- Contributed by
- Brian Napper
- People in story:
- Piri and Suze Napper
- Location of story:
- Kuala Lumpur
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 20 December 2005
Piri, Freda Stanleigh, Mrs. X, Basil Stanleigh, Mr. X -- drinks in our garden after a game of badminton. It is in fact Basil's lagonda in right background, but it looks just like Piri's! [K.L. 1940]
Letters to England from my Dutch Step-mother to my Grandparents
See Background for context. [My annotation is in square brackets]
Dearest Mum and Dad.
We had no letters from you this week. I expect before long a whole packet will come in (just now the post came with your letters. I will read them first, Yes?) They were dated March 25th and April 1st. So we have all your letters of March now. Thank you so much Mum for the letters and all the news. Poor Ena, she has very often a cold has not she? And then Pat with her ear. An ear can be dreadful and so very painful. I have worked for about 7 months in a division where they only operated ears, noses and throats. I do hope Dr can clear up her ear without any operation. On the other hand if she has it operated she might be saved of any more trouble for the rest of her life. How lovely that she is getting on so nicely with her music. You sometimes are astonished how quickly children pick up things. We are all very well here except that Brian has got a cold and Rosemary developed just this morning a little one.
Piri is extremely busy. We just had a practice of the whole M.A.S. yesterday. It lasted from 3 till 6 o'clock. Piri had arranged the whole thing, and I can assure you that that is very much work. He arranged for 72 casualties and nearly everything was running smoothly. But the poor boy had to go from one place to another. Of course heard all their complaints and mistakes. He came home at half past six and had his first cup of tea then. Next week we have still a bigger practice because the A.R.P. is working [with the M.A.S.] then as well. I went down yesterday to one of the First Aid posts. Actually I don't belong to any of them, but the commandant asked me whether I would come and help them. I belonged to that post and I should have liked it very much to continue it, but I did not know what to do with Brian. I talked to a few ladies yesterday who had small children and they said that they did not know either what to do with them, but were sure that some sort of arrangement will be made. Anyhow in my position with the children I rather not take any risk. If something happens, people always talk about it. So I have offered myself to do some hours hospital work in the mornings. I can send Brian to a school here in town then. But once a week I am going around to a First Aid post and practice bandaging etc. with them then. They are quite nice ladies and yesterday for the first time I met there a Dutch lady.
My goodness honestly Mum I could not talk to her in Dutch. It all came out so rusty. I asked her “Are you married with a Dutchman?”. She said “yes” and I said “Oh yes, well that makes all the difference”. Honestly I could not say it in Dutch. (I still can’t.) Is not that awful? I don't mind it so very much, only I can't understand it. When I speak it for some time it is not so bad, but the first half an hour is really dreadful.
I had to do something yesterday all at once. I forgot what it was now. This morning I went with Piri to his A.R.P. office as his private secretary. He had a lady, just a few days ago she came, and this morning she had to go to hospital, the poor lady. Piri really needs somebody there, so I suggested that I should come with him till the lady is better again. She is very good and Piri likes to have her back you see, and it might be difficult to find somebody for a certain length of time (of which nobody knows how long). I don't think I would have done it if Rosemary just had come back from school. But in another 5 days I shall only have Brian and he rests in the morning and in the afternoon, and in the evening I am at home anyway. [We had a housekeeper, who would babysit.] They have both a cold now, so we can't go to the swimming pool. So I thought I did right by asking hubby [my husband] whether I should help him. Actually it is very lovely. I am the whole morning now with him and I like nothing so much than being together with my darling. Do you know, when he is sitting on his desk and I have just to ask him something and then touch him and stroke him a bit. A real private secretary!! Before long I sit on his knee and kiss him. But really [But seriously?], it is so wonderful to see him all the time and to work together. Oh well, that is quite a lot about this morning. Rosemary did not mind it so much. Piri made a joke about it and told her if it was still more busy in his “hospital office” that “poor she” and Brian had to help as well.
I think Mum and Dad that I must finish very soon now. It is half past three and I have to help Rosemary now with her work and Piri has to take this letter down this afternoon when he goes to choir practice. It was a good job that I started the letter yesterday. By the way, we received a very nice letter from Mus [our maternal grandmother, who, not surprisingly, didn't take to the second marriage as enthusiastically as everyone else!]. I write to her weekly now, just as I write to you. Piri is too busy for writing, and Mrs Hough seems to like it. She writes most kind to me now. You can understand what a relief that is for us. Would you please give everyone all our love and best wishes. With all our love to you and kisses from the children,
Your loving Suze, Rosemary and Brian [and signed personally!] Piri
Dearest Mum and Dad.
A few days ago we received your telegram “Family back again, all well”. We were so puzzled about it, because we cannot make out exactly what it means. I expect though we will receive a letter from you before long which will explain everything. However we are very, very glad indeed that you are all well. We had no letters from you this week. Rosemary has gone back to school again. She went yesterday and we all saw her off. That train journey is really a joy for the kids and it takes away all the awful part of saying goodbye. Rosemary immediately saw a few friends with whom we put her in a carriage. The term is only two months this time, just as it has been last time. So I expect that by the time you will have this letter she will be here again. Both children are very well indeed. Rosemary had to be examined before she went up (all the children have to). Her weight was 48 pounds, is 3 stones 6. According to the doctor here, that is just a little bit too much for her age. So you can imagine we were rather pleased about that. I am 8 stones 10 now and also about that I am very pleased. I have lost some weight since I left Holland, but I don't regret that a bit because I was too fat (according to Piri!!). Still in spite of that he married me! I don't know Brian's weight because I did not take him to the doctor. I drove the car myself you see, and I don't dare yet to put one of the children in the back.
Piri and I are rather busy now. Piri has to do such a lot of A.R.P. now. Next week Monday we have to visit his secretary who is ill in hospital. Tuesday he has a church meeting, Wednesday and Thursday there will be a big exercise and he perhaps has to be out from 4.30 to midnight. Friday choir practice and it usually is always like this. Piri sleeps very much better now and I am so glad about that, otherwise I should not allow him to do all this work. I have to go out both the black-out nights to my First Aid post, to which I don't belong at all. But they put me down as the nursing officer, so I think I shall have to go.
It was already late when I finished this letter so far last Friday, and since then I have not had the time to finish it. On Saturday afternoon we had to go to a parade. Piri had to go and I usually come with him. I cannot do without him such a long time. Besides I think those Asiatic people are very thrilled when I come as well. They are very keen and they always appreciate it when you show interest in all their doings. Sunday morning we first had to go to the A.R.P. office, and later on to the R.R.I. When Piri goes to the office on Sunday mornings after Brian has gone to bed I always come with him. And Sunday afternoon Piri read a play of Bernard Shaw to me. We both like literature very much and our greatest pleasure is when Piri reads to me. He read all the Jane Austen books to me. Several other books and a few plays of B. Shaw. We simply love it and Piri reads so very well that it is a very great pleasure to listen to him. I often look at his eyes and they are full of expression when he reads. Oh, he is such a lovely man.
Sunday evening we went to the church. Padre Hall is away now and every Sunday we seem to have another one. Padre Moore[?], who would come here for Padre Hall, can't go away yet from Java. Yesterday we had one (he will stay here till Moore comes). My goodness what a man. He is Australian, and his language [accent?] even hurt my ears. Honestly it was simply painful to listen to him. It is a good job that he will be here only for such a short time.
These are all my excuses why I did not finish the letter earlier. This morning I did not go to the A.R.P. office because of all sorts of circumstances, but I will go this afternoon. And now this morning I have the opportunity of finishing all my correspondence and writing out my bills. Oh Mum, I am glad you did not see all the letters and bills etc. I found. You would have thought me a very bad housekeeper!
And now Mum and Dad I think you have to excuse my darling again this week. There will be an exercise next Wednesday and Thursday and he is terribly busy with it. With all our love to you and Ena and her family, and kisses from the children.
Your loving Suze, Rosemary and Brian
[And from Piri (who would read and sometimes correct Suze's letters):]
Some of this letter wasn't meant for me to see!! [signed] Piri
[And from Suze:]
Oh yes Mum it was!!
Dearest Mum and Dad.
I feel so guilty, I have not written to you these last two weeks. Every Friday I thought, now I must write and every time something happened. I have been rather busy the last weeks or so. I have ladies coming every morning to our house to make bandages for the M.A.S. They are rather complicated and it takes an awful long time just at the moment. I have got about 50 ladies, but next week I expect more. The preparations and the shopping really took a long time. They are coming around every day (I mean about 10 a day) except Saturdays, from about 9 till 12.30. Half of them I have never seen before. I also have about 14 Chinese. They are very good indeed. Work very needly [neatly?] and quickly. When they disappear at 12.30 I give Brian his tiffin.
I had a long thought about it, what to do. Brian always had his tiffin together with us, but for a few reasons I change it. One of them is when Rosemary comes home [from boarding school] her table manners are normally not so good and Brian takes it over immediately. So when she comes home I really look at everything, to get her out of the bad habits. When I have her and Brian just by themselves, their minds are really concentrated with their food and table manners and not with all sorts of other things, and she is soon alright again. In the second place Piri came home often at 1/4 to two and by that time Brian was so hungry that I gave him his food earlier. And then as a consequence of this I thought that it is bad to have it half the time early by himself and the other half late, together. So I give him now his tiffin at 12.30. But I sit then on the table as well you see and watch exactly how he is eating and correct everything. Poor boy!!
My goodness Mum, before one can get rid of 10 ladies at 12.30 you have to start at 11.30 to keep on telling them it is time. Oh well, I think this is a little bit exaggerated. But you must begin at least at 12.10. Anyway, when with much trouble they have gone I can run upstairs to do Brian and look at his table manners. Very soon after that Piri comes home. We then have our tiffin ourselves. In the afternoon we have to go out every Wednesday (First Aid post) and Sunday (Church). Friday (choir practice). Next week Piri will have a A.R.P. meeting on Monday, and church meeting Tuesday. He goes away to Ipoh on Wednesday and Thursday, choir practice Friday. [I have the impression that normally people would start work (e.g. at the R.R.I.) early, say 7 - 7.30 Monday to Saturday, and would work straight through to say 1 - 1.30, have lunch and a rest, have recreation, e.g sport, say 3.00 to 6.00 (nearly sunset), then dinner and go to bed early.]
Oh, this is such a lot of talk about nothing. We did not receive any letters this week, but trust that you are all very well. How are Pat and John? The children here are fine. We received a letter from Rosemary. She is very well as far as we can judge. Her weekly report was “very good”. She really does her best. I just went this morning with Brian to the hairdresser (it is Saturday and no ladies) and from there to the swimming pool. He loved it. This evening we will have Freda, Gem and Basil for dinner. First we are going to the pictures. Hazel is really a girl now and big friends with Brian. Last time we were there she was pointing out Piri to all her family, saying “man”. She is amusing [presumably aged around 2; I was 4 now].
I can't concentrate just at the moment so well. All sorts of things and noises are going on.
Oh Mum, it seems that I can't get my letters posted. We did go to the pictures and had a nice time. It is always nice to have the Stanleighs here. You can just do what you want and have not to keep the conversation going. When I have got my ladies here in the morning I imagine myself to be in a wasps nest. They talk and talk and talk, without an end. 13 ladies together is terrible. Still they do an awful lot of work. So let us not grumble. Gem, Freda's sister, comes twice a week to help me with the bandages. Mum and Dad I have no more news so I think I will just finish here.
[And from Piri:] I am doing rather more Institute work now, as the M.A.S. is settling down and we are getting a fuller staff. I shall be glad of a change from it, though it was very interesting. Tomorrow I am going away visiting estates for a couple of days. I am not at all keen on being away from home as you can guess, but apart from that it will not be an unpleasant break.
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