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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 December

From LJT to Annette

14/1 Rowland Rd
Dec 7th 1932

My darling Annette

This letter will probably reach you on my 40th birthday. I don’t think I altogether like the thought of being 40. It seems such a big difference from being still in “the thirties” – still, I suppose I shant notice the difference much when the day comes and in many ways I like being middle aged just as much as I liked being young. In fact for some things I don’t know that I don’t prefer it.

It was an interesting letter that we got from you last week. The “League of Nations” Party sounded rather hard work. I think it is splendid practice for you having to get up and speak about a subject at a moments notice. Its a great pity more schools don’t practice something of the sort, for so many people are nervous and dumbfounded if they have to “say a few words” in public. I am giving away the prizes at the Diocesan Girls School to-day and I don’t know whether I shall be expected to make a short speech. I have a few ideas up my sleeve in case. Luckily my voice carries alright and on the one or two occasions when I have had to speak I have not had any difficulty in making myself heard.

Dad had to attend a Durbar yesterday and wore his levee dress uniform for the first time. He looked so nice in it. The high collar all covered with gold lace, suits his fair colouring – and the tight fitting clothes show off his figure well. Luckily he is not at all fat, which makes a great difference. We played one another singles at tennis on Saturday and Sunday. Dad was rather sad about himself, but considering that he has not played for four years, I think he did quite well.

I thought this piece I have cut out of the paper about Mr. Janvrin, would interest you. I think very likely Miss Capstick would be interested in it too – so try to remember to take it back to school and give it to her.

This evening I am going to hear Mark Hambourg play. He is giving three concerts in Calcutta. It is not often we get any musician as famous he is out here. I am looking forward to hearing him very much.

Is’nt it splendid about the boys’ scholarships? We heard by Air Mail last week.

Forgive me for writing you such a short letter. I am so busy and have had so many interruptions this morning. Best love and kisses, my darling from Mum

From HPV to Annette

Dec 8th (?1932)

My dear Annette.

For variety excitement and life with a big “L” I know of nothing to compare with your school doings except the interior of Rosemary’s dollshouse in Jalpaiguri. After your experiences in the art of extempore speaking at your League of Nations party (Mux is the word!) you will know what it is like to stand up and make speeches in Council (the word here is “toots and rolles”) at a moment’s notice. But what is the real phrase:- “Muds” duds! tools! and (?)rottes!!”? or is it Ipps! pips!! - ? I can’t remember. But I have been accused of producing noises like that of late when told I must go out to dinner or lamenting my fate at other times.

As to marks, I only hope that it is easier to get them at your school than it used to be at mine – for otherwise how shall I explain the matter.

I am weary: I say ah googoo (which is forbidden) a sign of exhaustion: the council is to blame for it.

Much love

From LJT to Annette

14/1 Rowland Rd
Dec 14th 1932

My darling Annette

Your letters are always interesting and we appreciate the trouble you must take over them very much. Its a real pleasure to hear what you are doing and what is going on in the school. I am so glad that Linnette’s and Rosemary’s birthday table was a success. Rosemary is not very explicit about it in her letter, but says that it was great fun.

I am very sorry to hear that June got into a row, and about such a silly thing too. Its odd that some girls go in for these foolish “Grand Pashes” as you call them. Its splendid to be fond of people and great friends with them – but its a great mistake to get sentimental and let one’s feelings run away with one. That quite spoils the best sort of friendship. I do hope June will soon get over this silly habit. Do do your best to help her to do so. In some ways the friendships – the real friendships, one makes at school, are the best in the world. One gets to know one another so well. I have still two very great friends left from my school days – one is Mrs. Elliot your god-mother and the other is Mrs. de Kat – Richard’s god-mother. Another great friend – a Jewess, was killed in a motor accident some years ago – but were she still alive, I know we should still be friends.

I believe Auntie is going to take you to see a specialist about your eye, as Miss Capstick thinks perhaps you would be happier if it can be made to look practically normal, like your good one. How I hope that the doctors will make a good job of it, is quite beyond my power to express – but I think you will understand how much I am thinking and praying for it and you.

Do you know yet when the confirmation is going to be? Will you let me know in good time and also let me know what you would like in memory of it? I don’t know what your prayer and hymn books are like. I have a sort of idea that you were useing my old red ones that I had when I was a small child. Perhaps you would like nice new ones.

The enclosed heading which I got off a bill for some things I got in a little shop in the Market the other day, may amuse you. I did not notice the name [name on cutting is ‘BEST CHEAP & Co.] till I got home. I know funny stories about Babus make you laugh – so listen to this. It is a true story told me a day or two ago about people I know well. A farewell party was being given to a certain Mr. Lees, who was then Commissioner of the Burdwan Division. His sister, who was quite a middle aged lady was with him. The Babu who was making a speech said various complimentary things about Mr Lees. Then he evidently thought that he must say something about Miss Lees – so he said “I am sure we must all thank God for the number of years which Miss Lees has been allowed to live upon this earth”. Poor Lady! It sounds as if she were about a hundred and two –does’nt it?

I seem to have spent most of the past week going to school prize givings and committee meetings. We finished up our Guide Year with a combined Rally of the two companies at our school, in which they competed in all sorts of test games for a sheild and we finished up with a camp fire, songs, cocoa and cakes. It all went off very well. I have had my first fitting for my new evening frock, made out of the stuff which Auntie sent our to me and I think it is going to look very pretty. I shall be wearing it at the Government House Ball on the 21st of this month.

Its getting late – Dad has already gone off to bed – so I shall leave this to finish till to-morrow.


To-morrow has come. I have slept a good number of hours – practiced golf for ¾ of an hour – done some exercises – eaten breakfast – seen the cook – given some work to the dhirzie – made a few telephone calls – and now I sit down to finish my mail.

I had a nice tennis four here yesterday. We were so evenly matched that there was nothing in it. After two hard fought setts, we stopped to have a cup of tea and as we walked under the tree a wretched crow made a mess all down one of my guests cresses – I looked up and same crow or one of his friends got me in the eye! I rushed upstairs and washed my eye out with boracic and am glad to say that the unfortunate incident has had no ill effects. The bearer is very cock-a-hoop, because he had put the tea table away from the tree and I had it moved back.

On Monday evening I went to see the Budho Rani of Burdwan – that is the eldest son’s wife – She has recently had a little daughter and the baby is such a pet – It has a very fair skin and dark dark eyes, with such long lashes. The Rani’s old mother, come comes from the Punjab was there too – and she speaks no English, so I talked to her in Hindustani. She said something to her daughter in Punjabi and the little Rani said to me “My mother says that she likes you very much”. They are such naive people! When I got up to go the old lady held my hand and stroked my arms just as we might stroke a nice dog we had taken a fancy too – She wants to know whether I will go up to the Punjab when her daughter goes home to stay. It would be rather fun, would’nt it? I wonder how I should get on staying in an Indian house.

Rosemary’s and Auntie’s letters still have to be written, so I think I must stop chatting to you.

My best love, darling – and lots of hugs and kisses

From LJT to Rosemary
Dec 15th, 1932
Rowland Rd, Calcutta

My darling Rosemary,

It was nice to hear that your birthday party was good fun. I suppose by the time you get this, it will seem so long ago that you will almost have forgotten all about it.
Last Tuesday was John’s third birthday. I got him a stool like that one you have with a seat made of sort of colored string -- And Auntie Winsome says he is tremendously pleased with it. I could not go to his birthday party because Tuesday is the day on which I have my Girl Guide Rally and I do not give up that on any account.
On Friday I was having lunch with some friends and was charmed by a tame bulbul they have got. A bulbul is an Indian robin, only he has the red patch under his tail and a crest on his head. These people rescued this Bulbul in the spring. The nest in which he was being brought up was wrecked by a cat or something and the little birds were thrown out onto the ground. When my friends found them, the brothers and sisters were dead, but they took this little fellow into the house and brought him up by hand. When he had grown quite big, they let him fly -- but he liked living with human beings better than being wild -- and after being sent back two or three times from neighboring houses, they decided that the best thing they could do was to make him a big cage out of wire netting, round a tree near which they constantly sit. The cage has the trunk and lots of the branches of the tree inside it, and the little bird is as happy as anything there. When any of the family go and put their faces close to the cage and call him, he flies down and puts his beak against their mouth or cheek. When two or three people are sitting near talking, he comes to the nearest point in his cage and sits there with his head on one side, looking and listening, as if he thoroughly enjoyed it. When evening comes, the old Madrassi ayah takes out the little old cage in which he was brought up and he flies into it, and she takes him to her go-down for the night. If she is late going out for him, he gets so agitated and flies about and calls for her. Isn’t it amusing?
You must be getting quite a nice lot of money in the bank now. Do you know how much you have?
Last Monday I had to go to another prize-giving. This time the girls were Europeans. The Kindergarten did an amusing thing. When the curtain went up, the stage was full of little children got up as dolls, all with price tickets on them. They began complaining to one another that now-a-days the children began going to school so young, that they no longer took any notice of the dolls, or saved up their money to buy them -- so they stayed month after month, neglected in the toy shop. They sang a song about it -- and then had more talk -and sang another song to cheer themselves up. Then one doll said “Look, the children are coming out of school! Let’s sing very loud and see if we can attract their attention”. So they did--and two or three children came into the shop and looked round saying they were sure that they had heard singing. Then the dolls began talking to them and telling them their troubles. The little girls were sorry for them and explained that they did not know before that dolls had any feelings, and promised to try to set the fashion for little girls to play with dolls again. Then they sang some more songs together and all became very happy. It was so sweetly done and the children sang awfully well. I really enjoyed it!
Christmas is coming very close now. We are having dinner with Uncle Harry and Auntie Winsome, so I have no preparations to make and it seems so funny!
I must write Auntie’s letter now.

Best love, my darling, and lots of big, big kisses,

From HPV to Rosemary

Calcutta, Dec 15th, 1932

My dear Rosemary,

Sunny days, cool weather. But as I am in office all day the weather doesn’t help me much. If we were in Jalpaiguri we should now be preparing to go out into the forests for Christmas. But I expect that I shall spend most of my holiday working.
The polo team from Jalpaiguri are down in Calcutta; they do not expect to do well, as nowadays they are too poor to have good ponies. The tea planters are not making any money.
After several years I have begun again to play tennis, but not well! It is not unexpected of course.
I wish you a Happy New Year.

Much Love,

From HPV to Annette

Dec 15th (?1932)

My dear Annette

Tired out although it before breakfast: I’ve exhausted all my news on Richard’s letter which I’ve just been writing. Unless you’re interested in noises. Last Saturday I came home to find that some workmen had started breaking up old iron with hammers in a workshop which adjoins the garden. Never such a noise: it made one feel swimmy in the head. Next day, Sunday, the same. We had people in for tennis: one a police officer: and he went to the telephone, rang up the police station, and had policemen sent to stop it. Reapp That word is the beginning of “Really appalling”. Really appalling what a din they made! Un vacarme assousdissant, as the gramophone said.

I haven’t read any French books these last few days, being too tired in the evenings. I hope that you and Gavin talk French in the holidays. Not that your’e likely to.

The saddlers have sent back the new revolver holster which I want to wear under the arm, covered by my coat: but they’ve put in ideas of their own which annoy me. “Such things are” – Nelson used to say (the Admiral, not the Jalpaiguri Nelson) when he felt that there was a conspiracy against him.

John’s birthday yesterday. I couldn’t get round to see him. We gave him a stool: it was a success. Queer: I thought it a dull present.

Well – good luck and much love. One a hope and the other a reality

From LJT to Annette

14/1 Rowland Rd

Dec 28th 1932

My darling Annette

It was such fun having your parcels to open on Christmas morning and I love the “nightie” case you have sent me and feel very proud of you for having done it so well. I specially took it round to show Auntie Winsome, who thought the work very nice and Mogul and Bhim Das were quite thrilled to hear that you had done it yourself. Thank you very much indeed for it, my darling. Needless to say we thought a great deal about you on Christmas Day and drank your healths at dinner at Auntie Winsomes at just the time when you must have been having your Christmas lunch. We went to visit Auntie Winsome and Uncle Harry directly after breakfast and took round little presents for them and for Nannie and John – John was very happy, as you may imagine. Auntie Arla’s son, Bill, is staying with them and we took him out to Tollygunge for a bathe during the morning. We had a quiet lunch to-gether at home and some very nice tennis here in the afternoon. Mr. and Mrs. Charles Carey Morgan and Uncle Hugh Carey Morgan came and some other people that we have known for years. In the evening we had dinner with Uncle Harry and played games afterwards.

Talking of the Carey Morgans reminds me of rather a sweet story that Uncle Hugh told me. His little neice Anne is about 6 years old – He was woken in the morning by a little voice singing outside his door – “Christians Awake”. He got up, opened the door and said “Merry Christmas Annie” – Annie was standing very solemnly, with a shawl draped over her head and shoulders and a big doll in her arms and she replied with the utmost seriousness “I’m not Annie I’m Mary.” She was playing that it was the first Christmas Day and she was the Virgin Mary with the Baby Jesus.

Miss Croxor wrote me such a nice letter to tell me how well you managed your part of the duet on two pianos at the concert. I wish I could have heard you. Do you continue to like your piano lessons?

Congratulations on getting such good marks and a “mention” in the Intermédiaire – I don’t think it matters feeling pleased inside that you have beaten people older than yourself, so land as you don’t let them see it and don’t get conceited and boast about it. Dad and I were very interested to hear that you are sleeping on later in the mornings. I expect it is because you are working harder. Dad immediately said he hoped that you are not working too hard. Do you feel over-tired by the time the evening comes? To be reasonably tired is alright, but its not good to overwork at anytime of your life, but especially at your age when you are growing so fast. Rember Budha’s advice about the “Middle Way of Virtue”. Its very sound advice. I hope you have a nice clergyman to prepare you for confirmation. I will send the particulars of the date and place of your baptism to Miss Capstick. Will you let me know as soon as you can, the date of your confirmation? I should like to let Mrs. Elliot know, in case by any chance she is in or near London. She is living at St. Andrews in Scotland so of course it would be too far for her to come specially. I expect Mrs Petrie will do her best to be there.

My last letter, I suppose, was written on the day after the Government House Ball. On the Friday we had the Government House Garden Party which was a fine sight and interesting in a way, only there were such a lot of cars that it took a weary while getting in and then we were all lined up to shake hands with the Governor – As there were between 2000 and 3000 people there, you may imagine that it took some while, so that one was really rather tired and bored before the pleasant part of the party began. There were some very pretty frocks there and some fine Indian uniforms.

Last night Dad took me to see a film “Jack’s the Boy” to celebrate my birthday last night. We thought it was going to be so good, and were rather disappointed, though it was quite amusing. Driving back from Tollygunge yesterday evening I noticed a little restaurant called “Glutton’s Inn” Rather an amusing name, don’t you think?

As always after Christmas, I have a great budget of letters to write – so will finish this. I think it will reach you before the end of the holidays.

Best love, my darling and lots of kisses, as well as thanks for the present

From HPV to Annette

Dec 29th 1932

My dear Annette

Very many thanks for the book cover which you sent me for Christmas. It is of a truly professional finish and it is not intended as an insinuation that you find the work difficult when I remark that it must have cost you a great deal of pains to make it. My dear, I am obliged to you for it.

Your house party of the beginning of December, which by now will seem very old stuff to you, sounds as if it had gone with a kick from start to finish. References in your letter leave me amazed and wondering: who for instance are the Athenians? Well I know that they do not come from Athens: though if they did, what cause for wonder? There were at my school two boys from Smyrna: they were moreover if not actual barbarians very adroit imitations. Dismiss them therefore from your mind.

I suspect that one reason for your sleeping longer in the mornings is that you are growing more or differently. Perhaps it is less labour for the legs to grown longer than for the body to fill out: or something such: perhaps again it is not.

News? I am spending the Christmas holidays by going to work: not quite so much or so long as usual maybe. On Christmas and on boxing day, no. On Christmas morning we bathed. The water was heated. In the afternoon tennis: to me not very enjoyable for I had wrenched my thumb somewhat and it hurt to use a racquet. On Boxing day a lunch: afterwards races: but I didn’t go as they cost a lot. On the next day, true, I went to office: but after dinner as a birthday celebration we went to the Pictures: not good but funny.

Much love