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      From Tanganyika with Love

      With thanks to Mike Rushby.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Much love my dear,
      your jubilant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Bless you all,

      S.S.Timavo. 6th. November 1930

      Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Eleanor Leslie.

      Eleanor and George Rushby:

      Eleanor and George Rushby

      Splendid Hotel, Dar es Salaam 11th November 1930

      Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Your cave woman

      Mchewe Estate. P.O. Mbeya 22 November 1930

      Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Much love to you all,

      Mchewe Estate 29th. November 1930

      Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Your loving

      Mchewe Estate. Mbeya. 8th December 1930

      Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Very much love,

      Mbeya 23rd December 1930

      Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

      26th December 1930

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

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

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

      Lots and lots of love,

      Mchewe Estate 8th Jan 1931

      Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Your loving,

      Mchewe Estate. 1st April 1931

      Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

      Very much love,

      Mchewe Estate 20th April 1931

      Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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


      Mchewe Estate. 20th May 1931

      Dear Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



        My Grandparents

        George Samuel Marshall 1903-1995

        Florence Noreen Warren (Nora) 1906-1988

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


          The Gladstone Connection

          My grandmother had said that we were distantly related to Gladstone the prime minister. Apparently Grandma’s mothers aunt had a neice that was related to him, or some combination of aunts and nieces on the Gretton side. I had not yet explored all the potential great grandmothers aunt’s nieces looking for this Gladstone connection, but I accidentally found a Gladstone on the tree on the Gretton side.

          I was wandering around randomly looking at the hints for other people that had my grandparents in their trees to see who they were and how they were connected, and noted a couple of photos of Orgills. Richard Gretton, grandma’s mother Florence Nightingale Gretton’s father,  married Sarah Orgill. Sarah’s brother John Orgill married Elizabeth Mary Gladstone. It was the photographs that caught my eye, but then I saw the Gladstone name, and that she was born in Liverpool. Her father was William Gladstone born 1809 in Liverpool, just like the prime minister. And his father was John Gladstone, just like the prime minister.

          But the William Gladstone in our family tree was a millwright, who emigrated to Australia with his wife and two children rather late in life at the age of 54, in 1863. He died three years later when he was thrown out of a cart in 1866. This was clearly not William Gladstone the prime minister.

          John Orgill emigrated to Australia in 1865, and married Elizabeth Mary Gladstone in Victoria in 1870. Their first child was born in December that year, in Dandenong. Their three sons all have the middle name Gladstone.

          John Orgill 1835-1911 (Florence Nightingale Gretton’s mothers brother)

          John Orgill

          Elizabeth Mary Gladstone 1845-1926

          Elizabeth Mary Gladstone


          I did not think that the link to Gladstone the prime minister was true, until I found an article in the Australian newspapers while researching the family of John Orgill for the Australia chapter.

          In the Letters to the Editor in The Argus, a Melbourne newspaper, dated 8 November 1921:



          Sir,—I notice to-day a reference to the
          death of Mr. Robert Gladstone, late of
          Wooltonvale. Liverpool, who, together
          with estate in England valued at £143,079,
          is reported to have left to his children
          (five sons and seven daughters) estate
          valued at £4,300 in Victoria. It may be
          of interest to some of your readers to
          know that this Robert Gladstone was a
          son of the Gladstone family to which
          the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone, the
          famous Prime Minister, belonged, some
          members of which are now resident in Aus-
          tralia. Robert Gladstone’s father (W. E.
          Gladstone’s cousin), Stuart Gladstone, of
          Liverpool, owned at one time the estates
          of Noorat and Glenormiston, in Victoria,
          to which he sent Neil Black as manager.
          Mr. Black, who afterwards acquired the
          property, called one of his sons “Stuart
          Gladstone” after his employer. A nephew
          of Stuart Gladstone (and cousin of
          Robert Gladstone, of Wooltonvale), Robert
          Cottingham, by name “Bobbie” came out
          to Australia to farm at Noorat, but was
          killed in a horse accident when only 21,
          and was the first to be buried in the new
          cemetery at Noorat. A brother, of “Bob-
          bie,” “Fred” by name, was well known
          in the early eighties as an overland
          drover, taking stock for C. B. Fisher to
          the far north. Later on he married and
          settled in Melbourne, but left during the
          depressing time following the bursting of
          the boom, to return to Queensland, where,
          in all probability, he still resides. A sister
          of “Bobbie” and “Fred” still lives in the
          neighbourhood of Melbourne. Their
          father, Montgomery Gladstone, who was in
          the diplomatic service, and travelled about
          a great deal, was a brother of Stuart Glad-
          stone, the owner of Noorat, and a full
          cousin of William Ewart Gladstone, his
          father, Robert, being a brother of W. E.
          Gladstone’s father, Sir John, of Liverpool.
          The wife of Robert Gladstone, of Woolton-
          vale, Ella Gladstone by name, was also
          his second cousin, being the daughter of
          Robertson Gladstone, of Courthaize, near
          Liverpool, W. E. Gladstone’s older
          A cousin of Sir John Gladstone
          (W. E. G.’s father), also called John, was
          a foundry owner in Castledouglas, and the
          inventor of the first suspension bridge, a
          model of which was made use of in the
          erection of the Menai Bridge connecting
          Anglesea with the mainland, and was after-
          wards presented to the Liverpool Stock
          Exchange by the inventor’s cousin, Sir
          John. One of the sons of this inventive
          engineer, William by name, left England
          in 1863 with his wife and son and daugh-
          ter, intending to settle in New Zealand,
          but owing to the unrest caused there by
          the Maori war, he came instead to Vic-
          toria, and bought land near Dandenong.
          Three years later he was killed in a horse
          accident, but his name is perpetuated in
          the name “Gladstone road” in Dandenong.
          His daughter afterwards married, and lived
          for many years in Gladstone House, Dande-
          nong, but is now widowed and settled in
          Gippsland. Her three sons and four daugh-
          ters are all married and perpetuating the
          Gladstone family in different parts of Aus-
          tralia. William’s son (also called Wil-
          liam), who came out with his father,
          mother, and sister in 1863 still lives in the
          Fix this textneighbourhood of Melbourne, with his son
          and grandson. An aunt of Sir John Glad-
          stone (W. E. G.’s father), Christina Glad-
          stone by name, married a Mr. Somerville,
          of Biggar. One of her great-grandchildren
          is Professor W. P. Paterson, of Edinburgh
          University, another is a professor in the
          West Australian University, and a third
          resides in Melbourne. Yours. &c.

          Melbourne, Nov.7, FAMILY TREE


          According to the Old Dandenong website:

          Elizabeth Mary Orgill (nee Gladstone) operated Gladstone House until at least 1911, along with another hydropathic hospital (Birthwood) on Cheltenham road. She was the daughter of William Gladstone (Nephew of William Ewart Gladstone, UK prime minister in 1874).”

          The story of the Orgill’s continues in the chapter on Australia.


            My Grandparents Kitchen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


              William Housley’s Will and the Court Case

              William Housley died in 1848, but his widow Ellen didn’t die until 1872.  The court case was in 1873.  Details about the court case are archived at the National Archives at Kew,  in London, but are not available online. They can be viewed in person, but that hasn’t been possible thus far.  However, there are a great many references to it in the letters.

              William Housley’s first wife was Mary Carrington 1787-1813.  They had three children, Mary Anne, Elizabeth and William. When Mary died, William married Mary’s sister Ellen, not in their own parish church at Smalley but in Ashbourne.  Although not uncommon for a widower to marry a deceased wife’s sister, it wasn’t legal.  This point is mentioned in one of the letters.

              One of the pages of William Housley’s will:

              William Housleys Will


              An excerpt from Barbara Housley’s Narrative on the Letters:

              A comment in a letter from Joseph (August 6, 1873) indicated that William was married twice and that his wives were sisters: “What do you think that I believe that Mary Ann is trying to make our father’s will of no account as she says that my father’s marriage with our mother was not lawful he marrying two sisters. What do you think of her? I have heard my mother say something about paying a fine at the time of the marriage to make it legal.” Markwell and Saul in The A-Z Guide to Tracing Ancestors in Britain explain that marriage to a deceased wife’s sister was not permissible under Canon law as the relationship was within the prohibited degrees. However, such marriages did take place–usually well away from the couple’s home area. Up to 1835 such marriages were not void but were voidable by legal action. Few such actions were instituted but the risk was always there.

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

              There were hard feelings between Mary Ann and Ellen and her children. Anne wrote: “If you remember we were not very friendly when you left. They never came and nothing was too bad for Mary Ann to say of Mother and me, but when Robert died Mother sent for her to the funeral but she did not think well to come so we took no more notice. She would not allow her children to come either.”
              Mary Ann was still living in May 1872. Joseph implied that she and her brother, Will “intend making a bit of bother about the settlement of the bit of property” left by their mother. The 1871 census listed Mary Ann’s occupation as “income from houses.”

              In July 1872, Joseph introduced Ruth’s husband: “No doubt he is a bad lot. He is one of the Heath’s of Stanley Common a miller and he lives at Smalley Mill” (Ruth Heath was Mary Anne Housley’s daughter)
              In 1873 Joseph wrote, “He is nothing but a land shark both Heath and his wife and his wife is the worst of the two. You will think these is hard words but they are true dear brother.” The solicitor, Abraham John Flint, was not at all pleased with Heath’s obstruction of the settlement of the estate. He wrote on June 30, 1873: “Heath agreed at first and then because I would not pay his expenses he refused and has since instructed another solicitor for his wife and Mrs. Weston who have been opposing us to the utmost. I am concerned for all parties interested except these two….The judge severely censured Heath for his conduct and wanted to make an order for sale there and then but Heath’s council would not consent….” In June 1875, the solicitor wrote: “Heath bid for the property but it fetched more money than he could give for it. He has been rather quieter lately.”

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

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

              Anne intended that one third of the inheritance coming to her from her father and her grandfather, William Carrington, be divided between her four nieces: Sam’s three daughters and John’s daughter Elizabeth.
              In the same letter (December 15, 1872), Joseph wrote:
              “I think we have now found all out now that is concerned in the matter for there was only Sam that we did not know his whereabouts but I was informed a week ago that he is dead–died about three years ago in Birmingham Union. Poor Sam. He ought to have come to a better end than that”

              However, Samuel was still alive was on the 1871 census in Henley in Arden, and no record of his death can be found. Samuel’s brother in law said he was dead: we do not know why he lied, or perhaps the brothers were lying to keep his share, or another possibility is that Samuel himself told his brother in law to tell them that he was dead. I am inclined to think it was the latter.

              Excerpts from Barbara Housley’s Narrative on the Letters continued:

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

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

              In the Adelaide Observer 28 Aug 1875

              HOUSLEY – wanted information
              as to the Death, Will, or Intestacy, and
              Children of Charles Housley, formerly of
              Smalley, Derbyshire, England, who died at
              Geelong or Creewick Creek Diggings, Victoria
              August, 1855. His children will hear of something to their advantage by communicating with
              Mr. A J. Flint, solicitor, Derby, England.
              June 16,1875.

              The Diggers & Diggings of Victoria in 1855. Drawn on Stone by S.T. Gill:

              Victoria Diggings, Australie


              The court case:

               Kerry v Housley.
              Documents: Bill, demurrer.
              Plaintiffs: Samuel Kerry and Joseph Housley.
              Defendants: William Housley, Joseph Housley (deleted), Edwin Welch Harvey, Eleanor Harvey (deleted), Ernest Harvey infant, William Stafford, Elizabeth Stafford his wife, Mary Ann Housley, George Purdy and Catherine Purdy his wife, Elizabeth Housley, Mary Ann Weston widow and William Heath and Ruth Heath his wife (deleted).
              Provincial solicitor employed in Derbyshire.
              Date: 1873

              From the Narrative on the Letters:

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

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

              In September 1872 Joseph wrote; “My wife is anxious to come. I hope it will suit her health for she is not over strong.” Elsewhere Joseph wrote that Harriet was “middling sometimes. She is subject to sick headaches. It knocks her up completely when they come on.” In December 1872 Joseph wrote, “Now dear brother about us coming to America you know we shall have to wait until this affair is settled and if it is not settled and thrown into Chancery I’m afraid we shall have to stay in England for I shall never be able to save money enough to bring me out and my family but I hope of better things.”
              On July 19, 1875 Abraham Flint (the solicitor) wrote: “Joseph Housley has removed from Smalley and is working on some new foundry buildings at Little Chester near Derby. He lives at a village called Little Eaton near Derby. If you address your letter to him as Joseph Housley, carpenter, Little Eaton near Derby that will no doubt find him.”

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

              Joseph’s letters were much concerned with the settling of their mother’s estate. In 1854, Anne wrote, “As for my mother coming (to America) I think not at all likely. She is tied here with her property.” A solicitor, Abraham John Flint of 42 Full Street Derby, was engaged by John following the death of their mother. On June 30, 1873 the solicitor wrote: “Dear sir, On the death of your mother I was consulted by your brother John. I acted for him with reference to the sale and division of your father’s property at Smalley. Mr. Kerry was very unwilling to act as trustee being over 73 years of age but owing to the will being a badly drawn one we could not appoint another trustee in his place nor could the property be sold without a decree of chancery. Therefore Mr. Kerry consented and after a great deal of trouble with Heath who has opposed us all throughout whenever matters did not suit him, we found the title deeds and offered the property for sale by public auction on the 15th of July last. Heath could not find his purchase money without mortaging his property the solicitor which the mortgagee employed refused to accept Mr. Kerry’s title and owing to another defect in the will we could not compel them.”

              In July 1872, Joseph wrote, “I do not know whether you can remember who the trustee was to my father’s will. It was Thomas Watson and Samuel Kerry of Smalley Green. Mr. Watson is dead (died a fortnight before mother) so Mr. Kerry has had to manage the affair.”

              On Dec. 15, 1972, Joseph wrote, “Now about this property affair. It seems as far off of being settled as ever it was….” and in the following March wrote: “I think we are as far off as ever and farther I think.”

              Concerning the property which was auctioned on July 15, 1872 and brought 700 pounds, Joseph wrote: “It was sold in five lots for building land and this man Heath bought up four lots–that is the big house, the croft and the cottages. The croft was made into two lots besides the piece belonging to the big house and the cottages and gardens was another lot and the little intake was another. William Richardson bought that.” Elsewhere Richardson’s purchase was described as “the little croft against Smith’s lane.” Smith’s Lane was probably named for their neighbor Daniel Smith, Mrs. Davy’s father.
              But in December 1872, Joseph wrote that they had not received any money because “Mr. Heath is raising all kinds of objections to the will–something being worded wrong in the will.” In March 1873, Joseph “clarified” matters in this way: “His objection was that one trustee could not convey the property that his signature was not guarantee sufficient as it states in the will that both trustees has to sign the conveyance hence this bother.”
              Joseph indicated that six shares were to come out of the 700 pounds besides Will’s 20 pounds. Children were to come in for the parents shares if dead. The solicitor wrote in 1873, “This of course refers to the Kidsley property in which you take a one seventh share and which if the property sells well may realize you about 60-80 pounds.” In March 1873 Joseph wrote: “You have an equal share with the rest in both lots of property, but I am afraid there will be but very little for any of us.”

              The other “lot of property” was “property in Smalley left under another will.” On July 17, 1872, Joseph wrote: “It was left by my grandfather Carrington and Uncle Richard is trustee. He seems very backward in bringing the property to a sale but I saw him and told him that I for one expect him to proceed with it.” George seemed to have difficulty understanding that there were two pieces of property so Joseph explained further: “It was left by my grandfather Carrington not by our father and Uncle Richard is the trustee for it but the will does not give him power to sell without the signatures of the parties concerned.” In June 1873 the solicitor Abraham John Flint asked: “Nothing has been done about the other property at Smalley at present. It wants attention and the other parties have asked me to attend to it. Do you authorize me to see to it for you as well?”
              After Ellen’s death, the rent was divided between Joseph, Will, Mary Ann and Mr. Heath who bought John’s share and was married to Mary Ann’s daughter, Ruth. Joseph said that Mr. Heath paid 40 pounds for John’s share and that John had drawn 110 pounds in advance. The solicitor said Heath said he paid 60. The solicitor said that Heath was trying to buy the shares of those at home to get control of the property and would have defied the absent ones to get anything.
              In September 1872 Joseph wrote that the lawyer said the trustee cannot sell the property at the bottom of Smalley without the signatures of all parties concerned in it and it will have to go through chancery court which will be a great expense. He advised Joseph to sell his share and Joseph advised George to do the same.

              George sent a “portrait” so that it could be established that it was really him–still living and due a share. Joseph wrote (July 1872): “the trustee was quite willing to (acknowledge you) for the portrait I think is a very good one.” Several letters later in response to an inquiry from George, Joseph wrote: “The trustee recognized you in a minute…I have not shown it to Mary Ann for we are not on good terms….Parties that I have shown it to own you again but they say it is a deal like John. It is something like him, but I think is more like myself.”
              In September 1872 Joseph wrote that the lawyer required all of their ages and they would have to pay “succession duty”. Joseph requested that George send a list of birth dates.

              On May 23, 1874, the solicitor wrote: “I have been offered 240 pounds for the three cottages and the little house. They sold for 200 pounds at the last sale and then I was offered 700 pounds for the whole lot except Richardson’s Heanor piece for which he is still willing to give 58 pounds. Thus you see that the value of the estate has very materially increased since the last sale so that this delay has been beneficial to your interests than other-wise. Coal has become much dearer and they suppose there is coal under this estate. There are many enquiries about it and I believe it will realize 800 pounds or more which increase will more than cover all expenses.” Eventually the solicitor wrote that the property had been sold for 916 pounds and George would take a one-ninth share.

              January 14, 1876:  “I am very sorry to hear of your lameness and illness but I trust that you are now better. This matter as I informed you had to stand over until December since when all the costs and expenses have been taxed and passed by the court and I am expecting to receive the order for these this next week, then we have to pay the legacy duty and them divide the residue which I doubt won’t come to very much amongst so many of you. But you will hear from me towards the end of the month or early next month when I shall have to send you the papers to sign for your share. I can’t tell you how much it will be at present as I shall have to deduct your share with the others of the first sale made of the property before it went to court.
              Wishing you a Happy New Year, I am Dear Sir, Yours truly
              Abram J. Flint”

              September 15, 1876 (the last letter)
              “I duly received your power of attorney which appears to have been properly executed on Thursday last and I sent it on to my London agent, Mr. Henry Lyvell, who happens just now to be away for his annual vacation and will not return for 14 or 20 days and as his signature is required by the Paymaster General before he will pay out your share, it must consequently stand over and await his return home. It shall however receive immediate attention as soon as he returns and I hope to be able to send your checque for the balance very shortly.”

              1874 in chancery:

              Housley Estate Sale


                Looking for Photographs

                I appreciate how fortunate I am that there are so many family photographs on various sides of the family, however, on some sides, for example the Warrens and the Grettons, there are no photographs. I’d love to find a photograph of my great grandmother Florence Nightingale Gretton, as she is the only great grandparent I don’t have a photo of.

                I look on other people’s family trees on ancestry websites, and I join local town memories and old photos groups on facebook hoping to find photos. And I have found a few, and what a prize it is to find a photograph of someone in your tree.  None found so far of Florence Nightingale Gretton, although I found one of her sister Clara, her brother Charles, and another potential one, posted on a Swadlincote group: a Warren wedding group in 1910.

                Charles Herbert Gretton 1876-1954 and his wife Mary Ann Illsley:

                Charles Gretton


                The wedding of Robert Adolphus Warren and Eveline Crofts.  Photo in the collection of Colin Smith, Eveline Crofts first cousin twice removed. Reposted with permission:

                Warren wedding 1910

                The groom was Florence’s husbands cousin, but identifying my great grandparents in the crowd would be guesswork.  My grandmother was born in 1906, and could be one of the children sitting at the front.  It was an interesting exercise to note the family likenesses.

                Ben Warren the footballer is the man on the far right, on the same line as the groom. His children are sitting in front of the bride.

                There are many mentions of Ben Warren the footballer on the Newhall and Swadlincote groups ~ Ben Warren was my great grandfathers cousin, and is a story in itself ~ and a photograph of Ben’s daughter, Lillian Warren was posted.

                Lillian Warren (reposted with permission)

                Lillian Warren


                Lillian was my grandmothers first cousin once removed or second cousin. The resemblance to my grandmother, Florence Noreen Warren, seems striking.


                  Border Straddlers of The Midlands

                  It has become obvious while doing my family tree that I come from a long line of border straddlers.  We seem to like to live right on the edge of a county, sometimes living on one side of the border, sometimes on the other.  What this means is that for every record search, one must do separate searches in both counties.

                  The Purdy’s and Housley’s of Eastwood and Smalley are on the Derbyshire Nottinghamshire border.   The Brookes in Sutton Coldfield are on the Staffordshire Warwickshire border.  The Malkins of Ellastone and Ashbourne are on the Staffordshire Derbyshire border, as are the Grettons and Warrens of Burton Upon Trent. The Warrens and Grettons of  Swadlincote are also on the Leicestershire border, and cross over into Ashby de la Zouch.

                  I noticed while doing the family research during the covid restrictions that I am a border straddler too.  My village is half in Cadiz province and half in Malaga, and if I turn right on my morning walk along the dirt roads, I cross the town boundary into Castellar, and if I turn left, I cross into San Roque.  Not to mention at the southern tip of Spain, I’m on the edge of Europe as well.

                  More recent generations of the family have emigrated to Canada, USA, South Africa, Australia, and Spain, but researching further back, the family on all sides seems to have stuck to the midlands, like a dart board in the middle of England, the majority in Derbyshire, although there is one family story of Scottish blood.


                  “Not so fast!” Glor muttered grimly, grabbing a flapping retreating arm of each of her friends, and yanking them to her sides. “Now’s our chance. It’s a trap, dontcha see? They got the wind up, and they’re gonna round us all up, it don’t bear thinking about what they’ll do next!”

                  With her free hand Mavis felt Gloria’s forehead, her palm slipping unpleasantly over the feverish salty slick.  “Her’s deplirious, Sha, not right in the ‘ead, the ‘eat’s got to her.  Solar over dose or whatever they call it nowadays.”

                  “My life depends on going to the bloody assembly hall, Glor, let go of my arm before I give yer a Glasgow kiss,” Sharon hissed, ignoring Mavis.

                  “I’m trying to save you!” screeched Gloria, her head exploding in exasperation.  She took a deep breath.  Told herself to stop screeching like that, wasn’t helping her cause.  Should she just let go of Sharon’s arm?

                  Mavis started trying to take the pulse on Glor’s restraining wrists, provoking Gloria beyond endurance, and she lashed out and slapped Mavis’s free hand away, unintentionally freeing Sharon from her grasp.  This further upset the balance and Gloria tumbled into Mavis at the moment of slapping her hand, causing a considerably more forceful manoeuvre than was intended.

                  Sharon didn’t hesitate to defend Mavis from the apparently deranged attack, and dived on to Gloria, pinning her arms behind her back.

                  Mavis scrambled to her feet and backed away slowly, nursing her hand, wide eyed and slack jawed in astonishment.

                  Where was this going?


                  I hope all this social media as they call it stands the test of time because little things like this are priceless and so few and far between, and someday someone wants to know a little thing like this to paint a picture in their mind.  I don’t know if this is one of ours as they say but but he was there too and could even have been one of you or another one of me, the possibilities are endless and the charm of the random snippet is boundless.

                  “The gallery stairs were honeycombed on
                  each side by old Jonathan Beniston’s spiked
                  crutches, and although Jonathan could not
                  read, he considered himself a valuable
                  addition to the choir, contributing a sort of
                  drone bass accompaniment to the melodies. after the style of a bagpipe ” chanter.”

                  Here’s another one I want to include in my book:

                  Mr. Joseph Moss, formerly a framework knitter of Woodhouse Lane, for several years kept a Diary of the principal events and incidents in the locality: a most commendable undertaking. It is much to be regretted that so few attempt anything of the kind, so useful, and always interest- ing. Besides the registration of marriages and funerals, we have notices of storms, removals, accidents, sales, robberies, police captures, festivities, re-openings of churches, and many other matters. His record begins in 1855, ^^d ends in 1881, Mr. Moss was a violinist of some ability, and was in great demand at all rural festivities. He was a good singer, and sang (inter alia) ” The Beggar’s Ramble ” with his own local variations^ in good style, and usually with much eclat. The following are a few extracts from his Diary : —

                  ” — July. Restoration of Horsley Church. New weathercock placed on spire by Charles, son of Mr. Anthony Kerry, the builder, on the 31st. A few days later, the south arches of the nave fell down, bringing with it the roofs of nave and south aisle. The pillar next the tower had been under- mined by the making of a grave, and as soon as the gravestone over it was moved the column began to settle : a loud shout was made, and the workmen had only just time to scamper out of the building before the roof and top windows and all came down.”


                  Truth be told, April was missing the US. She missed all their little coterie of maids living in the shadows of the powerful. Missed the drama most of all.

                  She’d been secretly texting Norma and May, while June was lazily sipping mojitos with Jacqui.
                  Norma was fine, but May and the other alien staff had suddenly disappeared when the Secret Services had started to investigate more deeply into the staff’s backgrounds after all the kidnapping fiasco. At least, August had been covering for Norma, such kind soul he was. Besides, the President’s wife could no longer live without her butter chicken. But May and the others couldn’t face the music apparently. Funnily, they couldn’t find “real” American maids nowadays suited to replace them. Good luck with that!

                  April couldn’t tell June, obviously, since her friend harboured such hatred for the system that had them put in jail. As for herself, she couldn’t argue with the fact they’d deserved it. Nothing a good lawyer couldn’t fix though. That’s why she loved the idea of America. Guilty as charged, indeed. Those charges now vanished.

                  She’d thought first that it would fuel her inspiration nicely, but it was the opposite. The sudden extra time had distracted her entirely, and her inspiration seemed inaccessible.

                  She was starting to make up her mind. She would go back, to her family in Arkansas. That could only be temporary of course, as her mother, bless her soul, would start to have her meet all the gents in the neighbourhood in the hopes to finally get her only daughter married. Talk about drama. If that doesn’t kick-start her inspiration engine, nothing would.

                  Problem was, with the virus around spreading mass panic, there seemed to be no sure way to fly back. She would have to devise some circuitous plan.


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

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

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

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

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

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

                  April’s face turned to shock at the mention.


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

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

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

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

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

                  “Wait, what?”

                  “Why are you never paying attention?”

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

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

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

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

                  “Maybe you’re a natural” Godfrey ventured.

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


                    “What do you think about that last one?” Miss Bossy handed the scribblings to Ricardo.

                    “Mmm, it might be a hit. Sophie’s remote viewing has been right on spot even if odder and odder. I guess it fits with the intent of our… I mean your newspaper, doesn’t it?”

                    Miss Bossy glanced at Ricardo sideways, and adjusted her corsage with an élan of coquetterie she found very French, even for her repressed tastes. “You should get on it then, Ric’.”

                    Ricardo looked surprised. Was it the recognition he was waiting for all these past months working hard behind the scenes. Not a promotion yet but… Or maybe, just because the usual writers Connie & Hilda weren’t around, off to somewhere only they had the secret.

                    “Still, you must admit, investigating an alcohol made of rillettes does sound rather ludicrous, even for this newspaper, or even for Sweet Sophie.”

                    “There might be more to cover, a tree hiding a forest. Besides, she was right about the reptiles falling in Miami during the cold snap! We missed that story… If only we’d jumped on it right away!”

                    “What else you need? I told you to get on with it, chop chop!”

                    “Maybe a promotion?…” he added tentatively.

                    “You’re already staff writer by default dear…”

                    “A raise then?”

                    “Don’t push you luck. And you’ll book those tickets to Chickasaw, Alabama in charter. We’re not rolling in the dough, like the Yanks say.”


                    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

                    “You are so bloody childish, Tara” said Star. She slammed her cup of coffee on the desk so that it slopped over the sides.  “Damn,” she said, wiping it up with her sleeve.

                    “It was my idea and you’ve just taken over. The way you always do.”

                    “Your idea? What are you? Three years old?”

                    With dignity, Tara rose. She closed her laptop, straightened it on the desk so it ran parallel to the sides, and, using a cloth made for that very purpose, dusted it. “I’m going out for some fresh air. ”

                    “Well you won’t find it round here. It’s worse than China they said on the news today. Oh, OKAY, Tara. DON’T GO. The business was your idea and I promise I won’t treat you like a secretary. Happy?”

                    Tara smiled sweetly. “That’s all I need to hear.” She rubbed her hands together. “Right, time to find Uncle Basil. Last night I had a dream…”

                    “Ooooh, do tell, Was Mr Sexy voice in it?”

                    “No, but Uncle Basil was. And he said, cold snap and falling reptiles.”

                    Star furrowed her brow. “Okay, well … we shouldn’t discount anything at this stage.”

                    “It’s bound to be a clue. Speaking of secretaries … I have a niece, Rosamund. She a bit rough around the edges but I’m sure she could answer phones and make our coffee.”

                    “Great idea, Tara! As usual. Get her to come in and do a trial.”


                      “That trip of yours was surprisingly, or must I say, suspiciously long…” Lucinda gave them both a long glance full of innuendos, and added in case those were missed “where you on a honeymoon or something?”

                      Shawn-Paul blushed to a shade of violent violet cramoisi, while Maeve just snatched her dog’s leash that Lucinda was handing her back rather nonchalantly.

                      “Oh, you, will you just wipe the snark from your face, it’s making you look ten years older Luce. It wasn’t really a holiday if you must know everything.” She elbowed Shawn-Paul, who was looking vacantly at the tip of his shoes. “Why don’t you tell her?”

                      “Why don’t you tell her?” he replied automatically.

                      “It’s just been 6 months! Why do you make such a fuss about it?”

                      “I’m not making a fuss, look who’s cranky! I can see you are venting your spleen on me after a sleepless night in the plane…”

                      “Haha, yes”, Maeve admitted with a nervous chuckle. “The only thing that matters is we managed to collect the dolls and the keys, just don’t ask me how.”

                      “You know I’ll ask.”

                      “Yes, I know. Just… don’t.”

                      “Fair enough. But it might be tough for me not to ask. I may forget… Besides, I must ask, do you have a secret benefactor that’s funding you all this time? Fabio’s kibble didn’t come free you know, you left me with barely enough for a week!”

                      “Oh really? Dog’s kibble now? Let me make you a check right now.”

                      “I think you need a good night of sleep.” Lucinda winked at Shawn-Paul, “him too. And we’ll talk later. I have tons of things to update you about my theater writing group. You might help me with the continuity bits… Waaa, calm down, no pressure!”


                        Not knowing what to do with the powder, Jerk pondered for a moment, then recalled a tradition from India that he’d seen on a documentary or in a magazine; taking the blue sand, he started to pour it on the ground to draw a rangoli in the shape of a feather. He clearly wasn’t very experienced at sandpainting, and the drawing looked more like a stick in an old worn sock, but he was glad that it could illuminate somehow the bland and cold fake marble at the entrance of the mall.


                        Granola was starting to get anxious in her red crystal. It wasn’t very comfortable. She thought she could just adjust her mental size to make it more spacious, but it was automatically adjusting. She was starting to feel desperate when she noticed a blue thing with the shape of a deflated condom glowing on one of the sides of the crystal.
                        The imprint of a magical act of grace she could hear vibrating. The vibration was slow and steady. She could guess she needed two, or maybe three, more of these symbols to resonate properly and break the crystal open.


                        Gloria stared at Sharon accusingly. “You aint, ‘ave yer? Well that’s gorn and blown it. You’re too fat for us to carry. If you fall asleep we’ll ‘afta leave you ‘ere.”

                        “We can’t leave ‘er ‘ere, you daft cow,” said Mavis. “Lucky for ‘er, I got a bit of summat wot’ll ‘elp.”

                        “I’ll ‘ave you know I lost a pound last week,” retorted Sharon, taking umbrage at the reference to her weight.

                        Gloria cast a critical eye at Sharon’s thighs spilling out of the sides of the rocking chair and replied, “Yes, but you found it again in the meantime. But never mind that, whatcha got there, our Mavis?”

                        Ooh, is that something from the doctor?” asked Sharon, eyeing the little packet of blue powder that Mavis was carefully pouring into a little heap on the glass topped coffee table. Gloria tittered and glanced at Mavis, who merely rolled her eyes.

                        “It aint all for ‘er, though is it?” Gloria faked a loud yawn. “I need waking up a bit myself.”

                        “Don’t be daft,” Mavis reminded her. “But Sha’ can have double to counteract the effects of that sleeping stuff in the water supply.”


                        “Look” Fox said to Glynis, not a little proud of his accomplishment.

                        The frame now hanged above the missing toilet seat was already giving the privy a little more cosy look. Of course, the smell of the room with the open hole was still making his nose wrinkle inwards, but the framed dried roses were a nice touch.
                        He was particularly happy about the clever no-nail solution he’d found. Crushing together two spiky caterpillars and sticking them at both sides of the back of the frame — it kept the frame stuck nicely, and it could be re-positioned and readjusted to be perfectly level.

                        Lost in admiration of his work, he was dragged out of his thoughts by a thunderous sneeze.

                        “Good flovious! That flu looks nasty Glynis, you should get some rest, dear.”

                        Glynis almost rip-snotted her kerchief in half while blowing her nose.

                        “But who will do all the cleaning?” she asked plaintively.


                        The day was young, and Mandrake was enjoying playing the cat in the Inn.
                        Besides the benefit of unrepentant naps, what best way to be undercover in a dimension where talking cats where unheard of. His boots had been a subject for a casual chat during the breakfast, but he managed to get away with them, thanks to Arona’s quick wits who had explained he had sensitive paws.
                        Some of the other guests at the Inn were a bit curious though, too curious.
                        He’d almost jumped to rip his face off, when the Canadian guy asked whether it wouldn’t be best to have him neutered. Luckily, years of dealing with humans and dragons had left him with a patience for these types of shenanigans, even tolerating a pat or two on the head.

                        The maid-who-wasn’t-a-maid was another story, she seemed to fear him, and chased him with a broom when he was wandering in the morning, looking for clues as to the key.
                        While he was napping in a corner of the main hall on a dusted shelf near a silly looking fish, he had spotted a suspicious old man who had sneaked in and had done some business in a locked hangar before leaving. Maybe the man knew about the three words engraved on Arona’s key.



                        It all started to feel insanely crowded and agitated in the Inn, it took me a while to check whether I was tripping on some illegal substance.

                        Truth was, the funny chicken was doing alright until Finly and Idle came back in a hurry, tried to make me puke and feed me charcoals, as if I’d been poisoned or something.
                        I overheard Aunt Dodo when she shouted at poor Finly “why would you put my stash with the lizard leftovers! It’s me-di-cine you old cow, not some bloody herb seasoning!”
                        Finly looked indignant, but she knew better than to argue. Besides, I’m sure her face was speaking volumes, something in the tune of “with the bloody mess of your stuff all over the place, why do you think?” Sure, there was some other profanities hidden in the wrinkles of her sweet face, but she would leave that to Mater to spell them out.

                        Anyways, I just maybe feeling juuust a little funny, but with years of bush food regimen behind me, my liver is surely strong as an ox and pumping all the stuff out of my system like a workhorse.

                        So, yeah, I was maybe tripping a little. So many new people came in at the same time, it felt like a flashmob. They were probably real and not just hallucinations, since Dido dashed out to greet some of them.

                        I went upstairs and spied on them from there. I’m making also a list, mostly for Aunt Dodo, because if her heart is in the right place, her brain probably isn’t (or it’s a tight one).

                        So there, I wrote on a yellow sticky note:

                        Dido, if you're paying attention, here are the guests at this moment:
                        - Not counting PRUNE, and DEVAN who just texted me he's coming!!
                        - A jeep-full of loonies: A GIRL with red and white track pants and a
                        hijjab, a black CAT and a GECKO (wait, you can forget about the gecko),
                        a weirdo GUY in a fancy ruffle shirt and a little redhair BOY.
                        TIKU is here too, helping FINLY in the kitchen.
                        - Your old friend HILDA, and her colleague CONNIE
                        - Two townfolks Canadian tourists who argue like an old couple, but I don't
                        think they are, MAYV(?) and SANPELL(?) (sorry, couldn't catch their names
                        with their funny accent)

                        I guess breakfast is going to be lively tomorrow…

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