“A Glasgow Lady”

“Going Through”

The historic skyline of old town Edinburgh

Lottie Macaulay, the wife of the millionaire bungalow builder who is big in strengthened concrete, and Cynthia Savage, wife of the pickle and condiment king, are on their way “through to Edinburgh” by train from Glasgow. Nota Bene dear readers, or for those of you without the benefit of a classical education – note well, that for “those and such as those”, who form the Scottish middle classes one always goes, “through to Edinburgh” and indeed vice versa. This has two purposes – firstly it provides foreigners with an indication of the geography of the two cites lying on opposite sides of the coast and secondly hints at the sheer effort required for the citizens of each to visit the other. In a nutshell it conveys a sense of ennui.

So Very Different

George Square, Glasgow

The cities are both, fundamentally, suspicious of one another – each confident of their own superiority and therefore the inferiority of the other. Glasgow is sooty and grimy, its masonry coloured by two centuries of industrialisation. However, despite a lot of “bowdy legs” due to vitamin D deficiency, the people are nice, salt of the earth types who you know would give you their last farthing. Edinburgh people on the other hand would fight to retrieve a farthing from between the paving stones in Princes Street, but their city is proud, beautiful and as cold as charity.

The people of Edinburgh “go through to Glasgow” as it makes them feel better and the Glaswegians “go through to Edinburgh” when it is a local holiday, or they have a particular mission. You see neither really marks Bank Holidays as in England, preferring the isolated bottle necks created by their own particular regional days off.

Soup, the Cultural Marker

Proper Scottish leek and potato soup

Recently, while all at their rural boltholes, they were encouraged by Muriel to persuade a newcomer to the area to make a pot of Mulligatawny for the Church soup and pudding lunch. Now in case you are from foreign parts, soup is the very soul of Scottish rural society (the English hate the slurping). It marks the great events of life, makes the best of the limited resources of the land which is both “stern, and wild” and keeps one warm, for here it is winter for half the year, despite what the weather man says.

Rural society is deeply conservative, (despite some historic wall levelling and rumours of cannibalism) and soup is limited to a few varieties such as leek and potato, Scots Broth and in its wilder moments of haute cuisine pea and ham. The recent appearance of a lightly curried soup, naturally raised eyebrows and enabled Muriel to come to the rescue with a reserve pot of something “more to our tastes” than something which if analysed might well be found to contain the Devil’s work, better known as garlic. At the same time Muriel was on hand as a guardian angel stepping forth to provide a helping hand to a new neighbour unschooled in the ways of her new community.

The Wise Seek Advice

For the rustics most conversations begin with “It’s aye bin”. This means it has always been this way. They will see Hell freeze over before they accept change and guilty individuals will be “barrowed from the village” – that is tied to the postman’s heavy parcel barrow and literally run out of town. Lucky ones are sometimes allowed back to collect belongings. The wise seek advice, the foolish make suggestions. Those with a death wish do things uninvited. The enlightened consult Muriel. “Oh Mrs Wylie”, said the unschooled Mrs Butterstone-Craig, “would you really have the time to guide me in the ways of the steeping of the pulses and the purchase of “a nice ham shank” from the butcher?”

More Reverend Than Usual

Lottie and Cynthia are neighbours and see themselves as “friends” of the famous and simply marvellous Muriel Wylie, though they are constantly upstaged and overshadowed by her. Sometimes like mice who want to roar, they are emboldened by Muriel’s absence from the social scene of Glasgow’s exclusive and much sought after West End. Today they are on a mission, hence the journey to Edinburgh.

“Well really Lottie” said Cynthia Savage “she made complete fools of us, I hardly knew where to look.”

“I couldn’t agree more Cynthia, how is we always end up doing exactly what she wants?  Mrs Butterstone-Craig looked at me with real malice aforethought. I do not imagine we will ever be invited into her Deli Durbar Sun-lounge to see her collection of ebony Indian elephants now.”

“Whereas Muriel has already been given a glimpse of her Mughal garden with water feature!”

“We have to make a stand Cynthia, which is why I have made an appointment to see the Moderator, The Right Reverend something or other.”

“What exactly is a Right Reverend?”

“I have not the foggiest idea. I suppose just a bit more reverend than the usual.”

“I expect he has degrees as long as your arm.”

“Really you are even beginning to sound like Muriel.”

“Shall we have coffee first? I was thinking Macvities, my treat.” 

The Moderator Nearly has Apoplexy

“Good afternoon ladies welcome to the headquarters of The Church of Scotland. I apologise for keeping you waiting. I am just back from Balmoral. Thank you for your letter I understand you have a matter of heresy to bring before me.”

“We certainly do your Very Right Reverendness, it is a grave matter concerning the introduction of a non-Scottish soup at a Parish Soup and Pudding lunch.”

“What ladies would the nature of that soup be?”

“Lightly curried mulligatawny sir.”

“Oh my word and I mean my word not The Word, I can feel my ridiculous 18th century breeches constricting below the knee. Tell me was there any sign, even the smallest sign of a leek or pearl barley, or perhaps a small hint of pea and ham? Redemption is always possible you know.”

“No sir, there was not.”

“This is grave ladies, this might lead to a schism or at the very least dancing, do please tell me there were no puddings of an exotic nature.”

“No we cannot say that, all very standard with a great deal of custard.”

“What about the traybakes?”

Full of sugar and condensed milk

“Full of sugar and condensed milk.”

“That at least is music to my ears, not too much though I prefer the psalms to be unaccompanied. We must get the bottom of this, who is the sinner?”

“Much though it pains us, as she is our dearest friend, a bulwark of the community and one does not want to tell tales or indeed drop someone in the soup….”

“What Mrs Savage is trying to say is that it was really Mrs Muriel Wylie who blatantly encouraged the making of the unscriptural mulligatawny.”

“Mrs Wylie, you say, not the Mrs Muriel Wylie of the West End of Glasgow and the rural bolt hole and a trial to two ministries and several generations of moderators?”

THE Muriel Wylie of Glasgow’s West End

“The very one.”

Muriel’s Web of Embroidery

“Oh dear, you do realise she rents the back shop here in Edinburgh from us and will be in here everyday if I take action. No ladies it is more than I can bear, believe you me I have tried to suggest she becomes an Episcopalian.

Honestly it is best to let sleeping dogs lie. I have a cupboard full of pulpit falls and embroidered stoles which I do not need, but somehow she always manages to persuade me to do something I don’t want to do. No ladies, if I were you I would let the mulligatawny soup issue fade away naturally. When she and I had the fall out over ‘the guess the weight of the cake’ competition, I ended up refurbishing an entire church in Port Glasgow, with the latest in ecclesiastical furnishings from ‘Chez Nous’. It looked like a nightclub, mind you offerings went through the roof, indeed they paid for the roof.”

You Cannot Win or Perhaps You Can?

her manicured fingers

“Well that was not very successful was it Lottie? She’s got him wound round her little manicured finger as well.”

“I have another little ruse up my Hardy Amies’ sleeves Cynthia. I have written to her at her hotel in Geneva, which by the way is in Switzerland, as the owner of a ladies’ magazine called ‘The Glasgow Lady’ asking if she would like to be travel editor. Just to get the flavour of her writing I have asked her a few questions.”

“I didn’t know there was such a magazine, Lottie.”

“Cynthia sometimes I think you really are the fool that Muriel takes you for. Of course there isn’t! It will just involve her in unnecessary work when she is supposed to be enjoying the scenery of Lake Geneva.”

“Lottie let’s hope she never finds out it is you – or mulligatawny soup will be the least of your worries.”

An Invitation to Muriel

Dear Mrs Wylie,

Further to our recent correspondence, I wonder if you would mind providing replies to the following letters for our mock-up for ‘The Glasgow Lady’? The theme is the new Europe in the post war era.

Yours Sincerely

Jean Plaidy (Mrs)

Sample Replies

the Old Royal

Dear Glasgow Lady,

My husband and I are thinking of going to Europe, which is near Great Britain, instead of Saltcoats, which is usually in Scotland, this year.

Which countries are nicer than Britain?

Dolly Dimple (Mrs)

Dear Mrs Dimple,

No European countries are nicer than Britain. How could you even think that? They are as different as night to day or plain to pan bread and the whole point of going is so that you are grateful when you get home. As they say “count your blessings”.

The Glasgow Lady

Dear Glasgow Lady,

Which is the better country France or Germany, we are considering a holiday in one or the other?

Bea Gott (Miss)

Dear Miss Gott,

Due to laziness we tend to have wars with Germany whom we are most like, but would rather have them with France, but cannot be bothered as they are given to moaning. What about a two centre holiday and you can make up your own mind?

The Glasgow Lady

Strathaven versus Switzerland

Dear Glasgow Lady,

We understand that you are in Geneva which is known to be part of Switzerland. We have heard that they have strange ways in Switzerland. Can you please advise as we would like to blend in?

Mr and Mrs Roberts of Strathhaven

Dear Mr and Mrs Roberts,

How anyone from Strathhaven has the nerve to describe the Swiss as strange is beyond me. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black, but never mind it takes all sorts, so here are some pointers.

You will be regarded as a social pariah if you:

  • Flush the lavatory after 10pm
  • Slam a car door after 10pm
  • Cut your grass on a Sunday (mind you this is like Scotland, is it not?)
  • Hang clothes out on a Sunday on a washing line (also like Scotland)
  • Wash your car on a Sunday (also like Scotland)
  • Pets should be kept in twos.
  • The Swiss like their streets to be kept clean so do not throw litter. (This is not at all like Scotland where there is a preference for clatty streets).
  • They still have military service despite mostly making watches.

As you will see Mr and Mrs Roberts it is an ideal holiday destination provided you have no plans after 10pm or on Sundays as Switzerland is very similar to Scotland both having been invented by John Calvin. Come to think of it you may as well stay in Strathaven.

The Glasgow Lady

Are You Sure About Abroad?

la tour Eiffel en France

Dear Glasgow Lady,

Do they have Shippham’s Beef Paste in France? My husband likes to have this on his sliced white for his dinner.

Sadie from Shettleston

Dear Sadie,

I cannot believe anyone from Shettleston is travelling to France, has it occurred to you that it is further than Parkhead?

They have something called paté and their bread comes in long sticks and is baked fresh every day.

I have a feeling abroad is not for you.

The Glasgow Lady

Dear Glasgow Lady,

I am told that the British accent is very difficult for many Europeans to understand. Is this true?

Mr and Mrs Frederick Farquhar from Fochabers

Dear Mr and Mrs Farquhar from Fochabers,

What an unfortunate address you have been burdened with; it seems you have too many “F” ing things in your life, think of moving.

On your point I have to say what a ridiculous question. The British do not have an accent. Has it been a particularly long winter where you are or are you married cousins?

The Glasgow Lady

A United States of Europe?

Dear Glasgow Lady,

Overall do you consider Europe a good thing?

M. Thatcher (Mrs)

Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Finchley

Dear Mrs Thatcher,

Overall yes, despite my misgivings about coffee in bowls and risotto, in general I think it is a good idea.

It would have been better if we had joined at the start and had more of a say.

I told Winston this when I suggested a United States of Europe, when I was helping him to build a wall at Chartwell. Despite my appearance and perfectly manicured nails I can mix cement with the best of them. I had many a dummy village to construct in the last Unpleasantness.

All European countries would benefit from Britain’s leadership introducing such marvellous things as International Soup and Pudding Day; reintroducing royal families as they generally look better on stamps and are of limited intelligence and therefore unlikely to cause trouble, if kept busy; imperial measurements for all; letting them use our money and having a European Parliament somewhere convenient like Stirling. Yes I believe it can work.

Are you the same lady I meet in London a few years ago who is a chemist? If so have you remembered my advice regarding the handbag as a weapon, and the pussy bow as a fashion statement?

The Glasgow Lady

All is Revealed

the Glasgow Lady

“By the way Jean Plaidy, or as I know you Lottie and Cynthia, do you think I came up the Clyde on a banana boat? I may be in Geneva near Switzerland, but I can spot treachery a mile off. ‘The Glasgow Lady’ may have been a figment of your imagination, but I have decided to produce it. Thank you for the idea. Incidentally how was the Moderator? His secretary is my second cousin from Juniper Green, always been good at keeping in touch.

Having a simply marvellous time here on the lake – the conference on the sea is going well. They love my cullen kink and Jasper’s shell collection talk.  Mrs T is learning to chop wood to music – will tell all on my return.”

à bientôt

Muriel Wylie

The Glasgow Lady

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3 Responses to “A Glasgow Lady”

  1. Matthew Bate says:

    ‪A Tale of Two Cities, a tale of two soups, and two women who should have known better. ‬

    ‪We have a similar problem at the warm end; Brighton and Hove. ‘Hove actually’ as the great Olivier said. He wasn’t to know that his remark would leave a mark in the lexicon, nor inspire the title of a film about stalking. Decades before Leicester every car park in Brighton had a Richard the Third, while Hove merely complained about the labyrinthine exit of the car park at Waitrose. ‬

    ‪Southampton and Portsmouth have a similar feud but no-one ever goes there. ‬

    ‪I would imagine that there’s a schism between lovers of soups versus lovers of stews. Big Soup is arriviste. Curry and garlic, while recent, are never infra dig. Getting a nice ham shank from the butcher is more Brighton than Hove.‬

    ‪Here we see conservatism. Beyond the initial existence of the universe there is never a question which can be answered ‘it just is’ nor ‘because we always have’. These answers are brakes on progress. Those who say that progress is not necessarily a good thing should speak to those raised in profound poverty or under totalitarian rule.‬

    ‪Treachery. Treason. No, I’m not a Russian bot, I merely fume at the behaviour of these women. Should they wish to put Muriel in the shade I would suggest that they win a war and introduce principles of taste to a generation previously exposed to austerity. Yes I know. ‬

    ‪Europe; In general, yes. I’m on record as a committed Europhile and I’m unconcerned with the bill. It’s worth it. Apart from veal, foie gras and bullfighting, obviously. ‬

    ‪A victory, I see, while the morning stars sang. ‬


  2. seileasdar says:

    Out of the Soup and into a Pickle

    Who needs friends when you can have enemies as formidable as well-meaning and well-trying ladies Macaulay and Savage?

    Well-meaning? Well, let’s say they try hard to shine against the ever-radiant light of our simplyalwaysmarvellous Muriel. Her life would be so much calmer was it not for always second-guessing intentions, and counter-plotting endeavours to light a spark against our wonderful lady’s naturally genius ideas of improving Scottish rural and urban lives.
    And do they seem to need it. How could the Church of Scotland survive without tassled pulpit drops and leaking roofs for so long, I ask? Muriel and the stock of Chez Nous to the rescue! Who cares when so many can benefit that not all schemes are founded on honest and straightforward intentions. To come up with the genius plan of suggesting Mulligatawny Soup for a Bolthole church soup&pudding fundraiser just to be able to save the day with an emergency proper soup with bits and shine? Who else would have thought about that than our stalwart defender of taste, tassles and the improvement of rural life!

    It is quite tragic to watch the two poor ‘well’-meaning ladies walk into their own traps, with their intentions to dethrone Muriel, but instead providing her with a springboard to even more greaterness and a platform to shine her intellectual light wide and far. Even from Geneva, which is in Switzerland, which is in Europe, which is near Great Britain, and is not so much different than Germany, just hillier, in parts, and doesn’t have a coastline, unlike Germany, in parts, and they talk different.

    But the Swiss seem to prefer the same things, no washing out on a Sunday, no noise after 10pm, don’t work on Sundays, sleep mandatory after 10pm and no nonsense between 1pm and 3pm any day, the holy Mittagsruhe. To digest all that cheese. Or meat. Just like us Germans. And cake. Just that we seem to have more forms to fill in to get anywhere in the world. And we have Allies, including the British, which is near Europe, which the Swiss don’t seem to have although they are more central in Europe, geographically. Or they don’t need them.

    I for one can’t wait to receive the first edition of ‘The Glasgow Woman’ in the mail, I have taken out a subscription already!!


  3. Moira Taylor says:

    Well hurrah! Nobody can pull the wool over Muriel’s eyes and I’m surprised that that dozy pair even tried. Her replies to the made up queries were spot-on and I wish her all he best in launching The Glasgow Lady, it will be a triumph with Muriel at the helm.
    Mama often went through to Edinburgh as she had relatives who unfortunately lived in Auld Reekie.However, as they only lived there and weren’t natives she at least could be sure of soup and a ham roll before catching the train home. Really, all the buildings of Glasgow need is a good hose down and they will equal anything Edinburgh has to offer.
    Can’t wait to hear all about Mrs T’s prowess with her chopper!

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