Nice Girls

Take that Jungle Out of My Drink

Dans le jardin surviving the heat

It is very warm and Mrs Travers our daily woman what does (but certainly not much in the summer heat) has brought me out a Pimm’s. By the look of her I imagine she has been trying to judge the right quantities of alcohol and lemonade for a couple of hours. She thinks I do not notice. The tell tale signs are when the garnish of fruit slices and a sprig of mint emerge from the French windows looking more like the jungles of Borneo.

Dear Grandpapa – Such a Selfless Human Being

I often wonder what my dear Grandmamma would say about Mrs Travers. She could never tolerate an overly familiar servant. A maid entering her bedroom with the breakfast tray and a demeanour that was either too cheerful or too morose would find herself dismissed without references. This was a sure route to ruin and Blythswood Square as my rrandfather pointed out. He was always far more lenient than my grandmother. Like Mr Gladstone he was interested in helping fallen women to redeem themselves.

This was a very noble and selfless act, involving him spending a great deal of time in Blythswood Square talking to the women. In an effort to understand their personal circumstances he would often talk to them for hours in a local hotel. Grandfather knew the meaning of the word sacrifice, my Grandmother on the other would just fling the contents of her night stand at the maid yelling, “Who does she think she is telling me it is a lovely morning? I shall be the judge of that.” Oh indeed Victorian Glasgow was not all fun and frolics you know. Grandfather’s sense of duty and love of his fellow man led him to found the Home for Fallen Women of which I am now Chair and its sister organisation the Orphan Homes run by Lady Pentland-Firth.

Always A Fuss

Jasper looking for his other gardening glove

I sometimes wonder if Mrs Travers knows how lucky she is, but then times are changing and it is not easy to get domestic help. Many women now would rather work on factory production lines or in shops. I have a feeling it will not be too long before we all have to do our own housework. What a ghastly thought. We would certainly have to move somewhere smaller. For one thing we couldn’t manage the gardens here in Glasgow and at our Rural Bolthole.

As I speak Jasper is being cut to shreds as he dead heads the roses. One would think he was at the Somme and not in the middle of my Queen Elizabeths. That’s men of course, even the simplest of tasks are made into a fuss of one sort or another. You have no idea how much detail we all seem to require when Jasper ties his shoes laces, it’s like a racing commentary.

He is also communicating across borders with the gardener who is trying to rabbit proof the vegetable garden. I have never quite understood the purpose of rabbits but they seem to be everywhere. At least in the last Unpleasantness one could eat them or turn them into gloves. Eating rabbit seems to have gone out of fashion, but I must confess I rather like it. Delicious little kidneys!

Only Trying to Help

Gosh it’s warm

Gosh it’s warm. Not perhaps as warm as in Mrs Macaulay’s house. I still cannot get over that business with her niece, the plumber and the table without a cloth. We had them in for suppa to ascertain the situation in more detail. This was purely from a compassionate point of view you understand. If I have knowledge then I am in a better position to advise. There are somethings one should not have to face alone.  Mrs Macaulay said it was not the plumber’s face that she could not get out of her mind. Jasper, who was only trying to make light of the situation, asked if “it was like moonlight over Rothesay Bay?”

Unfortunately this made Mrs Macaulay somewhat tearful and prompted her husband to start going on about horsewhipping and having him barrowed to the city walls, having  connected the hot tap, he not expected connection with his wife’s niece under the Waring and Gillow (with two extra leaves enabling them to seat 18 with comfort). I doubt that they ever entertain on that scale, Mrs Macaulay finds shop bought mayonnaise a challenge. Not that I would ever criticise another woman’s cooking, although we once had gammon steak there and even Jasper said he had eaten better briefcases.

Garden Idyll

I do hope I never find Gayle under a piece of furniture with a tradesman. It is such a pity they grow up and lose their innocence. As I speak Gayle who is our ward is at the other end of the garden in her paddling pool with Hairy Mary the Nurse from Inverarary and Grace, our new treasure from the West Indies who seems to be settling in well. She is certainly an improvement on the awful Hilda now embalmed next to Lenin I imagine, after betraying her country and being gored to death by a bull in Spain near Seville.

Grace has blown the paddling pool up and placed it on a travelling rug to stop any stones piercing the underside. Gayle seems to be enjoying herself splashing about and watching Hairy Mary play “Granny’s Bonnets” with the Convolvulus being weeded out by the gardener.

I don’t think I ever saw my granny without a bonnet on. It was hats outside and mutches indoors and lace caps for sleeping and if one’s ears stuck out then a firm cap tied under the chin would eventually do the trick. Of course in those days so much of the body was covered up. I think in some ways things were so much nicer then – girls were nicer too. I am afraid this new ‘rock and roll’ is going to make niceness a thing of the past.
Fortunately if my pile of correspondence is anything to go by there are still enough of you who want to hold on to niceness and I therefore live in hope. Let me share one or two with you.

Correspondence from Nice Girls

keeping up with my correspondence

Dear Muriel,                                                                                                                                                       I recently became a woman while staying at a hotel near Troon in Ayrshire.
What should I do?
Yours sincerely
Dawn from Dallmellington (18)

Dear Dawn,
Always carry Askit Pooders and stay away from boys until you are 60.
Firstly, 18 seems rather old to have just become a woman, could it be that you are either malnourished or we are talking at cross purposes? Secondly that is a rather expensive hotel in Troon; are you sure you are from Dalmellington?

Dear Muriel,
A boy asked me this morning if I would go on a date with him this evening. He wants to meet me at the local coffee bar.
Do nice girls do this sort of thing?                                                                                                                Hope, from Helensburgh

Dear Hope,
I imagine that with same day postal deliveries being a thing of the past the damage is already done.
A number of things occur to me. Nice girls do not go out with boys on the day on which they have been asked. For example, if a young man wishes to go out with you on a Saturday evening he should ask you the previous Wednesday. Nice boys do not arrange to meet first dates in a coffee bar. They go to the girl’s house in order that the parents may meet him and satisfy themselves that his hair is the right length and he does not have “come to bed eyes”.
Finally I notice that your address is Helensburgh which suggests you have been brought up as a nice girl. Are you pushing your luck young lady?

Good Prospects

Dear Muriel,
I was recently taken out by a boy. It was a Saturday evening and he asked me the previous Wednesday and came to collect me from my parents’ house. He had nice hair and good prospects.
We went to see Gigi as he likes musicals and did not hold my hand so there will be no baby. When we went back to my house, I did not of course invite him to my room, but after drinking a cup of Bournvita my older brother invited him to his room. I know I should have been pleased that they get on so well, but I could not help feeling jealous of their shared interest in Wade Collectable Animals and The Chordettes. He is coming next weekend to show my mother how to make sliced cucumber in lime jelly for a summer party. She says he is just the sort of son-in-law she can imagine having. What should I do?
Sandra, from Strathpeffer

Dear Sandra,
As if you do not have enough to put up with coming from Strathpeffer.
Unfortunately Sandra this is a hard lesson, but some things are just not meant to be. It is better that you admit sooner or later that you do not share an interest in Wade Collectables or The Chordettes. It may be tempting to pretend given your young man’s fine prospect, but believe me this will only lead to disappointment and heartbreak later on.
Yours sincerely

Dear Muriel,
Having recently become engaged to a man in the early stages of insurance as the result of being a nice girl, I am thrilled at the prospect of married life, particularly as my fiancé has promised me a top loader and separate boiler for whiter than whites.
I do, however, want to remain a nice girl rather than abandon myself to passion and drive him into the arms of someone less exciting in cost accountancy. Have you any advice?
Jean from Jedburgh

Dear Jean,
A top loader and separate boiler for whites – you sound like my kind of woman and someone who could be fast tracked on one of my exclusive “Simply Marvellous” courses. I shall send you a brochure.
You are so right; so many marriage fail because of an excess of passion in the early stages. This raises many things including expectations which cannot be fulfilled over the next 50 years or so.
Once you are married, start as you mean to go on. Begin increasing his food intake, this will make for sluggish behaviour and much slumping in front of the television which I am sure you can afford. A shed is vital so that he has somewhere to go to engage in a mind-numbing hobby.

a shed is a must for a happy marriage

Some back breaking gardening are also good for keeping a husband just that little bit below par. Introduce a bit of do-it-yourself activities around the house, even though I am sure you can afford tradesmen. This will make him feel manly, while exhausting him at the same time.
Remember do not give too much of yourself. Learn to dress, and undress, underneath your dressing gown. I know I have talked about this before, but one must not pass up the opportunity to spread knowledge and practical know how. It is a tricky and lengthy process and inevitably (and hopefully) induces sleep. Just remember nothing lacy, honeymoons do not go on forever; find something in a thick wool in a nice battleship grey colour.
Oh indeed dear correspondent niceness does not end with marriage, for it is a beginning – the beginning of the rest of your life and his, however, long or indeed short it may be.
I hope that is helpful.
Yours sincerely
P.S. While he is in the mood why not hang out for a separate spin dryer? They are wonderful with excess water and don’t forget the steam iron.

The Cost of the Last Unpleasantness

Dear Muriel,
I was a nice girl who got in a taxi in London with an American GI during the last Unpleasantness. Unfortunately during the next few days of his leave we ate a lot of doughnuts and held hands rather a lot and Hank Junior is now 14. What should I have done and does your Cousin Lulubelle know anyone called Hank in West Virginia? He owes me big time.
Elsie, from Elvanfoot

Dear Elsie,
Oh dear, if I had a dollar for every story I have heard like yours I would be a rich woman.
I expect you fell prey to the transitory delights of chewing gum, and nylon stockings as well as his doughnuts.
Elsie dear you are not alone – many a nice girl fell for “a yank” called Hank. I am not one to judge and let us face it one had to live for the moment and even I, on occasion, felt moved to sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic while enjoying one of Dame Myra Hess’s Concerts at the National Gallery with a member of Eisenhower’s High Command.
They were dishy, but fortunately I always carry a hat pin. Taxis are dangerous places, they are an open invitation to handholding even for the nicest of girls. I would never dream of entering one without checking first that there is a good three or four inches of pearl or jet tipped cold steel anchoring my titfer to my head.
I realise this is a lesson too late for the learning but meanwhile I will have my Cousin comb West Virginia for your Hank.                                                                                                                   Yours sincerely                                                                                                                                        Muriel

Time to Pop into Town

Talking of Americans a Mr Bernard Goldfine, the Boston textile tycoon, is being investigated by a Senate sub-committee about his friendships, his finances and his delayed income tax. It sounds a rather murky affair but then it always is when politics and business interests are mixed. Imagine what it would be like if a business tycoon became President of America?

Just time to pop into town

I must not dwell on that though. I think I have had enough sun and there are pressing matters in town. For example, plaited straw is everywhere, there are gay skirts at Watt Brothers and examples of Hardy Amis working in acetate, which I do not like the sound of and Dior has introduced the sack dress, and I don’t much fancy that either – who wants to wear a sack? However, there is a Royal Worcester display at Copland and Lye with the possibility of purchasing a plate just like the one from the Maharaja of Boroda’s picnic set for £10. If I change quickly and get a taxi I should have enough time left. Now straw hat I think – and where did I put that extra long hat pin.

Muriel Wylie
July 1958

Dear Muriel,                                                                                                                                                  It’s me again, Hope – what exactly are “come to bed eyes?”

Dear Hope,
I cannot help but feel you are being somewhat disingenuous. I feel sure you will know by now. I have a feeling you are not as nice as you make out.

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3 Responses to Nice Girls

  1. Moira Taylor says:

    Ah Pimm’s. One has to admire Mrs Travers’ dedication to duty in order to ensure you are not disappointed in your choice of beverage. Bravo say I! Lucky for her that you inherited your dear grandfather’s kindness although one feels one really needs to have The Talk with you very soon….

    Surely it would never come to pass that ladies carry out household tasks Muriel? One will always be able to employ a woman what does for a small consideration. Talking of small considerations my puss, Freddie, is proving to be such a terrific rabbit hunter that one is thinking of hiring him out to the locals. Sadly, on the culinary front, he not only despatches them but consumes them too.

    Your advice is very sound and. like you, I feel Hope has been abandoned.

    As ever, one is simply agog at your wealth of knowledge, Muriel, and your grasp of current affairs. Bravo!

  2. Matthew Bate says:

    Weather-related brusqueness, hats, and what nice girls do in licensed Hackney cabs.

    It is very warm. I’m considering running it under the cold tap. Maybe my other Hand too. I’m not certain I’ve ever been so overheated as to be brusque with the help. Pointed, maybe, but never brusque. I have always been kind to fallen women, however.

    Hats are important. It should be the law, or at least some form of guideline, in this weather. At least a foldable Panama. There will be a return to the trilby. Bowlers may have had their day. Hats, like rock and roll, will never die. Nice girls will endure, with their being more honest about their natural desires.

    Poor Dawn. Such drastic surgery. Did she try counselling first? I understand it’s a simpler operation than its opposite, the strapadichtomy.

    I can recall being investigated by parents. It didn’t go well in spite of my top-loader. Fortunately I’m too old for such nonsense. It’s a new world in which no successful businessman will become President. A vulgar failure, perhaps.


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

    Chérie Muriel,

    Coming from the right side of Carlisle, as one does, it is safe to assume that my chum, Miss Gussetwarbler (pronounced Gousayvarbler), and I are indeed the very nicest of gals, who both know ‘come to bed eyes’ when we see them and are well-versed in dealing with RAWTHER forward young gentlemen in taxis. As you quite rightly state, a sharp prod with a hat pin or, failing that, a glimpse of your ladies’ handbag size machete usually does the trick – but always accompanied by a nice smile of course.

    One must say, one feels for that nice Sandra from Strathpeffer (as if it isn’t enough to come from Strathpeffer) who feels jealous of her beau and his shared interest in Wade Collectable Animals and The Chordettes with her brother. Personally, one is rather fond of The Chordettes but, being of a very theatrical nature oneself, one probably has a better grip of one’s senses in such matters. You advised her well, dear heart!

    On that note, Señora Wylie, one simply must ask Juan to pour one another carafe of Sangria……the heat does get to one, you know! Juan, a very nice young man from Barcelona, is helping moi to prepare for one’s Spanish sojourn…..his ‘Olé’ is really quite outstanding……

    Yours sampling Sangria,
    Miss Pootleplunger xxxx

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