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    TracyTracy
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    From Tanganyika with Love

    continued  ~ part 4

    With thanks to Mike Rushby.

    Mchewe Estate. 31st January 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

    With much love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 9th February 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

    Heaps of love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 27th February 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Lots of love,
    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. 12th March 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    With heaps of love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 24th March 1936

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Heaps of love from a sadder but wiser,
    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. 3rd April 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The wet season is definitely the time to stay home.

    Lots and lots of love,
    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. 30th April 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

    Your very affectionate,
    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. 17th September 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

    With love to you all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 2nd October 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

    Much love to you all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 10th October 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

    Your worried but affectionate,
    Eleanor.

    Tukuyu. 23rd October 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

    Much love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe. 12th November 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Lots and lots of love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Chunya 27th November 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Much love to all,
    Eleanor.

     

    #6262
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    From Tanganyika with Love

    continued  ~ part 3

    With thanks to Mike Rushby.

    Mchewe Estate. 22nd March 1935

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

    Very much love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 14th June 1935

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

    Just hold thumbs that all goes well.

    your loving but anxious,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 28th June 1935

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

    Very much love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 3rd August 1935

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

    Lots and lots of love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 20th August 1935

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

    Who would be a mother!
    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. 20th September 1935

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

    Mchewe Estate. 11th October 1935

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 17th October 1935

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Lots and lots of love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 25th October 1935

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Very much love from us all, Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 8th November 1935

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

    With love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 21st November 1935

    Dearest Family,

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

    With love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 6th December 1935

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. 22nd December 1935

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

    Your very loving,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 2nd January 1936

    Dearest Family,

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

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

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

    With love to all,
    Eleanor.

    #6261
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    From Tanganyika with Love

    continued

    With thanks to Mike Rushby.

    Mchewe Estate. 11th July 1931.

    Dearest Family,

    You say that you would like to know more about our neighbours. Well there is
    not much to tell. Kath Wood is very good about coming over to see me. I admire her
    very much because she is so capable as well as being attractive. She speaks very
    fluent Ki-Swahili and I envy her the way she can carry on a long conversation with the
    natives. I am very slow in learning the language possibly because Lamek and the
    houseboy both speak basic English.

    I have very little to do with the Africans apart from the house servants, but I do
    run a sort of clinic for the wives and children of our employees. The children suffer chiefly
    from sore eyes and worms, and the older ones often have bad ulcers on their legs. All
    farmers keep a stock of drugs and bandages.

    George also does a bit of surgery and last month sewed up the sole of the foot
    of a boy who had trodden on the blade of a panga, a sort of sword the Africans use for
    hacking down bush. He made an excellent job of it. George tells me that the Africans
    have wonderful powers of recuperation. Once in his bachelor days, one of his men was
    disembowelled by an elephant. George washed his “guts” in a weak solution of
    pot.permang, put them back in the cavity and sewed up the torn flesh and he
    recovered.

    But to get back to the neighbours. We see less of Hicky Wood than of Kath.
    Hicky can be charming but is often moody as I believe Irishmen often are.
    Major Jones is now at home on his shamba, which he leaves from time to time
    for temporary jobs on the district roads. He walks across fairly regularly and we are
    always glad to see him for he is a great bearer of news. In this part of Africa there is no
    knocking or ringing of doorbells. Front doors are always left open and visitors always
    welcome. When a visitor approaches a house he shouts “Hodi”, and the owner of the
    house yells “Karibu”, which I believe means “Come near” or approach, and tea is
    produced in a matter of minutes no matter what hour of the day it is.
    The road that passes all our farms is the only road to the Gold Diggings and
    diggers often drop in on the Woods and Major Jones and bring news of the Goldfields.
    This news is sometimes about gold but quite often about whose wife is living with
    whom. This is a great country for gossip.

    Major Jones now has his brother Llewyllen living with him. I drove across with
    George to be introduced to him. Llewyllen’s health is poor and he looks much older than
    his years and very like the portrait of Trader Horn. He has the same emaciated features,
    burning eyes and long beard. He is proud of his Welsh tenor voice and often bursts into
    song.

    Both brothers are excellent conversationalists and George enjoys walking over
    sometimes on a Sunday for a bit of masculine company. The other day when George
    walked across to visit the Joneses, he found both brothers in the shamba and Llew in a
    great rage. They had been stooping to inspect a water furrow when Llew backed into a
    hornets nest. One furious hornet stung him on the seat and another on the back of his
    neck. Llew leapt forward and somehow his false teeth shot out into the furrow and were
    carried along by the water. When George arrived Llew had retrieved his teeth but
    George swears that, in the commotion, the heavy leather leggings, which Llew always
    wears, had swivelled around on his thin legs and were calves to the front.
    George has heard that Major Jones is to sell pert of his land to his Swedish brother-in-law, Max Coster, so we will soon have another couple in the neighbourhood.

    I’ve had a bit of a pantomime here on the farm. On the day we went to Tukuyu,
    all our washing was stolen from the clothes line and also our new charcoal iron. George
    reported the matter to the police and they sent out a plain clothes policeman. He wears
    the long white Arab gown called a Kanzu much in vogue here amongst the African elite
    but, alas for secrecy, huge black police boots protrude from beneath the Kanzu and, to
    add to this revealing clue, the askari springs to attention and salutes each time I pass by.
    Not much hope of finding out the identity of the thief I fear.

    George’s furrow was entirely successful and we now have water running behind
    the kitchen. Our drinking water we get from a lovely little spring on the farm. We boil and
    filter it for safety’s sake. I don’t think that is necessary. The furrow water is used for
    washing pots and pans and for bath water.

    Lots of love,
    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. 8th. August 1931

    Dearest Family,

    I think it is about time I told you that we are going to have a baby. We are both
    thrilled about it. I have not seen a Doctor but feel very well and you are not to worry. I
    looked it up in my handbook for wives and reckon that the baby is due about February
    8th. next year.

    The announcement came from George, not me! I had been feeling queasy for
    days and was waiting for the right moment to tell George. You know. Soft lights and
    music etc. However when I was listlessly poking my food around one lunch time
    George enquired calmly, “When are you going to tell me about the baby?” Not at all
    according to the book! The problem is where to have the baby. February is a very wet
    month and the nearest Doctor is over 50 miles away at Tukuyu. I cannot go to stay at
    Tukuyu because there is no European accommodation at the hospital, no hotel and no
    friend with whom I could stay.

    George thinks I should go South to you but Capetown is so very far away and I
    love my little home here. Also George says he could not come all the way down with
    me as he simply must stay here and get the farm on its feet. He would drive me as far
    as the railway in Northern Rhodesia. It is a difficult decision to take. Write and tell me what
    you think.

    The days tick by quietly here. The servants are very willing but have to be
    supervised and even then a crisis can occur. Last Saturday I was feeling squeamish and
    decided not to have lunch. I lay reading on the couch whilst George sat down to a
    solitary curry lunch. Suddenly he gave an exclamation and pushed back his chair. I
    jumped up to see what was wrong and there, on his plate, gleaming in the curry gravy
    were small bits of broken glass. I hurried to the kitchen to confront Lamek with the plate.
    He explained that he had dropped the new and expensive bottle of curry powder on
    the brick floor of the kitchen. He did not tell me as he thought I would make a “shauri” so
    he simply scooped up the curry powder, removed the larger pieces of glass and used
    part of the powder for seasoning the lunch.

    The weather is getting warmer now. It was very cold in June and July and we had
    fires in the daytime as well as at night. Now that much of the land has been cleared we
    are able to go for pleasant walks in the weekends. My favourite spot is a waterfall on the
    Mchewe River just on the boundary of our land. There is a delightful little pool below the
    waterfall and one day George intends to stock it with trout.

    Now that there are more Europeans around to buy meat the natives find it worth
    their while to kill an occasional beast. Every now and again a native arrives with a large
    bowl of freshly killed beef for sale. One has no way of knowing whether the animal was
    healthy and the meat is often still warm and very bloody. I hated handling it at first but am
    becoming accustomed to it now and have even started a brine tub. There is no other
    way of keeping meat here and it can only be kept in its raw state for a few hours before
    going bad. One of the delicacies is the hump which all African cattle have. When corned
    it is like the best brisket.

    See what a housewife I am becoming.
    With much love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. Sept.6th. 1931

    Dearest Family,

    I have grown to love the life here and am sad to think I shall be leaving
    Tanganyika soon for several months. Yes I am coming down to have the baby in the
    bosom of the family. George thinks it best and so does the doctor. I didn’t mention it
    before but I have never recovered fully from the effects of that bad bout of malaria and
    so I have been persuaded to leave George and our home and go to the Cape, in the
    hope that I shall come back here as fit as when I first arrived in the country plus a really
    healthy and bouncing baby. I am torn two ways, I long to see you all – but how I would
    love to stay on here.

    George will drive me down to Northern Rhodesia in early October to catch a
    South bound train. I’ll telegraph the date of departure when I know it myself. The road is
    very, very bad and the car has been giving a good deal of trouble so, though the baby
    is not due until early February, George thinks it best to get the journey over soon as
    possible, for the rains break in November and the the roads will then be impassable. It
    may take us five or six days to reach Broken Hill as we will take it slowly. I am looking
    forward to the drive through new country and to camping out at night.
    Our days pass quietly by. George is out on the shamba most of the day. He
    goes out before breakfast on weekdays and spends most of the day working with the
    men – not only supervising but actually working with his hands and beating the labourers
    at their own jobs. He comes to the house for meals and tea breaks. I potter around the
    house and garden, sew, mend and read. Lamek continues to be a treasure. he turns out
    some surprising dishes. One of his specialities is stuffed chicken. He carefully skins the
    chicken removing all bones. He then minces all the chicken meat and adds minced onion
    and potatoes. He then stuffs the chicken skin with the minced meat and carefully sews it
    together again. The resulting dish is very filling because the boned chicken is twice the
    size of a normal one. It lies on its back as round as a football with bloated legs in the air.
    Rather repulsive to look at but Lamek is most proud of his accomplishment.
    The other day he produced another of his masterpieces – a cooked tortoise. It
    was served on a dish covered with parsley and crouched there sans shell but, only too
    obviously, a tortoise. I took one look and fled with heaving diaphragm, but George said
    it tasted quite good. He tells me that he has had queerer dishes produced by former
    cooks. He says that once in his hunting days his cook served up a skinned baby
    monkey with its hands folded on its breast. He says it would take a cannibal to eat that
    dish.

    And now for something sad. Poor old Llew died quite suddenly and it was a sad
    shock to this tiny community. We went across to the funeral and it was a very simple and
    dignified affair. Llew was buried on Joni’s farm in a grave dug by the farm boys. The
    body was wrapped in a blanket and bound to some boards and lowered into the
    ground. There was no service. The men just said “Good-bye Llew.” and “Sleep well
    Llew”, and things like that. Then Joni and his brother-in-law Max, and George shovelled
    soil over the body after which the grave was filled in by Joni’s shamba boys. It was a
    lovely bright afternoon and I thought how simple and sensible a funeral it was.
    I hope you will be glad to have me home. I bet Dad will be holding thumbs that
    the baby will be a girl.

    Very much love,
    Eleanor.

    Note
    “There are no letters to my family during the period of Sept. 1931 to June 1932
    because during these months I was living with my parents and sister in a suburb of
    Cape Town. I had hoped to return to Tanganyika by air with my baby soon after her
    birth in Feb.1932 but the doctor would not permit this.

    A month before my baby was born, a company called Imperial Airways, had
    started the first passenger service between South Africa and England. One of the night
    stops was at Mbeya near my husband’s coffee farm, and it was my intention to take the
    train to Broken Hill in Northern Rhodesia and to fly from there to Mbeya with my month
    old baby. In those days however, commercial flying was still a novelty and the doctor
    was not sure that flying at a high altitude might not have an adverse effect upon a young
    baby.

    He strongly advised me to wait until the baby was four months old and I did this
    though the long wait was very trying to my husband alone on our farm in Tanganyika,
    and to me, cherished though I was in my old home.

    My story, covering those nine long months is soon told. My husband drove me
    down from Mbeya to Broken Hill in NorthernRhodesia. The journey was tedious as the
    weather was very hot and dry and the road sandy and rutted, very different from the
    Great North road as it is today. The wooden wheel spokes of the car became so dry
    that they rattled and George had to bind wet rags around them. We had several
    punctures and with one thing and another I was lucky to catch the train.
    My parents were at Cape Town station to welcome me and I stayed
    comfortably with them, living very quietly, until my baby was born. She arrived exactly
    on the appointed day, Feb.8th.

    I wrote to my husband “Our Charmian Ann is a darling baby. She is very fair and
    rather pale and has the most exquisite hands, with long tapering fingers. Daddy
    absolutely dotes on her and so would you, if you were here. I can’t bear to think that you
    are so terribly far away. Although Ann was born exactly on the day, I was taken quite by
    surprise. It was awfully hot on the night before, and before going to bed I had a fancy for
    some water melon. The result was that when I woke in the early morning with labour
    pains and vomiting I thought it was just an attack of indigestion due to eating too much
    melon. The result was that I did not wake Marjorie until the pains were pretty frequent.
    She called our next door neighbour who, in his pyjamas, drove me to the nursing home
    at breakneck speed. The Matron was very peeved that I had left things so late but all
    went well and by nine o’clock, Mother, positively twittering with delight, was allowed to
    see me and her first granddaughter . She told me that poor Dad was in such a state of
    nerves that he was sick amongst the grapevines. He says that he could not bear to go
    through such an anxious time again, — so we will have to have our next eleven in
    Tanganyika!”

    The next four months passed rapidly as my time was taken up by the demands
    of my new baby. Dr. Trudy King’s method of rearing babies was then the vogue and I
    stuck fanatically to all the rules he laid down, to the intense exasperation of my parents
    who longed to cuddle the child.

    As the time of departure drew near my parents became more and more reluctant
    to allow me to face the journey alone with their adored grandchild, so my brother,
    Graham, very generously offered to escort us on the train to Broken Hill where he could
    put us on the plane for Mbeya.

    Eleanor Rushby

     

    Mchewe Estate. June 15th 1932

    Dearest Family,

    You’ll be glad to know that we arrived quite safe and sound and very, very
    happy to be home.The train Journey was uneventful. Ann slept nearly all the way.
    Graham was very kind and saw to everything. He even sat with the baby whilst I went
    to meals in the dining car.

    We were met at Broken Hill by the Thoms who had arranged accommodation for
    us at the hotel for the night. They also drove us to the aerodrome in the morning where
    the Airways agent told us that Ann is the first baby to travel by air on this section of the
    Cape to England route. The plane trip was very bumpy indeed especially between
    Broken Hill and Mpika. Everyone was ill including poor little Ann who sicked up her milk
    all over the front of my new coat. I arrived at Mbeya looking a sorry caricature of Radiant
    Motherhood. I must have been pale green and the baby was snow white. Under the
    circumstances it was a good thing that George did not meet us. We were met instead
    by Ken Menzies, the owner of the Mbeya Hotel where we spent the night. Ken was
    most fatherly and kind and a good nights rest restored Ann and me to our usual robust
    health.

    Mbeya has greatly changed. The hotel is now finished and can accommodate
    fifty guests. It consists of a large main building housing a large bar and dining room and
    offices and a number of small cottage bedrooms. It even has electric light. There are
    several buildings out at the aerodrome and private houses going up in Mbeya.
    After breakfast Ken Menzies drove us out to the farm where we had a warm
    welcome from George, who looks well but rather thin. The house was spotless and the
    new cook, Abel, had made light scones for tea. George had prepared all sorts of lovely
    surprises. There is a new reed ceiling in the living room and a new dresser gay with
    willow pattern plates which he had ordered from England. There is also a writing table
    and a square table by the door for visitors hats. More personal is a lovely model ship
    which George assembled from one of those Hobbie’s kits. It puts the finishing touch to
    the rather old world air of our living room.

    In the bedroom there is a large double bed which George made himself. It has
    strips of old car tyres nailed to a frame which makes a fine springy mattress and on top
    of this is a thick mattress of kapok.In the kitchen there is a good wood stove which
    George salvaged from a Mission dump. It looks a bit battered but works very well. The
    new cook is excellent. The only blight is that he will wear rubber soled tennis shoes and
    they smell awful. I daren’t hurt his feelings by pointing this out though. Opposite the
    kitchen is a new laundry building containing a forty gallon hot water drum and a sink for
    washing up. Lovely!

    George has been working very hard. He now has forty acres of coffee seedlings
    planted out and has also found time to plant a rose garden and fruit trees. There are
    orange and peach trees, tree tomatoes, paw paws, guavas and berries. He absolutely
    adores Ann who has been very good and does not seem at all unsettled by the long
    journey.

    It is absolutely heavenly to be back and I shall be happier than ever now that I
    have a baby to play with during the long hours when George is busy on the farm,
    Thank you for all your love and care during the many months I was with you. Ann
    sends a special bubble for granddad.

    Your very loving,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate Mbeya July 18th 1932

    Dearest Family,

    Ann at five months is enchanting. She is a very good baby, smiles readily and is
    gaining weight steadily. She doesn’t sleep much during the day but that does not
    matter, because, apart from washing her little things, I have nothing to do but attend to
    her. She sleeps very well at night which is a blessing as George has to get up very
    early to start work on the shamba and needs a good nights rest.
    My nights are not so good, because we are having a plague of rats which frisk
    around in the bedroom at night. Great big ones that come up out of the long grass in the
    gorge beside the house and make cosy homes on our reed ceiling and in the thatch of
    the roof.

    We always have a night light burning so that, if necessary, I can attend to Ann
    with a minimum of fuss, and the things I see in that dim light! There are gaps between
    the reeds and one night I heard, plop! and there, before my horrified gaze, lay a newly
    born hairless baby rat on the floor by the bed, plop, plop! and there lay two more.
    Quite dead, poor things – but what a careless mother.

    I have also seen rats scampering around on the tops of the mosquito nets and
    sometimes we have them on our bed. They have a lovely game. They swarm down
    the cord from which the mosquito net is suspended, leap onto the bed and onto the
    floor. We do not have our net down now the cold season is here and there are few
    mosquitoes.

    Last week a rat crept under Ann’s net which hung to the floor and bit her little
    finger, so now I tuck the net in under the mattress though it makes it difficult for me to
    attend to her at night. We shall have to get a cat somewhere. Ann’s pram has not yet
    arrived so George carries her when we go walking – to her great content.
    The native women around here are most interested in Ann. They come to see
    her, bearing small gifts, and usually bring a child or two with them. They admire my child
    and I admire theirs and there is an exchange of gifts. They produce a couple of eggs or
    a few bananas or perhaps a skinny fowl and I hand over sugar, salt or soap as they
    value these commodities. The most lavish gift went to the wife of Thomas our headman,
    who produced twin daughters in the same week as I had Ann.

    Our neighbours have all been across to welcome me back and to admire the
    baby. These include Marion Coster who came out to join her husband whilst I was in
    South Africa. The two Hickson-Wood children came over on a fat old white donkey.
    They made a pretty picture sitting astride, one behind the other – Maureen with her arms
    around small Michael’s waist. A native toto led the donkey and the children’ s ayah
    walked beside it.

    It is quite cold here now but the sun is bright and the air dry. The whole
    countryside is beautifully green and we are a very happy little family.

    Lots and lots of love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate August 11th 1932

    Dearest Family,

    George has been very unwell for the past week. He had a nasty gash on his
    knee which went septic. He had a swelling in the groin and a high temperature and could
    not sleep at night for the pain in his leg. Ann was very wakeful too during the same
    period, I think she is teething. I luckily have kept fit though rather harassed. Yesterday the
    leg looked so inflamed that George decided to open up the wound himself. he made
    quite a big cut in exactly the right place. You should have seen the blackish puss
    pouring out.

    After he had thoroughly cleaned the wound George sewed it up himself. he has
    the proper surgical needles and gut. He held the cut together with his left hand and
    pushed the needle through the flesh with his right. I pulled the needle out and passed it
    to George for the next stitch. I doubt whether a surgeon could have made a neater job
    of it. He is still confined to the couch but today his temperature is normal. Some
    husband!

    The previous week was hectic in another way. We had a visit from lions! George
    and I were having supper about 8.30 on Tuesday night when the back verandah was
    suddenly invaded by women and children from the servants quarters behind the kitchen.
    They were all yelling “Simba, Simba.” – simba means lions. The door opened suddenly
    and the houseboy rushed in to say that there were lions at the huts. George got up
    swiftly, fetched gun and ammunition from the bedroom and with the houseboy carrying
    the lamp, went off to investigate. I remained at the table, carrying on with my supper as I
    felt a pioneer’s wife should! Suddenly something big leapt through the open window
    behind me. You can imagine what I thought! I know now that it is quite true to say one’s
    hair rises when one is scared. However it was only Kelly, our huge Irish wolfhound,
    taking cover.

    George returned quite soon to say that apparently the commotion made by the
    women and children had frightened the lions off. He found their tracks in the soft earth
    round the huts and a bag of maize that had been playfully torn open but the lions had
    moved on.

    Next day we heard that they had moved to Hickson-Wood’s shamba. Hicky
    came across to say that the lions had jumped over the wall of his cattle boma and killed
    both his white Muskat riding donkeys.
    He and a friend sat up all next night over the remains but the lions did not return to
    the kill.

    Apart from the little set back last week, Ann is blooming. She has a cap of very
    fine fair hair and clear blue eyes under straight brow. She also has lovely dimples in both
    cheeks. We are very proud of her.

    Our neighbours are picking coffee but the crops are small and the price is low. I
    am amazed that they are so optimistic about the future. No one in these parts ever
    seems to grouse though all are living on capital. They all say “Well if the worst happens
    we can always go up to the Lupa Diggings.”

    Don’t worry about us, we have enough to tide us over for some time yet.

    Much love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 28th Sept. 1932

    Dearest Family,

    News! News! I’m going to have another baby. George and I are delighted and I
    hope it will be a boy this time. I shall be able to have him at Mbeya because things are
    rapidly changing here. Several German families have moved to Mbeya including a
    German doctor who means to build a hospital there. I expect he will make a very good
    living because there must now be some hundreds of Europeans within a hundred miles
    radius of Mbeya. The Europeans are mostly British or German but there are also
    Greeks and, I believe, several other nationalities are represented on the Lupa Diggings.
    Ann is blooming and developing according to the Book except that she has no
    teeth yet! Kath Hickson-Wood has given her a very nice high chair and now she has
    breakfast and lunch at the table with us. Everything within reach goes on the floor to her
    amusement and my exasperation!

    You ask whether we have any Church of England missionaries in our part. No we
    haven’t though there are Lutheran and Roman Catholic Missions. I have never even
    heard of a visiting Church of England Clergyman to these parts though there are babies
    in plenty who have not been baptised. Jolly good thing I had Ann Christened down
    there.

    The R.C. priests in this area are called White Fathers. They all have beards and
    wear white cassocks and sun helmets. One, called Father Keiling, calls around frequently.
    Though none of us in this area is Catholic we take it in turn to put him up for the night. The
    Catholic Fathers in their turn are most hospitable to travellers regardless of their beliefs.
    Rather a sad thing has happened. Lucas our old chicken-boy is dead. I shall miss
    his toothy smile. George went to the funeral and fired two farewell shots from his rifle
    over the grave – a gesture much appreciated by the locals. Lucas in his day was a good
    hunter.

    Several of the locals own muzzle loading guns but the majority hunt with dogs
    and spears. The dogs wear bells which make an attractive jingle but I cannot bear the
    idea of small antelope being run down until they are exhausted before being clubbed of
    stabbed to death. We seldom eat venison as George does not care to shoot buck.
    Recently though, he shot an eland and Abel rendered down the fat which is excellent for
    cooking and very like beef fat.

    Much love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. P.O.Mbeya 21st November 1932

    Dearest Family,

    George has gone off to the Lupa for a week with John Molteno. John came up
    here with the idea of buying a coffee farm but he has changed his mind and now thinks of
    staking some claims on the diggings and also setting up as a gold buyer.

    Did I tell you about his arrival here? John and George did some elephant hunting
    together in French Equatorial Africa and when John heard that George had married and
    settled in Tanganyika, he also decided to come up here. He drove up from Cape Town
    in a Baby Austin and arrived just as our labourers were going home for the day. The little
    car stopped half way up our hill and John got out to investigate. You should have heard
    the astonished exclamations when John got out – all 6 ft 5 ins. of him! He towered over
    the little car and even to me it seemed impossible for him to have made the long
    journey in so tiny a car.

    Kath Wood has been over several times lately. She is slim and looks so right in
    the shirt and corduroy slacks she almost always wears. She was here yesterday when
    the shamba boy, digging in the front garden, unearthed a large earthenware cooking pot,
    sealed at the top. I was greatly excited and had an instant mental image of fabulous
    wealth. We made the boy bring the pot carefully on to the verandah and opened it in
    happy anticipation. What do you think was inside? Nothing but a grinning skull! Such a
    treat for a pregnant female.

    We have a tree growing here that had lovely straight branches covered by a
    smooth bark. I got the garden boy to cut several of these branches of a uniform size,
    peeled off the bark and have made Ann a playpen with the poles which are much like
    broom sticks. Now I can leave her unattended when I do my chores. The other morning
    after breakfast I put Ann in her playpen on the verandah and gave her a piece of toast
    and honey to keep her quiet whilst I laundered a few of her things. When I looked out a
    little later I was horrified to see a number of bees buzzing around her head whilst she
    placidly concentrated on her toast. I made a rapid foray and rescued her but I still don’t
    know whether that was the thing to do.

    We all send our love,
    Eleanor.

    Mbeya Hospital. April 25th. 1933

    Dearest Family,

    Here I am, installed at the very new hospital, built by Dr Eckhardt, awaiting the
    arrival of the new baby. George has gone back to the farm on foot but will walk in again
    to spend the weekend with us. Ann is with me and enjoys the novelty of playing with
    other children. The Eckhardts have two, a pretty little girl of two and a half and a very fair
    roly poly boy of Ann’s age. Ann at fourteen months is very active. She is quite a little girl
    now with lovely dimples. She walks well but is backward in teething.

    George, Ann and I had a couple of days together at the hotel before I moved in
    here and several of the local women visited me and have promised to visit me in
    hospital. The trip from farm to town was very entertaining if not very comfortable. There
    is ten miles of very rough road between our farm and Utengule Mission and beyond the
    Mission there is a fair thirteen or fourteen mile road to Mbeya.

    As we have no car now the doctor’s wife offered to drive us from the Mission to
    Mbeya but she would not risk her car on the road between the Mission and our farm.
    The upshot was that I rode in the Hickson-Woods machila for that ten mile stretch. The
    machila is a canopied hammock, slung from a bamboo pole, in which I reclined, not too
    comfortably in my unwieldy state, with Ann beside me or sometime straddling me. Four
    of our farm boys carried the machila on their shoulders, two fore and two aft. The relief
    bearers walked on either side. There must have been a dozen in all and they sang a sort
    of sea shanty song as they walked. One man would sing a verse and the others took up
    the chorus. They often improvise as they go. They moaned about my weight (at least
    George said so! I don’t follow Ki-Swahili well yet) and expressed the hope that I would
    have a son and that George would reward them handsomely.

    George and Kelly, the dog, followed close behind the machila and behind
    George came Abel our cook and his wife and small daughter Annalie, all in their best
    attire. The cook wore a palm beach suit, large Terai hat and sunglasses and two colour
    shoes and quite lent a tone to the proceedings! Right at the back came the rag tag and
    bobtail who joined the procession just for fun.

    Mrs Eckhardt was already awaiting us at the Mission when we arrived and we had
    an uneventful trip to the Mbeya Hotel.

    During my last week at the farm I felt very tired and engaged the cook’s small
    daughter, Annalie, to amuse Ann for an hour after lunch so that I could have a rest. They
    played in the small verandah room which adjoins our bedroom and where I keep all my
    sewing materials. One afternoon I was startled by a scream from Ann. I rushed to the
    room and found Ann with blood steaming from her cheek. Annalie knelt beside her,
    looking startled and frightened, with my embroidery scissors in her hand. She had cut off
    half of the long curling golden lashes on one of Ann’s eyelids and, in trying to finish the
    job, had cut off a triangular flap of skin off Ann’s cheek bone.

    I called Abel, the cook, and demanded that he should chastise his daughter there and
    then and I soon heard loud shrieks from behind the kitchen. He spanked her with a
    bamboo switch but I am sure not as well as she deserved. Africans are very tolerant
    towards their children though I have seen husbands and wives fighting furiously.
    I feel very well but long to have the confinement over.

    Very much love,
    Eleanor.

    Mbeya Hospital. 2nd May 1933.

    Dearest Family,

    Little George arrived at 7.30 pm on Saturday evening 29 th. April. George was
    with me at the time as he had walked in from the farm for news, and what a wonderful bit
    of luck that was. The doctor was away on a case on the Diggings and I was bathing Ann
    with George looking on, when the pains started. George dried Ann and gave her
    supper and put her to bed. Afterwards he sat on the steps outside my room and a
    great comfort it was to know that he was there.

    The confinement was short but pretty hectic. The Doctor returned to the Hospital
    just in time to deliver the baby. He is a grand little boy, beautifully proportioned. The
    doctor says he has never seen a better formed baby. He is however rather funny
    looking just now as his head is, very temporarily, egg shaped. He has a shock of black
    silky hair like a gollywog and believe it or not, he has a slight black moustache.
    George came in, looked at the baby, looked at me, and we both burst out
    laughing. The doctor was shocked and said so. He has no sense of humour and couldn’t
    understand that we, though bursting with pride in our son, could never the less laugh at
    him.

    Friends in Mbeya have sent me the most gorgeous flowers and my room is
    transformed with delphiniums, roses and carnations. The room would be very austere
    without the flowers. Curtains, bedspread and enamelware, walls and ceiling are all
    snowy white.

    George hired a car and took Ann home next day. I have little George for
    company during the day but he is removed at night. I am longing to get him home and
    away from the German nurse who feeds him on black tea when he cries. She insists that
    tea is a medicine and good for him.

    Much love from a proud mother of two.
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate 12May 1933

    Dearest Family,

    We are all together at home again and how lovely it feels. Even the house
    servants seem pleased. The boy had decorated the lounge with sprays of
    bougainvillaea and Abel had backed one of his good sponge cakes.

    Ann looked fat and rosy but at first was only moderately interested in me and the
    new baby but she soon thawed. George is good with her and will continue to dress Ann
    in the mornings and put her to bed until I am satisfied with Georgie.

    He, poor mite, has a nasty rash on face and neck. I am sure it is just due to that
    tea the nurse used to give him at night. He has lost his moustache and is fast loosing his
    wild black hair and emerging as quite a handsome babe. He is a very masculine looking
    infant with much more strongly marked eyebrows and a larger nose that Ann had. He is
    very good and lies quietly in his basket even when awake.

    George has been making a hatching box for brown trout ova and has set it up in
    a small clear stream fed by a spring in readiness for the ova which is expected from
    South Africa by next weeks plane. Some keen fishermen from Mbeya and the District
    have clubbed together to buy the ova. The fingerlings are later to be transferred to
    streams in Mbeya and Tukuyu Districts.

    I shall now have my hands full with the two babies and will not have much time for the
    garden, or I fear, for writing very long letters. Remember though, that no matter how
    large my family becomes, I shall always love you as much as ever.

    Your affectionate,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 14th June 1933

    Dearest Family,

    The four of us are all well but alas we have lost our dear Kelly. He was rather a
    silly dog really, although he grew so big he retained all his puppy ways but we were all
    very fond of him, especially George because Kelly attached himself to George whilst I
    was away having Ann and from that time on he was George’s shadow. I think he had
    some form of biliary fever. He died stretched out on the living room couch late last night,
    with George sitting beside him so that he would not feel alone.

    The children are growing fast. Georgie is a darling. He now has a fluff of pale
    brown hair and his eyes are large and dark brown. Ann is very plump and fair.
    We have had several visitors lately. Apart from neighbours, a car load of diggers
    arrived one night and John Molteno and his bride were here. She is a very attractive girl
    but, I should say, more suited to life in civilisation than in this back of beyond. She has
    gone out to the diggings with her husband and will have to walk a good stretch of the fifty
    or so miles.

    The diggers had to sleep in the living room on the couch and on hastily erected
    camp beds. They arrived late at night and left after breakfast next day. One had half a
    beard, the other side of his face had been forcibly shaved in the bar the night before.

    your affectionate,
    Eleanor

    Mchewe Estate. August 10 th. 1933

    Dearest Family,

    George is away on safari with two Indian Army officers. The money he will get for
    his services will be very welcome because this coffee growing is a slow business, and
    our capitol is rapidly melting away. The job of acting as White Hunter was unexpected
    or George would not have taken on the job of hatching the ova which duly arrived from
    South Africa.

    George and the District Commissioner, David Pollock, went to meet the plane
    by which the ova had been consigned but the pilot knew nothing about the package. It
    came to light in the mail bag with the parcels! However the ova came to no harm. David
    Pollock and George brought the parcel to the farm and carefully transferred the ova to
    the hatching box. It was interesting to watch the tiny fry hatch out – a process which took
    several days. Many died in the process and George removed the dead by sucking
    them up in a glass tube.

    When hatched, the tiny fry were fed on ant eggs collected by the boys. I had to
    take over the job of feeding and removing the dead when George left on safari. The fry
    have to be fed every four hours, like the baby, so each time I have fed Georgie. I hurry
    down to feed the trout.

    The children are very good but keep me busy. Ann can now say several words
    and understands more. She adores Georgie. I long to show them off to you.

    Very much love
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. October 27th 1933

    Dear Family,

    All just over flu. George and Ann were very poorly. I did not fare so badly and
    Georgie came off best. He is on a bottle now.

    There was some excitement here last Wednesday morning. At 6.30 am. I called
    for boiling water to make Georgie’s food. No water arrived but muffled shouting and the
    sound of blows came from the kitchen. I went to investigate and found a fierce fight in
    progress between the house boy and the kitchen boy. In my efforts to make them stop
    fighting I went too close and got a sharp bang on the mouth with the edge of an
    enamelled plate the kitchen boy was using as a weapon. My teeth cut my lip inside and
    the plate cut it outside and blood flowed from mouth to chin. The boys were petrified.
    By the time I had fed Georgie the lip was stiff and swollen. George went in wrath
    to the kitchen and by breakfast time both house boy and kitchen boy had swollen faces
    too. Since then I have a kettle of boiling water to hand almost before the words are out
    of my mouth. I must say that the fight was because the house boy had clouted the
    kitchen boy for keeping me waiting! In this land of piece work it is the job of the kitchen
    boy to light the fire and boil the kettle but the houseboy’s job to carry the kettle to me.
    I have seen little of Kath Wood or Marion Coster for the past two months. Major
    Jones is the neighbour who calls most regularly. He has a wireless set and calls on all of
    us to keep us up to date with world as well as local news. He often brings oranges for
    Ann who adores him. He is a very nice person but no oil painting and makes no effort to
    entertain Ann but she thinks he is fine. Perhaps his monocle appeals to her.

    George has bought a six foot long galvanised bath which is a great improvement
    on the smaller oval one we have used until now. The smaller one had grown battered
    from much use and leaks like a sieve. Fortunately our bathroom has a cement floor,
    because one had to fill the bath to the brim and then bath extremely quickly to avoid
    being left high and dry.

    Lots and lots of love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. P.O. Mbeya 1st December 1933

    Dearest Family,

    Ann has not been well. We think she has had malaria. She has grown a good
    deal lately and looks much thinner and rather pale. Georgie is thriving and has such
    sparkling brown eyes and a ready smile. He and Ann make a charming pair, one so fair
    and the other dark.

    The Moltenos’ spent a few days here and took Georgie and me to Mbeya so
    that Georgie could be vaccinated. However it was an unsatisfactory trip because the
    doctor had no vaccine.

    George went to the Lupa with the Moltenos and returned to the farm in their Baby
    Austin which they have lent to us for a week. This was to enable me to go to Mbeya to
    have a couple of teeth filled by a visiting dentist.

    We went to Mbeya in the car on Saturday. It was quite a squash with the four of
    us on the front seat of the tiny car. Once George grabbed the babies foot instead of the
    gear knob! We had Georgie vaccinated at the hospital and then went to the hotel where
    the dentist was installed. Mr Dare, the dentist, had few instruments and they were very
    tarnished. I sat uncomfortably on a kitchen chair whilst he tinkered with my teeth. He filled
    three but two of the fillings came out that night. This meant another trip to Mbeya in the
    Baby Austin but this time they seem all right.

    The weather is very hot and dry and the garden a mess. We are having trouble
    with the young coffee trees too. Cut worms are killing off seedlings in the nursery and
    there is a borer beetle in the planted out coffee.

    George bought a large grey donkey from some wandering Masai and we hope
    the children will enjoy riding it later on.

    Very much love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 14th February 1934.

    Dearest Family,

    You will be sorry to hear that little Ann has been very ill, indeed we were terribly
    afraid that we were going to lose her. She enjoyed her birthday on the 8th. All the toys
    you, and her English granny, sent were unwrapped with such delight. However next
    day she seemed listless and a bit feverish so I tucked her up in bed after lunch. I dosed
    her with quinine and aspirin and she slept fitfully. At about eleven o’clock I was
    awakened by a strange little cry. I turned up the night light and was horrified to see that
    Ann was in a convulsion. I awakened George who, as always in an emergency, was
    perfectly calm and practical. He filled the small bath with very warm water and emersed
    Ann in it, placing a cold wet cloth on her head. We then wrapped her in blankets and
    gave her an enema and she settled down to sleep. A few hours later we had the same
    thing over again.

    At first light we sent a runner to Mbeya to fetch the doctor but waited all day in
    vain and in the evening the runner returned to say that the doctor had gone to a case on
    the diggings. Ann had been feverish all day with two or three convulsions. Neither
    George or I wished to leave the bedroom, but there was Georgie to consider, and in
    the afternoon I took him out in the garden for a while whilst George sat with Ann.
    That night we both sat up all night and again Ann had those wretched attacks of
    convulsions. George and I were worn out with anxiety by the time the doctor arrived the
    next afternoon. Ann had not been able to keep down any quinine and had had only
    small sips of water since the onset of the attack.

    The doctor at once diagnosed the trouble as malaria aggravated by teething.
    George held Ann whilst the Doctor gave her an injection. At the first attempt the needle
    bent into a bow, George was furious! The second attempt worked and after a few hours
    Ann’s temperature dropped and though she was ill for two days afterwards she is now
    up and about. She has also cut the last of her baby teeth, thank God. She looks thin and
    white, but should soon pick up. It has all been a great strain to both of us. Georgie
    behaved like an angel throughout. He played happily in his cot and did not seem to
    sense any tension as people say, babies do. Our baby was cheerful and not at all
    subdued.

    This is the rainy season and it is a good thing that some work has been done on
    our road or the doctor might not have got through.

    Much love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 1st October 1934

    Dearest Family,

    We are all well now, thank goodness, but last week Georgie gave us such a
    fright. I was sitting on the verandah, busy with some sewing and not watching Ann and
    Georgie, who were trying to reach a bunch of bananas which hung on a rope from a
    beam of the verandah. Suddenly I heard a crash, Georgie had fallen backward over the
    edge of the verandah and hit the back of his head on the edge of the brick furrow which
    carries away the rainwater. He lay flat on his back with his arms spread out and did not
    move or cry. When I picked him up he gave a little whimper, I carried him to his cot and
    bathed his face and soon he began sitting up and appeared quite normal. The trouble
    began after he had vomited up his lunch. He began to whimper and bang his head
    against the cot.

    George and I were very worried because we have no transport so we could not
    take Georgie to the doctor and we could not bear to go through again what we had gone
    through with Ann earlier in the year. Then, in the late afternoon, a miracle happened. Two
    men George hardly knew, and complete strangers to me, called in on their way from the
    diggings to Mbeya and they kindly drove Georgie and me to the hospital. The Doctor
    allowed me to stay with Georgie and we spent five days there. Luckily he responded to
    treatment and is now as alive as ever. Children do put years on one!

    There is nothing much else to report. We have a new vegetable garden which is
    doing well but the earth here is strange. Gardens seem to do well for two years but by
    that time the soil is exhausted and one must move the garden somewhere else. The
    coffee looks well but it will be another year before we can expect even a few bags of
    coffee and prices are still low. Anyway by next year George should have some good
    return for all his hard work.

    Lots of love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. November 4th 1934

    Dearest Family,

    George is home from his White Hunting safari looking very sunburnt and well.
    The elderly American, who was his client this time, called in here at the farm to meet me
    and the children. It is amazing what spirit these old lads have! This one looked as though
    he should be thinking in terms of slippers and an armchair but no, he thinks in terms of
    high powered rifles with telescopic sights.

    It is lovely being together again and the children are delighted to have their Dad
    home. Things are always exciting when George is around. The day after his return
    George said at breakfast, “We can’t go on like this. You and the kids never get off the
    shamba. We’ll simply have to get a car.” You should have heard the excitement. “Get a
    car Daddy?’” cried Ann jumping in her chair so that her plaits bounced. “Get a car
    Daddy?” echoed Georgie his brown eyes sparkling. “A car,” said I startled, “However
    can we afford one?”

    “Well,” said George, “on my way back from Safari I heard that a car is to be sold
    this week at the Tukuyu Court, diseased estate or bankruptcy or something, I might get it
    cheap and it is an A.C.” The name meant nothing to me, but George explained that an
    A.C. is first cousin to a Rolls Royce.

    So off he went to the sale and next day the children and I listened all afternoon for
    the sound of an approaching car. We had many false alarms but, towards evening we
    heard what appeared to be the roar of an aeroplane engine. It was the A.C. roaring her
    way up our steep hill with a long plume of steam waving gaily above her radiator.
    Out jumped my beaming husband and in no time at all, he was showing off her
    points to an admiring family. Her lines are faultless and seats though worn are most
    comfortable. She has a most elegant air so what does it matter that the radiator leaks like
    a sieve, her exhaust pipe has broken off, her tyres are worn almost to the canvas and
    she has no windscreen. She goes, and she cost only five pounds.

    Next afternoon George, the kids and I piled into the car and drove along the road
    on lookout for guinea fowl. All went well on the outward journey but on the homeward
    one the poor A.C. simply gasped and died. So I carried the shot gun and George
    carried both children and we trailed sadly home. This morning George went with a bunch
    of farmhands and brought her home. Truly temperamental, she came home literally
    under her own steam.

    George now plans to get a second hand engine and radiator for her but it won’t
    be an A.C. engine. I think she is the only one of her kind in the country.
    I am delighted to hear, dad, that you are sending a bridle for Joseph for
    Christmas. I am busy making a saddle out of an old piece of tent canvas stuffed with
    kapok, some webbing and some old rug straps. A car and a riding donkey! We’re
    definitely carriage folk now.

    Lots of love to all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 28th December 1934

    Dearest Family,

    Thank you for the wonderful Christmas parcel. My frock is a splendid fit. George
    declares that no one can knit socks like Mummy and the children love their toys and new
    clothes.

    Joseph, the donkey, took his bit with an air of bored resignation and Ann now
    rides proudly on his back. Joseph is a big strong animal with the looks and disposition of
    a mule. he will not go at all unless a native ‘toto’ walks before him and when he does go
    he wears a pained expression as though he were carrying fourteen stone instead of
    Ann’s fly weight. I walk beside the donkey carrying Georgie and our cat, ‘Skinny Winnie’,
    follows behind. Quite a cavalcade. The other day I got so exasperated with Joseph that
    I took Ann off and I got on. Joseph tottered a few paces and sat down! to the huge
    delight of our farm labourers who were going home from work. Anyway, one good thing,
    the donkey is so lazy that there is little chance of him bolting with Ann.

    The Moltenos spent Christmas with us and left for the Lupa Diggings yesterday.
    They arrived on the 22nd. with gifts for the children and chocolates and beer. That very
    afternoon George and John Molteno left for Ivuna, near Lake Ruckwa, to shoot some
    guinea fowl and perhaps a goose for our Christmas dinner. We expected the menfolk
    back on Christmas Eve and Anne and I spent a busy day making mince pies and
    sausage rolls. Why I don’t know, because I am sure Abel could have made them better.
    We decorated the Christmas tree and sat up very late but no husbands turned up.
    Christmas day passed but still no husbands came. Anne, like me, is expecting a baby
    and we both felt pretty forlorn and cross. Anne was certain that they had been caught up
    in a party somewhere and had forgotten all about us and I must say when Boxing Day
    went by and still George and John did not show up I felt ready to agree with her.
    They turned up towards evening and explained that on the homeward trip the car
    had bogged down in the mud and that they had spent a miserable Christmas. Anne
    refused to believe their story so George, to prove their case, got the game bag and
    tipped the contents on to the dining room table. Out fell several guinea fowl, long past
    being edible, followed by a large goose so high that it was green and blue where all the
    feathers had rotted off.

    The stench was too much for two pregnant girls. I shot out of the front door
    closely followed by Anne and we were both sick in the garden.

    I could not face food that evening but Anne is made of stronger stuff and ate her
    belated Christmas dinner with relish.

    I am looking forward enormously to having Marjorie here with us. She will be able
    to carry back to you an eyewitness account of our home and way of life.

    Much love to you all,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 5th January 1935

    Dearest Family,

    You cannot imagine how lovely it is to have Marjorie here. She came just in time
    because I have had pernicious vomiting and have lost a great deal of weight and she
    took charge of the children and made me spend three days in hospital having treatment.
    George took me to the hospital on the afternoon of New Years Eve and decided
    to spend the night at the hotel and join in the New Years Eve celebrations. I had several
    visitors at the hospital that evening and George actually managed to get some imported
    grapes for me. He returned to the farm next morning and fetched me from the hospital
    four days later. Of course the old A.C. just had to play up. About half way home the
    back axle gave in and we had to send a passing native some miles back to a place
    called Mbalizi to hire a lorry from a Greek trader to tow us home to the farm.
    The children looked well and were full of beans. I think Marjorie was thankful to
    hand them over to me. She is delighted with Ann’s motherly little ways but Georgie she
    calls “a really wild child”. He isn’t, just has such an astonishing amount of energy and is
    always up to mischief. Marjorie brought us all lovely presents. I am so thrilled with my
    sewing machine. It may be an old model but it sews marvellously. We now have an
    Alsatian pup as well as Joseph the donkey and the two cats.

    Marjorie had a midnight encounter with Joseph which gave her quite a shock but
    we had a good laugh about it next day. Some months ago George replaced our wattle
    and daub outside pit lavatory by a substantial brick one, so large that Joseph is being
    temporarily stabled in it at night. We neglected to warn Marj about this and one night,
    storm lamp in hand, she opened the door and Joseph walked out braying his thanks.
    I am afraid Marjorie is having a quiet time, a shame when the journey from Cape
    Town is so expensive. The doctor has told me to rest as much as I can, so it is
    impossible for us to take Marj on sight seeing trips.

    I hate to think that she will be leaving in ten days time.

    Much love,
    Eleanor.

    Mchewe Estate. 18th February 1935

    Dearest Family,

    You must be able to visualise our life here quite well now that Marj is back and
    has no doubt filled in all the details I forget to mention in my letters. What a journey we
    had in the A.C. when we took her to the plane. George, the children and I sat in front and
    Marj sat behind with numerous four gallon tins of water for the insatiable radiator. It was
    raining and the canvas hood was up but part of the side flaps are missing and as there is
    no glass in the windscreen the rain blew in on us. George got fed up with constantly
    removing the hot radiator cap so simply stuffed a bit of rag in instead. When enough
    steam had built up in the radiator behind the rag it blew out and we started all over again.
    The car still roars like an aeroplane engine and yet has little power so that George sent
    gangs of boys to the steep hills between the farm and the Mission to give us a push if
    necessary. Fortunately this time it was not, and the boys cheered us on our way. We
    needed their help on the homeward journey however.

    George has now bought an old Chev engine which he means to install before I
    have to go to hospital to have my new baby. It will be quite an engineering feet as
    George has few tools.

    I am sorry to say that I am still not well, something to do with kidneys or bladder.
    George bought me some pills from one of the several small shops which have opened
    in Mbeya and Ann is most interested in the result. She said seriously to Kath Wood,
    “Oh my Mummy is a very clever Mummy. She can do blue wee and green wee as well
    as yellow wee.” I simply can no longer manage the children without help and have
    engaged the cook’s wife, Janey, to help. The children are by no means thrilled. I plead in
    vain that I am not well enough to go for walks. Ann says firmly, “Ann doesn’t want to go
    for a walk. Ann will look after you.” Funny, though she speaks well for a three year old,
    she never uses the first person. Georgie say he would much rather walk with
    Keshokutwa, the kitchen boy. His name by the way, means day-after-tomorrow and it
    suits him down to the ground, Kath Wood walks over sometimes with offers of help and Ann will gladly go walking with her but Georgie won’t. He on the other hand will walk with Anne Molteno
    and Ann won’t. They are obstinate kids. Ann has developed a very fertile imagination.
    She has probably been looking at too many of those nice women’s magazines you
    sent. A few days ago she said, “You are sick Mummy, but Ann’s got another Mummy.
    She’s not sick, and my other mummy (very smugly) has lovely golden hair”. This
    morning’ not ten minutes after I had dressed her, she came in with her frock wet and
    muddy. I said in exasperation, “Oh Ann, you are naughty.” To which she instantly
    returned, “My other Mummy doesn’t think I am naughty. She thinks I am very nice.” It
    strikes me I shall have to get better soon so that I can be gay once more and compete
    with that phantom golden haired paragon.

    We had a very heavy storm over the farm last week. There was heavy rain with
    hail which stripped some of the coffee trees and the Mchewe River flooded and the
    water swept through the lower part of the shamba. After the water had receded George
    picked up a fine young trout which had been stranded. This was one of some he had
    put into the river when Georgie was a few months old.

    The trials of a coffee farmer are legion. We now have a plague of snails. They
    ring bark the young trees and leave trails of slime on the glossy leaves. All the ring
    barked trees will have to be cut right back and this is heartbreaking as they are bearing
    berries for the first time. The snails are collected by native children, piled upon the
    ground and bashed to a pulp which gives off a sickening stench. I am sorry for the local
    Africans. Locusts ate up their maize and now they are losing their bean crop to the snails.

    Lots of love, Eleanor

    #6229
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Gretton Tailoresses of Swadlincote and the Single Journalist Boot Maker Next Door

    The Purdy’s, Housley’s and Marshall’s are my mothers fathers side of the family.  The Warrens, Grettons and Staleys are from my mothers mothers side.

    I decided to add all the siblings to the Gretton side of the family, in search of some foundation to a couple of family anecdotes.  My grandmother, Nora Marshall, whose mother was Florence Nightingale Gretton, used to mention that our Gretton side of the family were related to the Burton Upon Trent Grettons of Bass, Ratcliff and Gretton, the brewery.  She also said they were related to Lord Gretton of Stableford Park in Leicestershire.  When she was a child, she said parcels of nice clothes were sent to them by relatives.

    Bass Ratcliffe and Gretton

     

    It should be noted however that Baron Gretton is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, and was created in 1944 for the brewer and Conservative politician John Gretton. He was head of the brewery firm of Bass, Ratcliff & Gretton Ltd of Burton upon Trent. So they were not members of the Peerage at the time of this story.

    What I found was unexpected.

    My great great grandfather Richard Gretton 1833-1898, a baker in Swadlincote, didn’t have any brothers, but he did have a couple of sisters.

    One of them, Frances, born 1831, never married, but had four children. She stayed in the family home, and named her children Gretton. In 1841 and 1851 she’s living with parents and siblings. In 1861 she is still living with parents and now on the census she has four children all named Gretton listed as grandchildren of her father.
    In 1871, her mother having died in 1866, she’s still living with her father William Gretton, Frances is now 40, and her son William 19 and daughter Jane 15 live there.
    By the time she is 50 in 1881 and her parents have died she’s head of the house with 5 children all called Gretton, including her daughter Jane Gretton aged 24.

    Twenty five year old Robert Staley is listed on the census transcription as living in the same household, but when viewing the census image it becomes clear that he lived next door, on his own and was a bootmaker, and on the other side, his parents Benjamin and Sarah Staley lived at the Prince of Wales pub with two other siblings.

    Who was fathering all these Gretton children?

    It seems that Jane did the same thing as her mother: she stayed at home and had three children, all with the name Gretton.  Jane Gretton named her son, born in 1878, Michael William Staley Gretton, which would suggest that Staley was the name of the father of the child/children of Jane Gretton.

    The father of Frances Gretton’s four children is not known, and there is no father on the birth registers, although they were all baptized.

    I found a photo of Jane Gretton on a family tree on an ancestry site, so I contacted the tree owner hoping that she had some more information, but she said no, none of the older family members would explain when asked about it.  Jane later married Tom Penn, and Jane Gretton’s children are listed on census as Tom Penn’s stepchildren.

    Jane Gretton Penn

     

    It seems that Robert Staley (who may or may not be the father of Jane’s children) never married. In 1891 Robert is 35, single, living with widowed mother Sarah in Swadlincote. Sarah is living on own means and Robert has no occupation. On the 1901 census Robert is an unmarried 45 year old journalist and author, living with his widowed mother Sarah Staley aged 79, in Swadlincote.

    There are at least three Staley  Warren marriages in the family, and at least one Gretton Staley marriage.

    There is a possibility that the father of Frances’s children could be a Gretton, but impossible to know for sure. William Gretton was a tailor, and several of his children and grandchildren were tailoresses.  The Gretton family who later bought Stableford Park lived not too far away, and appear to be well off with a dozen members of live in staff on the census.   Did our Gretton’s the tailors make their clothes? Is that where the parcels of nice clothes came from?

    Perhaps we’ll find a family connection to the brewery Grettons, or find the family connection was an unofficial one, or that the connection is further back.

    I suppose luckily, this isn’t my direct line but an exploration of an offshoot, so the question of paternity is merely a matter of curiosity.  It is a curious thing, those Gretton tailors of Church Gresley near Burton upon Trent, and there are questions remaining.

    #6187
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Aunt Idle:

    You can’t blame me for not updating my diary because bugger all has happened all year.  Borders closed, no tourists allowed in.  How are bespoke bijou boutique establishments like ours supposed to survive?  But we’re still here. Somehow we’ve managed to keep the wolf from the door, but only just barely.  I get a bit muddled up these days and can’t remember the dates. Sometimes I find myself living in the past for weeks on end: things change so little around her that it’s easy to do. But what does it matter anyway?

    Mater went into a sulk the likes of which I hope never to see again, when her 100th birthday party was cancelled. I thought she might give up the will to live, but oh no. She’s determined now to have a 110th birthday party now.  She says the bloody pandemic ought to be over by then.  I hope she’s right. She changes her health food and exercise regimes as often as she changes her knickers. Well more often than that, probably, she doesn’t bother much with personal hygiene.  She says the germs keep her immune system in good shape.  I think the smell of her would keep any plague ridden body well away from her, but whatever works, I always say.  At least she isn’t sulking anymore, she’s grimly stoic now and tediously determined to outlive me.

    I had some worrying news through the telepathic grapevine about the twins and Pan, they’d gotten into the clutches of a strange cult over there.  I’ve got a feeling they weren’t really sucked into it though, I think they needed to use it as a cover, or to keep themselves safe.  I say cult but it was huge, took over the entire country and even started spreading to other countries. As if the pandemic wasn’t enough to deal with.  I knew they shouldn’t have gone there.  There’s been a peculiar blockage with the telepathic messages for ages now.  It’s a worry, but what can I do.   I keep sending them messages, but get nothing in return.

    Ah, well. We carry on as best we can. What I wouldn’t give for an unexpected visitor to brighten things up a bit. Fat chance of that.

    #6186
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Will didn’t like unexpected visitors. What kind of people turned up unannounced nowadays? He was tempted to ignore the knocking but then it is the not knowing that’s the killer. And what if someone gets it in their head to nose around the property?

    “Yep?” he said opening the door. The pair of them were starting off down the front steps as though they meant to go exploring. He’d been right to answer.

    “Oh, you are here!” said the girl, turning towards him with a bright smile. “Sorry to just turn up like this …”

    Will gave her a curt nod and she faltered a little.

    “Uh, my name is Clara and this is my grandfather, Bob, and we are hoping you can help us … “

    The old fellow with her, Bob, was staring hard at Will. He looked familiar but Will couldn’t quite place him … he wasn’t local. And he certainly didn’t recognise the girl—very pretty; he would definitely have remembered her.

    “Have we met somewhere, Bob?” Will asked.

    #6081
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Aunt Idle:

    I’ll admit Mater did well with the get back into shape programme, despite my skepticism.  She did hone her muscles a bit, but she was still harping on about wanting plastic surgery.  I probably shouldn’t have asked her if she was showing off her biceps or her bingo wings the other day, because that started her off again. I tried to make it up by complimenting her thigh muscles, but spoiled it by saying it was a shame the skin hung down past her kneecaps. Bert said maybe she could hold the skin up with some suspenders and made me spit my eucalyptus tea out and nearly choke to death. Mater was all set to take offence until she saw me choking, and then she started laughing too. I’m smiling remembering it, because we all saw the funny side then and couldn’t stop laughing for ages. God knows we needed a good laugh.

    I’d had another one of those telepathic chats with Corrie the day before. If I’d known those silly girls were going to navigate their way here via that route I’d have said something, but I never thought they’d be so daft.  There’s me envisioning a pleasant drift through the Mediterranean, and an unexpected sail across an immense shallow lake that had appeared in the middle east with crystal clear waters and a sandy bottom (I could picture it all, I tell you) and then an invitingly tropical trip along the Indian coast with ports of call at virgin new coastlines  ~ but no, they’d gone the other way.  Across the Atlantic. And now they were fighting off bandits every step of the way and having to go miles out of their way to avoid plague ridden slums.  They hadn’t even made their way past the eastern seaboard yet, despite it being considerably narrower now.

    They lost Pan for days in one of those half submerged coastal cities, rife with lawless floating shanties.  I hope my impressions are wrong, I do really, but it seemed like he’d been kidnapped for a barbecue.  Tender and juicy.

    His ability to stay submerged under the water for so long saved him, that and Corrie’s ability to stay in telepathic contact with him.

    They left the coastline and headed south after that and didn’t head back towards land for awhile but when they did, they found the lagoons and inlets were infested with alligators and some kind of water pig. Not sure if I picked that up right, but seems like the hogs had escaped from the farms during the Great Floods and taken to the water. Pan was forbidden to waterlark in these waters and had to stay confined to the raft.

    I don’t know if they’ll get here in time for Mater’s birthday. Might be my hundredth birthday by the time they get here at this rate.

    #5985
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Lucinda had all but forgotten about the mysterious dolls, what with the global events dominating everyone’s thoughts. It was hard to focus on anything else, and even Helper Effy wasn’t pushing her too much to keep up with her writing.

    When her friend Dillie sent her the first photograph of a doll hanging on a tree in the Michigan forest, she’d found it amusing, of course, but had thought no more about it. It was always fun to find unexpected things in random places, but the significance of it being a doll had escaped her notice.

    When Dillie sent a photo of another doll hanging on a tree by a woodland trail a few days later, the penny dropped. Dolls! What were they doing in Michigan? Were there more dolls in those woods?

    Dillie had been tempted to take the dolls home with her, but hesitated. There was something strange about them and she intuitively felt she should leave them where they were.

    Lucinda wondered what to do. Should she go to Michigan? Ask her friend to go back and fetch the dolls and send them to her?  Wait and see if Dillie found any more?

    The dolls looked strangely pristine, as if they’d only recently been hung there. Who had done that, and why?

    #5970

    In reply to: Story Bored

    EricEric
    Keymaster

    BOARD 2

    [BOARD2] Story 1:
    Rene & Huhu have found the secret cave and are sweet-talking the Guardian to obtain the blue diamond of Flove.
    Eleri and Fox’s hunt for chicken is taking an unexpected turn.
    Leormn’s latest prank didn’t leave Arona very happy about his magical help to find truffles.

    #5829
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “I’m loathe to admit June, but you may have had a genius impulse, getting us out of the US.”

    “Of course, dear April.” June answered absentmindedly. She roared in laughter. “Look at the last one! Isn’t it hilarious! Fun change from the boring elections newsies!”

    The spike in humorous creativity on the network of confined friends was indeed an unexpected relief.

    “My parents are starting to worry though. I’ve got some news, and they are starting to hide from the neighbourhood, with Lump talking about Chinese virus, it’s not good being too Asian looking.”

    She pointed at the unfamiliar coastline. “And you never told us where we were sailing to? Care to explain?”

    #5678
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “What an interesting Brexit day to unexpectedly be in a sort of Done Quixote time warp,” said Liz, lapsing into one of her episodes.  She had moments of compulsion to feed the randometer, an urge too seemingly pointless to ignore, which made her appear vague and inconsistent.

    #5623
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Who can that be now!” exclaimed May as she made her way to the back door.  A flustered looking woman in odd looking mismatched clothes was standing on the door step.

    I ’ave come to ’elp Finnley wiz ze bedding!” she said by way of introduction, “But I ‘ave lost my baby, ’ave you seen ’er? My name is Fanella.  I ’ave come to ’elp Finnley wiz ze bedding, but I must find my daughter first!”

    “You’d better come in,” replied May, wondering what to do.  Until the right baby turned up, she could hardly give this woman her daughter back.  But the poor woman was distraught, and May wanted to ease her distress.  She would have to try to delay her somehow.

    “There is no need to worry, er, Fanella, as it happens there is an unexpected baby girl visiting with the bosses son, but they are both fast asleep. They are quite safe, but I am not in a position to disturb them yet. Do sit down, you look exhausted.  Let me get you a drink.”

    May handed her a glass of wine. “How on earth did you manage to lose your daughter?”

    “I was just about to ring ze bell but I was so nervous I ’ad to pee so I ran quickly be’ind ze bushes. And when I ’ad finished, my baby was gone!” Fanella started to weep.

    “Did you say you’d come to help Finnley in the bed?” Suddenly May started to wonder if this was another call girl for Mr August. Was he planning a threesome?

    “Yes, I ’ave come to ’elp Finnley,” Fanella replied, “Wiz ze bedding.”

    “And you brought your baby with you?”  aghast, May wondered what to do next. Maybe this woman shouldn’t be given the child back after all.  It had been a long night, with far too many babies.

    #5601
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    April

    April was born in Manila, Arkansas (close to Whisp), birth date unknown.

    Her family’s origins is South-Asian. April is an aspiring artist, using her free time as a nanny to explore her art. She met June in 1999, while June was on the run from the police and broke into the household where April was in charge of twins and a pack of dogs at the time. June’s unexpected help with the twelve whining household dogs helped win her over and they became inseparable friends shortly after that, despite June’s temper and kleptomania habits.

    #4799
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “Snap out of it!”

    Liz was gobsmacked, literally. “Did you just slap me, Godfrey? How unexpected!”

    “You were delirious for a moment, I guess the shock of it all. Myself, I haven’t quite processed the news.”

    “What do you mean? Tsk, about all that sag-shaming, and childish trifles?”

    “No, Liz. You know… That Finnley just announced she was secretly a writer, and doing her own saga, with almost a finished manuscript and a deal for three oth….”

    “Stop it! STOP IT! That little ingrate! All that time spent shadowing, learning from my brilliance. AAaar! AAAAAARRRR! I knew she was up to something pretending to spend so much time dusting, and so little got done around this house!”

    “The silver lining…”

    “What?”

    “Is that she’s back?” Godfrey ventured timidly.

    Liz suddenly cooled down. “It’s true I’ve had enough of the French pastries. Those maids were mostly good for entertaining value, but spent way too much time fooling around Roberto. At least Finnley isn’t turning any eyes. If you see what I mean,” she ended in a manic cackle.

    #4761
    AvatarJib
    Participant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    #4757
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The loud throbbing of a Harley Davidson interrupted the unexpected revelation moment.
    A few seconds later, the door banged open and a man with a long moustache, thick eyebrows and a rather bushy hair entered the Inn.

    Fergus?” said Mater, frowning.
    Uncle Fergus?” said Maeve.
    “You old bastard!” said Bert.

    Devan didn’t know the name of the man, but he did manage to infuse his wide open mouth with an interrogation.

    “Who’s Fergus?” asked Dodo, who didn’t want to be left behind.

    The fact that Mater was the first person to pronounce the name of the man didn’t escape Prune’s shrewd mind.
    “How do you know him?” she asked Mater who blushed and used another puff of dust to cough and avoid the question.

    But one surprised all the others, even Fergus.
    “My long lost brother!” said Sanso. He moved forward and hugged the newly arrived man. Truth be told, there was some ressemblance between the two of them.

    Mandrake was looking at Ugo who seemed rather focused on the scene. Something was off, he could feel it. He should warn Arona, but the darn lizard never left her side, or her hair. It was pretty annoying since she would not brush his fur very often now, and he certainly needed some refreshing with all the knots caused by the dryness of the climate.

    #4707
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    An unexpected shaman tart witch was looking and had spotted them coming from afar.

    Head Shaman Tart Witch, if you please.” She muttered in her breath, happy to break the fourth wall and all.

    The sun was already high and the air was sizzling ready to burst out like buttered pop corn.

    “A rather lame metaphor. You’ve done better.”

    The Head Shtart Witch, as we will call her later for brevity’s sake, was as tart as a sour lemon dipped in vinegar, and prone to talking to spirits, when not cackling in tittering fits of laughter, as shamans are wont to do.
    She was surprisingly in tune with the narrator’s voice this late in the day, considering it wasn’t her first bottle of… medicine she ingested today.

    “Voices are rather quiet, yes. I was expecting a bit more… quantity if you know what I mean.”

    The narrator had absolutely no idea of what she meant, not discontent with the quantity per se.

    Three in quantity, they came, looking for her. A girl, visibly in charge, although a bit hard to tell either, buried into the baggy hood and all.

    “The star-studded stockings under the striped red and white trousers were a bit of a give-away though… she was a she, and a bossy pants to boot.” the Head Schwtich replied.

    “And don’t take advantage to maim my full name… Jeeze, they’re so lazy these days. Can’t even spell right.”

    Ignoring the rude comments, the narrator continued.
    Then, a man, a bit namby-pamby with the gait of a devil-may-care goat at that.
    And a boy, on the threshold of manhood, with lots of red hair and freckles he could have put the bush on fire.

    “You have forgotten the gecko… and the cat.”

    The cat wasn’t forgotten of course, but was it technically a cat, with the talking and all? Poor thing had ill-fitted boots (probably a clearance sale from the Jiborium’s), so that it wouldn’t burn its pads on the red hot trail. It seemed stubborn enough to refuse being carried, although not confident enough about the surrounding life in the bush to stop checking every minute for all that crawled and crept around.

    “That’s why they’re here. The protective charms. That, and the jeep of course.”

    The Twitch seemed to know everything so the narrator felt it would probably best to let her finish the comment.

    “Oh, don’t you start. That passive aggressive attitude isn’t going to get your story done, is it. And it’s not like I’m going to follow them in their dangerous and futile quest. It’s your job, better get to it.”

    Indeed, she was only just a sour, old, decrepit…
    “You stop that!”

    :fleuron:

    “Is that her hut?” Albie pointed at the horizon.
    “Yes, I think we’re there.” Arona looked at the compass she’d put around Albie’s neck. “Yes, that’s it.”

    Sanso yawned and stretched lazily “I hope they have a hot shower now, I feel so dirty.”

    Arona chose to ignore Sanso and let him gesticulate. They’d only walked for less than 15 minutes, and the perspective of few more hours of driving with him breathing down her neck started to give her murderous thoughts.

    She turned to the team. “Listen, whatever happens, don’t make rude remarks, even if she seems a bit… unhinged.”

    “Are you talking about the crazy lady with the chameleon on her head, who talks to herself and looks like she hadn’t got a bath in a century?”

    “That’s what I meant Sanso.” Arona rolled her eyes in a secret signature move she owned the secret of. “Listen, it would be better for everyone if you’d stay here and stop talking until we get the keys to the jeep, alright.”

    Luckily for all of them, a little sage smudging and a bakchich in kind sealed the deal with the HEAD Shaman Tart Witch, and less than an hour later, with the mountain at their back, they were all barreling at breakneck speed down the lone road towards the Old Mine Town.

    That’s where the Inn was, now starting to crawl with unexpected guests and long lost family members.

    #4624
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    The light in the apartment darkened and Lucida glanced up from her book and noticed the gathering clouds visible through the glass doors that opened onto her balcony. Frowning, she reached for her phone to check tomorrows weather forecast. The weekly outdoor market was one of the highlights of her week. With a sigh of relief she noted that there was no expectation of rain. Clouds perhaps, which wasn’t a bad thing. It wouldn’t be too hot, and the glare of the sun wouldn’t make it difficult to see all the the things laid out to entice a potential buyer on trestle tables and blankets.

    Lucinda had made a list ~ the usual things, like fruit and vegetables from the farms outside the city; perhaps she’d find a second hand cake tin to try out the new recipe, and some white sheets for the costumes for the Roman themed party she’d been invited to, maybe some more books. But what excited her most was the chance of finding something unexpected, or something unusual. And more often than not, she did.

    She added birthday present to the list, not having any idea what that might be. Lucinda found choosing gifts extraordinarily difficult, and had tried all manner of tactics to change her irrational angst about the whole thing. One Christmas she’d tried just picking one shop and choosing as many random things as people on her gift list. In fact that had worked as well as any other method, but still felt unsettling and unsatisfactory. The next year she informed everyone that she wouldn’t be buying presents at all, and asked friends and family to reciprocate likewise. Some had and some hadn’t, resulting in yet more confusion. Was she to be grateful for the gifts, despite the lack of her own reciprocation? Or peeved that they had ignored her wishes?

    Birthdays were different though. A personal individual celebration was not the same thing as Christmas with all it’s stifling traditions and expectations. It would be churlish to refuse to buy a birthday gift. And so birthday gift remained on the shopping list, as it had been last week, and the week before.

    A birthday gift had already been purchased the previous week. Lucinda glanced up at the top shelf of the bookcase where the doll sat, languidly looking down at her. She felt a pang of emotion, as she did each time she looked at that doll. She loved the doll and wanted to keep it for herself, that was one thing. That was one of the things that always happened when she chose a gift that she liked herself: she talked herself into keeping it; that it was her taste and not the recipients. That it would be obvious that she’d chosen it because SHE liked it, not keeping the other person in mind.

    But that wasn’t the only thing confounding her this time. The doll wanted to stay with her, she was sure of it. It wasn’t just her wanting to keep the doll. It wasn’t any old doll, either. That was the other thing. It seemed very clear that it was one of Maeve’s dolls. It had to be, she was sure of it.

    When she got home with her purchases the week before, her intention had been to go and show Maeve what she’d found. Then something stopped her: what if it made her sad that one of her creations had been discarded, put up for sale at a market along with old cake tins and second hand sheets? No, she couldn’t possibly risk it, and luckily Maeve didn’t know the birthday girl who was the doll was intended for, so she’d never know.

    But then Lucinda realized she had to keep the strange gaunt doll with the grey dreadlocks and patchwork dress. She couldn’t possibly give her away.

    I hope I don’t find another doll at the market tomorrow, and have to keep that as well! thought Lucinda, and immediately felt goosebumps rise as an errant breeze ruffled the dolls dreadlocks.

    #4589
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    The old woman picked up the box of giraffe shaped cookies from the supermarket shelf. She looked at the box wonderingly, bemused at why she’d chosen it. She almost put it back on the shelf, but a couple of tears had rolled off her nose and onto the package. She put it in her basket, sighing. She couldn’t very well put it back on the shelf now, not with her snot all over the box. What did it matter anyway, she thought, sniffing. Now that the Ministry of Transport building had burned down, what did it matter.

    “Is everything ok, love?” The old woman looked at the kind expression on the woman’s face, and started to sob. “Oh dear, whatever is the matter?” Maeve asked, noticing the giraffe shaped cookies illustrated on the damp packet.

    “It’s the terrible news!” the old woman replied. “The Ministry of Transport! That beautiful old building! Such a testament to man’s ingenuity! Gone, all gone!”

    “But it’s not the only one though is it?” replied Maeve, wondering if the old dear was a pew short of a cathedral. “I mean, there are others.”

    The old woman pulled her arm sharply away from Maeve’s gentle hand on her shoulder and glared at her.

    “How dare you say that! There’s nothing like it, anywhere!” and she strode off up the aisle, angry steps making a rat tat tat on the polished floor. Her outrage was such that she forgot to pay for the giraffe shaped cookies, and marched right out of the store.

    Jerk, who was watching from a security spying monitor, sighed, and heaved himself out of his seat. The one thing he hated the most about his job was apprehending decrepit old shoplifters. I bet she smells of cat wee and rancid cooking fat, he mumbled under his breath.

    “Oh hello, Jerk!” Maeve intercepted him on his route to the main doors in pursuit of the aged thief, noticing his disgruntled expression. “What’s up, you’re not upset about the Ministry of Transport building too, are you?”

    Nonplussed, Jerk stopped for a moment to consider the unexpected question, giving the elderly shoplifter time to hop on a bus (that symbol of man’s ingenuity) and make her escape.

    #4518
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Annabel Ingram, while aimlessly perusing the pile of old notebooks she’d picked up at the second hand market, felt the familiar sense of slack jawed wide eyed wonder at the unexpected synchronicity. How did that happen all the time! Annabel had opened to an entry about teeth, just after taking a call from the dentist about an emergency appointment for her partner. Not only that, but on impulse earlier in the day, she’d joined a favourite book share game with a few friends ~ despite previously ignoring it because of the difficulty of choosing favourites when there were so many.

    Sighing heavily, Annabel noted that the summer had been unusually humid, too.

    “Let’s just hope there are no booklice,” she muttered.

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