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Letter from Mab


Orient Company Limited
April 14th 1900

Dearest Tommie

We are going into Chilan this afternoon by the coach and coming back by it on Monday morning, so as to be able to go to church tomorrow. It was so horrid to think of having Easter without any Church at all. We are going to Madampe (2 miles) in the launch and will join the coach there as it does not pass near here. We are on the old Colombo road which is not used much for general traffic, the new road is about 1 1/2 miles away across the cocoa-nut estate. We are going to stay at the Rest house and as George is rather doubtful about the cooking we are taking the Boy with us to be on the safe side. The last time George was there, they had fried the fish in cocoa-nut oil and the result is not pleasing to a European palate.

The coach leaves here at 6 o’clock on Monday morning so we shall have to be up with the lark. I have warned George that my temper is not to be depended on at that hour of the morning, so he is prepared for the worst. Chilan is on the coast, and the Rest house is quite close to the sea, so we shall get a little freshening up.

George rode over to Chilan on Wednesday morning, as he thought the exercise would be good for him, but it proved rather too much. I suppose he is out of training as he has hardly biked at all since he has been here. It is about 24 miles altogether. It was all right going as he left here soon after 7 so it was not very hot, but he did not start to come back till quarter to eleven, and got here in less than an hour. Of course it was the hottest part of the day, and he arrived home in the most awful state of heat. His flannel shirt was simply saturated. I could have wrung it. After he had been in a little while, he nearly collapsed and had to retire to his bed while I bathed his head etc. He didn’t faint but he was not far off it, so I made him have some breakfast in bed and kept him there till tea time, and after a sleep he was quite all right again. I shall be very glad for him when we get some rain and it is cooler, as although he is all right, still I don’t think it would take much to bowl him over and he is bound to be out in the heat a good deal.

While I think of it, thank you very much for the description of Ida’s wedding. I was very pleased to have it. Kate sent me the Lady so I am quite up in the fashions.

I am cross, cross, cross, no joking, I really have been awfully savage and I made poor George quite unhappy yesterday.

When we got to Madampe on Sat afternoon, if that beastly coach had not gone by earlier than usual and we just missed it. We tried hard to get a cart but there was none to be had, so we had to come ignominiously back again, after carefully shutting up the house and putting it in charge of the watchman. When the postboy came he told us the coach was full up, but somehow that did not comfort us a bit, as we might have chucked some of the natives out. That is the worst of it travelling by public conveyances in Ceylon. You are likely to be cooped up with some beastly betel-chewing man. The Company ought to provide us with a bullock cart. We ought not to be stranded here with no means of getting about.

This morning just as we were about to have early tea, a man ran into the compound crying out that there was a big snake in some bushes by the towpath. So we sallied forth with some of the mill men who happened to be loitering about. One had a big gun to shoot it as the men said it was a very poisonous one and a very big one. They said it was in some bushes by the bridge so I took up a safe position on the bridge as I was not keen on going too close although I wanted to see. They set fire to the bushes with a great deal of fuss and gesticulation. They were in an awful state of fright. The wretched thing would not come out and the heat was awful from the blazing bushes. At last one of the men who was peeping about saw something move and said ‘copragoya’ (?) and then they all burst out laughing. It turned out not to be a snake at all but a big water lizard which dashed into the water in a great state of fright. I was really rather disappointed as I should like to see a really big snake so long as I was safely out of its way. But George says it is extremely unlikely there are any about here as there is too much traffic and not enough cover, as they keep the canal banks cut close because of the towing.

Now about the ring. I am sorry it has been such a bother. George says he would like to have it made to fit his little finger, that is, the size of your moonstone ring, not any smaller. It is because it is so thick all round that makes it so uncomfortable. My wedding ring is just the same. It is just about the same thickness and I can’t say I am fond of it, even now it seems so heavy. An all round ring is not nearly so comfortable as one only thick in the front.

Thank you ever so much for the book when it comes. I shall be delighted with it as I am often in a state of nothing to read. I should like any of those you mention, but I am not very keen on Edna Lyall’s. I liked the one Arthur gave me immensely, ‘The Forest Lovers’ by Maurice Hewlett. But you are not to go spending money in waste like that.

Please thank Mother ever so much for her letter.

Lots of love to everybody

From Mab

It is still ‘ot and clothes are a nuisance.


Letter from Mab

Here is the latest letter from Mabel to her mother back in Croydon.

April 9th/00

My dearest Mother

We are still stewing slowly but surely. I really am beginning to feel quite limp, but it can’t last much longer. Every evening it clouds over and it looks as if it were going to be a tremendous storm and then it slowly clears away again. But one of these evenings it will give the most enormous ‘bust’ and then we shall have plenty of rain for a few days. What makes it worse here is the glare of the sand. Wherever you look on the ground you see nothing but this white sand and it gets most annoying after a time. Of course there is plenty of green because there are such heaps of trees, but it would be so nice to have grass on the ground.

We went for a very jolly trip in the launch yesterday afternoon, starting at 2.30 and getting back at 6.30. We went up the canal and through one big lake then up another bit of canal and halfway across another big lake but that was full of weeds which got twisted round the propellor so we had to stop. We have got oars for the boat when the water is too weedy to steam but it is very hard work and wants strong men. We got nearly as far as Chilan, our nearest town, but we had to turn back as it was getting late and of course it is dark soon after six.

There are man-eating crocodiles in the swampy parts. We have not seen one yet but a man had his hand bitten off yesterday by one at Madampe which is only two miles away. George called me down this morning to see a young crocodile that some boys had caught, such a beastly looking thing, 3 or 4 feet long. They had its mouth propped open with a bit of wood to prevent its snapping. It pretended to be half dead, but Mr Van Boot says they are awfully artful and do it on purpose to put you off your guard. They had a piece of rope tied round its neck and they put it in the canal and let it swim about. If one of them had gone in the water, it would have made for them at once.

The mills are closed this week, they won’t be open till next Monday. The Bhuddists have a big festival at the beginning of the week. It is their New Year, so none of them would come to work, and of course the Roman Catholics would not come at the end of the week so they think it better to close altogether. The people here are all either Bhuddists or Roman Catholics, hardly any Protestants.

George and I have decided not to go away for Easter but to wait and go later on. For one thing it will either be very hot or very wet in Colombo and in either case we should not be able to do much and also staying at an hotel of course is fairly expensive, and although the Orient Co. paid for our actual moving, still there were a good many things we did for ourselves. So with one thing and another there are sone fairly big bills to pay off this month. It will be much nicer to go presently and have a ‘bust’ with a clear conscience. I don’t think it would do either of us much good to go to Colombo now as it is dreadfully hot there and the bedrooms at the G. O. H. would be quite unbearable. Here we always get a breeze however hot it is and when the monsoon bursts the wind will be S.W. and will blow straight from the sea which is only a few miles away.

George will be able to take things easy this week, although I think he wants to do something to the engine. Still he will have plenty of time to lazy about and the rest will do him good as his work is very worrying and he is beginning to get a bit done up with the heat. He has been taking Eno pretty regularly and I am also making him take quinine. I took some this morning as I had a headache. I think I was in the sun too much yesterday although the awning to the boat is very thick and I had my sunshade up as well. The sun is pretty well exactly overhead now at noon and between about 8am and 5pm it is dangerous to be out in it without a thick head covering.

I shan’t be able to get any butterflies until I go to Colombo as I want to get the ‘Killing Bottle’ myself. I don’t like to risk sending for it by post as they are sure to send something wrong.

It will be very horrid having Good Friday and Easter Sunday with no church. I have not heard yet that they are going to have any service. I wish they would but am afraid it is impossible.

Oh, how you would hate the ants and other insects, they are everywhere. I have to wrap the Pomade in wax paper and then it doesn’t keep them out entirely. They would soon eat it all up if they got the chance. I don’t mind them so long as they don’t bite, but there is a very tiny sort that give you nips that quite make you jump. I am a martyr to heat bumps now. They come up all over my hands and arms almost as bad as mosquito bites. I think perhaps it is the iron in the water, and when we get some rain it will be better.

Breakfast is ready and George is rampagious* so I must be off.

Lots of love and kisses to everybody

Your very affectionate daughter


I signed myself Mabel Gibson in two letters the other day. It is very difficult to get out of it.

*Violent and boisterous; unruly. From rampage. Originally Scottish. (Who knew. Not me.)

Ewan Morrison – YES: Why I Joined Yes and Why I Changed to No


Interesting piece…

Originally posted on wakeupscotland:

 Ewan Morrison is an award-winning Scottish author and screenwriter.

how one word silencedFour months ago I joined the Yes camp out of a desire to take part in the great debate that the Yes camp told me was taking place within their ranks. Being a doubter I thought maybe I’d failed to find this debate and that it was exclusive to the membership of the Yes camp, so I joined hoping I could locate it and take part. But even as I was accepted into the ranks – after my ‘Morrison votes Yes’ article in Bella Caledonia, I noted that 5 out of the meagre 20 comments I received berated me for either not having decided sooner or for having questioned Yes at all. Another said, and I paraphrase: ‘Well if he’s had to mull it over he could easily switch to the other side.’ That comment in Bella Caledonia worked away…

View original 1,803 more words

Three days to go…

If you read this, then please receive it in the spirit it is written. I am not a well-reasoned person, whatever I may think, but I do have passion and emotion. And I am writing, down in Devon, about the looming Scottish referendum in which I have no vote but in which I have so much at stake.

It has been said enough that this has been a campaign about heart and head. And indeed it has been. And now I add my two penn’orth.

I have a few thoughts in my head that I will try to get down here.

I think a campaign based on difference is a worry. In this day and age have we not learnt enough to know that building walls, metaphorically or otherwise, brews otherness, and otherness can bloom into hate? David McKee’s book The Two Monsters illustrates what happens when there is a barrier between people. It can lead to conflict as it is so much harder to understand each other’s point of view. I cannot see how a union that has fought and defeated the fascism of the last century can be better off split into pieces.

Two Monsters by David McKee

Two Monsters by David McKee

I can see why so many Scottish people want to split from the union. The argument is mainly that they do not want to be ruled by Westminster. Living in Devon, I know how frustrating it is to be ruled by a London-centric government but I don’t advocate breaking off from the rest of Britain. In unity is strength. Can we not change things from within? Together?

And my heart?

My heart says I love being British. Like most Brits I am Heinz 57. I have Scottish blood, Welsh blood, Huguenot blood, blood of the aboriginal race of Australia. Even a drop of Eleanor of Aquitaine’s blood. And a big chunk of me is English, mainly west country. I was a student at Lancaster for three years, I’ve lived and worked and had my babies in London, I’m married to an Irishman, I live in a Devon town that over the years has struggled to keep its head above the water which cut us off from the rest of the country for a few months earlier this year. (Eventually the PM paid us a visit…) And over the last few years I have fallen head over heels in love with Scotland. Like so many of us Brits, I represent What a diverse nation we are.

As Jenny Colgan said in her recent piece in the Guardian, pleading eloquently to resist the break-up of the union:

Naw. No. No. Never. Swear at me all you like. You shall not take it. My home. My land.

And I agree with that plea, with both my head and my heart, as I wait to see where my future lies. Whatever happens, change is ahead. But please, no, not that magnitude of a change.

Oh My Godmothers


When I was a few months old, I was christened into the Church of England in Christ Church, Swindon, where we were living in 1968 when my father worked for GEC. My brothers had also been christened as had my mum and dad before us. Mum was also confirmed. Not sure about Dad, but possibly as he had been at public school. Neither my brothers nor I were confirmed. Despite the promise made by our godparents:

Ye are to take care that this child be brought to the Bishop to be confirmed by him.

Do godparents still promise this? (And has the Church changed its baptism cards to include ‘her’ as well as ‘him’?) I wouldn’t know as I haven’t been to a C of E christening in a long time, not because I am not a Christian. I am. But I’m a Baptist.

Back in the day I would have been persecuted for being an anabaptist – someone who has been re-baptised as a believer – because I was baptised again as an adult (full immersion this time). As Baptists we bring our babies to the church for dedication and then, when they are older, they can make their own decisions about baptism – the equivalent of confirmation in the Anglican Church. Nowadays there’s a trend for Baptists to choose godparents for their kids too, which I think is lovely.

I have three godparents: two godmothers and a godfather. Despite them, I still became a Christian. Auntie Anne did her best. I haven’t seen Auntie Brenda since I was a kid so I don’t really remember her (though I did find out that her brother was the late, legendary, TV chef who liked a glass of wine). And then there’s Uncle John who is very dear to me but not exactly a fully paid up member of the church club.

So what are godparents? And why have I never been asked to be one? I think I would have made an awesome godmother. But none of my contemporaries had their kids christened back when I was of an age for godparenting. And now, when I have more friends who are both Christians and having babies, I am too old.

To be asked to take some responsibility and care for a child’s spiritual journey is a privilege. Whatever beliefs you hold, spirituality is an aspect of personal growth that can be missed and that should be cherished and nurtured. It’s never too late.

And remember, it’s not all about who you ask to the party. Really.

My Dearest Tommie


A letter from my newly-married great grandmother, Mab, to her sister, Amy, aka Tommie.


Dearest Tommie

Every day has been so hot that I have put off beginning my letters “till tomorrow” and now mail day is here and I’ve not done one. So if this is short you must think of the temperature and not bear malice.

I’m very glad the parcel arrived all right. I was rather anxious about it. I’m sorry Doris’ ring is tight, couldn’t Mrs Dearling stretch it? Is yours big enough? I’ve had jolly letters from Arthur and Carrie. I’m so glad the bangles are all right and the children pleased with them.

You are a dissipated person going to two theatres. I don’t think I like the sound of Don Juan. Tell Jo I’m ashamed of her. She said “never again” after The Tree of Knowledge.

I am so sorry to hear you have rheumatism. George says you’ve caught it from that nasty north east wind. What is that plaid blouse? You’ve never told me about it.

We revel in the Chambers, and Kate is going to send me The Lady, isn’t it jolly of her. I get through a great deal of reading now as I can’t work for long, my needle gets so sticky.

We had some lovely rain on Sunday afternoon and some thunder but not very close. It made it cooler for just a little while but the sun soon made it hot again.

The doctor came to call the other afternoon but we were out in the launch but he says he is coming again soon so I hope we are in then. The heat is making my liver sluggish. I can drink Eno by the quart and it has no effect. So I’ve sent to Colombo for some pills. George went to the doctor on Sunday and asked him to send me some medicine. He sent a mixture which I took and then I took another dose and then I got cross and told George he might have the rest. It was utterly filthy but I did not tell him that. So last night when he was going to bed, he “thought he would take a dose” to see if it would do him good. You should have seen his face when he drank it, he made such a fuss, knew “he was going to be sick” and all sorts of things. I offered him a second dose this morning but he declined and imbibed Eno instead. I don’t know what one would do without Eno in this climate, doctors all recommend it.


The ants are awful, they get everywhere and in everything, and the tiny ones bite. I always have to search my combinations before I put them on. Tell Mother it is all very well to talk about not scratching. Wait till she has about 20 fleas at once and then she will understand what mosquitos are. But I am much better now, although I still have moments of anguish.

We were sorry to part with that ring too but I know George would never have worn it, so it seemed the best thing to do . His skin is very thin and it would have worn his fingers quite raw and in this climate if your blood is not in a good state, it is not good to get a sore place. He has got a slight gathering in his throat as it is. The places on my feet have nearly all healed up now. I think I was lucky that they did not get bad, it shows I was in a good state of health.

I find those three thin white blouses a great comfort. The print ones are very hot when they are clean and starchy. They are perfectly awful round the neck. The dhobies do tear them, especially the white ones. they are all torn where the tapes are put to draw them up. I wish there was a thin, non-starchy material. It would be a great comfort. I wear the unlined Lusson blouse sometimes of an evening, that is beautifully cool.

Well, I must close this very uninteresting epistle. I’ll write a better letter next week.

I am sorry to hear of Mrs Tom Fagg’s death. What did she die of?

I noticed old Mr Read’s death in the Advertiser the other day.

Give my love to the Musical and Reading girls, won’t you, and tell them I often think of them on Mondays and Tuesdays and wonder if there is a meeting going on.

Lots of love to all

from Mab Gillespy

5 More Things about Teenagers

sophie lecture 029

I blogged ages ago about teenagers. I still have three of them and I have more things to add to my previous list. This list, specifically about A Levels, is about my two teenage boys, 18 and 19. So, technically adults. But still teens.

1. You can’t revise for them. You can cajole and bribe and make nice things to eat. But they have to want to do it for themselves, not for you.

2. After they have sat an exam, they will not want to talk about it when they get home. You might get an ‘it was s’alright’. Or an ‘everyone said it was hard’. But that’s about it.

3. They won’t automatically assume they are going to university just because their parents went. Their parents were the lucky ones, with free fees and maintenance grants. They don’t want to load themselves with massive loans unless they are absolutely sure they want to go. You can’t make them go.

4. You can’t make them do anything. They have to want to do it, life, themselves. They have to make their own decisions.

5. You have to let them go. (But they will be back. I’ll make them.)

Letter from Mab, 26/3/1900


March 26th/00

Dearest Tommie

Oh, it’s ‘ot, very ‘ot, the thermometer runs up and down between 84° and 94° with a fondness for the latter. We are longing for the ‘little monsoon’ to break, it ought to in about a fortnight and then we shall have some heavy rain for a week or so which will be a great relief. Then it will be hot again for another month, and then the big S.W. Monsoon will break and we shall have a rainy spell. But they say that it does not rain incessantly here as in some places, but there are always plenty of bright days. It clouds up now and then and we think it is going to rain, but they all clear off and the sky gets cloudless again.

George is most delighted with my keeping so well, he thought I should have felt the heat much more. He is also very pleased that so far my complexion has not suffered but is still in its pristine beauty. I believe he thought I should be a mask of spots before I had been out a month, but he does not understand a ‘Gibson complexion’, does he? I think the iron in the water is keeping up my colour, there is so much in it, the water is quite brown and smells rather like sulphur. But it is very wholesome, although what we drink is always boiled and then flitered. I generally have it for breakfast with lime juice, it is so refreshing, and I can’t always drink ‘fizzy’ things like soda water and lemonade. I generally have one of them with orange wine or claret for dinner. Mr Van Dorts’ father (a doctor) considers lime a preventive against fever, especially with little or no sugar.

It must be awful in Colombo now. They say the place is quite deserted, every one who can has gone away. It has been an exceptionally dry season, and the country is beginning to suffer. This place is more healthy than most because it is such a dry heat, a moist one is much more unpleasant.

Our ‘boy’ is going to stay on after all. George thought he would give him a chance of saying if he would like to stay, and he snapped at it. It seemed rather mean not to after his having been with George for so long and he really is a very good servant. Very likely we should go farther and fare worse. He has been trying very hard this last month. I think with a slight hope that we might forgive him. He is going to have R2/50 a month more, as he says rice is dearer here. Of course you have to take into consideration that out here servants feed themselves which makes a decided difference.

Last Saturday George and I started off in the launch to call in on Mr Tarver, a young man in charge of a cocoa-nut mill about 10 miles away. He reckoned it would take us about 2 1/2 hours to get there as the water is so shallow in the canal now, we can’t go more than 3 or 4 miles an hour, and it is nearly all canal down to there. So we started off at 1.30, in the perfect boiling heat. I nearly melted while I was getting ready, and we had not gone more than about 4 miles when something went wrong with the beastly engine and we had to come creeping and puffing home again. I was sick after getting so hot all for nothing. We hope to go another day as he is our nearest English neighbour and he seems rather a nice fellow. When we were coming back from Colombo the other day, we had to put in there for fire wood and he was very sad because we could not spare the time to go to his house for some tea.

I had a letter from Florence J. last mail, but it went all over the place before it came here as she has only put Horekelly, Ceylon. They have annoyed me very much by addressing their letters to Mrs G.T. Gillespy ℅ G.T. Gillespy, why, I can’t think. I have put it to them gently but firmly that Mrs G.T.G. is known to be the wife of Mr G.T.G. so it is rather superfluous.

I had a letter from Mr Haines last week, in which he said that when he comes to Colombo in about July, he hopes to be able to come and see me. I should like to see him again.

We are sending you two photos this week that were taken with several more of the mill, inside and out. We thought you would like them as one shows the house, and the other a bit of the mill, with George and Mr Van Dort on the bridge, only they ought to have been nearer the camera so as to have come out bigger. You can see our bedroom window at the side of the house, and the door through the window of the verandah. The other door is our sitting room, the staircase is in between, next to where you can just see some stag antlers and a rack with George’s hockey sticks.The tennis court is exactly in front of the house down to the bank, although the photo does not give the effect of being wide enough. In the other photo is a Padda boat well to the fore, also the men in it, very pleased at being in the photograph. The roof of our house is covered in cocoa-nut leaves. The trees and the banks are very Englishy, aren’t they. You can only just see a cocoa-nut here and there. If George sends these photos rolled, have them unrolled and mounted nicely, won’t you, or they will never keep flat.

I hope the new maid still progresses satisfactorily. It is such a nuisance the mail boat was not due in till 6 pm yesterday, so we shall be lucky if we get our letters this evening. The Orient are such slow, old tubs. Last week the P&O boat got in on Saturday.

By the way, George is following in Lottie’s footsteps. The other day he called me a ‘whited sepicle’ with great vigour and now of course declares he never said it.

Lots of love and kisses to you all

From Mab

Letter from Mab to her sister, Tommie

Monday march 5th, 1900

Dearest Tommie

Of course our letters have to go this afternoon just because we shan’t get yours till this evening, we always just miss them. While I think of it, always put Madampe, N.W.P. on your letters. Horekelly doesn’t matter as it is only the name of the estate. The N. W. P. is necessary because there is another Madampe somewhere else.

I have got what I call a suppressed cold and feel stooped in consequence. I have got just the sort of feeling that you have in your head and nose and eyes when you have a bad cold, but that is all, it is only feelings and nothing else. I suppose that’s how they take you in the tropics. George is very delicious. I found him this morning solemnly looking in a little medical book he has got to see if they said anything about a suppressed cold, and every morning, the instant he wakes up he says ‘Does your head feel better?’ It is pretty well all right this morning. George quite thought he told you about the doctor being close when he wrote to you.

We went out in the launch twice yesterday, morning and evening, and it was very jolly, but it is a quaint little boat. We went quite a nice long way in the morning, right out of the canal into the open lagoon and the scenery was quite Englishy, no cocoa-nut trees, but ones not unlike oaks and elms. I steered nearly all the way home and George says I can do it quite all right. The great thing is to keep in the middle of the stream as it is so shallow at the sides. We got aground once yesterday over a tree stump. The water was quite deep, but the beastly thing was right up in the water. The stoker and engine man and George managed to shove us off again. In the evening Mr Van Dort came too and we went in the other direction, but it is not so interesting that way as the canal is much straighter. That is one good thing about this canal, that it winds about so, it is very rarely in a straight line for any distance. Tell Mother that in the very deepest place the water is only about four ft deep, but nearly always not more than three ft so she need not think I am likely to be drowned. That is why we have to be so careful as the launch draws 2 1/2 foot.

Thank you ever so much for the Chambers. We were delighted to have it and also for the Living Waters, also for the paper with John Ferguson’s lecture. It wasn’t bad, was it? John Ferguson Esq. looks on himself as the mainstay of Ceylon and is a person to be avoided in many ways. If you look at him even, he puts something about you in the Observer. I was warned about him on board so laid low. I did not care for his family extra much either. The girls were very insipid and the very spottiest boy I have ever seen. I really saw hardly anything of them on board as I was always with the other boys and girls.

I had a letter from Mr. Renny this week. He is a very cheerful person. I sent off my photographs to them on Friday. They have really all come at last. I will send off the ones for you this afternoon, also those that are left of George. I want you to send one of each to Gwen and also to Dollie, I think perhaps she may like to have them. I will write to her next mail and send the letter for you to direct, and then you can send them off together. The other one of George perhaps Arthur would like. He has only got a midget of him. I don’t know what you will do with those terrible silver plates of mine. They are put too low down in the card and such a black background. I shan’t go to them again.

The ‘Boy’ and his satellites are all going at the end of the month. He asked for his wages to be raised when he was paid this month and George told him he would think it over. But he has been getting very slack lately and that evening when I was going to have a bath, George went in first and found the room very dirty. He had had his hair cut there in the morning and they had not swept it up or anything. So George told him if he could not look after things better than that he had better go altogether. He is having R 20 a month and that is very good wages, especially for around here where R 12.50 or R 15 is the usual amount. We were not going to keep the house boy anyhow as he is inclined to fibbing and is also extremely dull. He never seems to understand what you mean. If you say anything to him and he doesn’t understand, he goes away and it makes you feel most enraged. It is so much better to have a fresh lot in altogether, so the kitchen cooly is going too. I am rather glad the boy is going for some things, as now I understand more, there are several things I want better and it is rather difficult to do it with this one. He has had charge of all the stores, so it is difficult to know how we get through things, but I shall keep the key of the cupboard in future and deal them out.

I did not know that I had not told you about my tips on board. I quite thought I had. I asked one or two people and decided to give 10 /- each to the stewardess, steward and table boy, 5 /- to the deck steward, and 2/6 to the bath man. I did hate giving them and was very glad when it was over. I enclose the only three photos I took on board that have come out decently. I had them developed in Colombo. Mr Renny looked so sweet in that big hat, I wish it had come out more distinctly.

There is to be communion service at 8 am tomorrow morning at Marawila, a village about a mile or so off and George and I hope to go if we can get a cart. I think the clergyman comes over once a month.

I do hope your letter will come tonight. The mail was due yesterday.

with much love to all

From Mab

Letter to Mother, 27th February 1900



My dearest Mother

I think it is your turn for a letter this week. I don’t seem to have written to you for some time. I have just been writing to Katie, and I have also got through a very lengthy epistle to Gwen. She wrote to me for my birthday so I thought I would send her an account of everything as I have not written to her before. When my photos come I will send you off some at once and I want you to send off one to Gwen for me. I know she will like it and I don’t think I have ever given her anything except a midget.

I wish you could see my sitting room. It really does not look at all bad now we have got the curtains up to hide the bedroom part of it. The curtain is cretonne, a soft blue with little bunches of cornflowers, poppies and daisies all over it. Then we have a square carpet in shades of brown rather like the sort we used to have in Dad’s little room, only without the fringe.

I am thankful to say we have got our Tats at last. Tats are sort of sun blinds made of thin strips of bamboo threaded together. You always have them on verandahs to keep the sun out and also people seeing in. It has been rather horrid here because of the mill people passing. Of course they are a good way off and being upstairs they can’t see very much, but you sort of feel you are being watched, which would not suit you at all, would it? To have a row of nearly naked savages gaping at you having early tea would make my mother unhappy, I’m quite sure. I often pine to make a long nose at them but I think the sarcasm would be wasted.

George is inclined to be anxious about Lottie. He says if they don’t look out, she will get into a bad way. Tell Amy I showed him her letter and he quite agrees with all her remarks. He wrote to his mother last week what he calls a ‘stinker’. I only hope she will show it to Ethel and Jessie. He is tremendously down on both of them, says Ethel ought to be ashamed of herself to sponge on her mater as she does. He says she has refused one or two good offers of places simply because she did not care for them, did not like the neighbourhood or some rot like that. And he is very down on Jessie’s missionary idea too. He says the Salter’s money is given with the chief idea of helping the Mother. Jessie has had a good education given her so that she can earn her own living and in that way helping her mother by making herself independent of her.

As for Lottie, George says she has been shoved on too fast, her bodily strength is not equal to her brain. He says they ought not to think of letting her go in for that exam for another two if not three years. She can earn quite sufficient with her present certificates and even if she did pass, she is not fit to take a responsible post. It would only mean her breaking down after a little while. He says that being in that place in Scotland is what has made Lottie so delicate. She went when she was 17 first, when she wanted feeding up, and instead of that had to work very hard and did not get enough to eat. He wanted her to come away long before she did and considers his mother very much to blame for not making her. Now the effect of it is coming out and she ought to take things very easily for some time. I think it is a shame; there is Ethel as strong as a horse doing nothing while Lottie has been slaving.

It is a little cooler here today. It was dreadfully hot on Sunday. It rained a little in the night but not enough and all day it was a sort of damp heat which was not nice. However, it rained hard and thundered in the evening and that made it much cooler. My bites are not much better. I have started putting carbonate of soda on instead of ammonia. I think it is a little better. I think the little ants bite as well as I get bitten in the day and the mosquitos only come out at night.

Last night I did have a fright as I was going to bed. George had just gone downstairs as he was going to the mill. I happened to look on the bed and I saw a big thing with legs in the middle of the sheet. I could not see very well because of the curtains but it was about two inches long and I thought it looked just like a scorpion. I yelled to George and he came tearing back and we called the boy. But it was only a very large grasshopper, a dark brown colour. It made me feel quite creepy. And then when I was drying myself after my bath, a frog fell down from the top of the wall onto my sponge and I do hate frogs. I seemed doomed to be frightened last night. It is not all beer and skittles having a space in between the top of the wall and the roof. It lets in many things besides air.

Well, I must shut up as it is post time and I must send my letters down to the office.

Shrove Tuesday! How quickly Lent has come round. The ‘boy’ makes most delicious pancakes.

Lots of love and kisses

From Mab.

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