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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 July

From LJT to Annette

14/1 Rowland Rd
July 5th 1932

My darling Annette

We had very nice letters from you this week, telling us about your picnic with Mrs Petrie and you plans for the exeat. It was very good of her to go down to see you and also its very nice of her to have you for the week-end. I thought often of you all and hoped you were having good weather and were able to do all you planned.

Here is a copy of your “May Tree” poem. I have all the things you children have written, kept carefully to-gether – and if by any chance, you write anything new, do let me have a copy of it. I love to see your things.

I am also enclosing three photos. One you will perhaps recognise as me – thought I don’t think it a very good likeness. The other two are of Mary Tenduf La and her little daughter Sonum, aged 1 ½ years. They are really very good of the wee girl, though not good of Mary. If you want to tell people Mary’s nationality she is Sikkimese – from the country of Sikkim on the border of Tibet.

We had a comfortable journey down from Darjeeling though poor Dad felt very sick in the car, as he nearly always does. John, who was travelling in another car was sick, poor lamb. We were lucky for none of us every felt sick, did we? And we used to enjoy the drive down. Do you remember having picnics at the little bungalow below Kurseoug? It was not frightfully hot at Siliguri. I looked after John and a little girl called Jane, who was travelling with him, for sometime, while their Nannies got their beds and things ready in the carriage.

It was a very steamy morning when we arrived in Calcutta – cloudy but quite still and I streamed with perspiration as I unpacked. I felt thankful that we have a furnished flat with crockery and everything, so I did not have a lot of household stuff to unpack and settle in. The weather has improved steadily since then and to-day there is a nice breeze and it is comparatively cool. We like this flat very much indeed and are most comfortable here. We started bathing the very day we arrived and have been to Tollygunge or the Saturday Club every evening. Dad finds he is not diving as well as he was. He has lost a certain amount of muscle by not diving for so long, but he will soon get it back with practice. I shall be longing to hear how Richard got on with his School Certificate Exam; which is to be on the 11th of the month I believe. He is very young to try it, but I hope he passes alright, because he will be so disappointed if he does not.

It was good news to hear that you were having some warm weather at last. I hope it has continued and that you have been able to use the new swimming bath. I am trying hard to learn to dive properly. Fancy if, when I come home, I find you can dive better than I can! Its quite possible, if you get taught at school.

We are very pleased to hear that you are able to read the children’s French paper quite easily and that you are trying to talk more French. Dad does a little work with the gramaphone most mornings before he gets up – and I am reading a French book at the moment. Its rather an interesting “Life of Byron”. I find I can read it quite easily. There are a fair number of words scattered about, of which I do not know the exact meaning but I am able to guess them quite well from the context.

Calcutta is looking very green and verdent. I suppose it really looks its best in the Rains. The golf course at Tollygunge looks lovely. The greens are like velvet. Several of my greatest friends are away – especially Mrs Gurner and Mrs Carey Morgan both of whom I miss very much. Uncle Harry had to go up to Simla on Saturday and probably wont be back for about a week. It was a nuisence for him having to go away just as John has come home and we are sorry too. Still, as he has had a slight attack of ‘flu’ I expect a few days in the Hills will do him good.

I am trying to get hold of a horse to ride and failing that I really think I must take some golf lessons, as there is not much tennis in Calcutta during the Rains and it is difficult to know how to get enough exercise.

I am going to watch a football match with Capt Turbett this afternoon. Do you remember him? He had Christmas dinner with us on the last Xmas night that we spent in Calcutta.

This will be the last letter to you at school this term, but I think I shall send yours to St Monica’s next week to be sent on to you at the Camp

Best love and kisses, my darling from Mummy

From HPV to Annette

July 7th 1932

My dear Annette.

Sticky weather. Only showers every now and then instead of continuous heavy rain which would cool the air. It is now before breakfast and I am writing in my pyjamas under the fan in my bedroom, and finding it difficult to keep my arms off the table and my wrist off the paper which might go dabby. The window opens onto a vista of trees – all different: it might be a museum showcase on a gigantic scale. Rather pretty: and private: for the house next door is hidden by them.

It is interesting to hear that the Bath is almost ready. I hope you get good value from it. For myself, I have been to one bath or the other most evenings lately. Not diving very well. I must get my muscle back, I suppose, first. So far I have been trying nothing except simple dives, and those off the low spring boards only. Rather annoying to find myself starting almost from the beginning. I want to get on to some of the difficult dives described in my articles but it is useless to do so till I’m in goodish training.

Barring this hurried visit to the baths each evening I don’t do much, except work in office. There’s rather too much of that office work and I’m fed up with it to some extent: though not badly. I should prefer to get away at five rather than at six.

Today I am going to see if I can get some uniforms second hand. Knee breeches (white), black tail coat and gold facings or trimmings. Necessary for state occasions but silly like in my opinion.

(I wish that the fan would not blow the paper about)

Much love

From LJT to Annette

14/1 Rowland Rd
July 12th 1932

My darling Annette

Both Dad and I had very nice letters from you this week. I like your little verse, which you call “Day Dream” – though I don’t think it quite so good as the May Tree. It has not got so much “meat” in it – but then, perhaps, for a day dream you don’t want solid stuff. Congratulations on your exam marks – Your averages seem very good.

We are both always so glad when we hear that you are getting on well with French. What fun, if, when you are older I am able to take or send you to France and you find that you are able to talk quite fluently. Your French prize book sounds as if it might be very interesting. I feel quite excited when I thank that, by the time this letter reaches you, you will either be in camp or just going off to it.

I am starting Guide work next week. I am going to help run a company in a big school here, where most of the girls are Eurasians. I don’t expect it will be half such uphill work as training the Bengali girls in Jalpaiguri. I do do hope you will have nice weather for the camp – though I daresay you will enjoy yourselves whatever it is like.

I wonder how you enjoyed the tennis tournament. It is awfully good for you having to play like that. I played tennis at the Saturday Club yesterday for the first time since I came down from Darjeeling. I enjoyed it very much indeed though by the end of the first sett I was dripping with perspiration – and by the end of 4 setts I had not a dry stitch on me. The weather is a good deal cooler and not at all unpleasant as long as one is under a fan – or in a car or the swimming bath. As a matter of fact one does not actually feel so very hot in places away from fans, but the atmosphere is so humid that one begins to perspire profusely at once. I have been getting some of our boxes out of store last week and certainly found myself very moist when I was searching about in different go-downs to find the right boxes. I am very glad to find that all our things that I have seen so far are in quite good condition in spite of being in store so long.

It is interesting that you have been reading “The Bridge of San Luis Rey”. I should have almost thought that it was too grown-up for you to find interesting or grasp what it means. I found it a most fascinating book and one that gave one food for thought. There are some stories in Debits and Credits that I liked and some that I did not care about. I wonder how you got on with it.

The present Chief of the Police in Bengal – who took Mr O’Sullivan’s place has been very kind in taking me to various things this week, when Dad has to stay late in office or is too tired to go out after dinner. We have been bathing at Tollygunge once or twice and went to the Races there on Saturday. Danced at the Saturday Club on Saturday night and found it rather hot, so finished up by driving two or three times round the Strand Rd along by the river and right up the big red road across the Maidan. It was really delivious and the shipping on the river looked so pretty. On Sunday Dad and I dined out and met some old friends whom we had not seen for years and years. They were at the little place called Contar where we were stationed when first we were married. We did so enjoy being with them again and Dad and Sir Douglas Stewart (the husband) could scarcely bare to go to the cinema, where they had to stop talking and reminding one another of all sorts of comical things they had done together, like chasing armed docoits and so on. It was a very poor film that we saw, though there were a certain amount of amusing things in it.

Mogul came to visit me again the other day and looked at a lot of snapshots which have been taken of you children while we were at home, with great interest. He will be coming back to us in the cold weather. He is looking very thin, but says he is well.

I have not had much time for reading this week, as I have been out several times in the evenings, which is about the only time that I read – and on nights when I have not been out, we have come in rather late for dinner. We never dine till 8.30 at this time of year as a matter of fact, and sometimes even later, because we so often bathe fairly late in the evenings and then sit about and have drinks. A party of us were sitting having drinks and talking after bathing yesterday evening and with a shock we suddenly realized that it was 8.30 and all had to scurry off to dinner!

I hope Auntie will be able to let you go into Chelmsford to get some tennis during the holidays. I am anxious for you to get plenty of practice. My tennis has gone off very much, through not getting any practice to speak of for two years. I hope I shall get some of what little skill I had at the game back again, by playing more. I have several games arranged in the near future.

Our pleasant little social round in Calcutta does not make very much of interest to write to you about. I hope you don’t find my letters very dull.

Best love, my darling and lots of love and kisses

From LJT to Annette

14/1 Rowland Rd
July 19th 1932

My darling Annette

There was lots of interesting news in the letter we got from you on Sunday. You seem to have done very well in the exams – top in all subjects except three and a good high average of marks. I was very glad to hear that you were sticking to your opinion about the Guide Camp. You will always find lots of people in the world, who are ready to belittle anything which they are too lazy to do themselves. I have not the slightest doubt but that you had great fun at the camp and learnt a great deal that was useful – and I hope you will be able to go again next year. I am very much absorbed in Guide work at the moment. You know I did my training at Jalpaiguri in rather an odd sort of way, with no one to help me – and I was teaching girls who knew nothing – so of course I did not have to touch any 1st class work – any only passed my second class test myself. I am now going to training classes for 1st class work on two mornings a week and a class for Guiders on another morning. I have been to my company at Kidderpore School for the first time this afternoon. The girls are mostly Eurasians – but see a jolly lot and keen to learn – so I hope we shall get on well.

At the training class this morning we were doing a lot of work on finding out the points of the compass in various ways. It was very fascinating. Next week we have to do judging hights and distances, which I feel will be much more difficult. I have been leading such a pleasantly idle life since I came back to India, that I think it is a very good thing that I am having some work to do. It will prevent me getting too lazy.

Dad and I continue working very busily at our diving and bathe practically every evening – very often not till 7 o’clock. I now try both running along the board and taking a header in and also running and jumping with both feet which is an improvement in confidence – though I am afraid the resulting dives are not very good yet. I have been trying to practise the crawl – in company with one or two friends. We try our arms and legs seperately and have not yet attempted to put them together, but I must confess it seems to me very difficult. However, I recommend you to stick to it. The general concensus of opinion is that it is more effective and less exhausting than the old fashioned breast and side strokes.

How lucky that the hot weather came just as the swimming bath was finished – I wonder how often you are allowed in during the week. it would be nice if you could go in every day. We have seen several old friends this week – I am sure you remember Mr and Mrs King from Jalpaiguri. They are stationed in Calcutta and came to lunch with us on Sunday. The two boys are doing quite well at school at Oundle and have a very happy home in Wales for the holidays. Another old friend I was very pleased to see at the Tollygunge races on Saturday was Mr Renwick, whose horses I used to ride a good bit in Darjeeling and when he was up in Jalpai for the camps.

Barbara Earwaker has just come down to Calcutta with some other girls from Darjeeling, to give some cabaret shows here. They are doing one at the Saturday Club on Saturday evening – and I think they are doing one at the Grand Hotel and one at Firpo’s. I have a party of people dining here on Saturday and am taking them on to the dance and to see the cabaret. I have been out quite a lot in the past week. I was dining with Mr Farmer and went to see a very silly but really rather funny film last Thursday and I was dining and dancing at the Saturday Club on Saturday evening. The afternoons have all been filled up in some way or another either playing tennis or watching football or going to races and invariably finish up with a bathe before dinner. I see a lot of Mr Jones and he often asks about you and Rosemary. We went to the Races at Tollygunge together on Saturday.

We have rather a lot of dinner parties this week. I hope they wont make Dad too tired. He is pretty well, but always a bit tired in the evening as he really is working very hard.

I hope you are having lovely holidays and that the summer weather is lasting – Best love and lots of love and kisses, my darling from Mum.

From LJT to Annette

14/1 Rowland Rd
July 25th 1932

My darling Annette

Many, many congratulations on your two prizes especially the high average one. You have beaten me. I forget what my high average was, but I know it was only in the seventies. Do look on the board when you go back to school and tell me.

It was awfully nice getting such a splendid long letter from you and I also had letters from Auntie and from Cousin Florrie, so one way and another, I heard quite a lot about Speech Day. it will be very interesting to hear more about your week-end with Mrs Petrie. Auntie tells me that the weather was fine, so I expect you had a lovely time – and I have no doubt going back to ordinary lessons did seem dull after all the different excitements. However, life cant all be “high spots” (which I think is an American expression). If it were, we should soon get tired and worn out and very glad to get back to a little more hum-drum existance.

Looking back over the past week, the lion’s share of my time and attention seems to have been taken up with Guide work. I think I told you that I am attending 3 classes a week in the mornings, in order to pass all my first class tests and also get a good general grasp of 1st Class work. It means quite a lot of work out of class and I find myself going about computing numbers – such as trees in a garden – people in a bus – books in a shelf and so on. Its a thing that can only be done by practice – Hights I am going to tackle to-day and the Trainer is going to give me a special half hour on it after the class to-morrow. Tell me, have you passed your 2nd Class yet? I forget.

I think I am getting on with my diving. I have certainly got very much more confidence than I had. I do so wonder whether you have summoned up courage to begin going in head first yet. Do try! I know its difficult to begin and for ages I hated the thought of running along the board and taking a header – but now I don’t mind it at all. I am meeting Mrs Hingston -Eswyn’s mother, for a bathe at the Sat. Club to-day.


I was called away at the end of that page and now it is two days later. I had a jolly bathe with Mrs Hingston the other morning. There were several other people there we knew and it was really great fun. Last night at the Saturday Club, I did my Girl Guide 50 yds swimming test. I had not many fears that I should not be able to do it! I dived so deep once last night that I found myself sort of feeling my way along the bottom of the bath with my finger tips. it was a queer sensation.

We have had a lot of heavy rain the last few days which is a good thing – because the country needs it. The rainfall is much behind the average so far this year.

I have two dinner parties last week. On Thursday I took our guests on to a sort of informal concert at the Saturday Club, given by the band of the Kings Royal Rifles on Thursday and on Saturday I took the party on to a dance and cabaret show at the Saturday Club. Uncle Harry and Auntie Winsome were in our party and Major Meade and Mr Renwick, both of whom you may remember. The Club was packed and every one cheered the cabaret-turns tremendously though I cant say I thought them very good. Barbara Earwacker was one of the dancers and about the best of them, I thought. It was rather a jolly evening.

We had a very nice Guide Rally yesterday afternoon. We are lucky at that particular school in having such a splendid big compound. There are great stretches of rough grass and groups of trees, rather like some of the rough part of the compound at Jalpai – so its splendid for playing games and tracking and all sorts of things. Luckily it was fine in the evening after a wet morning – but there was a strong breeze and it was beautifully cool – so we could enjoy ourselves without getting too frantically hot. I must say I do find it a different thing working with these European and Anglo Indian girls to what I was working with the Bengali girls at Jalpai. That really was uphill work. These girls are all so keen to learn and of course there is no language difficulty.

I am looking forward very much to hearing about your camp. I do hope you enjoyed it.

Best love – a big hug and lots of kisses to you, my darling
from Mummy