The Christmas Letters 2014
, Alison H
, Chubby Monkey
Summary: This was a combined effort by a dozen or so of us on CBB, posting as 'Round Robin' to conceal our identities, during December 2014, with a 'reveal' on New Year's Day 2015. It is a series of Christmas letters written by various characters over the course of the Chalet Series, I am not yet sure whether the original authors will come and post them here themselves, or whether I will be doing them all with a note as to whose they were, but as I did the first one, I am starting it off now, and will either post or organise the posting of the other 23 letters. I'm adding in the others who are registered here as co-authors anyway.
Categories: Ste Therese's House Characters: Anna Pfeiffen, Frieda (Mensch) von Ahlen, Grizel Cochrane, Hilda Annersley, Jo (Bettany) Maynard, Juliet Carrick, Karen, Madge (Bettany) Russell, Margot Maynard, Margot Venables, Minor character(s), Nell Wilson, Nina Rutherford, Rosalie Dene, Simone (Lecoutier) de Bersac, Therese Le Pattre, Tom Gay
School Period: Armishire, Guernsey, St Briavel's, Switzerland, Tyrol
School Name: Chalet School
Chapters: 24 Completed: Yes
Word count: 14240 Read: 52348
Published: 02 Jan 2015 Updated: 25 Jan 2015
1. Letter from Elise La Pattre by abbeybufo
2. Letter from Herr Braun by abbeybufo
3. Letter from Simone by abbeybufo
4. Letter from Grizel by abbeybufo
5. Letter from a young Nell Wilson by abbeybufo
6. Letter from Paula von Rothenfels by Someone
7. Letter from Juliet by abbeybufo
8. Letter from Margot Venables by abbeybufo
9. Letter from Madge Russell by exile
10. Letter from Hilda Annersley by abbeybufo
11. Letter from Sylvia Leigh by exile
12. Letter from Frieda von Ahlen by abbeybufo
13. Letter from Doris Trelawney by abbeybufo
14. Letter from Tristan Denny by abbeybufo
15. Letter from Rosalie Dene by abbeybufo
16. Letter from Anna by abbeybufo
17. Letter from Karen by abbeybufo
18. Letters from Joey Maynard by abbeybufo
19. Letter from Ruth Lambert by abbeybufo
20. Letter from Tom Gay by abbeybufo
21. Letter from Margot Maynard by abbeybufo
22. Letter from Bruno Maynard by Beecharmer
23. Letter from Nina Rutherford by abbeybufo
24. Letter from an older Nell Wilson by abbeybufo
Letter from Elise La Pattre by abbeybufo
Set in the early days of the Chalet School
The Chalet School
1er Decembre 192*
Félicitations à tous le monde
I have had one of the strangest and most wonderful years of my life! You will remember that last Christmas I was very unhappy in my post as governess to the Withers family in Taverton. I was neither suited to the damp winters of the English South-West, nor did I feel supported in my methods by the parents, so when Miss Bettany – you will remember I mentioned in last year’s letter the neighbour who was so helpful in her telling-off young Miss Jean for her perpetual rudeness; in front of the parents, too! – decided in the spring that she wished to start a school; and in the beautiful Tyrol, too, I was very happy to support her. So here I am in Austria, where it is cold, yes, but with clear crisp days, and snow on the ground, joint headmistress with Miss Marguérite Bettany, whom the girls and staff all now call Madame (and I am Mademoiselle!)
We started in a small way, with Marguérite’s sister Joséphine, Grizel Cochrane, the child of another neighbour – who was wilting under the regime of a reluctant stepmother – and my young cousine Simone. So April saw us making arrangements – I went ahead with young Mr Bettany, Marguérite’s brother, who was on furlough from India, to oversee the alterations to the school buildings. Before the first day, some of the families staying on the lake for the summer decided to send their daughters to us, and so our first term began with 9 pupils. Within a week our numbers had swollen to seventeen, and the whole neighbourhood was talking about our venture. We then had need of another mistress, and Miss Maynard came to us with high recommendations for her mathematics – a subject in which both Marguérite and I felt a less than adequacy for our older girls.
But we were not without excitement, as the girls tried various tricks and escapades, some things mere thoughtlessness, others attempts at trying the limits of our discipline, but all in all the first term was a success, and we boasted eighteen pupils when we separated for the summer holidays, during which we learned that Juliet, who was beginning to be a very useful member of our senior group of girls, had lost her parents to a motor accident.
Through word-of-mouth recommendations we started the autumn term with thirty-three pupils, from all over Europe as well as one young lady from America. Consequently another mistress, Miss Durrant, had joined us. Now we also have an English singing-master, and boast a hobbies club and a school magazine!
Marguérite, Josephine and the Robin are going to Innsbruck for Christmas, to stay with the Mensches and the Maranis, whose daughters have been with us from the start; and I will be in Vienna with Simone and her sister Renée, and two other little French girls, by the time you receive this.
And so I send you the greetings of the season, and wish you Bonne Nouvelle Année.
Your very good friend
Elise La Pâttre
Letter from Herr Braun by abbeybufo
this was actually written by Exile, but I was asked to post it as she is otherwise engaged today.
Hotel Kron Prinz Karl
Am 2. Dezember 192*
The good Lord has willed it for us to have a very prosperous year here on His beautiful lake the Tiernsee. Brigette and I continue to enjoy good health. At home the business continues to go from strength to strength. This year we have had some glorious weather so that the rooms have almost always been filled and we were able to close quite late in the year. We have been able to save the money to buy a new kitchen range and to refurbish some of the bedrooms. We have hired two new staff but one is a replacement for the assistant cook Marie who has found a new job.
Marie’s new job is the result of the big talking point of the year. A new school has opened here on the Tiernsee! It is a boarding school for girls and it is run by a most remarkable young English woman called Margaret Bettany – truly she is an English lady in all senses of the world. She is accompanied by her younger sister, a most remarkable creature. Being English they are all quite proper, Miss Bettany is chaperoned by an older French lady and her brother deals with the business affairs.
Now that I think about it, most of the excitements of the year seem to be associated with this school. Of course we all wondered what would become of the old hotel and were quite nervous when we found out. Then, when the school started, there were naturally considerable excitements. One day they all went missing and it turned out that they had got stranded on the Mondscheinspitze overnight. Oh the ignorance of foreigners and their blindness to the weather.
In fairness to the English, they have managed very well with the snow and the ice. They put on quite a charming nativity play, with songs in many languages. Certainly they are more welcome than the film crew that visited in the summer and made themselves quite unpopular! They refused to see us as we are and wanted us to be something else entirely.
The winter came quite early and has so far been very cold. I have great hope that the ice will be thick enough for a carnival. I would invite you all to visit but I am afraid that we already have so many speculative bookings for such an event that we would be quite full up!
In fact I fear we may be short of room for a long time to come. It is rumoured that a tuberculosis sanatorium will be built up on the Sonnalpe – an English doctor has moved into the area and it is said that this shall be his work. I am sure that there will be objections to so many sick people living in the area but it will mean great prosperity for the Tiernsee.
Indeed it has been a most prosperous and exciting year and I hope that the future may be the same. Best wishes to you all.
Letter from Simone by abbeybufo
Written by JS1 who is away from her computer today
My dear friends
Please forgive the impersonal nature of this letter but I am so busy that I thought it would be easier to send one version of my news to all. Of course, I have to copy each out by hand which somewhat negates the time-saving element, but never mind.
I believe some people call such letters “round robins” but I have an unaccountable dislike of the name. I don’t quite know why but I have even come to hate the once-so-dear little red-breasted bird; to me they now appear like oh-so-deceptive conniving usurpers and I can’t think why everyone loves them so.
To change the subject completely, my dear Jo and I are still best friends, no matter what anyone might say. I will never forget the day when she said we could be “pals” (an under-stated British way of saying that we are definitely the most important person in the Whole Wide World to each other, and that we love each other very much). You see, because I am now at an English school, I have a much better idea of the nuance and subtlety of the English language. For example, I know that it is a compliment of the very highest order to be called a “perfect idiot”. This must be true because Joey has called me that and she is my amie intime. And I know that it is not because she does not love me that she does not kiss me but that it is not the English custom.
So to report on my new school. I feel very fortunate that Tante Elise/Therese (I do wish I could remember her name) has brought me here away from my beloved parents, darling sister and everyone I know and love. It’s been wonderful to have been left alone to come to terms with my silly grief over the separation. I understand that if anyone had treated me with compassion it would only have prolonged my anxiety.
We have had many excitements. One day we went on a picnic to celebrate dear Madame’s birthday. There was a thunderstorm and we had to spend the night in a hut, but it was the greatest adventure and I didn’t cry a bit. Well, not much.
What else has happened in the last two terms? We have started folk dancing (Joey loves folk music); we have a school magazine (Joey is editor) and a hobbies club, where my paper dolls are particularly popular. And, of course, my beloved sister is now here.
Also, I should just mention that you might not recognise me when we meet once more. I have taken a leaf out of Joey’s book (see how idiomatic is my English!) and have cut my hair. It is very cool and convenient and nobody was at all cross with me; indeed I believe that Joey was secretly quite impressed.
As you will see, it has been a year-so-marvellous and I am very happy. I wish you all a Merry Christmas!
Much love (but not kisses as it is not the English way),
Letter from Grizel by abbeybufo
This letter written by Alison H
The Chalet School,
Briesau am Tiernsee,
4th December 192x
Merry Christmas! Or, as they say in Austria, Frohe Weihnachten! It's going to be simply gorgeous spending Christmas here in Tyrol. We've had heaps of snow already, and the lake – the Tiernsee, I mean, where our school is – is covered in ice and it looks absolutely glorious. My friend Jo – that's Jo Bettany, for those of you who know her – calls it "Christmas card land" – and that's where I got the idea for my cards from. I took the snap on my Kodak, and Madame (Miss Bettany, Jo's sister and our headmistress) said it was a really good one (sorry if that sounds like swanking!) and got me some card to paste copies of it on to. She's such a dear! I'm awfully thrilled that I’m going to be spending Christmas with her and Jo this year.
Of course, last Christmas I went back to England, to say goodbye to Grannie. I can’t believe that she’s been gone nearly a year, and I still miss her frightfully; but I know that she'd want me to have a jolly time at Christmas and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Quite a lot of our girls aren't going home for Christmas, and some of the mistresses are taking them to Salzburg. I thought at first that I'd be going there too, but I'm so glad that I'm not. We have great fun when we’re all together at school, but, Christmas is such a homey time and I'd far rather be spending it with Madame and Jo than in a hostel somewhere.
Well, it's not going to be [i]just[/i] me and Madame and Jo, but it’s going to be absolutely topping all the same. Mr and Mrs Lannis, whose daughter Evvy is at school with us, invited Madame and Jo to spend Christmas with them, and they also asked Juliet, who's Madame's ward, and Robin, a little kid who's sort of Madame's ward too; and they asked me as well. Dr Jem (Madame's fiancé, who’s opening a sanatorium near the school) and Captain Humphries (Robin's father and Dr Jem's secretary) will be joining us on Christmas Day too. Mr Lannis, who knows Father through business, is American, but Mrs Lannis is Tyrolean and they live near Innsbruck. They’ve promised us a proper Tyrolean Christmas – although Evvy says it'll probably be more like a Tyrolean Christmas crossed with an American Christmas. I can't wait!
Then, as long as the snow isn't too bad, we're hoping to go into Innsbruck on Boxing Day, to see our friends, the Mensches and the Maranis. With any luck, we'll all be able to go out sledging, or ski-ing, or maybe even both. Doesn’t it sound like such fearfully[i] splendid [/i]heaps of fun?
I'm looking forward to all of it, but the very best thing about it will be that I’ll be spending Christmas with Madame and Jo and the others. This is definitely going to be the best Christmas ever!
Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year too.
Letter from a young Nell Wilson by abbeybufo
This letter was written by Finn
Somewhere in the mountains
5th December 192*
I am aware that these things are generally intended to bring festive cheer, but I must beg to vary from that tradition a little. Please send help immediately. The last remaining member of the Wilson family has been taken prisoner by a shady organisation working out of a secret location known as "The Chalet". I think they may be affiliated to the Mafia. I have written down all the information I have managed to gather, so that you can find me and rescue me or, failing that, at least send me the money I need to pay off my ransom.
The head of the "family" is known only as "Madame", and I am convinced she's a very dangerous woman. I mean, no-one is that nice! She is married to a doctor, but no-one is interested in him; he's just window-dressing. Far more dangerous are those known as "the staff". Madame has a shadowy second-in-command, whom they call "Mademoiselle" even though she's older than Madame. She pretends to be French, but I don't believe it for a minute - like with Madame, it's just not possible to be that French.
Then there is a Moll called Maynard - she's pretty and practical - ties a mean carrick bend and does all the accounts on the side. The family's confessor is referred to as "The Abbess" - she labours for the good of their souls and corrects they're grammar in her spare time. (Yes, Abbess, that one was for you, even if you can't see it!).
Among their other prisoners is a young pretender to the Scottish throne, heavily disguised as a woman, and something that seems to be a half-tame bear, whom I think is generally controlled by two mysterious individuals who make regular trips to look in on "The Chalet". One of them speaks Italian, which I'm sure suggests the Mafia. The other one is so heavily disguised as an buffoon that he must be someone extremely important. He's mostly pretty quiet, perhaps having taken in the philosopher's advice that "it is better to remain silent and be thought an idiot…" but I know exactly what to think - I've seen his suit.
The locals are all in thrall to Madame, who is presumably using the bear to help set up her protection racket - that, or intimidating them with threats of her sister's piano playing. Whatever it is, they can't speak highly enough of her - actually, they can't speak because they're falling over themselves to speak highly of her, which only proves there's something fishy going on. But I need help. They've got me in the science lab messing about with HCl, but I know that one day soon they'll be asking me to make something more like C17H21NO4…so folks, if you love your old Bill, send me money, weapons, cake, anything to dig myself out of this place and get myself safely home to England…
In anxious anticipation of your /money/response, I remain ever,
Most sincerely yours,
P.S. Enclosed is a pinch of salt for you to take along with this letter. I am well, the Alps are lovely, and I'm looking forward to seeing you all for Christmas!
Letter from Paula von Rothenfels by Someone
I’m very sorry that this letter is late – Irma had a catastrophe involving packing and whose stockings were whose and I, as big sister, had to go and sort it out, which meant that I missed the morning post.
It has been a very good year – I have been studying hard for my exams, and I passed them all. Irma did well in all of hers, too, but I expect that you’ll hear all about that from her. Another school started up on the other side of the lake, called St. Scholastika’s. According to them, they were St. Margaret’s when they were in England, and they only take English girls – it’s not very nice, I say, they still look at all the rest of us like we’re creatures in a zoo – but I’m perfectly happy to go to school with foreign girls, so why shouldn’t they? Their Headmistress, Miss Browne, tried to recruit my friend Joey – you know, Madame’s sister. It sounds quite funny to me, that she didn’t know. According to Jo, she said that travel is important for girls – little knowing that Joey lives out here! We thought they were horrid, and there was quite a war, but it ended when Joey pulled one of their girls out from under the ice on the lake – a group of them had gone out skating when they weren’t supposed to – not even my best friend Cyrilla would do that, and she simply adores skating – and the little idiots had only chosen the most unsafe part of the lake in which to skate! The ice cracked, and while all the rest of them had the sense to get out of the way, one of them – Maureen, her name was – just stayed where she was, and Jo had to go into the water to fish her out. Maureen got rheumatic fever and her father took her away to somewhere exotic-sounding to convalesce for a year. I think that’s awfully unfair – when I had the influenza a couple of years ago, you just brought me home from school – my last school, that was, not the Chalet. Joey, however, got pleuro-pneumonia, and she very nearly died. But the Robin – you know, Irma’s friend – came and sang to her, and somehow – I don’t know how – Joey got better, just from that. Cyrilla thinks that God had just decided that everyone had passed this particular test, and he made Joey recover, and the Robin’s singing actually had nothing to do with it. I agree, but no-one’s telling either Joey, the Robin or Madame that. They would be simply furious! We ragged the Prees – Liebchen von Bruling’s idea – that night, and in return, they ragged us! I had to sew up Joey’s pyjama bag, and I stole Sophie Hamel’s pyjamas themselves. I almost got away with it too – I heard Deira o’ Hagan saying that I wasn’t originally on their hit list, but she found Sophie’s pyjamas under my bed – I should have hidden them with my spare nightclothes, but, then again, I did find “Sophie Hamel” stitched into them , which would make it quite obvious that they weren’t mine! So they put sugar in my sheets because I’m such a deep sleeper, and I woke with such itches, because it had got into my nightdress. They tied Cyrilla and Liebchen’s sheets together! I suppose it could be worse – the put cornflour in the hair of some of them, which was a pain to get out, and it would really show on my hair! Cornelia and Anita, though, both have light hair, and it didn’t really work on them. The best part was that Madame was so mad that prees and sub-prees had ragged Middles that she forgot to ask what we had done to be ragged, and we got off – and Elsie Carr has just given me the most beautiful phrase – scot-free!
I’ll have to end here, or I’ll miss the afternoon post as well, thanks to that row over whether those stockings were our Irma’s or Ingrid Juritz’s (they were Ingrid’s, which means that I’ve got to help Irma find hers now). All I’ll say now is that I’m sorry that this has all come in one big clump – you know that all my reports say “Paula needs to learn to paragraph her work”! I also want to know why you will insist on saying “no” every time I ask for a puppy for Christmas – even when I offer to share with Irma! Cyrilla’s been promised a kitten and last year, Liebchen’s parents bought her the most beautiful poodle puppy, which is part of the Pets Club now – I think it’s remarkably unfair! However, I’ll be willing to put that aside when I see you for Christmas, for I simply can’t wait!
Paula von Rothenfels
Letter from Juliet by abbeybufo
Written by Finn
Royal Holloway College,
6th January 192*
Hello folks! You poor things - I've dallened so long over writing you all letters (dallen is one of the Holloway verbs Kay has taught me - it means to dawdle but for goodness sake don't tell Madame I'm using wicked slang!) that it's got to Christmas and I've still not written to half the people I meant to, so here is a letter for all of you, with my heartfelt apologies. I hadn't realised how much time college would eat up!
Holloway is rather gorgeous – the college, I mean, not the prison - I haven't ended up there yet! - and all the folk are very jolly. Of course it was sickening to have to go away from home, but I've made quite a few friends, mostly fourth years, (which is funny, as they don't usually have much to do with lowly freshers like me, but Kay took a shine to me and the others came with her). As this is the first letter I've sent round since coming to London, I thought I'd send you all a picture, so you can see what it's like. That's Kay and me outside college - you can see both of our rooms from there (mine is the one halfway up on the far left, and Kay has a much grander set on the bottom floor, just next to where we're standing). Kay's brother took the photo so we'd have something to remember our glorious first term by - well, I should say my glorious first term, as Kay is a fourth year, but it was our first term up together at Holloway, so I reckon that counts, don't you?
I've missed all you people at school - especially Joey and Madame and the Robin. But London has made up for it in lots of ways. I'm doing quite well in my maths - I think it was all the extra coaching Miss Maynard put me through - and Kay says that Miss Pick (Pick is one of the Mathematics people here - she is big and red-headed and terrifying, but a splendid teacher!) told her that I'm quite advanced of where I should be. That's probably a good thing, as I've spent a lot of this latter half of term messing about with Kay and not working as well as I might! Kay is my particular friend. She is kind, and very sweet, and she makes me think of all of you back at home – or school, I should say! Kay is also simply tremendous fun. We have a tradition here of "ventilating," which means climbing through the transom windows above our study doors - it sounds odd but it's terribly funny really. Well, one night, Kay got very lively and insisted that I should do it, and as I was halfway through who should come along but 'Chief'? (Chief is Miss Higgins, who is our principal at the College!) Anyway, she was looking at me like she was about to bite, when Kay piped up with, "But it's traditional, Miss Higgins!" whereupon Chief sniffed and said, "In my day we used to do it feet first," and walked off! Kay's awfully clever, and I shall miss her when she graduates, but I'm not thinking of that now. We've the whole rest of the year left to get up to mischief, so for now I'm happy. Hope you all are too, everyone, and see some of you in the summer!
All my love,
Letter from Margot Venables by abbeybufo
This one was by crm
I hope this missive finds you well, and looking forward to a wonderful Christmas.
I must first apologise for being such an appalling correspondent - alas, I fear it is something to which you have long since become accustomed, for one reason or another - and begin with sadder news, so that I might then end this letter on a more cheerful note. You may recall the kind gentleman I mentioned briefly last Christmas - Captain Humphries, the Robin's father; I am sorry to say he was in a mountaineering accident early this year, along with one of the young doctors from the Sanatorium. He survived only long enough to elicit the Russells' promise to care for the girl.
I shan't say much on this matter - there is so little now to be said - but if I don't comment on it briefly to you handful, then to whom else can I even hint at it? It is a hard thing to go on with, when it seems almost everyone I ever care for is violently snatched away. I try to not cling too tightly to my daughters, though I yearn to, for I do not want them to know such a fear of loss. I will not look to grow close to anyone again.
On to happier matters. I am pleased to report that both girls are going on well. Daisy is growing in every which way - leggy as anything, with real brains emerging from beneath that wide-eyed irresponsibility of hers. Much of this must be credited to the good influence of the older girls at Die Rosen - quiet Gillian Linton, and especially Robin Humphries - as well as Madge and Jo. Primula Mary is stronger than ever, a contented little darling of four now, trotting everywhere with the other young fry of the Russell nursery. They spent the summer at their new summer home on the lake - it was wonderful to have her so much closer at hand.
I won't bore you too much with work stories. All is well; we are now four, and each responsible for a mixture of ages. I daresay this rearrangement means more work for my colleagues, but relief for me - much as I love my irrepressible Middles!
I have much to be grateful for: not so much the material things, though I take none for granted - how could I, having come so close to destitution? - but to have rekindled a true friendship with my brother, and been so warmly taken into this extraordinary family of his. It is hard to believe that we have only been here these eighteen months; last Christmas was our first in the Tirol, and yet it feels this year as if we had been here always. We are wonderfully settled here, in a way we never truly were in Queensland, and I am greatly looking forward to the coming year.
Love to you all,
Letter from Madge Russell by exile
My dear girls (you are all my dear girls, even those of you who have husbands and families of your own),
What a difficult and memorable year it has been for all associated with the Chalet School and how things are changed from last Christmas. As most of you will know Mademoiselle La Pattre and I founded the Chalet School on the bank of the Tiernsee when Joey was only 12 and we had hoped that we might stay there forever. I wanted to bring up my family and make a home for all of you too. Alas all that is now gone.
Soon after the Anschluss the decision was made to more the school up to the Sonnalpe in the hope that we could avoid interference. It wasn’t to be, and soon many of our Austrian and German girls were forced to leave us. I know they will be in your thoughts as they are in mine. Not long after that it was decided that the school and the san should leave Austria entirely. Miss Wilson, Joey, and a group of girls were forced to flee across the mountains to Switzerland on foot after trying to foil an attack on Herr Goldmann. Poor Herr Goldmann was killed as was Vater Johann.
My family are gathered in Guernsey now, a beautiful place. The children are all healthy and delighted with their new surroundings. Any of you who are able to visit would be very welcome; we should love to see you again. Very sadly we have lost Margot Venables, whom many of you will remember as one of our matrons. She died peacefully, surrounded by her family.
These are dark times in many ways but there are some moments of brightness. My sister Joey is married now, to Dr Jack Maynard – Miss Maynard’s brother. As you all know, Joey swore that she would never marry and so her engagement came as something of a surprise. What she will do to top it I cannot imagine!
I hope that the school will be able to find new premises here in Guernsey and that we will be able to reopen soon. All of you who were at the school at the time it closed, or who were forced away before then, will be very welcome to return. I hope that our staff will be able to re-join us too.
My dears I fear that there will be another great war soon. I cannot see that Hitler will be satisfied by just gobbling up Austria and the Sudetenland and I do not believe in his assurances that there will be peace. If war does come then things will be very difficult for all of us and for the Chalet School. I want all of you to be brave and to remember what you learnt at school – that you have friends from many nations and that true friendship trumps all national difficulties. Let this Christmas be a season of peace and hope for us all.
Letter from Hilda Annersley by abbeybufo
This one was by me
Somewhere in Devon
I thought I would be on my own for Christmas, but Nell Wilson has invited me to stay with her in her cottage in Devon for the holiday. Best if I do not give the exact address, I think, as I would not wish to cause anyone difficulty with the authorities.
We have had an uneventful term, for once, as the school has settled very well into our current home at Plas Howell, and all the problems of the early few terms there – lights at night, from local poachers, as it turned out, and the initial resentment of the owner’s young sister – have passed.
With help from locals whom Nell has known for many years, we had a most pleasant welcome here, and are about to go out and buy all our food for the Christmas feast. Well, I say ‘buy’ and ‘all’, but in fact we really do not need to purchase very much. In the larder was a chicken, ready plucked and prepared, and a ‘clootie pudding’ which Nell assures me will be as tasty, if not as rich, as a normal Christmas pudding. We have been given a few eggs by the neighbour who provided the chicken, and a regular supply of milk is promised from the same source, though we shall be fetching that fresh nearly every day. Even a piece of ham has miraculously turned up from another local farmer, so we shall be eating very well – though Megan manages splendidly at Plas Howell. A local goodwife will cook for us on Christmas Eve, when we shall have our main festive meal, so that she will not need to come in on the Day itself, and we will have plenty of cold meat thereafter. I am thankful for that, for my schooling was far more academic than practical, as was Nell’s, so whilst we can manage breakfasts and snacks for ourselves, a full Christmas dinner might have overstretched our culinary limits. It is a good thing that the School provides cookery lessons, so our girls are better grounded than we were, despite some of the ‘howlers’ that have been made over the years – I still cannot decide which of Cornelia’s garlic clove apple pies, or Joyce’s sulphur cakes, were the more evil!
I have a gift, secreted in my luggage, of a silk petticoat for Nell. I bought it in Paris before the War, and it is still in its wrapping – you know how good the French are at such things! – so since clothes rationing started in June, I think it will be useful as well as pretty. I just hope the lace on it won’t be deemed unpatriotic; but I wanted to give Nell something special, since she has rescued me from what would have been a lonely time in Armishire, as everyone else is away with family or friends.
And so I close wishing you everything you could wish yourself for 1942, and trusting it will set us on the road to peace and victory, by God’s Grace.
Letter from Sylvia Leigh by exile
Somewhere in England, Christmas 1942
What an exciting year it has been for us all. This war is a terrible thing but it has certainly brought some excitement hasn’t it? For Lavender and I it has brought about a total change in circumstances. We have been obliged to abandon our adventures and settle down to our war work.
I have always tried to take dear Lavender on a Grand Adventure every year but, thanks to the war, we have only been to Scotland and Wales in the past two years. The book about Wales shall be published in the spring, albeit a shorter run than normal and I shudder to think what the paper will be like. Of course one must bear one’s troubles cheerfully mustn’t one?
Late last year I found out that I was to be called up. Into the ATS thank goodness, for whilst I shouldn’t mind being a land girl or a WAAF I can hardly imagine myself in a factory. The training was rather rough (the ATS take a mixture of girls, of course some are not of the type one is used too) but it is all done now and I am at my post – somewhere in the war machine, of course I can’t tell you where. Suffice to say I look rather dashing in my uniform and my experiences are a great asset to the whole department. The Colonel said the other day that I was quite indispensable.
Lavender I have been obliged to send to boarding school. The establishment is called the Chalet School and was formerly in Austria but has since relocated to Armishire. It was recommended to me by dear Dr Marilliar who has his own girls there. Although it was formerly in Austria, the school has always been run by English women and is quite conventional in most ways. Of course it has a lot of foreign language tuition which will be a great help to Lavender in the future, she and I have already planned where we shall go after the war (of course that is another state secret).
Lavender, I am afraid, has found adjusting to school something of a trial. She has found it rather hard to get into the routine of the school and of course finds the food rather dull. She is something of a free spirit of course, and used to adult company rather than the society of girls her own age. Still, there is something to be said for her keeping girlish company for it will shield her from the worst of the war news. Of course she is getting along much better now and I have every hope she will make every success of her time at the school.
I do hope you are all keeping well (as they say) and that this war will end soon. May the coming year bring you happiness and health and bring us all a successful conclusion to this dreadful conflict.
All the best dears,
Letter from Frieda von Ahlen by abbeybufo
This was by Cestina
12th December 1944
My Dearest Family and Friends,
Who would have thought that a bare three months after leaving The Witchens, I should find myself back here with the boys and Marie, and of course Wolfram and Josefa?
Such excitements as we had here in summer! Trust Jo to find someone to rescue. And adventures with burglars and dog-poisoning attempts to boot. Many will know the happy results of Jo’s intervention but for those who do not, our young friend Phoebe, who was suffering so badly from rheumatoid arthritis, is now not only much stronger and out of pain but is married to Dr Frank Peters. The ceremony in November involved the Triplets as bridesmaids. I am sure Jo will report on that event in her own Christmas letter. Let us just say that it too was not without excitement…..
But now to us and why we are spending Christmas on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors. I am delighted to be here because we have snow all around and thus it reminds us both of our beloved Tyrol, which we miss so much despite our happiness at being safe in welcoming England. But our visit is, I fear, as a result of a moment’s carelessness on my part – the second Advent candle, not fixed properly to the traditional wreath – the wreath caught fire and before I knew it, the sitting room was engulfed in flames and although with the help of Debby, who had called in to learn how to make a Weihnachtsstollen, we were able to put them out very swiftly, the room was in no state for Christmas, despite our best efforts.
Since neither Marie nor I have any family nearby, and both Bruno and Eugen are far away, she, on seeing my distress, had the brilliant idea of returning to The Witchens, which is already close to our hearts. (I think she remembered Hilda and Nell’s lovely Christmas break in the wilds of Devon a few years ago.)
The men – mainly Jack and Jem – of course made an unnecessary fuss about two women alone “with a pack of children” on the edge of the moors in winter but we ignored them. Debby is with us, Reg is at hand to help with errands and log sawing, and has found us a Christmas tree; the villagers (except the Sodger!) have fallen over themselves to be helpful and rallied round with eggs, cream and even a small turkey.
We have sledges for the children and Reg has fashioned some very creditable skis for all of us. Imagine us setting out across the moors – me with Gerard on my back – for short skiing or sledging trips. Almost like home.
Our tree is decorated with Lebkuchenherzen, pine cones and lametta, the Wienerkipferl and Haselnusstaler are ready in tins and on Heiligabend we will place the Christkind in his manger. The stable is already set up under the tree.
Josefa, Louis and Wolfram have been practising “Ihr Kinderlein kommet” to sing as we put the Blessed Child in his crib. Though I couldn’t bring my harp to Yorkshire, I did manage to find space for my zither and I am teaching them “Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling” to my accompaniment. We do not want the children to forget their heritage and so bring in as many of our traditions as we can. Reg is anxious to join in everything but now that his voice has broken, when it comes to the singing we are getting some very curious harmonies….
I hear Gerard beginning to whimper so that is all for now, meine Lieben. I will end by wishing you Joy and Peace for this Blessed Season and most of all for the coming year.
Letter from Doris Trelawney by abbeybufo
This one was by ChubbyMonkey
As you will know, this year has been a mixed year for our little family, with good news and bad.
To begin with the good, as this is the season of festivity! Mary-Lou has been growing at a regular pace and is now happily settled in her new school. From all that I hear – and that I am not supposed to hear – she gets into regular mischief, but is a leading light of her form and popular among the other girls. Unfortunately, she tried rather too hard when she first joined the school and was ill as a result, but she has learnt her lesson and now she works hard and plays hard too. Her results are good, and both Mrs Trelawney and I are very proud of her.
Mrs Trelawney has also had some bouts of ill health, but she continues as well as ever. This season, she has dedicated herself to knitting warm outfits for all of the babies born in the village during a colder-than-usual Christmas period whose families may not have anything suitable. She is also firmly ensconced in the WI and is working with Lady Russell on organising an afternoon of tea, cakes and nativity scenes to raise money for the church roof.
I am leading a quiet existence. I help where I can with the WI and Mrs Trelawney’s other charitable ventures. As many of you will have heard, we unfortunately lost my husband during the Murray-Cameron expedition. All of the family have been comforted by the circumstances of his death, and although he is missed greatly at this family time, we have Mary-Lou to bring cheer back into our lives. One of her school friends also had a father in the expedition, who has been able to tell us all that my husband did and saw during his travels, and how happy he was before the end.
I see that Mary-Lou is now returning from her visit today with some rather wonkily baked gingerbread, which is my summons to arrange afternoon tea.
With best wishes for a happy festive season, that you may know the love and joy of the Lord, Our Saviour.
Letter from Tristan Denny by abbeybufo
written by Abi
14th December 194-
Our dear friends,
I must first make my apologies, for I have never written such a letter before, although I have, of course, corresponded with various people over the years. However, these days it is more often (indeed, I may say almost always) my dear Sarah who writes to all of you. But two days ago poor Sarah tripped over the front door step and sprained her wrist as she fell. And so the task of composing this missive falls to me.
Aside from the unfortunate accident, Sarah has been well. She continues to teach languages at the Chalet School and seems to enjoy it. In the summer she wrote a letter to The Times on the subject of teaching languages in schools, and it was published, to her great surprise and delight.
As for myself, I too have been teaching at the School and, in what free time that leaves me, attending to my own compositions, which are doing well in a small way. However, one of the most amusing incidents in which I have been concerned occurred within the School.
It involved one of the newest and smallest of the young ladies who, when it came to singing a beautiful Bach carol (‘O Jesulein süss, O Jesulein mild’), remained silent, even when I directly commanded her to sing it. It transpired that she did not approve of speaking or singing in German. I, of course, endeavoured to reason with her, but she remained obstinate. I called her out to the front of the class - and oh! how I wished I could give way to my mirth at that point, for her tininess compared with her great stubbornness seemed to me most humorous. But still she refused to sing, even when, most reprehensibly, I lost my temper, and the end of it was that she was forbidden to sing in the concert at all. I must admit that at that point I began to wish that I had not drawn attention to her behaviour, for she has a remarkably good voice, one which, with good training, might become brilliant, and I missed it in the other carols. But all ended happily, for she was finally persuaded that her attitude was incorrect and the concert went off extremely well.
Now I must close, for Sarah is calling to me to come and tie her shoelaces. For the last two days she has been confined to the house, but she is of too energetic a personality to wish to stay indoors for long, and since she cannot tie her laces herself, being bereft of a hand, I must do it for her.
Farewell, dear friends, and may you all have the merriest of Christmases.
Letter from Rosalie Dene by abbeybufo
This was by Blue
15 December 1946
I am writing to everyone as group as I simply do not have the time to spend on individual letters at the moment and I wanted to wish you all the joys and blessings of the festive season. You have heard me before discuss the amount of paper work I get inundated with every term and I’m afraid to report that it has simply gotten worse.
Is it not enough that I have to decipher Nell’s scrawl and take over as much of Hilda’s work as possible to stop her working around the clock which adds countless hours to my day? No, this term my lovely friends and family as well as sorting and reading through all the incoming mail, typing up the outgoing mail, I have to draft and type every single piece of official work in triplicate! Triplicate, as you see our lovely school has decided to return to its roots and re-introduce trilingualisim. I was all for this at the beginning of the term, I mean I had to learn French and German in school and I enjoyed it so why not try it again now that hated war is well and truly over. This of course only lasted until I realised what it meant for me in regards to my workload. I now have to do the same work in English, French and German. It’s been years since I used German and now I’m expected to be word perfect instantly. Did I get offered a pay rise, some extra staff to help out with the increased work, even a simple thank you? No.
I do not think that Madame and the heads have really thought this decision through. People are still upset when they hear German after that horrid war and now every Tuesday and Friday I have to answer the phone with “Guten Morgen/Tag”. You can hear every person who rings inhale sharply and then silence. It puts me in a truly uncomfortable position and I’m not sure how much longer I can cope with it. It is not as bad on Wednesdays and Saturdays when I have to answer in French, the response in generally confusion instead of offence. I really believe the heads should have the girls and the staff speak and use French and German but leave it out of the admin work and the stop exposing the general public to it until they are comfortable with it. We are located in Armiford not mainland Europe where hearing other languages is common, most of the locals had only ever heard a smattering of German in relation to the war and have no knowledge of French and now a girls school is using it on a weekly basis and forcing the locals to be reminded of times they would rather forget or excluding them completely from conversations. I’m really beginning to wonder if my future is still with the Chalet school. What happened to that lovely school with its strong ethos of family, caring and inclusion that I remember? Or did I simply overlook how all staff aside from the teachers were treated in my naivety?
I really must wrap up my tale of woe here as work beckons, but once again I would like to thank you for listening to what I cannot speak aloud here and sharing my burden. So I will wish you all a Happy Christmas and hope that the New Year will find you all well.
Letter from Anna by abbeybufo
Some Island in the sea,
Grüße Gott Mutter, Vater, Eigen, Maria, Wolfgang, Annaliese, Andreas, Karen, Mitzi, Greta, Agata, Wanda, Rolf unt Fritz,
Now that the perils of the war are more or less over I will now be able to let you know how our plans are progressing and the state of our little nest egg. I should think you are very pleased to not have yet another letter telling you how much I love Frau Maynard and her everlasting (and ever longer) family (I don’t know how she does it, Tom Evans and I have never yet had a single accident, but it happens to her all the time, I suspect is has some link to the shepherds hut she keeps getting trapped in whilst out walking that bloody dog, I am convinced her latest brat looks like Evan Evans the shepherd).
I was unable to complete my letter, Frau Maynard arrived in my kitchen and demanded lemon biscuits for 14 new girls who were due in less than half an hour. I added arsenic to four of them.
Frau Maynard has gone out for a walk (with the damn dog and a very determined expression on her face which does not bode well for Evan Evans) so I can continue with this letter. Having arrived in England I took all the money we stole from the Chalet School before the war and invested it in a local bank with no questions asked. I have added to it periodically since then with the ‘bonus‘ paid me by Jack for adding a sedative to Frau Maynard’s morning coffee. Currently it stands at £1.5million. We can be certain that ‘Pheiffen World of Phun‘ will soon be in production in the Tyrol. I have agreed with Jack that we can display the Frau Maynard in the ‘Cabinet of Curiosities‘ as long as she is not actually pickled in formaldyhyde. I have also been successful in siphoning much of the funds raised by the sale and have added those also.
Frau Maynard came back from ‘walking Rufus‘ looking exhausted and has had to spend the last few days in bed, from the look in her eyes she is going to be ‘busy‘ again soon. Busy! Ha! Who is it that has to do all the work whilst she is busy? That would be me. Hopefully it won’t be a multiple birth this time.
Uggg... Have just returned from yet another Chalet School Pageant. Why Frau Maynard thinks I would be interested in watching a show performed by girls from a school I didn’t go to I don’t know. However, I was able to bribe one pupil, Dickie Christie, with a £200 contribution to her ‘Running Away‘ fund and she kindly livened things up by blowing a large shell and causing her horse to bolt.
Happy Christmas all! Frau Maynard chose Christmas dinner to announce her latest period of busyness, Jack choked on his plum pudding and then chose to invent a medical emergency at the San to get away.
Looking forwards to seeing you in Austria in the new year!
Letter from Karen by abbeybufo
This one by Alison H
The Chalet School
The Gornetz Platz
Canton of Bern
17th December 195x
Well, this will be my second Christmas in the Bernese Oberland, but this year I am back at the main branch of the Chalet School, which moved here from England a few months ago. It has been a very busy term; but I like to be occupied, and I certainly always have plenty to do here! However, the school will be closed over the festive period, and so I’ll be free to spend Christmas Day with my friend Anna.
The people for whom Anna works live right next door to the school, and so she and I are able to see each other all the time now. It’s wonderful to have one of my old friends here, and to have someone to talk to in my own language. The German which they speak here is not at all like the German which we speak in Tyrol! I found it difficult to understand people and to make myself understood at first, but I’m much more used to it now.
I need to be, for I have several young Swiss girls to supervise. I worry that sometimes they think I am too strict with them, but there is much work to do and not many of us to do it, for it has proved difficult to find girls to come here as maids. There are so many more opportunities for them now than there were when I was young and so grateful to have my job at the school, and they can earn far more elsewhere than the school authorities are willing to pay them.
We have to plan everything very carefully, too, as where we are, at a place called the Gornetz Platz, is quite remote. I’ve tried hard to lay stocks by for the coming months, for if it snows heavily we may well find ourselves cut off. It is not always easy to plan, though, because the people here get so excited when the weather is fine. They will insist on taking the girls off somewhere with virtually no notice, and then we are expected either to change all the mealtimes or to pack up two hundred or so individual picnics, just like that!
Still, I cannot blame them for wanting to make the most of this lovely place. The Alps here are not like the Alps at home, but they are very beautiful all the same; and the Gornetz Platz is very peaceful, if a little bit too quiet sometimes. There are about thirty chalets dotted around, and I am getting to know some of the local people now.
Almost all of the Oberlanders are Protestants, but there is a small Catholic chapel here. I go there every Sunday, and I will go there on Christmas Day with Anna. It is not like my young days in Briesau, though, where everyone from the village would attend church together. It’s strange where life takes you – back then, I thought that I would live out all my days around the Tiernsee; yet since then I have lived in Guernsey, in England, in Wales and now in Switzerland. The people of the Chalet School have been good to me, though, and, when new girls come here who are the daughters and nieces of former pupils whom I watched grow from children into young women, I feel that maybe this is a little like a home, and a family. I am afraid that I complain a great deal sometimes, but in truth I know that I am lucky, and that I have much to be thankful for. I shall remember that this Christmas time.
And so I wish you Frohe Weihnachten und ein Gutes Neues Jahr from Switzerland. May the festive season bring you and your loved ones only joy.
With much love,
Letters from Joey Maynard by abbeybufo
These were written by JS1
Public Christmas Letter
18 December 19XX
To my excessively wide acquaintance
Greetings from gloriously snowy Switzerland, or Christmas Card Land as I used to say back in the early days. That, of course, was before I was the Best Head Girl The School Ever Had and when I was in, shall we say, the larval stages of becoming the Spirit of the School.
I thought I’d jot down a few lines to bring you all up to date with my marvellous life. If in doing so, I can bring some joy into your humdrum existence, then the time I spend writing this letter will be worthwhile. No, don’t thank me – the knowledge that I’m doing a little something for those less fortunate than me is enough.
Now, where was I? Yes, lovely snow in Switzerland. Fortunately I’ve kept my old nailed boots in good trim over all these years (I knew I was right to make them a priority among my luggage when fleeing Austria). That means I can stay on my feet while those around me are flailing about – a metaphor for life, I feel.
The brats are all growing well and are a credit to my training, especially Len, who, as the eldest, has a tremendous sense of responsibility, and Margot, who has inherited my lively, rebellious nature. Dreamy Con is shaping up to be a good writer, so I think you could say they are all chips off the old block. Oh yes, and I have some sons too, and a set of twins. That’s what I call a Real Family, and it delights me to have beaten everyone else on that score at least.
Our new house is wonderful, especially now we’ve started replacing the cabbage patch with a rose garden (well, I say ‘we’ but I really mean that the school gardener has been doing the work under my supervision). We chose the name because we want it to be a real Happy Home, which of course it is. I wouldn’t change it for anything, not even to swap with Simone’s grand chateau (had you heard she and Andre had cleverly managed to inherit the place after cunningly naming their (one, sole, ONLY) son after a rich relative – jammy, if you ask me). Actually, I think the place is a bit gloomy, but I’ve advised on bringing it up-to-date with some fresh cretonnes and wicker. You know I’ve always had an eye for making a charming home. Simone was so full of what I assume was gratitude that she almost choked.
My work is still going well and my publishers are clamouring for more. Their response to my last was that it left them speechless! Isn’t that wonderful? I really do feel that with my doctor husband, many children and successful career that I do ‘have it all’ (even if I don’t have a chateau, or quads, or a baronet for a husband – yet). People keep telling me they don’t know how I do it, especially Anna, who says it rather a lot, actually. Or something similar anyway, but sometimes her English isn’t as good as it could be.
Anyhow, enough about me (as if there ever could be!). I hope you all have a marvellous Christmas, or as marvellous as it can be considering that, well, let’s be honest, you’re not as happy, adored and successful as I am. Better luck next year!
Private Christmas Letter
18 December 19XX
Hello my dearest friends
Just a short note to let you have our new address, just in case you don’t know it yet. Also, I suppose I should bring you up to date with the move. Things have been so busy (no, not like that!) that I’ve scarcely had time to think, let alone put pen to paper.
We’re settling in, slowly but surely. To be honest, I was a little disappointed that our new home was so close to the school (will I ever get away from it??) but Jack did his best, and property is hard to come by on the Gornetz Platz. I hope I managed to hide my consternation.
It was bad enough having to make this move in the first place – I do wish that Jem had decided to come and run the Swiss branch of the San himself, then we wouldn’t have been uprooted from our beloved Plas Gwyn. The real heartache, of course, is that the boys will be so many miles away back in England. Had we stayed in the UK we would have been able to see them for all the holidays and, of course, the girls would have stayed at the English branch of the Chalet School with friends of their own age.
Still, I’m trying to make the best of things and really hope that nobody would be able to guess that I’m not ecstatic about it all – you know me, always a happy face. Jack calls it my being ‘breezy’; if only the poor man knew.
Of course being so close to the school – and as Madge is so far away – I find myself being called on to play the family/owner role rather too much for my liking. I don’t really object to hosting the new girls for tea parties (and the new mistresses as well now, where will it stop?) but it does eat rather into my writing time. And let’s face it, I’m getting a bit old and stiff for slidey mats. Thank heavens for Anna – I really don’t know how we’d all manage without her; I know I certainly couldn’t.
The one good thing about being in Switzerland is that we’re so much closer to some of my oldest and dearest friends: Simone has moved to a gorgeous chateau near Paris (but she’ll tell you about that herself; I mustn’t steal her thunder) and, of course, has her lovely son Pierre. I love all my own children of course, but he really is something special. I hope to see lots of her, and of Frieda and Marie, now we’re on the Continent.
Apologies if this does sound a little gloomy rather than festive. I know I’m tremendously lucky really, but sometimes I do hark back to the dreams I once had of a life where I was everyone’s favourite maiden aunt and able to spend more time writing. Still, must keep soldiering on.
Please do have a lovely Christmas and a marvellous New Year and think of me trying to make the best of things in ‘Freudesheim’.
With all love, Joey
Letter from Ruth Lambert by abbeybufo
19th December 19--
Dear friends and family,
Well, here I am again. I’m afraid Christmas is the only time I ever write to most of you - I’m not much of a letter writer in general. In addition, it hasn’t been a very interesting year, although the children have, of course, been up to all sorts of things.
Jack, happily, has finally stopped pestering us about going to the Chalet School since we told her that she wouldn’t be allowed to go if she continued the way she was going. She’s eleven in August, so we shall send her and Anne in the term after that, the Christmas term - assuming she continues not to mention it, that is! Honestly, she had become a perfect nuisance over it. Of course, not mentioning the Chalet School doesnt mean that she hasn’t been an utter pest in other ways. Just last week she dribbled honey all over Bobby’s face while he was asleep, so that when he woke up and rubbed his face he smeared it all over himself - and subsequently over more or less everything in his room, it seems. We punished her and made her apologise, of course, but I don’t think it’s really done a lot of good. Certainly it hasn’t in the past. I’m hoping that the Chalet School will be able to sort her out, for I certainly haven’t an idea how to do it and Redfearn House doesn’t seem to either.
Bobby is doing well at school, although he is constantly getting into trouble - never for anything very bad, just mischief, but it’s terribly wearing. Gay - I think he takes after you! We don’t worry too much about him, though. He always does well in his exams and his reports are generally pretty good. Certainly his last one was; the best he’s ever had, I think (except for the part where he introduced two piglets into the school - labelled ‘one’ and ‘three’).
Anne, of course, causes us no trouble at all. She works hard at school, always gets good reports and is extremely well-behaved. I can tell you it’s a relief to have a child who not only behaves herself and works hard, but actually goes out of her way to be kind and generous to people. It makes me feel that I might not be such a terrible parent after all! On the other hand, it’s certainly less interesting than Bobby and Jack’s way of going about things.
As for their parents, we are doing well. Jacynth was actually here for the first few months of the year, which was delightful. She has been on tour for quite a large portion of the year since then, although she will be with us for Christmas. That will please the children - they love their Auntie Jacynth.
Well, I must close. We are all looking forward to Christmas here, and I hope all of you have a wonderful festive season!
Much love, Ruth Lambert
Letter from Tom Gay by abbeybufo
London’s East End
28th November 196x
You may be surprised to get a letter from me without a dolls house attached to it, but since it is nearly Christmas when I would be sending you cards anyway, and since something so extraordinary has happened – something that really all started in the good old CS - I thought I would send you a proper screed this time. One of the boys is typing it out with several carbons so you don’t have to plough through my actual scribble!
And I’ll save a few pennies on cards which is always good news. By the way, you can bundle up any unwanted cards after Christmas and send them to me, the girls in the Club love to make scrapbooks with them. Remember yours Primrose? They’re producing some really fancy stuff for our jumble sales.
Anyway, to return to our sheep. Can any of you remember as far back as the very first house I made? The one we called “Tomadit”? That elderly Countess who opened the Sale won it. She gave it to the San - good for her I say. But although she gave it away she kept track of the houses I made. Can you believe it? All those years, nearly fifteen since I made Tomadit.
Though she didn’t really get interested until Sir James Talbot won the village. He presented it to that hospital in Wales for children with TB and it turns out she’s their Patron. When she saw it she wanted to know where it had come from. When she heard it was my doing – with help from many of you of course! – she wrote to Matey to ask her to let her know what I made each year. Apparently they both rejoiced greatly when Matey won her very own house, well inn really. I’ve always been glad Matey won that one, even though she gave it to the school museum. I’ve often thought she must miss England, living abroad for so many years, and what could be more English than a pub called St George and the Dragon?
Enough of the reminiscing! Lady Erroll’s daughter is one of the Ladies in Waiting to Her Majesty the Queen. And believe it or not Princess Anne has suddenly announced that she would love to have a stable, complete with horses and accoutrements and with living quarters attached.
The Queen asked her Ladies in Waiting if they knew of anyone who could make such a thing. Lady Erroll’s daughter piped up that she knew just the person – or rather people because of course the whole Club will be involved. It’s to be a Christmas present, this year if you please, and so I had better now get on with it rather than rambling on to all of you.
But isn’t that a wonderful Christmas present for the Club and all of us involved in it? Such an honour – we almost don’t know ourselves.
Have a smashing (sorry Miss Annersley) holiday all of you and the Blessings of the Season to one and all.
Letter from Margot Maynard by abbeybufo
December 21st, 19--
What a term we’ve had! I know that the Chalet School rarely has a term without excitement, but we really seem to have had more than our fair share this time!
First of all my own news! Just before term started Aunty Hilda told us that, as Heather Clayton had moved to St.Mildred’s, I would be Games Prefect. Con was awarded Magazine Editor, and Aunty Hilda told us she would be away all term! She has spent the term touring schools around the world while Willy deputised. I really didn’t like the thought of Willy as Head, but she actually did very well.
Evelyn Ross joined us this term. She’s 16, which is very old for a new girl of course, but her mother is seriously ill at the San (Mama told us all about it). Well, we got off to a bad start, as Evelyn didn’t want to play any games! Can you imagine it? I was supervising hockey and I’m afraid my Filthy Temper got the better of me. I said a few hasty words to Evelyn and she positively [i]whacked[/i] the ball and it hit Leslie Anderson. Leslie has a chipped elbow and has been out of games all term. I felt rotten of course; I’ve let everyone down, especially Aunty Hilda who told me at the start of term that she thought my temper was behind me now.
Another new girl, Jocelyn Marvell, created quite a stir this term. She decided to test Dr. Benson and stick her desk drawer with cobbler’s wax. Oh, I should explain, Miss Ferrars collapsed with an acute appendix while teaching Upper IVa, so Dr. Benson has been standing in. Anyway, Jocelyn came of the worst, I can tell you! Dr. Benson is spot on when it comes to discipline! But it gets worse. Jocelyn organised the hiding of various property from Upper IVa as revenge for some perceived insult. She knocked herself out playing some silly game, then she had a stand-up row with Len and Ted over the Nativity Play, then finished up by running away from school in a snowstorm. What a firebrand!
Finally I can pass on the most wonderful news about our Phil. A few weeks ago she made her first tentative steps and not long after that she was eating properly and demanding extra portions! Papa says she is on the road to recovery now and whilst it will be a long haul, she will make a complete recovery!
My best wishes for Christmas and the New Year,
Letter from Bruno Maynard by Beecharmer
The warm spot by the stove,
22nd December 195-
I hope this christmas brings you all many biscuits and good walks. It has been a busy year, and there is a lot to tell you.
There have been some very good walks this year, although there are a few too many cats living nearby now, so I have had to stay on guard so that they don't hurt any of the family. They are very dangerous as you all know, and the humans just don't take it seriously enough. I have had to stay very alert, which has been difficult sometimes, but I know you will all agree that it is worth it.
The family has had many adventures as usual, and I have had to get them out of some pickles. (Not real pickles of course, I don't eat those any more after the great Picklegate affair. I really didn't like Anna making me sleep in the shed for so many nights. Really these humans are very fussy about smells sometimes.)
The main event this year has been when the little one with the curly dark fur on her head was stolen. It was completely the fault of the silly one who cares for the little one and the twin puppies. She was told afterwards by the red-gold furred big puppy that the silly one should have taken me for a walk with them, and it's very true. I would NEVER have let anyone steal any of the little puppies.
I had already been trying to tell the family that the stranger woman had a bad smell to her, she wasn't balanced and it was really obvious. I do think that these humans are very backward sometimes. I had been growling as much as I could, and showing that she wasn't obeying the rules of meeting puppies from another pack.
Then the older puppies and the Dr Male Pack Leader went away for the day, and the silly one took the littlest puppies for a walk without me. WITHOUT ME ! I know you will all see just how stupid this is, she made an excuse about me pulling. I don't pull, I just know she doesn't go the right way and try to show her, as she is such a silly one.
Well anyway, the silly one took the littlest puppies to the brook, and the unbalanced stranger took the puppy. It should have been obvious then that I was the answer, none of the others can sniff as well as I can. But it took the chestnut furred big puppy to realise this, and ask me to help. I sniffed and sniffed and I found the trail. It got harder when the stranger had picked up the lost puppy, but the big puppies and I still managed to find her. I went in the house with my very best big woofs, and found the little one's dress and well to cut a long story short, we rescued her, and I was given my very favourite supper that night, and it was lovely.
There have been other things that have happened this year, but I have written lots and the littlest puppies have dropped some good biscuits on the floor, so I will leave it here.
I hope you all have a Woofderful Christmas and a Yappy New Year.
P.S I nearly forgot ! Proof my friends of the evilness of all things feline, I can't remember if I told you last year, the years blur into each other - well anyway, the school had a whole collection of upsets with cats too, they deserved it though, not content with one cat they kidnapped another (Why? Why would anyone do that? Surely they see that these cats need to be repelled, not encouraged ?!) and they allowed the cats to bamboozle them, even gave them the same name. As I write this I have Deja Woof, perhaps I did tell you before ... Well even if I did, it is IMPORTANT. I have found out that one of the girls (I think the one who smells of motor oil and hangs around the chestnut furred puppy) went climbing out to rescue the cat - climbing is bad enough, but to rescue a cat ! I don't know what happened after that, as of course I lost interest when I heard that the cat survived, but it is further proof of why we must be always vigilant in our defence of our human families and that they really don't know how to protect themselves from the obvious world domination catspiracy.
Anyway, now I really must go, there are guests and a tea trolley and Missis needs me to help I am sure.
Wishing you all roast chicken, treats and good winter snoozes
Letter from Nina Rutherford by abbeybufo
I am catching a few minutes backstage to write this letter, which I hope will reach you all in time for Christmas - which will, of course, depend entirely on my remembering to send out all my Christmas cards this year, unlike last year when I found half of them in a bag in my suitcase three days into the new year! I wish I’d thought to write sooner, as I have a horrible feeling that this will be an incoherent ramble – you see, I am waiting to go on for my first ever solo recital (as a professional, that is) & I know there will be critics in the audience, & I really truly know they won’t be anything like as nice as the ones back in London when I was doing student level recitals. The ones who reviewed my Emperor last April were rather more vicious than I had expected, if I’m entirely honest. Anyway, it’s Brahms, Liszt and Bartók tonight, which will either make them sit up and take note (if all goes as it should!) or will wind them up to such a pitch of fury that I’ll never work again in America. I’m not sure this country is ready for Hungarian nationalism, but I’ve staked my name on it now, so I’m jolly well going to give it my all.
Oh dear, I’m not sure this is what I meant to write about at all – you see what I mean about incoherent! But I have to say, scrawling a Christmas letter (even one as rambling as this) is far, far better than counting ceiling tiles, which is my usual backstage activity, and really, I’ve had so little time to sit & think & just breathe this year that it’s a wonder I’ve written even one letter. Honestly, if it weren’t for the fact that I’m convinced it’s bad for you, and if I hadn’t promised Tristan way back when I was a schoolgirl – oh, sorry! That looks odder written down than when I say it, but he insisted that we should be on first name terms now that I’ve left school & am getting on as a professional, as it’s absurd for me to be always calling him “Mr Denny” when I’m plain “Nina” to him - and now I have entirely lost my thread – oh, yes! If I hadn’t promised him that I’d never take up smoking, then I think I’d be quite inclined to do so, as it’s tremendously calming and relaxing – or so I’m told.
I still don’t seem to have said anything useful! I’m sorry – blame the nerves. I was going to tell you a little of my year, especially as I’ve been touring all over & haven’t really had a chance to see anyone. Well, in the winter & spring I was touring Europe with my Emperor. The reviews were mixed – there was one who mentioned my “forceful precocity”, but another one said I took too many liberties – as if one could take too many liberties with Beethoven! But I’ll tell you what – they were universal in their praise of my own pieces that I gave as encores (especially as I credited them to that most prolific composer, Mr Anonymous, so as to avoid any demeaning slurs about “women’s music”).
I finished the tour in Italy, which meant I got to spend a wonderful Easter with Signora Pecci, and then I was in Paris for two performances & a masterclass with Nadia Boulanger – and oh, wasn’t that something – a line of musical performance back to Fauré himself! After that I was rehearsing then touring with Rach 2. & the Tchaikovsky in Belgium & Holland, and I came back via Bonn to reprise my Emperor in the great man’s hometown. Incidentally, Margia Stevens (of all people!) came to that concert, & what she had to say in praise of my interpretation fair took away the sting of my Italian critics! We played together, and she started talking about doing a duet recital together at some point in the near future!
I caught up with Alix in London & spent a month and a half in Northumberland, preparing for this American tour. Once this is over I shall go to Germany for another masterclass – this time with Alfred Cortot. When that’s done I shall be going to Tristan and Sally for Christmas – I haven’t seen them in over a year & they had such a formative influence on me – and I do love them both. You see, however much I love them, my family don’t understand like they do. I’m very glad to be going back to Switzerland, as I’ll see Mrs Maynard and all the family too. I’m looking forward to seeing Cecil particularly – she’s the first person I’ve known since a tiny baby, and she must be so big now. I think it’s safe to say that I’m looking forward to some time off at Christmas!
I’m sorry this is such a long letter, and I’m sure you’ll agree that this is quite enough rambling for one day – and while it’s been quite a decent distraction from my nerves, I had really better start warming up. With any luck I’ll survive this – but if I don’t, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and remember me sometimes in your prayers…
Best of love,
Letter from an older Nell Wilson by abbeybufo
As I sip from my bottle of gin, I would like to welcome you, the alumni of the Chalet School, to the Chalet School Christmas letter. As you can see from the signature, this year the honour has fallen on me (Damn you Hilda Tallulah Ermintrude Annersley!)
As you have no doubt read in the press, this year has been a dolor in asinum* for the Chalet School. For those of you who have been living under a rock (in New Zealand, yes, I do mean you Molly Maynard or whatever your surname currently is) I will now recount the true events of the last year.
1. Jack and Joey Maynard (reported in the Daily Mail)
It is true that he was hospitalised after a row with Joey. It is not true that Joey severed his ‘John Thomas’ with a carving knife; he severed it himself with a scalpel after Joey made her joke about having quads yet again. I mean, the woman is 72 years old, has been through the menopause and still makes that bloody joke at least twice a week. It wasn’t even funny the first time.
2. Len and Reg (reported in the Guardian)
They are divorcing. Reg came out of the closet and has moved in with Gaudenz. They are very happy and the first Swiss same sex marriage will be taking place in the new year. Joey Maynard is not invited, but Len has volunteered to be bridesmaid as long as she doesn’t have to wear lime green.
3. Mary-Lou Trewlawny (reported in the Sun)
Following the cancellation of Time Team Mary-Lou took part in the latest series of ‘I’m a celebrity, get me out of here’. She was forced to leave the show after slipping scorpions into the beds of her fellow celebrities in a crazed attempt to win. She was dragged from the set screaming “They shouldn’t be such spineless jellyfish then should they!”
4. Joey Maynard again (Buzzfeed)
Inspired by Kim Kardashian’s ‘Break the internet’ photo shoot, Joey has produced her own calendar for 2015. Gravity has not been kind to her. Also the shot involving Bruno has now resulted in an RSPCA investigation.
5. Ofsted (the Guardian)
At the moment I cannot say too much about this as we are in dispute with them, however to sum up their comments “In accordance with the Education Act 2005, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector is of the opinion that this school requires special measures because it is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and the persons responsible for leading, managing or governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement in the school.”
I hope this has clarified matters.
Wishing you a happy Christmas and lovely new year.#
Nell Wilson (retired)
*Pain in the arse
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