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    TracyTracy
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    From Tanganyika with Love

    continued part 8

    With thanks to Mike Rushby.

    Morogoro 20th January 1941

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

    Eleanor.

    Morogoro 30th July 1941

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

    Eleanor.

    Morogoro 26th August 1941

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

    Eleanor.

    Morogoro 25th December 1941

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

    Eleanor.

    Morogoro Hospital 30th September 1943

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

    Eleanor.

    Morogoro 26th January 1944

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

    Eleanor.

    Lyamungu 20th March 1944

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

    Eleanor.

    Lyamungu 15th May 1944

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Eleanor.

    Lyamungu 18th July 1944

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

    Eleanor.

    Lyamungu 16th August 1944

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

    Eleanor.

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

    Dearest Mummy,

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

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

    Very much love,
    Eleanor.

    Safari in Masailand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Lyamungu 10th November. 1944

    Dearest Family.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Much love,
    Eleanor.

     

    #6264
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    From Tanganyika with Love

    continued  ~ part 5

    With thanks to Mike Rushby.

    Chunya 16th December 1936

    Dearest Family,

    Since last I wrote I have visited Chunya and met several of the diggers wives.
    On the whole I have been greatly disappointed because there is nothing very colourful
    about either township or women. I suppose I was really expecting something more like
    the goldrush towns and women I have so often seen on the cinema screen.
    Chunya consists of just the usual sun-dried brick Indian shops though there are
    one or two double storied buildings. Most of the life in the place centres on the
    Goldfields Hotel but we did not call there. From the store opposite I could hear sounds
    of revelry though it was very early in the afternoon. I saw only one sight which was quite
    new to me, some elegantly dressed African women, with high heels and lipsticked
    mouths teetered by on their way to the silk store. “Native Tarts,” said George in answer
    to my enquiry.

    Several women have called on me and when I say ‘called’ I mean called. I have
    grown so used to going without stockings and wearing home made dresses that it was
    quite a shock to me to entertain these ladies dressed to the nines in smart frocks, silk
    stockings and high heeled shoes, handbags, makeup and whatnot. I feel like some
    female Rip van Winkle. Most of the women have a smart line in conversation and their
    talk and views on life would make your nice straight hair curl Mummy. They make me feel
    very unsophisticated and dowdy but George says he has a weakness for such types
    and I am to stay exactly as I am. I still do not use any makeup. George says ‘It’s all right
    for them. They need it poor things, you don’t.” Which, though flattering, is hardly true.
    I prefer the men visitors, though they also are quite unlike what I had expected
    diggers to be. Those whom George brings home are all well educated and well
    groomed and I enjoy listening to their discussion of the world situation, sport and books.
    They are extremely polite to me and gentle with the children though I believe that after a
    few drinks at the pub tempers often run high. There were great arguments on the night
    following the abdication of Edward VIII. Not that the diggers were particularly attached to
    him as a person, but these men are all great individualists and believe in freedom of
    choice. George, rather to my surprise, strongly supported Edward. I did not.

    Many of the diggers have wireless sets and so we keep up to date with the
    news. I seldom leave camp. I have my hands full with the three children during the day
    and, even though Janey is a reliable ayah, I would not care to leave the children at night
    in these grass roofed huts. Having experienced that fire on the farm, I know just how
    unlikely it would be that the children would be rescued in time in case of fire. The other
    women on the diggings think I’m crazy. They leave their children almost entirely to ayahs
    and I must confess that the children I have seen look very well and happy. The thing is
    that I simply would not enjoy parties at the hotel or club, miles away from the children
    and I much prefer to stay at home with a book.

    I love hearing all about the parties from George who likes an occasional ‘boose
    up’ with the boys and is terribly popular with everyone – not only the British but with the
    Germans, Scandinavians and even the Afrikaans types. One Afrikaans woman said “Jou
    man is ‘n man, al is hy ‘n Engelsman.” Another more sophisticated woman said, “George
    is a handsome devil. Aren’t you scared to let him run around on his own?” – but I’m not. I
    usually wait up for George with sandwiches and something hot to drink and that way I
    get all the news red hot.

    There is very little gold coming in. The rains have just started and digging is
    temporarily at a standstill. It is too wet for dry blowing and not yet enough water for
    panning and sluicing. As this camp is some considerable distance from the claims, all I see of the process is the weighing of the daily taking of gold dust and tiny nuggets.
    Unless our luck changes I do not think we will stay on here after John Molteno returns.
    George does not care for the life and prefers a more constructive occupation.
    Ann and young George still search optimistically for gold. We were all saddened
    last week by the death of Fanny, our bull terrier. She went down to the shopping centre
    with us and we were standing on the verandah of a store when a lorry passed with its
    canvas cover flapping. This excited Fanny who rushed out into the street and the back
    wheel of the lorry passed right over her, killing her instantly. Ann was very shocked so I
    soothed her by telling her that Fanny had gone to Heaven. When I went to bed that
    night I found Ann still awake and she asked anxiously, “Mummy, do you think God
    remembered to give Fanny her bone tonight?”

    Much love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Itewe, Chunya 23rd December 1936

    Dearest Family,

    Your Christmas parcel arrived this morning. Thank you very much for all the
    clothing for all of us and for the lovely toys for the children. George means to go hunting
    for a young buffalo this afternoon so that we will have some fresh beef for Christmas for
    ourselves and our boys and enough for friends too.

    I had a fright this morning. Ann and Georgie were, as usual, searching for gold
    whilst I sat sewing in the living room with Kate toddling around. She wandered through
    the curtained doorway into the store and I heard her playing with the paraffin pump. At
    first it did not bother me because I knew the tin was empty but after ten minutes or so I
    became irritated by the noise and went to stop her. Imagine my horror when I drew the
    curtain aside and saw my fat little toddler fiddling happily with the pump whilst, curled up
    behind the tin and clearly visible to me lay the largest puffadder I have ever seen.
    Luckily I acted instinctively and scooped Kate up from behind and darted back into the
    living room without disturbing the snake. The houseboy and cook rushed in with sticks
    and killed the snake and then turned the whole storeroom upside down to make sure
    there were no more.

    I have met some more picturesque characters since I last wrote. One is a man
    called Bishop whom George has known for many years having first met him in the
    Congo. I believe he was originally a sailor but for many years he has wandered around
    Central Africa trying his hand at trading, prospecting, a bit of elephant hunting and ivory
    poaching. He is now keeping himself by doing ‘Sign Writing”. Bish is a gentle and
    dignified personality. When we visited his camp he carefully dusted a seat for me and
    called me ‘Marm’, quite ye olde world. The only thing is he did spit.

    Another spitter is the Frenchman in a neighbouring camp. He is in bed with bad
    rheumatism and George has been going across twice a day to help him and cheer him
    up. Once when George was out on the claim I went across to the Frenchman’s camp in
    response to an SOS, but I think he was just lonely. He showed me snapshots of his
    two daughters, lovely girls and extremely smart, and he chatted away telling me his life
    history. He punctuated his remarks by spitting to right and left of the bed, everywhere in
    fact, except actually at me.

    George took me and the children to visit a couple called Bert and Hilda Farham.
    They have a small gold reef which is worked by a very ‘Heath Robinson’ type of
    machinery designed and erected by Bert who is reputed to be a clever engineer though
    eccentric. He is rather a handsome man who always looks very spruce and neat and
    wears a Captain Kettle beard. Hilda is from Johannesburg and quite a character. She
    has a most generous figure and literally masses of beetroot red hair, but she also has a
    warm deep voice and a most generous disposition. The Farhams have built
    themselves a more permanent camp than most. They have a brick cottage with proper
    doors and windows and have made it attractive with furniture contrived from petrol
    boxes. They have no children but Hilda lavishes a great deal of affection on a pet
    monkey. Sometimes they do quite well out of their gold and then they have a terrific
    celebration at the Club or Pub and Hilda has an orgy of shopping. At other times they
    are completely broke but Hilda takes disasters as well as triumphs all in her stride. She
    says, “My dear, when we’re broke we just live on tea and cigarettes.”

    I have met a young woman whom I would like as a friend. She has a dear little
    baby, but unfortunately she has a very wet husband who is also a dreadful bore. I can’t
    imagine George taking me to their camp very often. When they came to visit us George
    just sat and smoked and said,”Oh really?” to any remark this man made until I felt quite
    hysterical. George looks very young and fit and the children are lively and well too. I ,
    however, am definitely showing signs of wear and tear though George says,
    “Nonsense, to me you look the same as you always did.” This I may say, I do not
    regard as a compliment to the young Eleanor.

    Anyway, even though our future looks somewhat unsettled, we are all together
    and very happy.

    With love,
    Eleanor.

    Itewe, Chunya 30th December 1936

    Dearest Family,

    We had a very cheery Christmas. The children loved the toys and are so proud
    of their new clothes. They wore them when we went to Christmas lunch to the
    Cresswell-Georges. The C-Gs have been doing pretty well lately and they have a
    comfortable brick house and a large wireless set. The living room was gaily decorated
    with bought garlands and streamers and balloons. We had an excellent lunch cooked by
    our ex cook Abel who now works for the Cresswell-Georges. We had turkey with
    trimmings and plum pudding followed by nuts and raisons and chocolates and sweets
    galore. There was also a large variety of drinks including champagne!

    There were presents for all of us and, in addition, Georgie and Ann each got a
    large tin of chocolates. Kate was much admired. She was a picture in her new party frock
    with her bright hair and rosy cheeks. There were other guests beside ourselves and
    they were already there having drinks when we arrived. Someone said “What a lovely
    child!” “Yes” said George with pride, “She’s a Marie Stopes baby.” “Truby King!” said I
    quickly and firmly, but too late to stop the roar of laughter.

    Our children played amicably with the C-G’s three, but young George was
    unusually quiet and surprised me by bringing me his unopened tin of chocolates to keep
    for him. Normally he is a glutton for sweets. I might have guessed he was sickening for
    something. That night he vomited and had diarrhoea and has had an upset tummy and a
    slight temperature ever since.

    Janey is also ill. She says she has malaria and has taken to her bed. I am dosing
    her with quinine and hope she will soon be better as I badly need her help. Not only is
    young George off his food and peevish but Kate has a cold and Ann sore eyes and
    they all want love and attention. To complicate things it has been raining heavily and I
    must entertain the children indoors.

    Eleanor.

    Itewe, Chunya 19th January 1937

    Dearest Family,

    So sorry I have not written before but we have been in the wars and I have had neither
    the time nor the heart to write. However the worst is now over. Young George and
    Janey are both recovering from Typhoid Fever. The doctor had Janey moved to the
    native hospital at Chunya but I nursed young George here in the camp.

    As I told you young George’s tummy trouble started on Christmas day. At first I
    thought it was only a protracted bilious attack due to eating too much unaccustomed rich
    food and treated him accordingly but when his temperature persisted I thought that the
    trouble might be malaria and kept him in bed and increased the daily dose of quinine.
    He ate less and less as the days passed and on New Years Day he seemed very
    weak and his stomach tender to the touch.

    George fetched the doctor who examined small George and said he had a very
    large liver due no doubt to malaria. He gave the child injections of emertine and quinine
    and told me to give young George frequent and copious drinks of water and bi-carb of
    soda. This was more easily said than done. Young George refused to drink this mixture
    and vomited up the lime juice and water the doctor had suggested as an alternative.
    The doctor called every day and gave George further injections and advised me
    to give him frequent sips of water from a spoon. After three days the child was very
    weak and weepy but Dr Spiers still thought he had malaria. During those anxious days I
    also worried about Janey who appeared to be getting worse rather that better and on
    January the 3rd I asked the doctor to look at her. The next thing I knew, the doctor had
    put Janey in his car and driven her off to hospital. When he called next morning he
    looked very grave and said he wished to talk to my husband. I said that George was out
    on the claim but if what he wished to say concerned young George’s condition he might
    just as well tell me.

    With a good deal of reluctance Dr Spiers then told me that Janey showed all the
    symptoms of Typhoid Fever and that he was very much afraid that young George had
    contracted it from her. He added that George should be taken to the Mbeya Hospital
    where he could have the professional nursing so necessary in typhoid cases. I said “Oh
    no,I’d never allow that. The child had never been away from his family before and it
    would frighten him to death to be sick and alone amongst strangers.” Also I was sure that
    the fifty mile drive over the mountains in his weak condition would harm him more than
    my amateur nursing would. The doctor returned to the camp that afternoon to urge
    George to send our son to hospital but George staunchly supported my argument that
    young George would stand a much better chance of recovery if we nursed him at home.
    I must say Dr Spiers took our refusal very well and gave young George every attention
    coming twice a day to see him.

    For some days the child was very ill. He could not keep down any food or liquid
    in any quantity so all day long, and when he woke at night, I gave him a few drops of
    water at a time from a teaspoon. His only nourishment came from sucking Macintosh’s
    toffees. Young George sweated copiously especially at night when it was difficult to
    change his clothes and sponge him in the draughty room with the rain teeming down
    outside. I think I told you that the bedroom is a sort of shed with only openings in the wall
    for windows and doors, and with one wall built only a couple of feet high leaving a six
    foot gap for air and light. The roof leaked and the damp air blew in but somehow young
    George pulled through.

    Only when he was really on the mend did the doctor tell us that whilst he had
    been attending George, he had also been called in to attend to another little boy of the same age who also had typhoid. He had been called in too late and the other little boy,
    an only child, had died. Young George, thank God, is convalescent now, though still on a
    milk diet. He is cheerful enough when he has company but very peevish when left
    alone. Poor little lad, he is all hair, eyes, and teeth, or as Ann says” Georgie is all ribs ribs
    now-a-days Mummy.” He shares my room, Ann and Kate are together in the little room.
    Anyway the doctor says he should be up and around in about a week or ten days time.
    We were all inoculated against typhoid on the day the doctor made the diagnosis
    so it is unlikely that any of us will develop it. Dr Spiers was most impressed by Ann’s
    unconcern when she was inoculated. She looks gentle and timid but has always been
    very brave. Funny thing when young George was very ill he used to wail if I left the
    room, but now that he is convalescent he greatly prefers his dad’s company. So now I
    have been able to take the girls for walks in the late afternoons whilst big George
    entertains small George. This he does with the minimum of effort, either he gets out
    cartons of ammunition with which young George builds endless forts, or else he just sits
    beside the bed and cleans one of his guns whilst small George watches with absorbed
    attention.

    The Doctor tells us that Janey is also now convalescent. He says that exhusband
    Abel has been most attentive and appeared daily at the hospital with a tray of
    food that made his, the doctor’s, mouth water. All I dare say, pinched from Mrs
    Cresswell-George.

    I’ll write again soon. Lots of love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Chunya 29th January 1937

    Dearest Family,

    Georgie is up and about but still tires very easily. At first his legs were so weak
    that George used to carry him around on his shoulders. The doctor says that what the
    child really needs is a long holiday out of the Tropics so that Mrs Thomas’ offer, to pay all
    our fares to Cape Town as well as lending us her seaside cottage for a month, came as
    a Godsend. Luckily my passport is in order. When George was in Mbeya he booked
    seats for the children and me on the first available plane. We will fly to Broken Hill and go
    on to Cape Town from there by train.

    Ann and George are wildly thrilled at the idea of flying but I am not. I remember
    only too well how airsick I was on the old Hannibal when I flew home with the baby Ann.
    I am longing to see you all and it will be heaven to give the children their first seaside
    holiday.

    I mean to return with Kate after three months but, if you will have him, I shall leave
    George behind with you for a year. You said you would all be delighted to have Ann so
    I do hope you will also be happy to have young George. Together they are no trouble
    at all. They amuse themselves and are very independent and loveable.
    George and I have discussed the matter taking into consideration the letters from
    you and George’s Mother on the subject. If you keep Ann and George for a year, my
    mother-in-law will go to Cape Town next year and fetch them. They will live in England
    with her until they are fit enough to return to the Tropics. After the children and I have left
    on this holiday, George will be able to move around and look for a job that will pay
    sufficiently to enable us to go to England in a few years time to fetch our children home.
    We both feel very sad at the prospect of this parting but the children’s health
    comes before any other consideration. I hope Kate will stand up better to the Tropics.
    She is plump and rosy and could not look more bonny if she lived in a temperate
    climate.

    We should be with you in three weeks time!

    Very much love,
    Eleanor.

    Broken Hill, N Rhodesia 11th February 1937

    Dearest Family,

    Well here we are safe and sound at the Great Northern Hotel, Broken Hill, all
    ready to board the South bound train tonight.

    We were still on the diggings on Ann’s birthday, February 8th, when George had
    a letter from Mbeya to say that our seats were booked on the plane leaving Mbeya on
    the 10th! What a rush we had packing up. Ann was in bed with malaria so we just
    bundled her up in blankets and set out in John Molteno’s car for the farm. We arrived that
    night and spent the next day on the farm sorting things out. Ann and George wanted to
    take so many of their treasures and it was difficult for them to make a small selection. In
    the end young George’s most treasured possession, his sturdy little boots, were left
    behind.

    Before leaving home on the morning of the tenth I took some snaps of Ann and
    young George in the garden and one of them with their father. He looked so sad. After
    putting us on the plane, George planned to go to the fishing camp for a day or two
    before returning to the empty house on the farm.

    John Molteno returned from the Cape by plane just before we took off, so he
    will take over the running of his claims once more. I told John that I dreaded the plane trip
    on account of air sickness so he gave me two pills which I took then and there. Oh dear!
    How I wished later that I had not done so. We had an extremely bumpy trip and
    everyone on the plane was sick except for small George who loved every moment.
    Poor Ann had a dreadful time but coped very well and never complained. I did not
    actually puke until shortly before we landed at Broken Hill but felt dreadfully ill all the way.
    Kate remained rosy and cheerful almost to the end. She sat on my lap throughout the
    trip because, being under age, she travelled as baggage and was not entitled to a seat.
    Shortly before we reached Broken Hill a smartly dressed youngish man came up
    to me and said, “You look so poorly, please let me take the baby, I have children of my
    own and know how to handle them.” Kate made no protest and off they went to the
    back of the plane whilst I tried to relax and concentrate on not getting sick. However,
    within five minutes the man was back. Kate had been thoroughly sick all over his collar
    and jacket.

    I took Kate back on my lap and then was violently sick myself, so much so that
    when we touched down at Broken Hill I was unable to speak to the Immigration Officer.
    He was so kind. He sat beside me until I got my diaphragm under control and then
    drove me up to the hotel in his own car.

    We soon recovered of course and ate a hearty dinner. This morning after
    breakfast I sallied out to look for a Bank where I could exchange some money into
    Rhodesian and South African currency and for the Post Office so that I could telegraph
    to George and to you. What a picnic that trip was! It was a terribly hot day and there was
    no shade. By the time we had done our chores, the children were hot, and cross, and
    tired and so indeed was I. As I had no push chair for Kate I had to carry her and she is
    pretty heavy for eighteen months. George, who is still not strong, clung to my free arm
    whilst Ann complained bitterly that no one was helping her.

    Eventually Ann simply sat down on the pavement and declared that she could
    not go another step, whereupon George of course decided that he also had reached his
    limit and sat down too. Neither pleading no threats would move them so I had to resort
    to bribery and had to promise that when we reached the hotel they could have cool
    drinks and ice-cream. This promise got the children moving once more but I am determined that nothing will induce me to stir again until the taxi arrives to take us to the
    station.

    This letter will go by air and will reach you before we do. How I am longing for
    journeys end.

    With love to you all,
    Eleanor.

    Leaving home 10th February 1937,  George Gilman Rushby with Ann and Georgie (Mike) Rushby:

    George Rushby Ann and Georgie

    NOTE
    We had a very warm welcome to the family home at Plumstead Cape Town.
    After ten days with my family we moved to Hout Bay where Mrs Thomas lent us her
    delightful seaside cottage. She also provided us with two excellent maids so I had
    nothing to do but rest and play on the beach with the children.

    After a month at the sea George had fully recovered his health though not his
    former gay spirits. After another six months with my parents I set off for home with Kate,
    leaving Ann and George in my parent’s home under the care of my elder sister,
    Marjorie.

    One or two incidents during that visit remain clearly in my memory. Our children
    had never met elderly people and were astonished at the manifestations of age. One
    morning an elderly lady came around to collect church dues. She was thin and stooped
    and Ann surveyed her with awe. She turned to me with a puzzled expression and
    asked in her clear voice, “Mummy, why has that old lady got a moustache – oh and a
    beard?’ The old lady in question was very annoyed indeed and said, “What a rude little
    girl.” Ann could not understand this, she said, “But Mummy, I only said she had a
    moustache and a beard and she has.” So I explained as best I could that when people
    have defects of this kind they are hurt if anyone mentions them.

    A few days later a strange young woman came to tea. I had been told that she
    had a most disfiguring birthmark on her cheek and warned Ann that she must not
    comment on it. Alas! with the kindest intentions Ann once again caused me acute
    embarrassment. The young woman was hardly seated when Ann went up to her and
    gently patted the disfiguring mark saying sweetly, “Oh, I do like this horrible mark on your
    face.”

    I remember also the afternoon when Kate and George were christened. My
    mother had given George a white silk shirt for the occasion and he wore it with intense
    pride. Kate was baptised first without incident except that she was lost in admiration of a
    gold bracelet given her that day by her Godmother and exclaimed happily, “My
    bangle, look my bangle,” throughout the ceremony. When George’s turn came the
    clergyman held his head over the font and poured water on George’s forehead. Some
    splashed on his shirt and George protested angrily, “Mum, he has wet my shirt!” over
    and over again whilst I led him hurriedly outside.

    My last memory of all is at the railway station. The time had come for Kate and
    me to get into our compartment. My sisters stood on the platform with Ann and George.
    Ann was resigned to our going, George was not so, at the last moment Sylvia, my
    younger sister, took him off to see the engine. The whistle blew and I said good-bye to
    my gallant little Ann. “Mummy”, she said urgently to me, “Don’t forget to wave to
    George.”

    And so I waved good-bye to my children, never dreaming that a war would
    intervene and it would be eight long years before I saw them again.

    #6204
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “No, listen,” Sophie whispered, “I’ve heard some things about this place. We have to escape.”

    “What ‘ave you ‘eard?” asked Glor.

    “SSSHH!! not so loud,” Sophie looked around nervously.  “I can’t tell you now, you’ll have to trust me. We have to escape, and the sooner the better.  Tonight.”

    “I can’t come tonight, I’m ‘aving me nails done in the morning,” Glor said.

    “If you don’t leave tonight, they’ll probably pull all your nails out with pliers in the morning, don’t you see?”

    “Oh I say,” Glor shuddered, “Don’t say things like that,  it makes me toes curl up just thinking about it.”

    “Trust me,” insisted Sophie.  “Tell your friends ~ quietly mind! ~ to pack a small bundle of things ~ small, mind! ~ just a change of clothes and a bit of food, and meet me in the lavatory by the back door at 3 am sharp.”

    Glor started at her for a minute and then said, “Oh alright then. Why not. Getting a bit boring here anyway. I could do with an adventure. I’ll tell Mavis and Sha.”

    Sophie sighed with relief. It had been easier than she expected.

    “OY MAVIS! Come over ‘ere, I got summat to tell yer!” Glor shouted.

    “SSHHHH” hissed Sophie, horrified. “Be discreet for god’s sake!”

    #6122

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “Wait!” said Star. “Have we unwittingly stumbled upon a secret meeting of the bellbird cult?”

    The bouncer laughed. “Not exactly a secret meeting. It’s more of our monthly get-together. We have drinks and what-not and a bit of a sing-song”

    “Sound great! Where do I sign up?” asked Tara, mesmerised by the burly bouncer’s biceps.

    Tara!” hissed Star. “I think you’ve had a few too many!” Just then, she noticed April trying to make a sneaky getaway.”NOT SO FAST, APRIL!” she shouted.”Grab her, Burly Bouncer!”

    The BB grinned charmingly and grabbed hold of April. “Anything to oblige,” he said, flirtatiously winking at Star.

    “Now, April,” said Star sternly, “you are not going anywhere until you have told us exactly what is going on?”

    April sighed crossly. “I came to the get-together tonight to find out if anyone had seen or heard from Vince. It was mere chance I stumbled upon you two.”

    Tara sneered at the obvious lie. “Then why did you run? Huh?”

    “If you must know, and it appears you must, I believe I saw him.” She pointed to the entrance. “He was wearing a disguise of course. When he saw me, he ran, clearly fearing I would see through his disguise and reveal to the world that he is not in a coma.”

    Star scratched her head. “I see,” she said.

    “So much for New Zealand and your remote viewing skills,” sneered Tara.

    “Why is Vince French pretending to be in a coma? And, if it is not him, then who is in a coma?” asked Star, ignoring Tara’s rudeness. She had always been a nasty drunk.

    April shook her head. “Those are questions only Vincent French can answer.”

    “Going around in circles a bit, aren’t you?” said BB with a kindly smile. “Cheer up! Look around you! Beauty is everywhere and drinks are on the house!”

    #6117
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Well. I did it. I made my escape. I had to! Nobody came for three days and I’d run out of biscuits. Thank the lord my hip wasn’t playing up. I decided not to take anything with me, figuring I could just steal things off washing lines when I wanted a change of clothes.  I’ve always hated carrying heavy bags.  I reckoned it would look less conspicuous, too. Just an old dear popping out for digestive perambulation. Nobody suspects old dears of anything, not unless they’re dragging a suitcase round, and I had no intention of doing that. I did put a couple of spare masks in my pocket though, you can’t be too careful these days. And it would help with the disguise.  I didn’t want any do gooders trying to catch me and take me back to that place.

    I had the presence of mind to wear good stout walking shoes and not my pink feather mules, even though it was a wrench to say goodbye to them.  I used to love to see them peeping out from under my bath robe. One day I might strike lucky and find another pair.

    I’ve been eating like a king, better than ever!  I accidentally coughed on someones burger one day, and they dropped it and ran away, and I thought to myself, well there’s an idea. I stuck to random snacks in the street at first and then one day I fancied a Chinese so I thought, well why not give it a try.   Coughed all over his brown bag of prawn crackers as he walked out of the restaurant and he put the whole takeaway in the nearest bin. Piping hot meal for six! Even had that expensive crispy duck!

    Tonight I fancy sushi.  Wish I’d thought of this trick years ago, I said to myself the other day, then my other self said, yeah but it wouldn’t have worked so well before the plague.

    Not having much luck with the washing lines though, lazy sods either not doing any laundry or putting it all in the dryer. Weeks of sunny weather as well, the lazy bastards.  Lazy and wasteful!  You should see the clothes they throw in the clothes bank bins!  If the bins are full you can get your arm in and pull out the ones on the top.  I change outfits a dozen times a day some days if I’m in the mood.   I do sometimes get an urge to keep something if I like it but I’m sticking to my guns and being ruthless about not carrying anything with me.

    #6065
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Those last few days have been hectic. But we finally arrived. I can’t believe we survived all those police controls and those christian mobs, and I didn’t know Kady was a adept at car borrowing.

    I forgot my journal because it was on the computer and I didn’t take the computer. So I don’t know how to contact you, Whale, other than using the old method: with a pen and a sheet of paper. Max gave me this piece of wrapping in which Kady had put the chocolate. He said he can still reuse it later with the writing. He’s nice, although he doesn’t look like it. I think I like him.

    However, the whole thing is not like I expected. Oh sure, the pistil itself is quite impressive: that lone and long stem coming out of that canyon and surrounded by those mountains in the distance. I’m talking about the camp. It’s like a refugee camp, and all of them avid to be able to go in somehow. I’m not sure what they expect. Kady hasn’t been in a sharing mood lately, and I haven’t asked that many questions. But she told Max we had to discuss before we go in tomorrow. So I’m feeling nervous about what I’ll learn tonight.

    I’ve been told once: ask and you will receive. What am I supposed to know now? What am I supposed to do? Maybe that’s not the right question because I just got my voice telling me that I’m not supposed to know or do anything. Maybe supposed is not the right word. I’m too tired and excited at the same time to figure it out, but you get the gist I’m sure.

    I didn’t have any more dreams. I’ve been watching the drawings in that book religiously every night of that trip before I go to sleep. Although I’m not truly sincere when I say that I didn’t have any more dreams. I had at least one that I recall. It was like some news about a parallel self, one that got the virus. I dreamt about that other me before, he couldn’t breath and it hurt. I had wondered if he had died because I didn’t have any more dreams about him, until last night. He seemed ok, he had recovered quite well considering the difficulties. He was at a gathering with other people at some kind of Lebanese buffet. I’m not too fond of the spicy merguez sausages, I prefer the hummus.

    Max is calling, diner is ready. He’s made lasagna, apparently he makes the the best lasagna in the whole camp. I’m not sure when will be the next time I contact you so far Whale.

    #6062

    In reply to: The Pistil Maze

    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The journey to the Pistil itself would have been worth its own story, thought Charlton. They had to avoid road blocks, crowds of chanting christians that had certainly vowed to spread the virus as fast as possible, and howlers who you were never sure weren’t the real thing from Teen Wolf. They had to be, in such a landscape. Once arid, it had turned greener in just a few weeks. Rain was now weekly when drops of water used to only show up with the bottles of water from the tourists.

    Despite Kady’s advice not to take anything, he’d still brought the book of drawings. Kady had said nothing about the book, nor the clothes, or the snacks. Charlton was sometimes literal about what people told him, but he also knew it. So he didn’t say anything when he saw Kady had her own backpack with clothes, some money and food. During the trip, he tried to reproduce the experience with the drawings and the dreams —but nothing happened. Charlton felt a little disappointed.

    They saw the pistil long before they arrived at its foot. It was at the end of the day and the sunset was splashing its reds and purples all around it. Charlton had had time to get used to its tall presence in the landscape. Yet, seeing it at a close range from below was a strange experience. Taller than the tallest man-made tower. He wondered what he was supposed to feel in its presence. Awe? Electricity? Enlightenment? Bursts of inspiration? This should at least be a mystical moment, but all he could feel was annoyance at the crowd of people crawling around like aphids avid to suck its sap.

    Kady looked more annoyed than surprised. She was walking past the flock as if she knew exactly where to go. Charlton followed, feeling dizzy by the sudden increase of activity and smells. He soon got nauseous at the mix of incense and fried sausages.

    “There are so many of them,” he eventually said. “How come? It was so difficult just for the two of us to avoid police controls. Do we have to wait with them?”

    “Nah! They’re just the usual bunch of weirdoes,” Kady said. “They’ve been here a long time. I bet some of them aren’t even aware there have been a virus. But stay close. I don’t want to lose you, it’s a maze before the maze. I just need to see someone before we go in.”

    They walked for about another ten minutes before stopping in front of a big tent. There, a big man with a boxer’s face was repairing all kind of electronics on a table with the application of a surgeon. Phones, cameras, coffee machines… Charlton wondered how they got electricity to make it all work.

    “Hey, Kady!” said the man. “You’re back. Did you give it to her?” His face looked anxious.

    “Of course Max! I even got an answer,” Kady said handing him a pink envelope. Max smelled it.

    “Her favourite perfume,” he said with a broad smile.

    “I told you she still loves you. I also brought you something else.” Kady dropped a box on the table among the electronics. Charlton didn’t think it could be possible to witness the expression of a ten year old child on such a hard face, but what was inside the box certainly did magic.

    “You brought chocolate?”

    “Yep.”

    “Did you find the chestnut one?”

    “Yep.”

    “My favourite,” said Max to Charlton. “Is this your friend?”

    Max, meet Charlton. Charlton, Max. Listen, we plan on going in tomorrow, but tonight we need a place to get some rest.”

    “I told you, you’re always welcome. Did you know she saved my life in there?”

    “Saved your life?” asked Charlton looking hesitantly at Kady. “No, I didn’t know.”

    #5989

    In reply to: Story Bored

    AvatarJib
    Participant

    BOARD 5

    Board 5, Story 1

    Sadie: Linda Paul we have a loo-tle problem, I found Sanso in the time sewers with a pink flamingo. I fear Lazuli Galore’s on the loose.

    Becky: Tonight our special guest in his shiny armor, the great philoosopher Lemone, will tell us more about the red doonut and its effect on the brain chemystery.

    Detective Walter Melon: Don’t look back. I think there’s a bear following us. That certainly explains why the easter bunnies won’t talk to us about what happened at Liz’s manor.

    #5836
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    It was funny watching the toilet paper surge sweep through one place after another, I could follow that much on this contraption my helpers had me wired up to, this social media thing. I suppose I notice different things since I stopped trying to make sense of anything. Things start to catch my eye, but not the usual things.

    There’s one thing I’ve learned and that’s if you don’t give a toss about how demented you are, there is a lot on the plus side to consider with dementia.

    Not sure why but I keep seeing all this rambling, from that gal they call my niece,  on this device as they call it (sounds a bit medieval to me), and she’s doing this lockdown diary thing.  Sometimes I feel like saying, do you realize how many of us have been on lockdown already for ages, for month, and for years, relying on pea brained opinionated ever changing drifters to see to our needs. But f course I don’t say that, because I don’t know how to work this blasted device properly.  If I did, I’d let them have it!

    I find myself momentarily cheered, energized by this thought. And then I feel deflated, and can’t remember what it was about.

    Macaroni tonight. The evening woman doesn’t seem to stay long anymore.

    #5375
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    May took the brat down to the kitchen and gave him the pot of cold spinach to play with while she slipped outside to send a coded message to her fiance,  Marduk.  Barron happily commenced smearing globs of green mush all over his face, mimicking his fathers applications of orange skin colouring paste.

    “We have a window of opportunity tonight,” May wrote. Actually she said “hu mana sid neffa longo tonga bafti foo chong“, which meant the same thing.   “Slopi sala ding wat forg ooli ama“,  which she knew Marduk would read as:  “The kid will be in a big pot of spinach by the gate at midnight.”

    Forg ooli ama? keni suba?” he replied.   With an impatient sigh May texted back “Sagi poo! And bring a spare set of clothes and a wash cloth!”

    Now all she had to do was pack her suitcase, and keep the kid occupied for the next couple of hours.  What she wasn’t expecting was a visit from Norma, who plonked herself down at the kitchen table, and started a long story about how underpaid and underappreciated she was.

    May tried to hurry her along with the story, but there was no rushing Norma.  She was firmly planted at the table for the duration of the evening. May did some quick thinking, and slipped a couple of fast acting laxative pills into the glass of wine that she handed to the maid, frustrated that no sleeping pills were easily found.  They usually worked within a couple of hours, and with a bit of luck May could coincide her exit with Norma’s inevitable rush to the lavatory.

    “امیدوارم که مؤثر باشد” May said to herself, and seated herself at the table to endure Norma’s long winded complaints.  One hour and 43 minutes to go.

    #5367
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    June, have you got a magnet I can borrow?” asked May, the kitchen maid. Her name wasn’t really May, it was Merhnaz, but she knew she wouldn’t get the job if they knew her parents were from Iran.  June rummaged in some drawers, and was just about to ask May what she wanted a magnet for anyway, when May started to explain.

    “I cooked up all the Swiss chard from the kitchen garden, you know how Mellie Noma enjoys that Indian dish, Delhi Sagi Belly, so I thought I’d get a big batch made for the freezer, well there I was, cooked it all, snipping it up with the scissors and the damn things split into two. And the metal bit that holds the two halves together has disappeared into the pot and do you think I can find it? ”

    “It might have just blinked out though, and you’ll never find it,” said June.

    “I’ll be in trouble is she breaks her fake teeth on it.”

    “Here we are!” June held up the magnet with a triumphant smile. “Oh by the way, May, would you be able to babysit tonight for us?” She held the magnet just out of May’s reach until the kitchen maid agreed.

    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Pitch: June and April are two au pair middle-aged ladies with a penchant for lavish parties and copious drinking, who after being sacked from many places due to their poor manners and laisser-aller in their duties, have finally landed a dream job at the Washingtown Beige House, to take care of the often vacant whereabouts of the Lump Family, and chiefly of their baby Barron, the pride of Pres. Lump. The pay is nice, so long as they keep the Boss happy.
    Their main concerns are the Indian maid Noor Mary (Norma) Chowdhury, who has a PhD in Social Studies, but has had difficulties finding a better job, and doesn’t see too well the intrusion of the new staff. They also have to deal with August, the chief of staff, who collects golf balls and pewter memorabilia from the Civil War.
    They are unaware, but there biggest trial yet to come is a dangerous Mexican cartel on their way to kidnap baby Barron…

    June felt like excitement, while April was more modestly quiet, currently absorbed in reading with horror the news about the fires; April had a sister there, married to an Australian and very fundamental Christian in her beliefs. Over the years, they’d stopped being able to communicate… Crazy to think about all the fires down there — and by down there, she didn’t mean down there, but rather down “down there.” Actually, it was a long time since there had been any fires there, if she didn’t count the last infection…

    “Hold that thought…” June interrupted, while sipping her cognac. It was medicinal, she kept repeating to nobody in particular but herself, Back Blossom infusions to calm her nerves. They had to be kept in something, so why not cognac. “You did mention something about a party tonight? But what are we going to do about the baby?”

    April did ponder for a second but the response was actually obvious. “Don’t worry about baby Barron, we’ll instruct the dog to keep guard, and I’ll put an EyeWatch on his wrist with your number on speed dial in case anything happens.”

    “Brilliant! I wonder why I didn’t think of it myself. Let’s get ready. Really, that family is a blessing; never on our backs, always travelling everywhere, leaving us partying to all the fancy places in Washingtown. Sure, the only bother is to take care of these pesky kids.”

    “True. All the maids and au pairs in the neighbourhood make for a good network. It’s a nice life.” April pondered and added. Although the Boss is a bit lewd, if you tell me.”

    “Really? With his orange face and his five orders of periwigs?” June sounded surprised, and a bit disappointed not to have been able to notice.

    “But the one we should really worry about is the maid, if you ask me. Good thing the boss can’t understand her English, otherwise she would have ratted us out long ago.”

    June smiled mischievously. “Oh, but she better watch her six this one, you’ll leave her to me.”

    #4780
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “B’s in trouble!” Gloria cried out, waking up the two other snoring ladies who almost fell from their rocking chairs.
    “Whatcha sayin’ my Glor’?” Sharon was the first to react once she put her hand on her teeth.
    “Sayin’ that our B’s in trouble!”
    “Can’t let that be, cannit?” Sharon retorted “But where daya think you got your intel’ love, ain’t our B dead last year?”
    “Sure thing but I got up one my brainwaves, t’was vivid as day, like when I got my cataract all strung up and the good doctors lazered my eyes aye. She was stuck in a big ruby!”
    “Ahaha, that’s got to be a big ruby fossur’, remember ‘ow big our B was!”
    “Oh shush Shar’, lemme thing alright. Think it all links back to our beauty treatments I’m sure, hasn’t anybody answered our advert’?” Gloria asked Mavis
    “Oh bleedin’ hell no, I forgot to check, lemme get my spectacles, dear!” Mavis answered.

    THERE, THERE!” Mavis jumped at the article. “A time and location for a rendez-vous.” she said suggestively. “When do we sneak out?”

    “Tonight, tonight alright, all my store of Stillnox is already in the water supply, everybody’s going to snore in no time.”

    Glor’, I think we’ll have a problem.” Sharon said plaintively. “I drank plenty of the ol’ water supply alright too, the doctor said I needed to drink plenty with my lady problems and all.”

    #4770
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Finnley disappeared.”

    Liz couldn’t believe her ears; at first she’d ignored the harbingers, the unattended dust trails, and of course, all the crumbs on the table piling up day after day.

    Godfrey repeated “I’m telling you, Finnley took off and disappeared.”

    He paused to leave room for Liz’ to answer, not that she ever needed any to start with. But she was profoundly shocked at the betrayal.

    “I don’t believe you gave her paid leaves, have you; one of your silly ideas?”

    Godfrey thought for a moment, “Now you mention it, I don’t believe she had any, even after all this time, had she?”

    “Don’t be daft, Godfrey, she wouldn’t want any; of course, there’s a reason I chose her over the other very qualified staff lining up to work here.”

    “Not even a trace, her personal belonging are gone; not even a message left behind. A mystery fit for one of your novels, eh.”

    “I guess there’s nothing in the fridge either.” Liz said listlessly. “Guess you’ll have to order from the Pakistani restaurant tonight. Roberto, cute as he is, can’t cook for his life.”

    #4508
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The red woman led Shawn Paul through small busy streets. Shawn Paul had never seen that many people with dogs and parked bikes all gathered in strategic places each time he was about to catch up on her. He swore he could hear her giggle.
    Eventually she entered a cafe called Red Beans. Shawn Paul steered through white tables and chairs made of wrought iron and followed her in, breathless. He had never seen the point in running before. But he still wasn’t sure why he had to catch her. What would he do? Talk to her? Ask her what she did perched on trees and smiling?

    There seemed to be only the bartender who was busy with a huge coffee machine, hissing like a locomotive. A colour, a movement on his right made Shawn Paul turn, and he just had the time to catch sight of a red hat going down the stairs. She certainly went to the toilets. He thought that maybe following her downstairs would be too creepy, but at the same time he didn’t want the bartender to talk to him either.

    So he went down and waited at the door. The lock was red, showing someone was inside.
    Shawn Paul waited. There were many flyers of parties and events pinned on a wall, but he wasn’t the party guy and his eyes flew over the messy images and texts that seemed scattered on the wall.
    After five minutes he wondered if something had happened and pushed the door. It was open and the lock was broken, always showing red. He tutted and shook his head. He had been foolish, he thought. There has certainly been nobody there since the beginning. There was no girl sitting on trees with red sandals.

    He got out of the cafe and was ready to walk back to his apartment with his granola cookies. When someone called him. He turned and stared at a girl and a guy having drinks on the Red Beans’ terrace.

    “I was sure it was you, Shawn Paul,” said the girl. “I thought I recognised you when you ran inside earlier, but you seemed in such a hurry,” said a girl. She had a big grin and a pony tail.

    Her face looked familiar, all rosy and cheeky. She had a nice jacquard sweater and a matching skirt, and she was waving at him cheerfully. Her cocktail was full of reds, blues and yellows.
    “Remember me? Lucinda, from the apartment on the other side…” she added.

    It suddenly dawned on him, they had met once or twice. She had said they should meet again, but they never had. He felt a bit trapped, not knowing what to say.
    “Hi,” he said, and he looked at the guy. He had never met him, that he was sure of.
    The guy looked as embarrassed as himself by the intrusion.
    “Hi. I’m Jerk,” he said.

    “Are you going to the party tonight?” asked Lucinda pointing at a flyer on the table. She took a sip of her cocktail.

    Shawn Paul was about to decline with a ready made up excuse when he saw what was on the flyer. It was a big red balloon with a red hat on a starry background. It said “Reception of the French Ambassador. Free Buffet with Ferrero Rochers and Champagne”.

    Shawn Paul pulled closer one of the heavy metal chairs and sat with them.
    “Tell me more about it,” he said instead.

    “More drinks!” Lucinda shouted, clapping her hands.
    A waiter arrived, limping. Shawn Paul thought he looked like a pirate with his wooden leg, his black hat and small ear ring.

    #4476
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Glynis hadn’t said a word to any of the others about the potion and was non-committal when they pressed her for information as to the identity of her unusual visitor.

    “I used to know him … he just came to tell me his father died”, was all she had said, turning her head to avoid Margoritt’s keen gaze and excusing herself hurriedly on some pretext of needing to gather more herbs for the impending journey.

    “His father must have been as old as Methuselah and then some!” muttered Fox crossly after she was gone. “I don’t believe it for one moment. Always keeping secrets, that one.” He shook his head, possibly irritated as much by the heat and mosquitoes as Glynis’s small evasion. For after all, they each carried secrets and it was generally acknowledged they were an unlikely group of travellers who found themselves together.

    Privately, Glynis was nearly bursting with anticipation and would have applied the potion to her face at once had the instructions on the package not said to wait for the full moon.

    On the first night of the full moon, take one half teaspoonful and rub into the affected area. Rub thrice in a clockwise direction and once in a counter-clockwise direction. Repeat until the lotion is fully absorbed. FOR EXTERNAL USE ONLY.

    And tonight was the first night of the full moon phase.

    It was as she was staring in shock and disbelief at the empty jar that she heard the scream.

    #4474
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Rukhsan was ready with his package, the plan, the backup plan, and all the disaster recovery plans they would never need to do their journey to the west.
    All of this preparation was starting to make him antsy, and he hoped everyone would make it in time to start the expedition.

    Eleri had promised to be back in time, but she had that tendency to… forget things even more since her bout of illness. Glynis’ ginkgo leaves tea had helped a little, at least for the memory thing, not really for Eleri’s stubbornness to have them wait for her return — such assertiveness that was a sure sign of her recovery she’d said.
    She’d gone already for weeks, and tonight’s was the departure… He had to trust everything would line up.

    Right now, there was nothing to expect… but the unexpected. All carefully laid out plans would never stand a chance once on the roads, he knew that. It gave him some small comfort to just be aware of all the places and manners where the camel’s back would break.

    Pricking up his ear in the still evening, he found out that this time, it seemed to start from the kitchen.

    #4263
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “I know you want to get out, but it’s not time yet” Margoritt is braiding small twig figurines on the wooden table, and has lined up already four of them.
    “One for each soul in the house,” she says as if to answer silent questions, “you Tak, Rukshan, Emma and myself.”
    The young Tak is pointing at the last one she makes inquisitively.

    “It’s tradition to make one more for the Stranger. Who knows maybe someone is on their way, or in need of help. There, help me hold this.” She ties the head firmly and nips the thread with a quick jab.

    “If they come, they’d better arrive during daytime. Nobody wants to be outside during the night.”

    She looks pensively at the bed, where Rukshan lies motionless. “Whatever got you, may still be out there, lurking. Tonight’s the longest night, better get prepared.”

    She smiles again and gives the little figurines to Tak. “Keep them safe, we’ll do the burning ceremony at noon. I hope it will give new energy to your friend. He’s been in deep sleep for a long time already.”

    #4149
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “What do you think of the new lodger?” asked Sue that night over dinner. It was Monday so dinner was fish pie. Monday, Wednesday and Friday it was fish pie and Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday it was meat loaf. Sue believed Sunday should be a day of rest so Sunday dinner was fried left overs.

    John paused mid bite and considered the question.

    “She seems alright, I guess. Doesn’t seem to have much in the way of interests … always locked in her room with the computer. I mean, she could at least join us for dinner. I was hoping for someone a bit more interesting this time … you know, a bit of interesting conversation.”

    “Eat up, Jane. What were you thinking of, Dear?” asked Sue anxiously.

    John grunted. “Oh you know … travel …. and what not. I dunno. What’s on the telly tonight then, Luv? Anything good?”

    “Nothing much,” said Sue. “I might just have an early night. And anyway what sort of a name is Clove? It’s a bit unusual.”

    “It’s a bit bloody odd, alright,” said John. “A bit odd to name your kid after a spice. It takes all sorts, eh. I think there is snooker on the telly later. I might stay up and watch that.”

    “Oh, that’s great, Luv. I might sit up with you and do a bit of crochet then. The twins are out late tonight at bingo — they probably won’t be home till after 9pm.”

    “9pm. That’s late,” grunted John.

    #3991
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “There was one other thing, Your Majesty…”

    Finnley, what on earth is the matter with you?” Interrupted Liz.

    “Well, that’s what I’m trying to tell you. I’m going to a party in another story tonight, it’s Funley’s leaving do over on the Cakltown thread. It’s a fancy dress party. The theme is Hierarchy, and I’m practicing groveling.”

    “But it’s not your night off! You can’t go!”

    But it was too late. Finnley had already thread jumped.

    She’ll never be any good at groveling, that one. Far too big for her boots, sniffed Liz.

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