facilities. The food was plentiful but unexciting and one had to queue for afternoon
    tea. During the day the decks were crowded and there was squatting room only. The
    many children on board got bored.

    Port Said provided a break and we were all entertained by the ‘Gully Gully’ man
    and his conjuring tricks, and though we had no money to spend at Simon Artz, we did at
    least have a chance to stretch our legs. Next day scores of passengers took ill with
    sever stomach upsets, whether from food poisoning, or as was rumoured, from bad
    water taken on at the Egyptian port, I don’t know. Only the two Georges in our family
    were affected and their attacks were comparatively mild.

    As we neared the Kenya port of Mombassa, the passengers for Dar es Salaam
    were told that they would have to disembark at Mombassa and continue their journey in
    a small coaster, the Al Said. The Winchester Castle is too big for the narrow channel
    which leads to Dar es Salaam harbour.

    From the wharf the Al Said looked beautiful. She was once the private yacht of
    the Sultan of Zanzibar and has lovely lines. Our admiration lasted only until we were
    shown our cabins. With one voice our children exclaimed, “Gosh they stink!” They did, of
    a mixture of rancid oil and sweat and stale urine. The beds were not yet made and the
    thin mattresses had ominous stains on them. John, ever fastidious, lifted his mattress and two enormous cockroaches scuttled for cover.

    We had a good homely lunch served by two smiling African stewards and
    afterwards we sat on deck and that was fine too, though behind ones enjoyment there
    was the thought of those stuffy and dirty cabins. That first night nearly everyone,
    including George and our older children, slept on deck. Women occupied deck chairs
    and men and children slept on the bare decks. Horrifying though the idea was, I decided
    that, as Jim had a bad cough, he, Henry and I would sleep in our cabin.

    When I announced my intention of sleeping in the cabin one of the passengers
    gave me some insecticide spray which I used lavishly, but without avail. The children
    slept but I sat up all night with the light on, determined to keep at least their pillows clear
    of the cockroaches which scurried about boldly regardless of the light. All the next day
    and night we avoided the cabins. The Al Said stopped for some hours at Zanzibar to
    offload her deck cargo of live cattle and packing cases from the hold. George and the
    elder children went ashore for a walk but I felt too lazy and there was plenty to watch
    from deck.

    That night I too occupied a deck chair and slept quite comfortably, and next
    morning we entered the palm fringed harbour of Dar es Salaam and were home.

    Eleanor.

    Mbeya 1st November 1946

    Dearest Family.

    Home at last! We are all most happily installed in a real family house about three
    miles out of Mbeya and near the school. This house belongs to an elderly German and
    has been taken over by the Custodian of Enemy Property and leased to the
    Government.

    The owner, whose name is Shenkel, was not interned but is allowed to occupy a
    smaller house on the Estate. I found him in the garden this morning lecturing the children
    on what they may do and may not do. I tried to make it quite clear to him that he was not
    our landlord, though he clearly thinks otherwise. After he had gone I had to take two
    aspirin and lie down to recover my composure! I had been warned that he has this effect
    on people.

    Mr Shenkel is a short and ugly man, his clothes are stained with food and he
    wears steel rimmed glasses tied round his head with a piece of dirty elastic because
    one earpiece is missing. He speaks with a thick German accent but his English is fluent
    and I believe he is a cultured and clever man. But he is maddening. The children were
    more amused than impressed by his exhortations and have happily Christened our
    home, ‘Old Shenks’.

    The house has very large grounds as the place is really a derelict farm. It suits us
    down to the ground. We had no sooner unpacked than George went off on safari after
    those maneating lions in the Njombe District. he accounted for one, and a further two
    jointly with a Game Scout, before we left for England. But none was shot during the five
    months we were away as George’s relief is quite inexperienced in such work. George
    thinks that there are still about a dozen maneaters at large. His theory is that a female
    maneater moved into the area in 1938 when maneating first started, and brought up her
    cubs to be maneaters, and those cubs in turn did the same. The three maneating lions
    that have been shot were all in very good condition and not old and maimed as
    maneaters usually are.

    George anticipates that it will be months before all these lions are accounted for
    because they are constantly on the move and cover a very large area. The lions have to
    be hunted on foot because they range over broken country covered by bush and fairly
    dense thicket.

    I did a bit of shooting myself yesterday and impressed our African servants and
    the children and myself. What a fluke! Our houseboy came to say that there was a snake
    in the garden, the biggest he had ever seen. He said it was too big to kill with a stick and
    would I shoot it. I had no gun but a heavy .450 Webley revolver and I took this and
    hurried out with the children at my heels.

    The snake turned out to be an unusually large puff adder which had just shed its
    skin. It looked beautiful in a repulsive way. So flanked by servants and children I took
    aim and shot, not hitting the head as I had planned, but breaking the snake’s back with
    the heavy bullet. The two native boys then rushed up with sticks and flattened the head.
    “Ma you’re a crack shot,” cried the kids in delighted surprise. I hope to rest on my laurels
    for a long, long while.

    Although there are only a few weeks of school term left the four older children will
    start school on Monday. Not only am I pleased with our new home here but also with
    the staff I have engaged. Our new houseboy, Reuben, (but renamed Robin by our
    children) is not only cheerful and willing but intelligent too, and Jumbe, the wood and
    garden boy, is a born clown and a source of great entertainment to the children.

    I feel sure that we are all going to be very happy here at ‘Old Shenks!.

    Eleanor.

    #6265
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    From Tanganyika with Love

    continued  ~ part 6

    With thanks to Mike Rushby.

    Mchewe 6th June 1937

    Dearest Family,

    Home again! We had an uneventful journey. Kate was as good as gold all the
    way. We stopped for an hour at Bulawayo where we had to change trains but
    everything was simplified for me by a very pleasant man whose wife shared my
    compartment. Not only did he see me through customs but he installed us in our new
    train and his wife turned up to see us off with magazines for me and fruit and sweets for
    Kate. Very, very kind, don’t you think?

    Kate and I shared the compartment with a very pretty and gentle girl called
    Clarice Simpson. She was very worried and upset because she was going home to
    Broken Hill in response to a telegram informing her that her young husband was
    dangerously ill from Blackwater Fever. She was very helpful with Kate whose
    cheerfulness helped Clarice, I think, though I, quite unintentionally was the biggest help
    at the end of our journey. Remember the partial dentures I had had made just before
    leaving Cape Town? I know I shall never get used to the ghastly things, I’ve had them
    two weeks now and they still wobble. Well this day I took them out and wrapped them
    in a handkerchief, but when we were packing up to leave the train I could find the
    handkerchief but no teeth! We searched high and low until the train had slowed down to
    enter Broken Hill station. Then Clarice, lying flat on the floor, spied the teeth in the dark
    corner under the bottom bunk. With much stretching she managed to retrieve the
    dentures covered in grime and fluff. My look of horror, when I saw them, made young
    Clarice laugh. She was met at the station by a very grave elderly couple. I do wonder
    how things turned out for her.

    I stayed overnight with Kate at the Great Northern Hotel, and we set off for
    Mbeya by plane early in the morning. One of our fellow passengers was a young
    mother with a three week old baby. How ideas have changed since Ann was born. This
    time we had a smooth passage and I was the only passenger to get airsick. Although
    there were other women passengers it was a man once again, who came up and
    offered to help. Kate went off with him amiably and he entertained her until we touched
    down at Mbeya.

    George was there to meet us with a wonderful surprise, a little red two seater
    Ford car. She is a bit battered and looks a bit odd because the boot has been
    converted into a large wooden box for carrying raw salt, but she goes like the wind.
    Where did George raise the cash to buy a car? Whilst we were away he found a small
    cave full of bat guano near a large cave which is worked by a man called Bob Sargent.
    As Sargent did not want any competition he bought the contents of the cave from
    George giving him the small car as part payment.

    It was lovely to return to our little home and find everything fresh and tidy and the
    garden full of colour. But it was heartbreaking to go into the bedroom and see George’s
    precious forgotten boots still standing by his empty bed.

    With much love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe 25th June 1937

    Dearest Family,

    Last Friday George took Kate and me in the little red Ford to visit Mr Sargent’s
    camp on the Songwe River which cuts the Mbeya-Mbosi road. Mr Sargent bought
    Hicky-Wood’s guano deposit and also our small cave and is making a good living out of
    selling the bat guano to the coffee farmers in this province. George went to try to interest
    him in a guano deposit near Kilwa in the Southern Province. Mr Sargent agreed to pay
    25 pounds to cover the cost of the car trip and pegging costs. George will make the trip
    to peg the claim and take samples for analysis. If the quality is sufficiently high, George
    and Mr Sargent will go into partnership. George will work the claim and ship out the
    guano from Kilwa which is on the coast of the Southern Province of Tanganyika. So now
    we are busy building castles in the air once more.

    On Saturday we went to Mbeya where George had to attend a meeting of the
    Trout Association. In the afternoon he played in a cricket match so Kate and I spent the
    whole day with the wife of the new Superintendent of Police. They have a very nice
    new house with lawns and a sunken rose garden. Kate had a lovely romp with Kit, her
    three year old son.

    Mrs Wolten also has two daughters by a previous marriage. The elder girl said to
    me, “Oh Mrs Rushby your husband is exactly like the strong silent type of man I
    expected to see in Africa but he is the only one I have seen. I think he looks exactly like
    those men in the ‘Barney’s Tobacco’ advertisements.”

    I went home with a huge pile of magazines to keep me entertained whilst
    George is away on the Kilwa trip.

    Lots of love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe 9th July 1937

    Dearest Family,

    George returned on Monday from his Kilwa safari. He had an entertaining
    tale to tell.

    Before he approached Mr Sargent about going shares in the Kilwa guano
    deposit he first approached a man on the Lupa who had done very well out of a small
    gold reef. This man, however said he was not interested so you can imagine how
    indignant George was when he started on his long trip, to find himself being trailed by
    this very man and a co-driver in a powerful Ford V8 truck. George stopped his car and
    had some heated things to say – awful threats I imagine as to what would happen to
    anyone who staked his claim. Then he climbed back into our ancient little two seater and
    went off like a bullet driving all day and most of the night. As the others took turns in
    driving you can imagine what a feat it was for George to arrive in Kilwa ahead of them.
    When they drove into Kilwa he met them with a bright smile and a bit of bluff –
    quite justifiable under the circumstances I think. He said, you chaps can have a rest now,
    you’re too late.” He then whipped off and pegged the claim. he brought some samples
    of guano back but until it has been analysed he will not know whether the guano will be
    an economic proposition or not. George is not very hopeful. He says there is a good
    deal of sand mixed with the guano and that much of it was damp.

    The trip was pretty eventful for Kianda, our houseboy. The little two seater car
    had been used by its previous owner for carting bags of course salt from his salt pans.
    For this purpose the dicky seat behind the cab had been removed, and a kind of box
    built into the boot of the car. George’s camp kit and provisions were packed into this
    open box and Kianda perched on top to keep an eye on the belongings. George
    travelled so fast on the rough road that at some point during the night Kianda was
    bumped off in the middle of the Game Reserve. George did not notice that he was
    missing until the next morning. He concluded, quite rightly as it happened, that Kianda
    would be picked up by the rival truck so he continued his journey and Kianda rejoined
    him at Kilwa.

    Believe it or not, the same thing happened on the way back but fortunately this
    time George noticed his absence. He stopped the car and had just started back on his
    tracks when Kianda came running down the road still clutching the unlighted storm lamp
    which he was holding in his hand when he fell. The glass was not even cracked.
    We are finding it difficult just now to buy native chickens and eggs. There has
    been an epidemic amongst the poultry and one hesitates to eat the survivors. I have a
    brine tub in which I preserve our surplus meat but I need the chickens for soup.
    I hope George will be home for some months. He has arranged to take a Mr
    Blackburn, a wealthy fruit farmer from Elgin, Cape, on a hunting safari during September
    and October and that should bring in some much needed cash. Lillian Eustace has
    invited Kate and me to spend the whole of October with her in Tukuyu.
    I am so glad that you so much enjoy having Ann and George with you. We miss
    them dreadfully. Kate is a pretty little girl and such a little madam. You should hear the
    imperious way in which she calls the kitchenboy for her meals. “Boy Brekkis, Boy Lunch,
    and Boy Eggy!” are her three calls for the day. She knows no Ki-Swahili.

    Eleanor

    Mchewe 8th October 1937

    Dearest Family,

    I am rapidly becoming as superstitious as our African boys. They say the wild
    animals always know when George is away from home and come down to have their
    revenge on me because he has killed so many.

    I am being besieged at night by a most beastly leopard with a half grown cub. I
    have grown used to hearing leopards grunt as they hunt in the hills at night but never
    before have I had one roaming around literally under the windows. It has been so hot at
    night lately that I have been sleeping with my bedroom door open onto the verandah. I
    felt quite safe because the natives hereabouts are law-abiding and in any case I always
    have a boy armed with a club sleeping in the kitchen just ten yards away. As an added
    precaution I also have a loaded .45 calibre revolver on my bedside table, and Fanny
    our bullterrier, sleeps on the mat by my bed. I am also looking after Barney, a fine
    Airedale dog belonging to the Costers. He slept on a mat by the open bedroom door
    near a dimly burning storm lamp.

    As usual I went to sleep with an easy mind on Monday night, but was awakened
    in the early hours of Tuesday by the sound of a scuffle on the front verandah. The noise
    was followed by a scream of pain from Barney. I jumped out of bed and, grabbing the
    lamp with my left hand and the revolver in my right, I rushed outside just in time to see
    two animal figures roll over the edge of the verandah into the garden below. There they
    engaged in a terrific tug of war. Fortunately I was too concerned for Barney to be
    nervous. I quickly fired two shots from the revolver, which incidentally makes a noise like
    a cannon, and I must have startled the leopard for both animals, still locked together,
    disappeared over the edge of the terrace. I fired two more shots and in a few moments
    heard the leopard making a hurried exit through the dry leaves which lie thick under the
    wild fig tree just beyond the terrace. A few seconds later Barney appeared on the low
    terrace wall. I called his name but he made no move to come but stood with hanging
    head. In desperation I rushed out, felt blood on my hands when I touched him, so I
    picked him up bodily and carried him into the house. As I regained the verandah the boy
    appeared, club in hand, having been roused by the shots. He quickly grasped what had
    happened when he saw my blood saturated nightie. He fetched a bowl of water and a
    clean towel whilst I examined Barney’s wounds. These were severe, the worst being a
    gaping wound in his throat. I washed the gashes with a strong solution of pot permang
    and I am glad to say they are healing remarkably well though they are bound to leave
    scars. Fanny, very prudently, had taken no part in the fighting except for frenzied barking
    which she kept up all night. The shots had of course wakened Kate but she seemed
    more interested than alarmed and kept saying “Fanny bark bark, Mummy bang bang.
    Poor Barney lots of blood.”

    In the morning we inspected the tracks in the garden. There was a shallow furrow
    on the terrace where Barney and the leopard had dragged each other to and fro and
    claw marks on the trunk of the wild fig tree into which the leopard climbed after I fired the
    shots. The affair was of course a drama after the Africans’ hearts and several of our
    shamba boys called to see me next day to make sympathetic noises and discuss the
    affair.

    I went to bed early that night hoping that the leopard had been scared off for
    good but I must confess I shut all windows and doors. Alas for my hopes of a restful
    night. I had hardly turned down the lamp when the leopard started its terrifying grunting
    just under the bedroom windows. If only she would sniff around quietly I should not
    mind, but the noise is ghastly, something like the first sickening notes of a braying
    donkey, amplified here by the hills and the gorge which is only a stones throw from the
    bedroom. Barney was too sick to bark but Fanny barked loud enough for two and the more
    frantic she became the hungrier the leopard sounded. Kate of course woke up and this
    time she was frightened though I assured her that the noise was just a donkey having
    fun. Neither of us slept until dawn when the leopard returned to the hills. When we
    examined the tracks next morning we found that the leopard had been accompanied by
    a fair sized cub and that together they had prowled around the house, kitchen, and out
    houses, visiting especially the places to which the dogs had been during the day.
    As I feel I cannot bear many more of these nights, I am sending a note to the
    District Commissioner, Mbeya by the messenger who takes this letter to the post,
    asking him to send a game scout or an armed policeman to deal with the leopard.
    So don’t worry, for by the time this reaches you I feel sure this particular trouble
    will be over.

    Eleanor.

    Mchewe 17th October 1937

    Dearest Family,

    More about the leopard I fear! My messenger returned from Mbeya to say that
    the District Officer was on safari so he had given the message to the Assistant District
    Officer who also apparently left on safari later without bothering to reply to my note, so
    there was nothing for me to do but to send for the village Nimrod and his muzzle loader
    and offer him a reward if he could frighten away or kill the leopard.

    The hunter, Laza, suggested that he should sleep at the house so I went to bed
    early leaving Laza and his two pals to make themselves comfortable on the living room
    floor by the fire. Laza was armed with a formidable looking muzzle loader, crammed I
    imagine with nuts and bolts and old rusty nails. One of his pals had a spear and the other
    a panga. This fellow was also in charge of the Petromax pressure lamp whose light was
    hidden under a packing case. I left the campaign entirely to Laza’s direction.
    As usual the leopard came at midnight stealing down from the direction of the
    kitchen and announcing its presence and position with its usual ghastly grunts. Suddenly
    pandemonium broke loose on the back verandah. I heard the roar of the muzzle loader
    followed by a vigourous tattoo beaten on an empty paraffin tin and I rushed out hoping
    to find the dead leopard. however nothing of the kind had happened except that the
    noise must have scared the beast because she did not return again that night. Next
    morning Laza solemnly informed me that, though he had shot many leopards in his day,
    this was no ordinary leopard but a “sheitani” (devil) and that as his gun was no good
    against witchcraft he thought he might as well retire from the hunt. Scared I bet, and I
    don’t blame him either.

    You can imagine my relief when a car rolled up that afternoon bringing Messers
    Stewart and Griffiths, two farmers who live about 15 miles away, between here and
    Mbeya. They had a note from the Assistant District Officer asking them to help me and
    they had come to set up a trap gun in the garden. That night the leopard sniffed all
    around the gun and I had the added strain of waiting for the bang and wondering what I
    should do if the beast were only wounded. I conjured up horrible visions of the two little
    totos trotting up the garden path with the early morning milk and being horribly mauled,
    but I needn’t have worried because the leopard was far too wily to be caught that way.
    Two more ghastly nights passed and then I had another visitor, a Dr Jackson of
    the Tsetse Department on safari in the District. He listened sympathetically to my story
    and left his shotgun and some SSG cartridges with me and instructed me to wait until the
    leopard was pretty close and blow its b—– head off. It was good of him to leave his
    gun. George always says there are three things a man should never lend, ‘His wife, his
    gun and his dog.’ (I think in that order!)I felt quite cheered by Dr Jackson’s visit and sent
    once again for Laza last night and arranged a real show down. In the afternoon I draped
    heavy blankets over the living room windows to shut out the light of the pressure lamp
    and the four of us, Laza and his two stooges and I waited up for the leopard. When we
    guessed by her grunts that she was somewhere between the kitchen and the back door
    we all rushed out, first the boy with the panga and the lamp, next Laza with his muzzle
    loader, then me with the shotgun followed closely by the boy with the spear. What a
    farce! The lamp was our undoing. We were blinded by the light and did not even
    glimpse the leopard which made off with a derisive grunt. Laza said smugly that he knew
    it was hopeless to try and now I feel tired and discouraged too.

    This morning I sent a runner to Mbeya to order the hotel taxi for tomorrow and I
    shall go to friends in Mbeya for a day or two and then on to Tukuyu where I shall stay
    with the Eustaces until George returns from Safari.

    Eleanor.

    Mchewe 18th November 1937

    My darling Ann,

    Here we are back in our own home and how lovely it is to have Daddy back from
    safari. Thank you very much for your letter. I hope by now you have got mine telling you
    how very much I liked the beautiful tray cloth you made for my birthday. I bet there are
    not many little girls of five who can embroider as well as you do, darling. The boy,
    Matafari, washes and irons it so carefully and it looks lovely on the tea tray.

    Daddy and I had some fun last night. I was in bed and Daddy was undressing
    when we heard a funny scratching noise on the roof. I thought it was the leopard. Daddy
    quickly loaded his shotgun and ran outside. He had only his shirt on and he looked so
    funny. I grabbed the loaded revolver from the cupboard and ran after Dad in my nightie
    but after all the rush it was only your cat, Winnie, though I don’t know how she managed
    to make such a noise. We felt so silly, we laughed and laughed.

    Kate talks a lot now but in such a funny way you would laugh to her her. She
    hears the houseboys call me Memsahib so sometimes instead of calling me Mummy
    she calls me “Oompaab”. She calls the bedroom a ‘bippon’ and her little behind she
    calls her ‘sittendump’. She loves to watch Mandawi’s cattle go home along the path
    behind the kitchen. Joseph your donkey, always leads the cows. He has a lazy life now.
    I am glad you had such fun on Guy Fawkes Day. You will be sad to leave
    Plumstead but I am sure you will like going to England on the big ship with granny Kate.
    I expect you will start school when you get to England and I am sure you will find that
    fun.

    God bless my dear little girl. Lots of love from Daddy and Kate,
    and Mummy

    Mchewe 18th November 1937

    Hello George Darling,

    Thank you for your lovely drawing of Daddy shooting an elephant. Daddy says
    that the only thing is that you have drawn him a bit too handsome.

    I went onto the verandah a few minutes ago to pick a banana for Kate from the
    bunch hanging there and a big hornet flew out and stung my elbow! There are lots of
    them around now and those stinging flies too. Kate wears thick corduroy dungarees so
    that she will not get her fat little legs bitten. She is two years old now and is a real little
    pickle. She loves running out in the rain so I have ordered a pair of red Wellingtons and a
    tiny umbrella from a Nairobi shop for her Christmas present.

    Fanny’s puppies have their eyes open now and have very sharp little teeth.
    They love to nip each other. We are keeping the fiercest little one whom we call Paddy
    but are giving the others to friends. The coffee bushes are full of lovely white flowers
    and the bees and ants are very busy stealing their honey.

    Yesterday a troop of baboons came down the hill and Dad shot a big one to
    scare the others off. They are a nuisance because they steal the maize and potatoes
    from the native shambas and then there is not enough food for the totos.
    Dad and I are very proud of you for not making a fuss when you went to the
    dentist to have that tooth out.

    Bye bye, my fine little son.
    Three bags full of love from Kate, Dad and Mummy.

    Mchewe 12th February, 1938

    Dearest Family,

    here is some news that will please you. George has been offered and has
    accepted a job as Forester at Mbulu in the Northern Province of Tanganyika. George
    would have preferred a job as Game Ranger, but though the Game Warden, Philip
    Teare, is most anxious to have him in the Game Department, there is no vacancy at
    present. Anyway if one crops up later, George can always transfer from one
    Government Department to another. Poor George, he hates the idea of taking a job. He
    says that hitherto he has always been his own master and he detests the thought of
    being pushed around by anyone.

    Now however he has no choice. Our capitol is almost exhausted and the coffee
    market shows no signs of improving. With three children and another on the way, he
    feels he simply must have a fixed income. I shall be sad to leave this little farm. I love
    our little home and we have been so very happy here, but my heart rejoices at the
    thought of overseas leave every thirty months. Now we shall be able to fetch Ann and
    George from England and in three years time we will all be together in Tanganyika once
    more.

    There is no sale for farms so we will just shut the house and keep on a very small
    labour force just to keep the farm from going derelict. We are eating our hens but will
    take our two dogs, Fanny and Paddy with us.

    One thing I shall be glad to leave is that leopard. She still comes grunting around
    at night but not as badly as she did before. I do not mind at all when George is here but
    until George was accepted for this forestry job I was afraid he might go back to the
    Diggings and I should once more be left alone to be cursed by the leopard’s attentions.
    Knowing how much I dreaded this George was most anxious to shoot the leopard and
    for weeks he kept his shotgun and a powerful torch handy at night.

    One night last week we woke to hear it grunting near the kitchen. We got up very
    quietly and whilst George loaded the shotgun with SSG, I took the torch and got the
    heavy revolver from the cupboard. We crept out onto the dark verandah where George
    whispered to me to not switch on the torch until he had located the leopard. It was pitch
    black outside so all he could do was listen intently. And then of course I spoilt all his
    plans. I trod on the dog’s tin bowl and made a terrific clatter! George ordered me to
    switch on the light but it was too late and the leopard vanished into the long grass of the
    Kalonga, grunting derisively, or so it sounded.

    She never comes into the clearing now but grunts from the hillside just above it.

    Eleanor.

    Mbulu 18th March, 1938

    Dearest Family,

    Journeys end at last. here we are at Mbulu, installed in our new quarters which are
    as different as they possibly could be from our own cosy little home at Mchewe. We
    live now, my dears, in one wing of a sort of ‘Beau Geste’ fort but I’ll tell you more about
    it in my next letter. We only arrived yesterday and have not had time to look around.
    This letter will tell you just about our trip from Mbeya.

    We left the farm in our little red Ford two seater with all our portable goods and
    chattels plus two native servants and the two dogs. Before driving off, George took one
    look at the flattened springs and declared that he would be surprised if we reached
    Mbeya without a breakdown and that we would never make Mbulu with the car so
    overloaded.

    However luck was with us. We reached Mbeya without mishap and at one of the
    local garages saw a sturdy used Ford V8 boxbody car for sale. The garage agreed to
    take our small car as part payment and George drew on our little remaining capitol for the
    rest. We spent that night in the house of the Forest Officer and next morning set out in
    comfort for the Northern Province of Tanganyika.

    I had done the journey from Dodoma to Mbeya seven years before so was
    familiar with the scenery but the road was much improved and the old pole bridges had
    been replaced by modern steel ones. Kate was as good as gold all the way. We
    avoided hotels and camped by the road and she found this great fun.
    The road beyond Dodoma was new to me and very interesting country, flat and
    dry and dusty, as little rain falls there. The trees are mostly thorn trees but here and there
    one sees a giant baobab, weird trees with fantastically thick trunks and fat squat branches
    with meagre foliage. The inhabitants of this area I found interesting though. They are
    called Wagogo and are a primitive people who ape the Masai in dress and customs
    though they are much inferior to the Masai in physique. They are also great herders of
    cattle which, rather surprisingly, appear to thrive in that dry area.

    The scenery alters greatly as one nears Babati, which one approaches by a high
    escarpment from which one has a wonderful view of the Rift Valley. Babati township
    appears to be just a small group of Indian shops and shabby native houses, but I
    believe there are some good farms in the area. Though the little township is squalid,
    there is a beautiful lake and grand mountains to please the eye. We stopped only long
    enough to fill up with petrol and buy some foodstuffs. Beyond Babati there is a tsetse
    fly belt and George warned our two native servants to see that no tsetse flies settled on
    the dogs.

    We stopped for the night in a little rest house on the road about 80 miles from
    Arusha where we were to spend a few days with the Forest Officer before going on to
    Mbulu. I enjoyed this section of the road very much because it runs across wide plains
    which are bounded on the West by the blue mountains of the Rift Valley wall. Here for
    the first time I saw the Masai on their home ground guarding their vast herds of cattle. I
    also saw their strange primitive hovels called Manyattas, with their thorn walled cattle
    bomas and lots of plains game – giraffe, wildebeest, ostriches and antelope. Kate was
    wildly excited and entranced with the game especially the giraffe which stood gazing
    curiously and unafraid of us, often within a few yards of the road.

    Finally we came across the greatest thrill of all, my first view of Mt Meru the extinct
    volcano about 16,000 feet high which towers over Arusha township. The approach to
    Arusha is through flourishing coffee plantations very different alas from our farm at Mchewe. George says that at Arusha coffee growing is still a paying proposition
    because here the yield of berry per acre is much higher than in the Southern highlands
    and here in the North the farmers have not such heavy transport costs as the railway runs
    from Arusha to the port at Tanga.

    We stayed overnight at a rather second rate hotel but the food was good and we
    had hot baths and a good nights rest. Next day Tom Lewis the Forest Officer, fetched
    us and we spent a few days camping in a tent in the Lewis’ garden having meals at their
    home. Both Tom and Lillian Lewis were most friendly. Tom lewis explained to George
    what his work in the Mbulu District was to be, and they took us camping in a Forest
    Reserve where Lillian and her small son David and Kate and I had a lovely lazy time
    amidst beautiful surroundings. Before we left for Mbulu, Lillian took me shopping to buy
    material for curtains for our new home. She described the Forest House at Mbulu to me
    and it sounded delightful but alas, when we reached Mbulu we discovered that the
    Assistant District Officer had moved into the Forest House and we were directed to the
    Fort or Boma. The night before we left Arusha for Mbulu it rained very heavily and the
    road was very treacherous and slippery due to the surface being of ‘black cotton’ soil
    which has the appearance and consistency of chocolate blancmange, after rain. To get to
    Mbulu we had to drive back in the direction of Dodoma for some 70 miles and then turn
    to the right and drive across plains to the Great Rift Valley Wall. The views from this
    escarpment road which climbs this wall are magnificent. At one point one looks down
    upon Lake Manyara with its brilliant white beaches of soda.

    The drive was a most trying one for George. We had no chains for the wheels
    and several times we stuck in the mud and our two houseboys had to put grass and
    branches under the wheels to stop them from spinning. Quite early on in the afternoon
    George gave up all hope of reaching Mbulu that day and planned to spend the night in
    a little bush rest camp at Karatu. However at one point it looked as though we would not
    even reach this resthouse for late afternoon found us properly bogged down in a mess
    of mud at the bottom of a long and very steep hill. In spite of frantic efforts on the part of
    George and the two boys, all now very wet and muddy, the heavy car remained stuck.
    Suddenly five Masai men appeared through the bushes beside the road. They
    were all tall and angular and rather terrifying looking to me. Each wore only a blanket
    knotted over one shoulder and all were armed with spears. They lined up by the side of
    the road and just looked – not hostile but simply aloof and supercilious. George greeted
    them and said in Ki-Swahili, “Help to push and I will reward you.” But they said nothing,
    just drawing back imperceptibly to register disgust at the mere idea of manual labour.
    Their expressions said quite clearly “A Masai is a warrior and does not soil his hands.”
    George then did something which startled them I think, as much as me. He
    plucked their spears from their hands one by one and flung them into the back of the
    boxbody. “Now push!” he said, “And when we are safely out of the mud you shall have
    your spears back.” To my utter astonishment the Masai seemed to applaud George’s
    action. I think they admire courage in a man more than anything else. They pushed with a
    will and soon we were roaring up the long steep slope. “I can’t stop here” quoth George
    as up and up we went. The Masai were in mad pursuit with their blankets streaming
    behind. They took a very steep path which was a shortcut to the top. They are certainly
    amazing athletes and reached the top at the same time as the car. Their route of course
    was shorter but much more steep, yet they came up without any sign of fatigue to claim
    their spears and the money which George handed out with a friendly grin. The Masai
    took the whole episode in good heart and we parted on the most friendly terms.

    After a rather chilly night in the three walled shack, we started on the last lap of our
    journey yesterday morning in bright weather and made the trip to Mbulu without incident.

    Eleanor.

    Mbulu 24th March, 1938

    Dearest Family,

    Mbulu is an attractive station but living in this rather romantic looking fort has many
    disadvantages. Our quarters make up one side of the fort which is built up around a
    hollow square. The buildings are single storied but very tall in the German manner and
    there is a tower on one corner from which the Union Jack flies. The tower room is our
    sitting room, and one has very fine views from the windows of the rolling country side.
    However to reach this room one has to climb a steep flight of cement steps from the
    court yard. Another disadvantage of this tower room is that there is a swarm of bees in
    the roof and the stray ones drift down through holes in the ceiling and buzz angrily
    against the window panes or fly around in a most menacing manner.

    Ours are the only private quarters in the Fort. Two other sides of the Fort are
    used as offices, storerooms and court room and the fourth side is simply a thick wall with
    battlements and loopholes and a huge iron shod double door of enormous thickness
    which is always barred at sunset when the flag is hauled down. Two Police Askari always
    remain in the Fort on guard at night. The effect from outside the whitewashed fort is very
    romantic but inside it is hardly homely and how I miss my garden at Mchewe and the
    grass and trees.

    We have no privacy downstairs because our windows overlook the bare
    courtyard which is filled with Africans patiently waiting to be admitted to the courtroom as
    witnesses or spectators. The outside windows which overlook the valley are heavily
    barred. I can only think that the Germans who built this fort must have been very scared
    of the local natives.

    Our rooms are hardly cosy and are furnished with typical heavy German pieces.
    We have a vast bleak bedroom, a dining room and an enormous gloomy kitchen in
    which meals for the German garrison were cooked. At night this kitchen is alive with
    gigantic rats but fortunately they do not seem to care for the other rooms. To crown
    everything owls hoot and screech at night on the roof.

    On our first day here I wandered outside the fort walls with Kate and came upon a
    neatly fenced plot enclosing the graves of about fifteen South African soldiers killed by
    the Germans in the 1914-18 war. I understand that at least one of theses soldiers died in
    the courtyard here. The story goes, that during the period in the Great War when this fort
    was occupied by a troop of South African Horse, a German named Siedtendorf
    appeared at the great barred door at night and asked to speak to the officer in command
    of the Troop. The officer complied with this request and the small shutter in the door was
    opened so that he could speak with the German. The German, however, had not come
    to speak. When he saw the exposed face of the officer, he fired, killing him, and
    escaped into the dark night. I had this tale on good authority but cannot vouch for it. I do
    know though, that there are two bullet holes in the door beside the shutter. An unhappy
    story to think about when George is away, as he is now, and the moonlight throws queer
    shadows in the court yard and the owls hoot.

    However though I find our quarters depressing, I like Mbulu itself very much. It is
    rolling country, treeless except for the plantations of the Forestry Dept. The land is very
    fertile in the watered valleys but the grass on hills and plains is cropped to the roots by
    the far too numerous cattle and goats. There are very few Europeans on the station, only
    Mr Duncan, the District Officer, whose wife and children recently left for England, the
    Assistant District Officer and his wife, a bachelor Veterinary Officer, a Road Foreman and
    ourselves, and down in the village a German with an American wife and an elderly
    Irishman whom I have not met. The Government officials have a communal vegetable
    garden in the valley below the fort which keeps us well supplied with green stuff. 

    Most afternoons George, Kate and I go for walks after tea. On Fridays there is a
    little ceremony here outside the fort. In the late afternoon a little procession of small
    native schoolboys, headed by a drum and penny whistle band come marching up the
    road to a tune which sounds like ‘Two lovely black eyes”. They form up below our tower
    and as the flag is lowered for the day they play ‘God save the King’, and then march off
    again. It is quite a cheerful little ceremony.

    The local Africans are a skinny lot and, I should say, a poor tribe. They protect
    themselves against the cold by wrapping themselves in cotton blankets or a strip of
    unbleached sheeting. This they drape over their heads, almost covering their faces and
    the rest is wrapped closely round their bodies in the manner of a shroud. A most
    depressing fashion. They live in very primitive comfortless houses. They simply make a
    hollow in the hillside and build a front wall of wattle and daub. Into this rude shelter at night
    go cattle and goats, men, women, and children.

    Mbulu village has the usual mud brick and wattle dukas and wattle and daub
    houses. The chief trader is a Goan who keeps a surprisingly good variety of tinned
    foodstuffs and also sells hardware and soft goods.

    The Europeans here have been friendly but as you will have noted there are
    only two other women on station and no children at all to be companions for Kate.

    Eleanor.

    Mbulu 20th June 1938

    Dearest Family,

    Here we are on Safari with George at Babati where we are occupying a rest
    house on the slopes of Ufiome Mountain. The slopes are a Forest Reserve and
    George is supervising the clearing of firebreaks in preparation for the dry weather. He
    goes off after a very early breakfast and returns home in the late afternoon so Kate and I
    have long lazy days.

    Babati is a pleasant spot and the resthouse is quite comfortable. It is about a mile
    from the village which is just the usual collection of small mud brick and corrugated iron
    Indian Dukas. There are a few settlers in the area growing coffee, or going in for mixed
    farming but I don’t think they are doing very well. The farm adjoining the rest house is
    owned by Lord Lovelace but is run by a manager.

    George says he gets enough exercise clambering about all day on the mountain,
    so Kate and I do our walking in the mornings when George is busy, and we all relax in
    the evenings when George returns from his field work. Kate’s favourite walk is to the big
    block of mtama (sorghum) shambas lower down the hill. There are huge swarms of tiny
    grain eating birds around waiting the chance to plunder the mtama, so the crops are
    watched from sunrise to sunset.

    Crude observation platforms have been erected for this purpose in the centre of
    each field and the women and the young boys of the family concerned, take it in turn to
    occupy the platform and scare the birds. Each watcher has a sling and uses clods of
    earth for ammunition. The clod is placed in the centre of the sling which is then whirled
    around at arms length. Suddenly one end of the sling is released and the clod of earth
    flies out and shatters against the mtama stalks. The sling makes a loud whip like crack and
    the noise is quite startling and very effective in keeping the birds at a safe distance.

    Eleanor.

    Karatu 3rd July 1938

    Dearest Family,

    Still on safari you see! We left Babati ten days ago and passed through Mbulu
    on our way to this spot. We slept out of doors one night beside Lake Tiawa about eight
    miles from Mbulu. It was a peaceful spot and we enjoyed watching the reflection of the
    sunset on the lake and the waterhens and duck and pelicans settling down for the night.
    However it turned piercingly cold after sunset so we had an early supper and then all
    three of us lay down to sleep in the back of the boxbody (station wagon). It was a tight
    fit and a real case of ‘When Dad turns, we all turn.’

    Here at Karatu we are living in a grass hut with only three walls. It is rather sweet
    and looks like the setting for a Nativity Play. Kate and I share the only camp bed and
    George and the dogs sleep on the floor. The air here is very fresh and exhilarating and
    we all feel very fit. George is occupied all day supervising the cutting of firebreaks
    around existing plantations and the forest reserve of indigenous trees. Our camp is on
    the hillside and below us lie the fertile wheat lands of European farmers.

    They are mostly Afrikaners, the descendants of the Boer families who were
    invited by the Germans to settle here after the Boer War. Most of them are pro-British
    now and a few have called in here to chat to George about big game hunting. George
    gets on extremely well with them and recently attended a wedding where he had a
    lively time dancing at the reception. He likes the older people best as most are great
    individualists. One fine old man, surnamed von Rooyen, visited our camp. He is a Boer
    of the General Smuts type with spare figure and bearded face. George tells me he is a
    real patriarch with an enormous family – mainly sons. This old farmer fought against the
    British throughout the Boer War under General Smuts and again against the British in the
    German East Africa campaign when he was a scout and right hand man to Von Lettow. It
    is said that Von Lettow was able to stay in the field until the end of the Great War
    because he listened to the advise given to him by von Rooyen. However his dislike for
    the British does not extend to George as they have a mutual interest in big game
    hunting.

    Kate loves being on safari. She is now so accustomed to having me as her nurse
    and constant companion that I do not know how she will react to paid help. I shall have to
    get someone to look after her during my confinement in the little German Red Cross
    hospital at Oldeani.

    George has obtained permission from the District Commissioner, for Kate and
    me to occupy the Government Rest House at Oldeani from the end of July until the end
    of August when my baby is due. He will have to carry on with his field work but will join
    us at weekends whenever possible.

    Eleanor.

    Karatu 12th July 1938

    Dearest Family,

    Not long now before we leave this camp. We have greatly enjoyed our stay
    here in spite of the very chilly earl mornings and the nights when we sit around in heavy
    overcoats until our early bed time.

    Last Sunday I persuaded George to take Kate and me to the famous Ngoro-
    Ngoro Crater. He was not very keen to do so because the road is very bumpy for
    anyone in my interesting condition but I feel so fit that I was most anxious to take this
    opportunity of seeing the enormous crater. We may never be in this vicinity again and in
    any case safari will not be so simple with a small baby.

    What a wonderful trip it was! The road winds up a steep escarpment from which
    one gets a glorious birds eye view of the plains of the Great Rift Valley far, far below.
    The crater is immense. There is a road which skirts the rim in places and one has quite
    startling views of the floor of the crater about two thousand feet below.

    A camp for tourists has just been built in a clearing in the virgin forest. It is most
    picturesque as the camp buildings are very neatly constructed log cabins with very high
    pitched thatched roofs. We spent about an hour sitting on the grass near the edge of the
    crater enjoying the sunshine and the sharp air and really awe inspiring view. Far below us
    in the middle of the crater was a small lake and we could see large herds of game
    animals grazing there but they were too far away to be impressive, even seen through
    George’s field glasses. Most appeared to be wildebeest and zebra but I also picked
    out buffalo. Much more exciting was my first close view of a wild elephant. George
    pointed him out to me as we approached the rest camp on the inward journey. He
    stood quietly under a tree near the road and did not seem to be disturbed by the car
    though he rolled a wary eye in our direction. On our return journey we saw him again at
    almost uncomfortably close quarters. We rounded a sharp corner and there stood the
    elephant, facing us and slap in the middle of the road. He was busily engaged giving
    himself a dust bath but spared time to give us an irritable look. Fortunately we were on a
    slight slope so George quickly switched off the engine and backed the car quietly round
    the corner. He got out of the car and loaded his rifle, just in case! But after he had finished
    his toilet the elephant moved off the road and we took our chance and passed without
    incident.

    One notices the steepness of the Ngoro-Ngoro road more on the downward
    journey than on the way up. The road is cut into the side of the mountain so that one has
    a steep slope on one hand and a sheer drop on the other. George told me that a lorry
    coming down the mountain was once charged from behind by a rhino. On feeling and
    hearing the bash from behind the panic stricken driver drove off down the mountain as
    fast as he dared and never paused until he reached level ground at the bottom of the
    mountain. There was no sign of the rhino so the driver got out to examine his lorry and
    found the rhino horn embedded in the wooden tail end of the lorry. The horn had been
    wrenched right off!

    Happily no excitement of that kind happened to us. I have yet to see a rhino.

    Eleanor.

    Oldeani. 19th July 1938

    Dearest Family,

    Greetings from a lady in waiting! Kate and I have settled down comfortably in the
    new, solidly built Government Rest House which comprises one large living room and
    one large office with a connecting door. Outside there is a kitchen and a boys quarter.
    There are no resident Government officials here at Oldeani so the office is in use only
    when the District Officer from Mbulu makes his monthly visit. However a large Union
    Jack flies from a flagpole in the front of the building as a gentle reminder to the entirely
    German population of Oldeani that Tanganyika is now under British rule.

    There is quite a large community of German settlers here, most of whom are
    engaged in coffee farming. George has visited several of the farms in connection with his
    forestry work and says the coffee plantations look very promising indeed. There are also
    a few German traders in the village and there is a large boarding school for German
    children and also a very pleasant little hospital where I have arranged to have the baby.
    Right next door to the Rest House is a General Dealers Store run by a couple named
    Schnabbe. The shop is stocked with drapery, hardware, china and foodstuffs all
    imported from Germany and of very good quality. The Schnabbes also sell local farm
    produce, beautiful fresh vegetables, eggs and pure rich milk and farm butter. Our meat
    comes from a German butchery and it is a great treat to get clean, well cut meat. The
    sausages also are marvellous and in great variety.

    The butcher is an entertaining character. When he called round looking for custom I
    expected him to break out in a yodel any minute, as it was obvious from a glance that
    the Alps are his natural background. From under a green Tyrollean hat with feather,
    blooms a round beefy face with sparkling small eyes and such widely spaced teeth that
    one inevitably thinks of a garden rake. Enormous beefy thighs bulge from greasy
    lederhosen which are supported by the traditional embroidered braces. So far the
    butcher is the only cheery German, male or female, whom I have seen, and I have met
    most of the locals at the Schnabbe’s shop. Most of the men seem to have cultivated
    the grim Hitler look. They are all fanatical Nazis and one is usually greeted by a raised
    hand and Heil Hitler! All very theatrical. I always feel like crying in ringing tones ‘God
    Save the King’ or even ‘St George for England’. However the men are all very correct
    and courteous and the women friendly. The women all admire Kate and cry, “Ag, das
    kleine Englander.” She really is a picture with her rosy cheeks and huge grey eyes and
    golden curls. Kate is having a wonderful time playing with Manfried, the Scnabbe’s small
    son. Neither understands a word said by the other but that doesn’t seem to worry them.

    Before he left on safari, George took me to hospital for an examination by the
    nurse, Sister Marianne. She has not been long in the country and knows very little
    English but is determined to learn and carried on an animated, if rather quaint,
    conversation with frequent references to a pocket dictionary. She says I am not to worry
    because there is not doctor here. She is a very experienced midwife and anyway in an
    emergency could call on the old retired Veterinary Surgeon for assistance.
    I asked sister Marianne whether she knew of any German woman or girl who
    would look after Kate whilst I am in hospital and today a very top drawer German,
    bearing a strong likeness to ‘Little Willie’, called and offered the services of his niece who
    is here on a visit from Germany. I was rather taken aback and said, “Oh no Baron, your
    niece would not be the type I had in mind. I’m afraid I cannot pay much for a companion.”
    However the Baron was not to be discouraged. He told me that his niece is seventeen
    but looks twenty, that she is well educated and will make a cheerful companion. Her
    father wishes her to learn to speak English fluently and that is why the Baron wished her
    to come to me as a house daughter. As to pay, a couple of pounds a month for pocket
    money and her keep was all he had in mind. So with some misgivings I agreed to take
    the niece on as a companion as from 1st August.

    Eleanor.

    Oldeani. 10th August 1938

    Dearest Family,

    Never a dull moment since my young companion arrived. She is a striking looking
    girl with a tall boyish figure and very short and very fine dark hair which she wears
    severely slicked back. She wears tweeds, no make up but has shiny rosy cheeks and
    perfect teeth – she also,inevitably, has a man friend and I have an uncomfortable
    suspicion that it is because of him that she was planted upon me. Upon second
    thoughts though, maybe it was because of her excessive vitality, or even because of
    her healthy appetite! The Baroness, I hear is in poor health and I can imagine that such
    abundant health and spirit must have been quite overpowering. The name is Ingeborg,
    but she is called Mouche, which I believe means Mouse. Someone in her family must
    have a sense of humour.

    Her English only needed practice and she now chatters fluently so that I know her
    background and views on life. Mouche’s father is a personal friend of Goering. He was
    once a big noise in the German Airforce but is now connected with the car industry and
    travels frequently and intensively in Europe and America on business. Mouche showed
    me some snap shots of her family and I must say they look prosperous and charming.
    Mouche tells me that her father wants her to learn to speak English fluently so that
    she can get a job with some British diplomat in Cairo. I had immediate thought that I
    might be nursing a future Mata Hari in my bosom, but this was immediately extinguished
    when Mouche remarked that her father would like her to marry an Englishman. However
    it seems that the mere idea revolts her. “Englishmen are degenerates who swill whisky
    all day.” I pointed out that she had met George, who was a true blue Englishman, but
    was nevertheless a fine physical specimen and certainly didn’t drink all day. Mouche
    replied that George is not an Englishman but a hunter, as though that set him apart.
    Mouche is an ardent Hitler fan and an enthusiastic member of the Hitler Youth
    Movement. The house resounds with Hitler youth songs and when she is not singing,
    her gramophone is playing very stirring marching songs. I cannot understand a word,
    which is perhaps as well. Every day she does the most strenuous exercises watched
    with envy by me as my proportions are now those of a circus Big Top. Mouche eats a
    fantastic amount of meat and I feel it is a blessing that she is much admired by our
    Tyrollean butcher who now delivers our meat in person and adds as a token of his
    admiration some extra sausages for Mouche.

    I must confess I find her stimulating company as George is on safari most of the
    time and my evenings otherwise would be lonely. I am a little worried though about
    leaving Kate here with Mouche when I go to hospital. The dogs and Kate have not taken
    to her. I am trying to prepare Kate for the separation but she says, “She’s not my
    mummy. You are my dear mummy, and I want you, I want you.” George has got
    permission from the Provincial Forestry Officer to spend the last week of August here at
    the Rest House with me and I only hope that the baby will be born during that time.
    Kate adores her dad and will be perfectly happy to remain here with him.

    One final paragraph about Mouche. I thought all German girls were domesticated
    but not Mouche. I have Kesho-Kutwa here with me as cook and I have engaged a local
    boy to do the laundry. I however expected Mouche would take over making the
    puddings and pastry but she informed me that she can only bake a chocolate cake and
    absolutely nothing else. She said brightly however that she would do the mending. As
    there is none for her to do, she has rescued a large worn handkerchief of George’s and
    sits with her feet up listening to stirring gramophone records whilst she mends the
    handkerchief with exquisite darning.

    Eleanor.

    Oldeani. 20th August 1938

    Dearest Family,

    Just after I had posted my last letter I received what George calls a demi official
    letter from the District Officer informing me that I would have to move out of the Rest
    House for a few days as the Governor and his hangers on would be visiting Oldeani
    and would require the Rest House. Fortunately George happened to be here for a few
    hours and he arranged for Kate and Mouche and me to spend a few days at the
    German School as borders. So here I am at the school having a pleasant and restful
    time and much entertained by all the goings on.

    The school buildings were built with funds from Germany and the school is run on
    the lines of a contemporary German school. I think the school gets a grant from the
    Tanganyika Government towards running expenses, but I am not sure. The school hall is
    dominated by a more than life sized oil painting of Adolf Hitler which, at present, is
    flanked on one side by the German Flag and on the other by the Union Jack. I cannot
    help feeling that the latter was put up today for the Governor’s visit today.
    The teachers are very amiable. We all meet at mealtimes, and though few of the
    teachers speak English, the ones who do are anxious to chatter. The headmaster is a
    scholarly man but obviously anti-British. He says he cannot understand why so many
    South Africans are loyal to Britain – or rather to England. “They conquered your country
    didn’t they?” I said that that had never occurred to me and that anyway I was mainly of
    Scots descent and that loyalty to the crown was natural to me. “But the English
    conquered the Scots and yet you are loyal to England. That I cannot understand.” “Well I
    love England,” said I firmly, ”and so do all British South Africans.” Since then we have
    stuck to English literature. Shakespeare, Lord Byron and Galsworthy seem to be the
    favourites and all, thank goodness, make safe topics for conversation.
    Mouche is in her element but Kate and I do not enjoy the food which is typically
    German and consists largely of masses of fat pork and sauerkraut and unfamiliar soups. I
    feel sure that the soup at lunch today had blobs of lemon curd in it! I also find most
    disconcerting the way that everyone looks at me and says, “Bon appetite”, with much
    smiling and nodding so I have to fight down my nausea and make a show of enjoying
    the meals.

    The teacher whose room adjoins mine is a pleasant woman and I take my
    afternoon tea with her. She, like all the teachers, has a large framed photo of Hitler on her
    wall flanked by bracket vases of fresh flowers. One simply can’t get away from the man!
    Even in the dormitories each child has a picture of Hitler above the bed. Hitler accepting
    flowers from a small girl, or patting a small boy on the head. Even the children use the
    greeting ‘Heil Hitler’. These German children seem unnaturally prim when compared with
    my cheerful ex-pupils in South Africa but some of them are certainly very lovely to look
    at.

    Tomorrow Mouche, Kate and I return to our quarters in the Rest House and in a
    few days George will join us for a week.

    Eleanor.

    Oldeani Hospital. 9th September 1938

    Dearest Family,

    You will all be delighted to hear that we have a second son, whom we have
    named John. He is a darling, so quaint and good. He looks just like a little old man with a
    high bald forehead fringed around the edges with a light brown fluff. George and I call
    him Johnny Jo because he has a tiny round mouth and a rather big nose and reminds us
    of A.A.Milne’s ‘Jonathan Jo has a mouth like an O’ , but Kate calls him, ‘My brother John’.
    George was not here when he was born on September 5th, just two minutes
    before midnight. He left on safari on the morning of the 4th and, of course, that very night
    the labour pains started. Fortunately Kate was in bed asleep so Mouche walked with
    me up the hill to the hospital where I was cheerfully received by Sister Marianne who
    had everything ready for the confinement. I was lucky to have such an experienced
    midwife because this was a breech birth and sister had to manage single handed. As
    there was no doctor present I was not allowed even a sniff of anaesthetic. Sister slaved
    away by the light of a pressure lamp endeavouring to turn the baby having first shoved
    an inverted baby bath under my hips to raise them.

    What a performance! Sister Marianne was very much afraid that she might not be
    able to save the baby and great was our relief when at last she managed to haul him out
    by the feet. One slap and the baby began to cry without any further attention so Sister
    wrapped him up in a blanket and took Johnny to her room for the night. I got very little
    sleep but was so thankful to have the ordeal over that I did not mind even though I
    heard a hyaena cackling and calling under my window in a most evil way.
    When Sister brought Johnny to me in the early morning I stared in astonishment.
    Instead of dressing him in one of his soft Viyella nighties, she had dressed him in a short
    sleeved vest of knitted cotton with a cotton cloth swayed around his waist sarong
    fashion. When I protested, “But Sister why is the baby not dressed in his own clothes?”
    She answered firmly, “I find it is not allowed. A baby’s clotheses must be boiled and I
    cannot boil clotheses of wool therefore your baby must wear the clotheses of the Red
    Cross.”

    It was the same with the bedding. Poor Johnny lies all day in a deep wicker
    basket with a detachable calico lining. There is no pillow under his head but a vast kind of
    calico covered pillow is his only covering. There is nothing at all cosy and soft round my
    poor baby. I said crossly to the Sister, “As every thing must be so sterile, I wonder you
    don’t boil me too.” This she ignored.

    When my message reached George he dashed back to visit us. Sister took him
    first to see the baby and George was astonished to see the baby basket covered by a
    sheet. “She has the poor little kid covered up like a bloody parrot,” he told me. So I
    asked him to go at once to buy a square of mosquito netting to replace the sheet.
    Kate is quite a problem. She behaves like an Angel when she is here in my
    room but is rebellious when Sister shoos her out. She says she “Hates the Nanny”
    which is what she calls Mouche. Unfortunately it seems that she woke before midnight
    on the night Johnny Jo was born to find me gone and Mouche in my bed. According to
    Mouche, Kate wept all night and certainly when she visited me in the early morning
    Kate’s face was puffy with crying and she clung to me crying “Oh my dear mummy, why
    did you go away?” over and over again. Sister Marianne was touched and suggested
    that Mouche and Kate should come to the hospital as boarders as I am the only patient
    at present and there is plenty of room. Luckily Kate does not seem at all jealous of the
    baby and it is a great relief to have here here under my eye.

    Eleanor.

    #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…”

    #6089
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “What’s with the lucha libre mask, Bronkel?” Godfrey asked as he ushered the short tense man in the living room. “I’m not sure that’s very sanitary… Protects everything but the mouth…”

    Bronkel didn’t feel like answering and at once asked for Elizabeth Tattler.

    “… and don’t tell me she’s got another pitiful excuse for not delivering! Listen, she’s just the worst! And let me tell you that I’m not exaggerating. I’m also managing GRRAOU —yes, George fucking R.R.A.O. Urtin, and this guy’s been at his pentalogy since 25 years. So, I got my fill about lame excuses.”

    “Her readers are devotees, you know. They know hers is a difficult craft. Warping and woofing words around like she does, so gloriously. Everybody but you Bronkel seem to understand that it’s not commonplace, it’s a treasure earned with patience and devotion.”

    “Devotees for sure. They have a saint’s patience I can grant you that, and luckily for her!” Bronkel drank the inch of gin bottoms up. “And where is she, by the way? Will she not deign face me?”

    “Oh, I think she’s err… busy at the moment. She’s rehearsing a scene from her last book for accuracy… with the gardener.”

    #6066

    In reply to: The Pistil Maze

    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “It’s funny,” he said, squinting his eyes. “Looks like the maze kind of fades out.”

    “Oh yeah, that happens all the time. People lose interest you see, then it all but vanishes from their experience. Quaint, I know.”

    Kahurangi, nicknamed Kahu, was trying hard to get interested, see if the structure would come back into focus. But there were more fun things around. He asked again to the guy who was selling pop corn at the entrance.

    “T’is normal that people wander around with… well, pets? Look at this guy, with a piglet on a leash. It’s cute, don’t get me wrong, and probably more useful when you’re looking for truffles…”

    “Pretty normal. Seems animal have a sense around this thing, or so it’s believed. Many will bring one and try again. Look, I buried my snake not long ago, it was getting tired I think. Not sure they make the best animals to cover ground there.” He continued “Are you buying me something or what?”

    “Oh sure, give me that, and a bottle of water.”

    He handed a crumpled bill of 5 and thanked.

    “A word of unsollicited advice?”

    Kahu noded “Sure.”

    “See those piles of rocks over there, along the way?”

    “Looks like inukshuks, are they? Strange place to find them though.”

    “Yeah, you’ll tend to see more as you get along. People started to build them to pinpoint places they’d been, but over time, they became encampments, and people lost the will to move on.”

    “So what?”

    “Don’t stay too long around them.”

    Kahu shrugged and moved along. The maze was starting to get in focus again, there was not a minute to spare.

    #5960
    DevanDevan
    Participant

    Working at the gas station gave me the possibility to not only be confined at home but also at work. At least I could enjoy the transit between places, that’s what I told me everyday. And better go to work than turn around all day in the studio I rented since I left the Inn.

    You can’t imagine how many people need gas during the confinement. It looks like in this part of the country people don’t have as many dogs as them in the big cities, so they do all sorts of crazy things to be able to get out.

    A man came to the station this morning. I’m sure it was to give the equivalent of a walk to his brand new red GMC Canyon, you know, treating his car like she needed fresh air and to get some exercise regularly. From behind the makeshift window made of transparent wrapper, I asked him how was his day. You know, to be polite. He showed me the back of his truck. I swear there was a cage with two dingos in it.

    The guy told me he captured them the other day in case the cops stopped him in the street with no reason to be out. At least, he said, I could still say I’m giving them a walk. I told him them being in a cage would hardly pass as a walk but he answered me with a wink and a big grin that cops weren’t that intelligent. I’m glad we have makeshift windows now, at least seeing his teeth I didn’t have to smell his breath. I’m not sure who’s the less intelligent in absolute terms, but in that case I’d rather bet his IQ would fail him.

    Well that’s probably the most exciting thing that happened before I went home after work. As soon as I got home I received a phone call from Prune. On the landline. It’s like she has some magical means to know when I’m there.

    Anyway, she asked me if I washed my hand. I told her yes, though I honestly don’t recall. But I have to make her think all is ok. She started to talk again about Jasper. Each time she mention the subject I’m a bit uncomfortable. I’m not sure I fancy having a brother, even if it’s kind of being in a TV series. She said she had looked for him on internet, contacted some adoption agencies, even tried a private called Dick. That’s all that I remember of the private’s name. Dick, maybe that’s because he never answered her calls. Might be dead of the pandamic I told her. PandEmic, She corrected. I know, I told her, I said that to cheer you up.

    We talked about Mater too. That made me laugh. Apparently Idle saw her in a fuschia pink leotard. Prune half laughed herself when she mentioned the leotard, but she said : Truth is I don’t know what Dido had taken when she had seen Mater outside. I suspect the om chanting was simply snoring.

    There was a silence afterward. Maybe Prune was thinking about age and the meaning of life, I was merely realising I was hungry. I swear I don’t know what crossed my mind. I have a tendency to want to help my sister even if I think there is no hope. You know, I told her, about Jasper we could still go and ask that woman in the bush. It’s like she already knew what I was going to say. Tiku I knew by her tone that all the conversation was fated to lead there. Yeah. I can drive you there after work tomorrow. 

    Of course, we didn’t even have to go there after all.

    #5950
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Helle Jorid, my Whale friend.

    I dreamt I sailed on one of those ancient ships made of wood with no engine other than the wind and man power.

    In the dream we were very few and not all there by choice. Chased after by some kind of police force we, a motley bunch of people found ourselves on that ship by chance. I saw one man on the dock pass by and cut the big rope that held the ship still.

    As the rope limply hanged from the mooring post, I watched the ship being guided away by the backwash from its mooring place to the ocean. At that moment someone wanted to disembark and I heard myself say : In your dreams! It’s too late we’re on the open sea now.

    I think someone mentioned a captain Cook, but I’m not sure as I never saw the guy. Maybe it was merely a cook, but did we really need it? As I went deeper into the ship I found a wonderful meeting room with all the technological comfort of TV sets embedded in the walls and loads of electrical plugs at the end of mechanical arms coming out of these same walls. Surely there were microwave oven and tons of dehydrated food.

    But our attention was still on the discovery of the treasures hidden in the heart of that ship. There was a circular sofa set around a nice coffee table. And we all settled comfortably there for a get together, happy we had escaped and seemed safe. None of us thought one second about where the wind and the gulf stream were taking us. I guess anywhere was better than what those men had in store for us.

    I woke up. Alone at night. It was dark. My heart was pounding. Is that how we feel when we are in a lock down? I almost wrote placed under house arrest. What’s the difference apart the name to make us think it’s different?

    Was the ship the symbol of our longing for freedom? It’s still the same place moving around on water. Even if the place move around, we can’t move away from it and from the flatness of the ocean. I wonder. I wonder if I stayed longer in that dream what would have happened? A storm? An interesting encounter? Like a whale. How would I know unless I write the rest of the story?

    #5949
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Miss Bossy looked gloomily at the figures.

    Newsreel sparklines

    “Our paper was already hanging by a thread, but if we want to survive we’ll have to shift completely to digital.”

    “That, or we can go into selling recycled bog rolls…” Hilda started to laugh heartily on her Xoom screen.

    She was soon followed by Connie. “Can’t let good paper go to waste, can we?”

    “How’s your coverage of confinement in Wales, Continuity?” Miss Bossy asked.

    “Gorgeously! We were expecting zombies, but we got an invasion of daring goats. Been trying to snatch pics all morning.”

    A repressed giggle started to be heard.

    Miss Bossy rolled her eyes. “Mute if you don’t speak, guys.”

    Hilda ventured “Maybe it’s the whale?”

    The giggles continued to add to one another.

    Ricardo moved his webcam to remove the glare from the ceiling light causing a sudden roll of laughter from Connie who remembered a video with a lady streaming unwittingly from her loo break during a very formal videoconference with shocked pause on all her colleagues’ faces before she realised to shut down the cam.

    It was only at the mention of carrots that Miss Bossy started to lose it too, confirming the start of a laughter epidemic.

    #5837

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The nurse outfits were a good size too tight.

    “I didn’t realize that cult was short for horticulture,” Tara said, while struggling with the chafing elastic band of her… mask. She almost regretted that mission wasn’t risqué enough to warrant the Moulin Rouge ensemble.

    “Don’t be daft,” Star answered, not knowing what else to say. She clearly wasn’t expecting carrots either. Although it sort of made sense in a culinary continuity sort of way, now they were looking for basil, come to think of it.

    “Where do you think they’ll be keeping him?” whispered Tara.

    “With the garlic and butter?” guffawed Star Wrexham.

    “HEY! You two!” someone waved at them from the back. “Yes you two! About time you arrived!”

    It was too late to flee. Tara rolled her eyes. It wouldn’t take one minute for their undercover to be uncovered.
    But with Star’s luck, the guy could well guide them straight to the missing uncle Basil. Unless of course there was another side business of the cult which required scantily dressed as nurse ladies, and they could still hope to blend in… Either or, but in any case, they would figure it out pretty soon.

    #5814
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Day 2

    I feel sick in my stomach. Been days actually. Got to try something new, and a line a day seems like a good start.

    Had dreams last night, it was months I didn’t get any. Nothing really out of the mundane, though I was selling the house in one of the dreams. 

    To think we’re still stuck on this nightmarish cruise, nor on land nor on water, and I dream of the house. The brain has a sense of humour. 

    The walls are paper thin, we can hear the endless complains of the nearby cruisers. That’s two left, one right, 3 across the corridor, and at least 2 above and below — that I can count at least. I call them my voices, makes me laugh a little. I didn’t tell Lorel, she would call me barmy. I thought of giving them numbers, it’s like reducing the complexity of human nature to something more… geometric? Reduce them to lines of code, maybe you can hack into the collective mind, make it work for you.

    I think one of the voice is a pirate. It’s coughing Awwr, arr, arr more and more now. I’ll call him Eleven. Won’t be long before they catch him and isolate him. Good thing he’s the guy under and not above, from what I hear, the thing spreads through the loos too. Maybe he’ll make a run for it, I heard some tried to escape this hellhole. Well, they missed the free booze vouchers, too bad for them. 

    So long journal, wife is coming back from her trip to the other room. Yeah, I mean the loo, don’t you enjoy promiscuity. We’re not rolling in dough, couldn’t afford the presidential suite you see. Maybe if we survive longer than everybody else, it’ll be ours, who knows…

    #5750
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “I thought you said we were going to Australia,  April? This doesn’t look like Australia to me,” she said casting a despondent eye around the dismal cell. “Why do they always paint them grey?”

    “To make you suffer. You’re not supposed to enjoy it.”

    “Barbaric,” sniffed June. “And inefficient. I refuse to be rehabilitated unless they improve the accommodation.”

    “Fat chance of that” April snorted. “We’ll be sewing mailbags or being a guinea pig for the latest bolonavirus vaccine.”

    “What? No art classes and gym and choice of menu?” June was aghast. “You had better get us out of here! That latest scam was all your idea, anyway.”

    “Actually, no, it wasn’t.  It was that guy, what was his name? Godfrey? The one that comes to see Mr August sometimes. I was in the elevator with him one day and right out of the blue, I mean, I don’t know him personally, but he planted all these crazy ideas in my head telling me about how fool proof this credit card trick was…”

    “He can pay the bail money then.”

    “Now there’s an idea.”

    #5653

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Rosamund narrowed her heavily mascaraed eyes. “How much are you going to pay me?” she asked, reaching into the back of her jeans. “Thong’s all up my damn crack!”

    Tara and Star glanced at each other. “It’s work experience really,” said Star.

    “I don’t do cleaning.” Rosamund held out her hands. “See? Fancy nails eh? Can’t risk it.”

    Tara took a deep breath before speaking.  “It’s just answering phones and … stuff. If you don’t want to … that’s fine. ”

    “Didn’t say I wasn’t keen. I can start right now if you guys want.”

    #4803
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “Can you keep the manic cackling down, you guys,” said Finnley strolling nonchalently through the living room. “I’m on the phone.”

    She waved her phone at them to prove it. “A bit of a dust trap,” she mouthed at Liz and pointed to her prized rope reptile on the dresser.

    “Sorry about that, old chap. Yes, so what were you saying about the book deal? Oh really? What a hoot!”

    “What a hoot?” Godfrey whispered.

    “This is a travesty of justice … or something,” said Liz. “Stop hooting and talking nonsense, Godfrey. And speak up! Shout! I insist you shout your HOOTS!”

    Finnley rolled her eyes. “Got to go, old chap. There’s crazy shit going on around here. I’ll see you at the awards!”

    #4779
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Jerk was waiting for the courrier to pick-up the documents and deliver the mail before closing down, and while the mall’s activity was still painfully slow, he was observing the tos and fros of the few people outside.
    Summer was on its last leg, and there were signs that the city workers would soon come back. Nothing like cranky business people in addition to cranky old people to spice up your day.

    Maintenance had not come yet. He’d noticed his dead pixel had stopped blinking anyway. Instead it was showing a single red dot.

    The courrier guy arrived at last. “Never a quiet time, man!” he said maybe as a sort of excuse for his tardiness. Maybe Jerk needed to change his own line of work, since the other’s job looked so thrilling. He signed the documents distractedly, and was ready to lower the iron curtain to close the shop when the guy called him back. “Oh wait, I forgot to give you that.”

    Jerk looked at the letter, and opened it to find a postcard. That’s when he remembered he’d given the address of the mall to the mysterious Ms M. from the findmydolls forum. Couldn’t be too careful, there were so many weirdos on the Internet.

    It came from Australia? Half a cup of blue sand was enclosed in a clear plastic wrap bag, along with the postcard.

    The postcard wasn’t saying much, but it was intriguing.

    “No network there, so I’m sending a card. Hope it will reach in time. You must flood your group with fake addresses of dolls. It’ll send mysterious nefarious parties off-track and avoid casualties. Otherwise, lovely weather, beautiful scenery. Ms M.
    PS: Do what you want with the blue powder, I just found it too lovely not to share.”

    #4777
    prUneprUne
    Participant

    That was a first. I had no idea what just happened. And believe me, this girl has seen some serious hanky-panky going ‘round here. Starting with Aunt Idle and her hustling and lascivious seducing of the Middle Eastern pirate cosplayer we had as guest.
    But of course, that was nothing compared to how glamorous Mater looked in her red gabardine.
    Anyway, something odd happened, like everyone was zapped in a torpor after the Fergus guy arrived. We were all expecting a sort of big reveal, and he did drop some incoherent clues, nothing truly worth the wait sorry to say, so we all went upstairs to sleep.

    Blame it on the spiced lizard meat maybe, but I can’t figure what happened after that until I woke up. Everyone this morning was playing it by ear, as if everything was normal. But people are missing. Fergus and his motorbike, and the scarf girl with the young boy and their cat. Maybe others, I’ve lost count, and I’m done putting sticky notes for Idle (funny she insists being called that by the way… Maybe a side-effect of her medications).

    There was an Italian corvette parked outside, all black & white. It arrived during the night, it woke me up when it arrived, but I went back to sleep I think. I wonder if those are new tourist guests. The Canadian guests were a bit in alarm, especially after the Fergus reveals.

    Mater would tell me, “there is no cause for worry dear, mark my words, in an hour or less, it will all settle back down to the usual deadly boring as usual business.”

    I think that planned family time was a bit too much anyway. Or too little. Devan hardly spent an hour with us, he’s too obsessed with his lost treasure conspiracies. He’ll be doing great with Dodo and her friends from the journal. I think they all enlisted Bert for a trip to the mines by the way. For all the good it’ll do everyone to try to unearth old secrets. Might give Mater a serious heart attack, for real this time.

    As for me, I’ve had enough. I’m packing my bags and leaving with the first bus back to the Academy. There’s a mission to Mars to conquer.

    #4744

    In reply to: The Stories So Near

    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Newer developments

    POP-IN THREAD (Maeve, Lucinda, Shawn-Paul, Jerk, [Granola])

    Granola is popping in and out of the stories, exploring interacting more physically with her friends through Tiku, a bush lady focus of hers.
    Luckily (not so coincidentally) Maeve and Shawn-Paul were given coupons to travel from their rural Canada town to the middle of Australia. Maeve is suspicious of being followed by a strange man, and tags along with Shawn-Paul to keep a cover of a young couple. Maeve is trying to find the key to the doll that she made in her secret mission for Uncle Fergus, which has suddenly reappeared at her friend Lucinda’s place. She’ll probably is going to have to check on the other dolls that she made as well.
    Jerk continues to administrate some forum where among other things, special dolls are found and exchanged, and he moderates some strange messages.
    Lucinda is enjoying Fabio’s company, Maeve’s dog, that she has in her care while Maeve is travelling.

    FLYING FISH INN THREAD (Mater/Finly, Idle/Coriander/Clove, Devan, Prune, [Tiku])

    The mysteries of the Flying Fish Inn seem to unravel slowly, like Idle’s wits.
    Long time family member are being drawn inexplicably, such as Prune and brother Devan. The local bush lady Tiku is helping Finly with the catering, although Finly would rather do everything by herself. The totemic Fish was revealed to be a talisman placed here against bad luck – “for all the good it did” (Mater).
    Bert, thought to be an old flame of Mater, who’s acted for the longest time as gardener, handyman and the likes, is revealed to be the father of Prune, Devan, Coriander and Clove’s mother. Mater knew of course and kept him around. He was trained in codes during his time with the military, and has a stash of potentially dangerous books. He may be the key to the mystery of the underground tunnels leading to the mines, and hidden chests of gold. Devan is onto a mystery that a guy on a motorbike (thought to be Uncle Fergus of Maeve’s story) told him about.

    DOLINE THREAD (Arona, Sanso/Lottie, Ugo, Albie)

    Mandrake & Albie after a trip in the bayou, and looking for the dragon Leormn’s pearls and the sabulmantium, have finally found Arona after they have emerged from the interdimentional water network from the Doline, to the coast of Australia in our reality, where cats don’t usually talk.
    Albie is expecting a quest, while the others are just following Arona’s lead, as she is in possession of a mysterious key with 3 words engraved.
    After some traveling in hot air balloon, and with a local jeep, they have arrived at a local Inn in the bush, with a rather peculiar family of owners, and quite colorful roster of guests. That’s not even counting the all-you-can-eat lizard meat buffet. What joy.

    NEWSREEL THREAD (Ms Bossy, Hilda/Connie, Sophie, Ricardo)

    Ms Bossy is looking to uncover the Doctor’s surely nefarious plans while her newspaper business isn’t doing so well. She’s got some help from Ricardo the intern. They have found out that the elderly temp worker who’s fascinated by the future, Sophie (aka Sweet Sophie) had been the first subject of the Doctor’s experiments. Sophie has been trying to uncover clues in the dreams, but it’s just likely she is still a sleeper agent of the Doctor.
    Despite all common sense and SMS threats, Hilda & Connie have gone in Australia to chase a trail (from a flimsy tip-off from Superjerk that may have gone to Lucinda to her friend journalist). They are in touch with Lucinda, and post their updates on social media, flirting with the risk of being uncovered and having trouble come at their door.
    Sha, Glo and Mavis are considering reaching out for a vacation of the nursing home to get new free beauty treatments.
    In his secret lair, the Doctor is reviving his team of brazen teafing operatives: the magpies.

    LIZ THREAD (Finnley, Liz, Roberto, Godfrey)

    Not much happened as usual, mostly an entertaining night with Inspector Melon who is quizzing Liz’ about her last novel about mysterious messages hidden in dolls with secret keys, which may be her best novel yet…

    DRAGON 💚 WOOD THREAD (Glynnis, Eleri, Fox/Gorrash, Rukshan)

    Before Rukshan goes to the underworld land of Giants, he’s going to the cottage to gather some of his team of friends, Fox, Ollie etc. Glynis is taking care of Tak during Margoritt’s winter time in the city. Margoritt’s sister, Muriel is an uninvited and unpleasant guest at the cottage.
    Tak is making friends with a young girl who may have special powers (Nesy).
    The biggest mystery now is… is the loo going to get fixed in time?

    #4732
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The day was young, and Mandrake was enjoying playing the cat in the Inn.
    Besides the benefit of unrepentant naps, what best way to be undercover in a dimension where talking cats where unheard of. His boots had been a subject for a casual chat during the breakfast, but he managed to get away with them, thanks to Arona’s quick wits who had explained he had sensitive paws.
    Some of the other guests at the Inn were a bit curious though, too curious.
    He’d almost jumped to rip his face off, when the Canadian guy asked whether it wouldn’t be best to have him neutered. Luckily, years of dealing with humans and dragons had left him with a patience for these types of shenanigans, even tolerating a pat or two on the head.

    The maid-who-wasn’t-a-maid was another story, she seemed to fear him, and chased him with a broom when he was wandering in the morning, looking for clues as to the key.
    While he was napping in a corner of the main hall on a dusted shelf near a silly looking fish, he had spotted a suspicious old man who had sneaked in and had done some business in a locked hangar before leaving. Maybe the man knew about the three words engraved on Arona’s key.

    doctor.experiences.funk

    #4722
    prUneprUne
    Participant

    It all started to feel insanely crowded and agitated in the Inn, it took me a while to check whether I was tripping on some illegal substance.

    Truth was, the funny chicken was doing alright until Finly and Idle came back in a hurry, tried to make me puke and feed me charcoals, as if I’d been poisoned or something.
    I overheard Aunt Dodo when she shouted at poor Finly “why would you put my stash with the lizard leftovers! It’s me-di-cine you old cow, not some bloody herb seasoning!”
    Finly looked indignant, but she knew better than to argue. Besides, I’m sure her face was speaking volumes, something in the tune of “with the bloody mess of your stuff all over the place, why do you think?” Sure, there was some other profanities hidden in the wrinkles of her sweet face, but she would leave that to Mater to spell them out.

    Anyways, I just maybe feeling juuust a little funny, but with years of bush food regimen behind me, my liver is surely strong as an ox and pumping all the stuff out of my system like a workhorse.

    So, yeah, I was maybe tripping a little. So many new people came in at the same time, it felt like a flashmob. They were probably real and not just hallucinations, since Dido dashed out to greet some of them.

    I went upstairs and spied on them from there. I’m making also a list, mostly for Aunt Dodo, because if her heart is in the right place, her brain probably isn’t (or it’s a tight one).

    So there, I wrote on a yellow sticky note:

    Dido, if you're paying attention, here are the guests at this moment:
    - Not counting PRUNE, and DEVAN who just texted me he's coming!!
    - A jeep-full of loonies: A GIRL with red and white track pants and a
    hijjab, a black CAT and a GECKO (wait, you can forget about the gecko),
    a weirdo GUY in a fancy ruffle shirt and a little redhair BOY.
    TIKU is here too, helping FINLY in the kitchen.
    - Your old friend HILDA, and her colleague CONNIE
    - Two townfolks Canadian tourists who argue like an old couple, but I don't
    think they are, MAYV(?) and SANPELL(?) (sorry, couldn't catch their names
    with their funny accent)

    I guess breakfast is going to be lively tomorrow…

    #4706
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “You know,” Inspector Melon said, having narrowly missed a peanut threat perniciously placed on top of a carrot cupcake. “I’m most intrigued by that mysterious Management organization that you wrote in your stories. They seemed to steer the plot somewhat efficiently, placing operatives on certain threats…”

    “What’s your question Walter?” Liz was getting tipsy on the rosé bubbly, and she frankly had no idea what he was talking about, clutching at the bottle that Finnley was trying to move out of her reach.

    “Well, somehow the Management, such fascinating and mysterious organization as it is, seems to have gathered an awful lot of information on this world’s arcane mysteries, and let’s not be shy to say, on some of its evils.”

    “And?…”

    “And, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d decided a “Blow the lid off” type of covert operation, in order to gather KEY evidences of those evils and release all of them simultaneously so that the evil guys can’t get clued to it in time for an escape.”

    “Mmm, of course yes.” Liz replied distractedly, looking at watermelon pièce montée that had just rolled into the room. It had suddenly triggered fond memories of watermelon codpieces she’d written as fashion pieces in one of the novels, that would have been perfect with the theme of the party.

    Walter thought deeply… “Then, that would mean the mysterious Uncle Fergus with the Harley Davidson, may be one of such operative, that could have been compromised and sent the keys as a fail-safe… Now, I wonder what secrets these may reveal.”

    He looked at Liz who was gorging herself on watermelon chous.

    “But of course, you would have thought about all that. I can’t wait to read the rest of it!”

    Of course, nothing of the discussion had been missed by the ever careful Finnley. Sliding behind the heavy curtains, she found Godfrey in the kitchen who was looking for the peanut jar.
    He greeted her with a non nonplussed look. “Hmm, lovely socks.”

    She leaned in conspiratorially: “I think the Inspector knows too much already.”

    #4676
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    When Hilda received the message from her old friend Lucinda her first thought was Miss Bossy Pants award for the “Most Stylistic Synchronistic Article”. There was already a synchronicity because she’s also had a tip off from some guy calling himself “Superjerk”, which was also about dolls. If she followed the lead about the doll stories, and managed to connect them together, it could be the scoop of the year ~ whether or not there was an actual connection between them.

    Hilda had made copious notes from the long and garbled telephone conversation with Lucinda about everything she knew thus far, and where she was stuck. Clearly the poor dear needed Hilda’s special expertise in following a lead and putting the clues together to form a picture. Admittedly Hilda didn’t always stick to facts ~ who did in journalism these days anyway! But she had an intuition that this was just what she needed to get her teeth into. It had been a boring year in the extreme reportage department. Extremely boring.

    It had been years since Hilda had been in contact with Lucinda, and that had been on a remote viewing forum. Neither of them had been much good at it, but some of the other members had been brilliant, so it came in useful at times to use their expertise. Hilda made a mental note to rejoin that forum, if it still existed, or find another one. She changed her mind about the mental note, and jotted it down in her notebook. It was a good idea and could come in handy.

    The short and cryptic note from the guy calling himself Superjerk didn’t provide much information other than the synchronicity, which was of course noteworthy. And he had provided the link to that website “findmydolls.com”. The story was already starting to show promising signs of weaving together.

    Not wanting any of the other staff to cotton on to her new thread, Hilda told Miss Bossy Pants that she was going to investigate the “hum” in Cadiz. That peculiar Horns of Gabriel phenomenon that occurred randomly around the world had been heard over a wide area of Cadiz and Seville. Hilda had another old friend in that neck of the woods; so she could easily pretend she was there covering that story, with a bit of collaboration from her friend, while she embarked on the real journey to the Flying Fish Inn, in some godforsaken outpost of the outback.

    That nosy Connie had somehow managed to find out about the whole thing, eavesdropping again no doubt, and Hilda had no option but to come clean with her and ask her to join her in ironing out the story. They would have to deal with Miss Bossy Pants later. If the scoop was the success that Hilda anticipated, then they would be getting an award, not a reprimand.

    It was worth it. Hilda felt more alive than she had done in a long time.

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