Out and About on Your Behalf

 Being simply marvellous is not a destination but a work in progress even for little moi!

Bringing the Essential into your Humdrum Lives

What a lovely plane

I am aware that you need me to keep up to date with developments on the front line that is home and fashion. Quite frankly it is a bit of a battlefield out there and I do my best to protect you from all that is unnecessary trivia and yet to bring into your humdrum lives the new and the essential.

For this reason I was up at dawn yesterday and while Jasper was still dreaming and fighting with his teddy bear threw myself into a taxi for Renfrew Aerodrome and the early flight to London. I don’t know about you but I adore the sound of engines on a BEA Viscount. The only disconcerting thing about Renfrew is the cemetery at the side of the runway, but an Askit powder and a glass of champagne works wonders and in no time one has left “the surly bonds of earth and climbed on laughter’s silver wings”, making a left

Threads from Paisley

turn over Paisley (where the thread comes from) and heading south.

Muriel Travels Well

It being early March and feeling, not only the wind but the icy blasts of necessity for winter economy, I opted for the bus to the terminus at Victoria and took the Underground the Earl’s Court. I know what you are thinking, “Muriel, public transport and foreigners from abroad, such possibilities for distress, but such a brave woman.” Well fear not timorous traveller, for I, like a good wine, travel well and as ever was prepared with my Mackintosh Square, travelling antimacassar and a large lace handkerchief soaked in Schiaparelli’s Shocking, just in case one’s fellow travellers have fallen short in applying the Oderono or have eaten something a little spicy.

My Mission

My mission on your behalf was to attend the Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition. It can be exhausting work, but while at times feeling like Stanley in search of Livingstone I am acutely aware that having taken the vows of Gracious Living I must press on to the Victoria Falls of homeware – the  American kitchen exhibits.

what lies in store in the cooking department

I can promise you ladies if you live for another couple of decades and your husband finds a career in differencing engines you are in for a treat! The Harrods stall, featuring American and Canadian electric cookers, was simply breathtaking. They were, quite honestly, as large as cinema organs with all manner of time dials and coloured lights. Some of them cost upwards of £170. I know Jasper, whose wallet was last opened when Ramsay MacDonald became Prime Minister, would never countenance such expenditure. For that

our trusty “rayburn”

matter I would not want to ruin the simple pleasure Mrs Travers (our daily woman what, does but not a lot) gets from cleaning the flue of the faithful Rayburn.

Not Just Yet!

Something else you might keep your eyes on for the future is another American invention and I don’t mean the rissole in a roll with onions and tomato sauce – that is going nowhere. No I mean the garbage disposal unit. For £50 you can grind up all your kitchen peelings, egg shells etc and wash them away. This saves one having to make that constant trip back and forth to the waste bucket with (as we were taught in my very good school) eggshells on a plate. The only problem is ladies that this technological development is designed for metal sinks and as you well know most of our sinks here in Scotland are made of earthenware. So this new kitchen gadget will have to wait.

Always Thinking of Others

Now I am a believer in sharing good fortune and I like people to know that when I am away on my travels I am thinking of them.  Thus from a novelty display I bought Mrs Travers a rubber top attachment for the kitchen tap. This has a combined spray and vegetable scraper which is guaranteed to make soup preparation a task one looks forward to. When I say one I don’t of course mean moi. Mrs T scrapes and I pop in and out of the kitchen to stir and season as required. An unsophisticated palette might result in a badly seasoned broth which in Scotland is almost a public declaration of insanity. For 9s 11d one cannot go wrong and I confidently suggest that women all over the country might benefit from a variety of rubber attachments.

Searching for Cosy kitchen equipment

I have to say, well I don’t but I intend to, all of these technological advances are a tad perplexing and one can leave one a tad bamboozled. However, after a sample or two from the Kenya Coffee House stand I was suitably re-juvenated and headed off to the Greek Street emporium of Madame Cadoc. This is a hardware shop and I adore a piece of fine hardware especially if it is French. Here one can find all manner of copper pans and coffee pots from France and the most wonderful salad bowls in mahogany or elm. There is something rather beautiful and cosy about this sort of kitchenware.

There were some wonderful knives of blue stainless steel, but I am not sure if I can trust Mrs Travers with these. They unfortunately look like the sort of thing brought up in courtroom dramas as “Exhibit A”. What I did like and I must confess purchased for my own interior decoration shop is a “best seller” a simple, wooden tool with a blade called a mandolin. They retail at 18s. 6d each, but I can promote them as essential party aids. Apparently in France they are never washed. I am speechless although hardly surprised and I can assure you in all the “airts and pairts” radiating off Great Western Road they will be scrubbed mercilessly.

Back to Glasgow

My cosy hat

I arrived back in Glasgow at lunchtime. The landing was a touch bumpy and when I came down the aircraft steps the wind nearly mandolined moi. Fortunately I was wearing one of my minks and matching hat which was just as well as there was a Glasgow Herald photographer and reporter waiting on the tarmac having received an anonymous tip off that a Glasgow celebrity of the marvellous kind would be arriving back from London.  I didn’t want to look too enthusiastic so I waved nonchalantly and said to the reporter ““Fear not – I bring glad tidings or at least wooden mandolins and rubber goods for the women of the West End.”

Repairing Wind Damage

Rogano’s, my favourite haunt

On the aircraft I managed to secure a copy of The Herald and noticed that M. Daniel Pediani of 14 Fitzroy Place and winner of the Grand Prix in the Hairdressing World, who sometimes cuts my hair, had placed an advertisement in the paper saying “March winds play havoc with your hair” and suggested that he might “ensure that you look immaculate in spite of the weather”. If there is one thing I like it is immaculate and so I asked the taxi driver to drop me off there. This suited me fine as Daniel agreed he could squeeze me in at 3.30pm, which meant I had time for the half lobster and glass of Chablis at The Rogano as well as pick up tickets for the Heather Ball (Convenor Lady Colquhoun of Luss) and Daly’s Spring Fashion Parade and buy a couple of yards of Pettigrew and Stephen’s “Californian Cotton” which will make some summer dresses for young Gayle, our ward who is almost two.

Just Too Exciting for Words

Although I am well known as a decorative needlewoman, my cushions and chair seats having been in their time something of a sensation, I draw the line at home dressmaking. Fortunately our nursery nurse Hairy Highland Mary from Inveraray is very skilled with the needle and thread and the sewing machine. I have managed to resurrect the old Singer sewing machine which my grandmother banished to an outhouse on learning of its existence.

Dear Grandmamma

Dear Grandmamma had very distinct ideas about the behaviour of young ladies and constantly worried that if they showed any interest in excitement they might ruin their marriage prospects as she believed no Glaswegian man of substance wanted an exciting wife. This presumably is why “Busty Betty’s” down by the canal, was such a prosperous business during the years when Glasgow was “the Second City of Empire. Grandmama also regarded bicycling as too exciting for girls and the sewing machine, well that was a sensation approaching depravity.

It was a mercy that she did not live long enough to witness the full introduction of the telephonist’s switchboard and shorthand and typing courses. I fear the site of a typewriter might have brought on a stroke. When a distant cousin was once caught syncopating on the piano one New Year, Grandmamma was under the doctor for a month and my cousin was sent to “a clinic” in Lochgilphead.

Music for the piano

I suspect that the use of the syllable “syn” at the beginning of the word combined with the rather forward young woman on the front of the music was the giddy limit for my dear grandmother.

A Hot Bath, a Glass of Sherry and Something Fishy

enjoying a light supper in my housecoat

Oh, my feet are sore; I must just slip into my slippers and housecoat. It is nice to be a leader of fashion and interior decoration, but it is always nice to come home.

“Mrs T is that you? I rather fancy a wee sherry and then I might have a bath and a light supper. Where, incidentally, is Jasper?”

“Certainly madam, indeed I have already placed the decanter and some peanuts and before you say anything yes there is a doily and a silver teaspoon. Might I say Mrs Wylie how nice your hair is looking.”

“Thank you, well anticipated. I would like to say the same to you but actually your hair looks like the proverbial burst cushion, what have you been doing?”

“Actually ma’am I got Mr Wylie and Hilda, the German vuman vat does zee heavy vork” to help me get the sewing machine out of the scullery so that I might oil the working parts.”

Our elderly sewing machine

“Well done and is it vorking, I mean working?”

“Oh it’s vorking very vell. Hilda and I tested it and found it so exciting we had to have a glass of ginger wine. Hilda became rather tearful as she said it took her back to her youth in the Black Forest, to the days before the Fuhrer banded excitement and they were left with cuckoo clocks and that cake which is far too rich. “

“By the way, while we are talking cuckoo – where is Mr Wylie?”

“Oh he said the moving of the sewing machine had hurt his back so he would rest it at the Club before going on to a lecture at The Royal Scottish Geographical Society where a George Brand “of the successful Everest Expedition” is giving a talk with coloured slides on The Land Of The Incas”.

Jasper’s beloved club

“That’s a long way from Everest, sounds fishy to me. You know Mrs T when I was reading The Herald today there was an interview with Mrs Walter Eliot about women like myself – women  in public life – and she said there is one thing men have that women don’t and that is the “gift of idleness”; men have a greater grasp of it.”

“Shall I run your bath and bring you up a sherry? I think there are some Yardley bathcubes.”

“Too spoiling, but yes and before I forget I bought you this; it’s a wonderful rubber attachment, it might even lead to more excitement.”

à bientôt

Muriel Wylie

March 1957

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7 Responses to Out and About on Your Behalf

  1. Lucy Garden says:

    Goodness, Muriel, how on earth did you manage all that and yet be back in Glasgow by lunchtime? There is always so much to see at the Ideal Home Exhibition, I can stay there for hours. They have such nice elegant young ladies demonstrating cookery techniques, for example. I know we both had a good grounding at our Very Good School, but they have excellent ideas for using the latest kitchen appliances. You have such a busy life, I feel quite exhausted just reading about it!

    • Muriel Wylie says:

      My Dear Lucy,
      Tut, tut – careless with your reading my dear. You have not being paying attention, for I clearly state “I was up at dawn yesterday…for the early flight”. Marvellous as I am, I am not superhuman.
      Yours truly
      Muriel

  2. Moira Taylor says:

    You endeavour as always to entertain, educate and inform us and you achieve this in ways that The BBC could never manage.
    Although the kitchen disposal unit seems, at first, a fabulous idea, I must confess to rather enjoying pounding my eggshells into oblivion when the mood (or temper) takes me. So I shall be passing on that for the foreseeable.
    I am however inspired by you and shall head forthwith to Jenners in search of the latest rubber attachments designed to ease the frustrations of the modern housewife.
    Looking forward to spotting the glamorous photograph of you in the Herald, you always know just what to wear for every occasion Muriel – even appearing in the press (oh dear I should have written Press there in case you thought I was suggesting putting you in a cupboard!).
    Just a tad concerned about the level of excitement you may have induced in the staff, Muriel, what with the sewing machine I would have left the introduction of the rubber attachment for a day or two ……

    • Muriel Wylie says:

      Dear Moira,

      Ever wise as usual – the new attachment to the sink tap has caused a bit of a stir in our household. Mrs T had to have a lie down before leaving to catch her bus home.

      Toodle pip

      Muriel

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

    Chérie Muriel,

    My dwaaling, one can’t think of anything one would like more than a rubber attachment which leads to more excitement! Please let moi know immédiatement they arrive in stock at Chez Nous. Whilst we are on the subject of excitement; one is terribly keen on fine French hardware too – the more French and the more hard the better, je dis. Will this also be coming into Chez Nous for the Spring? Although, one must say that this mandolin contraption sounds rather vicious……one will steer well clear……the upkeep of one’s manicure is paramount!

    Maintenant chérie, moi aussi fancies a wee Sherry and a long bath. One is utterly all in! Yesterday was a very long day of elocution examinations with my little darlings, and, as you know, I am a martyr to my little darlings; not to mention my feet. Alors, peut-être I’ll save the Sherry for later and go straight in for a glass of Champagne and an Askit pooder, comme toi, Mu dwaaling. Then a long lie down on the chaise with Mimi the Shih Tzu whilst I ponder the notion of excitement……..and where best to find it……..

    Yours draped in Shih Tzu,
    Lulu xxxx

    P.S. One couldn’t agree more with the esteemed Mrs Walter Elliot: not only have men grasped ‘the gift of idleness’; they have turned it into an art form!

    • Muriel Wylie says:

      Dearest Lulu,

      How good of you to find time in your busy schedule to jot down a few mots to moi. I do hope this has not been too much of a sacrifice for your dear little pupils and their Italian vowels.

      Do not wear yourself out with excitement. I will contact you as soon as my new supplies of rubber attachments arrive from London. I can arrange for them to be posted to you – plain wrapping of course so that you may whip them out and surprise your neighbours.

      Your ever loving friend

      Mu xx

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