“Never Had It So Good”: Muriel to Thank

Indeed let us be frank about it – most of our people have never had it so good.

Harold Macmillan British Prime Minister 1957 

As I was saying…

On the telephone to the Prime Minister’s Wife 

“I hope that’s helpful Dorothy. I think “Never had it so good” will set the tone nicely and who knows it may come to define Harold’s premiership.

An Optimistic Lady

Busy as ever!

You know me Dot, I am an optimistic lady and all around I see increased production in coal, steel and motor cars; everywhere in fact except here where Mrs Travers (our daily woman what does, but not a lot) has stagnated in terms of productivity and Jasper seems to go backwards. So I suppose one might consider him a one man economic downturn.

You might suggest that in case others are burdened by such drags on the economy, Harold cautions against rising wages and inflation as these, in my humble opinion, will be the curse of the post war years. Suggest he put in something about “common sense, restraint and the doctrinaire nightmare of socialism and the policies of nationalisation and central planning”. What’s that you said Dorothy? The line is not terribly good, no I quite agree planning is for cocktail parties not countries and on the question of colonialism how about “the pattern of the commonwealth is changing Britain’s position as the Mother Country. Our children are growing up”.

Although I cannot help feeling that Ghana’s decision to scrap God Save the Queen is a little petulant; granted it’s not a catchy tune but surely Dorothy it has to have brought some benefits? I do think something along these lines will set the right tone for our people and present the P.M. as a progressive which is what is needed for membership of the E.E.C.. Yes must dash too, I will put that knitting pattern in the post. Au revoir. 

Mrs Travers Listening in on the Extension

Yes Mrs T some Earl Grey with lemon would be ideal it is rather warm and, for your information, I can hear the click when you pick up the extension in the hall.”

“ Sorry Madame, I was just cleaning the spaces on the dial with cotton wool and disinfectant as per instruction following the unscheduled request by the milk boy to telephone the dairy following an usually high demand for gold top.”

“Yes Mrs T you are quite right I am sorry and when I think of where milk boys hands have been I am shaken to the core.”

“Where exactly have they been Mrs W?”

“Never mind that now Mrs T, just remember when you hear the clank of bottles hover like a gazelle, poised with a damp cloth.”

Mrs Travers – poised like a gazelle

“Never fear Madame. When I hear that milk cart I am like a greyhound at the races and by the way you might have suggested MacMillan said something about Africa and the winds of change.”

“Good point put I don’t want to over egg the pudding so I think I will leave that till a bit further on.”

“If God spares us” replied Mrs Travers.

The Reality of Political Allegiance

A tory convert

“Mrs T sometimes you are such a glass half empty lady. I do wonder why you are not with Mr Wylie and “the come and get it brigade” or socialists as they are generally known. Come to think of it why are you a Conservative Mrs T? Is it your deep understanding of the principles of one nation Toryism and the benefits of individualism?”

“No they have better Beetle Drives and take you in their cars to vote when it rains.”

“You don’t get that with the Labour Party then?”

“No way am I sitting on the cross bar of a bicycle to go down Maryhill Road to the polling station. Free teeth or no free teeth! Well I should get your tea and then I am going to have a wee ciggy outside before I go into town to meet Mr Wylie.”

Jasper Trying to Recoup his Losses

“Why are you meeting Mr Wylie? I did not, in any case, know that he was in town anyway.”

“Well he said that seeing as he was in the dog house over the Mint Julep incident last week he was going to book you a 29/6  facial at the Lancôme Beauty Department in Copeland’s which lasts over one and a half hours according to this morning’s Glasgow Herald. He then wants to meet me at MacDonald Brothers in North Street, where they have a large consignment of linoleum at greatly reduced prices, he is considering super marble for the cold room which he says is looking a bit tatty and he has promised me an off cut for my kitchenette at home.”

“Oh has he indeed. That is funny because Mr Wylie does not normally concern himself with kind of ground covering unless of the turf variety. I smell a rat here or rather a horse or two. While I certainly do not begrudge you a few square feet of linoleum, we have not discussed this and it is the sort of thing that, without increased productivity, leads to inflation. Added to which super marble is rather extravagant I think “not so super marble” would do both for you and the cold room. As to beauty treatment does he really think my face needs an hour and a half of work done on it?”

“Does that mean you won’t accept it?”

“Oh I didn’t say that, but after a fuss, you have to keep them on a tight rein Mrs T or they end up buying unplanned linoleum.”

“I thought you didn’t like planning Mrs W?”

“It’s fine so long as I do the planning.”

“Well I will get the tea then before a quick burst of increased productivity in the lemon curd department, before I go out.”

“Yes that would be good and could you bring my fan and some eau de cologne. I must get on I have my musings to write. Is it just me or is it warm in here?”

So Much to be Proud Of

the Tunnocks’ teacake

It is indeed warm, even in Scotland it has been a very good June. Somehow I feel it reflects the general mood of the country which is one of optimism and the P.M. will say just as much later in July when he tells the nation how fortunate they are. Indeed we seem to be in buoyant mood with building everywhere. There are many new homes springing up all over the place and not only that but whole new towns are taking shape.

Following on from the success of East Kilbride, the first sod has been cut for the creation of Cumbernauld near Stirling. It will be the next stage in solving Glasgow’s huge overspill problems as the slums are tackled, for example in The Gorbals where Jasper was brought up. If all goes well Cumbernauld will be another “contented community”, even if it is planned. Developments are not confined to the central belt either and as I write great progress is being made at the new Atomic Power Station at Chapel Cross near Annan in Dumfriesshire. Although the nuclear reactors are still under construction great benefits are already to be observed in and around Annan where many local people have found additional employment and the town looks quite prosperous. Jasper thinks that nuclear power will not turn out to be all it is cracked up to be. However, we are talking about someone who thinks a key economic indicator is the increase to 5 tons daily of Golden caramel being produced at “Tunnocks” of Uddingston. Jasper is devoted to their caramel wafers and their newest line the Teacake, but then he was brought up on condensed milk.

Differing Views on the Royal Family

Jasper is not particularly devoted to the Royal Family, certainly not as much as he is devoted to caramel wafers. I have asked him to cost the alternative and I mean a Presidency not a packet of bourbons. He can never quite give me an answer. Now I know we had Edward VIII who was something of a disappointment, although he did do quite a bit for the Scottish knitwear industry, but the late King was marvellous and the young Queen rarely puts a Rayne wrong (we share a shoemaker).

My “raynes”

As to Prince Philip, he was on television last night and even Mrs T said she felt like ripping off her elastic knee supports and giving her patella a good going over with a rubbing of wintergreen. Prince Philip was presenting a Panorama special on “The Geophysical Year”. This involves scientists from 63 nations cooperating “to unlock the secrets of this planet and the cosmic forces that affect it”. This began at midnight last night and coincides with the beginnings of a period of unusual activity on the part of the Sun which happens every 11 years. It will involve everything from observatories to snowshoes and huskies. As the Duke said among the aims are “improved weather forecasting, long distance radio, high level flight” and perhaps even “interplanetary travel” and importantly a “search for pure knowledge”.

Now while I would myself simply be happy to see more trains between Glasgow and Dumfries, this is very noble and as he says it is “a great adventure”. Needless to say the Chinese are already playing up – it must be a bit like having millions of Mrs Ts around you. They are trying to destabilize proceedings with Formosa, Mrs T uses linoleum.

Mrs T Never Draws Breath

The perfect pancake

“Earl Grey Madame, and I have taken the liberty of buttering some freshly made pancakes. You would have been amazed at the kitchen it resembled an assembly line. I enlisted the help of Hilda, the German voman, vat does zee heavy vork, and Hairy Mary, the nurse maid from Inveraray, as she had just put wee Gayle down for her nap. The productivity was pure dead amazing so it was, but I thought you could put on your own jam, the lemon curd is still setting; might help exercise the underarm flabby bits.

Putting on the jam

Before I forget – Dorothy Macmillan phoned back to ask what size needles and Stoddart’s Mattresses in Hunter Street phoned to ask if you have “a problem in the bed department”. I said I thought so since Mr Wylie was in the spare room since the Mint Julep incident, so he suggested he could solve the problem by converting the hair mattress into springs and he would recover the quilt in corded taffeta for £5 5s 6d, both returned within 3 days.

The Rev. Tom Allan of St Georges Tron Church phoned to say he was looking forward to addressing the Women’s Guild and just to advise you that in the light of the Medical Research Council’s report on the link between smoking and lung cancer he would be suggesting that smoking now had to have a Christian viewpoint and that would be that it should be given up.

Oh yes and Mr Wylie said Mr MacDonald would do the super marble for the same price as the not so super marble seeing as it was for the simply marvellous Mrs Wylie with a bit extra added on for the woman what does so much for so little. Also would you like to go to the Rogano this evening as they are having a Stroganoff Night and what would be your preference Lonnie Donegan’s Gamblin’ Man or Johnnie Ray’s Yes tonight, Josephine. I said I thought the Josephine thing was out of the question, due to the mattress remaking and separate rooms.”


Ms Travers pours the tea

“Mrs T could you just pour the tea, please?”

“Certainly here you are, thought you’d like it in the blue and white and there’s nothing like a pancake to cheer one up. By the way Madame what is Stroganoff?”

“A bribe, Mrs T, a bribe.”

“Honestly Mrs Wylie, a facial, a nice bit of super marble linoleum, supper out and the number one records of June 1957. I’d say you’ve never had it so good!”

“Mrs T in the light of what the Reverend has said and my own personal belief that if God had meant us to smoke it would be more apparent, please give up smoking. And it is telephone, not phone. Suppose the Duke of Edinburgh had been on the other end of the line, what would you have said then?”

“I would have said, care to join me for some Struuggleenough.”

Mrs T ponders on the possibilities of stronganoff

“They say he has a very engaging personality and knows what he is talking about which makes a change in a man.”

“Yes my husband never knows what he’s talking about or has an engaging personality, come to think of it Madame he has no personality at all. Don’t get me wrong Mrs W a lack of personality in a man can be a good thing provided they have other qualities. As to H.R.H. he can be at the end of my line and leave his slippers under my bed any day”.

“Unfortunately Mrs T you are sending my bed to Stoddarts!”

“Never mind Mrs W, you have Lonnie Donegan to look forward to.”

à bientôt


Muriel Wylie

June 1957

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10 Responses to “Never Had It So Good”: Muriel to Thank

  1. J Peasmold Gruntfuttock says:

    That Mrs T is a fine woman.

  2. Patty C says:

    Lovely to learn all is well on the Wylie homefront. Mrs T, WDBNAL, appears to have things well within control! Not that Mu is losing her considerable powers, but Mrs T seems to be evolving, as it were, though one knows not which way this could go. Her “strugglenough” indeed!

  3. Moira Taylor says:

    Phew, thank Heavens we can rely on you Muriel for advice and so, thankfully, can the Prime Minister.
    Such a pity that Mrs T and indeed Jasper seem to be letting the side down somewhat, although Mrs T does gain Brownie points for her philosophical input now and then. Oh dear, as I read on I notice that she has grossly overstepped the mark with her remarks, which I am shocked that you allowed to pass. Alluding to your ‘flabby bits’, discussing your bedroom needs with the tradesman! Really, the woman is a pill! An absolute pill.

  4. Louise Lewis (Lady from the right side of Carlisle) says:

    Chérie Muriel,

    Ooh la la! One has come over quite unnecessary…..it must be all this talk of HRH and his engaging personality! One has had to pause for a wee nibble and a wee dram of Ginger wine (very soothing on the clack). Main oui, the urge for some Finn Crisp and some oak smoked Cheddar became quite overwhelming…..one simply couldn’t settle oneself otherwise. It must be HRH, dwaalings, and the mention of increased productivity in the modern age. It moved moi!

    Maintenant, as you know, chérie, one is in that state of total exhaustion with which you are all too familiar…..post-production fatigue! One is consumed by it, and, to make matters worse, one has succumbed to a ghastly cold. It was terribly kind of you to send out Matron (aka Mrs T in a cape, bearing a thermos of Hot Toddy) at a moment’s notice. My clack was fire ce matin – one didn’t know what to do with oneself!

    Alors toi – tu comprends! Being as we are fellow thespians, treaders of boards and trippers of the light fantastic! We give our all to our oeuvre…..one directs one’s darlings with dramatic drive and always with one’s eye focussed on le grand spectaclé…..la première! Alice – the Musical, my modern take on Lewis Carroll’s classic tale of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was a resounding success! If only dear Sebastian and darling Dimitri could have been there to give moi a warm hand on moi’s entrance…..they would have adored my modern interpretation…..and avant-garde visuals!

    Yours peaking and troughing,
    Lulu xxxx

  5. Matthew Bate says:

    Productivity in modern Britain, the National Anthem, and the Duke of Edinburgh’s predictions.

    I feel some solidarity with dear Jasper, it’s very difficult. As a fellow progressive living among the blue I sympathise with his struggle, while drinking claret. Don’t tell my doctor (I am currently subject to the winds of change).

    Perhaps a new national anthem. Perhaps using Beethoven’s ninth as a starting point. Words by Rowling, perhaps. Or Frankie Boyle. We rush as a nation towards prosperity like a sturdy retainer on the crossbar of a bicycle. I may write a letter.

    My face needs attention. It can’t be forced into motion these days. I’m turning into Geoffrey Palmer. I am, however, still optimistic about new communities and nuclear power. I’m convinced that package confectionery is a fad and we will revert to eating fruit.

    I wonder how many of the predictions in that Panorama programme have come to pass? How many have proved useful? Do the trains now run on time? No. Diesel.

  6. Marie van Der Klooster says:

    Oh! While we in Australia have been digging chic and deep bunkers due to the ongoing unpleasantness to our North, Jasper and Mrs.T have blotted their copybooks and now are attemping to beguile their way out with pancakes and linoleum! (the super marble for the price of marble sounds attractive though, here down under we have to make do with most unattractive green and brown linoleums, a warning for those considering a move to sunnier climes)
    We colonials do love the Commonwealth and our beloved Royal Family especially Her Majesty and Prince Phil as he is colloquially known here. The will be no winds of change from Down Under, no matter what Mrs.T thinks about the stirrings in Africa. Everyone in Australia knows his or her place and we have Laws to ensure this!
    It is hoped that the UK PM listens to Muriel’s excellent advice, I fear he may be a waverer and has suspect judgement. We believe (based on back stairs government house gossip) that he has an interesting home life. Perhaps Dorothy is knitting him a backbone.
    We are looking forward to hearing the Jasper and Mrs. T’s apology floorcoverings and pikelets are successful and they win their way back to a very Important Someone’s good graces!

    All the best from the land of kangaroos and green and brown linoleum,

    • Moira Taylor says:

      “Perhaps Dorothy is knitting him a backbone”!! Haven’t laughed so much in years!

  7. Jim Clelland says:

    “Never mind that now Mrs T, just remember when you hear the clank of bottles hover like a gazelle, poised with a damp cloth.” Sensible.

    “Well he said that seeing as he was in the dog house over the Mint Julep incident last week…” somethings can only be forgiven over time.

    “Oh I didn’t say that, but after a fuss, you have to keep them on a tight rein Mrs T or they end up buying unplanned linoleum.” sometimes it’s unavoidable.

    “Jasper is not particularly devoted to the Royal Family, certainly not as much as he is devoted to caramel wafers. I have asked him to cost the alternative and I mean a Presidency not a packet of bourbons.” Indeed. Some day they, our American ‘cousins’ will elect somebody totally unstable…or do I mean unsuitable?

  8. Geraldine Coleman says:

    So that’s how it all started!

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