I know, I know I shouldn’t be taking “a wee refreshment”, at this time of the day, but it is absolument brass capuchin monkeys.
Snow in the Pass
It has been snowing for several days and the North of Scotland, they say, has seen the worst blizzards they have endured for years. I suppose this gives them something to look at other than those endless bare hills which are bracing but, to my mind bleak.
The south of Scotland has snow too and severe frost. Jasper and I decided, (well I decided, Jasper votes according to his conscience and desire for a hot pudding and custard) that it would be foolish to venture along the Dalveen Pass in the Humber Super Snipe, so we are in Glasgow.
Jasper has bought snow chains, but has no idea how to use them, he just thinks they are something men do but hopes he will not be tested and found wanting. In normal circumstances, I thoroughly recommend the Dalveen Pass through which one passes from Lanarkshire to Dumfriesshire or if you like from Wardrobe to Narnia; the direction – I leave up to you. Which reminds me, I must ask Mrs Travers, our woman what does (but not a lot), if she remembered to bring up the pelt of my beaver with some warm rabbit bran. My musquash is getting pretty past it. I might pass it on to Grace, she feels the cold.
A Graceful Presence
Grace is my replacement for the dastardly Hilda, the German vuman vat did zee heavy vork, who has disappeared after trying to fake her own death in a man trap and put the blame on Mrs Travers. Fortunately the Handsome Stranger, who works in the Shadows sorted all that out. However Hilda is nowhere to be seen and with spring on the horizon there will be much in the way of heavy vork, I mean work. You know what I am like about damp dusting and vinegar washed skirting boards.
Grace is from the West Indies and, in a quiet way, seems to be getting along with Mrs T which is no mean feat. Grace trained as a nurse and is able to pander to both Mrs T and my husband who are both hypochondriacs. So it will come as no surprise for you to learn that both have continued to suffer (when it suits them) from the Asiatic Influenza that hit Glasgow last year.
I only hope this winter will not prove to be as bad as 1947; that was awful. I certainly know from a telephone call from the wretched Bunty Haystack, crime writer and dabbler in the black arts who has a cottage near us in Shangri-La, that the shepherds are “rousing their sheep in the snow”. I am not entirely sure what that means, one does hear such tales of rural deprivation.
Icebergs in Great Western Road
Mrs Travers was late this morning her reason, “icebergs in Great Western Road”. She arrived wearing her customary tennis rackets tied to her gumboots. One has to admire her ingenuity but I only hope she did not go pass Kirklee Terrace, I know people there. Grace asked if it was in honour of Dr Fuchs and Sir Edmund Hillary having met up last week at the South Pole. Mrs T said this was not a pub she knew and anyway seeing a doctor in a pub undermined her faith in the medical profession. Grace suggested a little rum in our tea would warm us up and she shared some stories about her homeland and the growing of sugar. She also wondered if Jasper might be interested in a rum baba for pudding.
Mrs Travers, sensing an opportunity for less work in her day and adding a second tot to her cup of Assam, thought it was highly likely.
Overextended and Anxious in January
I must say it is rather warming. I have never really thought about rum in the past, being more of an amontillado sherry lady myself with the occasional foray into Madeira. I do know, however, that my ancestors on the MacCavity side of the family (the ones with the sweet factories and painless dental surgeries) started out in sugar and imported rum. They were great devotees of the famous Glasgow Punch. I still have the bowl.
Drinking in the middle of the day is hardly in keeping with the spirit of the month of January when abstinence is called for after the excesses of the festive season. I began the day in good faith with a glass of hot water and lemon, but this is much more fun. One needs a little fun when all the news is doom and gloom. Even the classified adverts spread alarm and despondency.
Take today for example. It is suggested that if I have “obstacles in my orbit”, I need to send for a bulldozer from the Scottish Land Development Corporation. This sounds to me as if they are overextending themselves with the New Towns. That is the trouble at this time of year we all feel overextended and I don’t just mean in the waistline. A James Coffield, M.A., L.L.B. is advertising his services should one have Income Tax troubles. Of course I do, given that much of it amounts to state theft for projects of which I disapprove. Mr Coffield is a former High Grade Inspector of Taxes. So why isn’t he now one asks one’s self. Thank goodness I have Mr Chanter who is simply marvellous and high grade with everything.
To make matters worse, Fishers Safes are once again playing on our anxieties suggesting “Tomorrow You May Face Ruin”. Tomorrow I may face my Maker but there is nothing I can do about it. I can’t do much more with moisturiser and cider vinegar. There is such a tendency to create panic these days. Those of us who have survived two Unpleasantnesses know how to take things in our stride. Look at Sir William Burrell, the ship-owner, who has gifted his art collection to Glasgow. He had a fire at Hutton Castle the other day which damaged furnishings. He and Lady Burrell when interviewed did not talk of “obstacles, or “ruin”, but simply said “it was very alarming”. They are in their 90s, at least Sir William is 96 – it would be too rude to suggest her Ladyship’s age. I am quite sure they will not be succumbing to Miss Pamela Brown’s advertisement to “Some Aids to Comfort in Old Age”. Miss Brown has a range of Bed Rests and Bedside table lamps with luminous switches.
Doom and Gloom
January seems to bring out the pessimists. Indeed it has been reported that optimism is fading fast in Cyprus as the Greeks and Turks fail to get on with one another. It looks as if we might not always get on well with the Argentineans as they have sent a “Tourist Cruise”, to Deception Island in the Antarctic. They dispute Britain’s claim to the Falklands.
The bank rate is up to 7% and the government needs to reduce public spending. Most dispiriting to my way of thinking is our pre-occupation with war in cinema. Before the snow Jasper and I went to see Paths of Glory with Kirk Douglas. I agree with Molly Plowright in The Herald when she said that “the aim was to expose the idea of a heroic war” and that in this aim “the film failed”. All Quiet on the Western Front did that in a way which will be hard to improve on. Honestly I am beginning to sound like Jasper.
Sirens at 3.30
I think it must have been reading that Air Raid Sirens will be tested in the Glasgow Area at 3.30pm on January 30th when a “steady note will sound for 1 minute”. I suppose one needs to be prepared in case this “cold war” hots up but I have seen it all twice before and would rather not see it again. Who would have thought that Civil Defence would still be a feature of our lives in 1958?
Beware of Beasts at the Door
A siren, come to think of it, might be useful for our front door. Mrs Travers has selective hearing when it comes to hearing our wonderful original door bell, which one has to pull to operate, and it rings on the panel in the kitchen. Some callers have failed to get a response and when challenged about it Mrs Travers has a range of excuses the latest being “it could be “the Beast of Birkenshaw”, thought to be responsible for a string of murders across southern Scotland since 1956. A man called Peter Manuel has just been arrested and has appeared at Uddingston Sherriff Court charged with the triple murder of the Smart family and others. The police are still looking for a gun, believed to be an Italian berretta, and are searching the Clyde around Glasgow Green. It sounds to me as if Mrs T is going to have to come up with a new excuse to prevent her from answering the door.
Associating with the Wrong Sort of Corpses
The trouble is Mrs T has a very vivid imagination partly driven by experience. Her estranged husband is a dodgy character. You may well recall his involvement in Busty Betty’s “Unnecessary Lingerie Shop” down by the canal, the police raid and his subsequent disappearance on a slow boat to China. Their son Billy is not much better – he is no stranger to being detained at H.M.’s Pleasure and leaving his long suffering wife to cope with “oor weans”.
Only last week Mrs T attended the funeral of an East End “acquaintance” of her Billy’s, as Billy is still in Barlinnie following the “borrowing” of Jasper’s Humber Super Snipe last year as the get away car for a jewellery heist at Lady P-F’s. It was the inevitable over the top affair with, according to Mrs T, a closed coffin due to the occupant known as “Gooey the Grass” having been put though “the mincer” by a rival gang.
Mrs T has a fund of gruesome stories which she shares with the equally fascinated Mrs Lottie Macaulay, my neighbour. Even Lottie had to have a reviving amontillado during the tale of “Frankie, the Fence” who was pulled from the Clyde after three weeks. It seems despite advice from the undertaker the family insisted on “seeing ma Daddy”. According to Mrs T, Frankie was one of the Undertakers’ greatest challenges and required the purchase of extra rouge, false eyelashes and eyebrows the originals clearly having provided some marine animal with its elevenses.
The family were horrified as Frankie looked more like the ventriloquist belonging to Michael Redgrave’s dummy in The Dead of Night. Lottie was so appalled she had Mrs T go over the whole story at least three times just to make sure she had every last detail. Glasgow’s criminal element is not without its fatal attraction.
Dalliance in the City
Far more attractive is our City’s love of traditional pantomime. There has been much concern as ill health forced Stanley Baxter to take a break from “Mother Goose” at The Alhambra. The good news he is back and Jasper is taking Mrs T and the rest of the household next week. Jasper left early to check the heating at our shop “Chez Nous”. When I say check, I mean he stares at it, says “Umm” and, in extremis, kicks it. I do not think we will be busy today and if the snow continues he will close early to let the staff get home.
He wants to pick up tickets for a lecture at the Royal Philosophical Society entitled Innovations on Ice and I have asked if he would call in at the Athenaeum to get me a ticket for the latest in their Trinity Celebrity Lectures. I am quite sure I must be on their list of speakers. In the meantime they will just have to make do with Lady Hart Dyke who will speak on Silken Dalliance for 4 shillings per person. I am looking forward to this as Zoe Hart Dyke is a leading expert on the breading of silk worms and her silk has been used in the Coronation robes and royal wedding dresses.
Of course silk features quite widely in my decorative schemes for the discerning. I am a great supporter of the Lochwinnoch silk weaving firm Caldwell Young which does the most beautiful striped fabrics. Glasgow may have its gangsters but it is also overflowing with culture and I am proud to be one of its most significant fountains.
Jasper Diverted to 1745
Talking of talks Jasper is preparing one for the Hysterical Society which meets again next month. They don’t meet in January as lengthy hangovers have meant some dicey moments with the lantern slide projector. Methylated Spirit burners need hands that do not wobble.
He has been lent a copy of The Gentleman’s Magazine for 1745 by a chum in the next village. As this consists of 12 editions bound in leather I have hardly seen him since New Year as he has either been in his shed with a magnifying glass and the paraffin heater or at the library with his friend, the librarian who has taken a shine to him. Don’t worry on my account, she is an expert on The Well of Loneliness but nevertheless she flirts unashamedly with Jasper always asking him what plans he has to explore his inner child. I hope his plans include exploring his tallboy which, with its drawers all over the floor and coat hangers all over the bed, looks as if has been raided by a Glasgow gang. It is one of the many obstacles Jasper puts in the orbit of Mrs T’s cleaning regime and let’s face it she is easily diverted from her domestic trajectory.
Oh dear I am chilly sitting at this typewriter. I could do with my Paisley Shawl. It looks as if it will snow again this afternoon I shall ring for some more logs for the fire and see if another of those splendid cups of tea might be available.
“Did you ring Mrs Wylie? I was not sure if it was yourself – or a beast at the front door”.
“Mrs T why are you wearing those ridiculous ginger false eyelashes?”