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      From Tanganyika with Love

      continued  ~ part 4

      With thanks to Mike Rushby.

      Mchewe Estate. 31st January 1936

      Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

      With much love,

      Mchewe Estate. 9th February 1936

      Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

      Heaps of love to all,

      Mchewe Estate. 27th February 1936

      Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Lots of love,

      Mchewe Estate. 12th March 1936

      Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      With heaps of love,

      Mchewe Estate. 24th March 1936

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Heaps of love from a sadder but wiser,

      Mchewe Estate. 3rd April 1936

      Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      The wet season is definitely the time to stay home.

      Lots and lots of love,

      Mchewe Estate. 30th April 1936

      Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

      Your very affectionate,

      Mchewe Estate. 17th September 1936

      Dearest Family,

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

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

      With love to you all,

      Mchewe Estate. 2nd October 1936

      Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

      Much love to you all,

      Mchewe Estate. 10th October 1936

      Dearest Family,

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

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

      Your worried but affectionate,

      Tukuyu. 23rd October 1936

      Dearest Family,

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

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

      Much love,

      Mchewe. 12th November 1936

      Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Lots and lots of love to all,

      Chunya 27th November 1936

      Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Much love to all,



        From Tanganyika with Love

        continued  ~ part 3

        With thanks to Mike Rushby.

        Mchewe Estate. 22nd March 1935

        Dearest Family,

        I am feeling much better now that I am five months pregnant and have quite got
        my appetite back. Once again I go out with “the Mchewe Hunt” which is what George
        calls the procession made up of the donkey boy and donkey with Ann confidently riding
        astride, me beside the donkey with Georgie behind riding the stick which he much
        prefers to the donkey. The Alsatian pup, whom Ann for some unknown reason named
        ‘Tubbage’, and the two cats bring up the rear though sometimes Tubbage rushes
        ahead and nearly knocks me off my feet. He is not the loveable pet that Kelly was.
        It is just as well that I have recovered my health because my mother-in-law has
        decided to fly out from England to look after Ann and George when I am in hospital. I am
        very grateful for there is no one lse to whom I can turn. Kath Hickson-Wood is seldom on
        their farm because Hicky is working a guano claim and is making quite a good thing out of
        selling bat guano to the coffee farmers at Mbosi. They camp out at the claim, a series of
        caves in the hills across the valley and visit the farm only occasionally. Anne Molteno is
        off to Cape Town to have her baby at her mothers home and there are no women in
        Mbeya I know well. The few women are Government Officials wives and they come
        and go. I make so few trips to the little town that there is no chance to get on really
        friendly terms with them.

        Janey, the ayah, is turning into a treasure. She washes and irons well and keeps
        the children’s clothes cupboard beautifully neat. Ann and George however are still
        reluctant to go for walks with her. They find her dull because, like all African ayahs, she
        has no imagination and cannot play with them. She should however be able to help with
        the baby. Ann is very excited about the new baby. She so loves all little things.
        Yesterday she went into ecstasies over ten newly hatched chicks.

        She wants a little sister and perhaps it would be a good thing. Georgie is so very
        active and full of mischief that I feel another wild little boy might be more than I can
        manage. Although Ann is older, it is Georgie who always thinks up the mischief. They
        have just been having a fight. Georgie with the cooks umbrella versus Ann with her frilly
        pink sunshade with the inevitable result that the sunshade now has four broken ribs.
        Any way I never feel lonely now during the long hours George is busy on the
        shamba. The children keep me on my toes and I have plenty of sewing to do for the
        baby. George is very good about amusing the children before their bedtime and on
        Sundays. In the afternoons when it is not wet I take Ann and Georgie for a walk down
        the hill. George meets us at the bottom and helps me on the homeward journey. He
        grabs one child in each hand by the slack of their dungarees and they do a sort of giant
        stride up the hill, half walking half riding.

        Very much love,

        Mchewe Estate. 14th June 1935

        Dearest Family,

        A great flap here. We had a letter yesterday to say that mother-in-law will be
        arriving in four days time! George is very amused at my frantic efforts at spring cleaning
        but he has told me before that she is very house proud so I feel I must make the best
        of what we have.

        George is very busy building a store for the coffee which will soon be ripening.
        This time he is doing the bricklaying himself. It is quite a big building on the far end of the
        farm and close to the river. He is also making trays of chicken wire nailed to wooden
        frames with cheap calico stretched over the wire.

        Mother will have to sleep in the verandah room which leads off the bedroom
        which we share with the children. George will have to sleep in the outside spare room as
        there is no door between the bedroom and the verandah room. I am sewing frantically
        to make rose coloured curtains and bedspread out of material mother-in-law sent for
        Christmas and will have to make a curtain for the doorway. The kitchen badly needs
        whitewashing but George says he cannot spare the labour so I hope mother won’t look.
        To complicate matters, George has been invited to lunch with the Governor on the day
        of Mother’s arrival. After lunch they are to visit the newly stocked trout streams in the
        Mporotos. I hope he gets back to Mbeya in good time to meet mother’s plane.
        Ann has been off colour for a week. She looks very pale and her pretty fair hair,
        normally so shiny, is dull and lifeless. It is such a pity that mother should see her like this
        because first impressions do count so much and I am looking to the children to attract
        attention from me. I am the size of a circus tent and hardly a dream daughter-in-law.
        Georgie, thank goodness, is blooming but he has suddenly developed a disgusting
        habit of spitting on the floor in the manner of the natives. I feel he might say “Gran, look
        how far I can spit and give an enthusiastic demonstration.

        Just hold thumbs that all goes well.

        your loving but anxious,

        Mchewe Estate. 28th June 1935

        Dearest Family,

        Mother-in-law duly arrived in the District Commissioner’s car. George did not dare
        to use the A.C. as she is being very temperamental just now. They also brought the
        mail bag which contained a parcel of lovely baby clothes from you. Thank you very
        much. Mother-in-law is very put out because the large parcel she posted by surface
        mail has not yet arrived.

        Mother arrived looking very smart in an ankle length afternoon frock of golden
        brown crepe and smart hat, and wearing some very good rings. She is a very
        handsome woman with the very fair complexion that goes with red hair. The hair, once
        Titan, must now be grey but it has been very successfully tinted and set. I of course,
        was shapeless in a cotton maternity frock and no credit to you. However, so far, motherin-
        law has been uncritical and friendly and charmed with the children who have taken to
        her. Mother does not think that the children resemble me in any way. Ann resembles her
        family the Purdys and Georgie is a Morley, her mother’s family. She says they had the
        same dark eyes and rather full mouths. I say feebly, “But Georgie has my colouring”, but
        mother won’t hear of it. So now you know! Ann is a Purdy and Georgie a Morley.
        Perhaps number three will be a Leslie.

        What a scramble I had getting ready for mother. Her little room really looks pretty
        and fresh, but the locally woven grass mats arrived only minutes before mother did. I
        also frantically overhauled our clothes and it a good thing that I did so because mother
        has been going through all the cupboards looking for mending. Mother is kept so busy
        in her own home that I think she finds time hangs on her hands here. She is very good at
        entertaining the children and has even tried her hand at picking coffee a couple of times.
        Mother cannot get used to the native boy servants but likes Janey, so Janey keeps her
        room in order. Mother prefers to wash and iron her own clothes.

        I almost lost our cook through mother’s surplus energy! Abel our previous cook
        took a new wife last month and, as the new wife, and Janey the old, were daggers
        drawn, Abel moved off to a job on the Lupa leaving Janey and her daughter here.
        The new cook is capable, but he is a fearsome looking individual called Alfani. He has a
        thick fuzz of hair which he wears long, sometimes hidden by a dingy turban, and he
        wears big brass earrings. I think he must be part Somali because he has a hawk nose
        and a real Brigand look. His kitchen is never really clean but he is an excellent cook and
        as cooks are hard to come by here I just keep away from the kitchen. Not so mother!
        A few days after her arrival she suggested kindly that I should lie down after lunch
        so I rested with the children whilst mother, unknown to me, went out to the kitchen and
        not only scrubbed the table and shelves but took the old iron stove to pieces and
        cleaned that. Unfortunately in her zeal she poked a hole through the stove pipe.
        Had I known of these activities I would have foreseen the cook’s reaction when
        he returned that evening to cook the supper. he was furious and wished to leave on the
        spot and demanded his wages forthwith. The old Memsahib had insulted him by
        scrubbing his already spotless kitchen and had broken his stove and made it impossible
        for him to cook. This tirade was accompanied by such waving of hands and rolling of
        eyes that I longed to sack him on the spot. However I dared not as I might not get
        another cook for weeks. So I smoothed him down and he patched up the stove pipe
        with a bit of tin and some wire and produced a good meal. I am wondering what
        transformations will be worked when I am in hospital.

        Our food is really good but mother just pecks at it. No wonder really, because
        she has had some shocks. One day she found the kitchen boy diligently scrubbing the box lavatory seat with a scrubbing brush which he dipped into one of my best large
        saucepans! No one can foresee what these boys will do. In these remote areas house
        servants are usually recruited from the ranks of the very primitive farm labourers, who first
        come to the farm as naked savages, and their notions of hygiene simply don’t exist.
        One day I said to mother in George’s presence “When we were newly married,
        mother, George used to brag about your cooking and say that you would run a home
        like this yourself with perhaps one ‘toto’. Mother replied tartly, “That was very bad of
        George and not true. If my husband had brought me out here I would not have stayed a
        month. I think you manage very well.” Which reply made me warm to mother a lot.
        To complicate things we have a new pup, a little white bull terrier bitch whom
        George has named Fanny. She is tiny and not yet house trained but seems a plucky
        and attractive little animal though there is no denying that she does look like a piglet.

        Very much love to all,

        Mchewe Estate. 3rd August 1935

        Dearest Family,

        Here I am in hospital, comfortably in bed with our new daughter in her basket
        beside me. She is a lovely little thing, very plump and cuddly and pink and white and
        her head is covered with tiny curls the colour of Golden Syrup. We meant to call her
        Margery Kate, after our Marj and my mother-in-law whose name is Catherine.
        I am enjoying the rest, knowing that George and mother will be coping
        successfully on the farm. My room is full of flowers, particularly with the roses and
        carnations which grow so well here. Kate was not due until August 5th but the doctor
        wanted me to come in good time in view of my tiresome early pregnancy.

        For weeks beforehand George had tinkered with the A.C. and we started for
        Mbeya gaily enough on the twenty ninth, however, after going like a dream for a couple
        of miles, she simply collapsed from exhaustion at the foot of a hill and all the efforts of
        the farm boys who had been sent ahead for such an emergency failed to start her. So
        George sent back to the farm for the machila and I sat in the shade of a tree, wondering
        what would happen if I had the baby there and then, whilst George went on tinkering
        with the car. Suddenly she sprang into life and we roared up that hill and all the way into
        Mbeya. The doctor welcomed us pleasantly and we had tea with his family before I
        settled into my room. Later he examined me and said that it was unlikely that the baby
        would be born for several days. The new and efficient German nurse said, “Thank
        goodness for that.” There was a man in hospital dying from a stomach cancer and she
        had not had a decent nights sleep for three nights.

        Kate however had other plans. I woke in the early morning with labour pains but
        anxious not to disturb the nurse, I lay and read or tried to read a book, hoping that I
        would not have to call the nurse until daybreak. However at four a.m., I went out into the
        wind which was howling along the open verandah and knocked on the nurse’s door. She
        got up and very crossly informed me that I was imagining things and should get back to
        bed at once. She said “It cannot be so. The Doctor has said it.” I said “Of course it is,”
        and then and there the water broke and clinched my argument. She then went into a flat
        spin. “But the bed is not ready and my instruments are not ready,” and she flew around
        to rectify this and also sent an African orderly to call the doctor. I paced the floor saying
        warningly “Hurry up with that bed. I am going to have the baby now!” She shrieked
        “Take off your dressing gown.” But I was passed caring. I flung myself on the bed and
        there was Kate. The nurse had done all that was necessary by the time the doctor

        A funny thing was, that whilst Kate was being born on the bed, a black cat had
        kittens under it! The doctor was furious with the nurse but the poor thing must have crept
        in out of the cold wind when I went to call the nurse. A happy omen I feel for the baby’s
        future. George had no anxiety this time. He stayed at the hospital with me until ten
        o’clock when he went down to the hotel to sleep and he received the news in a note
        from me with his early morning tea. He went to the farm next morning but will return on
        the sixth to fetch me home.

        I do feel so happy. A very special husband and three lovely children. What
        more could anyone possibly want.

        Lots and lots of love,

        Mchewe Estate. 20th August 1935

        Dearest Family,

        Well here we are back at home and all is very well. The new baby is very placid
        and so pretty. Mother is delighted with her and Ann loved her at sight but Georgie is not
        so sure. At first he said, “Your baby is no good. Chuck her in the kalonga.” The kalonga
        being the ravine beside the house , where, I regret to say, much of the kitchen refuse is
        dumped. he is very jealous when I carry Kate around or feed her but is ready to admire
        her when she is lying alone in her basket.

        George walked all the way from the farm to fetch us home. He hired a car and
        native driver from the hotel, but drove us home himself going with such care over ruts
        and bumps. We had a great welcome from mother who had had the whole house
        spring cleaned. However George loyally says it looks just as nice when I am in charge.
        Mother obviously, had had more than enough of the back of beyond and
        decided to stay on only one week after my return home. She had gone into the kitchen
        one day just in time to see the houseboy scooping the custard he had spilt on the table
        back into the jug with the side of his hand. No doubt it would have been served up
        without a word. On another occasion she had walked in on the cook’s daily ablutions. He
        was standing in a small bowl of water in the centre of the kitchen, absolutely naked,
        enjoying a slipper bath. She left last Wednesday and gave us a big laugh before she
        left. She never got over her horror of eating food prepared by our cook and used to
        push it around her plate. Well, when the time came for mother to leave for the plane, she
        put on the very smart frock in which she had arrived, and then came into the sitting room
        exclaiming in dismay “Just look what has happened, I must have lost a stone!’ We
        looked, and sure enough, the dress which had been ankle deep before, now touched
        the floor. “Good show mother.” said George unfeelingly. “You ought to be jolly grateful,
        you needed to lose weight and it would have cost you the earth at a beauty parlour to
        get that sylph-like figure.”

        When mother left she took, in a perforated matchbox, one of the frilly mantis that
        live on our roses. She means to keep it in a goldfish bowl in her dining room at home.
        Georgie and Ann filled another matchbox with dead flies for food for the mantis on the

        Now that mother has left, Georgie and Ann attach themselves to me and firmly
        refuse to have anything to do with the ayah,Janey. She in any case now wishes to have
        a rest. Mother tipped her well and gave her several cotton frocks so I suspect she wants
        to go back to her hometown in Northern Rhodesia to show off a bit.
        Georgie has just sidled up with a very roguish look. He asked “You like your
        baby?” I said “Yes indeed I do.” He said “I’ll prick your baby with a velly big thorn.”

        Who would be a mother!

        Mchewe Estate. 20th September 1935

        Dearest Family,

        I have been rather in the wars with toothache and as there is still no dentist at
        Mbeya to do the fillings, I had to have four molars extracted at the hospital. George
        says it is fascinating to watch me at mealtimes these days because there is such a gleam
        of satisfaction in my eye when I do manage to get two teeth to meet on a mouthful.
        About those scissors Marj sent Ann. It was not such a good idea. First she cut off tufts of
        George’s hair so that he now looks like a bad case of ringworm and then she cut a scalp
        lock, a whole fist full of her own shining hair, which George so loves. George scolded
        Ann and she burst into floods of tears. Such a thing as a scolding from her darling daddy
        had never happened before. George immediately made a long drooping moustache
        out of the shorn lock and soon had her smiling again. George is always very gentle with
        Ann. One has to be , because she is frightfully sensitive to criticism.

        I am kept pretty busy these days, Janey has left and my houseboy has been ill
        with pneumonia. I now have to wash all the children’s things and my own, (the cook does
        George’s clothes) and look after the three children. Believe me, I can hardly keep awake
        for Kate’s ten o’clock feed.

        I do hope I shall get some new servants next month because I also got George
        to give notice to the cook. I intercepted him last week as he was storming down the hill
        with my large kitchen knife in his hand. “Where are you going with my knife?” I asked.
        “I’m going to kill a man!” said Alfani, rolling his eyes and looking extremely ferocious. “He
        has taken my wife.” “Not with my knife”, said I reaching for it. So off Alfani went, bent on
        vengeance and I returned the knife to the kitchen. Dinner was served and I made no
        enquiries but I feel that I need someone more restful in the kitchen than our brigand

        George has been working on the car and has now fitted yet another radiator. This
        is a lorry one and much too tall to be covered by the A.C.’s elegant bonnet which is
        secured by an old strap. The poor old A.C. now looks like an ancient shoe with a turned
        up toe. It only needs me in it with the children to make a fine illustration to the old rhyme!
        Ann and Georgie are going through a climbing phase. They practically live in
        trees. I rushed out this morning to investigate loud screams and found Georgie hanging
        from a fork in a tree by one ankle, whilst Ann stood below on tiptoe with hands stretched
        upwards to support his head.

        Do I sound as though I have straws in my hair? I have.
        Lots of love,

        Mchewe Estate. 11th October 1935

        Dearest Family,

        Thank goodness! I have a new ayah name Mary. I had heard that there was a
        good ayah out of work at Tukuyu 60 miles away so sent a messenger to fetch her. She
        arrived after dark wearing a bright dress and a cheerful smile and looked very suitable by
        the light of a storm lamp. I was horrified next morning to see her in daylight. She was
        dressed all in black and had a rather sinister look. She reminds me rather of your old maid
        Candace who overheard me laughing a few days before Ann was born and croaked
        “Yes , Miss Eleanor, today you laugh but next week you might be dead.” Remember
        how livid you were, dad?

        I think Mary has the same grim philosophy. Ann took one look at her and said,
        “What a horrible old lady, mummy.” Georgie just said “Go away”, both in English and Ki-
        Swahili. Anyway Mary’s references are good so I shall keep her on to help with Kate
        who is thriving and bonny and placid.

        Thank you for the offer of toys for Christmas but, if you don’t mind, I’d rather have
        some clothing for the children. Ann is quite contented with her dolls Barbara and Yvonne.
        Barbara’s once beautiful face is now pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle having come
        into contact with Georgie’s ever busy hammer. However Ann says she will love her for
        ever and she doesn’t want another doll. Yvonne’s hay day is over too. She
        disappeared for weeks and we think Fanny, the pup, was the culprit. Ann discovered
        Yvonne one morning in some long wet weeds. Poor Yvonne is now a ghost of her
        former self. All the sophisticated make up was washed off her papier-mâché face and
        her hair is decidedly bedraggled, but Ann was radiant as she tucked her back into bed
        and Yvonne is as precious to Ann as she ever was.

        Georgie simply does not care for toys. His paint box, hammer and the trenching
        hoe George gave him for his second birthday are all he wants or needs. Both children
        love books but I sometimes wonder whether they stimulate Ann’s imagination too much.
        The characters all become friends of hers and she makes up stories about them to tell
        Georgie. She adores that illustrated children’s Bible Mummy sent her but you would be
        astonished at the yarns she spins about “me and my friend Jesus.” She also will call
        Moses “Old Noses”, and looking at a picture of Jacob’s dream, with the shining angels
        on the ladder between heaven and earth, she said “Georgie, if you see an angel, don’t
        touch it, it’s hot.”


        Mchewe Estate. 17th October 1935

        Dearest Family,

        I take back the disparaging things I said about my new Ayah, because she has
        proved her worth in an unexpected way. On Wednesday morning I settled Kate in he
        cot after her ten o’clock feed and sat sewing at the dining room table with Ann and
        Georgie opposite me, both absorbed in painting pictures in identical seed catalogues.
        Suddenly there was a terrific bang on the back door, followed by an even heavier blow.
        The door was just behind me and I got up and opened it. There, almost filling the door
        frame, stood a huge native with staring eyes and his teeth showing in a mad grimace. In
        his hand he held a rolled umbrella by the ferrule, the shaft I noticed was unusually long
        and thick and the handle was a big round knob.

        I was terrified as you can imagine, especially as, through the gap under the
        native’s raised arm, I could see the new cook and the kitchen boy running away down to
        the shamba! I hastily tried to shut and lock the door but the man just brushed me aside.
        For a moment he stood over me with the umbrella raised as though to strike. Rather
        fortunately, I now think, I was too petrified to say a word. The children never moved but
        Tubbage, the Alsatian, got up and jumped out of the window!

        Then the native turned away and still with the same fixed stare and grimace,
        began to attack the furniture with his umbrella. Tables and chairs were overturned and
        books and ornaments scattered on the floor. When the madman had his back turned and
        was busily bashing the couch, I slipped round the dining room table, took Ann and
        Georgie by the hand and fled through the front door to the garage where I hid the
        children in the car. All this took several minutes because naturally the children were
        terrified. I was worried to death about the baby left alone in the bedroom and as soon
        as I had Ann and Georgie settled I ran back to the house.

        I reached the now open front door just as Kianda the houseboy opened the back
        door of the lounge. He had been away at the river washing clothes but, on hearing of the
        madman from the kitchen boy he had armed himself with a stout stick and very pluckily,
        because he is not a robust boy, had returned to the house to eject the intruder. He
        rushed to attack immediately and I heard a terrific exchange of blows behind me as I
        opened our bedroom door. You can imagine what my feelings were when I was
        confronted by an empty cot! Just then there was an uproar inside as all the farm
        labourers armed with hoes and pangas and sticks, streamed into the living room from the
        shamba whence they had been summoned by the cook. In no time at all the huge
        native was hustled out of the house, flung down the front steps, and securely tied up
        with strips of cloth.

        In the lull that followed I heard a frightened voice calling from the bathroom.
        ”Memsahib is that you? The child is here with me.” I hastily opened the bathroom door
        to find Mary couched in a corner by the bath, shielding Kate with her body. Mary had
        seen the big native enter the house and her first thought had been for her charge. I
        thanked her and promised her a reward for her loyalty, and quickly returned to the garage
        to reassure Ann and Georgie. I met George who looked white and exhausted as well
        he might having run up hill all the way from the coffee store. The kitchen boy had led him
        to expect the worst and he was most relieved to find us all unhurt if a bit shaken.
        We returned to the house by the back way whilst George went to the front and
        ordered our labourers to take their prisoner and lock him up in the store. George then
        discussed the whole affair with his Headman and all the labourers after which he reported
        to me. “The boys say that the bastard is an ex-Askari from Nyasaland. He is not mad as
        you thought but he smokes bhang and has these attacks. I suppose I should take him to
        Mbeya and have him up in court. But if I do that you’ll have to give evidence and that will be a nuisance as the car won’t go and there is also the baby to consider.”

        Eventually we decided to leave the man to sleep off the effects of the Bhang
        until evening when he would be tried before an impromptu court consisting of George,
        the local Jumbe(Headman) and village Elders, and our own farm boys and any other
        interested spectators. It was not long before I knew the verdict because I heard the
        sound of lashes. I was not sorry at all because I felt the man deserved his punishment
        and so did all the Africans. They love children and despise anyone who harms or
        frightens them. With great enthusiasm they frog-marched him off our land, and I sincerely
        hope that that is the last we see or him. Ann and Georgie don’t seem to brood over this
        affair at all. The man was naughty and he was spanked, a quite reasonable state of
        affairs. This morning they hid away in the small thatched chicken house. This is a little brick
        building about four feet square which Ann covets as a dolls house. They came back
        covered in stick fleas which I had to remove with paraffin. My hens are laying well but
        they all have the ‘gapes’! I wouldn’t run a chicken farm for anything, hens are such fussy,
        squawking things.

        Now don’t go worrying about my experience with the native. Such things
        happen only once in a lifetime. We are all very well and happy, and life, apart from the
        children’s pranks is very tranquil.

        Lots and lots of love,

        Mchewe Estate. 25th October 1935

        Dearest Family,

        The hot winds have dried up the shamba alarmingly and we hope every day for
        rain. The prices for coffee, on the London market, continue to be low and the local
        planters are very depressed. Coffee grows well enough here but we are over 400
        miles from the railway and transport to the railhead by lorry is very expensive. Then, as
        there is no East African Marketing Board, the coffee must be shipped to England for
        sale. Unless the coffee fetches at least 90 pounds a ton it simply doesn’t pay to grow it.
        When we started planting in 1931 coffee was fetching as much as 115 pounds a ton but
        prices this year were between 45 and 55 pounds. We have practically exhausted our
        capitol and so have all our neighbours. The Hickson -Woods have been keeping their
        pot boiling by selling bat guano to the coffee farmers at Mbosi but now everyone is
        broke and there is not a market for fertilisers. They are offering their farm for sale at a very
        low price.

        Major Jones has got a job working on the district roads and Max Coster talks of
        returning to his work as a geologist. George says he will have to go gold digging on the
        Lupa unless there is a big improvement in the market. Luckily we can live quite cheaply
        here. We have a good vegetable garden, milk is cheap and we have plenty of fruit.
        There are mulberries, pawpaws, grenadillas, peaches, and wine berries. The wine
        berries are very pretty but insipid though Ann and Georgie love them. Each morning,
        before breakfast, the old garden boy brings berries for Ann and Georgie. With a thorn
        the old man pins a large leaf from a wild fig tree into a cone which he fills with scarlet wine
        berries. There is always a cone for each child and they wait eagerly outside for the daily
        ceremony of presentation.

        The rats are being a nuisance again. Both our cats, Skinny Winnie and Blackboy
        disappeared a few weeks ago. We think they made a meal for a leopard. I wrote last
        week to our grocer at Mbalizi asking him whether he could let us have a couple of kittens
        as I have often seen cats in his store. The messenger returned with a nailed down box.
        The kitchen boy was called to prize up the lid and the children stood by in eager
        anticipation. Out jumped two snarling and spitting creatures. One rushed into the kalonga
        and the other into the house and before they were captured they had drawn blood from
        several boys. I told the boys to replace the cats in the box as I intended to return them
        forthwith. They had the colouring, stripes and dispositions of wild cats and I certainly
        didn’t want them as pets, but before the boys could replace the lid the cats escaped
        once more into the undergrowth in the kalonga. George fetched his shotgun and said he
        would shoot the cats on sight or they would kill our chickens. This was more easily said
        than done because the cats could not be found. However during the night the cats
        climbed up into the loft af the house and we could hear them moving around on the reed

        I said to George,”Oh leave the poor things. At least they might frighten the rats
        away.” That afternoon as we were having tea a thin stream of liquid filtered through the
        ceiling on George’s head. Oh dear!!! That of course was the end. Some raw meat was
        put on the lawn for bait and yesterday George shot both cats.

        I regret to end with the sad story of Mary, heroine in my last letter and outcast in
        this. She came to work quite drunk two days running and I simply had to get rid of her. I
        have heard since from Kath Wood that Mary lost her last job at Tukuyu for the same
        reason. She was ayah to twin girls and one day set their pram on fire.

        So once again my hands are more than full with three lively children. I did say
        didn’t I, when Ann was born that I wanted six children?

        Very much love from us all, Eleanor.

        Mchewe Estate. 8th November 1935

        Dearest Family,

        To set your minds at rest I must tell you that the native who so frightened me and
        the children is now in jail for attacking a Greek at Mbalizi. I hear he is to be sent back to
        Rhodesia when he has finished his sentence.

        Yesterday we had one of our rare trips to Mbeya. George managed to get a couple of
        second hand tyres for the old car and had again got her to work so we are celebrating our
        wedding anniversary by going on an outing. I wore the green and fawn striped silk dress
        mother bought me and the hat and shoes you sent for my birthday and felt like a million
        dollars, for a change. The children all wore new clothes too and I felt very proud of them.
        Ann is still very fair and with her refined little features and straight silky hair she
        looks like Alice in Wonderland. Georgie is dark and sturdy and looks best in khaki shirt
        and shorts and sun helmet. Kate is a pink and gold baby and looks good enough to eat.
        We went straight to the hotel at Mbeya and had the usual warm welcome from
        Ken and Aunty May Menzies. Aunty May wears her hair cut short like a mans and
        usually wears shirt and tie and riding breeches and boots. She always looks ready to go
        on safari at a moments notice as indeed she is. She is often called out to a case of illness
        at some remote spot.

        There were lots of people at the hotel from farms in the district and from the
        diggings. I met women I had not seen for four years. One, a Mrs Masters from Tukuyu,
        said in the lounge, “My God! Last time I saw you , you were just a girl and here you are
        now with two children.” To which I replied with pride, “There is another one in a pram on
        the verandah if you care to look!” Great hilarity in the lounge. The people from the
        diggings seem to have plenty of money to throw around. There was a big party on the
        go in the bar.

        One of our shamba boys died last Friday and all his fellow workers and our
        house boys had the day off to attend the funeral. From what I can gather the local
        funerals are quite cheery affairs. The corpse is dressed in his best clothes and laid
        outside his hut and all who are interested may view the body and pay their respects.
        The heir then calls upon anyone who had a grudge against the dead man to say his say
        and thereafter hold his tongue forever. Then all the friends pay tribute to the dead man
        after which he is buried to the accompaniment of what sounds from a distance, very
        cheerful keening.

        Most of our workmen are pagans though there is a Lutheran Mission nearby and
        a big Roman Catholic Mission in the area too. My present cook, however, claims to be
        a Christian. He certainly went to a mission school and can read and write and also sing
        hymns in Ki-Swahili. When I first engaged him I used to find a large open Bible
        prominently displayed on the kitchen table. The cook is middle aged and arrived here
        with a sensible matronly wife. To my surprise one day he brought along a young girl,
        very plump and giggly and announced proudly that she was his new wife, I said,”But I
        thought you were a Christian Jeremiah? Christians don’t have two wives.” To which he
        replied, “Oh Memsahib, God won’t mind. He knows an African needs two wives – one
        to go with him when he goes away to work and one to stay behind at home to cultivate
        the shamba.

        Needles to say, it is the old wife who has gone to till the family plot.

        With love to all,

        Mchewe Estate. 21st November 1935

        Dearest Family,

        The drought has broken with a bang. We had a heavy storm in the hills behind
        the house. Hail fell thick and fast. So nice for all the tiny new berries on the coffee! The
        kids loved the excitement and three times Ann and Georgie ran out for a shower under
        the eaves and had to be changed. After the third time I was fed up and made them both
        lie on their beds whilst George and I had lunch in peace. I told Ann to keep the
        casement shut as otherwise the rain would drive in on her bed. Half way through lunch I
        heard delighted squeals from Georgie and went into the bedroom to investigate. Ann
        was standing on the outer sill in the rain but had shut the window as ordered. “Well
        Mummy , you didn’t say I mustn’t stand on the window sill, and I did shut the window.”
        George is working so hard on the farm. I have a horrible feeling however that it is
        what the Africans call ‘Kazi buri’ (waste of effort) as there seems no chance of the price of
        coffee improving as long as this world depression continues. The worry is that our capitol
        is nearly exhausted. Food is becoming difficult now that our neighbours have left. I used
        to buy delicious butter from Kath Hickson-Wood and an African butcher used to kill a
        beast once a week. Now that we are his only European customers he very rarely kills
        anything larger than a goat, and though we do eat goat, believe me it is not from choice.
        We have of course got plenty to eat, but our diet is very monotonous. I was
        delighted when George shot a large bushbuck last week. What we could not use I cut
        into strips and the salted strips are now hanging in the open garage to dry.

        With love to all,

        Mchewe Estate. 6th December 1935

        Dearest Family,

        We have had a lot of rain and the countryside is lovely and green. Last week
        George went to Mbeya taking Ann with him. This was a big adventure for Ann because
        never before had she been anywhere without me. She was in a most blissful state as
        she drove off in the old car clutching a little basket containing sandwiches and half a bottle
        of milk. She looked so pretty in a new blue frock and with her tiny plaits tied with
        matching blue ribbons. When Ann is animated she looks charming because her normally
        pale cheeks become rosy and she shows her pretty dimples.

        As I am still without an ayah I rather looked forward to a quiet morning with only
        Georgie and Margery Kate to care for, but Georgie found it dull without Ann and wanted
        to be entertained and even the normally placid baby was peevish. Then in mid morning
        the rain came down in torrents, the result of a cloudburst in the hills directly behind our
        house. The ravine next to our house was a terrifying sight. It appeared to be a great
        muddy, roaring waterfall reaching from the very top of the hill to a point about 30 yards
        behind our house and then the stream rushed on down the gorge in an angry brown
        flood. The roar of the water was so great that we had to yell at one another to be heard.
        By lunch time the rain had stopped and I anxiously awaited the return of Ann and
        George. They returned on foot, drenched and hungry at about 2.30pm . George had
        had to abandon the car on the main road as the Mchewe River had overflowed and
        turned the road into a muddy lake. The lower part of the shamba had also been flooded
        and the water receded leaving branches and driftwood amongst the coffee. This was my
        first experience of a real tropical storm. I am afraid that after the battering the coffee has
        had there is little hope of a decent crop next year.

        Anyway Christmas is coming so we don’t dwell on these mishaps. The children
        have already chosen their tree from amongst the young cypresses in the vegetable
        garden. We all send our love and hope that you too will have a Happy Christmas.


        Mchewe Estate. 22nd December 1935

        Dearest Family,

        I’ve been in the wars with my staff. The cook has been away ill for ten days but is
        back today though shaky and full of self pity. The houseboy, who really has been a brick
        during the cooks absence has now taken to his bed and I feel like taking to Mine! The
        children however have the Christmas spirit and are making weird and wonderful paper
        decorations. George’s contribution was to have the house whitewashed throughout and
        it looks beautifully fresh.

        My best bit of news is that my old ayah Janey has been to see me and would
        like to start working here again on Jan 1st. We are all very well. We meant to give
        ourselves an outing to Mbeya as a Christmas treat but here there is an outbreak of
        enteric fever there so will now not go. We have had two visitors from the Diggings this
        week. The children see so few strangers that they were fascinated and hung around
        staring. Ann sat down on the arm of the couch beside one and studied his profile.
        Suddenly she announced in her clear voice, “Mummy do you know, this man has got
        wax in his ears!” Very awkward pause in the conversation. By the way when I was
        cleaning out little Kate’s ears with a swab of cotton wool a few days ago, Ann asked
        “Mummy, do bees have wax in their ears? Well, where do you get beeswax from

        I meant to keep your Christmas parcel unopened until Christmas Eve but could
        not resist peeping today. What lovely things! Ann so loves pretties and will be
        delighted with her frocks. My dress is just right and I love Georgie’s manly little flannel
        shorts and blue shirt. We have bought them each a watering can. I suppose I shall
        regret this later. One of your most welcome gifts is the album of nursery rhyme records. I
        am so fed up with those that we have. Both children love singing. I put a record on the
        gramophone geared to slow and off they go . Georgie sings more slowly than Ann but
        much more tunefully. Ann sings in a flat monotone but Georgie with great expression.
        You ought to hear him render ‘Sing a song of sixpence’. He cannot pronounce an R or
        an S. Mother has sent a large home made Christmas pudding and a fine Christmas
        cake and George will shoot some partridges for Christmas dinner.
        Think of us as I shall certainly think of you.

        Your very loving,

        Mchewe Estate. 2nd January 1936

        Dearest Family,

        Christmas was fun! The tree looked very gay with its load of tinsel, candles and
        red crackers and the coloured balloons you sent. All the children got plenty of toys
        thanks to Grandparents and Aunts. George made Ann a large doll’s bed and I made
        some elegant bedding, Barbara, the big doll is now permanently bed ridden. Her poor
        shattered head has come all unstuck and though I have pieced it together again it is a sad
        sight. If you have not yet chosen a present for her birthday next month would you
        please get a new head from the Handy House. I enclose measurements. Ann does so
        love the doll. She always calls her, “My little girl”, and she keeps the doll’s bed beside
        her own and never fails to kiss her goodnight.

        We had no guests for Christmas this year but we were quite festive. Ann
        decorated the dinner table with small pink roses and forget-me-knots and tinsel and the
        crackers from the tree. It was a wet day but we played the new records and both
        George and I worked hard to make it a really happy day for the children. The children
        were hugely delighted when George made himself a revolting set of false teeth out of
        plasticine and a moustache and beard of paper straw from a chocolate box. “Oh Daddy
        you look exactly like Father Christmas!” cried an enthralled Ann. Before bedtime we lit
        all the candles on the tree and sang ‘Away in a Manger’, and then we opened the box of
        starlights you sent and Ann and Georgie had their first experience of fireworks.
        After the children went to bed things deteriorated. First George went for his bath
        and found and killed a large black snake in the bathroom. It must have been in the
        bathroom when I bathed the children earlier in the evening. Then I developed bad
        toothache which kept me awake all night and was agonising next day. Unfortunately the
        bridge between the farm and Mbeya had been washed away and the water was too
        deep for the car to ford until the 30th when at last I was able to take my poor swollen
        face to Mbeya. There is now a young German woman dentist working at the hospital.
        She pulled out the offending molar which had a large abscess attached to it.
        Whilst the dentist attended to me, Ann and Georgie played happily with the
        doctor’s children. I wish they could play more often with other children. Dr Eckhardt was
        very pleased with Margery Kate who at seven months weighs 17 lbs and has lovely
        rosy cheeks. He admired Ann and told her that she looked just like a German girl. “No I
        don’t”, cried Ann indignantly, “I’m English!”

        We were caught in a rain storm going home and as the old car still has no
        windscreen or side curtains we all got soaked except for the baby who was snugly
        wrapped in my raincoat. The kids thought it great fun. Ann is growing up fast now. She
        likes to ‘help mummy’. She is a perfectionist at four years old which is rather trying. She
        gets so discouraged when things do not turn out as well as she means them to. Sewing
        is constantly being unpicked and paintings torn up. She is a very sensitive child.
        Georgie is quite different. He is a man of action, but not silent. He talks incessantly
        but lisps and stumbles over some words. At one time Ann and Georgie often
        conversed in Ki-Swahili but they now scorn to do so. If either forgets and uses a Swahili
        word, the other points a scornful finger and shouts “You black toto”.

        With love to all,


          The Housley Letters

          We discovered that one of Samuel’s brothers, George Housley 1826-1877,  emigrated to America in 1851, to Solebury, in Pennsylvania. Another brother, Charles 1823-1856, emigrated to Australia at the same time.

          I wrote to the Solebury Historical Society to ask them if they had any information on the Housleys there. About a month later I had a very helpful and detailed reply from them.

          There were Housley people in Solebury Township and nearby communities from 1854 to at least 1973, perhaps 1985. George Housley immigrated in 1851, arriving in New York from London in July 1851 on the ship “Senator”. George was in Solebury by 1854, when he is listed on the tax roles for the Township He didn’t own land at that time. Housley family members mostly lived in the Lumberville area, a village in Solebury, or in nearby Buckingham or Wrightstown. The second wife of Howard (aka Harry) Housley was Elsa (aka Elsie) R. Heed, the daughter of the Lumberville Postmaster. Elsie was the proprietor of the Lumberville General Store from 1939 to 1973, and may have continued to live in Lumberville until her death in 1985. The Lumberville General Store was, and still is, a focal point of the community. The store was also the official Post Office at one time, hence the connection between Elsie’s father as Postmaster, and Elsie herself as the proprietor of the store. The Post Office function at Lumberville has been reduced now to a bank of cluster mailboxes, and official U.S. Postal functions are now in Point Pleasant, PA a few miles north of Lumberville.
          We’ve attached a pdf of the Housley people buried in Carversville Cemetery, which is in the town next to Lumberville, and is still in Solebury Township. We hope this list will confirm that these are your relatives.

          It doesn’t seem that any Housley people still live in the area. Some of George’s descendents moved to Wilkes-Barre, PA and Flemington, NJ. One descendent, Barbara Housley, lived in nearby Doylestown, PA, which is the county seat for Bucks County. She actually visited Solebury Township Historical Society looking for Housley relatives, and it would have been nice to connect you with her. Unfortunately she died in 2018. Her obituary is attached in case you want to follow up with the nieces and great nieces who are listed.

          Lumberville General Store, Pennsylvania, Elsie Housley:



          I noticed the name of Barbara’s brother Howard Housley in her obituary, and found him on facebook.  I knew it was the right Howard Housley as I recognized Barbara’s photograph in his friends list as the same photo in the obituary.  Howard didn’t reply initially to a friend request from a stranger, so I found his daughter Laura on facebook and sent her a message.  She replied, spoke to her father, and we exchanged email addresses and were able to start a correspondence.  I simply could not believe my luck when Howard sent me a 17 page file of Barbara’s Narrative on the Letters with numerous letter excerpts interspersed with her own research compiled on a six month trip to England.

          The letters were written to George between 1851 and the 1870s, from the Housley family in Smalley.

          Narrative of Historic Letters ~ Barbara Housley.
          In February 1991, I took a picture of my 16 month old niece Laura Ann Housley standing near the tombstones of her great-great-great-grandparents, George and Sarah Ann Hill Housley. The occassion was the funeral of another Sarah Housley, Sarah Lord Housley, wife of Albert Kilmer Housley, youngest son of John Eley Housley (George and Sarah Ann’s first born). Laura Ann’s great-grandfather (my grandfather) was another George, John Eley’s first born. It was Aunt Sarah who brought my mother, Lois, a packet of papers which she had found in the attic. Mom spent hours transcribing the letters which had been written first horizontally and then vertically to save paper. What began to emerge was a priceless glimpse into the lives and concerns of Housleys who lived and died over a century ago. All of the letters ended with the phrase “And believe me ever my dear brother, your affectionate….”
          The greeting and opening remarks of each of the letters are included in a list below. The sentence structure and speech patterns have not been altered however spelling and some punctuation has been corrected. Some typical idiosyncrasies were: as for has, were for where and vice versa, no capitals at the beginnings of sentences, occasional commas and dashes but almost no periods. Emma appears to be the best educated of the three Housley letter-writers. Sister-in-law Harriet does not appear to be as well educated as any of the others. Since their mother did not write but apparently was in good health, it must be assumed that she could not.
          The people discussed and described in the following pages are for the most part known to be the family and friends of the Housleys of Smalley, Derbyshire, England. However, practically every page brings conjectures about the significance of persons who are mentioned in the letters and information about persons whose names seem to be significant but who have not yet been established as actual members of the family.

          To say this was a priceless addition to the family research is an understatement. I have since, with Howard’s permission, sent the file to the Derby Records Office for their family history section.  We are hoping that Howard will find the actual letters in among the boxes he has of his sisters belongings.  Some of the letters mention photographs that were sent. Perhaps some will be found.


            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


              Ellen (Nellie) Purdy

              My grandfathers aunt Nellie Purdy 1872-1947 grew up with his mother Mary Ann at the Gilmans in Buxton.  We knew she was a nurse or a matron, and that she made a number of trips to USA.

              I started looking for passenger lists and immigration lists (we had already found some of them, and my cousin Linda Marshall in Boston found some of them), and found one in 1904 with details of the “relatives address while in US”.

              October 31st, 1904, Ellen Purdy sailed from Liverpool to Baltimore on the Friesland. She was a 32 year old nurse and she paid for her own ticket. The address of relatives in USA was Druid Hill and Lafayette Ave, Baltimore, Maryland.

              I wondered if she stayed with relatives, perhaps they were the Housley descendants. It was her great uncle George Housley who emigrated in 1851, not so far away in Pennsylvania. I wanted to check the Baltimore census to find out the names at that address, in case they were Housley’s. So I joined a Baltimore History group on facebook, and asked how I might find out.  The people were so enormously helpful!  The address was the Home of the Friendless, an orphanage. (a historic landmark of some note I think), and someone even found Ellen Purdy listed in the Baltimore directory as a nurse there.

              She sailed back to England in 1913.   Ellen sailed in 1900 and 1920 as well but I haven’t unraveled those trips yet.

              THE HOME OF THE FRIENDLESS, is situated at the corner of Lafayette and Druid Hill avenues, Baltimore. It is a large brick building, which was erected at a cost of $62,000. It was organized in 1854.The chief aim of the founders of this institution was to respond to a need for providing a home for the friendless and homeless children, orphans, and half-orphans, or the offspring of vagrants. It has been managed since its organization by a board of ladies, who, by close attention and efficient management, have made the institution one of the most prominent charitable institutions in the State. From its opening to the present time there have been received 5,000 children, and homes have been secured for nearly one thousand of this number. The institution has a capacity of about 200 inmates. The present number of beneficiaries is 165. A kindergarten and other educational facilities are successfully conducted. The home knows no demonimational creed, being non-sectarian. Its principal source of revenue is derived from private contributions. For many years the State has appropriated different sums towards it maintenance, and the General Assembly of 1892 contributed the sum of $3,000 per annum.

              A later trip:   The ship’s manifest from May 1920 the Baltic lists Ellen on board arriving in Ellis Island heading to Baltimore age 48. The next of kin is listed as George Purdy (her father) of 2 Gregory Blvd Forest Side, Nottingham. She’s listed as a nurse, and sailed from Liverpool May 8 1920.

              Ellen Purdy


              Ellen eventually retired in England and married Frank Garbett, a tax collector,  at the age of 51 in Herefordshire.  Judging from the number of newspaper articles I found about her, she was an active member of the community and was involved in many fundraising activities for the local cottage hospital.

              Her obituary in THE KINGTON TIMES, NOVEMBER 8, 1947:
              Mrs. Ellen Garbett wife of Mr. F. Garbett, of Brook Cottage, Kingsland, whose funeral took place at St. Michael’s Church, Kingsland, on October 30th, was a familiar figure in the district, and by her genial manner and kindly ways had endeared herself to many.
              Mrs Garbett had had a wide experience in the nursing profession. Beginning her training in this country, she went to the Italian Riviera and there continued her work, later going to the United States. In 1916 she gained the Q.A.I.M.N.S. and returned to England and was appointed sister at the Lord Derby Military Hospital, an appointment she held for four years.

              We didn’t know that Ellen had worked on the Italian Riviera, and hope in due course to find out more about it.

              Mike Rushby, Ellen’s sister Kate’s grandson in Australia, spoke to his sister in USA recently about Nellie Purdy. She replied:   I told you I remembered Auntie Nellie coming to Jacksdale. She gave me a small green leatherette covered bible which I still have ( though in a very battered condition). Here is a picture of it.

              Ellen Purdy bible


                Godfrey, a word in your ear, my good man,” Finnley said as soon as Liz was out of earshot.  “In the billiards room in about ten minutes.”

                “We don’t have a billiards room, Finnley,” Gordon replied, “And why are you calling me Godfrey?”

                “Shh! She’s coming!” hissed Finnley.

                “I heard every word with my hearing trumpet,” snapped Liz.  “Finnely, Gordon is simply a transcription error on the 1851 census. On the 1841 census he was Godfrey, and elsewhere he is Godfrey.  That doesn’t mean that Gordon isn’t Godfrey however.  Now then, what was it you wanted to see him about in the billiards room?”

                “If you must know, you nosy eavesdropping old harridan, I was going to ask Godfrey, er, Gordon, if we should tell you where Samuel Housley is.”


                  “Well, I wish you would stop interrupting me while I fill in the empty pages of my pink notebook with gripping stories, I keep losing my thread. Most annoying!” Liz sighed.  She wrote Liz snapped at first and then erased it and changed it to Liz sighed. Then she added Liz sighed with the very mildest slight irritation and then became exasperated with the whole thing and told herself to just leave it and try to move on!

                  But really, Finnley’s timing, as usual! Just as Liz had worked out the direct line to the characters fathers mothers fathers fathers mothers fathers mothers fathers father and mother, Finnley wafts through the scene, making herself conspicuous, and scattering Liz’s tenuous concentration like feathers in the wind.

                  “And I don’t want to hear a word about apostrophes either,” she added, mentally noting the one in don’t.

                  “Oh, now I see what you’re doing, Liz!” Gordon appeared, smoking a pipe. “Very clever!”

                  “Good God, Gordon, you’re smoking a pipe!” It was an astonishing sight. “What an astonishing sight! Where are your nuts?”

                  “Well, it’s like this,” Gordon grinned, “I’ve been eating nuts in every scene for, how long? I just can’t face another nut.”

                  Liz barked out a loud cackle.  “You think that’s bad, have you seen what they keep dressing me in? Anyway, ” she asked, “What do you mean clever and you see what I’m doing? What am I doing?”

                  “The code, of course!  I spotted it right away,” Gordon replied smugly.

                  Finnley heaved herself out of the pool and walked over to Liz and Gordon. (is it Gordon or Godfrey? Liz felt the cold tendrils of dread that she had somehow gone off the track and would have to retrace her steps and get in a  fearful muddle Oh no!  )

                  A splat of blue algae across her face, as Finnley flicked the sodden strands of dyed debris off that clung to her hair and body, halted the train of thought that Liz had embarked on, and came to an abrupt collision with a harmless wet fish, you could say, as it’s shorter than saying  an abrupt collision with a bit of dyed blue algae. 

                  Liz yawned.  Finnley was already asleep.

                  “What was in that blue dye?”


                    “I’m not ‘aving this treatment, Mavis, I’ve booked meself in for the spirit chew all mender tations session instead. No need to loook at me like that, our Mavis, I aint going all new agey on yer, just thought I’d give it a try and see if it relaxes me a bit.”

                    “Relaxes yer? Yer int done a stroke of work in years, whatcher on about?” Sha said, nudging Mavis in the ribs and cackling.

                    “It’s not all about the body, y’ know!” Glor replied, feeling the futility of trying to make them understand the importance of it to her, or the significance in the wider picture.

                    “I’m listening,” a melodious voice whispered behind her.  Andrew Anderson smiled and looked deep into her squinting eyes as she turned to face him (the sun was going down behind him and it was very hard to see, much to her chagrin).

                    “Tell me more, Glor, what’s the score, Glor, I want to know more…”

                    Gloria, who knees had momentarily turned to jelly, reeled backwards at this surprising change in the conversation, and lost her balance due to her temporarily affected knees.  Instinctively she reached out and grabbed Mr Anderson’s arm, and managed to avoid falling to the ground.

                    She retracted her arm slowly as an increasingly baffled look spread across her face.

                    Why did his arm feel so peculiar? It felt like a shop mannequin, unyielding, different somehow.  Creepy somehow. Glor mumbled, “Sure, later,” and quickly caught up with her friends.

                    “Hey, You’ll never guess what, wait til I tell yer..” Glor started to tell them about Mr Anderson and then stopped. Would it be futile? Would they understand what she was trying to say?

                    “I’m listening,” a melodious voice whispered in her ear.

                    “Not bloody you again! You stalking me, or what?”  Visibly rattled, Gloria rushed over to her friends, wondering why every time that weirdo whispered in her ear, she had somehow fallen back and had to catch up again.

                    She’d have to inform her friends of the danger, but would they listen? They were falling for him and wouldn’t be easily discouraged.  They’d be lured to the yacht and not want to escape. The fools! What could she do?

                    “I’m listening,” the melodious voice whispered.


                      “Ladies! what are youse all whispering about, eh?”

                      So engrossed were they in hatching escape  plans—although Mavis and Sha were not at all convinced it was a good idea but both agreed it was wise to humour Glor when she got one of her “bloody brainwaves” —they  had not seen Mr Andrew Anderson approach. The ladies jumped guiltily apart from their whispering huddle.

                      “Oh, hello Mr Anderson!” Sha said brightly. She beamed at him, flicking back a stray piece of hair and wishing she had thought to wear her lippy.

                      “How many times, Sha? It’s Andrew” He winked at them. “What are you gals plotting, eh?” His eyes narrowed playfully.

                      “I can assure you we aren’t plotting anything,” replied Sophie sternly. “I’m Sophie by the way. I don’t think we’ve met?” She flung her hand towards him.

                      “I haven’t had the pleasure, Sophie,” said Andrew, shaking Sophie’s hand. He frowned. “Are you new here?”

                      “I just arrived yesterday. So excited of course to do the erm … treatments. What about you? To be honest, you don’t look like you need any beauty treatments.”

                      Andrew grinned. “You sure know how to make a fellow feel good, Sophie. Nah, I’m just here to meet up with me mates who live here.” He gestured with his head in the direction of the sea. “Got here a few days ago on my yacht.  Take youse out for a spin if you fancy.”

                      Before Sophie could answer, a loud cry made them turn. It was Berenice, her face red and frantic as she jogged towards them.

                      “Ladies! Ladies! you are late for your treatment. Make haste please!” She turned to Andrew. “You’ll need to leave now, Mr Anderson,” she said sharply. “This is private property.”


                        The philodendron leaf was so large that on it’s trajectory towards Finnley it caught a bottle a Bhum on the edge of the desk, causing it to topple onto the floor.

                        “Now look what you’ve done, you clumsy thing!” exclaimed Liz.  “That was a gift from Godfrey!”

                        “Don’t worry, he’ll never know,” replied Finnley, picking up the pieces.  “And don’t shout at me, after my, you know…”

                        Liz softened and said gently, “Well speaking of brushes, dear, you’d be better cleaning that up with a dustpan and brush, or you might cut yourself.”


                          “The same thing happened to me when I was planting trees in  Normandy!” Nora laughed.

                          “Why am I not surprised,” replied Will with a smile.

                          It did seem to Nora that Will was less surprised that she was at all the similarities in their       stories.  The way the little anecdotes would bounce back and forth and spark another memory, and another, how many of them were unaccountably bizarre or unusual incidents, was enchanting to Nora.  Spellbound and quite giddy with the delight of it.  Will, on the other hand, seemed delighted but in a different kind of way.

                          Nora noticed, but didn’t think any more of it until much later.  The ping pong stories continued apace, and she was was gasping for breath by the end of a somewhat longer story, as they made the final ascent to the top of the hill.

                          “This is what I wanted to show you,” Will said.


                            “Grandpa,” Clara said, partly to distract him ~ poor dear was looking a little anxious ~ and partly because she was starting to get twangs of gilt about Nora, “Grandpa, do you remember that guy who used to make sculptures?  I can’t recall his name and need his phone number. Do you remember, used to see him driving around with gargoyles in the back of his truck. You look awfully pale, are you alright?”

                            “No idea,” Bob replied weakly.

                            Tell her! said Jane.

                            “No!” Bob exclaimed, feeling vexed.  He wasn’t sure why, but he didn’t want to rush into anything. Why was Clara asking about the man whose phone number was on the note? What did she know about all this? What did he, Bob, know for that matter!

                            “I only asked!” replied Clara, then seeing his face, patted his arm gently and said “It’s ok, Grandpa.”

                            For the love of god will you just tell her! 

                            “Tell who what?” asked Clara.

                            “What! What did you say?” Bob wondered where this was going and if it would ever end. It began to feel surreal.

                            They were both relieved when the door bell rang, shattering the unaccustomed tension between them.

                            “Who can that be?” they asked in unison, as Clara rose from the table.

                            Bob waited expectantly, pushing his plate away. It would take days to settle his digestive system down after all this upset at a meal time.

                            “You look like you’ve just seen a ghost, Clara! Who was it?”  Bob said as Clara returned from the front door. “Not the water board again to cut us off I hope!”

                            “It’s the neighbour, Mr Willets, he says he’s ever so sorry but his dogs, they got loose and got into some kind of a box on your property.  He said…”


                            In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage


                              “It’s Thursday today,” remarked Star.

                              “Special subject the bloody obvious?” Tara replied rudely.   “You should be on Mastermind.”

                              “Well, we were wondering what we were going to do to pass the time until Thursday, and here we are. It’s Thursday!”

                              “Are you losing your marbles?”

                              “Actually it’s you losing your memory,” Star sighed.  “Remember the case?”

                              “What case?”

                              “The case we were working on!”

                              “Oh, that case! Well you can hardly expect me to remember that when it’s been such a strange week!” Tara was starting to get tearful and agitated.

                              “Look, Tara, the tests came back negative. You can stop worrying about it now.  We can go back to normal now and carry on. And just in time for the rendezvous at the cafe on Main Street.” Star patted Tara’s arm encouragingly.  “And what timing! If the results hadn’t come back yet, or we’d tested positive, we wouldn’t have been able to go to the cafe.”

                              “Well we could have gone and just not said anything about the tests,” sniffed Tara.  “Everyone else seems to be doing what they want regardless.”

                              “Yes, but we’re not as morally bankrupt as them,” retorted Star.

                              Tara giggled. “But we used to work for Madame Limonella.”

                              “That’s an entirely different kind of morals,” Star replied, but chose not to pursue the issue. She was relieved to see Tara’s mood lighten.  “What are you going to wear to the cafe?”

                              “Is it a fancy dress party? I could wear my plague doctor outfit.”

                              Star rolled her eyes. “No! We have to dress appropriately, something subtle and serious.  A dark suit perhaps.”

                              “Oh like my Ace of Spades T shirt?”

                              This is going nowhere fast, Star thought, but then had a revelation.  A moment later, she had forgotten what the revelation was when the door burst open.

                              “Ta Da!” shouted Rosamund, entering the office with two middle aged ladies in tow.  “I nabbed them both, they were lurking in the queue for the food bank! And I single handedly brought then back.  Can we talk about my bonus now?”

                              Both Tara and Star were frowning at the two unfamiliar ladies. “Yes but who are these two middle aged ladies?”

                              One of the ladies piped up, “She said you’d be taking us out for afternoon tea at a nice cafe!”

                              The other one added, “We haven’t eaten for days, we’re starving!”

                              “But neither of you is April!” exclaimed Tara.

                              The first middle aged lady said, “Oh no dear, it’s September. I’m quite sure of that.”


                              In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage


                                “Never again,” said Tara, pouring her second black coffee.  “I’m done with these hangovers. You’ll have to find someone else to drink with from now on.”

                                “You say that every week, Tara.  What are we going to do next? We’re floundering. We don’t even have a plan. Everything we do takes us further away from the case. I don’t even remember what the case is!”

                                “Here, have some more coffee.  Don’t roll your eyes at me like that, cases are always like this, they always go through this phase.”  Tara wasn’t in the mood for this kind of depressing talk, it was much too complicated. Surely it was simply a matter of drinking another coffee, until everything fell back into place.

                                “Cases do, do they?” Star asked, “Do they really? And what phase would that be, and how would you know?”

                                “Snarky tart, yes they do. I’ve been researching things you know, not just swanning around.  We’ve reached the part of the case where nothing makes sense and the investigators don’t know what to do next. It’s an essential part of the process, everyone knows that.  The important thing is not to try and work things out too early. The danger is preconceived ideas, you see,” Tara pontificated, warming to the theme.

                                “I can assure you that I have no preconceived ideas because I have no clue what’s going to happen next,” replied Star, trying not to roll her eyes too obviously.  She knew from experience not to provoke Tara too much until at least the third cup of coffee.

                                “Precisely!” Tara said triumphantly. “Now it will all start to come together and make sense. ”

                                Star didn’t look convinced.  “What are we going to do about the middle aged lady we locked in the wardrobe last night, though?”

                                “What did we do that for?!” asked Tara in astonishment.

                                “I can’t remember.  Maybe we thought it was Aunt April?”

                                “Wait, if Aunt April isn’t in the wardrobe, then where is she?”

                                “That’s what I”m saying!” cried Star in exasperation. “What do we do next?”


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                                  “Did someone say drinks are on the house?” asked Rosamund, pushing past the burly bouncer as she entered the pub.  “What’s your name, handsome?”

                                  “Percival,” the bouncer replied with a wry grin.  “Yeah I know, doesn’t fit the image.”

                                  Rosamund looked him up and down while simultaneously flicking a bit of food from between her teeth with a credit card.  “I keep forgetting to buy dental floss,” she said.

                                  “Is that really necessary?” hissed Tara. “Is that moving the plot forward?”

                                  “Careful now,” Star said, “Your Liz is showing.”

                                  “I’ll be away for a while on an important mission,” Rosamund said to Percival, “But give me your number and I’ll call you when I get back.”

                                  “The trip is cancelled, you’re not going anywhere,” Star told her, “Except to the shop to buy dental floss.”

                                  “Will someone please tell me why we’re talking about dental floss when we have this serious case to solve?” Tara sounded exasperated, and glared at Rosamund.  What a brazen hussy she was!

                                  “I’m glad you mentioned it!” piped up a middle aged lady sitting at the corner table. “I have run out of dental floss too.”

                                  “See?” said Rosamund.  “You never can tell how helpful you are when you just act yourself and let it flow.  Now tell me why I’m not going to New Zealand? I already packed my suitcase!”

                                  “Because it seems that New Zealand has come to us,” replied Star, “Or should I say, the signs of the cult are everywhere.  It’s not so much a case of finding the cult as a case of, well finding somewhere the cult hasn’t already infected.  And as for April,” she continued, “She changes her story every five minutes, I think we should ignore everything she says from now on. Nothing but a distraction.”

                                  “That’s it!” exclaimed Tara. “Exactly! Distraction tactics!  A well known ruse, tried and tested.  She has been sent to us to distract us from the case. She isn’t a new client. She’s a red herring for the old clients enemies.”

                                  “Oh, good one, Tara,” Star was impressed. Tara could be an abusive drunk, but some of the things she blurted out were pure gold.  Or had a grain of gold in them, it would be more accurate to say. A certain perspicacity shone through at times when she was well lubricated.  “Perhaps we should lock her back in the wardrobe for the time being until we’ve worked out what to do with her.”

                                  “You’re right, Star, we must restrain her….oy! oy!  Percival, catch that fleeing aunt at once!”  April had made a dash for it out of the pub door.  The burly bouncer missed his chance. April legged it up the road and disappeared round the corner.

                                  “That’s entirely your fault, Rosamund,” Tara spat, “Distracting the man from his duties, you rancid little strumpet!”

                                  “Oh I say, that’s going a bit far,” interjected the middle aged lady sitting at the corner table.

                                  “What’s it got to do with you?” Tara turned on her.

                                  “This,” the woman replied with a smugly Trumpish smile. She pulled her trouser leg up to reveal a bell bird tattoo.

                                  “Oh my fucking god,” Tara was close to tears again.


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                                    “Now then ladies, what’s all this about?” The burly bouncer appeared, blocking the doorway.

                                    “Look!” hissed Tara, showing him the tattoo on April’s shoulder.  “This!”

                                    “Nice tattoo!” he said appreciatively.  “Why, I even have one myself just like it!”

                                    “On your buttock?” asked Star incredulously.

                                    “Why you cheeky thing,” replied the bouncer with a smile. “No, as it happens it’s on my ankle.  I left the cult before I reached buttock bell bird status.”

                                    “Wait, what? What cult?”

                                    “The same cult as you were in,” he said, turning to April. “Am I right?”

                                    “I don’t know what you mean,” stammered April, reddening.

                                    “What the hell is going on!” shouted Tara.  “Are we the only ones NOT in the damn cult?”

                                    “Looks like it” smirked the waitress, pulling her blouse up to reveal a bell bird tattoo on her belly.

                                    “That’s it, I’ve had enough of this! I’m going back to the wardrobe!” exclaimed Star.

                                    The bouncer and the waitress exchanged glances. “Unwoke sheeple losing their minds,” the waitress said knowingly.

                                    “Oh my fucking god,” Tara said, close to tears.


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                                      “That damn cult is going from strength to strength and not a damn thing we can do about it,” said Star.  “What bloody awful timing for a lockdown, just as we were getting started!”

                                      “I know,” replied Tara sadly.  “At this rate we’ll have to go back to work for Madame Limonella.”

                                      “Don’t be silly, she’ll have had to close down too!”

                                      “Don’t you believe it!” retorted Tara, “She’d find a way to keep her clients happy.”

                                      “But we’re not keeping our clients happy are we? We haven’t found a way. We’re pretty useless, aren’t we?”

                                      “Not just our clients. Well client, really, we only had one. We could have saved the world from the Zanone cult if it hadn’t been for this quarantine.  Hey, maybe that cult started all this, just so we couldn’t stop them.”

                                      Star barked out a bitter laugh. “Now you sound like one of them parroting out conspiracy theories.”

                                      “We could find a way to break the quarantine, sneak out at night dressed as urban kangaroos or something.”

                                      Star was shocked. “Tara, that’s morally reprehensible!  Where is your community spirit!”

                                      “I don’t think the kangaroos would mind all that much,” Tara replied huffily.

                                      “I didn’t mean the kangaroos, good lord!  But you know what, you might be on to something.  Remember that kangaroo dressed in a mans overcoat that tried to break someones car window the other day?”

                                      Tara had a feeling Star had got her wires crossed somehow, but didn’t question it. Star was getting excited and it was a welcome change from the weeks of despondent boredom.

                                      “Well never mind that,” Star continued, who had started to wonder herself, “The point is, we can use a disguise.  And it’s a matter of grave social responsibility to expose the cult. In the fullness of time, we will be exonerated, hailed as heroic, even.”

                                      The excitement was contagious and Tara found herself sitting upright instead of slumped in despair.  “Let’s do it!”


                                        Finnley!” Like prodded the sleeping lump. “Finnley, stop pretending to be asleep!”

                                        Reluctantly Finnley rolled over, blinking in the glare of the torch Liz was shining at her, and came straight to the point.

                                        “You forgot, didn’t you?”

                                        “I did not forget!” Liz replied with a sniff. “If I’d forgotten I wouldn’t be here now, would I? Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to…” Liz started to sing.

                                        “It’s four thirty in the morning, for god’s sake Liz, get out of my bedroom! You forgot!”

                                        “You won’t be wanting your present then,” Liz flounced out of the room, slamming the door behind her.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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                                            The front door of Mr French had a certain Gothic quality to it which caught the eye of Star. She was a sucker for the glitz and the extravagant –the more garish, the better. Had she got her way, their office would be full of the cumbersome stuff. Catching the glint in Star’s green eyes, Tara rolled hers. She clanged the metal lion to signal their presence.

                                            A decrepit butler called off their ruckus after what seemed like a pause in eternity. They could hear the rambling from a distance behind the door. “I’m coming! No need for such noise! Ah, these youngs nowadays, not a shred of patience!…”

                                            “Are you sure about it Star? After all, the deposit check cleared, why should we be concerned about Mr French. And we still haven’t got much to go on about Uncle Basil…”

                                            “Shttt, let me handle it,” replied Star shaping her face into a genial one, oozing honey and butterflies.

                                            When the butler finally opened the door, he snapped her shut “We’re not interested in whatever… hem, services you’re offering Mesdames.”

                                            Tara caught Star’s hand mid-air, as it was about to fly and land square on the rude dried up mummy’s face in front of them.

                                            “Sir, you must have us confused. We’ve been hired a week ago by Mr French for a very private matter we cannot obviously discuss on the doorstep. Please check with Mr French, maybe?”

                                            The butler’s face turned sour. “Yes of course, I understand. Then you should know Mr French has been in a coma since his dreadful accident last month. Since you have a direct line to him, I suggest you… call him?” And with that, he slammed the door shut on their faces.

                                            “Rude!” Tara mouthed.

                                            “At least, that tells us something my dear.”

                                            “Don’t bait me like this. I’ll ask, what exactly?”

                                            “That our Mr French is not who he says he is…”

                                            “I wonder if it has something to do with the immense fortune he made with his voice…”

                                            “That would be a very interesting question to answer indeed.”

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