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      From Tanganyika with Love

      With thanks to Mike Rushby.

      • “The letters of Eleanor Dunbar Leslie to her parents and her sister in South Africa
        concerning her life with George Gilman Rushby of Tanganyika, and the trials and
        joys of bringing up a family in pioneering conditions.

      These letters were transcribed from copies of letters typed by Eleanor Rushby from
      the originals which were in the estate of Marjorie Leslie, Eleanor’s sister. Eleanor
      kept no diary of her life in Tanganyika, so these letters were the living record of an
      important part of her life.

      Having walked across Africa from the East coast to Ubangi Shauri Chad
      in French Equatorial Africa, hunting elephant all the way, George Rushby
      made his way down the Congo to Leopoldville. He then caught a ship to
      Europe and had a holiday in Brussels and Paris before visiting his family
      in England. He developed blackwater fever and was extremely ill for a
      while. When he recovered he went to London to arrange his return to

      Whilst staying at the Overseas Club he met Eileen Graham who had come
      to England from Cape Town to study music. On hearing that George was
      sailing for Cape Town she arranged to introduce him to her friend
      Eleanor Dunbar Leslie. “You’ll need someone lively to show you around,”
      she said. “She’s as smart as paint, a keen mountaineer, a very good school
      teacher, and she’s attractive. You can’t miss her, because her father is a
      well known Cape Town Magistrate. And,” she added “I’ve already written
      and told her what ship you are arriving on.”

      Eleanor duly met the ship. She and George immediately fell in love.
      Within thirty six hours he had proposed marriage and was accepted
      despite the misgivings of her parents. As she was under contract to her
      High School, she remained in South Africa for several months whilst
      George headed for Tanganyika looking for a farm where he could build
      their home.

      These details are a summary of chapter thirteen of the Biography of
      George Gilman Rushby ‘The Hunter is Death “ by T.V.Bulpin.


      Dearest Marj,
      Terrifically exciting news! I’ve just become engaged to an Englishman whom I
      met last Monday. The result is a family upheaval which you will have no difficulty in

      The Aunts think it all highly romantic and cry in delight “Now isn’t that just like our
      El!” Mummy says she doesn’t know what to think, that anyway I was always a harum
      scarum and she rather expected something like this to happen. However I know that
      she thinks George highly attractive. “Such a nice smile and gentle manner, and such
      good hands“ she murmurs appreciatively. “But WHY AN ELEPHANT HUNTER?” she
      ends in a wail, as though elephant hunting was an unmentionable profession.
      Anyway I don’t think so. Anyone can marry a bank clerk or a lawyer or even a
      millionaire – but whoever heard of anyone marrying anyone as exciting as an elephant
      hunter? I’m thrilled to bits.

      Daddy also takes a dim view of George’s profession, and of George himself as
      a husband for me. He says that I am so impulsive and have such wild enthusiasms that I
      need someone conservative and steady to give me some serenity and some ballast.
      Dad says George is a handsome fellow and a good enough chap he is sure, but
      he is obviously a man of the world and hints darkly at a possible PAST. George says
      he has nothing of the kind and anyway I’m the first girl he has asked to marry him. I don’t
      care anyway, I’d gladly marry him tomorrow, but Dad has other ideas.

      He sat in his armchair to deliver his verdict, wearing the same look he must wear
      on the bench. If we marry, and he doesn’t think it would be a good thing, George must
      buy a comfortable house for me in Central Africa where I can stay safely when he goes
      hunting. I interrupted to say “But I’m going too”, but dad snubbed me saying that in no
      time at all I’ll have a family and one can’t go dragging babies around in the African Bush.”
      George takes his lectures with surprising calm. He says he can see Dad’s point of
      view much better than I can. He told the parents today that he plans to buy a small
      coffee farm in the Southern Highlands of Tanganyika and will build a cosy cottage which
      will be a proper home for both of us, and that he will only hunt occasionally to keep the
      pot boiling.

      Mummy, of course, just had to spill the beans. She said to George, “I suppose
      you know that Eleanor knows very little about house keeping and can’t cook at all.” a fact
      that I was keeping a dark secret. But George just said, “Oh she won’t have to work. The
      boys do all that sort of thing. She can lie on a couch all day and read if she likes.” Well
      you always did say that I was a “Lily of the field,” and what a good thing! If I were one of
      those terribly capable women I’d probably die of frustration because it seems that
      African house boys feel that they have lost face if their Memsahibs do anything but the
      most gracious chores.

      George is absolutely marvellous. He is strong and gentle and awfully good
      looking too. He is about 5 ft 10 ins tall and very broad. He wears his curly brown hair cut
      very short and has a close clipped moustache. He has strongly marked eyebrows and
      very striking blue eyes which sometimes turn grey or green. His teeth are strong and
      even and he has a quiet voice.

      I expect all this sounds too good to be true, but come home quickly and see for
      yourself. George is off to East Africa in three weeks time to buy our farm. I shall follow as
      soon as he has bought it and we will be married in Dar es Salaam.

      Dad has taken George for a walk “to get to know him” and that’s why I have time
      to write such a long screed. They should be back any minute now and I must fly and
      apply a bit of glamour.

      Much love my dear,
      your jubilant

      S.S.Timavo. Durban. 28th.October. 1930.

      Dearest Family,
      Thank you for the lovely send off. I do wish you were all on board with me and
      could come and dance with me at my wedding. We are having a very comfortable
      voyage. There were only four of the passengers as far as Durban, all of them women,
      but I believe we are taking on more here. I have a most comfortable deck cabin to
      myself and the use of a sumptuous bathroom. No one is interested in deck games and I
      am having a lazy time, just sunbathing and reading.

      I sit at the Captain’s table and the meals are delicious – beautifully served. The
      butter for instance, is moulded into sprays of roses, most exquisitely done, and as for
      the ice-cream, I’ve never tasted anything like them.

      The meals are continental type and we have hors d’oeuvre in a great variety
      served on large round trays. The Italians souse theirs with oil, Ugh! We also of course
      get lots of spaghetti which I have some difficulty in eating. However this presents no
      problem to the Chief Engineer who sits opposite to me. He simply rolls it around his
      fork and somehow the spaghetti flows effortlessly from fork to mouth exactly like an
      ascending escalator. Wine is served at lunch and dinner – very mild and pleasant stuff.
      Of the women passengers the one i liked best was a young German widow
      from South west Africa who left the ship at East London to marry a man she had never
      met. She told me he owned a drapers shop and she was very happy at the prospect
      of starting a new life, as her previous marriage had ended tragically with the death of her
      husband and only child in an accident.

      I was most interested to see the bridegroom and stood at the rail beside the gay
      young widow when we docked at East London. I picked him out, without any difficulty,
      from the small group on the quay. He was a tall thin man in a smart grey suit and with a
      grey hat perched primly on his head. You can always tell from hats can’t you? I wasn’t
      surprised to see, when this German raised his head, that he looked just like the Kaiser’s
      “Little Willie”. Long thin nose and cold grey eyes and no smile of welcome on his tight
      mouth for the cheery little body beside me. I quite expected him to jerk his thumb and
      stalk off, expecting her to trot at his heel.

      However she went off blithely enough. Next day before the ship sailed, she
      was back and I saw her talking to the Captain. She began to cry and soon after the
      Captain patted her on the shoulder and escorted her to the gangway. Later the Captain
      told me that the girl had come to ask him to allow her to work her passage back to
      Germany where she had some relations. She had married the man the day before but
      she disliked him because he had deceived her by pretending that he owned a shop
      whereas he was only a window dresser. Bad show for both.

      The Captain and the Chief Engineer are the only officers who mix socially with
      the passengers. The captain seems rather a melancholy type with, I should say, no
      sense of humour. He speaks fair English with an American accent. He tells me that he
      was on the San Francisco run during Prohibition years in America and saw many Film
      Stars chiefly “under the influence” as they used to flock on board to drink. The Chief
      Engineer is big and fat and cheerful. His English is anything but fluent but he makes up
      for it in mime.

      I visited the relations and friends at Port Elizabeth and East London, and here at
      Durban. I stayed with the Trotters and Swans and enjoyed myself very much at both
      places. I have collected numerous wedding presents, china and cutlery, coffee
      percolator and ornaments, and where I shall pack all these things I don’t know. Everyone has been terribly kind and I feel extremely well and happy.

      At the start of the voyage I had a bit of bad luck. You will remember that a
      perfectly foul South Easter was blowing. Some men were busy working on a deck
      engine and I stopped to watch and a tiny fragment of steel blew into my eye. There is
      no doctor on board so the stewardess put some oil into the eye and bandaged it up.
      The eye grew more and more painful and inflamed and when when we reached Port
      Elizabeth the Captain asked the Port Doctor to look at it. The Doctor said it was a job for
      an eye specialist and telephoned from the ship to make an appointment. Luckily for me,
      Vincent Tofts turned up at the ship just then and took me off to the specialist and waited
      whilst he extracted the fragment with a giant magnet. The specialist said that I was very
      lucky as the thing just missed the pupil of my eye so my sight will not be affected. I was
      temporarily blinded by the Belladona the eye-man put in my eye so he fitted me with a
      pair of black goggles and Vincent escorted me back to the ship. Don’t worry the eye is
      now as good as ever and George will not have to take a one-eyed bride for better or

      I have one worry and that is that the ship is going to be very much overdue by
      the time we reach Dar es Salaam. She is taking on a big wool cargo and we were held
      up for three days in East london and have been here in Durban for five days.
      Today is the ninth Anniversary of the Fascist Movement and the ship was
      dressed with bunting and flags. I must now go and dress for the gala dinner.

      Bless you all,

      S.S.Timavo. 6th. November 1930

      Dearest Family,

      Nearly there now. We called in at Lourenco Marques, Beira, Mozambique and
      Port Amelia. I was the only one of the original passengers left after Durban but there we
      took on a Mrs Croxford and her mother and two men passengers. Mrs C must have
      something, certainly not looks. She has a flat figure, heavily mascared eyes and crooked
      mouth thickly coated with lipstick. But her rather sweet old mother-black-pearls-type tells
      me they are worn out travelling around the world trying to shake off an admirer who
      pursues Mrs C everywhere.

      The one male passenger is very quiet and pleasant. The old lady tells me that he
      has recently lost his wife. The other passenger is a horribly bumptious type.
      I had my hair beautifully shingled at Lourenco Marques, but what an experience it
      was. Before we docked I asked the Captain whether he knew of a hairdresser, but he
      said he did not and would have to ask the agent when he came aboard. The agent was
      a very suave Asian. He said “Sure he did” and offered to take me in his car. I rather
      doubtfully agreed — such a swarthy gentleman — and was driven, not to a hairdressing
      establishment, but to his office. Then he spoke to someone on the telephone and in no
      time at all a most dago-y type arrived carrying a little black bag. He was all patent
      leather, hair, and flashing smile, and greeted me like an old and valued friend.
      Before I had collected my scattered wits tthe Agent had flung open a door and
      ushered me through, and I found myself seated before an ornate mirror in what was only
      too obviously a bedroom. It was a bedroom with a difference though. The unmade bed
      had no legs but hung from the ceiling on brass chains.

      The agent beamingly shut the door behind him and I was left with my imagination
      and the afore mentioned oily hairdresser. He however was very business like. Before I
      could say knife he had shingled my hair with a cut throat razor and then, before I could
      protest, had smothered my neck in stinking pink powder applied with an enormous and
      filthy swansdown powder puff. He held up a mirror for me to admire his handiwork but I
      was aware only of the enormous bed reflected in it, and hurriedly murmuring “very nice,
      very nice” I made my escape to the outer office where, to my relief, I found the Chief
      Engineer who escorted me back to the ship.

      In the afternoon Mrs Coxford and the old lady and I hired a taxi and went to the
      Polana Hotel for tea. Very swish but I like our Cape Peninsula beaches better.
      At Lorenco Marques we took on more passengers. The Governor of
      Portuguese Nyasaland and his wife and baby son. He was a large middle aged man,
      very friendly and unassuming and spoke perfect English. His wife was German and
      exquisite, as fragile looking and with the delicate colouring of a Dresden figurine. She
      looked about 18 but she told me she was 28 and showed me photographs of two
      other sons – hefty youngsters, whom she had left behind in Portugal and was missing
      very much.

      It was frightfully hot at Beira and as I had no money left I did not go up to the
      town, but Mrs Croxford and I spent a pleasant hour on the beach under the Casurina

      The Governor and his wife left the ship at Mozambique. He looked very
      imposing in his starched uniform and she more Dresden Sheperdish than ever in a
      flowered frock. There was a guard of honour and all the trimmings. They bade me a warm farewell and invited George and me to stay at any time.

      The German ship “Watussi” was anchored in the Bay and I decided to visit her
      and try and have my hair washed and set. I had no sooner stepped on board when a
      lady came up to me and said “Surely you are Beeba Leslie.” It was Mrs Egan and she
      had Molly with her. Considering Mrs Egan had not seen me since I was five I think it was
      jolly clever of her to recognise me. Molly is charming and was most friendly. She fixed
      things with the hairdresser and sat with me until the job was done. Afterwards I had tea
      with them.

      Port Amelia was our last stop. In fact the only person to go ashore was Mr
      Taylor, the unpleasant man, and he returned at sunset very drunk indeed.
      We reached Port Amelia on the 3rd – my birthday. The boat had anchored by
      the time I was dressed and when I went on deck I saw several row boats cluttered
      around the gangway and in them were natives with cages of wild birds for sale. Such tiny
      crowded cages. I was furious, you know me. I bought three cages, carried them out on
      to the open deck and released the birds. I expected them to fly to the land but they flew
      straight up into the rigging.

      The quiet male passenger wandered up and asked me what I was doing. I said
      “I’m giving myself a birthday treat, I hate to see caged birds.” So next thing there he
      was buying birds which he presented to me with “Happy Birthday.” I gladly set those
      birds free too and they joined the others in the rigging.

      Then a grinning steward came up with three more cages. “For the lady with
      compliments of the Captain.” They lost no time in joining their friends.
      It had given me so much pleasure to free the birds that I was only a little
      discouraged when the quiet man said thoughtfully “This should encourage those bird
      catchers you know, they are sold out. When evening came and we were due to sail I
      was sure those birds would fly home, but no, they are still there and they will probably
      remain until we dock at Dar es Salaam.

      During the morning the Captain came up and asked me what my Christian name
      is. He looked as grave as ever and I couldn’t think why it should interest him but said “the
      name is Eleanor.” That night at dinner there was a large iced cake in the centre of the
      table with “HELENA” in a delicate wreath of pink icing roses on the top. We had
      champagne and everyone congratulated me and wished me good luck in my marriage.
      A very nice gesture don’t you think. The unpleasant character had not put in an
      appearance at dinner which made the party all the nicer

      I sat up rather late in the lounge reading a book and by the time I went to bed
      there was not a soul around. I bathed and changed into my nighty,walked into my cabin,
      shed my dressing gown, and pottered around. When I was ready for bed I put out my
      hand to draw the curtains back and a hand grasped my wrist. It was that wretched
      creature outside my window on the deck, still very drunk. Luckily I was wearing that
      heavy lilac silk nighty. I was livid. “Let go at once”, I said, but he only grinned stupidly.
      “I’m not hurting you” he said, “only looking”. “I’ll ring for the steward” said I, and by
      stretching I managed to press the bell with my free hand. I rang and rang but no one
      came and he just giggled. Then I said furiously, “Remember this name, George
      Rushby, he is a fine boxer and he hates specimens like you. When he meets me at Dar
      es Salaam I shall tell him about this and I bet you will be sorry.” However he still held on
      so I turned and knocked hard on the adjoining wall which divided my cabin from Mrs
      Croxfords. Soon Mrs Croxford and the old lady appeared in dressing gowns . This
      seemed to amuse the drunk even more though he let go my wrist. So whilst the old
      lady stayed with me, Mrs C fetched the quiet passenger who soon hustled him off. He has kept out of my way ever since. However I still mean to tell George because I feel
      the fellow got off far too lightly. I reported the matter to the Captain but he just remarked
      that he always knew the man was low class because he never wears a jacket to meals.
      This is my last night on board and we again had free champagne and I was given
      some tooled leather work by the Captain and a pair of good paste earrings by the old
      lady. I have invited them and Mrs Croxford, the Chief Engineer, and the quiet
      passenger to the wedding.

      This may be my last night as Eleanor Leslie and I have spent this long while
      writing to you just as a little token of my affection and gratitude for all the years of your
      love and care. I shall post this letter on the ship and must turn now and get some beauty
      sleep. We have been told that we shall be in Dar es Salaam by 9 am. I am so excited
      that I shall not sleep.

      Very much love, and just for fun I’ll sign my full name for the last time.
      with my “bes respeks”,

      Eleanor Leslie.

      Eleanor and George Rushby:

      Eleanor and George Rushby

      Splendid Hotel, Dar es Salaam 11th November 1930

      Dearest Family,

      I’m writing this in the bedroom whilst George is out buying a tin trunk in which to
      pack all our wedding presents. I expect he will be gone a long time because he has
      gone out with Hicky Wood and, though our wedding was four days ago, it’s still an
      excuse for a party. People are all very cheery and friendly here.
      I am wearing only pants and slip but am still hot. One swelters here in the
      mornings, but a fresh sea breeze blows in the late afternoons and then Dar es Salaam is

      We arrived in Dar es Salaam harbour very early on Friday morning (7 th Nov).
      The previous night the Captain had said we might not reach Dar. until 9 am, and certainly
      no one would be allowed on board before 8 am. So I dawdled on the deck in my
      dressing gown and watched the green coastline and the islands slipping by. I stood on
      the deck outside my cabin and was not aware that I was looking out at the wrong side of
      the landlocked harbour. Quite unknown to me George and some friends, the Hickson
      Woods, were standing on the Gymkhana Beach on the opposite side of the channel
      anxiously scanning the ship for a sign of me. George says he had a horrible idea I had
      missed the ship. Blissfully unconscious of his anxiety I wandered into the bathroom
      prepared for a good soak. The anchor went down when I was in the bath and suddenly
      there was a sharp wrap on the door and I heard Mrs Croxford say “There’s a man in a
      boat outside. He is looking out for someone and I’m sure it’s your George. I flung on
      some clothes and rushed on deck with tousled hair and bare feet and it was George.
      We had a marvellous reunion. George was wearing shorts and bush shirt and
      looked just like the strong silent types one reads about in novels. I finished dressing then
      George helped me bundle all the wedding presents I had collected en route into my
      travelling rug and we went into the bar lounge to join the Hickson Woods. They are the
      couple from whom George bought the land which is to be our coffee farm Hicky-Wood
      was laughing when we joined them. he said he had called a chap to bring a couple of
      beers thinking he was the steward but it turned out to be the Captain. He does wear
      such a very plain uniform that I suppose it was easy to make the mistake, but Hicky
      says he was not amused.

      Anyway as the H-W’s are to be our neighbours I’d better describe them. Kath
      Wood is very attractive, dark Irish, with curly black hair and big brown eyes. She was
      married before to Viv Lumb a great friend of George’s who died some years ago of
      blackwater fever. They had one little girl, Maureen, and Kath and Hicky have a small son
      of three called Michael. Hicky is slightly below average height and very neat and dapper
      though well built. He is a great one for a party and good fun but George says he can be
      bad tempered.

      Anyway we all filed off the ship and Hicky and Cath went on to the hotel whilst
      George and I went through customs. Passing the customs was easy. Everyone
      seemed to know George and that it was his wedding day and I just sailed through,
      except for the little matter of the rug coming undone when George and I had to scramble
      on the floor for candlesticks and fruit knives and a wooden nut bowl.
      Outside the customs shed we were mobbed by a crowd of jabbering Africans
      offering their services as porters, and soon my luggage was piled in one rickshaw whilst
      George and I climbed into another and we were born smoothly away on rubber shod
      wheels to the Splendid Hotel. The motion was pleasing enough but it seemed weird to
      be pulled along by one human being whilst another pushed behind.  We turned up a street called Acacia Avenue which, as its name implies, is lined
      with flamboyant acacia trees now in the full glory of scarlet and gold. The rickshaw
      stopped before the Splendid Hotel and I was taken upstairs into a pleasant room which
      had its own private balcony overlooking the busy street.

      Here George broke the news that we were to be married in less than an hours
      time. He would have to dash off and change and then go straight to the church. I would
      be quite all right, Kath would be looking in and friends would fetch me.
      I started to dress and soon there was a tap at the door and Mrs Hickson-Wood
      came in with my bouquet. It was a lovely bunch of carnations and frangipani with lots of
      asparagus fern and it went well with my primrose yellow frock. She admired my frock
      and Leghorn hat and told me that her little girl Maureen was to be my flower girl. Then
      she too left for the church.

      I was fully dressed when there was another knock on the door and I opened it to
      be confronted by a Police Officer in a starched white uniform. I’m McCallum”, he said,
      “I’ve come to drive you to the church.” Downstairs he introduced me to a big man in a
      tussore silk suit. “This is Dr Shicore”, said McCallum, “He is going to give you away.”
      Honestly, I felt exactly like Alice in Wonderland. Wouldn’t have been at all surprised if
      the White Rabbit had popped up and said he was going to be my page.

      I walked out of the hotel and across the pavement in a dream and there, by the
      curb, was a big dark blue police car decorated with white ribbons and with a tall African
      Police Ascari holding the door open for me. I had hardly time to wonder what next when
      the car drew up before a tall German looking church. It was in fact the Lutheran Church in
      the days when Tanganyika was German East Africa.

      Mrs Hickson-Wood, very smart in mushroom coloured georgette and lace, and
      her small daughter were waiting in the porch, so in we went. I was glad to notice my
      friends from the boat sitting behind George’s friends who were all complete strangers to
      me. The aisle seemed very long but at last I reached George waiting in the chancel with
      Hicky-Wood, looking unfamiliar in a smart tussore suit. However this feeling of unreality
      passed when he turned his head and smiled at me.

      In the vestry after the ceremony I was kissed affectionately by several complete
      strangers and I felt happy and accepted by George’s friends. Outside the church,
      standing apart from the rest of the guests, the Italian Captain and Chief Engineer were
      waiting. They came up and kissed my hand, and murmured felicitations, but regretted
      they could not spare the time to come to the reception. Really it was just as well
      because they would not have fitted in at all well.

      Dr Shircore is the Director of Medical Services and he had very kindly lent his
      large house for the reception. It was quite a party. The guests were mainly men with a
      small sprinkling of wives. Champagne corks popped and there was an enormous cake
      and soon voices were raised in song. The chief one was ‘Happy Days Are Here Again’
      and I shall remember it for ever.

      The party was still in full swing when George and I left. The old lady from the ship
      enjoyed it hugely. She came in an all black outfit with a corsage of artificial Lily-of-the-
      Valley. Later I saw one of the men wearing the corsage in his buttonhole and the old
      lady was wearing a carnation.

      When George and I got back to the hotel,I found that my luggage had been
      moved to George’s room by his cook Lamek, who was squatting on his haunches and
      clapped his hands in greeting. My dears, you should see Lamek – exactly like a
      chimpanzee – receding forehead, wide flat nose, and long lip, and such splayed feet. It was quite a strain not to laugh, especially when he produced a gift for me. I have not yet
      discovered where he acquired it. It was a faded mauve straw toque of the kind worn by
      Queen Mary. I asked George to tell Lamek that I was touched by his generosity but felt
      that I could not accept his gift. He did not mind at all especially as George gave him a
      generous tip there and then.

      I changed into a cotton frock and shady straw hat and George changed into shorts
      and bush shirt once more. We then sneaked into the dining room for lunch avoiding our
      wedding guests who were carrying on the party in the lounge.

      After lunch we rejoined them and they all came down to the jetty to wave goodbye
      as we set out by motor launch for Honeymoon Island. I enjoyed the launch trip very
      much. The sea was calm and very blue and the palm fringed beaches of Dar es Salaam
      are as romantic as any bride could wish. There are small coral islands dotted around the
      Bay of which Honeymoon Island is the loveliest. I believe at one time it bore the less
      romantic name of Quarantine Island. Near the Island, in the shallows, the sea is brilliant
      green and I saw two pink jellyfish drifting by.

      There is no jetty on the island so the boat was stopped in shallow water and
      George carried me ashore. I was enchanted with the Island and in no hurry to go to the
      bungalow, so George and I took our bathing costumes from our suitcases and sent the
      luggage up to the house together with a box of provisions.

      We bathed and lazed on the beach and suddenly it was sunset and it began to
      get dark. We walked up the beach to the bungalow and began to unpack the stores,
      tea, sugar, condensed milk, bread and butter, sardines and a large tin of ham. There
      were also cups and saucers and plates and cutlery.

      We decided to have an early meal and George called out to the caretaker, “Boy
      letta chai”. Thereupon the ‘boy’ materialised and jabbered to George in Ki-Swaheli. It
      appeared he had no utensil in which to boil water. George, ever resourceful, removed
      the ham from the tin and gave him that. We had our tea all right but next day the ham
      was bad.

      Then came bed time. I took a hurricane lamp in one hand and my suitcase in the
      other and wandered into the bedroom whilst George vanished into the bathroom. To
      my astonishment I saw two perfectly bare iron bedsteads – no mattress or pillows. We
      had brought sheets and mosquito nets but, believe me, they are a poor substitute for a

      Anyway I arrayed myself in my pale yellow satin nightie and sat gingerly down
      on the iron edge of the bed to await my groom who eventually appeared in a
      handsome suit of silk pyjamas. His expression, as he took in the situation, was too much
      for me and I burst out laughing and so did he.

      Somewhere in the small hours I woke up. The breeze had dropped and the
      room was unbearably stuffy. I felt as dry as a bone. The lamp had been turned very
      low and had gone out, but I remembered seeing a water tank in the yard and I decided
      to go out in the dark and drink from the tap. In the dark I could not find my slippers so I
      slipped my feet into George’s shoes, picked up his matches and groped my way out
      of the room. I found the tank all right and with one hand on the tap and one cupped for
      water I stooped to drink. Just then I heard a scratchy noise and sensed movements
      around my feet. I struck a match and oh horrors! found that the damp spot on which I was
      standing was alive with white crabs. In my hurry to escape I took a clumsy step, put
      George’s big toe on the hem of my nightie and down I went on top of the crabs. I need
      hardly say that George was awakened by an appalling shriek and came rushing to my
      aid like a knight of old.  Anyway, alarms and excursions not withstanding, we had a wonderful weekend on the island and I was sorry to return to the heat of Dar es Salaam, though the evenings
      here are lovely and it is heavenly driving along the coast road by car or in a rickshaw.
      I was surprised to find so many Indians here. Most of the shops, large and small,
      seem to be owned by Indians and the place teems with them. The women wear
      colourful saris and their hair in long black plaits reaching to their waists. Many wear baggy
      trousers of silk or satin. They give a carnival air to the sea front towards sunset.
      This long letter has been written in instalments throughout the day. My first break
      was when I heard the sound of a band and rushed to the balcony in time to see The
      Kings African Rifles band and Askaris march down the Avenue on their way to an
      Armistice Memorial Service. They looked magnificent.

      I must end on a note of most primitive pride. George returned from his shopping
      expedition and beamingly informed me that he had thrashed the man who annoyed me
      on the ship. I felt extremely delighted and pressed for details. George told me that
      when he went out shopping he noticed to his surprise that the ‘Timavo” was still in the
      harbour. He went across to the Agents office and there saw a man who answered to the
      description I had given. George said to him “Is your name Taylor?”, and when he said
      “yes”, George said “Well my name is George Rushby”, whereupon he hit Taylor on the
      jaw so that he sailed over the counter and down the other side. Very satisfactory, I feel.
      With much love to all.

      Your cave woman

      Mchewe Estate. P.O. Mbeya 22 November 1930

      Dearest Family,

      Well here we are at our Country Seat, Mchewe Estate. (pronounced
      Mn,-che’-we) but I will start at the beginning of our journey and describe the farm later.
      We left the hotel at Dar es Salaam for the station in a taxi crowded with baggage
      and at the last moment Keith Wood ran out with the unwrapped bottom layer of our
      wedding cake. It remained in its naked state from there to here travelling for two days in
      the train on the luggage rack, four days in the car on my knee, reposing at night on the
      roof of the car exposed to the winds of Heaven, and now rests beside me in the tent
      looking like an old old tombstone. We have no tin large enough to hold it and one
      simply can’t throw away ones wedding cake so, as George does not eat cake, I can see
      myself eating wedding cake for tea for months to come, ants permitting.

      We travelled up by train from Dar to Dodoma, first through the lush vegetation of
      the coastal belt to Morogoro, then through sisal plantations now very overgrown with
      weeds owing to the slump in prices, and then on to the arid area around Dodoma. This
      part of the country is very dry at this time of the year and not unlike parts of our Karoo.
      The train journey was comfortable enough but slow as the engines here are fed with
      wood and not coal as in South Africa.

      Dodoma is the nearest point on the railway to Mbeya so we left the train there to
      continue our journey by road. We arrived at the one and only hotel in the early hours and
      whilst someone went to rout out the night watchman the rest of us sat on the dismal
      verandah amongst a litter of broken glass. Some bright spark remarked on the obvious –
      that there had been a party the night before.

      When we were shown to a room I thought I rather preferred the verandah,
      because the beds had not yet been made up and there was a bucket of vomit beside
      the old fashioned washstand. However George soon got the boys to clean up the
      room and I fell asleep to be awakened by George with an invitation to come and see
      our car before breakfast.

      Yes, we have our own car. It is a Chev, with what is called a box body. That
      means that sides, roof and doors are made by a local Indian carpenter. There is just the
      one front seat with a kapok mattress on it. The tools are kept in a sort of cupboard fixed
      to the side so there is a big space for carrying “safari kit” behind the cab seat.
      Lamek, who had travelled up on the same train, appeared after breakfast, and
      helped George to pack all our luggage into the back of the car. Besides our suitcases
      there was a huge bedroll, kitchen utensils and a box of provisions, tins of petrol and
      water and all Lamek’s bits and pieces which included three chickens in a wicker cage and
      an enormous bunch of bananas about 3 ft long.

      When all theses things were packed there remained only a small space between
      goods and ceiling and into this Lamek squeezed. He lay on his back with his horny feet a
      mere inch or so from the back of my head. In this way we travelled 400 miles over
      bumpy earth roads and crude pole bridges, but whenever we stopped for a meal
      Lamek wriggled out and, like Aladdin’s genie, produced good meals in no time at all.
      In the afternoon we reached a large river called the Ruaha. Workmen were busy
      building a large bridge across it but it is not yet ready so we crossed by a ford below
      the bridge. George told me that the river was full of crocodiles but though I looked hard, I
      did not see any. This is also elephant country but I did not see any of those either, only
      piles of droppings on the road. I must tell you that the natives around these parts are called Wahehe and the river is Ruaha – enough to make a cat laugh. We saw some Wahehe out hunting with spears
      and bows and arrows. They live in long low houses with the tiniest shuttered windows
      and rounded roofs covered with earth.

      Near the river we also saw a few Masai herding cattle. They are rather terrifying to
      look at – tall, angular, and very aloof. They wear nothing but a blanket knotted on one
      shoulder, concealing nothing, and all carried one or two spears.
      The road climbs steeply on the far side of the Ruaha and one has the most
      tremendous views over the plains. We spent our first night up there in the high country.
      Everything was taken out of the car, the bed roll opened up and George and I slept
      comfortably in the back of the car whilst Lamek, rolled in a blanket, slept soundly by a
      small fire nearby. Next morning we reached our first township, Iringa, and put up at the
      Colonist Hotel. We had a comfortable room in the annex overlooking the golf course.
      our room had its own little dressing room which was also the bathroom because, when
      ordered to do so, the room boy carried in an oval galvanised bath and filled it with hot
      water which he carried in a four gallon petrol tin.

      When we crossed to the main building for lunch, George was immediately hailed
      by several men who wanted to meet the bride. I was paid some handsome
      compliments but was not sure whether they were sincere or the result of a nice alcoholic
      glow. Anyhow every one was very friendly.

      After lunch I went back to the bedroom leaving George chatting away. I waited and
      waited – no George. I got awfully tired of waiting and thought I’d give him a fright so I
      walked out onto the deserted golf course and hid behind some large boulders. Soon I
      saw George returning to the room and the boy followed with a tea tray. Ah, now the hue
      and cry will start, thought I, but no, no George appeared nor could I hear any despairing
      cry. When sunset came I trailed crossly back to our hotel room where George lay
      innocently asleep on his bed, hands folded on his chest like a crusader on his tomb. In a
      moment he opened his eyes, smiled sleepily and said kindly, “Did you have a nice walk
      my love?” So of course I couldn’t play the neglected wife as he obviously didn’t think
      me one and we had a very pleasant dinner and party in the hotel that evening.
      Next day we continued our journey but turned aside to visit the farm of a sprightly
      old man named St.Leger Seaton whom George had known for many years, so it was
      after dark before George decided that we had covered our quota of miles for the day.
      Whilst he and Lamek unpacked I wandered off to a stream to cool my hot feet which had
      baked all day on the floor boards of the car. In the rather dim moonlight I sat down on the
      grassy bank and gratefully dabbled my feet in the cold water. A few minutes later I
      started up with a shriek – I had the sensation of red hot pins being dug into all my most
      sensitive parts. I started clawing my clothes off and, by the time George came to the
      rescue with the lamp, I was practically in the nude. “Only Siafu ants,” said George calmly.
      Take off all your clothes and get right in the water.” So I had a bathe whilst George
      picked the ants off my clothes by the light of the lamp turned very low for modesty’s
      sake. Siafu ants are beastly things. They are black ants with outsized heads and
      pinchers. I shall be very, very careful where I sit in future.

      The next day was even hotter. There was no great variety in the scenery. Most
      of the country was covered by a tree called Miombo, which is very ordinary when the
      foliage is a mature deep green, but when in new leaf the trees look absolutely beautiful
      as the leaves,surprisingly, are soft pastel shades of red and yellow.

      Once again we turned aside from the main road to visit one of George’s friends.
      This man Major Hugh Jones MC, has a farm only a few miles from ours but just now he is supervising the making of an airstrip. Major Jones is quite a character. He is below
      average height and skinny with an almost bald head and one nearly blind eye into which
      he screws a monocle. He is a cultured person and will, I am sure, make an interesting
      neighbour. George and Major Jones’ friends call him ‘Joni’ but he is generally known in
      this country as ‘Ropesoles’ – as he is partial to that type of footwear.
      We passed through Mbeya township after dark so I have no idea what the place
      is like. The last 100 miles of our journey was very dusty and the last 15 miles extremely
      bumpy. The road is used so little that in some places we had to plow our way through
      long grass and I was delighted when at last George turned into a side road and said
      “This is our place.” We drove along the bank of the Mchewe River, then up a hill and
      stopped at a tent which was pitched beside the half built walls of our new home. We
      were expected so there was hot water for baths and after a supper of tinned food and
      good hot tea, I climbed thankfully into bed.

      Next morning I was awakened by the chattering of the African workmen and was
      soon out to inspect the new surroundings. Our farm was once part of Hickson Wood’s
      land and is separated from theirs by a river. Our houses cannot be more than a few
      hundred yards apart as the crow flies but as both are built on the slopes of a long range
      of high hills, and one can only cross the river at the foot of the slopes, it will be quite a
      safari to go visiting on foot . Most of our land is covered with shoulder high grass but it
      has been partly cleared of trees and scrub. Down by the river George has made a long
      coffee nursery and a large vegetable garden but both coffee and vegetable seedlings
      are too small to be of use.

      George has spared all the trees that will make good shade for the coffee later on.
      There are several huge wild fig trees as big as oaks but with smooth silvery-green trunks
      and branches and there are lots of acacia thorn trees with flat tops like Japanese sun
      shades. I’ve seen lovely birds in the fig trees, Louries with bright plumage and crested
      heads, and Blue Rollers, and in the grasslands there are widow birds with incredibly long
      black tail feathers.

      There are monkeys too and horrible but fascinating tree lizards with blue bodies
      and orange heads. There are so many, many things to tell you but they must wait for
      another time as James, the house boy, has been to say “Bafu tiari” and if I don’t go at
      once, the bath will be cold.

      I am very very happy and terribly interested in this new life so please don’t
      worry about me.

      Much love to you all,

      Mchewe Estate 29th. November 1930

      Dearest Family,

      I’ve lots of time to write letters just now because George is busy supervising the
      building of the house from early morning to late afternoon – with a break for lunch of

      On our second day here our tent was moved from the house site to a small
      clearing further down the slope of our hill. Next to it the labourers built a ‘banda’ , which is
      a three sided grass hut with thatched roof – much cooler than the tent in this weather.
      There is also a little grass lav. so you see we have every convenience. I spend most of
      my day in the banda reading or writing letters. Occasionally I wander up to the house site
      and watch the building, but mostly I just sit.

      I did try exploring once. I wandered down a narrow path towards the river. I
      thought I might paddle and explore the river a little but I came round a bend and there,
      facing me, was a crocodile. At least for a moment I thought it was and my adrenaline
      glands got very busy indeed. But it was only an enormous monitor lizard, four or five
      feet long. It must have been as scared as I was because it turned and rushed off through
      the grass. I turned and walked hastily back to the camp and as I passed the house site I
      saw some boys killing a large puff adder. Now I do my walking in the evenings with
      George. Nothing alarming ever seems to happen when he is around.

      It is interesting to watch the boys making bricks for the house. They make a pile
      of mud which they trample with their feet until it is the right consistency. Then they fill
      wooden moulds with the clayey mud, and press it down well and turn out beautiful shiny,
      dark brown bricks which are laid out in rows and covered with grass to bake slowly in the

      Most of the materials for the building are right here at hand. The walls will be sun
      dried bricks and there is a white clay which will make a good whitewash for the inside
      walls. The chimney and walls will be of burnt brick and tiles and George is now busy
      building a kiln for this purpose. Poles for the roof are being cut in the hills behind the
      house and every day women come along with large bundles of thatching grass on their
      heads. Our windows are modern steel casement ones and the doors have been made
      at a mission in the district. George does some of the bricklaying himself. The other
      bricklayer is an African from Northern Rhodesia called Pedro. It makes me perspire just
      to look at Pedro who wears an overcoat all day in the very hot sun.
      Lamek continues to please. He turns out excellent meals, chicken soup followed
      by roast chicken, vegetables from the Hickson-Woods garden and a steamed pudding
      or fruit to wind up the meal. I enjoy the chicken but George is fed up with it and longs for
      good red meat. The chickens are only about as large as a partridge but then they cost
      only sixpence each.

      I had my first visit to Mbeya two days ago. I put on my very best trousseau frock
      for the occasion- that yellow striped silk one – and wore my wedding hat. George didn’t
      comment, but I saw later that I was dreadfully overdressed.
      Mbeya at the moment is a very small settlement consisting of a bundle of small
      Indian shops – Dukas they call them, which stock European tinned foods and native soft
      goods which seem to be mainly of Japanese origin. There is a one storied Government
      office called the Boma and two attractive gabled houses of burnt brick which house the
      District Officer and his Assistant. Both these houses have lovely gardens but i saw them
      only from the outside as we did not call. After buying our stores George said “Lets go to the pub, I want you to meet Mrs Menzies.” Well the pub turned out to be just three or four grass rondavels on a bare
      plot. The proprietor, Ken Menzies, came out to welcome us. I took to him at once
      because he has the same bush sandy eyebrows as you have Dad. He told me that
      unfortunately his wife is away at the coast, and then he ushered me through the door
      saying “Here’s George with his bride.” then followed the Iringa welcome all over again,
      only more so, because the room was full of diggers from the Lupa Goldfields about fifty
      miles away.

      Champagne corks popped as I shook hands all around and George was
      clapped on the back. I could see he was a favourite with everyone and I tried not to be
      gauche and let him down. These men were all most kind and most appeared to be men
      of more than average education. However several were unshaven and looked as
      though they had slept in their clothes as I suppose they had. When they have a little luck
      on the diggings they come in here to Menzies pub and spend the lot. George says
      they bring their gold dust and small nuggets in tobacco tins or Kruschen salts jars and
      hand them over to Ken Menzies saying “Tell me when I’ve spent the lot.” Ken then
      weighs the gold and estimates its value and does exactly what the digger wants.
      However the Diggers get good value for their money because besides the drink
      they get companionship and good food and nursing if they need it. Mrs Menzies is a
      trained nurse and most kind and capable from what I was told. There is no doctor or
      hospital here so her experience as a nursing sister is invaluable.
      We had lunch at the Hotel and afterwards I poured tea as I was the only female
      present. Once the shyness had worn off I rather enjoyed myself.

      Now to end off I must tell you a funny story of how I found out that George likes
      his women to be feminine. You will remember those dashing black silk pyjamas Aunt
      Mary gave me, with flowered “happy coat” to match. Well last night I thought I’d give
      George a treat and when the boy called me for my bath I left George in the ‘banda’
      reading the London Times. After my bath I put on my Japanese pyjamas and coat,
      peered into the shaving mirror which hangs from the tent pole and brushed my hair until it
      shone. I must confess that with my fringe and shingled hair I thought I made quite a
      glamourous Japanese girl. I walked coyly across to the ‘banda’. Alas no compliment.
      George just glanced up from the Times and went on reading.
      He was away rather a long time when it came to his turn to bath. I glanced up
      when he came back and had a slight concussion. George, if you please, was arrayed in
      my very best pale yellow satin nightie. The one with the lace and ribbon sash and little
      bows on the shoulder. I knew exactly what he meant to convey. I was not to wear the
      trousers in the family. I seethed inwardly, but pretending not to notice, I said calmly “shall
      I call for food?” In this garb George sat down to dinner and it says a great deal for African
      phlegm that the boy did not drop the dishes.

      We conversed politely about this and that, and then, as usual, George went off
      to bed. I appeared to be engrossed in my book and did not stir. When I went to the
      tent some time later George lay fast asleep still in my nightie, though all I could see of it
      was the little ribbon bows looking farcically out of place on his broad shoulders.
      This morning neither of us mentioned the incident, George was up and dressed
      by the time I woke up but I have been smiling all day to think what a ridiculous picture
      we made at dinner. So farewell to pyjamas and hey for ribbons and bows.

      Your loving

      Mchewe Estate. Mbeya. 8th December 1930

      Dearest Family,

      A mere shadow of her former buxom self lifts a languid pen to write to you. I’m
      convalescing after my first and I hope my last attack of malaria. It was a beastly
      experience but all is now well and I am eating like a horse and will soon regain my

      I took ill on the evening of the day I wrote my last letter to you. It started with a
      splitting headache and fits of shivering. The symptoms were all too familiar to George
      who got me into bed and filled me up with quinine. He then piled on all the available
      blankets and packed me in hot water bottles. I thought I’d explode and said so and
      George said just to lie still and I’d soon break into a good sweat. However nothing of the
      kind happened and next day my temperature was 105 degrees. Instead of feeling
      miserable as I had done at the onset, I now felt very merry and most chatty. George
      now tells me I sang the most bawdy songs but I hardly think it likely. Do you?
      You cannot imagine how tenderly George nursed me, not only that day but
      throughout the whole eight days I was ill. As we do not employ any African house
      women, and there are no white women in the neighbourhood at present to whom we
      could appeal for help, George had to do everything for me. It was unbearably hot in the
      tent so George decided to move me across to the Hickson-Woods vacant house. They
      have not yet returned from the coast.

      George decided I was too weak to make the trip in the car so he sent a
      messenger over to the Woods’ house for their Machila. A Machila is a canopied canvas
      hammock slung from a bamboo pole and carried by four bearers. The Machila duly
      arrived and I attempted to walk to it, clinging to George’s arm, but collapsed in a faint so
      the trip was postponed to the next morning when I felt rather better. Being carried by
      Machila is quite pleasant but I was in no shape to enjoy anything and got thankfully into
      bed in the Hickson-Woods large, cool and rather dark bedroom. My condition did not
      improve and George decided to send a runner for the Government Doctor at Tukuyu
      about 60 miles away. Two days later Dr Theis arrived by car and gave me two
      injections of quinine which reduced the fever. However I still felt very weak and had to
      spend a further four days in bed.

      We have now decided to stay on here until the Hickson-Woods return by which
      time our own house should be ready. George goes off each morning and does not
      return until late afternoon. However don’t think “poor Eleanor” because I am very
      comfortable here and there are lots of books to read and the days seem to pass very

      The Hickson-Wood’s house was built by Major Jones and I believe the one on
      his shamba is just like it. It is a square red brick building with a wide verandah all around
      and, rather astonishingly, a conical thatched roof. There is a beautiful view from the front
      of the house and a nice flower garden. The coffee shamba is lower down on the hill.
      Mrs Wood’s first husband, George’s friend Vi Lumb, is buried in the flower
      garden. He died of blackwater fever about five years ago. I’m told that before her
      second marriage Kath lived here alone with her little daughter, Maureen, and ran the farm
      entirely on her own. She must be quite a person. I bet she didn’t go and get malaria
      within a few weeks of her marriage.

      The native tribe around here are called Wasafwa. They are pretty primitive but
      seem amiable people. Most of the men, when they start work, wear nothing but some
      kind of sheet of unbleached calico wrapped round their waists and hanging to mid calf. As soon as they have drawn their wages they go off to a duka and buy a pair of khaki
      shorts for five or six shillings. Their women folk wear very short beaded skirts. I think the
      base is goat skin but have never got close enough for a good look. They are very shy.
      I hear from George that they have started on the roof of our house but I have not
      seen it myself since the day I was carried here by Machila. My letters by the way go to
      the Post Office by runner. George’s farm labourers take it in turn to act in this capacity.
      The mail bag is given to them on Friday afternoon and by Saturday evening they are
      back with our very welcome mail.

      Very much love,

      Mbeya 23rd December 1930

      Dearest Family,

      George drove to Mbeya for stores last week and met Col. Sherwood-Kelly VC.
      who has been sent by the Government to Mbeya as Game Ranger. His job will be to
      protect native crops from raiding elephants and hippo etc., and to protect game from
      poachers. He has had no training for this so he has asked George to go with him on his
      first elephant safari to show him the ropes.

      George likes Col. Kelly and was quite willing to go on safari but not willing to
      leave me alone on the farm as I am still rather shaky after malaria. So it was arranged that
      I should go to Mbeya and stay with Mrs Harmer, the wife of the newly appointed Lands
      and Mines Officer, whose husband was away on safari.

      So here I am in Mbeya staying in the Harmers temporary wattle and daub
      house. Unfortunately I had a relapse of the malaria and stayed in bed for three days with
      a temperature. Poor Mrs Harmer had her hands full because in the room next to mine
      she was nursing a digger with blackwater fever. I could hear his delirious babble through
      the thin wall – very distressing. He died poor fellow , and leaves a wife and seven

      I feel better than I have done for weeks and this afternoon I walked down to the
      store. There are great signs of activity and people say that Mbeya will grow rapidly now
      owing to the boom on the gold fields and also to the fact that a large aerodrome is to be
      built here. Mbeya is to be a night stop on the proposed air service between England
      and South Africa. I seem to be the last of the pioneers. If all these schemes come about
      Mbeya will become quite suburban.

      26th December 1930

      George, Col. Kelly and Mr Harmer all returned to Mbeya on Christmas Eve and
      it was decided that we should stay and have midday Christmas dinner with the
      Harmers. Col. Kelly and the Assistant District Commissioner came too and it was quite a
      festive occasion, We left Mbeya in the early afternoon and had our evening meal here at
      Hickson-Wood’s farm. I wore my wedding dress.

      I went across to our house in the car this morning. George usually walks across to
      save petrol which is very expensive here. He takes a short cut and wades through the
      river. The distance by road is very much longer than the short cut. The men are now
      thatching the roof of our cottage and it looks charming. It consists of a very large living
      room-dinning room with a large inglenook fireplace at one end. The bedroom is a large
      square room with a smaller verandah room adjoining it. There is a wide verandah in the
      front, from which one has a glorious view over a wide valley to the Livingstone
      Mountains on the horizon. Bathroom and storeroom are on the back verandah and the
      kitchen is some distance behind the house to minimise the risk of fire.

      You can imagine how much I am looking forward to moving in. We have some
      furniture which was made by an Indian carpenter at Iringa, refrectory dining table and
      chairs, some small tables and two armchairs and two cupboards and a meatsafe. Other
      things like bookshelves and extra cupboards we will have to make ourselves. George
      has also bought a portable gramophone and records which will be a boon.
      We also have an Irish wolfhound puppy, a skinny little chap with enormous feet
      who keeps me company all day whilst George is across at our farm working on the

      Lots and lots of love,

      Mchewe Estate 8th Jan 1931

      Dearest Family,

      Alas, I have lost my little companion. The Doctor called in here on Boxing night
      and ran over and killed Paddy, our pup. It was not his fault but I was very distressed
      about it and George has promised to try and get another pup from the same litter.
      The Hickson-Woods returned home on the 29th December so we decided to
      move across to our nearly finished house on the 1st January. Hicky Wood decided that
      we needed something special to mark the occasion so he went off and killed a sucking
      pig behind the kitchen. The piglet’s screams were terrible and I felt that I would not be
      able to touch any dinner. Lamek cooked and served sucking pig up in the traditional way
      but it was high and quite literally, it stank. Our first meal in our own home was not a

      However next day all was forgotten and I had something useful to do. George
      hung doors and I held the tools and I also planted rose cuttings I had brought from
      Mbeya and sowed several boxes with seeds.

      Dad asked me about the other farms in the area. I haven’t visited any but there
      are five besides ours. One belongs to the Lutheran Mission at Utengule, a few miles
      from here. The others all belong to British owners. Nearest to Mbeya, at the foot of a
      very high peak which gives Mbeya its name, are two farms, one belonging to a South
      African mining engineer named Griffiths, the other to I.G.Stewart who was an officer in the
      Kings African Rifles. Stewart has a young woman called Queenie living with him. We are
      some miles further along the range of hills and are some 23 miles from Mbeya by road.
      The Mchewe River divides our land from the Hickson-Woods and beyond their farm is
      Major Jones.

      All these people have been away from their farms for some time but have now
      returned so we will have some neighbours in future. However although the houses are
      not far apart as the crow flies, they are all built high in the foothills and it is impossible to
      connect the houses because of the rivers and gorges in between. One has to drive right
      down to the main road and then up again so I do not suppose we will go visiting very
      often as the roads are very bumpy and eroded and petrol is so expensive that we all
      save it for occasional trips to Mbeya.

      The rains are on and George has started to plant out some coffee seedlings. The
      rains here are strange. One can hear the rain coming as it moves like a curtain along the
      range of hills. It comes suddenly, pours for a little while and passes on and the sun
      shines again.

      I do like it here and I wish you could see or dear little home.

      Your loving,

      Mchewe Estate. 1st April 1931

      Dearest Family,

      Everything is now running very smoothly in our home. Lamek continues to
      produce palatable meals and makes wonderful bread which he bakes in a four gallon
      petrol tin as we have no stove yet. He puts wood coals on the brick floor of the kitchen,
      lays the tin lengh-wise on the coals and heaps more on top. The bread tins are then put
      in the petrol tin, which has one end cut away, and the open end is covered by a flat
      piece of tin held in place by a brick. Cakes are also backed in this make-shift oven and I
      have never known Lamek to have a failure yet.

      Lamek has a helper, known as the ‘mpishi boy’ , who does most of the hard
      work, cleans pots and pans and chops the firewood etc. Another of the mpishi boy’s
      chores is to kill the two chickens we eat each day. The chickens run wild during the day
      but are herded into a small chicken house at night. One of the kitchen boy’s first duties is
      to let the chickens out first thing in the early morning. Some time after breakfast it dawns
      on Lamek that he will need a chicken for lunch. he informs the kitchen boy who selects a
      chicken and starts to chase it in which he is enthusiastically joined by our new Irish
      wolfhound pup, Kelly. Together they race after the frantic fowl, over the flower beds and
      around the house until finally the chicken collapses from sheer exhaustion. The kitchen
      boy then hands it over to Lamek who murders it with the kitchen knife and then pops the
      corpse into boiling water so the feathers can be stripped off with ease.

      I pointed out in vain, that it would be far simpler if the doomed chickens were kept
      in the chicken house in the mornings when the others were let out and also that the correct
      way to pluck chickens is when they are dry. Lamek just smiled kindly and said that that
      may be so in Europe but that his way is the African way and none of his previous
      Memsahibs has complained.

      My houseboy, named James, is clean and capable in the house and also a
      good ‘dhobi’ or washboy. He takes the washing down to the river and probably
      pounds it with stones, but I prefer not to look. The ironing is done with a charcoal iron
      only we have no charcoal and he uses bits of wood from the kitchen fire but so far there
      has not been a mishap.

      It gets dark here soon after sunset and then George lights the oil lamps and we
      have tea and toast in front of the log fire which burns brightly in our inglenook. This is my
      favourite hour of the day. Later George goes for his bath. I have mine in the mornings
      and we have dinner at half past eight. Then we talk a bit and read a bit and sometimes
      play the gramophone. I expect it all sounds pretty unexciting but it doesn’t seem so to

      Very much love,

      Mchewe Estate 20th April 1931

      Dearest Family,

      It is still raining here and the countryside looks very lush and green, very different
      from the Mbeya district I first knew, when plains and hills were covered in long brown
      grass – very course stuff that grows shoulder high.

      Most of the labourers are hill men and one can see little patches of cultivation in
      the hills. Others live in small villages near by, each consisting of a cluster of thatched huts
      and a few maize fields and perhaps a patch of bananas. We do not have labour lines on
      the farm because our men all live within easy walking distance. Each worker has a labour
      card with thirty little squares on it. One of these squares is crossed off for each days work
      and when all thirty are marked in this way the labourer draws his pay and hies himself off
      to the nearest small store and blows the lot. The card system is necessary because
      these Africans are by no means slaves to work. They work only when they feel like it or
      when someone in the family requires a new garment, or when they need a few shillings
      to pay their annual tax. Their fields, chickens and goats provide them with the food they
      need but they draw rations of maize meal beans and salt. Only our headman is on a
      salary. His name is Thomas and he looks exactly like the statues of Julius Caesar, the
      same bald head and muscular neck and sardonic expression. He comes from Northern
      Rhodesia and is more intelligent than the locals.

      We still live mainly on chickens. We have a boy whose job it is to scour the
      countryside for reasonable fat ones. His name is Lucas and he is quite a character. He
      has such long horse teeth that he does not seem able to close his mouth and wears a
      perpetual amiable smile. He brings his chickens in beehive shaped wicker baskets
      which are suspended on a pole which Lucas carries on his shoulder.

      We buy our groceries in bulk from Mbeya, our vegetables come from our
      garden by the river and our butter from Kath Wood. Our fresh milk we buy from the
      natives. It is brought each morning by three little totos each carrying one bottle on his
      shaven head. Did I tell you that the local Wasafwa file their teeth to points. These kids
      grin at one with their little sharks teeth – quite an “all-ready-to-eat-you-with-my-dear” look.
      A few nights ago a message arrived from Kath Wood to say that Queenie
      Stewart was very ill and would George drive her across to the Doctor at Tukuyu. I
      wanted George to wait until morning because it was pouring with rain, and the mountain
      road to Tukuyu is tricky even in dry weather, but he said it is dangerous to delay with any
      kind of fever in Africa and he would have to start at once. So off he drove in the rain and I
      did not see him again until the following night.

      George said that it had been a nightmare trip. Queenie had a high temperature
      and it was lucky that Kath was able to go to attend to her. George needed all his
      attention on the road which was officially closed to traffic, and very slippery, and in some
      places badly eroded. In some places the decking of bridges had been removed and
      George had to get out in the rain and replace it. As he had nothing with which to fasten
      the decking to the runners it was a dangerous undertaking to cross the bridges especially
      as the rivers are now in flood and flowing strongly. However they reached Tukuyu safely
      and it was just as well they went because the Doctor diagnosed Queenies illness as
      Spirillium Tick Fever which is a very nasty illness indeed.


      Mchewe Estate. 20th May 1931

      Dear Family,

      I’m feeling fit and very happy though a bit lonely sometimes because George
      spends much of his time away in the hills cutting a furrow miles long to bring water to the
      house and to the upper part of the shamba so that he will be able to irrigate the coffee
      during the dry season.

      It will be quite an engineering feat when it is done as George only has makeshift
      surveying instruments. He has mounted an ordinary cheap spirit level on an old camera
      tripod and has tacked two gramophone needles into the spirit level to give him a line.
      The other day part of a bank gave way and practically buried two of George’s labourers
      but they were quickly rescued and no harm was done. However he will not let them
      work unless he is there to supervise.

      I keep busy so that the days pass quickly enough. I am delighted with the
      material you sent me for curtains and loose covers and have hired a hand sewing
      machine from Pedro-of-the-overcoat and am rattling away all day. The machine is an
      ancient German one and when I say rattle, I mean rattle. It is a most cumbersome, heavy
      affair of I should say, the same vintage as George Stevenson’s Rocket locomotive.
      Anyway it sews and I am pleased with my efforts. We made a couch ourselves out of a
      native bed, a mattress and some planks but all this is hidden under the chintz cover and
      it looks quite the genuine bought article. I have some diversions too. Small black faced
      monkeys sit in the trees outside our bedroom window and they are most entertaining to
      watch. They are very mischievous though. When I went out into the garden this morning
      before breakfast I found that the monkeys had pulled up all my carnations. There they
      lay, roots in the air and whether they will take again I don’t know.

      I like the monkeys but hate the big mountain baboons that come and hang
      around our chicken house. I am terrified that they will tear our pup into bits because he is
      a plucky young thing and will rush out to bark at the baboons.

      George usually returns for the weekends but last time he did not because he had
      a touch of malaria. He sent a boy down for the mail and some fresh bread. Old Lucas
      arrived with chickens just as the messenger was setting off with mail and bread in a
      haversack on his back. I thought it might be a good idea to send a chicken to George so
      I selected a spry young rooster which I handed to the messenger. He, however,
      complained that he needed both hands for climbing. I then had one of my bright ideas
      and, putting a layer of newspaper over the bread, I tucked the rooster into the haversack
      and buckled down the flap so only his head protruded.

      I thought no more about it until two days later when the messenger again
      appeared for fresh bread. He brought a rather terse note from George saying that the
      previous bread was uneatable as the rooster had eaten some of it and messed on the
      rest. Ah me!

      The previous weekend the Hickson-Woods, Stewarts and ourselves, went
      across to Tukuyu to attend a dance at the club there. the dance was very pleasant. All
      the men wore dinner jackets and the ladies wore long frocks. As there were about
      twenty men and only seven ladies we women danced every dance whilst the surplus
      men got into a huddle around the bar. George and I spent the night with the Agricultural
      Officer, Mr Eustace, and I met his fiancee, Lillian Austin from South Africa, to whom I took
      a great liking. She is Governess to the children of Major Masters who has a farm in the
      Tukuyu district.

      On the Sunday morning we had a look at the township. The Boma was an old German one and was once fortified as the Africans in this district are a very warlike tribe.
      They are fine looking people. The men wear sort of togas and bands of cloth around
      their heads and look like Roman Senators, but the women go naked except for a belt
      from which two broad straps hang down, one in front and another behind. Not a graceful
      garb I assure you.

      We also spent a pleasant hour in the Botanical Gardens, laid out during the last
      war by the District Commissioner, Major Wells, with German prisoner of war labour.
      There are beautiful lawns and beds of roses and other flowers and shady palm lined
      walks and banana groves. The gardens are terraced with flights of brick steps connecting
      the different levels and there is a large artificial pond with little islands in it. I believe Major
      Wells designed the lake to resemble in miniature, the Lakes of Killarney.
      I enjoyed the trip very much. We got home at 8 pm to find the front door locked
      and the kitchen boy fast asleep on my newly covered couch! I hastily retreated to the
      bedroom whilst George handled the situation.



        My Grandparents

        George Samuel Marshall 1903-1995

        Florence Noreen Warren (Nora) 1906-1988

        I always called my grandfather Mop, apparently because I couldn’t say the name Grandpa, but whatever the reason, the name stuck. My younger brother also called him Mop, but our two cousins did not.

        My earliest memories of my grandparents are the picnics.  Grandma and Mop loved going out in the car for a picnic. Favourite spots were the Clee Hills in Shropshire, North Wales, especially Llanbedr, Malvern, and Derbyshire, and closer to home, the caves and silver birch woods at Kinver Edge, Arley by the river Severn, or Bridgnorth, where Grandma’s sister Hildreds family lived.  Stourbridge was on the western edge of the Black Country in the Midlands, so one was quickly in the countryside heading west.  They went north to Derbyshire less, simply because the first part of the trip entailed driving through Wolverhampton and other built up and not particularly pleasant urban areas.  I’m sure they’d have gone there more often, as they were both born in Derbyshire, if not for that initial stage of the journey.

        There was predominantly grey tartan car rug in the car for picnics, and a couple of folding chairs.  There were always a couple of cushions on the back seat, and I fell asleep in the back more times than I can remember, despite intending to look at the scenery.  On the way home Grandma would always sing,  “Show me the way to go home, I’m tired and I want to go to bed, I had a little drink about an hour ago, And it’s gone right to my head.”  I’ve looked online for that song, and have not found it anywhere!

        Grandma didn’t just make sandwiches for picnics, there were extra containers of lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and so on.  I used to love to wash up the picnic plates in the little brook on the Clee Hills, near Cleeton St Mary.  The close cropped grass was ideal for picnics, and Mop and the sheep would Baaa at each other.

        Mop would base the days outting on the weather forcast, but Grandma often used to say he always chose the opposite of what was suggested. She said if you want to go to Derbyshire, tell him you want to go to Wales.  I recall him often saying, on a gloomy day, Look, there’s a bit of clear sky over there.  Mop always did the driving as Grandma never learned to drive. Often she’d dust the dashboard with a tissue as we drove along.

        My brother and I often spent the weekend at our grandparents house, so that our parents could go out on a Saturday night.  They gave us 5 shillings pocket money, which I used to spend on two Ladybird books at 2 shillings and sixpence each.  We had far too many sweets while watching telly in the evening ~ in the dark, as they always turned the lights off to watch television.  The lemonade and pop was Corona, and came in returnable glass bottles.  We had Woodpecker cider too, even though it had a bit of an alcohol content.

        Mop smoked Kensitas and Grandma smoked Sovereign cigarettes, or No6, and the packets came with coupons.  They often let me choose something for myself out of the catalogue when there were enough coupons saved up.

        When I had my first garden, in a rented house a short walk from theirs, they took me to garden nurseries and taught me all about gardening.  In their garden they had berberis across the front of the house under the window, and cotoneaster all along the side of the garage wall. The silver birth tree on the lawn had been purloined as a sapling from Kinver edge, when they first moved into the house.  (they lived in that house on Park Road for more than 60 years).  There were perennials and flowering shrubs along the sides of the back garden, and behind the silver birch, and behind that was the vegeatable garden.  Right at the back was an Anderson shelter turned into a shed, the rhubarb, and the washing line, and the canes for the runner beans in front of those.  There was a little rose covered arch on the path on the left, and privet hedges all around the perimeter.

        My grandfather was a dental technician. He worked for various dentists on their premises over the years, but he always had a little workshop of his own at the back of his garage. His garage was full to the brim of anything that might potentially useful, but it was not chaotic. He knew exactly where to find anything, from the tiniest screw for spectacles to a useful bit of wire. He was “mechanicaly minded” and could always fix things like sewing machines and cars and so on.

        Mop used to let me sit with him in his workshop, and make things out of the pink wax he used for gums to embed the false teeth into prior to making the plaster casts. The porcelain teeth came on cards, and were strung in place by means of little holes on the back end of the teeth. I still have a necklace I made by threading teeth onto a string. There was a foot pedal operated drill in there as well, possibly it was a dentists drill previously, that he used with miniature grinding or polishing attachments. Sometimes I made things out of the pink acrylic used for the final denture, which had a strong smell and used to harden quickly, so you had to work fast. Initially, the workshop was to do the work for Uncle Ralph, Grandmas’s sisters husband, who was a dentist. In later years after Ralph retired, I recall a nice man called Claude used to come in the evening to collect the dentures for another dental laboratory. Mop always called his place of work the laboratory.

        Grandma loved books and was always reading, in her armchair next to the gas fire. I don’t recall seeing Mop reading a book, but he was amazingly well informed about countless topics.
        At family gatherings, Mops favourite topic of conversation after dinner was the atrocities committed over the centuries by organized religion.

        My grandfather played snooker in his younger years at the Conservative club. I recall my father assuming he voted Conservative, and Mop told him in no uncertain terms that he’s always voted Labour. When asked why he played snooker at the Conservative club and not the Labour club, he said with a grin that “it was a better class of people”, but that he’d never vote Conservative because it was of no benefit to the likes of us working people.

        Grandma and her sister in law Marie had a little grocers shop on Brettel Lane in Amblecote for a few years but I have no personal recollection of that as it was during the years we lived in USA. I don’t recall her working other than that. She had a pastry making day once a week, and made Bakewell tart, apple pie, a meat pie, and her own style of pizza. She had an old black hand operated sewing machine, and made curtains and loose covers for the chairs and sofa, but I don’t think she made her own clothes, at least not in later years. I have her sewing machine here in Spain.
        At regular intervals she’d move all the furniture around and change the front room into the living room and the back into the dining room and vice versa. In later years Mop always had the back bedroom (although when I lived with them aged 14, I had the back bedroom, and painted the entire room including the ceiling purple). He had a very lumpy mattress but he said it fit his bad hip perfectly.

        Grandma used to alternate between the tiny bedroom and the big bedroom at the front. (this is in later years, obviously) The wardrobes and chests of drawers never changed, they were oak and substantial, but rather dated in appearance. They had a grandfather clock with a brass face and a grandmother clock. Over the fireplace in the living room was a Utrillo print. The bathroom and lavatory were separate rooms, and the old claw foot bath had wood panels around it to make it look more modern. There was a big hot water geyser above it. Grandma was fond of using stick on Fablon tile effects to try to improve and update the appearance of the bathroom and kitchen. Mop was a generous man, but would not replace household items that continued to function perfectly well. There were electric heaters in all the rooms, of varying designs, and gas fires in living room and dining room. The coal house on the outside wall was later turned into a downstairs shower room, when Mop moved his bedroom downstairs into the front dining room, after Grandma had died and he was getting on.


        Mop was 91 when he told me he wouldn’t be growing any vegetables that year. He said the sad thing was that he knew he’d never grow vegetables again. He worked part time until he was in his early 80s.


          Bakewell Not Eyam

          The Elton Marshalls

          Some years ago I read a book about Eyam, the Derbyshire village devastated by the plague in 1665, and about how the villagers quarantined themselves to prevent further spread. It was quite a story. Each year on ‘Plague Sunday’, at the end of August, residents of Eyam mark the bubonic plague epidemic that devastated their small rural community in the years 1665–6. They wear the traditional costume of the day and attend a memorial service to remember how half the village sacrificed themselves to avoid spreading the disease further.

          My 4X great grandfather James Marshall married Ann Newton in 1792 in Elton. On a number of other people’s trees on an online ancestry site, Ann Newton was from Eyam.  Wouldn’t that have been interesting, to find ancestors from Eyam, perhaps going back to the days of the plague. Perhaps that is what the people who put Ann Newton’s birthplace as Eyam thought, without a proper look at the records.

          But I didn’t think Ann Newton was from Eyam. I found she was from Over Haddon, near Bakewell ~ much closer to Elton than Eyam. On the marriage register, it says that James was from Elton parish, and she was from Darley parish. Her birth in 1770 says Bakewell, which was the registration district for the villages of Over Haddon and Darley. Her parents were George Newton and Dorothy Wipperley of Over Haddon,which is incidentally very near to Nether Haddon, and Haddon Hall. I visited Haddon Hall many years ago, as well as Chatsworth (and much preferred Haddon Hall).

          I looked in the Eyam registers for Ann Newton, and found a couple of them around the time frame, but the men they married were not James Marshall.

          Ann died in 1806 in Elton (a small village just outside Matlock) at the age of 36 within days of her newborn twins, Ann and James.  James and Ann had two sets of twins.  John and Mary were twins as well, but Mary died in 1799 at the age of three.

          1796 baptism of twins John and Mary of James and Ann Marshall

          Marshall baptism


          Ann’s husband James died 42 years later at the age of eighty,  in Elton in 1848. It was noted in the parish register that he was for years parish clerk.

          James Marshall


          On the 1851 census John Marshall born in 1796, the son of James Marshall the parish clerk, was a lead miner occupying six acres in Elton, Derbyshire.

          His son, also John, was registered on the census as a lead miner at just eight years old.


          The mining of lead was the most important industry in the Peak district of Derbyshire from Roman times until the 19th century – with only agriculture being more important for the livelihood of local people. The height of lead mining in Derbyshire came in the 17th and 18th centuries, and the evidence is still visible today – most obviously in the form of lines of hillocks from the more than 25,000 mineshafts which once existed.

          Peak District Mines Historical Society

          Smelting, or extracting the lead from the ore by melting it, was carried out in a small open hearth. Lead was cast in layers as each batch of ore was smelted; the blocks of lead thus produced were referred to as “pigs”. Examples of early smelting-hearths found within the county were stone lined, with one side open facing the prevailing wind to create the draught needed. The hilltops of the Matlocks would have provided very suitable conditions.

          The miner used a tool called a mattock or a pick, and hammers and iron wedges in harder veins, to loosen the ore. They threw the ore onto ridges on each side of the vein, going deeper where the ore proved richer.

          Many mines were very shallow and, once opened, proved too poor to develop. Benjamin Bryan cited the example of “Ember Hill, on the shoulder of Masson, above Matlock Bath” where there are hollows in the surface showing where there had been fruitless searches for lead.

          There were small buildings, called “coes”, near each mine shaft which were used for tool storage, to provide shelter and as places for changing into working clothes. It was here that the lead was smelted and stored until ready for sale.

          Lead is, of course, very poisonous. As miners washed lead-bearing material, great care was taken with the washing vats, which had to be covered. If cattle accidentally drank the poisoned water they would die from something called “belland”.

          Cornish and Welsh miners introduced the practice of buddling for ore into Derbyshire about 1747.  Buddling involved washing the heaps of rubbish in the slag heaps,  the process of separating the very small particles from the dirt and spar with which they are mixed, by means of a small stream of water. This method of extraction was a major pollutant, affecting farmers and their animals (poisoned by Belland from drinking the waste water), the brooks and streams and even the River Derwent.

          Women also worked in the mines. An unattributed account from 1829, says: “The head is much enwrapped, and the features nearly hidden in a muffling of handkerchiefs, over which is put a man’s hat, in the manner of the paysannes of Wales”. He also describes their gowns, usually red, as being “tucked up round the waist in a sort of bag, and set off by a bright green petticoat”. They also wore a man’s grey or dark blue coat and shoes with 3″ thick soles that were tied round with cords. The 1829 writer called them “complete harridans!”

          Lead Mining in Matlock & Matlock Bath, The Andrews Pages

          John’s wife Margaret died at the age of 42 in 1847.  I don’t know the cause of death, but perhaps it was lead poisoning.  John’s son John, despite a very early start in the lead mine, became a carter and lived to the ripe old age of 88.

          The Pig of Lead pub, 1904:

          The Pig of Lead 1904


          The earliest Marshall I’ve found so far is Charles, born in 1742. Charles married Rebecca Knowles, 1775-1823.  I don’t know what his occupation was but when he died in 1819 he left a not inconsiderable sum to his wife.

          1819 Charles Marshall probate:

          Charles Marshall Probate



          There are still Marshall’s living in Elton and Matlock, not our immediate known family, but probably distantly related.  I asked a Matlock group on facebook:

          “…there are Marshall’s still in the village. There are certainly families who live here who have done generation after generation & have many memories & stories to tell. Visit The Duke on a Friday night…”

          The Duke, Elton:

          Duke Elton


            Phyllis Ellen Marshall

            1909 – 1983

            Phyllis Marshall


            Phyllis, my grandfather George Marshall’s sister, never married. She lived in her parents home in Love Lane, and spent decades of her later life bedridden, living alone and crippled with rheumatoid arthritis. She had her bed in the front downstairs room, and had cords hanging by her bed to open the curtains, turn on the tv and so on, and she had carers and meals on wheels visit her daily. The room was dark and grim, but Phyllis was always smiling and cheerful.  Phyllis loved the Degas ballerinas and had a couple of prints on the walls.

            I remember visiting her, but it has only recently registered that this was my great grandparents house. When I was a child, we visited her and she indicated a tin on a chest of drawers and said I could take a biscuit. It was a lemon puff, and was the stalest biscuit I’d ever had. To be polite I ate it. Then she offered me another one! I declined, but she thought I was being polite and said “Go on! You can have another!” I ate another one, and have never eaten a lemon puff since that day.

            Phyllis’s nephew Bryan Marshall used to visit her regularly. I didn’t realize how close they were until recently, when I resumed contact with Bryan, who emigrated to USA in the 1970s following a successful application for a job selling stained glass windows and church furnishings.

            I asked on a Stourbridge facebook group if anyone remembered her.

            AF  Yes I remember her. My friend and I used to go up from Longlands school every Friday afternoon to do jobs for her. I remember she had a record player and we used to put her 45rpm record on Send in the Clowns for her. Such a lovely lady. She had her bed in the front room.

            KW I remember very clearly a lady in a small house in Love Lane with alley at the left hand.  I was intrigued by this lady who used to sit with the front door open and she was in a large chair of some sort. I used to see people going in and out and the lady was smiling. I was young then (31) and wondered how she coped but my sense was she had lots of help.  I’ve never forgotten that lady in Love Lane sitting in the open door way I suppose when it was warm enough.

            LR I used to deliver meals on wheels to her lovely lady.

            I sent Bryan the comments from the Stourbridge group and he replied:

            Thanks Tracy. I don’t recognize the names here but lovely to see such kind comments.
            In the early 70’s neighbors on Corser Street, Mr. & Mrs. Walter Braithwaite would pop around with occasional visits and meals. Walter was my piano teacher for awhile when I was in my early twenties. He was a well known music teacher at Rudolph Steiner School (former Elmfield School) on Love Lane. A very fine school. I seem to recall seeing a good article on Walter recently…perhaps on the Stourbridge News website. He was very well known.
            I’m ruminating about life with my Aunt Phyllis. We were very close. Our extra special time was every Saturday at 5pm (I seem to recall) we’d watch Doctor Who. Right from the first episode. We loved it. Likewise I’d do the children’s crossword out of Woman’s Realm magazine…always looking to win a camera but never did ! She opened my mind to the Bible, music and ballet. She once got tickets and had a taxi take us into Birmingham to see the Bolshoi Ballet…at a time when they rarely left their country. It was a very big deal in the early 60’s. ! I’ve many fond memories about her and grandad which I’ll share in due course. I’d change the steel needle on the old record player, following each play of the 78rpm records…oh my…another world.

            Bryan continues reminiscing about Phyllis in further correspondence:

            Yes, I can recall those two Degas prints. I don’t know much of Phyllis’ early history other than she was a hairdresser in Birmingham. I want to say at John Lewis, for some reason (so there must have been a connection and being such a large store I bet they did have a salon?)
            You will know that she had severe and debilitating rheumatoid arthritis that eventually gnarled her hands and moved through her body. I remember strapping on her leg/foot braces and hearing her writhe in pain as I did so but she wanted to continue walking standing/ getting up as long as she could. I’d take her out in the wheelchair and I can’t believe I say it along …but down Stanley Road!! (I had subsequent nightmares about what could have happened to her, had I tripped or let go!) She loved Mary Stevens Park, the swans, ducks and of course Canadian geese. Was grateful for everything in creation. As I used to go over Hanbury Hill on my visit to Love Lane, she would always remind me to smell the “sea-air” as I crested the hill.
            In the earlier days she smoked cigarettes with one of those long filters…looking like someone from the twenties.

            I’ll check on “Send in the clowns”. I do recall that music. I remember also she loved to hear Neil Diamond. Her favorites in classical music gave me an appreciation of Elgar and Delius especially. She also loved ballet music such as Swan Lake and Nutcracker. Scheherazade and La Boutique Fantastic also other gems.
            When grandad died she and aunt Dorothy shared more about grandma (who died I believe when John and I were nine-months old…therefore early 1951). Grandma (Mary Ann Gilman Purdy) played the piano and loved Strauss and Offenbach. The piano in the picture you sent had a bad (wonky) leg which would fall off and when we had the piano at 4, Mount Road it was rather dangerous. In any event my parents didn’t want me or others “banging on it” for fear of waking the younger brothers so it disappeared at sometime.
            By the way, the dog, Flossy was always so rambunctious (of course, she was a JRT!) she was put on the stairway which fortunately had a door on it. Having said that I’ve always loved dogs so was very excited to see her and disappointed when she was not around. 

            Phyllis with her parents William and Mary Marshall, and Flossie the dog in the garden at Love Lane:

            Phyllis William and Mary Marshall


            Bryan continues:

            I’ll always remember the early days with the outside toilet with the overhead cistern caked in active BIG spider webs. I used to have to light a candle to go outside, shielding the flame until destination. In that space I’d set the candle down and watch the eery shadows move from side to side whilst…well anyway! Then I’d run like hell back into the house. Eventually the kitchen wall was broken through so it became an indoor loo. Phew!
            In the early days the house was rented for ten-shillings a week…I know because I used to take over a ten-bob-note to a grumpy lady next door who used to sign the receipt in the rent book. Then, I think she died and it became available for $600.00 yes…the whole house for $600.00 but it wasn’t purchased then. Eventually aunt Phyllis purchased it some years later…perhaps when grandad died.

            I used to work much in the back garden which was a lovely walled garden with arch-type decorations in the brickwork and semicircular shaped capping bricks. The abundant apple tree. Raspberry and loganberry canes. A gooseberry bush and huge Victoria plum tree on the wall at the bottom of the garden which became a wonderful attraction for wasps! (grandad called the “whasps”). He would stew apples and fruit daily.
            Do you remember their black and white cat Twinky? Always sat on the pink-screen TV and when she died they were convinced that “that’s wot got ‘er”. Grandad of course loved all his cats and as he aged, he named them all “Billy”.

            Have you come across the name “Featherstone” in grandma’s name. I don’t recall any details but Dorothy used to recall this. She did much searching of the family history Such a pity she didn’t hand anything on to anyone. She also said that we had a member of the family who worked with James Watt….but likewise I don’t have details.
            Gifts of chocolates to Phyllis were regular and I became the recipient of the overflow!

            What a pity Dorothy’s family history research has disappeared!  I have found the Featherstone’s, and the Purdy who worked with James Watt, but I wonder what else Dorothy knew.

            I mentioned DH Lawrence to Bryan, and the connection to Eastwood, where Bryan’s grandma (and Phyllis’s mother) Mary Ann Gilman Purdy was born, and shared with him the story about Francis Purdy, the Primitive Methodist minister, and about Francis’s son William who invented the miners lamp.

            He replied:

            As a nosy young man I was looking through the family bookcase in Love Lane and came across a brown paper covered book. Intrigued, I found “Sons and Lovers” D.H. Lawrence. I knew it was a taboo book (in those days) as I was growing up but now I see the deeper connection. Of course! I know that Phyllis had I think an earlier boyfriend by the name of Maurice who lived in Perry Barr, Birmingham. I think he later married but was always kind enough to send her a book and fond message each birthday (Feb.12). I guess you know grandad’s birthday – July 28. We’d always celebrate those days. I’d usually be the one to go into Oldswinford and get him a cardigan or pullover and later on, his 2oz tins of St. Bruno tobacco for his pipe (I recall the room filled with smoke as he puffed away).
            Dorothy and Phyllis always spoke of their ancestor’s vocation as a Minister. So glad to have this history! Wow, what a story too. The Lord rescued him from mischief indeed. Just goes to show how God can change hearts…one at a time.
            So interesting to hear about the Miner’s Lamp. My vicar whilst growing up at St. John’s in Stourbridge was from Durham and each Harvest Festival, there would be a miner’s lamp placed upon the altar as a symbol of the colliery and the bountiful harvest.

            More recollections from Bryan about the house and garden at Love Lane:

            I always recall tea around the three legged oak table bedecked with a colorful seersucker cloth. Battenburg cake. Jam Roll. Rich Tea and Digestive biscuits. Mr. Kipling’s exceedingly good cakes! Home-made jam.  Loose tea from the Coronation tin cannister. The ancient mangle outside the back door and the galvanized steel wash tub with hand-operated agitator on the underside of the lid. The hand operated water pump ‘though modernisation allowed for a cold tap only inside, above the single sink and wooden draining board. A small gas stove and very little room for food preparation. Amazing how the Marshalls (×7) managed in this space!

            The small window over the sink in the kitchen brought in little light since the neighbor built on a bathroom annex at the back of their house, leaving #47 with limited light, much to to upset of grandad and Phyllis. I do recall it being a gloomy place..i.e.the kitchen and back room.

            The garden was lovely. Long and narrow with privet hedge dividing the properties on the right and the lovely wall on the left. Dorothy planted spectacular lilac bushes against the wall. Vivid blues, purples and whites. Double-flora. Amazing…and with stunning fragrance. Grandad loved older victorian type plants such as foxgloves and comfrey. Forget-me-nots and marigolds (calendulas) in abundance.  Rhubarb stalks. Always plantings of lettuce and other vegetables. Lots of mint too! A large varigated laurel bush outside the front door!

            Such a pleasant walk through the past. 

            An autograph book belonging to Phyllis from the 1920s has survived in which each friend painted a little picture, drew a cartoon, or wrote a verse.  This entry is perhaps my favourite:

            Ripping Time


              Gladstone Road

              My mother remembers her grandfather Samuel Warren’s house at 3 Gladstone Road, Stourbridge. She was born in 1933, so this would be late 1930s early 1940s.

              “Opening a big wooden gate in a high brick wall off the sidewalk I went down a passage with a very high hedge to the main house which was entered on this side through a sort of glassed-in lean-to then into the dark and damp scullery and then into a large room with a fireplace which was dining room and living room for most of the time. The house was Georgian and had wooden interior shutters at the windows. My Grandad sat by the fire probably most of the day. The fireplace may have had an oven built over or to the side of the fire which was common in those days and was used for cooking.
              That room led into a hall going three ways and the main front door was here. One hall went to the pantry which had stone slabs for keeping food cool, such a long way from the kitchen! Opposite the pantry was the door to the cellar. One hall led to two large rooms with big windows overlooking the garden. There was also a door at the end of this hallway which opened into the garden. The stairs went up opposite the front door with a box room at the top then along a landing to another hall going right and left with two bedrooms down each hall.
              The toilet got to from the scullery and lean-to was outside down another passage all overgrown near the pigsty. No outside lights!
              On Christmas day the families would all have the day here. I think the menfolk went over to the pub {Gate Hangs Well?} for a drink while the women cooked dinner. Chris would take all the children down the dark, damp cellar steps and tell us ghost stories scaring us all. A fire would be lit in one of the big main rooms {probably only used once a year} and we’d sit in there and dinner was served in the other big main room. When the house was originally built the servants would have used the other room and scullery.
              I have a recollection of going upstairs and into a bedroom off the right hand hall and someone was in bed, I thought an old lady but I was uncomfortable in there and never went in again. Seemed that person was there a long time. I did go upstairs with Betty to her room which was the opposite way down the hall and loved it. She was dating lots of soldiers during the war years. One in particular I remember was an American Army Officer that she was fond of but he was killed when he left England to fight in Germany.
              I wonder if the person in bed that nobody spoke about was an old housekeeper?
              My mother used to say there was a white lady who floated around in the garden. I think Kay died at Gladstone Road!”

              Samuel Warren, born in 1874 in Newhall, Derbyshire, was my grandmothers father.  This is the only photograph we’ve seen of him (seated on right with cap).  Kay, who died of TB in 1938, is holding the teddy bear. Samuel died in 1950, in Stourbridge, at the age of 76.

              Samuel Warren Kay Warren

              Left to right: back row: Leslie Warren. Hildred Williams / Griffiths (Nee Warren). Billy Warren. 2nd row: Gladys (Gary) Warren. Kay Warren (holding teddy bear). Samuel Warren (father). Hildred’s son Chris Williams (on knee). Lorna Warren. Joan Williams. Peggy Williams (Hildreds daughters). Jack Warren. Betty Warren.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                Either that or find a parrot.


                  Clara had an uneasy feeling which, try as she might, she could not shake it off. She attempted to distract herself by making a sandwich for lunch, but the feeling wouldn’t go away. She went outside to look for Bob, eventually finding him chatting away to himself out in the orchard. It sounded like he was arguing with someone.


                  Bob jumped. “Didn’t see you there, Clara!” He laughed shakily. “What are you doing sneaking up on me like that? It’s not good for me old heart.”

                  “Grandpa, I need to go and find Nora. I’ve got a bad feeling, like she’s in some sort of trouble.”

                  “Go and find her? Do you know where she is then? Has she been in touch?”

                  “I need to go to the Village. Where the statue man lives.”

                  “Well you’re not going by yourself. Not with all these strange goings ons and the numerous bits of paper and maps and whatnot which keep turning up all over the place.”


                    “Box?” said Bob placing a hand on his chest. “Not the … ”

                    “Not box, Grandpa. Crops.” Clara spoke loudly. Poor old Grandpa must be going a bit deaf as well—he’d gone downhill since Grandma died. “His dogs got into your garden and dug up the crops. He says he’ll come by in the morning and fix up the damage. ”

                    “No, need to shout, Clara. I swear you said box. I thought you meant the box in the garage.”

                    “Oh, no that would be awful!” Clara shuddered at the thought of anything happening to her precious treasure. “Maybe we should bring the box inside, Grandpa? Make sure it’s safe.”

                    Bob sighed. Last thing he wanted was the damn box inside the house. But Clara had that look on her face, the one that means she’s made up her mind. He glanced around, wondering where they could put it so it was out of the way.

                    “Hey!” exclaimed Clara. “Where’s VanGogh gone? Did he sneak outside when Mr Willets came.” She went to the door and peered out into the darkness. “VanGogh! Here, Boy!” she shouted. “VanGogh!”


                      VanGogh was sniffing frantically on the patio outside the house, a usual indication that he’d found the perfect spot for a healthy stool, but this time, as soon as Clara had looked the other way to take care of the sautéed mushrooms on the stove, he darted for the shed where the odd big toy had been unearthed and stored out of sight.

                      His tail wagged frantically as he pushed the door open, and slid underneath the tarpaulin behind the sleeping lawn-eater.

                      He started to scratch the box, the way he usually tried to open the puzzle ball Clara would fill with some kibble. It didn’t roll like the ball-that-dispensed-kibble. In frustration, VanGogh started to push his paws on the sleek smooth surface, near the curious indentations.

                      Something clicked open.

                      “VanGogh! Where are you boy?! Come!”

                      Suddenly distracted from this puzzling quest, he rushed to the kitchen for dinner.


                        By now, the trench had been dug deeply around the mysterious artefact. It was surprisingly not rusty at all, and the box was large and oddly pear-shaped. There was no obvious lid nor hinge. Nothing that seemed ancient per say, and yet, given the depth of the dig, it was probably coming from a past long gone.

                        Clara had posted some pics to Alienor, her friend and amateur archeologist, and she’d been immediately intrigued (an slightly jealous at the find). There were still strict restriction in place, so she couldn’t come immediately, but you could hear from the tone of her voice messages, she was dying to become an outlaw to see the wonder in situ.

                        “Come on Clare, it’s going to be dark soon, we should go home or you’ll catch a cold.”

                        “Alright Granpa, but help me first get that out in the garage, we can’t let it outside unprotected.”

                        VanGogh barked approvedly.


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


                            The moving lorry had been parked outside the Beige House for hours.

                            The driver was furious, as nobody has been able to answer their calls or guide them. At least the manager had let them park in front of the entrance, but it might have been based on a misunderstanding. “That’s for the removal of the Lady’s stuff, is it?” He’d nodded, it was only half a lie, his client was a lady, except she wasn’t moving out. She was moving in.

                            He shouted to his partner who was smoking outside.

                            George! Bloody hell, if this Ms June isn’t picking up the phone or showing up, I’m going to dump all her stuff here, I don’t care how precious is her cargo!”

                            “Come on, Fred! Don’t get mad, you’ve seen how particular she was when we loaded the boat’s content, so full of her sentimental knick-knacks!”

                            “What do you expect? Us keeping all these stone statues that weigh a ton! I don’t care. I tell you, she better show up in the next minutes, or else…”


                              Everyone seems happy about the rain, and I don’t blame them. I’m not daft, I know we need rain but it’s not so easy when you don’t have a home.  But I am nothing if not stalwart and stoic, resourceful and adaptable, and I found a good way to keep warm and dry during the downpours.  It’s amazing how much heat an animal gives off, so I camp down in stables or kennels when it’s cold and wet.  It can get a bit smelly, but it’s warm and dry and when my clothes are damp and stinking I just throw them all away and get some new ones out of the recycling bins. Just to clarify, I find the new clothes first before throwing the ones I’m wearing away. I’m not daft, I know walking around naked would catch attention and I try to stay under the radar. Nobody really notices smelly old ladies wandering around these days anyway, but naked would be another matter.

                              There’s a stable I really like just outside of town, lots of nice deep clean straw. There’s a white horse in there that knows me now and the gentle whicker of recognition when she sees me warms my heart. I don’t stay there any two nights running though.  One thing I’ve learned is don’t do anything too regular, keep it random and varied.  I don’t want anyone plotting my movements and interfering with me in any way.

                              There’s not much to do in a stable when it rains for days and nights on end but remember things, so I may as well write them down. I’m never quite sure if the things I remember are my memories or someone elses, a past life of my own perhaps, or another person entirely.  I used to worry a bit about that, but not anymore. Nobody cares and there’s nobody to flag my memories as false, and if there was, I wouldn’t care if they did.

                              Anyway, the other day while I was nestled in a pile of sweet hay listening to the thunder, I recalled that day when someone offered me a fortune for that old mirror I’d bought at the flea market. I know I hadn’t paid much for it, because I never did pay much for anything. Never have done.  I bought it because it was unusual (hideous is what everyone said about it, but people have got very strangely ordinary taste, I’ve found) and because it was cheap enough that I could buy it without over thinking the whole thing.  At the end of the day you can’t beat the magic of spontaneity, it out performs long winded assessment every time.

                              So this man was a friend of a friend who happened to visit and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse so of course I sold the mirror to him. He was so delighted about it that I’d have given him the mirror for nothing if I knew he wanted it that much, but I’m not daft, I took the money.  I found out later that he’d won the lottery, so I never felt guilty about it.

                              Well, after he’d gone I sat there looking at this pile of money in my hands and knew exactly what I was going to do. But first I had to find them.  They’d moved again and we’d lost contact but I knew I’d find a way. And I did.  They’d given up all hope of ever getting that money back that I’d borrowed, but they said the timing was perfect, couldn’t have been better, they said. It wouldn’t have meant all that much to them if I’d paid it back right away, they said, because they didn’t need it then as much as they did when they finally got it back.

                              They were strange times back then, and one thing after another was happening all over the world, what with the strange weather, and all the pandemics and refugees.  Hard to keep food on the table, let alone make plans or pay debts back.  But debt is a funny thing. I felt stung when I realized they didn’t think I intended to pay them back but the fact was, I couldn’t do it at the time. And I wanted it to be a magical perfect timing surprise when I did.  I suppose in a way I wanted it to be like it was when they loaned me the money. I remember I wept at the kindness of it.  Well I didn’t want them to weep necessarily, but I wanted it to mean something wonderful, somehow.  And timing is everything and you can’t plan that kind of thing, not really.

                              It was a happy ending in the end though, I gave them the whole amount I got for that old mirror, which was considerably more than the loan.

                              The rain has stopped now and the sun is shining. My damp clothes are steaming and probably much smellier than I think. Time to find a recycling bin and a fresh new look.


                              In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage


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

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

                                They both looked at the wardrobe.

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

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

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


                                  DAY D

                                  Everyday is now. I know, I’ve stopped the count.

                                  This strange book I’ve found must be for something. Had the impulse to post a picture from it on a forum.

                                  There were instructions coming with it, I have only started to decypher them, and my brain already feels like it will melt if I go too fast.

                                  Apparently the Chinese philosopher who wrote it said he was swallowed whole, then spat out from the belly of a giant fish, a kūn 鯤, months later. I know, sounds crazy, and yet very familiar. Jonas of course, but also Sinbad, —Pinocchio even… The story’s not new to us.

                                  When he came back, he said it was only to share knowledge. So came his book of encoded instructions.

                                  First instruction he said. You are in a maze, you want to find the center of the maze, and never get lost again while you decide whether or not you still want to explore it.

                                  It kind of struck a chord for some reason. I realized, with all the stories we tell ourselves, they abound, expand in our minds, take roots deeply.
                                  The thought came this morning: if suddenly I’m struck dead, and find myself in my own stories, I would be in a tight spot to escape the whole craziness. I would need a backdoor, a way back, or out.

                                  That’s why its first instruction resonated. It continued. Create your center of your maze. Now. Don’t delay, you may regret it. It must be pure with intent, and tell about who you are in the deepest sense. Engrave the following words around it to seal this pure memory. And put it outside in the world, so that someday when you come back to it, you’ll know.


                                  You have found the Center of Your Maze.
                                  Now, You Know It
                                  And it can never be taken from you again.



                                  I know of a memory of mine I could put in my center. It came very naturally. An illustrated book of stories, mythology to be exact. One of the first books I got, and I can still remember vividly the feeling of entering its world. My parents had given it to me as a gift at a time they had to leave me home alone for a few hours. When they came back, I was still on the same kitchen chair, deeply thrown into the book’s world, feeling like barely a minute had passed.
                                  It was a moment out of time and space. I know it was what being at the center of my maze meant.

                                  I’m grown now, but the feeling is still there. I’m going to put that out some place where I can find it in case I ever get lost again among the shadows of men.


                                    They had to stop to get some rest. Rukshan knew the signs, the song of a black swan, a nesting bear in the forest, cubic clouds… All strange omens not to be taken lightly. He told the others they’d better find shelter somewhere and not spend the night outside.

                                    As soon had he make the announcement that he saw the relief on their faces. They’d been enthusiastic for half a day, but the monotony of walking got the better of their motivation, especially the kids who were not used to such long journeys out of the cottage’s safety.

                                    Fortunately they were not far from the Sooricat Inn, a place lost in the woods, it still had four walls, warm food and almost certainly a hot bath. Let’s just hope they’re open, thought the Fae.

                                    When they arrived, the owner, an old man from Sina, looked at them suspiciously.

                                    “Ya’ll have your attestation? I can’t believe ya’re all family. Don’t think I’m a fool, ya’re a Fae, and this little fella there, he’s smaller than the children but has a beard. Never saw anything like him,” he said with rumbling r’s pointing at the children and Gorrash with his chin. The dwarf seemed offended but a stern look from Rukshan prevented him from speaking.

                                    “Anyway,” continued the innkeeper, “I can just sell ya food. Not’ing parsonal. That’s rooles, ya’know with the all stayin’at home thing from Gavernor Leraway, I can not even let ya’in. Ya can buy food and eat it outside if ya want.”

                                    “Look, it’s almost twilight,” said Rukshan. “We’ve walked the whole day, the children are exhausted.”

                                    Tak and Nesy showed their best puppy face, risking to make Fox burst into laughter. That seemed to soften the man a little.

                                    “Oh! I really shouldn’t. I don’t like breaking rooles.”

                                    “I knew you more daring, Admirable Fuyi,” said a booming voice coming from behind them. They all turned around to see Kumihimo. She was wearing a cloak made of green and yellow gingko leaves, her silvery white hair, almost glowing in the dark, cascading beautifully on her shoulders. A grey cat strode alongside her.

                                    “Oh! that’s just the donkey, Ronaldo. It got transformed into a cat after walking directly into a trap to get one of those darn carrots. He knew better, don’t pity him. He got what he deserved.” Kumihimo’s rant got a indignant meow, close to a heehaw, from Ronaldo.

                                    Kumi! I can’t believe it’s ya!” said the innkeeper.

                                    “You two know each others?” asked Rukshan.

                                    “It’s a long story,” said the innkeeper, “From when I was serving in Sina’s army, we had conquered the high plateaus. I gave up the title of Admirable when I left the army. After Kumi opened my eyes.” Fuyi’s eyes got wet. “Ah! I’m sure I’ll regret it, but come on in, ya’ll. Let me hear yar story after you taste the soup.”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

                                        “I’m not a kid,” said Fox.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                        Fox started to follow him.

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

                                        “He’s my friend!” said Fox.


                                          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.


                                            11:11. If that’s not a good time to start a new journal, I don’t know what is. Four Ones.

                                            It’s a good job I hid all my old journals before all those scavengers looted all my stuff. Downsizing they called it. De cluttering.  As if a lifelong collection of mementos and treasures was clutter.  No finesse, this lot, no imagination.  Clean sweep, bare white, sanitary, efficient. God help us.

                                            They didn’t get their hands on all of it though. I hid things.  Don’t ask me where though! ha ha. They’ll turn up when they need to.  At least some of it didn’t end up on the trash heap.

                                            No room to swing a cat in here. No pets allowed. Inhuman, I tell you. They don’t know about the mouse I’ve been feeding.  They call it sheltered accommodation, and it’s a downright lie, I tell you.  I get the full brunt of the westerly wind right through that pokey window because they keep trimming the bushes flat outside.  Flat topped bushes, I ask you. Those young gardener fellows cut the flower buds right off, just to get the flat top.

                                            I’ll be hiding this journal, I don’t want any of them reading it.  It won’t be easy, they snoop around everything with their incessant cleaning.  They don’t even give the dust a chance to settle before they wipe, wipe, wipe with their rubber gloves and disposable cloths.  I have to cover my nose with my hanky after they’ve been, stinking the place out with air fresheners that make me sneeze.  Not what I call fresh air. Maybe that draught through the window isn’t so bad after all.

                                            Anyway, I won’t be staying here, but they don’t know that. Just as soon as my hip stops playing up and I can make a run for it.

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