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The Townend Family Letters

Correspondence from the 1930s - 1940s between members of the Townend family
HPV + LJT Letters 1929 to 1932

1932 June

From LJT to Annette

1932 June From LJT to Annette

The Club
June 5th 1932

My darling Annette

It is only Sunday as yet, but I am trying to start your letters in good time this week so as not to be rushed over them. Everything in Darjeeling is so familiar that I sometimes find myself quite surprised that you and Rosemary are not here!

I went down to the Botanical gardens this morning and remembered so well the last time I was there. It was your birthday picnic and do you remember what a lovely day it was? It was that same evening that poor Mr Loman came to tea and made the servants laugh so when he dressed up in Lovey’s old white lace evening dress. What fun he used to make for you children, did’nt he? It was fine this morning though with big clouds sweeping across, and no views of the snows. I have only had one peep of them since I came up – and then not the whole range – only the peaks of Kinchinjunga.

Mary Ledan La or, as I should now call her, Mrs Tendaf La, came to see me on Friday morning. She has two little girls now – The second one is only 2 months old. I have not seen them yet, because she is afraid that the eldest one has chickenpox. Mary is looking just the same and had such pretty clothes on.

Friday being the King’s birthday, there was a ceremonial parade of the troops and the Boy Scouts in the Market Sq. which we attended. I think I remember taking you and Rosemary to it in 1929. Luckily it was a nice fine morning. The Northern Bengal Mounted Rifles had a troop there, but they were mostly people from the Darjeeling tea-gardens and not from Jalpaiguri: Dad had rather an amusing conversation with a group of his friends who were sitting near us. They were mostly men who came out to India at the same time as he did and they were comparing notes about their morning coats. (You know those long black tail coats men wear with top hats.) They discovered that each man’s coat was 20 years old and so they have agreed to have a lunch party after the parade next year to celebrate the “Coming of Age” of their coats. Dont you think it is an amusing idea? Capt Boileau took me down to Leboug in his little “Baby Austin” car in the afternoon, to see a polo match which was rather fun and in the evening there was a Reception at Government House. I wore my new green frock and I think it looked very nice – it seemed to me quite funny to be at such a big party again, with people in smart evening gowns and long white gloves and the men in full dress uniform for the soldiers and court dress for the Civilians. The Kumar of Burdwan was there – (Kumar is the eldest son of a Raja or Maharaja.) He was wearing white silk jodpur trousers and a frock-coat and his curious hoof-shaped hat made in very fine white cloth. His frock-coat was buttoned with a double row of the most lovely saphire buttons and the slives finished off with the same and round his neck he had three magnificent rows of pearls. Fastened on the front of his hat was a white osprey, caught by the most lovely diamond and saphire ornament. It really was a most charming rigout and the only pity is that the Kumar inside it, is a very plain young man. Another interesting person who was there was the grandson of the Maharaja of Nepal. He was wearing a sort of red uniform, more or less copied from the old fashioned Bristish Officer’s uniform – but the most amazing headdress made mostly of seed pearls and trimmed with festoons of huge drop shaped emeralds. It is really a wonderful thing, but not exactly pretty because it is a lumpy shape. I had a short chat with the new Governor, who seems very nice. The weather has not been very fine since I came up. We have had some sunshine, mostly in the afternoons, but lots of heavy rain and clouds.

I went to see Mrs Kirby on Saturday morning and found her looking just the same as ever. She asked lots of questions about you and I have promised to take your photos up to show her.

John comes to see us or we go to see him most days. He is very amusing now. I went a walk with him the other day and he pointed to one of the big drains or culverts in the hill side, for carrying off the storm-water and said “why has’nt that big hole got anything in it.”

I am hoping that I shall get letters from you all to-day and I shall leave this letter to finish till after they have come. I am longing for news of you. It seems such ages since I left home and last had letters from you.

June 7th

Your letters duly arrived yesterday and it was a pleasure to have news of you all again. I love hearing about school and all your doings. It sounds as if the baby’s frock would be rather pretty. How are you joining the blue yoke and hem to the cream coloured stuff? Are you doing it with faggot stitch? I think the Common Room must be a great joy. Do you use it much? Thank you for letting me know about the subscriptions. I must say I think 2/- for the maids is rather ridiculous and also to call anything a Free Will Offering when the money is taken and you don’t even know what it is for, seems rather a contradiction in terms. The other things seem fairly reasonable.

I do hope you had a fine day on May 27th for the Guide Coming of Age Celebrations. It must have been great fun if the weather was good. Its funny to think that on that very day I was been roasted in the train going across India.

I rather envy you doing hurdling. I never did, and I think it looks so attractive – really one of the nicest of all sports.

It will look rather jolly if you all have black bathing dresses with green belts and caps next year. I am glad I did not buy you a new bathing suit this year.

Dad is longing to get back to Calcutta and start diving. He has collected several different series of articles on diving and swimming out of the papers during the last couple of years and he has just stuck them all into a book most beautifully. When he does anything like that, he takes such trouble and does it so well.

Good-bye for this week, my darling – My best best love and kisses to you

P.S. Lovey has just been in to see me and was so interested to see your letters. We talked a lot about you and she asked me to send you her very best love.

Dad sends his best love and thanks for your letter and says he is sorry he has been too busy to write this week.

From LJT to Annette

The Club
June 14th 1932

My darling Annette

It is always such a pleasure to Dad and myself to get your letters and I am awfully glad you write such good ones. The Gym Competition at the Albert Hall must certainly have been very interesting. I am looking forward to your next letter to hear how the Sports Day went off and whether you had good weather for it.

Is “Sigurd the Volsung” Norwegian? I suppose it belongs to one of the Scandinavian countries. I have read very few of their legends I am sorry to say. I hope your French is going well. Dad and I do a little with the gramaphone most mornings before we get up, while we are having the early morning cup of tea. I was very interested to hear yesterday, that Mrs Gurner is probably sending Francesca Linette and Auriol to St. Monica’s. I suppose they will all be in the Junior School to begin with, so you wont see much of them. I wonder whether they are clever children. Both their father and mother are clever people. We have had very rainy weather all this week – a lot of real drenching rain. I hear the real Monsoon has broken in Calcutta so I suppose it has arrived up here too. I have been one or two nice walks, but the weather has been so bad, I have not bothered to begin playing tennis. There have been a lot of parties going on. I was dining out on Friday and Saturday and again yesterday and dancing afterwards and had great fun. An Indian gentleman called Sir Abdul Karim, gave a big party of about 150 people at the Club yesterday afternoon. We had tea and then a sort of concert and cabaret followed by dancing – and it was all rather fun.

Dad is working tremendously hard at a great scheme to irrigate all Western Bengal from the rivers. Years ago the British, with the best intentions in the world, put “bunds” or great banks along the rivers to prevent the floods which happened every year. The unforseen result was that gradually the land became less and less fertile and the crops poorer and poorer. The reason is that the Bengali will not or cannot manure his fields, and it used to be done for him by the river silt left by the floods. Dad’s plan is to have great engineering works to control the rivers and let the water from them flow over the fields in a properly regulated manner and at the right time for the rice and jute crops. It is an immense scheme and if it comes off it will be a very big thing. He is so wrapped up in it that he can scarcely think or talk of anything else. The trouble is I am afraid he is really working too hard.

Do you remember the last time we were out in camp for Christmas and you went to a party at Mr Webb’s tea garden? On Saturday I went down to Lakdah to see Mr Webb’s mother, who is an old friend of mine – and she had Pauline – the little girl there with her. Pauline has a most fascinating pet. It is a Himalayan cat bear. It is an animal about twice the size of Zippy and something the same shape! It is covered with thick chestnut coloured hair and has a long thick furry tail marked in shaded rings of red brown. Its face is cream coloured with black markings and very pretty. Its feet are like bears feet – and it lives in the house just like a cat or dog. It had been out all night when we saw it and decided that it wanted to go to sleep in the bottom of the children’s hanging cupboard. We managed to tempt it out with banana and it sat up and begged and played about a little and then scuttled off and climbed onto Mr Seal’s bed and went to sleep.

I have been doing quite a lot of sewing up here and a good deal of writing and going out but very little reading. We are nearly always at the Club in the evening between tea and dinner, either dancing or rinking and we don’t have dinner till 8.30 and sit rather a long time over it, so it leaves very little time for reading afterwards which is the time I usually devote to books. Have you been reading anything interesting lately?

I wonder how the drawing exams are going.

Best love, my darling and heaps of kisses

From HPV to Annette

June 15th (?1932)

My dear Annette

No news this side of the seven seas and three rivers which as all Bengalis know separate us from the other side of the world – and also from fairy land. Office-work is heavy upon me. When I am not working I am resting from it. It is pleasant to get your news. I am always glad to hear that you do well in French. I have not dropped it altogether. Though somehow there is less time for it now than before your mother came out. I turn on the gramophone sometimes before I get out of bed but these last days seem not to have had time for it: a job of work instead.

John came in on Sunday and played with water in the basin in my room with an empty bottle, the small, tiny, saucepan thing in which I boil shaving water, two sponges and the pumice stone. He made a fine mess of himself and of that corner of the room. I slept that afternoon and later walked down to tea at the Maharaja of Burdwan’s place: he isn’t here but his son is. On Monday one of the chief men in the Government gave a party at the club and everyone, so to speak, went. I found it tiring. But then I’m always tired these days.

No more because (a) it is breakfast time and (b) there is a lot of work to be done.

Much love

From LJT to Annette

The Club
Sunday. May 19th 1932

My darling Annette

Just for a little change, we have been having a few quite fine sunshiny days – but it means that the poor people on the Plains are having a terrible time. The Monsoon, which everyone thought was near, seems to have lost heart, and has not arrived and the heat is something frightful from all accounts. I do hope the Rain will come soon and give them some relief.

I have been making the best of the fine weather up here. On Thursday I had a splendid day out walking and riding with Mr Shebbeare. (Do you remember him and his lorry@ He is Chief Conservator of Forests – and some years ago Mrs Shebbeare asked you to a lovely Red Indian party up here.) We dropped down into that deep deep valley below the Old Calcutta Rd – where we sometimes used to go for picnics amongst the pine trees. We dropped from Darjeeling’s altitude of about 7000 ft to 3500 ft. We went down a tiny foo-path dropping steeply steeply through the forest. I had not any of my own “jungle clothes” up here – so I borrowed a pair of heavy boots from Mr Fawcus – puttees and mackintosh from Dad and wore my own riding breeches and shirt. When we finally got down to the bottom of the valley, we jumped across two streams and began climbing up the other side. We very soon got on to the edge of a tea-garden and the planter had kindly sent down ponies to carry us up the steep hill. We were pretty hot and out of breath and very glad of something to ride. We zigzagged up the hillside to the bungalow where the Planter and his wife live, and stopped to have drinks with them. Then we walked about another half mile to a forest bungalow called Rangaroon, where Mr Shebbeare is living at present and there we had lunch and sat and talked. Later in the afternoon we climbed about another mile up through the forest on to a cart road into Ghoom – and footed it good “heel and toe” along the reasonably flat two miles into Ghoom, from where we got a car back to Darjeeling. It was the first “jungle day” I have had and I loved it.

Continued fine weather tempted me to begin tennis on Friday – and though I played badly – being out of practise, I enjoyed it so much, that on Saturday morning, throwing duty to the winds, I went and had two setts of singles and some back-hand practice with the Marker. I also took John into the Rink for part of the children’s hour and gave him lemon squash and ginger nuts, just like you and Rosemary used to have. I was very hot after my tennis and changed into tidy clothes after a bath at the Club – to be ready for a big lunch party to some of the Indian Ministers and various other high officials. I sat between a Mohammaden gentleman called Sir Abdul Karim Guznavi and a dear old Hindu Raja, whom I have known for many years. Sir Abdul told me a lot about a journey he made to Mecca and Medina and some more travels in Palestine, all of which was quite interesting. We did not get away from the lunch party till about 3 o’clock and then Dad and I went for a short walk and had a little while at home, before starting out to a thé dansant with the Governor at the Club. The new Governor Sir John Anderson is very nice indeed. He is keen on botany and flowers and we talked mostly about those subjects. I had just time to rush home after that party was over and change into evening dress to go back to a big dinner and dance at the Club. Dad was too tired to go. I am a bit worried about him. He has been tired all the week and finds it difficult to get through his work. I do wish he were a little stronger!

A lot of time last week seemed to be taken up with parties of one sort or anther and a lot more time was taken up by Faizullah dhirzie, who is making me some thin frocks for Calcutta.

Mary Tenduf La (Ledan La that was.) brought her 1 ½ year old daughter to see me one morning. The wee thing was dressed in full Tibetan costume and looked the greatest pet in her stiff, bright coloured brocades. She was so friendly and came straight to me and sat on my knee. Just like John is, she was fascinated by all the tiger and leopard skins in the hall and all up the staircase. She did not know any names for leopard and tiger but called then all “ki” – which seems to be Sikkimese for “dog” – She kept on pointing her little finger at them and saying “how! how! “ which was her way of saying “bow-wow”.

We went down to lunch at Rungneet to-day. Do you remember the house where Joan and Lorna and Mrs. Corbett Thompson and Sheila used to live? We spent a day there once and Rosemary wheeled the blue Persian kittens about in a dolls pram. The garden is so pretty down there and the view is lovely – but sad to say mist had come up by the time we went down there and we saw nothing.

I have started your letters so early this week because I have a lot of engagements the next few days and I did not want to be short of time for writing to uyou – I shall not finish this off to-day – but leave it till after your letter has come – which should be to-morrow –

Wed 22nd

I had a disappointment on Monday. I hurried back from a lunch party – expecting to find the English letters and they had not arrived. The chaprassi explained that the rain which had been falling torrents since mid-day on Sunday, had caused three slips on the line between here and Siliguri, so that the train would probably not get in till the evening. The letters did turn up at last, and I was very pleased to get your most interesting one about the Sports Day. I am glad you had such good fun and do wish I had been there to see it all. Did Auntie Doris go down for it? I am glad to hear that the swimming bath is getting on. I think an empty swimming bath always looks rather shallow. We have only got about another 10 days up here and when we get back to Calcutta, I expect we shall spend quite a lot of time in the swimming baths – for it will be very hot down there. For the last three days we have had pouring wet mornings and lovely afternoons, with the snows showing.

We dined at Government House on Monday and it was such a nice party. I sat next to the Governor and like him very much indeed. He is interesting and amusing to talk to and has a tremendous twinkly in his eye. I am sure he sees the comic side of things. We danced for a little while after dinner, but got away quite early and were home by 11.30.

Yesterday we had to attend a big luncheon party to meet the Governor once more. It was given by one of the Indian Ministers and there were as many Indians as Europeans there. I had very nice people to talk to on either side of me, so I enjoyed myself. It seems funny to be going to so many parties again.

Best love, darling – Thank you for your nice letter
Lots of love and kisses

From HPV to Annette.

June 22nd (?1932)

My dear Annette.

A splendid long letter from you to Mummie this week! Full of racing and music and swimming baths and food. In return I send a scrappy one. Work continues: files snow down upon me: I have to be dug out each evening from the heap. That’s a metaphor: in fact I stay till six or so. But after a whole month of weariness I have begun to feel better during these last two days. We were at a dinner at Government House on Monday and afterwards I danced (three dances) for the first time for weeks. Also last night I searched out Mr Symons who told me originally about “Stretching The Spine” and asked him to tell me all over again: for, since I’ve been so tired this time, I have been neglecting it.

My attempt to make history by getting Government to abolish the permanent settlement in Bengal continues and at the moment it looks like being successful. Do you know what the permanent settlement was? If not, learn: (and learn also that it was the worst mistake in history except for certain landlords). This is outside my work really: but I dragged it in, for without money Government cannot do much good and I manage everything Governmental concerned with towns and district boards and medicine and public health.

The other evening, asked why I did not dance, I said that after six years of abstinence I needed lessons but had no time for them: and I asked for the new steps to be put down on paper in a diagram. What is more I got it done: as regards one kind of turn. Now it is necessary to get others – but no one will help

Much love

From LJT to Annette

The Club
June 27th 1932

My darling Annette

My month in Darjeeling has flown very quickly and now it is definitely fixed that we go down to Calcutta on the 30th, so I shall be starting to pack up again to-morrow. The weeks I have spent up here have been great fun, but at the same time I am quite looking forward to the Rains in Calcutta. Of course it is true that one perspires all the time but still, there are lots of pleasant things one can do especially bathing at the Saturday Club and at Tollygunge.

The Monsoon has spread across India now and the terrible heat wave that caused a great many deaths in places like Lucknow and Allahabad has come to an end. Up here we have had a good deal of heavy rain, but it has come in tremendous bursts either during the morning or the afternoon, leaving the other part of the day comparatively fine – so I have had a couple of afternoon’s tennis and a walk or two.

Yesterday morning I walked down to some horticultural gardens, run by an old German called Morganstein, who has that flower and seed shop on the Chowrasta. His gardens lie right down below the Bazaar and below the level of that road that runs past the Victoria Falls, if you remember that. Not only did I walk down there but I spent 1 ½ hours there, clambering from terrace to terrace, note book and pencil in hand, looking at plants and learning their names. Mr Morganstein gave me a most lovely bunch of gladioli to bring home and also lent me a horse to bring me home up the hill. He’s a funny old chap and although hes lived out in India, amongst English people, for 40 years, he still has quite a strong German accent. I could not help smiling inwardly when he pronounced the same of a rose called “Rapture” as “Rupture”! He told me a fact which interested me and which I pass on to you in case you don’t know it. It is this. The fibre which you can get from ordinary common nettles, is finer and stronger than silk. Mr Morganstein says that when the Museum in Calcutta has any very fine work to do, they write up to him to collect this fibre for them. He says you get just the same thing out of the common nettles in England. I wonder how your garden is getting on. I suppose most of your things are in flower now. Dad has been feeling better and more cheerful this week. He has not had to dine out anywhere or stay up late. I have been to a couple of after-dinner dances with other people and a good many of the usual teas at the Club with dancing or stating after them. At the dance on Saturday night there were some exhibition dances by pupils of Miss Godden who teaches dancing up here now. There were dances representing the Four Seasons. The first was done by two girls who are just grown up and was called “Spring Chickens”. They had dresses made to represent yellow chickens and did a comical sort of dance. The next one “Summer” was what I liked best. It was done by two children aged, I should think, about 9 and 11 and was supposed to represent a Bank Holiday about thirty years ago: It was done chiefly to the old song and tune the words of which go as follows –

“Daisy! Daisy! Give me your answer do
I’m half crazy, all for the love of you –
It wont be a stylish marriage
I cant afford a carriage
But you’ll look sweet
Upon the seat
Of a bicycle built for two.”

The dance began by the child who was dressed as a young man, riding in on a tricycle and suddenly catching sight of the little girl, dressed as a young lady of the period. He jumped off his tricycle, went down on one knee and sang the verse of the song to her, while she looked very coy and shy. At the end she smiled and held out her hand to him – and then they did an old-fashioned polka and a few other dances and finally he got on to his tricycle and stood on the back and they rode round the ballroom and out of the door, amidst great cheers.

“Autumn” was represented by a sort of “fallen leaf” dance by Barbara, who did it very well – and Winter by a troop of four girls supposed to be skating on “thin ice”. The last one was amusing, but had not been sufficiently rehearsed.

Tues 28th

Thank you very much for your nice letter. It was full of interesting things. I wonder whether the tadpoles in your little garden pool have turned into frogs yet. I saw a pool simply bubbling with tadpoles down on Morganstein’s gardens on Sunday and I thought of you children and how you would enjoy it!

What a pity the weather in England is not better especially as the swimming bath is finished – Richard says that they opened the bath at Haileybury for three days and then shut it again because the weather was so cold.

How did you like “Tom Sawyer”? I have never read it, but I am sure I should enjoy it if it is anything like Huckleberry Finn.

I am glad you got through the playing of your “piece” in the drawing room quite well. I suppose it is good for you to get used to doing that sort of thing.

I suppose you will not start preparation classes for confirmation till next term. Do you know if many girls are going to be confirmed?

Auntie Doris has written this week and tells me that June has been very very ill with supressed measles and poor Auntie Doris has been terribly worried about her. She is really better now but they were very worried about her for a time. That explains why Auntie Doris was not down for the Sports Day at St Monica’s. I know she intended to go.

Its been pretty wet to-day and now – after dinner – it is raining and blowing hard. I only hope we get down on Thursday without being held up by any landslips.

Best love, my darling and lots of love and kisses