writing, reading, family, life, politics

The one where George commits murder

Croquet, not tennis

Croquet, not tennis

July 10th 1900

Dearest Tommie

We’ve got three puppies! Such duckies, so fat, their bodies all much too heavy for their little legs at present and they can only sprawl. They were born last Saturday week while we were in Colombo, and the way in which Gretchen was prancing in excitement and importance when we arrived on Tuesday was too funny. She led me to the box where they were with an air as much as to say, ‘you can’t beat that!’. She had six but one died soon after it was born and George drowned two as five would have been too many for her to bring up. We have kept two black ones like her, and one brown, we hope they will take mostly after their mother, and not after their Pariah father. I have never seen much of tiny pups before and I am always watching these, they are so sweet crawling about their box. Their eyes are not opened yet but I suppose they ought to be today or tomorrow.

Thank you very much for sending the puzzle. I haven’t had time to do it much yet as I have been fairly busy. I have just begun the white silk blouse. I think I shall make it with a big collar arrangement, but have not quite decided.

Mr Clarke did not come after all as he could not get away but he is coming tomorrow. Mr Marshall just came down for the night with the money. We could not bring it as the banks were closed on Monday. He is such a jolly fellow, it is nice to have him in the house. I shall be glad when Mr Clarke has been and gone, as it is hanging over George and he is still rather seedy so things worry him more*. He has had two more attacks since we came back, one on Tuesday night and Wednesday, which I think was the result of the jolting in the coach which is enough to turn anybody’s stomach. He was very seedy on Wednesday and I kept him in bed till tea time and only gave him spoon food, then on Friday he seemed quite all right so began taking the Kepler but I suppose his tummy was still weak and it proved too much for it. He was very bad in the night and just lay on the sofa all the next day, quite worn out. However, he is much better now and I am dieting him and giving him little odd things so he will soon get his strength up again. I hope he will be able to take the Kepler presently if he begins very gradually, but it is beastly and I am quite sure would turn me up.

I am glad you beat Bessie but very sorry you and she lost the doubles. I am not keen on playing with Bessie myself; I never feel she is to be depended on. You know we played with each other too much, it has put us off playing with other girls. I like your frocks enormously, the holland is sweet, so cool looking. I am going to wear my black skirt and the lace bodice every night now, as the skirt is too shabby to hoard up any longer and I might just as well wear it as anything else and it is nice and cool. Mosquitos don’t worry me much now so I shan’t mind not having my arms quite covered up. I could not have borne it when I first moved out here. I really must be noticeably fatter as a man whom George introduced to me in Colombo did not recognise me the other day at the G.O.H. It was when I was having dinner by myself and I kept wondering why this creature stared at me, and the next night he saw George and I together and told him afterwards that he did not know it was me. He supposed it was because I was fatter. He was only introduced to me in the lift so he could not have had a very good view of me and I did not remember him in the least. Certainly my things have seemed tighter but I thought I had swelled with the heat and they had shrunk with the washing.

We have had such jolly breezes lately, and as the wind comes straight from the sea only 3 miles away, it is nice and fresh and has made my cheeks quite decently rosy again. They had got a little tallowy with the heat.

Fancy your having another pupil! I am very glad if it does not mean much more work, that is the only drawback. I hope you will have had a nice time at Lewes. I wonder if you will see the old lady with the nose again. I had not realised that the fete was so close. It seems only the other day that you were shivering with cold. I wish we had seasons here. It would be much nicer than everlasting summer. How I do hope you have won something in the tournament. It will be sickening if you don’t.

George, I think, is wrestling with a letter to the kids. It was quite his own idea and I have encouraged it, but I thought he seemed a trifle worried when the time came to write it. I must go down and see how he is getting on, so good bye.

Love and kisses to everybody

from Mab

*But still able to murder puppies

The Grand Oriental Hotel, Colombo


The Grand Oriental Hotel
July 2nd 1900

Dearest Tommie

Oh, what a day we’re ‘aving and oh so cheap, or rather it is dear at the price. You will see we are down here in the centre of civilisation again, although we did not in the least intend to come. Money was wanted and Mr Vandort was coming down for it, but at the last minute they wired from the office to say they would prefer George to come as they wanted to see him about something. So off we started gaily on Friday morning at 6.30 in the launch. We came along very well till we got about 7 miles from Negombo, then we found the water very low and we kept sticking and sticking. We first got stuck in a lagoon and a lot of boatmen shoved and hauled us off, then a little further on we got aground again and finally when we got into the canal again, we found it quite hopeless as the water was dreadfully low and the boat stuck fast. Luckily we were near a little village and the men there said the water would rise in about 2 hours but we could not possibly stick there and wait on the chance of getting off, as it was 11 o’clock and frightfully hot.

So out we got, bag and baggage, and we managed to get a little bullock cart, on the floor of which I sat, enthroned and surrounded by our luggage, with my feet hanging out the end. There was no room for George so he had to walk nearly 3 miles to another village where we got a bigger cart and we finally go to Negombo at 1 o’clock. We had left the boat in the charge of Jeremiah and the boy who had come up to see his family. George sent someone down to help bring up the boat when the water rose. It arrived about 5 o’clock in a most grievous plight as it had sprung a leak and was 3 inches deep in water. The Boy’s expression was killing; it was so lachrymose. I don’t think he will ever want to come in the boat again. Of course we had to stay the night at Negombo and come on in the coach on Saturday morning. The launch will have to come up here and be thoroughly repaired. It has always let in water a little and George thinks it had been strained somewhere, then getting stuck so badly has finished it off.

I thought when we really got here safe and sound that our troubles were over, but alas, no. We got here about 10.30 and George went off to the office to see Mr Horner. He also found that the man from london, Mr Clarke, has arrived and will very likely come back with us tomorrow. After tiffin we went to Mount Lavinia to get a sea blow but it was rather hot. We had tea there and got back about 7. I think the train journey is the nicest part as it runs along quite close to the sea and is deliciously breezy. It is almost too close to the sea for safety as in some places it comes within an inch or two of the line and George thinks they will have to move it farther back soon.

Well we had dinner and went peaceably to bed, but at 4 o’clock George woke up and was awfully bad. It began with diarrhoea and then sickness thrown in, first one and then the other. At 7 o’clock he was horribly bad. He shook as if he had the ague and was a sort of grey colour. I was frightened and thought he was in for fever so I sent off for the doctor. There is one who lives in the hotel but he is away just now so I sent for Dr Thomas, the man George went to about his boils. It was rather funny. George saw him and brought him to see me in the hotel on Saturday. He is a very nice man. He lives some way off and he sent back an answer to say he could not come for an hour or two as he was obliged to go a long way in the opposite direction but he told me to give George a dose of Chlorodyne. I did not get his answer till nearly 10 so if George had not got better before then, I should have been in a fright. However about 8 the pain began to get better and he left off being sick. Poor boy, he did have the most awful pain, it simply doubled him up. I began to have awful visions of dysentery and cholera. I got him some arrowroot and he went to sleep for a little while, quite worn out. When the doctor came, he said it was very likely caused by the change of air and sleeping in the wind with his bed close to the window.

Horekelly air is very dry, and here it is damp, and although it was perfectly still and very close when we went to bed, about 2 o’clock a little breeze springs up and being fast asleep, it gave him a chill. Also he had one or two iced drinks, which of course he is not used to, and they may have upset his tummy. His temperature was just over 100 so he had to keep in bed all day and exist on slops. They do all those sorts of things very nicely here. They sent up delicious chicken broth and corn flour and arrowroot. He felt very done up all day and did not want to get up a bit till the evening when he began to feel better and got up to sit in a long chair to have his dinner. I stayed up with him all day and in the afternoon went dead asleep, you see, I had been on the go since 4 o’clock.

Mr Marshall came to see me after tea and we had a nice little chat. Then I read to George till dinner time and again till he went to bed. What I did not like much was having my meals in solitary state in the dining room. I felt quite conspicuous as there are very few people in the hotel just now and you get so much attention it is quite embarrassing. It is very difficult for me to remember that I am a married woman and can do things and be more important than I was before. I don’t feel any different.

George is much better this morning. He slept like a top and has had a very good breakfast and has now gone to the office. He is going to see the doctor presently; he is coming here at 12 o’clock. It was so funny. The doctor was chaffing him on Sat morning saying how well he looked and that he supposed it was because he had me to look after him. He said that sleeping in a draught was not likely to affect me as I have not been out long enough. It is not until you have been out some time that you are likely to get chills.

The doctor came just now and I wanted to talk to him before he saw George. I told him about his getting thin and losing so much weight and he has recommended cod liver oil and malt so I got a big bottle of Kepler and am going to dose him. The doctor says he has to give it to a lot of people to fatten them up as one takes so little of that sort of thing out here. The doctor says one must not think too much about getting thin as the climate always takes you one way or the other, there is no happy medium, but at the same time he thinks George’s weight is a little too small for his size. I also talked to him about my constipation and he said it’s caused by taking so little exercise and is difficult to avoid. But he says Cascara can’t hurt me and is very good to take and if I find it does not do me much good, he will send me some dinner pills.


I have quite forgotten about the parcel. It arrived all right on Wednesday and I am most delighted with the contents and thank you and Mother ever so much for them. The dressing gown stuff is sweet and I shall make a blouse of it as well. The silk is just the very thing I wanted as I can make an evening blouse to wear with my alpaca skirt. I have not had one to wear with it before.

The book I am revelling in. It is awfully nice. What a pity you did not read it before you sent it. I am glad to have the clubs; they will be such good exercise. Altogether that parcel was most satisfactory.

We are off tomorrow by the coach at 7 o’clock and shan’t get home till past 5, a most hateful journey. I hope the launch will soon be mended. Mr Clarke is coming down on Wednesday. I am glad he is not coming with us as his room is not ready and it would have been tiresome doing it when he had come.

We are going out for a little walk after tea so adieu.

Lots of love to all
from Mab

Such Stuff as Dreams are made on


I’ve been thinking about dreams lately. I can usually piece together why I dream what I dream but sometimes they come right out of the blue. Last week I dreamt I was a surrogate mother for my niece (I have ten nieces so I won’t say which one). I am 47 and had a hysterectomy a few years ago, so I was a strange choice. But it felt so real. I wanted to keep the baby and breastfeed it (‘it’ was genderless) but it was taken away in a cruel way.

Why did I dream this? Because my children are growing up? Two have been travelling and are off to university in September. The youngest is off to sixth form college. Times are changing in our household and my place is less certain in the world as I know it. I suppose the dream was about letting go.

When the children were small – we had three children under the age of 4 at one point – I used to have vivid dreams about leaving one of them at home. Or one of them falling off a high building. I know this was a mother’s insecurities about taking good care of her children. But they were utterly terrifying.

I still dream sometimes that I am late for school – not as a pupil but as a teacher. There’s a class of 30 plus five year olds waiting for me, rioting on the carpet, and a fuming head teacher. Oh the shame.

I used to have the wobbly teeth dream a lot. I thought this was because of the heavy orthodontic treatment I had gone through but have since learnt that this is a common dream for people going through a big life event.

I try to avoid conflict in my daily life but I have huge rows in my dreams and have to work hard not to carry on my frustrations with the person in question when I wake up. But worse than these rows are the dreams of execution – my execution. I have a recurring dream where I have killed someone by mistake. I am on the verge of being hung but, thankfully, it never actually happens. I suppose this would be called a nightmare and it’s a relief to wake up after one of those.

On the other end of the spectrum, I very occasionally dream of my dad and it’s always hard waking up and realising it was all a dream. But lovely while it lasts.

Dreams are a difficult subject for writers to deal with as they can be cliched or a weak narrative device. Who can ever get over Pamela Ewing’s dream where she wakes up to find Bobby in the shower. This really made it tough for viewers to suspend their disbelief and it was downhill all the way for ‘Dallas’ after that. So you won’t find a dream in my novels and I will not be that person who bores you with their nightly wonders. But do let me know if you have any good ones.


Happy Birthday, Pippi!


Listening to Woman’s Hour yesterday morning, there was a discussion about Pippi Longstocking and what a powerful role model she is for girls. She is strong, eccentric and kind-hearted and doesn’t care about how she looks. (In fact she loves her freckles so much she wants more.)

Astrid Lindgren created Pippi 70 years ago and she has entertained generations of children and adults around the world. I sadly never knew about Pippi when I was a girl. It wasn’t until having my own children that I was introduced to her. And I fell in love. We all did. We had a cassette player in our Volvo (nice Swedish connection there) and our eldest was given a Pippi Longstocking tape, narrated by the amazing Sandi Toksvig. We played that tape over and over until it wore out. It was one of those rare things that you’d be genuinely engrossed in listening to – unlike most of the awfulness we had to put up with in that car.

If you have young children, I can’t recommend Pippi Longstocking enough. Buy the books and the CDs and set your kids free.

And while you’re at it, check out Astrid Lindgren herself. She was so much more than the creator of this iconic character.

Ten Observations on the Election Results from a Disillusioned Mother


I must confess to being very down over the election results. I was hoping that people would use compassion when casting their votes. But no. So I thought I had better write some of my thoughts down to try and find a way out of the gloom.

1. Time to seriously consider PR.
36.9% voted Tory. 63.1% didn’t. This is the system we have in this country but that doesn’t mean it is right. If there was PR we would now have 25 greens, 50 ish LDs, a few less Labour and a lot fewer Cons. But we’d also have 82 UKIP MPs.

2. Embarrassment
4 out of 10 voters were embarrassed to admit they voted Tory hence the skewed polls (according to a Yougov poll). The question of the polls is still being debated. There is no doubt more to it than just this.

3. Memories of 1992
Remember what happened in John Major’s second term. He had a majority of 21.

‘Mr Major’s majority of 21 melted away completely after a series of by-elections, scandals and defections; Mr Cameron’s slimmer margin of victory, just 12, gives him even less room for manoeuvre, although the opposition he faces is more fractured.’ George Parker, political editor of FT, May 8th 2015

4. Isolation
The in-out referendum will cause a split in the Conservative party. If we leave Europe, the SNP will push for another referendum. Then Britain will be smaller and more isolated.

5. Lies
The deficit argument was based on a pack of lies. The deficit is bigger now than in 2010. Why wasn’t this point hammered home by Labour?

There has been no increase in jobs – unless you count a zero hour contract as a job.

6. Newspapers

Is it just a coincidence that the men who own the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Times and the Sun are all non-Doms who don’t pay tax in the UK?

7. Young people

We have two sons going to university in September. By the time they graduate, they will have a minimum of £42K debt. Each.

8. Leadership

We’ve got to choose the right Labour leader – someone not tarnished by the Iraq war, someone who’s had real life experience. And yes, because we live in shallow times, someone with ‘charisma’. Charisma is obviously more important than conviction or compassion.

9. Always cast your vote.

10.’If you don’t do politics, there’s not much you do do.’

Talk to your children about politics. This generation have got it tough so they need to engage with the political process.

Actually, talk to anyone who will listen. Politics is not a rude word. Everything is politics.

Mabel and the Butterflies


June 18th 1900

My dearest Mother

I said I would write to you this week, but I don’t think I have much in the way of news to tell you. Life is very uneventful in this benighted region. We seem quite out of the world.

We were so disappointed this week although it was impossible to help it. I had a letter a few days ago from Mr. Haines, the nice Irishman on board the ‘Rome’ who gave me the feathers. He wrote to say he was just leaving Australia and would arrive at Colombo on the 21st, leaving again for Japan on the 24th. He thought of coming to see us in the time if it was convenient, as I had asked him to come. Of course we should have been delighted to have him, but it really was not worth it. He would have to spend two whole days in travelling in that beastly coach, and would have just the day with us. He will spend about a day in Colombo, later on, when he is going to India so we are going to try to go to Colombo then and see him there. He was so nice. I should like to see him again. I think it was so jolly of him to want to come to see me, because he could very well have not said anything about his being in Colombo.

George and I are very busy collecting butterflies but it is difficult to get perfect specimens, so many have their wings a little torn. Some of them are very big. George caught one yesterday which is just six inches across. It is black and blue. He has had a box made for them in the mill, with a glass lid, like the ones Eric has. The thing will be how to get them to England. We shall have to get someone to bring them as it would not do to risk them by post. Perhaps by the time Mr Haines comes back we shall have collected enough. Isn’t it funny, he is coming here on the ‘Himalaya’, the boat Capt. Leigh is commanding now.

Don’t imagine we are going to be chewed up by crocodiles. The launch is much too big and they are much too frightened of it. Besides, they stay in backwaters and weedy places where we can’t go. We have never seen one and I don’t think we are likely to.

I am so excited at the thought of my parcel. I do hope it will come this week. Thank you ever so much for the stuff. It sounds lovely and I am longing to see it but why did you spend the money.

George and I do so wish we could have been at home for the festivities over the Relief of Mafeking. Aren’t those jolly pictures of B.P*. and his family in the Illustrated. I must tell Kate that I think he is infinitely preferable to her beloved ‘Horatio Herbert’**, not so much of the Sphinx about him.

My tummy has been rather tiresome lately, not my usual complaint but the other way round. I suppose it is taking so little exercise. I have taken pills galore but I don’t think that pays so now I have sent for some Cascara Saglada and shall try that. It might come tonight. You can get pretty well every possible drug in Colombo. Our bathroom is in rather a tiresome place and I sometimes have to wait about if Solomon is going up and down the stairs doing our bedroom but I am getting more brazen than I used to be. However I am perfectly well otherwise so I suppose one must expect something in this vale of tears.

Our little cat is flourishing and most cheeky. She gets into the office and goes to sleep in the middle of their papers on the writing table or else curls herself up in the waste paper basket. The dog has a box with some straw in it which she has promptly taken possession of. Gretchen puts on a most resigned expression but she really rather likes it and licks the cat’s face very affectionately. It is so sweet to see them snuggled up together.

I must leave off now as the whistle has gone which means George will be coming in. Tell Amy to ‘luck up’ and win the mixed doubles. She might do with Frank Newcombe and he will be on his best behaviour with her. Is his engagement given out yet?

Love and kisses to everybody

From your very loving daughter Mabel Gillespy


5 Reasons to Offer Creative Writing as an A Level Subject


I was honoured to be asked to run a creative writing workshop for the AS and A2 students at Exeter College today. I worked with two groups and came away feeling that this is most definitely a subject that 16-18 year olds should be offered nationwide. And Exeter College are doing it very well. From my perspective, even the initially reluctant students entered into the spirit of the workshop which was to, well, actually write. After all, if you want to be a writer that is what you have to do. And they gave it a go and were brave enough to read out their pieces. I was really impressed and encouraged.

These are my five reasons why Creative Writing should be an A Level subject:

1. Creative Writing complements either English Language or English Literature as an A Level choice. It allows students to reflect on the nature of writing, in the same way that a bi-ligual student has the upper hand when it comes to learning a language.

2. Creative Writing allows those students who are quirky and maybe off-centre to find a place that they fit.

3. Creative Writing allows those students who are quiet and introverted to have a voice.

4. We human beings have a primal need to tell stories. It’s what makes us human. Stories help shape our personal pasts and collective futures. Once upon a time and forever and ever.

5. The art of Creative Writing can be learned and honed through structured teaching, just like Fine Art and Engineering and Geography.

I wish I had been able to choose this as an A Level subject. I was 33 before I had the chance to study creative writing – an adult education class led by Jan Henley at Worthing College. I’ve never looked back.

Dearest Tommie


June 12th 1900

Dearest Tommie

I have only just finished a lengthy epistle to Jo, so I am afraid I have not much time left for you. Your letter has not come this week. We are wondering why. The mail was in on Saturday night, and I got letters from Arthur and Lottie. I thought yours would come last night but it did not appear. I hope it is not lost but perhaps it will turn up later. It may have got put into the wrong bag by mistake.

Tell Joyce I have got a dear little grey kitten and it is lying on the table quite close to me now fast asleep and it has been playing with a piece of paper till it got tired. It is fat and cosy looking. George is as fond of it as I am and looks proud but pained when it plants itself on his lower chest just after breakfast or dinner as it is very fond of doing. Last night as we were sitting out on the tennis court after dinner, the dog began barking at something it had found in the ground and when George went to look he found it was a large scorpion. Such a beast of a thing with claws just like a lobster. He made a noose with a piece of string and tied it round its tail and then we forced it into a bottle of spirits of wine and I will send it home one of these days. It has to fix hold of you with its claw before it can sting with its tail and I should not like one to get hold of me. It is the first one I have seen and I am not keen on seeing another.

We have had some rain the last few days, some heavy showers, but not a bit what it ought to be. They are beginning to be afraid the monsoon will be a failure. It will be bad for us if it is because George is afraid the mill well will fail and it will be difficult to get water to wash the cocoa-nut. If we don’t get heavy rain now, we shan’t get it in any quantity till the N. E. monsoon bursts in October. They can’t use canal water as it is brackish and makes the cocoa-nut a bad colour. It is a little cooler now, varies from 80 to 84 degrees.

I am so glad to hear Walter looks so well and I should think Margate would be a capital place for him. George seems to think it will agree with his mother very well, in fact was very pleased when he heard Margate was the place. I hope people won’t keep casting doubts about it because then she will go there with the idea that it is not going to suit her and if she feels a little poorly will think at once that it is the place.

I kept thinking of you all on Saturday and hoping the tea was going off all right and that it was fine. I wonder how long Kate stayed, I suppose she would go to the Academy and Earl’s Court. I wonder how long it will be before we have a happy day at the Academy again. The thought of tea at Callard and Bowser’s makes my mouth water dreadful. How I long for a ‘sit up to the table’ tea sometimes.

I was very busy last week staining our bedroom floor. We had Indian matting over it but the boy’s sweeping is so cursory and it got so dusty that we came to the conclusion staining would be more healthy. I have got the floor such a jolly colour, not too dark, a nice lightish brown. I did it with permanganate of potash, 1 oz to a gallon of water. Then I rubbed it well with linseed oil and then polished with beeswax and turpentine. Oh it did make me hot but it pays and it won’t wear white like those bought stains which don’t sink in and it is much cheaper. I think the rubbing was good exercise for me. I think the boy thought I was more or less mad to do it myself but a cooly would have made such an awful mess of it and used pounds more stuff. I want to do the verandah too as we only have matting over parts and the boards are so grubby looking. They never scrub out here, wouldn’t know how to do it. They just wipe over feebly. Mother would go mad. Please thank her very much for her jolly letter. It is so nice to get one from her too. I will answer her next week.

I tried all my frocks on. They are all dreadful tight in the arms and round the neck. I suppose I have swelled in the heat. They are all right everywhere else except one which is rather tight across the chest. I may have to let it out but I think it was a case of ‘old stays’.

George will be up for this in 2 secs so I must finish up.

Much love to everybody

From Mab

I see old Saunders was married yesterday, a Roman Catholic too.

Mabel and B.P.


Monday, June 4th

Dearest Tommie

Whit Monday and I am so wondering if you have got it fine. I do hope you will have a jolly tournament and that you will win, or if not you, Maude King. I thought of you a lot on Saturday and wondered if Kate was doing the tea. It was a jolly match, Whitgift Wanderers, nicer than next Saturday. How I would love to have just one Sat in the field.

Thank you very much for the paper. We thoroughly appreciate the Standard with the account of the ‘Powerful’ men. It is so nice to see a paper with real news and not just tiny telegrams. George pored over the war news although it was stale. Mind you, send us papers when Bob and B.P. etc come home with all the accounts of their reception because it will be all condensed into one paragraph here and there is sure to be such shoals of it really. Isn’t B.P.* sweet? Kate sent us such a jolly photo of him in a big hat. We have got four of them framed together. B.P., Buller, French and MacDonald.

By the way what does Columbine do for a living? Because Mr Van Dort told me last night that when she came over here a little while ago she quarrelled with her pater and now she is entirely on her own account; he does not allow her anything. Fancy, Mr Van Dort was at school in England for ten years, from 7 to 17, and his mother never saw him once all the time. He said he had to be introduced to her when he came back; he had entirely forgotten her. Doesn’t it seem awful?

So you want to know how we get our provisions? We have to look well forward. All our groceries and drinks we get from Cargills, a big shop in Colombo. They come up by boat so we have to order them quite a week before we want them, more if possible. Meat comes from Chilaw which is ten miles off. It comes over in the coach in the morning to Madampe and a cooly has to go and fetch it. We have 4 lbs twice a week. I wish I could tell you what the joints are, but I can’t. The boy always says it is sirloin and I take his word for it. It is as much like that as anything else. It is a lump of meat and bone rather like the joints you see down Surrey Street which the customers feel well before they buy. It doesn’t taste bad when it is hot but I never touch it cold. There is very little fat but that is yellow and it is sort of wobbly and I think of cold beef at home. I do sometimes long for lovely cold beef and cucumber or lettuce, that is a thing you never get here, at least not in the low country.

Chicken, fish, eggs, vegetables and fruit, the boy gets in Madampe. Fresh milk he gets from there too now; at one time we only had tinned. He is so clever, he skims the cream off and makes butter by shaking it about in a bottle. Quite nice and firm it is too. I like it but George does not care for it because it has a sort of cream cheesy flavour, so he has tinned from Colombo. We don’t get nice bread at all. It is made from very inferior flour and has sometimes a very sour taste and a sort of grubby tinge which is not inviting. I don’t think it would do to see it made. Oh, one can’t be dainty in the country!

George and I were sitting in the lower verandah yesterday morning when suddenly the dog began barking tremendously at something through the railings down the bank. When we went to look we found it was an enormous lizard called an ‘iguana’. It was about 3 foot long. The little dog went for it and it climbed up a tree to the very top, but presently came down and went along the bank, the dog in pursuit, barking tremendously but keeping a safe distance. If it got too close the thing tried to lash at him with its tail. Finally it went in the canal and swam across to the other side. It is quite harmless and lives on ants. It had a curious long tongue just like an anteater.

I have just been getting out all my garments and hanging them on a horse to air in the sun. They are quite all right, I am thankful to say and not at all crumply, only the chiffon frills on the satin bodice have rather a sat upon look but I could easily put something fresh on it if i wanted to wear it much. We are pinning our hopes on being able to go into Colombo in August for the race week. There are lots of things going on then, football, hockey and cricket matches, a water fete, I believe, and all sorts of jinks. I should be able to sport my finery then with great éclat. I only hope things will be right at the mill so that we shall be able to go, but there seems to have been such a lot of worries recently, nothing but grumbles from headquarters, everything that is done seems to be wrong, and of course George gets most blame as he is most responsible. It is as bad as hops. The stuff is over dried or under dried, or not washed properly or something. But don’t say anything about it in your letters as George will never own that he is worried much and I always try to distract his thoughts while he is with me as he is inclined to dwell on things rather. He has just brought up a pineapple “out of our own garden”. We have got some along the bank. You just stick in the head with the bit you don’t eat, that throws out shoots at the side which come to pineapples.

It is still very hot and fine, heavy clouds at times but they don’t come to anything. I am beginning to think monsoons are frauds. We are both very well though.

Love and kisses to everybody


Pause for Thought 2 (Radio Devon early show)- ‘Why I Write’.


The words of Simon Kettlewell

Originally posted on Simon Kettlewell Author:


Why I write.

If I could have an artistic wish, it would be to be musical. I love music from punk through to many of today’s acts, but I’m about as melodious as a group of howling cats. The thing about music, is that it’s instant. When you write a novel it takes so long that sometimes you forget what it was you were writing about in the first place. After that you have to wait for people to tell you what they think. That’s a tough one if you wait for a year to hear it’s rubbish. It’s different for music. You can share music right away, and feel the impact it has on an audience. But I guess art is art. Whether you’re Banksy, Lady Gaga, Ed Sheeran, or Ernest Hemmingway, or a child doing a painting, or even me slogging at a laptop, it’s still art. It’s…

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