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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 August

From LJT to Annette

14/1 Rowland Rd
Aug 3rd 1932

My darling Annette

Your letters do give us so much pleasure. The particular one we have to thank you for this week, is the one written the Sunday after you got back from Mrs Petrie’s. I am glad you had such a nice time there. Mrs Petrie says she enjoyed having you and that you both behaved very nicely – so there is a nice little pat on the back for you! I know Mrs Petrie is not the sort of person who would say that if she did not mean it.

I am quite thrilled to hear that you were allowed to use the swimming bath so much and that you have had your first shot at diving. It is a funny feeling going in head first to begin with and it takes a little time not to mind it at all, but stick to it and you will find presently that you positively like the feeling of going in headfirst and cant think how you could ever do anything so tame as going in feet first.

We were awfully amused at your account of Rosemary coming in second in the sack race. You described it so vividly that I felt as if I could see it quite distinctly.

You seem to be reading a good variety of books. I cant remember whether I have read Conrad’s “Tales of Unrest”. I have read a good many of his books and think he writes splendidly. He creates atmosphere in such a wonderful way that when I am living in a hot damp climate I can scarcely bear to read books of his describing similar sort of places because they make me feel even more hot and wet than I am already. You have evidently inherited your father’s knack of reading books quickly. In some ways it is an immensly useful thing to be able to do. The drawback to it, as I see it in him, is that reading books at that pace is not restful. When Dad is working very hard in office and wants to read when he comes home as a relaxation, it is not nearly as restful as it should be, because he reads at such a pace. However, if you have the knack I am sure the disadvantages are quite outweighed by the advantages. I am reading a book on psychology at the moment but I find it dull and shant go on with it. I have read so many of the scientific books written by the great psychologists themselves – men like Freud and Jung – Crighton Miller Hadfield and so on, that I find this sort of book written by an amature, very poor stuff – and rather waste of time. I so often find that it is much easier to read the big books by the big men, than what sets out to be an easy account of a subject by an amature. I found that tremendously with Darwin’s Origin of Species. I thought it looked rather stiff so got a small book published in the Home University Series which professed to give an account of it. I found it most difficult to follow so went back to the Origin of Species” itself and found it clear and most interesting. As you grow older and read more, I wonder whether you will find the same thing.

Another week has passed in which the lion’s share of my time and thoughts have been given to Girl Guides. The First Class Test is on Saturday morning – and we are to do our “hike” on Friday morning, beginning at 7 o’clock. We cannot actually do a proper hike at this time of year in Calcutta. The paddy fields are all under water and the bamboo ropes probably full of snakes and other unpleasant things. This being so, we are to be allowed to do the next best thing and spend 3 hours out in the big wild compound of Kidderpore House, making fires and cooking a meal. We have to have two guests and keep them happy and amused and well fed. I am taking two of my Guides. We are to start at 7 o’clock – and have breakfast out. I am going to cook buttered egg for them and hope it will turn out alright. I am proposing to fill in the rest of our time by studying the trees and birds in the compound by the aid of two books that I have got – and perhaps doing a little map reading and drawing


I had to stop writing yesterday when various ladies arrived to have lunch with me and as they stayed rather late and I then had to change and go out to tennis and changed again at the Club afterwards – waited there for Dad and we sat talking with various people till past 8. After dinner I was too sleepy to write. I am glad to say that I seem to be getting back some of my “form” at tennis at last and was playing quite decently yesterday. I hope I am able to keep it up. I enjoy playing in spite of the heat. I have to hang a small towel through my waist band to wipe my hand and the handle of my raquet very now and again – because my hand gets so wet with perspiration I can scarcely grip it – in spite of the fact that I have a handkerchief tied round my wrist to prevent the drips running down my arm!

Best love, darling and lots of love and kisses
from Mummy

From HPV to Annette

August 4th (?1932)

My dear Annette.

Letter writing is not my strong point these days. Lucky that as my capacity in that direction dwindles the younger members of the family develop a compensating epistolary skill. The outturn therefore remains constant. Good letters from all three of you this week. I’m glad that your London visit was such a howling or rather smiling success. Me – me a cold has smitten: life is very quiet. But for work and reading three murder stories I should have passed a vacant week. One bathe. “Look above the hands” said Mr Lebrock. It is useful to have someone to look on when one dives and to criticise: and he dives, the plain dives, very well. That has been my sole effort in the exercise line: and ever since I’ve been having fever. Lots of work – fairly good temper (with lapses), fairly well stretched back (with a lot of lapses). My child, what a fine mixed bag of books you’ve been reading! Hurrah. Can you remember the name of Lulu? in other words are you taking in what you read? For if not, go slow! Believe me.

Much love

From LJT to Annette

14/1 Rowland Rd
Aug 10th 1932

My darling Annette

We are so pleased that you are sticking to your diving and I do hope you will get on well. I am pegging away and I hope I am improving a bit. Dad had a cold or perhaps it was mild ‘flu’ the week before last and was feeling so poorly all last week that he has not been bathing at all and is going to wait a few more days before starting again. I was very worried about him last week, but he had a good rest over the week-end and seems really better again now.

I had a busy time over my Guide work last week – and I often thought of you in camp and wondered what you were doing and how you were enjoying it. On Friday morning, I did my “hike”. There were five of us doing it, each with two guests. We could not do a real “hike” at this time of year in Calcutta, but we spent three hours out in the open in the grounds of Kidderpore House and cooked breakfast there. I had two of my 2nd Class Guides as guests. Each Guider had to choose her own camp site. I chose a small mound sheltered by a mangoe and a peepil tree. I got my fires going and my breakfast ready quite a long time before anyone else – I was given a bad mark for choosing to camp under a mangoe, because there are always a good many ants about under mangoes – but on the other hand I know that they are the trees always grown to make the old camping grounds all over India. After we had eaten our breakfast and cleared everything up, so that there was not a sign of the fires, we spent some time looking at trees and identifying them out of the book I had. It was all rather fun – but when I got back home about 11 o’clock, I felt a bit weary, as I had not been in bed till about 1.30 the previous night and had got up at 6.15!

The following Saturday morning, we did the rest of our 1st class test – all of which you can see for yourself by looking in the book. I only just got through judging numbers and distances – but was very highly commended for my map work and also for my answers about “accidents”. I am very glad I have done this First Class Test, as now I feel so much more confidence and can use the knowledge at once to train our 2nd class Guides who want to go up for their First Class. I have begun already and gave them compass work last week. I think I shall tackle hights and distances next week, if we have a fine day.

I was interested to hear about your duet playing and am glad that you got good marks for it. I like the “Jeremy” books by Hugh Walpole, don’t you? He writes such good English to – a really nice style. I wonder whether “style” in writing conveys anything to you yet. I don’t thik it did much to me, when I was your age, but it probably will begin to do so quite soon.

We are still having a lot of rain and wonderfully cool weather. I slept without a fan last night and was not a bit too hot.

Now that I am through with this Guide Test, I think I must try to do some writing. I feel very ashamed that I have never tackled my Tibetan Trip and made an article out of that. I find it very difficult to settle down to writing but must try to get into the habit of it. Dad and I have done no French at all lately. We have both been so busy – I have not done his new set of travel records at all.

I went to see rather an amusing, but very silly film on Thursday. It could have been very good, only in the detirmination to make people laugh, all the situations had been exaggerated and all the characters over-acted and so, to a large extent, it defeated its own ends. However, I must confess, we did laugh a good deal at it.

Are you doing any interesting sewing at the moment? I have done nothing but a little mending lately – though I have two evenings bags that I want to make up from peices of stuff I bought at home.

Last Wednesday I had people to lunch here and now I am going out to lunch with the same party. There are four os us and we seem to be taking it in turn to lunch at one anothers’ houses once a week. Its rather fun!

Best love, my darling. I’m longing to get your letter about Camp.

From LJT to Annette

14/1 Rowland Rd.
Aug 23rd 1932

My darling Annette

Thank you very much indeed for the letter card from Ewhurst. I was enormously interested to hear about your camp and also so pleased to see some pictures of dear Leith Hill and Pitch Hill again. Pitch Hill is quite near Peaslake and we used to go up for picnics on to it. It was just on the back of Pitch Hill that we went with the Pilchers for a picnic and I think that was the day on which Richard took a photo of the old beer-bottle of which he was so fond. Do you remember?

It was bad luck that you should just have struck the few days of bad weather at the begining of the holidays, for your camp. How lucky that you had the barn to take refuge in. I was glad to hear that you seemed to be enjoying yourselves in spite of the bad weather.

Yesterday was one of the hottest days we have had since we came down here. It was my Guide Rally day and we simply dripped with heat. We did not play any running about games at all. We did a good deal of work at knots, as we have several recruits and a great number of Tenderfoots, many of whom seemed to me rather shaky over the knots. After that I have them a talk on the Health Laws and we finished up with songs.

Dad is still very very busy and Council has been sitting till 7.30 some nights. In spite of that he is very much better than he was a few weeks ago. The horrid tonic made of concentrated liver, mixed with iron, that I have been giving him, seems to have done him good.

I have been doing very much the usual things – tennis some days – teas and walks out at Tollygunge – bathing and so on. I had tea with Mr. Percy Brown at the Victoria Memorial on Friday and saw some very interesting drawings that he is doing to illustrate the book that he is writing on Indian architecture. From the marks a ruins on the ground and from old pictures of the same buildings, sometimes carved on other buildings – he is making pictures of the buildings as they must have been. Its intricate work and needs a great deal of working out and careful calculation but will make the text of the book much easier to follow.

Later in the evening we drove to the Agri-Horticultural Gardens and had a walk round them. Though this is not a good season for flowering annuals, there is a great deal of lovely colour in the gardens. So many flowering shrubs are in bloom and also lots of things with lovely varigated foliage. We found one shrub with good sized greenish-yellow flowers, not really very pretty, but with the most astonishing scent. As one sniffs at them, one seems to discover thing after thing – spice puddings – ginger – varnish and yet with a sweetness running through it all too.

Did I tell you about the “Vanishing Parties” we have been having to raise funds for the Guides? The Provincial Commissioner started by giving a lunch party for six people. Each of the guests brought a rupee for the Guide funds and each promised to give some sort of a party in their turn asking one less guest that the number at the original party – and asking all their guests to go on doing the same thing, till the parties vanished away to one. I had three guests to lunch yesterday and we had quite an amusing time. One of them was a very clever and entertaining Indian lady, who always keeps us well amused when she comes here and another was an equally entertaining Jewess – so we had a mixture of races.

We had a long letter from Mrs. Gurner this mail. They are spending the summer holidays on the north coast of France at a little place called Le Treport, not very far from Dieppe. I wonder whether the children will pick up any French while they are there.

I have just been reading an interesting book about Arabia. Books about Arabia nearly always fascinate me – though I think it would be a terrible country to live in and probably in many ways, trying to travel in. Yesterday I got a funny old book out of the United Service Club Library. It is an old history of the War with Bhutan which took place in 1864 and was fought all along the north of Jalpaiguri district. It was as a result of this war that we took all the land which is called the Dooars – (the forest and tea gardens you saw when we went out on shoots are all part of it). I have seen so many of the places where battles were fought and heard so many tales about them, that I thought it would be interesting to read a proper history.

I wonder how you liked the very hot weather in England. It was curious that on one day it was hotter than Calcutta! Best love darling and lots of kisses from