Letter from George Lines – Spring Cleaning and Mountain Climbing

This was written by my Grandfather, George Lines, probably shortly after 21st May 1914, probably from Winterthur to his future Mother-in-Law. I have left out some padding.

… must write small as I have a suspicion that 3 sheets of this stuff takes more than 2 ½ d stamp. Tell me if this is so. I was going to write some days since, but as I was going on a mountain climb on the Thursday, thought I’d wait & tell you about it instead of having nothing but my usual padding. Of course the latter will predominate here, so don’t expect anything in the nature of a letter.

That brings me to my next point, namely Spring Cleaning or the “Root of all Evil”, which you mention in your letter as hoving in view. I always had a fondness for your show because the place looked as the place looked as though it was used and lived in, instead of being in competition with all the other 999 people in Keynsham & elsewhere, who systematically spend 50% of their waking hours in tidying up and shaking dusters out of windows (for their neighbours benefit) and I always admired the way you could slip off for a ramble without worrying because a few papers or books weren’t exactly tidy at home, and you can’t imagine the delight it gave me, always to be able to find some dust on your mantleshelf. A mantleshelf without dust gives me a chill. I always suffered from chills in Fishponds, and I do here – the shame of dust haunts me like a curse. Here is a person in 10,000,000 – I said to myself, – who has a soul above dusting or scanning every little corner in order to be able to find a speck of dust, and so have one up against the poor skivvy. Well to cut my story short, you are the aforesaid 1 in 10,000,000 of of course well aware of the fallacy of Spring Cleaning, which is this. Everything in this world tends towards a normal state of affairs, – water finds its own level, people find their own level (I of course being the exception which proves this latter rule, insofar as my level being of the coal mine order should never have brought me into touch with your level which must very nearly approach the spiritual realms) – and, what is more to my point, house cleanliness tends to a normal state of affairs. A week or so after the manual annual tomfoolery turn out, everything is the same as if Spring Cleaning had never been invented. I speak of course from bitter experience. I am sure Daddy would agree with me on this point. Having now conclusively proved my proposition you will of course this year forego the silly business, and have all the time that would thereby be wasted, to really enjoy the Spring on the bosom of your family. People are so illogical; Spring perhaps the loveliest season, they set apart for befouling the atmosphere with dust, reek of paint and etc, instead of doing this disgusting work when the fogs are about, and it wouldn’t be noticed, or subtract anything from the enjoyment of life. When the world is wiser people will see that fogs were sent for this very purpose.
My lesson & the moral are plain. If you can now do your Spring Cleaning ? without sm??t???ps from your conscience you must be a hardened character. We have a Spring Clean here one a week due to the pride the Swiss have in being able to call the Italians dirty. They clean up fiendish neptune. Where I happen to keep a few books & papers in the sitting room, Frau G ? calls a “Schweinerei” I.e. a pigsty. She has no idea of what a place ought to look like. Well enough of this topical little kettle.

Thursday being Ascension Day (Himmelfahrt) we had a holiday and I made my first mtn. climb. With two men in the office and two Fräulein we set out on the Wednesday evening for the Vienwaldstaffersee in the Luzern neighbourhood where our mountain the Rophaien (7000 feet) is situated. Arrived in Sisikon about 11:30 at night we started on our climb with candle lanterns. The object of starting at night is so that the climb is finished before the heat of the day. It was of course very weird going in the dark but the night was perfectly clear – no moon but twice as many stars as one sees in lower altitudes. You must really try the experience, I’m sure you’d like it. At any rate when I come back we’ll have such an excursion, – just think how fine Black Down would be at night! Of course before the really tricky parts of the climb came the day had broken & we could see without the lanterns. Of course we took grub and other articles in our knapsacks. The latter are splendid institutions. You ought to have them for your rambles. We come into the snow about 1000 feet from the top and in places it was so deep that some mountain huts were completely covered up to the roof, and we found some toads crawling over the snow in an almost lifeless condition, – after their winter sleep I suppose. After one or two exciting stretches we reached the top, and proceeded to rest, which, having walked all night without sleep was jolly welcome. Perhaps more so to me as I was totally inexperienced in mtn. climbing and had got the cramp from the strenuous exertion and big steps that one has to take when going up a steep snow slope.

Hobble skirts would be quite out of the question, and the ladies wear bloomers for climbing. The day was absolutely cloudless and you can imagine the view was beautiful & the air glorious. After grubbing and sunbathing we began the return journey in a slightly different direction. Snow slopes which had taken us perhaps ¾ of an hour to climb we slid down in a few seconds. You simply sit down on the snow & let yourself go, braking with the ice-axe. It is perfectly safe providing there isn’t a precipice at the bottom. Oh! we also saw chamoix springing over the snow on the next mountain with the utmost sangfroid. They seem to have no fear at all. It was altogether a pretty strenuous but enjoyable experience. The sensation of height are rather weird, I think one gets used to it. The great thing is not to imagine anything that might happen. Doubtless after a few such climbs I shall be quite cold-blooded. It is at any rate jolly healthy, – one perspires like a sponge. Do you remember our famous daily climb up the cliffs at Stope. The flowers are awfully interesting in the different zones. I have an idea I should like to make a collection of pressed flowers from my different climbs. Do you happen to have any tips on the subject ?

Wish I were coming with you to Gower – no caves, no shrimps, no paddle for me this year. Hope you have a lovely blazing hot time. Had a letter from Win y’day. Walter has a little car & is teaching her to drive. She also went to a dance & had 43 dances. I can’t imagine how she did it. Am expecting to learn in your next that Pete & Sue have been sucked into the vacuum cleaner.

Well, I must to bed. I’m as stiff as a rock after yesterday, & shall have to manage well.

Best love from Chief.

Fishponds – I believe my Grandfather had digs in Fishponds when he was in Bristol – possibly before he met the Stevens family.
Cliffs at Stope – I am trying to track down where these are, as they are, as Stope, or Stoke, is also mentioned in the letter from Bellagio.
Win is Grandpa’s sister – Winifred Lines
Walter is Grandpa’s brother, Walter Lines, of Lines Bros. fame.
Pete and Sue are my future Grandmother’s siblings. Although known in the family as Peter, he was baptised Cedric Champion Stevens, and she was baptised Brenda Stevens, called Susie, in the family – until the arrival of my Uncle Michael, who – when very young – pronounced Susie and Tudy, and the name stuck,

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