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    #6269
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    The Housley Letters 

    From Barbara Housley’s Narrative on the Letters.

     

    William Housley (1781-1848) and Ellen Carrington were married on May 30, 1814 at St. Oswald’s church in Ashbourne. William died in 1848 at the age of 67 of “disease of lungs and general debility”. Ellen died in 1872.

    Marriage of William Housley and Ellen Carrington in Ashbourne in 1814:

    William and Ellen Marriage

     

    Parish records show three children for William and his first wife, Mary, Ellens’ sister, who were married December 29, 1806: Mary Ann, christened in 1808 and mentioned frequently in the letters; Elizabeth, christened in 1810, but never mentioned in any letters; and William, born in 1812, probably referred to as Will in the letters. Mary died in 1813.

    William and Ellen had ten children: John, Samuel, Edward, Anne, Charles, George, Joseph, Robert, Emma, and Joseph. The first Joseph died at the age of four, and the last son was also named Joseph. Anne never married, Charles emigrated to Australia in 1851, and George to USA, also in 1851. The letters are to George, from his sisters and brothers in England.

    The following are excerpts of those letters, including excerpts of Barbara Housley’s “Narrative on Historic Letters”. They are grouped according to who they refer to, rather than chronological order.

     

    ELLEN HOUSLEY 1795-1872

    Joseph wrote that when Emma was married, Ellen “broke up the comfortable home and the things went to Derby and she went to live with them but Derby didn’t agree with her so she left again leaving her things behind and came to live with John in the new house where she died.” Ellen was listed with John’s household in the 1871 census.
    In May 1872, the Ilkeston Pioneer carried this notice: “Mr. Hopkins will sell by auction on Saturday next the eleventh of May 1872 the whole of the useful furniture, sewing machine, etc. nearly new on the premises of the late Mrs. Housley at Smalley near Heanor in the county of Derby. Sale at one o’clock in the afternoon.”

    Ellen’s family was evidently rather prominant in Smalley. Two Carringtons (John and William) served on the Parish Council in 1794. Parish records are full of Carrington marriages and christenings; census records confirm many of the family groupings.

    In June of 1856, Emma wrote: “Mother looks as well as ever and was told by a lady the other day that she looked handsome.” Later she wrote: “Mother is as stout as ever although she sometimes complains of not being able to do as she used to.”

     

    Mary’s children:

    MARY ANN HOUSLEY  1808-1878

    There were hard feelings between Mary Ann and Ellen and her children. Anne wrote: “If you remember we were not very friendly when you left. They never came and nothing was too bad for Mary Ann to say of Mother and me, but when Robert died Mother sent for her to the funeral but she did not think well to come so we took no more notice. She would not allow her children to come either.”

    Mary Ann was unlucky in love! In Anne’s second letter she wrote: “William Carrington is paying Mary Ann great attention. He is living in London but they write to each other….We expect it will be a match.” Apparantly the courtship was stormy for in 1855, Emma wrote: “Mary Ann’s wedding with William Carrington has dropped through after she had prepared everything, dresses and all for the occassion.” Then in 1856, Emma wrote: “William Carrington and Mary Ann are separated. They wore him out with their nonsense.” Whether they ever married is unclear. Joseph wrote in 1872: “Mary Ann was married but her husband has left her. She is in very poor health. She has one daughter and they are living with their mother at Smalley.”

    Regarding William Carrington, Emma supplied this bit of news: “His sister, Mrs. Lily, has eloped with a married man. Is she not a nice person!”

     

    WILLIAM HOUSLEY JR. 1812-1890

    According to a letter from Anne, Will’s two sons and daughter were sent to learn dancing so they would be “fit for any society.” Will’s wife was Dorothy Palfry. They were married in Denby on October 20, 1836 when Will was 24. According to the 1851 census, Will and Dorothy had three sons: Alfred 14, Edwin 12, and William 10. All three boys were born in Denby.

    In his letter of May 30, 1872, after just bemoaning that all of his brothers and sisters are gone except Sam and John, Joseph added: “Will is living still.” In another 1872 letter Joseph wrote, “Will is living at Heanor yet and carrying on his cattle dealing.” The 1871 census listed Will, 59, and his son William, 30, of Lascoe Road, Heanor, as cattle dealers.

     

    Ellen’s children:

    JOHN HOUSLEY  1815-1893

    John married Sarah Baggally in Morely in 1838. They had at least six children. Elizabeth (born 2 May 1838) was “out service” in 1854. In her “third year out,Elizabeth was described by Anne as “a very nice steady girl but quite a woman in appearance.” One of her positions was with a Mrs. Frearson in Heanor. Emma wrote in 1856: Elizabeth is still at Mrs. Frearson. She is such a fine stout girl you would not know her.” Joseph wrote in 1872 that Elizabeth was in service with Mrs. Eliza Sitwell at Derby. (About 1850, Miss Eliza Wilmot-Sitwell provided for a small porch with a handsome Norman doorway at the west end of the St. John the Baptist parish church in Smalley.)

    According to Elizabeth’s birth certificate and the 1841 census, John was a butcher. By 1851, the household included a nurse and a servant, and John was listed as a “victular.” Anne wrote in February 1854, John has left the Public House a year and a half ago. He is living where Plumbs (Ann Plumb witnessed William’s death certificate with her mark) did and Thomas Allen has the land. He has been working at James Eley’s all winter.” In 1861, Ellen lived with John and Sarah and the three boys.

    John sold his share in the inheritance from their mother and disappeared after her death. (He died in Doncaster, Yorkshire, in 1893.) At that time Charles, the youngest would have been 21. Indeed, Joseph wrote in July 1872: John’s children are all grown up”.

    In May 1872, Joseph wrote: “For what do you think, John has sold his share and he has acted very bad since his wife died and at the same time he sold all his furniture. You may guess I have never seen him but once since poor mother’s funeral and he is gone now no one knows where.”

    In February 1874 Joseph wrote: “You want to know what made John go away. Well, I will give you one reason. I think I told you that when his wife died he persuaded me to leave Derby and come to live with him. Well so we did and dear Harriet to keep his house. Well he insulted my wife and offered things to her that was not proper and my dear wife had the power to resist his unmanly conduct. I did not think he could of served me such a dirty trick so that is one thing dear brother. He could not look me in the face when we met. Then after we left him he got a woman in the house and I suppose they lived as man and wife. She caught the small pox and died and there he was by himself like some wild man. Well dear brother I could not go to him again after he had served me and mine as he had and I believe he was greatly in debt too so that he sold his share out of the property and when he received the money at Belper he went away and has never been seen by any of us since but I have heard of him being at Sheffield enquiring for Sam Caldwell. You will remember him. He worked in the Nag’s Head yard but I have heard nothing no more of him.”

    A mention of a John Housley of Heanor in the Nottinghma Journal 1875.  I don’t know for sure if the John mentioned here is the brother John who Joseph describes above as behaving improperly to his wife. John Housley had a son Joseph, born in 1840, and John’s wife Sarah died in 1870.

    John Housley

     

    In 1876, the solicitor wrote to George: “Have you heard of John Housley? He is entitled to Robert’s share and I want him to claim it.”

     

    SAMUEL HOUSLEY 1816-

    Sam married Elizabeth Brookes of Sutton Coldfield, and they had three daughters: Elizabeth, Mary Anne and Catherine.  Elizabeth his wife died in 1849, a few months after Samuel’s father William died in 1848. The particular circumstances relating to these individuals have been discussed in previous chapters; the following are letter excerpts relating to them.

    Death of William Housley 15 Dec 1848, and Elizabeth Housley 5 April 1849, Smalley:

    Housley Deaths

     

    Joseph wrote in December 1872: “I saw one of Sam’s daughters, the youngest Kate, you would remember her a baby I dare say. She is very comfortably married.”

    In the same letter (December 15, 1872), Joseph wrote:  “I think we have now found all out now that is concerned in the matter for there was only Sam that we did not know his whereabouts but I was informed a week ago that he is dead–died about three years ago in Birmingham Union. Poor Sam. He ought to have come to a better end than that….His daughter and her husband went to Brimingham and also to Sutton Coldfield that is where he married his wife from and found out his wife’s brother. It appears he has been there and at Birmingham ever since he went away but ever fond of drink.”

    (Sam, however, was still alive in 1871, living as a lodger at the George and Dragon Inn, Henley in Arden. And no trace of Sam has been found since. It would appear that Sam did not want to be found.)

     

    EDWARD HOUSLEY 1819-1843

    Edward died before George left for USA in 1851, and as such there is no mention of him in the letters.

     

    ANNE HOUSLEY 1821-1856

    Anne wrote two letters to her brother George between February 1854 and her death in 1856. Apparently she suffered from a lung disease for she wrote: “I can say you will be surprised I am still living and better but still cough and spit a deal. Can do nothing but sit and sew.” According to the 1851 census, Anne, then 29, was a seamstress. Their friend, Mrs. Davy, wrote in March 1856: “This I send in a box to my Brother….The pincushion cover and pen wiper are Anne’s work–are for thy wife. She would have made it up had she been able.” Anne was not living at home at the time of the 1841 census. She would have been 19 or 20 and perhaps was “out service.”

    In her second letter Anne wrote: “It is a great trouble now for me to write…as the body weakens so does the mind often. I have been very weak all summer. That I continue is a wonder to all and to spit so much although much better than when you left home.” She also wrote: “You know I had a desire for America years ago. Were I in health and strength, it would be the land of my adoption.”

    In November 1855, Emma wrote, “Anne has been very ill all summer and has not been able to write or do anything.” Their neighbor Mrs. Davy wrote on March 21, 1856: “I fear Anne will not be long without a change.” In a black-edged letter the following June, Emma wrote: “I need not tell you how happy she was and how calmly and peacefully she died. She only kept in bed two days.”

    Certainly Anne was a woman of deep faith and strong religious convictions. When she wrote that they were hoping to hear of Charles’ success on the gold fields she added: “But I would rather hear of him having sought and found the Pearl of great price than all the gold Australia can produce, (For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?).” Then she asked George: “I should like to learn how it was you were first led to seek pardon and a savior. I do feel truly rejoiced to hear you have been led to seek and find this Pearl through the workings of the Holy Spirit and I do pray that He who has begun this good work in each of us may fulfill it and carry it on even unto the end and I can never doubt the willingness of Jesus who laid down his life for us. He who said whoever that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.”

    Anne’s will was probated October 14, 1856. Mr. William Davy of Kidsley Park appeared for the family. Her estate was valued at under £20. Emma was to receive fancy needlework, a four post bedstead, feather bed and bedding, a mahogany chest of drawers, plates, linen and china. Emma was also to receive Anne’s writing desk. There was a condition that Ellen would have use of these items until her death.

    The money that Anne was to receive from her grandfather, William Carrington, and her father, William Housley was to be distributed one third to Joseph, one third to Emma, and one third to be divided between her four neices: John’s daughter Elizabeth, 18, and Sam’s daughters Elizabeth, 10, Mary Ann, 9 and Catharine, age 7 to be paid by the trustees as they think “most useful and proper.” Emma Lyon and Elizabeth Davy were the witnesses.

    The Carrington Farm:

    Carringtons Farm

     

    CHARLES HOUSLEY 1823-1855

    Charles went to Australia in 1851, and was last heard from in January 1853. According to the solicitor, who wrote to George on June 3, 1874, Charles had received advances on the settlement of their parent’s estate. “Your promissory note with the two signed by your brother Charles for 20 pounds he received from his father and 20 pounds he received from his mother are now in the possession of the court.”

    Charles and George were probably quite close friends. Anne wrote in 1854: “Charles inquired very particularly in both his letters after you.”

    According to Anne, Charles and a friend married two sisters. He and his father-in-law had a farm where they had 130 cows and 60 pigs. Whatever the trade he learned in England, he never worked at it once he reached Australia. While it does not seem that Charles went to Australia because gold had been discovered there, he was soon caught up in “gold fever”. Anne wrote: “I dare say you have heard of the immense gold fields of Australia discovered about the time he went. Thousands have since then emigrated to Australia, both high and low. Such accounts we heard in the papers of people amassing fortunes we could not believe. I asked him when I wrote if it was true. He said this was no exaggeration for people were making their fortune daily and he intended going to the diggings in six weeks for he could stay away no longer so that we are hoping to hear of his success if he is alive.”

    In March 1856, Mrs. Davy wrote: “I am sorry to tell thee they have had a letter from Charles’s wife giving account of Charles’s death of 6 months consumption at the Victoria diggings. He has left 2 children a boy and a girl William and Ellen.” In June of the same year in a black edged letter, Emma wrote: “I think Mrs. Davy mentioned Charles’s death in her note. His wife wrote to us. They have two children Helen and William. Poor dear little things. How much I should like to see them all. She writes very affectionately.”

    In December 1872, Joseph wrote: “I’m told that Charles two daughters has wrote to Smalley post office making inquiries about his share….” In January 1876, the solicitor wrote: “Charles Housley’s children have claimed their father’s share.”

     

    GEORGE HOUSLEY 1824-1877

    George emigrated to the United states in 1851, arriving in July. The solicitor Abraham John Flint referred in a letter to a 15-pound advance which was made to George on June 9, 1851. This certainly was connected to his journey. George settled along the Delaware River in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The letters from the solicitor were addressed to: Lahaska Post Office, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

    George married Sarah Ann Hill on May 6, 1854 in Doylestown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In her first letter (February 1854), Anne wrote: “We want to know who and what is this Miss Hill you name in your letter. What age is she? Send us all the particulars but I would advise you not to get married until you have sufficient to make a comfortable home.”

    Upon learning of George’s marriage, Anne wrote: “I hope dear brother you may be happy with your wife….I hope you will be as a son to her parents. Mother unites with me in kind love to you both and to your father and mother with best wishes for your health and happiness.” In 1872 (December) Joseph wrote: “I am sorry to hear that sister’s father is so ill. It is what we must all come to some time and hope we shall meet where there is no more trouble.”

    Emma wrote in 1855, “We write in love to your wife and yourself and you must write soon and tell us whether there is a little nephew or niece and what you call them.” In June of 1856, Emma wrote: “We want to see dear Sarah Ann and the dear little boy. We were much pleased with the “bit of news” you sent.” The bit of news was the birth of John Eley Housley, January 11, 1855. Emma concluded her letter “Give our very kindest love to dear sister and dearest Johnnie.”

    In September 1872, Joseph wrote, “I was very sorry to hear that John your oldest had met with such a sad accident but I hope he is got alright again by this time.” In the same letter, Joseph asked: “Now I want to know what sort of a town you are living in or village. How far is it from New York? Now send me all particulars if you please.”

    In March 1873 Harriet asked Sarah Ann: “And will you please send me all the news at the place and what it is like for it seems to me that it is a wild place but you must tell me what it is like….”.  The question of whether she was referring to Bucks County, Pennsylvania or some other place is raised in Joseph’s letter of the same week.
    On March 17, 1873, Joseph wrote: “I was surprised to hear that you had gone so far away west. Now dear brother what ever are you doing there so far away from home and family–looking out for something better I suppose.”

    The solicitor wrote on May 23, 1874: “Lately I have not written because I was not certain of your address and because I doubted I had much interesting news to tell you.” Later, Joseph wrote concerning the problems settling the estate, “You see dear brother there is only me here on our side and I cannot do much. I wish you were here to help me a bit and if you think of going for another summer trip this turn you might as well run over here.”

    Apparently, George had indicated he might return to England for a visit in 1856. Emma wrote concerning the portrait of their mother which had been sent to George: “I hope you like mother’s portrait. I did not see it but I suppose it was not quite perfect about the eyes….Joseph and I intend having ours taken for you when you come over….Do come over before very long.”

    In March 1873, Joseph wrote: “You ask me what I think of you coming to England. I think as you have given the trustee power to sign for you I think you could do no good but I should like to see you once again for all that. I can’t say whether there would be anything amiss if you did come as you say it would be throwing good money after bad.”

    On June 10, 1875, the solicitor wrote: “I have been expecting to hear from you for some time past. Please let me hear what you are doing and where you are living and how I must send you your money.” George’s big news at that time was that on May 3, 1875, he had become a naturalized citizen “renouncing and abjuring all allegiance and fidelity to every foreign prince, potentate, state and sovereignity whatsoever, and particularly to Victoria Queen of Great Britain of whom he was before a subject.”

     

    ROBERT HOUSLEY 1832-1851

    In 1854, Anne wrote: “Poor Robert. He died in August after you left he broke a blood vessel in the lung.”
    From Joseph’s first letter we learn that Robert was 19 when he died: “Dear brother there have been a great many changes in the family since you left us. All is gone except myself and John and Sam–we have heard nothing of him since he left. Robert died first when he was 19 years of age. Then Anne and Charles too died in Australia and then a number of years elapsed before anyone else. Then John lost his wife, then Emma, and last poor dear mother died last January on the 11th.”

    Anne described Robert’s death in this way: “He had thrown up blood many times before in the spring but the last attack weakened him that he only lived a fortnight after. He died at Derby. Mother was with him. Although he suffered much he never uttered a murmur or regret and always a smile on his face for everyone that saw him. He will be regretted by all that knew him”.

    Robert died a resident of St. Peter’s Parish, Derby, but was buried in Smalley on August 16, 1851.
    Apparently Robert was apprenticed to be a joiner for, according to Anne, Joseph took his place: “Joseph wanted to be a joiner. We thought we could do no better than let him take Robert’s place which he did the October after and is there still.”

    In 1876, the solicitor wrote to George: “Have you heard of John Housley? He is entitled to Robert’s share and I want him to claim it.”

     

    EMMA HOUSLEY 1836-1871

    Emma was not mentioned in Anne’s first letter. In the second, Anne wrote that Emma was living at Spondon with two ladies in her “third situation,” and added, “She is grown a bouncing woman.” Anne described her sister well. Emma wrote in her first letter (November 12, 1855): “I must tell you that I am just 21 and we had my pudding last Sunday. I wish I could send you a piece.”

    From Emma’s letters we learn that she was living in Derby from May until November 1855 with Mr. Haywood, an iron merchant. She explained, “He has failed and I have been obliged to leave,” adding, “I expect going to a new situation very soon. It is at Belper.” In 1851 records, William Haywood, age 22, was listed as an iron foundry worker. In the 1857 Derby Directory, James and George were listed as iron and brass founders and ironmongers with an address at 9 Market Place, Derby.

    In June 1856, Emma wrote from “The Cedars, Ashbourne Road” where she was working for Mr. Handysides.
    While she was working for Mr. Handysides, Emma wrote: “Mother is thinking of coming to live at Derby. That will be nice for Joseph and I.”

    Friargate and Ashbourne Road were located in St. Werburgh’s Parish. (In fact, St. Werburgh’s vicarage was at 185 Surrey Street. This clue led to the discovery of the record of Emma’s marriage on May 6, 1858, to Edwin Welch Harvey, son of Samuel Harvey in St. Werburgh’s.)

    In 1872, Joseph wrote: “Our sister Emma, she died at Derby at her own home for she was married. She has left two young children behind. The husband was the son of the man that I went apprentice to and has caused a great deal of trouble to our family and I believe hastened poor Mother’s death….”.   Joseph added that he believed Emma’s “complaint” was consumption and that she was sick a good bit. Joseph wrote: “Mother was living with John when I came home (from Ascension Island around 1867? or to Smalley from Derby around 1870?) for when Emma was married she broke up the comfortable home and the things went to Derby and she went to live with them but Derby did not agree with her so she had to leave it again but left all her things there.”

    Emma Housley and Edwin Welch Harvey wedding, 1858:

    Emma Housley wedding

     

    JOSEPH HOUSLEY 1838-1893

    We first hear of Joseph in a letter from Anne to George in 1854. “Joseph wanted to be a joiner. We thought we could do no better than let him take Robert’s place which he did the October after (probably 1851) and is there still. He is grown as tall as you I think quite a man.” Emma concurred in her first letter: “He is quite a man in his appearance and quite as tall as you.”

    From Emma we learn in 1855: “Joseph has left Mr. Harvey. He had not work to employ him. So mother thought he had better leave his indenture and be at liberty at once than wait for Harvey to be a bankrupt. He has got a very good place of work now and is very steady.” In June of 1856, Emma wrote “Joseph and I intend to have our portraits taken for you when you come over….Mother is thinking of coming to Derby. That will be nice for Joseph and I. Joseph is very hearty I am happy to say.”

    According to Joseph’s letters, he was married to Harriet Ballard. Joseph described their miraculous reunion in this way: “I must tell you that I have been abroad myself to the Island of Ascension. (Elsewhere he wrote that he was on the island when the American civil war broke out). I went as a Royal Marine and worked at my trade and saved a bit of money–enough to buy my discharge and enough to get married with but while I was out on the island who should I meet with there but my dear wife’s sister. (On two occasions Joseph and Harriet sent George the name and address of Harriet’s sister, Mrs. Brooks, in Susquehanna Depot, Pennsylvania, but it is not clear whether this was the same sister.) She was lady’s maid to the captain’s wife. Though I had never seen her before we got to know each other somehow so from that me and my wife recommenced our correspondence and you may be sure I wanted to get home to her. But as soon as I did get home that is to England I was not long before I was married and I have not regretted yet for we are very comfortable as well as circumstances will allow for I am only a journeyman joiner.”

    Proudly, Joseph wrote: “My little family consists of three nice children–John, Joseph and Susy Annie.” On her birth certificate, Susy Ann’s birthdate is listed as 1871. Parish records list a Lucy Annie christened in 1873. The boys were born in Derby, John in 1868 and Joseph in 1869. In his second letter, Joseph repeated: “I have got three nice children, a good wife and I often think is more than I have deserved.” On August 6, 1873, Joseph and Harriet wrote: “We both thank you dear sister for the pieces of money you sent for the children. I don’t know as I have ever see any before.” Joseph ended another letter: “Now I must close with our kindest love to you all and kisses from the children.”

    In Harriet’s letter to Sarah Ann (March 19, 1873), she promised: “I will send you myself and as soon as the weather gets warm as I can take the children to Derby, I will have them taken and send them, but it is too cold yet for we have had a very cold winter and a great deal of rain.” At this time, the children were all under 6 and the baby was not yet two.

    In March 1873 Joseph wrote: “I have been working down at Heanor gate there is a joiner shop there where Kings used to live I have been working there this winter and part of last summer but the wages is very low but it is near home that is one comfort.” (Heanor Gate is about 1/4 mile from Kidsley Grange. There was a school and industrial park there in 1988.) At this time Joseph and his family were living in “the big house–in Old Betty Hanson’s house.” The address in the 1871 census was Smalley Lane.

    A glimpse into Joseph’s personality is revealed by this remark to George in an 1872 letter: “Many thanks for your portrait and will send ours when we can get them taken for I never had but one taken and that was in my old clothes and dear Harriet is not willing to part with that. I tell her she ought to be satisfied with the original.”

    On one occasion Joseph and Harriet both sent seeds. (Marks are still visible on the paper.) Joseph sent “the best cow cabbage seed in the country–Robinson Champion,” and Harriet sent red cabbage–Shaw’s Improved Red. Possibly cow cabbage was also known as ox cabbage: “I hope you will have some good cabbages for the Ox cabbage takes all the prizes here. I suppose you will be taking the prizes out there with them.” Joseph wrote that he would put the name of the seeds by each “but I should think that will not matter. You will tell the difference when they come up.”

    George apparently would have liked Joseph to come to him as early as 1854. Anne wrote: “As to his coming to you that must be left for the present.” In 1872, Joseph wrote: “I have been thinking of making a move from here for some time before I heard from you for it is living from hand to mouth and never certain of a job long either.” Joseph then made plans to come to the United States in the spring of 1873. “For I intend all being well leaving England in the spring. Many thanks for your kind offer but I hope we shall be able to get a comfortable place before we have been out long.” Joseph promised to bring some things George wanted and asked: “What sort of things would be the best to bring out there for I don’t want to bring a lot that is useless.” Joseph’s plans are confirmed in a letter from the solicitor May 23, 1874: “I trust you are prospering and in good health. Joseph seems desirous of coming out to you when this is settled.”

    George must have been reminiscing about gooseberries (Heanor has an annual gooseberry show–one was held July 28, 1872) and Joseph promised to bring cuttings when they came: “Dear Brother, I could not get the gooseberries for they was all gathered when I received your letter but we shall be able to get some seed out the first chance and I shall try to bring some cuttings out along.” In the same letter that he sent the cabbage seeds Joseph wrote: “I have got some gooseberries drying this year for you. They are very fine ones but I have only four as yet but I was promised some more when they were ripe.” In another letter Joseph sent gooseberry seeds and wrote their names: Victoria, Gharibaldi and Globe.

    In September 1872 Joseph wrote; “My wife is anxious to come. I hope it will suit her health for she is not over strong.” Elsewhere Joseph wrote that Harriet was “middling sometimes. She is subject to sick headaches. It knocks her up completely when they come on.” In December 1872 Joseph wrote, “Now dear brother about us coming to America you know we shall have to wait until this affair is settled and if it is not settled and thrown into Chancery I’m afraid we shall have to stay in England for I shall never be able to save money enough to bring me out and my family but I hope of better things.”

    On July 19, 1875 Abraham Flint (the solicitor) wrote: “Joseph Housley has removed from Smalley and is working on some new foundry buildings at Little Chester near Derby. He lives at a village called Little Eaton near Derby. If you address your letter to him as Joseph Housley, carpenter, Little Eaton near Derby that will no doubt find him.”

    George did not save any letters from Joseph after 1874, hopefully he did reach him at Little Eaton. Joseph and his family are not listed in either Little Eaton or Derby on the 1881 census.

    In his last letter (February 11, 1874), Joseph sounded very discouraged and wrote that Harriet’s parents were very poorly and both had been “in bed for a long time.” In addition, Harriet and the children had been ill.
    The move to Little Eaton may indicate that Joseph received his settlement because in August, 1873, he wrote: “I think this is bad news enough and bad luck too, but I have had little else since I came to live at Kiddsley cottages but perhaps it is all for the best if one could only think so. I have begun to think there will be no chance for us coming over to you for I am afraid there will not be so much left as will bring us out without it is settled very shortly but I don’t intend leaving this house until it is settled either one way or the other. “

    Joseph Housley and the Kiddsley cottages:

    Joseph Housley

    #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.

    #6263
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    From Tanganyika with Love

    continued  ~ part 4

    With thanks to Mike Rushby.

    Mchewe Estate. 31st January 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

    With much love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 9th February 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

    Heaps of love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 27th February 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Lots of love,
    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. 12th March 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    With heaps of love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 24th March 1936

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Heaps of love from a sadder but wiser,
    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. 3rd April 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The wet season is definitely the time to stay home.

    Lots and lots of love,
    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. 30th April 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

    Your very affectionate,
    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. 17th September 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

    With love to you all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 2nd October 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

    Much love to you all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 10th October 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

    Your worried but affectionate,
    Eleanor.

    Tukuyu. 23rd October 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

    Much love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe. 12th November 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Lots and lots of love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Chunya 27th November 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Much love to all,
    Eleanor.

     

    #6253
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    My Grandparents Kitchen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    #6207
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “I was ‘anging onto his bloody arm for dear life and the strangest thing you will never believe ….” Glor paused dramatically.

    “Go on then, Glor! Don’t leave us ‘anging now!” said Sha. “We’re all agog, we are.”

    “Don’t be such a bloody tease, Glor!” snapped Mavis.

    “If yer will both ‘ush, I’ll tell ya.” Glor folded her arms and looked at her friends sternly. “His arm didn’t feel right. It felt like one of them dolls they put in shops with the fancy clothes on. Wot do you call them?”

    “Wot yer on about, Sha? Youse feeling alright?” Mavis slapped a hand to Glor’s forehead. “A bit ‘ot. Might be the bloody stress got to you. All this escaping nonsense that Sophie is on about. She’s lost ‘er marbles an all if yer ask me. Mind, she must be bloody ninety if she’s a day.”

    Glor heaved a loud sigh. Why did she always have to be the brains? “Have you numskuttles ever thought to yerselves that Mr Andrew Anderson is a bit too bloody bootiful? That it ain’t natural?”

    Before the others could answer, a loud siren shrieked followed by the doctor’s voice. “EMERGENCY. ASSEMBLE IN THE HALL. I REPEAT. EVERYONE MUST GO WITH HASTE TO THE HALL YOUR LIFE DEPENDS UPON IT.

    #6198
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “You were listening, Finnley!” said Liz barely able to hide her surprise. It had been a long time since anyone had listened to her. Godfrey said it was because she mostly talked nonsense. He’d smiled kindly and handed her a doughnut to soften the harsh words, but it had stung nonetheless.

    Finnley rolled her eyes. “I told you already, I’ve turned over a new leaf. Since my brush with … ” She lowered her voice dramatically as her eyes slid around the room. “… death.”

    “Death! Oh, you really are ridiculous and very dramatic, Finnley. And why are you squinting like that? It’s most unattractive.” Liz paused. Should she mention the hair? Finnley could be so sensitive about her appearance. Oh dear lord, now the silly girl is crying!

    “I’m sorry, Madam. I’m sorry for all the times I haven’t listened to you in your numerous times of need.” Finnley gasped for air through her sobs as Liz flung a philodendron leaf at her.

    “Speaking of leaves, you can wipe your nose with that. Now, Finnley, I always say, it does no good to cry over milk which has been spilled. The question is, where to from here?”

    #6116

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “What a load of rubbish,” said Star later. “I don’t believe a word of it. Well, except for the part about Vince French not being in a coma, that bit rang true. But the rest of it’s downright nonsense, if you ask me.”

    Tara waved to the waiter and ordered another two gin and tonics.  The Bell Bird Inn was conveniently located mid way between the office and their apartment, and needless to say, they were regulars.

    “There’s definitely something fishy going on with April’s story,” Tara agreed. “The wardrobe, for instance. Those notes with the same handwriting.  I don’t believe she’s filthy rich, either. Nobody who is filthy rich ever says “I’m filthy rich”.”

    “How would you know? How many filthy rich people do you hobnob with, then?”

    “Let’s not get off the point!” Star cried, exasperated. “What are we going to do?”

    “May as well start at the bottom and work our way up. Vince’s bottom. All we need to do is find Vince’s tattoo and we’ll have found Vince.  It’s fiendishly simple!” Tara looked smug.

    “Oh, right,” said Star when she found her voice. “Right. Because it’s just so easy to peruse bottom tattoos on the general public.”

    Tara giggled. “Don’t be silly. This is where we use our special unofficial skills. Remote viewing.”

    “But where do we start?”

    “Set the intention, and trust your intuition. Oh come on,” Star’s lack of enthusiasm was becoming tedious. “It will be fun!”

    #5830

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “Well, that was certainly enlightening.” Star said, once they got out of the bushes where they’d fell.

    Tara looked at the bushes and mused “Must be what they mean when they say it all went pear-shaped from now on…”

    “Nonsense, Tara. At least we now know there’s a good chance the real Vince was planning to spread some pathogen into the cult, got caught and sent into a coma for it.”

    “Shouldn’t we leave Rosamund with those silly conspiracy theories? After all, we were hired to find Basil, not to save the world.”

    “Thank the Mother for that, we’re not equipped, and it can’t afford our saving.”

    “Speak for yourself!” hissed Tara. “So, Basil? Any idea where he might be now?”

    “My guess he’s held prisoner at the cult. We should give it a second look.”

    “Might be tougher now it’s in lockdown.”

    Star grinned widely. “I always knew I’d find good use for those nice fancy party nurse dresses.”

    #5822
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    The evening helper said she was very sorry to tell me that my niece wouldn’t be able to make it this week, as she’d been on holiday and got quarantined.  You needn’t be sorry about that, I told her, I don’t know who she is anyway.  Not that I’m ungrateful, it’s very kind of her to come and visit me.  She tells me all about people I’ve never heard of, and I pretend to take an interest. I’m polite you see, brought up that way.

    Then she said, you’ll have to go easy on the toilet paper, it’s all sold out. Panic buying, she said.

    That’s what happens when people start shitting themselves with fear, I said, and she tutted at me as if I was a seven year old, the cheeky young whippersnapper.  And how shall I go easy on it, shall I crap outside behind the flat topped bushes under my window? Wipe my arse on a leaf?

    Don’t be daft, you’d fall over, she replied crisply. She had a point.  My hip’s still playing me up, so my plans to escape are on hold. Not much point in it with all this quarantine nonsense going on anyway.   I might get rounded up and put in a tent by a faceless moron in a hazmat suit.  I must say the plague doctors outfits were much more stylish.  And there was no panic buying of loo rolls in those days either.

    I don’t know what the world’s coming to. A handful of people with a cough and everyone loses their minds.  Then again, when the plague came, everyone lost their minds too. Not over toilet paper though.  We didn’t start losing our minds until the carts started rolling past every night full of the bodies.  No paper masks in those days either, we wound scarves around our faces because of the stench.

    The worst thing was being locked in the house when the kitchen maid came down with it.  All of us, all of the nine children, my wife and her mother, the cook and the maids, all of us untouched, all but that one kitchen maid.  If only they’d taken her away, the rest of us might not have perished.  Not having enough food did us in, we were weakened with starvation. Shut in the house for weeks, with no escape.  Nothing to do but feast on the fears, like a smothering cloud. Like as not, we just gave up, and said, plague, carry me off, I can bear no more. I know after the youngest 6 children and the oldest boy died, I had no will to live.  I died before the wife did and felt a bit guilty about that, leaving her to face the rest of it alone.  She wasn’t happy about that, and who can blame her.

    One thing for sure, it wasn’t running out of blasted toilet paper that was worrying me.

    #5672
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “Aren’t you worried it’s been 2 days now the boy is missing?”

    “Nonsense” replied June curtly. “Don’t you start ruining our poker night.” She slurped delicately her overflowing mojito glass. “Besides, I told you Jacqui and her friends are on the case. I sent her the coordinate. Baby is obviously fine.”

    “I still preferred my pith helmet idea and leaving it to professionals though” April pouted her lips in a sulky way. “Now, what are we going to say when Mellie Noma is coming back? That we lost her baby but worry not, the local nutcase friend is on the job.” she finished her sentence almost out of breath “and I heard from August she was coming back at the end of the week.”

    “So, are you playing or what? Fold or call?” June was growing impatient about the topic. The French maid and her baby, like the strange Finnley, were making themselves dangerously at home now, like three little annoying cuckoos in her own nest, and June felt stifled as though the FBI were closing in, breathing down on her neck.

    That Finnley looked surely suspicious enough, there was no telling she wasn’t a Russian spy in disguise, or worse, some undercover cop…

    “You’re right!” she slammed the cards violently on the table, making April almost faint. “We have to take matters in our own hands. I’ll get Mellie Noma to fire her. Blame the Finnley and her French friends for Barron’s disappearance. Mellie No’ owes me that much, especially after I saved her neck from her husband after that horrible giraffe incident.”

    April’s face turned to shock at the mention.

    #5659
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “You know, I wasn’t initially fond of this idea, GodfreyElizabeth said, while looking at Roberto doing the dishes. A bit unusual of her to spend time in the kitchen, probably her least favourite room in the house, but she was keen to revise her judgment as the view was never as entertaining.

    Godfrey was finishing a goblet full of cashews while leafing through the “Plot like it’s hot” new book from the publishing house that Bronkel had sent autographed and dedicated to Liz “without whom this book may have never seen the light of day”.

    Godfrey, are you listening to me? You can’t be distracted when I talk to you, I may say something important, and don’t count on me to remember it afterwards. Besides, what’s with the cashews anyway?”

    “Oh, I read they’re good natural anti-depressant… Anyway, you were saying?”

    “You see, like I just said, you made me lose my stream of thought! And no… the view is for nothing in that.” She winked at Roberto who was blissfully unaware of the attention. “Yes! I was saying. About that idea to write Finnley in the new novel. Completely rash, if you’ve had asked before. But now I see the benefit. At least some of it.”

    “Wait, what?”

    “Why are you never paying attention?”

    “No, no, I heard you. But I never… wait a minute.” The pushy ghostwriting ghostediting, and most probably ghostcleaning maid (though never actually seen a proof of that last one) had surely taken some new brazen initiative. Well, at least Liz wasn’t taking it too badly. There maybe even was a good possibility she was trying hard to stay on continuity track about it. Godfrey continued “Benefit, you said?”

    “Yes, don’t make me repeat myself, I’ll sound like a daft old person if ever a biopic is made of me, which by the way according to Bronkel is quite a probability. He’s heard it from a screenwriter friend of his, although his speciality is on more racy things, but don’t get me carried away. The benefit you see, and I’ve been reading Bronkel’s stupid book, yes. The benefit is… it moves the plot forward, with ‘but therefore’ instead of ‘and then’. It adds a bit of spice, if you get what I mean. Adds beats into the story. Might be useful for my next whydunit.”

    Godfrey was finding her indeed lingering a tad too obviously on the ‘but‘ and their beats, but abstained from saying anything, and nodded silently, his mouth full of the last of the cashews.

    Liz pursed her lips “Well, all this literature theory is a great deal of nonsense, you know my stance on it; I made my success without a shred of it…”

    “Maybe you’re a natural” Godfrey ventured.

    “Maybe… but then, they’ve got some points, although none as profound as Lemone’s. His last one got me pondering: finckleways is not a way in, delete it or it’ll get you locked out; only flove exists now. “

    #4806
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “Speaking of philosophical …” said Godfrey

    “Were we? Were we REALLY speaking of philosophical? Or were we talking about that … that … DERELINQUANT, Finnley. And SHE is anything BUT philosophical!”

    “I was speaking of philosophical … it reminded me of something I read recently … about the great philoosopher, Lemone, who as we know is the epitome of philosophicalness. The gold standard, if you will. It seems he has had a change of heart recently.”

    Liz wiped beads of nervous sweat off her forehead and sat down. “Do tell,” she said. “Perhaps he will soothe my troubled and long suffering soul.”

    “He has derogated his previous sayings as rubbish and issued a public apology. ‘Sorry about the nonsense comments,’ he is reputed to have said.”

    “Beautiful,” said Liz shaking her head in wonderment. “So succinct and humble. The man is a genius.”

    #4803
    FloveFlove
    Participant

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

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

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

    “What a hoot?” Godfrey whispered.

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

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

    #4801
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “Hyvää päivää hyvät naiset.”

    “Bwawhahahaa” the three ladies rolled in fits of hysterical laughter.

    “God dag damer?”

    “OOooooh, AAAhhahaha.”

    “I should have guessed they weren’t models enough to be Finns or Swedes.” muttered Barbara under her chin hair, readjusting her beehive ‘do. She almost regretted all the time spent learning the languages through the Fuertolingo app.

    “Come right this way ladies, there are some measurements to be done, and extension works needed on the machines. I’m afraid the cryogenic caisson wasn’t sized for… your accomplishments.”

    “Isn’t she a peach, bwahaha, wot nonsense! Let’s follow that moppet, your augustancies! Ooohuhuhu!” Sharon hooted all wobbly.

    #4778
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “Oh, that can’t be THAT hard, give it to me Godfrey!”
    “Wait Liz’, you could harm yourself!”
    “Oh come on, hand over the darn thing, I’ve seen her do it a thous… well at least once or twice. And the second time, I was so drunk I thought it was the parrot who’d done it.”
    “Alright, but remember you were the one to ask for it!”

    She glared at him sideways. “What is this thing Godfey?”
    “Well, it’s called a broomstick, I thought you wanted to do some cleaning. For sure the place is in dire need of it.”
    “I know what a broomstick is, thank you very much. Is this your idea of a practical joke, G?”
    “Oh no Liz’, I could just have called your Mother for that, she would have loved to come and teach you.”
    Godfrey, you better stop all this nonsense now, or I’ll have you put in a story oubliette, with only water and half a peanut a day for sustenance.”
    “That’s torture! But, wait, if you didn’t want the broomstick, what was it, that you said you needed Finnley for?”
    “Oh don’t you make me say it Godfrey! Just give me the red marker, and let’s get over with all the editing. That manuscript is really worth poubelle.”

    #4756
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “Maybe we shouldn’t have skipped that welcome lunch” Continuity said to her friend.

    “Nonsense, Connie. We go and report where the heat of the action is, and something tells me, it’s nowhere near this crumbling dusty Inn anyway.”

    “Oh, right, it’s just as I thought Hilda, but our guest might have found it rude and all.”

    “Bollocks, Dido wouldn’t mind, after all she was the one to drop clues like water from a puzzle jug, talking about underground dinosaurs’ pyramids near the old mines and all that.”

    “Technically, and you know how particular I am about details, it wasn’t Dido though, it was that old fossile of Bert that dropped all the clues, clearly out of earshot from Did’. Kind of suspiciously too… Maybe he wanted us to have the real stuff, throw everyone else off the scent. But yeah, you just might be right…”

    “Of course I’m bloody right. When have I ever been anything else than right, Connie. Now, follow me, the old mines entrance shouldn’t be far now.”

    #4708
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The thoughts of Miss Bossy asking him to torture sweet Sophie still bothered Ric while he went out to look for the reporter. Could he even call her that, he suspected most of her articles were fake news and even if they had at some point come from a seed of truth, they were so transformed by her retelling that it was impossible to prove them in any direction, be it false or true.

    Ric found sweet Sophie sleeping on the couch of the waiting room in a very unwomanly position. Fortunately she didn’t wear a skirt. Her mouth was wide open and a stream of saliva was dropping from her chin. She even snored. Ric was put off by her pink trousers and electric blue jacket. Did she colour her hair? he thought. They looked a bit purple.

    Sweet Sophie snorted and emerged from slumber totally unaware she was observed.

    “Oh! Dear time travel Goddess! What a dream!” she said. “Ric. You come at the right time. I have to tell you some revelations about the Doctor!”

    ***

    “What?” asked Miss Bossy when Ric told her about Sophie’s dream. “Nonsense! Sweet Sophie having precognitive dreams? Time travel wasn’t enough for that old hag. And you’re saying she requested a daydreaming room to continue her investigations, with ambiant music and ayahuasca? I’m not financing her drug cravings.”

    ***

    Sophie entered the dark room. She didn’t think it would work, to ask Ric for the daydreaming room. She tried the couch. Soft but not too soft, hard enough for her back. Oh! Sweet Time Lord, what a relief from the open space chair. An instrument of torture if you asked her.

    She had developed an obsession with the Doctor, and it all came from a dream she had just before Ric found her. In that dream, she was really attracted to the Doctor—who looked just like an old crush of her—, and he was showing her his amazing inventions, telling her about his superior mind, his poignant history and all the great things he did during his famous time. So…yeah. She kind of finally fell in love with him for the second time. Then he confessed her he was so sorry for what he did, it made her cry almost. He said it was stupid of him and he still thought she is his daughter— that’s when she thought she had lost track of the dream timeline and in another moment she found another crazy coincidence that turns every possible event to pure insane: The Doctor has a new body. Not in the literal sense. He hasn’t even given it a whole new look. Instead, it has a completely bizarre look with its entire body filled with…

    That’s when she had awaken. That’s why she needed the couch and the room and the plant. She had seen in a video that it could help.

    Someone knocked at the door and brought in a silver plate with a steaming muddy potion.

    #4696
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Ricardo!” Miss Bossy shouted from her office she was rearranging into an office cum interrogation room.

    “Yes, M’am!”

    “Any news from our two insubordinate scouts?”
    “I’m afraid not M’am. Phone coverage isn’t that good in the bush I hear.”
    “Stop that nonsense! What tells you they’re aren’t just squandering my newspaper’s money over unearned mojitos doing precious nothing like gator’s watching on a beach, hmmm?”
    “I think they’d call that gathering clues M’am.”

    If Ricardo hadn’t be so earnest, she would have slapped him in the face for his attempt at humour, but he was blissfully unaware of the unwanted irony and impertinence of his retort.

    You’re going soft… she mused to herself, while snapping electrical wires together making a splash of sparkles in the air. The makeshift interrogation room was ready.

    Ric’! Bring Sweet Sophie!”

    #4687
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Ric was confused as to why he found himself flushed and vaguely excited by Bossy Mam’s sudden and attractive outburst.
    He was so glad the two harpies were off to goat knows where, or they would have tortured him with no end of gossiping.

    Still troubled by the stirring of emotions, he looked around, and almost spilled the cup of over-infused lapsang souchong tea he had prepared. Miss Bossy was the only one to fancy the strong flavour in a way only a former chain smoker could.

    Thankfully, she was still glaring at the window, and while he had no doubt he couldn’t hope to give her the slip for that sort of things, she probably had decided to just let it go.

    He took the chance to run to the archives, and started to dig up all he could on the Doctor.
    Sadly, the documents were few and sparse. Hilda and Connie were not known for their order in keeping records. Their notes looked more like herbariums from a botanist plagued with ADHD. But that probably meant there were lots of overlooked clues.

    He flipped through the dusty pages for a good hour, eyes wet with allergies, and he was about to bring Miss Bossy the sorry pile he had collected when a light bulb lit in his mind.

    How could I miss it!

    He’d never thought about it, but now, a lot of it started to make sense.

    Thinking about how Miss Bossy would probably be pleased by the news, he started to become red again, and hyperventilate.

    Calm down amigo, think about your abuela, and her awful tapas,… thaaat’s it. Crème d’anchovies with pickled strawberries… Jellyfish soufflés with poached snail eggs on rocket salad.

    His mind was rapidly quite sober again.

    Taking the pile of notes, he landed it messily on the desk, almost startling Miss Bossy.

    “Sorry for the interruption, M’am, but I may have found something…”
    “Fine, there’s no need for theatrics, spill it!” Miss Bossy was ever the no-nonsense straight-to-business personality. Some would have called her rude, but they were ignorants, and possibly all dead now.

    “There was a clue, hidden in the trail of Hilda’s collection. I’m not sure how we have missed it.”

    “Ricardooo…” Miss Bossy’s voice was showing a soupçon of annoyance.

    “Yes, pardon me, I’m digressing. Look! Right here!”

    “What? How is it possible? Is that who I think it is?”

    “I think so.”

    They turned around to look across the hall at Sweet Sophie blissfully snoring.

    “I think she was one of her first patient-slash-assistant.”

    “How quaint. But, that explains a lot. Wait a minute. I thought none of his patients were ever found… alive?”

    “Maybe she outsmarted him…”

    They both weren’t too convinced about that. But they knew now old Sweet Sophie was probably unwittingly holding the key to the elusive Doctor.

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