Search Results for 'kettle'

Forums Search Search Results for 'kettle'

Viewing 20 results - 1 through 20 (of 28 total)
  • Author
    Search Results
  • #6264
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    From Tanganyika with Love

    continued  ~ part 5

    With thanks to Mike Rushby.

    Chunya 16th December 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

    Much love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Itewe, Chunya 23rd December 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    With love,
    Eleanor.

    Itewe, Chunya 30th December 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

    Eleanor.

    Itewe, Chunya 19th January 1937

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Chunya 29th January 1937

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

    We should be with you in three weeks time!

    Very much love,
    Eleanor.

    Broken Hill, N Rhodesia 11th February 1937

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    With love to you all,
    Eleanor.

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

    George Rushby Ann and Georgie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    #6261
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    From Tanganyika with Love

    continued

    With thanks to Mike Rushby.

    Mchewe Estate. 11th July 1931.

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Lots of love,
    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. 8th. August 1931

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Mchewe Estate. Sept.6th. 1931

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

    Very much love,
    Eleanor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Eleanor Rushby

     

    Mchewe Estate. June 15th 1932

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Your very loving,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate Mbeya July 18th 1932

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Lots and lots of love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate August 11th 1932

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Much love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 28th Sept. 1932

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

    Much love to all,
    Eleanor.

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

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

    We all send our love,
    Eleanor.

    Mbeya Hospital. April 25th. 1933

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Very much love,
    Eleanor.

    Mbeya Hospital. 2nd May 1933.

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

    Much love from a proud mother of two.
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate 12May 1933

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

    Your affectionate,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 14th June 1933

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

    your affectionate,
    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. August 10 th. 1933

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

    Very much love
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. October 27th 1933

    Dear Family,

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

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

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

    Lots and lots of love,
    Eleanor.

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

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Very much love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 14th February 1934.

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

    Much love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 1st October 1934

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

    Lots of love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. November 4th 1934

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Lots of love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 28th December 1934

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Much love to you all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 5th January 1935

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

    Much love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 18th February 1935

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

    Lots of love, Eleanor

    #6253
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    My Grandparents Kitchen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    #6201
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Go and put the kettle on while I think about this,” Liz instructed Finnley.  “A vacation is not a bad idea.  A change of air would do us good.  Perhaps a nice self catering cottage somewhere in the country…”

    “Self catering? And who might that self be that would be doing the catering for you, Liz?”

    “I was only thinking of you!” retorted Liz, affronted. “You might get bored in a fancy hotel with nothing to dust!”

    “Try me!” snapped Finnley.  “You think you know me inside out, don’t you, but I’m just a story character to you, aren’t I? You don’t know me at all! Just the idea you have of a cleaner! I can’t take it anymore!”

    “Oh for god’s sake stop blubbering, Finnley, no need to be so dramatic. Where would you like to go?”

    “OH, I don’t know, Somewhere sunny and warm, with mountains and beaches, and not too many tourists.”

    “Hah! Anywhere nice and warm with mountains and beaches is going to be packed with tourists. If you want a nice quiet holiday with no tourists you’d have to go somewhere cold and horrid.” Liz sniffed. “Everywhere nice in the world is stuffed with tourists. I know! How about a staycation?  We can stay right here and you can make us a nice picnic every day to eat on the lawn.”

    “Fuck off, Liz,” snapped Finnley.

    “I say, there is no need to be rude! I could sack you for that!”

    “Yes but you won’t. Nobody else would work for you, and you know it.”

    “Yes well there is that,” Liz had to admit, sighing. “Well then, YOU choose somewhere. You decide. I am putty in your sweaty hands, willing to bend to your every whim. Just to keep the peace.”

    Finnley rolled her eyes and went to put the kettle on. Where DID she want to go, she wondered?   And would a holiday with Liz be any holiday at all?

    #6188
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Reddening, Bob stammered, “Yeah, yes, uh, yeah. Um…”

    Clara squeezed her grandfathers arm reassuringly.  “We’re looking for my friend Nora.” she interrupted, to give him time to compose himself.  Poor dear was easily flustered these days. Turning to Will, “She was hiking over to visit us and should have arrived yesterday and she’d have passed right by here, but her phone seems to be dead.”

    Will had to think quickly. If he could keep them both here with Nora long enough to get the box ~ or better yet, replace the contents with something else. Yes, that was it!  He could take a sack of random stuff to put in the box, and they’d never suspect a thing. He was going to hide the contents in a statue anyway, so he didn’t even need the box.

    Spreading his arms wide in welcome and smiling broadly, he said “This is your lucky day! Come inside and I’ll put the kettle on, Nora’s gone up to take some photos of the old ruin, she’ll be back soon.”

    Bob and Clara relaxed and returned the smile and allowed themselves to be ushered into the kitchen and seated at the table.

    Will lit the gas flame under the soup before filling the kettle with water. They’d be too polite to refuse, if he put a bowl in front of them, and if they didn’t drink it, well then he’d have to resort to plan B.  He put a little pinch of powder from a tiny jar into each cup of  tea; it wouldn’t hurt and would likely make them more biddable.  Then the soup would do the trick.

    Will steered the conversation to pleasant banter about the wildflowers on the way up to the ruins that he’d said Nora was visiting, and the birds that were migrating at this time of year, keeping the topics off anything potentially agitating.  The tea was starting to take effect and Clara and Bob relaxed and enjoyed the conversation.  They sipped the soup without protest, although Bob did grimace a bit at the thought of eating on an agitated stomach. He’d have indigestion for days, but didn’t want to be rude and refuse. He was enjoying the respite from all the vexation,  though, and was quite happy for the moment just to let the man prattle on while he ate the damn soup.

    “Oh, I think Nora must be back! I just heard her voice!” exclaimed Clara.

    Will had heard it too, but he said, “That wasn’t Nora, that was the parrot! It’s a fast leaner, and Nora’s been training it to say things….I tell you what, you stay here and finish your soup, and I’ll go and fetch the parrot.”

    “Parrot? What parrot?” Clara and Bob said in unison.  They both found it inordinately funny and by the time Will had exited the kitchen, locking the door from the outside, they were hooting and wiping the tears of laughter from their cheeks.

    “What the hell was in that tea!” Clara joked, finishing her soup.

    What was Nora doing awake already? Will didn’t have to keep her quiet for long, but he needed to keep her quiet now, just until the soup took effect on the others.

    Either that or find a parrot.

    #6175
    FloveFlove
    Participant

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

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

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

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

    “And then what?” asked Clara slowly.

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

    Clara shook her head firmly. “No.”

    “No to a cup of tea?”

    “No we can’t call this man.”

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

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

    #6151
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Grandpa Bob loved the sound of the kettle whistling. Cheery, he thought as he turned the flame off. Companionable.
    He shuffled to the kitchen door. “Clara, cuppa?” he shouted down the hallway but there was no reply. Maybe she wasn’t up yet—it had been a long trip for her yesterday. Perhaps he could make her up a tray, although she’d probably say he was fussing.
    Just then he heard VanGogh barking from the garden. He drew back the curtain and peered out the kitchen window. There she was! Way down the back digging in the vegetable garden. Bless her soul. Must have got started early on that weeding. She was saying she would last night. Grandpa, you really need to get some help around the place! she’d scolded.
    “Clara, love!” he shouted. Damn dog was making such a racket she didn’t hear him. Nothing for it but to go out there. He chuckled, thinking how she’d probably scold him again for wandering around outside in his pyjamas. Bossy little thing she could be. But a good girl coming all this way to visit him.
    He slipped on his outdoor shoes and slowly made his way down the path to the vegetable garden. VanGogh bounded over to him and Grandpa Bob gave him a pat. “What are you two up to out here, eh VanGogh?” But Clara was so engrossed on her phone she didn’t even glance up. He was about to call out to her again when he saw what she’d dug up and the words stuck in his throat. He let out a small cry.

    #4825
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “I’m so glad you’ve forgotten all that silliness about writing a book, Finnley dear. Now run along and put the kettle on, and why don’t you have one yourself,” Liz added in a surge of indulgent affection. “Come and put your feet up, you’ve been too hard at it, taking too much on. You can have the rest of the day off and sit with me, we can have a nice cosy little natter.”

    Godfrey smirked in the shadows as Finnley blanched. Roberto was peering in the French windows imagining Liz in pink satin with pom poms.

    “Please, don’t any of you dress me in pink satin again,” Liz announced to whoever was listening.

    But nobody was. They were all in the lavatory inspecting the woodwork. Or so they said.

    #4557
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “You have NO idea!” announced Elizabeth, dramatically throwing the front door open, “No idea what I’ve been through!”

    “We do have an idea,” replied Godfrey, a welcoming smile playing about his lips.

    “You have NO IDEA!” Liz glared at him. “You think it was all about family, but no! Oh no!” Liz tried unsuccessfully to remove her long purple scarf with a flourish, but it caught on the hook of the hatstand and tightened around her throat. Finnley came to her rescue ~ rather slowly, if truth be told ~ by which time Elizabeth’s face matched the puce of her scarf. Liz coughed, and then took a few deep breaths.

    Roberto, take care of my suitcase will you? It’s heavy. It’s full of gargoyles. Finnley, put the kettle on!”

    #4523
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Glynis woke early but did not want to open her eyes. Last night’s conversation had gone on till late and was still heavy on her eyelids. She could hear the kettle whistling in the kitchen and small clinks and clatters of morning activity and some muffled conversation. Margoritt and Eleri were also up early.

    “They can’t do that!” Eleri was saying angrily when Glynis walked into the room. She shook a piece of paper accusingly in Glynis’s direction. “They say we’ve got a week to vacate the cottage before they begin the demolition. A week!” She crumpled the letter and flung it on the table.

    “I know,” said Glynis. “Margoritt showed me the letter last night.”

    “Morning, Glynis,” said Margoritt. “Pomegranate tea?”

    “Yes, thanks.” Glynis sat down opposite Eleri and picked up the letter. She smoothed it out, thoughtful.

    “Well?” Eleri persisted. “They can’t do this. Forcing Margoritt out of her home.”

    Margoritt placed a cup of steaming pomegranate tea in front of Glynis and sat down. Glynis noticed she had used the dainty floral tea set which was kept for “best”.

    “I had an idea in the night,” said Glynis. “It might be crazy but it might just buy us some time.”

    The others looked at her enquiringly. “We are all ears,” encouraged Eleri.

    “I used to make an invisibility potion which would render a person invisible for a time. I think it might be possible to make a stronger brew and cloak the whole cottage. I would need to adjust the spell and we would need huge quantities of the potion but I think it might just work. It might buy us some time till the others get back. They can’t pull down what they can’t find!”

    #4203
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Aunt Idle:

    My work was done. The new guru had found her feet and was up and running. My behind the scenes supporting role was over, so I booked a flight back home. I called Bert and told him and he informed me that Mater had been grumbling about being left on her own and how quiet it was. I was under no illusion that she’d welcome me back with open arms ~ not outwardly, anyway. The first thing she’ll do is start complaining about the racket and the chaos, or so I thought. Such is life with the aged ones.

    So I was astonished when Mater rushed out on to the porch when my taxi pulled up outside the Inn, and flabbergasted when Bert rushed out after her holding a large box. Stunned by the strange sight of such animation, I simply watched open mouthed as Bert ran back into the house, clutching the box, as Mater furiously admonished him and gave him a shove, looking over her shoulder at me. As if I couldn’t see them!

    The taxi driver opened the boot of the car and handed me my suitcase. I thanked him and settled my bill, and slowly approached Mater on the porch.

    “I’m home!” I called gaily.

    Mater giggled nervously (giggling at her age, I ask you! and wearing a pink floral babygro, it was almost obscene) and ran a withered hand through her sparse locks.

    “What’s Bert got in that box?” I asked, in what I hoped was a neutral and cordial manner.

    “What box? Er, nothing! There is nothing important about that box, I expect it’s just some old boring rubbish,” Mater replied, a trifle hastily, and altogether unconvincingly. “You must be parched after your journey, I’ll go and put the kettle on.” And with that she rushed inside, failing completely in her vapid attempt to allay my suspicions.

    One thing was true though, I was parched, and Bert and the mysterious box would have to wait until after a cup of tea.

    #4151
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “Now, young lady,” said John when Sue had left the room. “Don’t you go upsetting the apple cart. A bit of a chatter about travel and what not … well, that would be a good thing. But spontaneous jaunts and rambles after dark… that is another whole kettle of fish.”

    “I just thought …. “ began Clove.

    “That’s enough!” snapped John. “You watch yourself or you will end up the way of the other lodgers.”

    “What happened to the other lodgers?” asked Clove nervously.

    At that moment Sue bustled in with the tea.

    “Here you are, my lovelies!” she said brightly. “A cup of tea is much more sensible this hour of night. Now I couldn’t remember if you had sugar or not but you can help yourself.”

    “Thanks,” muttered Clove.

    “Young Clove here was asking about the other lodgers,” said John, with a conspiratorial wink at his wife. “But I think that’s a story best left for another time. We’ve had enough upset for one evening.”

    #4150
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    The door to the living room burst open startling Sue whose teacup rattled against the saucer. John merely glanced up with a frown, and pointedly stared at the tv screen.

    “Anyone want to join me for a walk?” Clove asked brightly, perhaps even a little feverishly.

    “When, dear?” asked Sue. “I’m washing the curtains tomorrow.”

    “Now!” Clove replied. “A nice moonlit walk to the park! It’s a lovely evening,” she added hopefully.

    “Steady on, old girl,” said John. “We’re watching the telly.”

    “Things like that need to be planned, Clove,” Sue said. “And besides, we’re watching tv now.”

    “You can’t just go out walking in the dark, haven’t you read the papers? Streets are full of yobs after dark, it’s not safe.” John shook his head and tutted. “Things aren’t like they used to be.”

    Sue agreed. “No, times have changed. You don’t want to be out after dark, not nowadays”

    “But if we all go together it might be fun!” Clove was feeling desperate. “It’s fun doing something spontaneous, just getting up and doing it!”

    John appeared to give this some consideration.

    “No, I don’t think so,” he said, shaking his head again. “No, that would never do.”

    “Things have to be planned,” Sue agreed, “And besides, we’re watching the telly now. I know, how about a nice cup of tea? I’ll go and put the kettle on.”

    #4070
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Shall I put the kettle on, Miss Pants?” asked Ricardo. A bit melodramatic, he felt, probably best to humour her.

    #3626
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “I wasn’t expecting a mutiny this morning, really, how inconsiderate of them, they could at least have waited until I’d had my breakfast. You just can’t get the characters these days. Plotting against me all night while I slept the sweet sleep of an innocent lamb, I ask you! Where will it all end?!

    Ah well. They were due to be pensioned off anyway, poor decrepit old things, past their write by date anyway.”

    Liz was initially speechless, then miffed ~ but then an idea started brewing in sync with the kettle.

    #3597
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Yogi’s teleporting classes in Camden Town had been going on for about 6 months, a small group of people determined to master the art, each member dedicated to the pursuit for particular reasons of their own.

    Freya wanted to be able to travel, but was restricted because of her dogs and cats. He aim was to “lunch travel” and have lunch in a different country every day, being home in the mornings and evenings to look after her pets. John wanted to retire to the south of France, but keep an eye on his book shop in London, without the tedium and expense of airline flights. Justin, however, was a black bloc anarchist, and wanted to be able to teleport to protests all over the world, and be able to evade police kettles, and escape from Jail should he ever find himself in that position. Samantha was writing an exposé on the nefarious goings on of government ministers, but was for obvious reasons denied access to the places and documents that she needed to see. Fred missed his children and wanted to visit them, an impossibility in his current homeless destitute situation. Luckily for Fred, Yogi didn’t charge a fee for the classes, more interested in determination and commitment than monetary rewards.

    Fred had managed on several occasions to project his awareness to the Flying Fish Inn, but had not yet achieved a full physical materialization. He had blinked in and out a couple of times, but had become nervous of frightening the children when he’d unintentionally startled Mater.

    #3577
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Ah, there you are Bert!” Liz smiled graciously. “Do sit down, you look harassed and all of a dither. But the kettle on first though, there’s a love.”

    Bert glared at Liz resentfully. “I thought I was a bit part, not a jack of all threads.”

    “Oh cheer up, Bert! When you’ve made us all a nice cup of tea we’ll all sit down and talk about it, won’t we Finnley?”

    #3570
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “There’s a very fine line, Finnley, between feckless drivel, and fecking snivel, and to not put too fine a point upon it, it’s all fairly pointless anyway,” replied Liz, smiling amiably into the curmudgeonly scowl. “Bert will put the kettle on, I’ll call him over from the thread next door.”

    “Typical!” muttered Finnley, “Never a thought about waking the poor bugger up, that it might be night time over there. Bloody inconsiderate, if you ask me.”

    #3540
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    That Liz had started to become a few sandwiches short of a picnic when she’d hit her 57th birthday was an open secret.
    Her editor had to personally recruit frequent replacements for her dame de compagnie, whom, no matter how different they looked, she would invariably call ‘cleaning lady Finnley’, stuck with her remembrance of a certain period of her life.

    Godfrey often had wondered… were he to resign, and be replaced like so many Finnleys before this one, would she also call his replacement “Godfrey”? The though made him titter, as he put the kettle on the stove.
    At times he wanted to scream that he wasn’t her bloody man-servant, but her personal doctor had made a point to explain to him that Elizabeth’s frail grasp on reality would only be strengthened if everyone continued to play the charade of her life.

    Truth was, she really did seem to grow younger as the years passed, and as she was bossing around everyone with great enjoyment, Godfrey had often wondered if she wasn’t in cahoots with her physician to have everyone believe she was truly losing it.
    He had to admit, she was doing a terrific job at it.

    #3534
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Godfrey, go and put the kettle on. Finnley wants a cuppa. Finnley come and sit down and tell me all about it.”
    “All about what?” asked Finnley.
    “Anything, dear, just make something up. The whole world is insane, and I’ve decided that the only solution is to ..to….”
    Godfrey, don’t just stand there with your mouth open like a goldfish, put the bloody kettle on. Liz needs a cuppa,” said Finnley.

Viewing 20 results - 1 through 20 (of 28 total)