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  • #6293
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Lincolnshire Families

     

    Thanks to the 1851 census, we know that William Eaton was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire. He was baptised on 29 November 1768 at St Wulfram’s church; his father was William Eaton and his mother Elizabeth.

    St Wulfram’s in Grantham painted by JMW Turner in 1797:

    St Wulframs

     

    I found a marriage for a William Eaton and Elizabeth Rose in the city of Lincoln in 1761, but it seemed unlikely as they were both of that parish, and with no discernable links to either Grantham or Nottingham.

    But there were two marriages registered for William Eaton and Elizabeth Rose: one in Lincoln in 1761 and one in Hawkesworth Nottinghamshire in 1767, the year before William junior was baptised in Grantham. Hawkesworth is between Grantham and Nottingham, and this seemed much more likely.

    Elizabeth’s name is spelled Rose on her marriage records, but spelled Rouse on her baptism. It’s not unusual for spelling variations to occur, as the majority of people were illiterate and whoever was recording the event wrote what it sounded like.

    Elizabeth Rouse was baptised on 26th December 1746 in Gunby St Nicholas (there is another Gunby in Lincolnshire), a short distance from Grantham. Her father was Richard Rouse; her mother Cave Pindar. Cave is a curious name and I wondered if it had been mistranscribed, but it appears to be correct and clearly says Cave on several records.

    Richard Rouse married Cave Pindar 21 July 1744 in South Witham, not far from Grantham.

    Richard was born in 1716 in North Witham. His father was William Rouse; his mothers name was Jane.

    Cave Pindar was born in 1719 in Gunby St Nicholas, near Grantham. Her father was William Pindar, but sadly her mothers name is not recorded in the parish baptism register. However a marriage was registered between William Pindar and Elizabeth Holmes in Gunby St Nicholas in October 1712.

    William Pindar buried a daughter Cave on 2 April 1719 and baptised a daughter Cave on 6 Oct 1719:

    Cave Pindar

     

    Elizabeth Holmes was baptised in Gunby St Nicholas on 6th December 1691. Her father was John Holmes; her mother Margaret Hod.

    Margaret Hod would have been born circa 1650 to 1670 and I haven’t yet found a baptism record for her. According to several other public trees on an ancestry website, she was born in 1654 in Essenheim, Germany. This was surprising! According to these trees, her father was Johannes Hod (Blodt|Hoth) (1609–1677) and her mother was Maria Appolonia Witters (1620–1656).

    I did not think it very likely that a young woman born in Germany would appear in Gunby St Nicholas in the late 1600’s, and did a search for Hod’s in and around Grantham. Indeed there were Hod’s living in the area as far back as the 1500’s, (a Robert Hod was baptised in Grantham in 1552), and no doubt before, but the parish records only go so far back. I think it’s much more likely that her parents were local, and that the page with her baptism recorded on the registers is missing.

    Of the many reasons why parish registers or some of the pages would be destroyed or lost, this is another possibility. Lincolnshire is on the east coast of England:

    “All of England suffered from a “monster” storm in November of 1703 that killed a reported 8,000 people. Seaside villages suffered greatly and their church and civil records may have been lost.”

    A Margeret Hod, widow, died in Gunby St Nicholas in 1691, the same year that Elizabeth Holmes was born. Elizabeth’s mother was Margaret Hod. Perhaps the widow who died was Margaret Hod’s mother? I did wonder if Margaret Hod had died shortly after her daughter’s birth, and that her husband had died sometime between the conception and birth of his child. The Black Death or Plague swept through Lincolnshire in 1680 through 1690; such an eventually would be possible. But Margaret’s name would have been registered as Holmes, not Hod.

    Cave Pindar’s father William was born in Swinstead, Lincolnshire, also near to Grantham, on the 28th December, 1690, and he died in Gunby St Nicholas in 1756. William’s father is recorded as Thomas Pinder; his mother Elizabeth.

    GUNBY: The village name derives from a “farmstead or village of a man called Gunni”, from the Old Scandinavian person name, and ‘by’, a farmstead, village or settlement.
    Gunby Grade II listed Anglican church is dedicated to St Nicholas. Of 15th-century origin, it was rebuilt by Richard Coad in 1869, although the Perpendicular tower remained.

    Gunby St Nicholas

    #6285
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Harriet Compton

    Harriet Comptom is not directly related to us, but her portrait is in our family collection.

    Alfred Julius Eugene Compton painted this portrait of his daughter, Harriet Compton, when she was six.  Harriet Compton was Charles Tooby’s mothers mother, and Charles married my mothers aunt Dorothy Marshall. They lived on High Park Ave in Wollaston, and his parents lived on Park Road, Wollaston, opposite my grandparents, George and Nora Marshall. Harriet married Thomas Thornburgh, they had a daughter Florence who married Sydney Tooby. Florence and Sydney were Charles Tooby’s parents.

    Charles and Dorothy Tooby didn’t have any children. Charles died before his wife, and this is how the picture ended up in my mothers possession.

    I attempted to find a direct descendant of Harriet Compton, but have not been successful so far, although I did find a relative on a Stourbridge facebook group.  Bryan Thornburgh replied: “Francis George was my grandfather.He had two sons George & my father Thomas and two daughters Cissie & Edith.  I can remember visiting my fathers Uncle Charles and Aunt Dorothy in Wollaston.”

    Francis George Thornburgh was Florence Tooby’s brother.

    The watercolour portrait was framed by Hughes of Enville St, Stourbridge.

    Alfred Julius Eugene Compton was born in 1826 Paris, France, and died on 6 February 1917 in Chelsea, London.
    Harriet Compton his daughter was born in 1853 in Islington, London, and died in December 1926 in Stourbridge.

    Without going too far down an unrelated rabbit hole, a member of the facebook group Family Treasures Reinstated  shared this:

    “Will reported in numerous papers in Dec 1886.
    Harriet’s father Alfred appears to be beneficiary but Harriet’s brother, Percy is specifically excluded . 
    “The will (dated March 6, 1876) of the Hon. Mrs. Fanny Stanhope, late of No. 24, Carlyle-square, Chelsea, who died on August 9 last, was proved on the 1st ult. by Alfred Julius Eugene Compton, the value of the personal estate amounting to over £8000.
    The testatrix, after giving & few legacies, leaves one moiety of the residue of her personal estate, upon trust, for John Auguste Alexandre Compton, for life, and then, subject to an annuity to his wife, for the children (except Percy) of Alfred Julius Eugene Compton, and the other moiety, upon trust, for the said Alfred Julius Eugene Compton, for life, and at his death for his children, except Percy.”
    -Illustrated London News.

    Harriet Compton:  Harriet Compton

    #6267
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    From Tanganyika with Love

    continued part 8

    With thanks to Mike Rushby.

    Morogoro 20th January 1941

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

    Eleanor.

    Morogoro 30th July 1941

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

    Eleanor.

    Morogoro 26th August 1941

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

    Eleanor.

    Morogoro 25th December 1941

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

    Eleanor.

    Morogoro Hospital 30th September 1943

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

    Eleanor.

    Morogoro 26th January 1944

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

    Eleanor.

    Lyamungu 20th March 1944

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

    Eleanor.

    Lyamungu 15th May 1944

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Eleanor.

    Lyamungu 18th July 1944

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

    Eleanor.

    Lyamungu 16th August 1944

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

    Eleanor.

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

    Dearest Mummy,

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

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

    Very much love,
    Eleanor.

    Safari in Masailand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Lyamungu 10th November. 1944

    Dearest Family.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Much love,
    Eleanor.

     

    #6255
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    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.

    Utrillo

    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.

    #6253
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    My Grandparents Kitchen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    #6240
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    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

    #6224
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    The Woman in the Portrait: Catherine Housley’s Mother
    “The One I Ruined”

    I was living in England at the time of my great aunts deaths in 1983, both Dorothy Tooby and Phyllis Marshall, when this portrait came to be in my possession via their brother, my grandfather George Marshall. There was some damage on the mouth. I mentioned it at work and my boss said he had a friend who could fix it, but when I eventually got it back it was much worse. Since then, this portrait has been known as “the one I ruined”.

    This picture remains a mystery, even though we know her name now. She appears to be in mourning. She doesn’t appear to be too poor, or unhealthy. And yet Elizabeth died at just thirty years of age of TB and her children were in the workhouse a year later.

    On closer inspection, the portrait could be a photograph that has been painted over, but it’s considerably larger than any of the usual photographs of the time. Is there a possibility that the picture was made later, after her death, in memory of her?  This seems to be the likeliest explanation.

    #6196
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Ay, the framework knittin’ were ‘ard work, but it were our own, and better by a mile than what come next. We ‘ad the frame in our home and all the family helped, the girls’d be the seamers and the spool threaders and many a fine stocking we made in our cottages, until those industrialists and capitalists came to our fair dales with their factories and such and took our livelihoods from under our noses.

    We ‘ad a needle maker in our village, a miller and a baker, and a dressmaker. We ‘ad farms and a dairy and a butcher, and all the old families in our parish ‘ad their place. There’s always those that find work hard, and those that find it rewarding, but even them as found the framework knittin’ ‘ard soon changed their tune about the framework knittin’ being hard when they was doubled over under gods green earth all the day long in the coal mines.

    Ay, the changes wrought upon our fair parish wreaked an unholy disruption upon the face of village life.  It were the inclosures act what started our downfall, when our common land was took from us, that were indeed the beginning of the end of our fine community of largely honest souls, and even the good nature of the gent from the hall and the Parish poor fund couldn’t halt the downfall.

    Ay and I’ve traveled to the future and seen the ungoldy sight of it now. The old farm on the turnpike road surrounded now by house upon house and not an onion nor a carrot to be seen growing in their gardens, and the fronts all hardened floors for those contraptions they move around in, and empty all day long with not a sign of life until nightfall when they all come home and go inside and shut the doors, and never a one passing the time of day with their neighbours over the garden fence, and not a chicken or a cow in sight.

    There’s no needlemaker now, and the mill’s been knocked down, and there are painted lines on all the hard roads, although I will say that ugly as they are they don’t get near so rutted and muddy when the weather’s bad.

    I can’t stay long when I visit the future with that woman who comes to call upon us asking questions. I can’t stay long at all.

    #6073

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The words of the Great Leader Undisputed Gabe were still resonating in the back of Gavin’s mind. The promotion to Operating Tomathetan seemed a great honour on the surface, but it certainly brought its lot of responsibilities with it. And from what he had seen before, it would only add to his current ones.

    Gavin descended the Pealgrim path to the Dark Room where all the sorting happened. Many trails from the many carrot fields combined into one and all led to that central building all painted in black, hence its name.

    A zealous Seed level had recently been put in charge of the re-painting. As there was only black paint in the warehouse he had the genius idea to save the order some money by using only what they already had, and as there was enough paint he covered all the windows, certainly thinking light could damage the crops. Repainting everything was out of the question so they had kept it like that and just added some artificial light to help the workers. Great Leader Undisputed Gabe, had thought it was a nice initiative as now workers could work any hour of the day.

    When Gavin entered the Dark Room, it reeked of carrot and sweat. Members of the cult of all ages were sorting the divine roots by shapes, sizes and thickness. Most of them didn’t know what was the final purpose, innocent minds. All they had was the Sorting Song written by Britta the one legged vestal to help her fellow cultshipers in their work.

    If a carrot is short, not worth the effort
    As a long stalactites, like ice on your tits
    A bar thick as a fist, you’ve just been blissed

    Each verse gave advices about what they were looking for, where to put them after sorting and each team had their own songs that they sang while doing their work with the enthusiasm of cultshipers. Even though the song had been crafted to answer most of the situations in terms of carrot shapes, sizes and thickness, it happened that some would not fit into any categories. And recently, those seem to happen more often than once and the pile of misshapen carrots threaten to exceed that of the others combined.

    “Eugene, Have you found what is the problem?” asked Gavin to their agronomist. His surname was Carrot and he came from noble Irish descent, quite appropriate for his work, thought Gavin. Eugene was skinny with a long neck and he often seemed to abuse the ritual fasting ceremony ending with the consumption of sacred mushroom soup.

    “It’s because of the microscopic snails that infest the crops,” Eugene said. Gavin couldn’t help but notice an accumulation of dried saliva at the corner of his mouth. “They’re carried by bird shit and they are too small to be eaten by our ducks and in the end they cause the carrots to grow random shapes unfit for Odin.”

    Odin, short for Organic Dildo Industry, has been the main source of revenue for the cult. Since the start of the confinement the demand has skyrocketed. Especially appreciated by vegans and nature lovers, it also procured a nice orange tan on the skin after usage.

    “Can’t you find smaller dwarf ducks?”

    “Your Gourdness, microscopic means very tiny, even dwarf ducks wouldn’t be able to eat them unless they eat the carrots.”

    “And that would be a problem,” sighed Gavin. “What is your solution then?”

    “I don’t have one.”

    Gavin raised his hands to the black roof in despair. Did he have to do the jobs of everyone? He needed some fresh eyes and fresh ideas.

    #5959
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Dear Whale,

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

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

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

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

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

    “You won’t believe it!” she said.

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

    “Try me,” I said to my friend.

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

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

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

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

    #5844
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Life around the woods had changed in a strange way since the appearance of the beaver fever. It was called after some theory from where it came from. Some said patient zero was a trapper far off in the woods who caught an infected beaver and sold its fur to the market. The fur then contaminated the coat maker and then the clients who tried on that coat, hence leading to contamination nests in the entire realm. The beaver fever took time to incubate, so when people first noticed the trapper wasn’t coming back, it was too late.

    That’s not such a bad thing to live a little recluse in the woods, thought Eleri. She usually was restless and lately had been wandering off into town and into the countryside looking for things to paint with her tar black pigment. It is a new phase of experimentation, she had said to Glynis who had been wondering if she could include more variety to her palette. I’m looking to capture the contrasting soul of what I’m painting.

    Don’t you mean contrasted? asked Glynis.

    Do I? Whatever, I’m experimenting.

    Glynis knew better than to argue with Eleri, and Eleri knew better than trying to make words fit the world. It was better to make the world fit her words. How could you explain that to someone? So she assumed people understood.

    With the curfew, though, it had first become harder. Then she had found a way by painting her own garments tar black and to complete her attire, she had asked Fox. He had also found a hobby and with a sharp knife and a log he could make you a mask so vivid to look alike anything you asked. Eleri had asked him for a crow and had painted it tar black. She looked like those doctors during the plague a few centuries back and dressed like that people certainly respected the safety distance promulgated by Leroway’s decree.

    That man seemed hard to get rid off, especially in time such as those. Eleri suspected that Leroway was not the man she knew and once courted her. She needed to get close to investigate. Her new attire, if it might not help with the investigation at least would help embolden her and stave off boredom.

    #5668
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “The Spanish Moss Motel? Well, I’ll be darned, so this it where it is,” said Arthur, “But hell, it’s no place for a baby!”

    “What do you mean, Art?” asked his wife. “Is it one of them there broth kitchens full of painted tarts?”

    Art shook his head.  “Not exactly. Nobody really knows, ‘cept everybody knows that things go on here.”  Art shook his head again. “Aint no place for a baby.”

    #5660
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Arthur was driving the minivan. It was an old Chewy Express van with the big bold “DRAPES CLEANING” sign on it that he’d repainted by himself over the years. The business wasn’t doing great, truth be told, so he’d cut down the marketing costs, which according to Ella Marie wasn’t a bright idea. “You never know where you next patrons could hide.” She’d said, and then had him hooked up on some social website to post random things and get some likes and thumbs up. He’d come a little late for the new century’s game and couldn’t see any of the appeal, but he’d learned over the years never to make the missus irate.

    He’d been so glad when she’d come back from the floods, unscathed and full of completely batshit crazy stories. Mummies and stuff. Sounded like being rolled in shredded drapes fanfiction to him. Complete garbage, but you can’t tell people they’re crazy, they’d hate you for it, and in truth you may be wrong. You might be the one crazy and all the others the sane ones. How’s that for a thought.

    Anyway, he loved his Ella Marie dearly, and had learned not to sweat the small stuff. Like this night drive to a funny place she’d just received coordinates from an acquaintance on the Net. Those were mad times, mad times indeed. At least, she could have told him she wanted to catch a new rare pokemeon go! in the dead of night, and it might have sounded… well, just as mad probably.

    They were driving steadily, being careful about the road signs; the van wasn’t much for crazy stunts anyway.

    “How far is that?” he asked the wife, who was busy on her phone tracking the route and chatting on the thing with her friends imaginary or else.

    “Not far, luv’. Next turn right, then left, then right and we should be there.”

    The last turn took them off the road, and Arthur started to wonder if that wasn’t another “turn left at your peril” GPS experiment, where they’d have to haul the van out of a tar pit, but it seemed fine so far. The place looked ominous, and full of croaking noises 🐸🐸🐸🐸.

    He killed the headlights, and moved in the parking lot at a crawl. There was no point in alerting whoever was there of their nocturnal visit. A barn owl flew straight in front of the van, scaring them.

    “STOP!” jumped Jacqui, who’d been sleeping the whole time, and woke up to a frightful sight.

    Arthur pushed on the brakes that gave off a screeching sound that would wake up a mummy.

    Ooh, I’ve got a bad feeling about this” Ella Marie said. “Something evil is afoot, that owl was bad omen.”

    #4775
    EricEric
    Keymaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

    #4761
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Barbara’s office was dead silent apart from the regular bips of the machines. The whiteness of the painted walls made it feel like a psych ward. She shivered away the memories that were trying to catch her attention.

    It’s been two hours since the Doctor had locked himself up in his rage-release room, a spacious soundproofed room with padded walls. Not even a small window to look inside and check if his anger had subsided. Barbara clearly preferred the trauma of the shouts and cries and the broken plates that were hidden here and there for him to use when he needed most. But when he started his therapy with the AI psych module, the damn bot suggested he built that room in order to release his rage in a more intimate framework.
    Now the plates collected dust and the sessions in the room tended to last longer and longer.

    Today’s burst of rage had been triggered by the unexpected gathering of the guests at the Inn. The Doctor was drinking his columbian cocoa, a blend of melted dark chocolate with cheddar cheese, when the old hag in that bloody gabardine started her speech. The camera hidden in the eye of the fish by their agent, gave them a fisheye view of the room. It was very practical and they could see everything. The AI engineer module could recreate a 3D view of the room and anticipate the moves of all the attendees.

    When that girl with the fishnet handed out the keys for all to see and the other girl got the doll out, the Doctor had his attention hyper-focused. He wanted to see it all.
    Except there had been a glitch and images of granola cookies superimposed on the items.

    “Send the magpies to retrieve the items,” he said, nervousness making his voice louder.
    “Ahem,” had answered Barbara.
    “What?” The Doctor turned towards her. His eye twitched when he expected the worst, and it had been twitching fast.
    She had been trying to hide the fact that the magpies had been distracted lately, as she had clearly been herself since she had found that goldminer game on facebush.
    No need to delay the inevitable, she had thought. “The magpies are not in the immediate vicinity of the Inn.” In fact, just as their imprinting mother was busy digging digital gold during her work time, the magpies had found a new vein of gold while going to the Inn and Barbara had thought it could be a nice addition to her meager salary… to make ends meet at the end of the month.

    It obviously wasn’t the right time to do so. And she was worried about the Doctor now.

    To trump her anxiety, she was surfing the internet. Too guilty to play the gold miner, she was looking around for solutions to her boss’s stress. The variety and abundance of advertisement was deafening her eyes, and somewhere in a gold mine she was sure the magpies were going berserk too. She had to find a solution quickly.

    Barbara hesitated to ask the AI. But there were obviously too many solutions to choose from. Her phone buzzed. It was her mother.
    “I finally found the white jade masks. Bought one for you 2. It helps chase the mental stress away. You clearly need it.” Her mother had joined a picture of her wearing the mask on top of a beauty mask which gave her the look of a mummy. Her mother was too much into the woowoo stuffs and Barbara was about to send her a polite but firm no she didn’t want the mask. But the door of the rage-room opened and the Doctor went out. He had such a blissful look on his face. It was unnatural. Barbara had been suspecting the AI to brainwash the Doctor with subliminal messages during those therapy sessions. Maybe it also happened in the rage-room. The AI was using tech to control the Doctor. Barbara would use some other means to win him back.

    OK. SEND IT TO ME QUICK. she sent to her mother.

    #4607
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The Voodoo witch’s lair was surprisingly well furnished, nestled underground, accessed through a staircase hidden beneath the bema of a derelict church.

    The decor wouldn’t have been to Arona’s tastes, Mandrake thought, but he wasn’t one to judge human likes. There were baroque displays of gaudy drapes, golden chains hanging from the walls, shrines dripping in red ointments with grotesque painted figures, and the usual paraphernalia one would expect in a Voodoo Witch’s lair. To a cat’s eye, all looked actually quite comfy.

    The setting had made an impression on the boy, and Albie was standing like a statue mesmerized by the shadows on the walls cast by the waving candles’ flames.

    “Have you brought ‘em my boy?” the rich voice of the priestess asked from the cabriolet armchair arranged under an extravagant canopy.

    Mandrake pushed the boy aside, and dangled the bag of pearls in front of her.
    “They’re yours as soon as you fulfill your end of our deal.”

    #4522
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    It had been weeks since Annabel looked at the old notebooks again, but when she did, she couldn’t help but marvel once more at the synchronicity. Her partner had a couple of dental appointments in the coming days, and a number of teeth were to be extracted ~ more than Annabel would be willing to lose in one fell swoop after her singularly unpleasant experience with an extraction of two adjacent teeth, but her partner Dalgliesh didn’t seem unduly worried.

    Annabel felt an affinity to Liz as she perused the yellowing pages of the notebooks, although thankfully she, Annabel, still had most of her own natural teeth and had not yet resorted to plastic, despite that they were a similar colour, indeed a perfect match, to the yellow notebooks.

    It wasn’t the first mention of yellow that day, either. Annabel had painted a wall purple and was surprised to find that it made her feel gloomy to look at it. The green accessories looked pleasant enough against it, but she strongly felt there was a need for yellow as well. And yet the idea of that seemed repugnant. Lavender, blue green, and yellow! It sounded ghastly. Annabel was avoiding looking at the wall for the time being, thinking the best solution was probably to repaint the wall a safe neutral scream.

    Annabel meant cream, naturally, a safe neutral cream, but the astonishing typographical error was duly noted, in case it was related to the other mention of yellow, which was when not one but two of the local guru’s suggested she be sure and twirl her purples with her yellows, whatever that meant.

    Meanwhile, Annabel was giving some thought to the idea of a safe neutral scream, which had rather a catchy ring to it, despite it’s accidental appearance.

    #4510
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Maeve sighed loudly—something she had been doing an awful lot of lately—and checked the time on her phone. If she left now and really hurried it would only take 5 minutes to get to the cafe. On the other hand if she took her time … well, with any luck the others would have already moved on.

    Not that she didn’t like Lucinda, on the contrary she enjoyed her neighbour’s gregarious nature and propensity to talk amusing rubbish — usually in public and at the top of her voice which would cause Maeve to look around nervously and lower her own voice in order to compensate.

    Maeve had made peace with her own introversion years ago. In order to survive with a semblance of normality, she had cultivated an outward calm which belied the activity going on in her head. The downside of this was she suspected she came across to others as muted and dull as the beige walls of her apartment. The upside was it allowed her to hide in plain sight; and she considered this to be a very handy trait. In truth, Maeve was one who liked many and few; she would happily talk to people, if she knew what on earth to say to them.

    ‘Anyway,’ Maeve reasoned, ‘I have to finish the doll.’

    She looked with satisfaction at her latest creation; a young boy wearing a vintage style buzzy bee costume. She had painstakingly sewn, stuffed and painted the cloth doll and then sanded the layers of paint till he looked old and well worn. ‘He looks like he has been well loved by some child,’ she mused. There was just one more step remaining before applying a protective coat of varnish and seating him on the shelf next to the others.

    She went to the kitchen drawer. In the 3rd drawer down there was a cardboard box of old keys. Most of the keys didn’t fit anything in her apartment; in fact she had no idea where they came from. Except one. She picked out a small gold key and went to the writing desk in the lounge, a heavy dour piece of furniture with a drop-front desk and various small drawers and cubby holes inside. Maeve unlocked one of these drawers with the key and pulled out a small parcel.

    ‘Only 3 parcels to go,’ she thought with relief.

    A small section of the stitching was unfinished on the back of Bee Boy, just enough to squeeze the package inside and then rearrange the stuffing around it. With neat stitches Maeve sewed up the seam.

    She checked the time. It had taken twenty six minutes.

    “Want to go for a walk to see Aunty Lulu and her nice new friends? See what she is going on about decorating?” she asked Fabio, her pekingese.

    #4494
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The entrance to the cellar was in the library, just behind a book shelf that had been pushed away. How convenient, Godfrey thought.
    Roberto has been busy,” he said, appreciating the new little wheels under the elm wood bookshelves. He tried it several times and saw that the wheels were perfectly oiled and made no sound.
    “Too oily,” said Finnley tutting disapprovingly at the stains on the wooden floor. She was already thinking of buying a new carpet, or maybe a new puppy that would help her dust the floor as it followed along. It would have to be small and energetic. Not too energetic though.
    Liz was fascinated by the door. It was an old door, carved certainly in oak wood and painted with oddly hypnotic patterns. She looked at the tonic glass she still had in her hands. “Did you put something in my tonic?” she asked. The glass pigheadedly refused to focus on the bottom of her eye.
    “I think it was empty,” said Godfrey. “Or at least it is now.” He took the glass from Liz and came back quickly, not wanting to miss the opening. He handed a pair of pink and shiny scissors to Liz who glanced at them and then at Godfrey with a puzzled look.

    “Do you expect me to cut your hair?” Liz asked him. “I think you should have your hair cut,” she added because it seemed to crawl and wave on his head. She looked at Finnley. “Yours too, dear, I’m afraid.”
    Finnley’s lips and eyes thinned as she tried her sharp face on Liz who cackled, and Finnley just shrugged and tutted again.

    “Well, use them to cut the red ribbon of course.” Godfrey nodded in the direction of the door and Liz saw that there was a fluffy red ribbon sagging between the side shelves and barring the entrance to the cellar. How come she hadn’t seen it before.

    She took the scissors and winced when the sound of the cutting resounded like nails on a blackboard, and for a moment she shuddered as the face of Sister Clarissa and her magnifying goggles popped out of the door. A horrendous sight, if you asked her. Liz had always suspected that their only use was to traumatise the students. She had forgotten she went to a catholic school.

    The door was finally opened, and Liz hoped what they found downstairs would not bring up more of those memories.

    #4359
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “So, that’s where the gardener has been hiding all this time…” Godfrey thought, quietly stepping out of the shadows into the sinkhole tunnels. “Maybe I’ll just tell Liz’ he has resigned. Although she seemed more taken by this one than with the previous guys…”
    While the gardener was snoring loudly, he took time to look around, and noticed the sprouting sack.
    “How curious that those old books have started to come to life again…”

    An idea had crossed his mind, both dreadful and exciting. The portal…

    Leaving the gardener to his dreams, and taking another secret exit out of the dark tunnel, opening another succession of doors with the turn of a key hanging from the watch chain of his burgundy waistcoat, he soon found himself reappearing into a deep secret place. A small round room, almost like the inner chamber of a burrow, with no visible door, no window, seemingly lit only by a single ray of light coming from the pinhole in the ceiling, reflected on the glittering curved walls. At one side, was a well, and one could hear the humming sound of flowing underground water.
    On the well, where deeply carved words : “HC SVNT DRACONES”. Just below them, painted in white in Godfrey’s flowering handwriting : “Here be dragons!”

    There still was the heavy latch, bolted by a large futuristic-looking lock.

    Phew, still closed. Godfrey sighed a sigh of relief. He couldn’t imagine the damage to Liz’ frail hold on reality, where she to find about what was lurking behind.

    Popping a peanut in his mouth, he smiled wryly, reminisced of what Finnley had said about her “discovering” of the attic; yes, their secret was fine with them for now. At least so long as what was locked on the other side stayed there of course…

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