Sunday, 23 April 2017

The 'Right" People


Dear Reader,
                                                                           Simla, India: A small hotel

                                                                          Simla, India: A large hotel

Staying with my sister this week, I found a book in her study which was inscribed to her by my godmother, Mary, Lady Delamere.  This brought to mind Kenya, Nairobi, and the Happy Valley set of people who lived there in the 1920s to 1940s.  They were British and Anglo-Irish aristocrats who settled in the Happy Valley region of the Wanjohi valley, near the Aberdere mountain range in colonial Kenya and Uganda.  This group of people were infamous for their decadent lifestyles and exploits, according to reports of drug taking and sexual promiscuity.  Today, trying to recall what Aunty Mary said about those days, which is not much, I do remember thinking that all the people she mentioned had too much money and not enough to do.  Sleeping with someone else's wife or husband was probably one of the few excitements and pleasures they had to fill their empty, indolent days.

In the excellent biography of Rudyard Kipling I am reading at the moment, he talks of a place in the hills outside Lahore, called Simla, where it was a little cooler in the summer months.  In 1876 during hot weather Simla became the summer capital of the Regional Government of the Punjab, and these government officials were joined by the wives and daughters of the men who lived on the plains.  The presence of many bachelors and unattached men, as well as the many women passing the summer there in the hot weather, gave Simla a reputation for adultery, or at least gossip about adultery.  Rudyard Kipling said in a letter to a friend that it had a reputation for "frivolity, gossip and intrigue".  Well, he should know, since he went there himself to get away from the great heat of the summer.

                                                                             *

The "Right" People

I nearly didn't come
to see this house
on an estate.

My cottage on Market Street was old.
Two hundred years old.
It was damp, it was cold
mice pattered about
and the east wind blew
through the small windows.

It was dark even in summer,
but it was smart
in the "right" part of town
and the "right" people
asked us for dinner.

Now we live in the suburbs
not in the "right" part of town
and not the "right" people
around us.

But I found they were my people
the "right" people for me
everyday people, kind and funny.

The house is warm,
no mice patter
no damp creeps up the wall
the car has a place of its own.

If I hadn't come to see it,
fearful of an estate,
I would never have known
where people like me lived.

                                                                            *

With best wishes,  Patricia

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