Husband Management


Muriel enjoys a wee rest while on a walk in Perthshire
Muriel enjoys a wee rest while on a walk in Perthshire

I have returned

I have had a simply marvellous time staying with my old school chum, Winnie, in Perthshire (for those of you who don’t know it, that’s Surrey with tweed and gunshot). Dear old Winnie Kelso, she is the daughter of Lord Kelso the former Governor General of some ‘stan or other in India, I forget which one, anyway somewhere near the North West Frontier. At school Winnie always showed off a bit – well I don’t suppose many of us were weighed on our birthday with rubies or had a real elephant called Nellie that took us to parties. Things went badly wrong in 1929 when Kelso’s investment in a scheme to put a railway to the summit of Mount Everest, with a hotel, failed to find enough backers. Overnight he was ruined. Not only that but his wife who was home in “Blighty”, ran off with an Aberdeen fish merchant adding disgrace to financial collapse. Inevitably Winnie’s mother, who had always had a tendency to “go native”, was known in certain circles as “Kipper”!

Lord Kelso now runs an Indian restaurant at the top of Sauchiehall Street called “Delhi Delights”, where he is known as “Jimmy Sing” by the varsity students on Gilmour Hill. Lady “Kipper” Kelso, is as far as we know, leading a nomadic existence in the North East where she holds the record for the number of herring gutted in one minute. Winnie hasn’t seen her mother for years but there is a regular box of fish at Winnie’s door and I have to say she cooks the best herring in oatmeal you have ever tasted, especially when served with Ayrshire new potatoes in the early summer. As for Winnie she now runs a Wool Shop in Auchterarder and goes everywhere by bicycle, with the result she has skin like the bark of a redwood and thighs like the support of a cruck framed cottage. Too killing for words!

Handy Hints on Husband Management

While I was away at Winnie’s it did not escape my attention that Jasper was up to mischief and writing his own particular view of what makes a happy marriage or as he sees it his “Top Ten Tips” on how to keep us lady wives happy. It seems only reasonable that I follow suit and give my handy hints on husband management

The all important thing to remember, ladies, is that a husband should be thought of as one of two things: he is at best an 8 year old boy, with a potential for mischief or a six month old spaniel with a tendency to chase women and put mucky paws on the candlewick. Whichever you have, (some of course have both characteristics as a result of over-breeding) both need to have clear boundaries and firm guidance. Rules bring them pleasure, think of boarding school. Here are my top tips for what our dear cousins across the pond call the science of man management. I call it a woman’s common sense.

1)   Their Home is their Castle

Husbands are territorial. Once you have acquired a home, give them pleasure by letting them surround the property with high chestnut fencing. This gives them the illusion of having their own country. Across the top they can trade with the neighbours (this is called borrowing tools) if friendly or make war if not. This reminds them of their cowboy and Indian fort and the annual need to creosote the fence gives them something to do on hot summer afternoons.

A fort requires an HQ for its commanding officer; this is now called the shed and should be placed as far away from the house as possible as they often set fire to them. Make sure they have a plentiful supply of those spring clips on which to hang garden tools. This helps them with counting and spacial awareness.

Jasper's shed, better known as "The Fort"
Jasper’s shed, better known as “The Fort”

They are very fond of playing with their tools. A large metal box and padlock always gives pleasure. Here they can spend hours arranging chisels and separating screws into their correct size and type in their HQ of the garden shed.  All husbands think they are experts at DIY. It is generally not the case and one inevitably has to call in a little man. Do not do this too soon it undermines their self esteem.

Just as his ancestors decorated the caves at Lascaux so the modern man likes to embellish the inside of his 1950’s cave.  They see this as developing their artistic side. Of course few of them have such a side, so this requires a great deal of forbearance on our part. You will need to buy him some paints, but under no circumstances let him choose colours. They cannot deal with choice and it will be wrong anyway. Jasper of course is different from other men and he has a very developed artistic side and indeed a real flair. Jasper’s fresco in the morning room of “The Last Days of Pompeii” is a triumph and as they say in Glasgow, “the talk of the steamie”.

2)   Bringing Home the Bacon

Husbands are essentially hunter gatherers. However distasteful it may seem to you, do encourage him to join a local shoot. He will experience pleasure by the bucket load returning to you with a brace of pheasants over his shoulder, just like his ancestors returning to the cave. You must show appreciation by cooking the kill.  Remember to take the shot out before making a casserole.

Early man settled and grew crops. Husbands still like to do this as part of that primeval desire to provide for their mate so having their own vegetable patch and green house are essential. They are very competitive and infantile and nothing gives them greater pleasure than comparing the size of their cucumbers and weight of their onions with “him next door”.

3)   To feed or not to feed that is the question?

I know ladies this is a dilemma. Generally speaking I find you need to feed them less in the summer – when they need to be alert and outside toiling in the garden. Too much food makes them sluggish and the weeding then gets out of hand. Vitamins and a tonic might be a good idea. In the winter, when the evenings are long and dark they tend to get under your feet. It is best, therefore, to ere on the side of overfeeding. This makes them sleepy after dinner and lets you chose which programme to listen to on the wireless while you peacefully do the mending. Should overfeeding lead to health problems such as death, try not to worry too much. There are few women who do not look good in black and I myself am a vision in a crepe spotted veil. After a year and a day you can look out for a new or second hand one or alternatively get a spaniel.

4)   “That Side of Marriage”

Now the delicate question of what I can only call “that side of marriage”. We all know this gives them a great deal of pleasure, but ladies, there is a limit and once you get “to that time of life”, like many of us, the Scottish Woman’s Rural Institute, tends to offer more stimulation (I mean just how many items can you get into a matchbox?) and there are few more exciting things at bedtime like a cup of Bourn-vita and a good Jean Plaidy.

It’s all a question of forethought. Generally speaking, the generous feeding of the previous tip is the answer – plenty of heavy winter soups, suet puddings, mince and dough-balls, steak and kidney pie, rice pudding, plum duff and spotted dick and custard – soon has them nodding off. Also ladies if I may be so bold I have three pieces of advice. Firstly keep the bedroom warm – if you are lucky enough to possess an electric blanket, put it on about 2 o’clock in the afternoon; by the time they get to bed the temperature is positively equatorial and most conducive to sleep. Secondly never underestimate the dampening power of the winceyette nightie, buttoned up to the neck, worn over a liberty bodice of course, with no lace. Lace brings excitement. Thirdly, always be last up to bed; find an excuse to potter around the kitchen for a good half hour. Invariably they are fast asleep by the time you get there, especially if you’ve used the electric blanket as suggested earlier.

5)   The Sick Bay

With husbands there is no such thing as mild illness. All are hypochondriacs and wallowing in misery is one of their greatest pleasures. You will find they know almost word for word the contents of the “The Home Doctor”. You can afford to indulge this for a few days as it keeps them out of the way. Any longer and it becomes tiresome.

A sick Jasper
A sick Jasper

Remember they like nothing better than to see you in the role of a nurse/ministering angel who is prepared to treat the common cold like the onset of the “black-death”. So no expense should be spared on patent medicines and treats such as out of season fruit, Punch Magazine and the Racing Times. If that old matron’s outfit is still lurking at the back of the wardrobe from the last Infirmary Fundraising Ball so much the better. If you can turn the spare bedroom into a sort of post operative recovery ward he will be in seventh heaven. Once he is up and by the fire swathed in rugs, you can be sure of a generous cheque for a new hat or bag “because you my darling have snatched me from the very jaws of death” achoo!

Well ladies there you have it – Muriel’s handy hints on husband management. You will note that there are only five as opposed to Jasper’s ten. Men are such simpler creatures.

Why One Needs a Husband

Why is all this necessary, I hear you asking. Well it cannot have escaped your notice that since the last war the getting and keeping of servants has become almost impossible. It is really a crisis; there should be a Royal Commission. I blame that Sir Stafford Cripps personally. Therefore, with this terrible shortage of labour it is more than ever before vital to obtain and retain a husband. After all you need someone to take the Christmas decorations in and out of the attic and find porters (don’t get me started) at railway stations. Ladies, follow my advice and you need never carry your own hat box again.

à bientôt


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