Shuffled Off and Taps Aff
Baroness Waterside, the cross bench peer and interior decorator extraordinaire, and her husband Jasper Wylie GOB (Grand Order of Bulgaria), have long since “shuffled off this mortal coil”.
Now just in case you have been educated at a failing school, that is a phrase used by the well known Shakespearean writer William Shakespeare who said it in his famous soliloquy in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. This is a play, which despite being written by a man from the Midlands, is set in Denmark quite close to Elsinore Castle. Denmark is where we get fairy tales and Lego from and Princes who talk to themselves.
Oh yes and sandwiches without tops on which do not go down well in Glasgow as the contents tend to end up down the front of halter neck tops on “wee nichts oot”. Retrieving a gherkin from a cleavage outside the Armadillo following a concert can cause all sorts of problems. “Taps aff” is a term applied to the reaction of Scots when they see the Sun (usually a day in May or June) and not an instruction to sandwich maker).
Despite the fact that Muriel and Jasper Wylie now occupy a cloud somewhere in heaven with their family and friends, there has been a revival of interest in all things connected with them. So much so that there is even talk of creating a theme park called “Wylie World” to be based in South West Scotland where they have mainly pot holes, spruce trees and no tourists to speak of. They do have cappuccino, but that is a fairly recent introduction, barely tolerated due to a focus on native food and beverages, such as ginger wine, ice cream floats, onions and turnips.
There are a great number of sheep, but no one knows what really happens to them as lamb chops are rather expensive and carpets have generally been given up in favour of laminate flooring .So perhaps they are just to provide a visual break in what little space remains between the spruce trees and the wind turbines. The latter are given to rural communities in return for grants for guitars and to keep essential services going, which saves Government’s time and money. This is good as they have none of these. Governments have noticed that if people are kept busy filling in forms and singing with guitars they will not notice that they are themselves incapable of running a ménage (Christmas club) let alone a country.
“Wylie World” –A Real Possibility
The realisation that economies, even rural ones, need places for people to work has made “Wylie World” a real possibility. Of course all the usual suspects have jumped on the bandwagon and are busy organising far from inclusive events that will defeat the original purpose but are “a hoot” anyway. Tribute evenings have taken place where guests have been asked to come in the spirit of Muriel and Jasper and thus the ballrooms of many a country house hotel have been filled with duster coats and massed cha-cha-cha demonstrations.
There has even been a new board game designed to appeal to the young, based on the Wylies alleged spying activities. Like most of these games it is totally unintelligible which makes it more appealing and a virtual reality version is in development. One current problem is finding an actress, sorry – actor, able to take on the role of Mrs Travers the legendary woman “what did, but not a lot”.
Few RADA graduates it seems are willing to allow makeup to provide them with legs that show extensive surgery for varicose veins.
Rides of Your Life?
Those promoting ‘Wylie World’ are taking American leisure and entertainment venues as their model. It is thus envisaged as a sort of Dollywood, but tailored to meet British expectations which are of course very limited as because of the last unpleasantness and eternal austerity since 1939, they are used to a “that’ll do mentality”. Manufacturers of Victorian Fairground rides are being sourced worldwide in the hope that rides can be developed which would include Jasper’s Humber Super Snipe in the most daring upside down experience yet known.
The Lady Pentland-Firth Wall of Death motor cycle ride has got to the drawing stage, but the speeds she managed to obtain are now considered unadvisable given the requirements of modern health and safety legislation. The Handsome Stranger’s Siberian spy ride will break new ground in its extravagant use of snow and ice and sip as you go cocktail dispensers. The latter may prove uneconomical due to new Scottish legislation increasing the price of alcohol to stem the national addiction with the “swally”. Little chance, one suspects, and the booze runs to Carlisle have already started.
The Key to It All
Of course none of this is going to be possible without the co-operation of the major trustee of the Wylie Estate and that is their nephew, retired thespian Sir Sebastian Wylie Fox. As befits someone brought up not only by Muriel and Jasper, but Cousin Lulubelle he is, despite his age, pretty on the ball when it comes to business matters. He spent a number of years living in close proximity to millionairess Lulubelle Du Bois Sanders while he was at method acting school. Not that there was really much to learn as the entire Wylie family were naturally given to overacting.
Time in New York, however, got the whole family out of what might have been a major scandal along with a prison sentence when Sebastian was discovered being very theatrical with one of his chums from the Ivanhoe Hotel. Fortunately the Chief Inspector of Police owed Muriel a number of favours arising out of her intimate knowledge of his private life and Sebastian was allowed to disappear to New York until Scotland came to grips with what was going on in the real world and became more comfortable with itself which was a year or so ago.
Sebastian has become one of Britain’s most treasured actors on stage and on film not to mention increasingly digitally re-mastered. His Shakespearean roles have never been bettered except by a string of other actors. He has not been afraid to appear in British soaps and has been horribly disfigured in an Albert Square Christmas fire in Eastenders.
A Pair of Chancers
There is now rarely an award ceremony where he is not paired with Dame Judy or having a lip pursing competition with Sir Ian. In short Sebastian IS British entertainment or at least was, as he now lives in a themed retirement village for the terminally overdressed on the Slough Trading Estate. He has some memory problems or so it seems to people who do not realise he has real memory problems…… or does he?
He still makes occasional appearances and is also responsible for the huge Wylie collection of archives now much sought after by many of the nation’s great and not so great museums and many curators all of whom think they are great, failing to realise they exist like everything else for a moment in time.
Chief among his pursuers, indeed one might call them stalkers, (except Sebastian “never out fox the Fox”, is always one step ahead unless he forgets) are Sunday Slouch journalist Hilary Dee Range and her side kick the uber museum curator, Vivienne Valhalla. They are paying him one of their regular visits.
In the Mood for a Royal Wedding
The mood at the Home for the Terminally Overdressed has not been good. Brexit proved to be very divisive and many actors who are from the Caribbean have been wondering if, as the Windrush generation, they will be staying or going. It has also been a long winter and the promise of winter is still a tease even in Royal Berkshire.
Talking of which the activity staff, who are mainly from Eastern Europe and so have already got half a suitcase packed, have been busy stimulated by the forthcoming Royal Wedding. The Home has been decorated for the purpose and a street party is planned. This has caused some ill feeling. There are those who throw themselves into a royal knees up and say things like “Well say what you like as far as I am concerned the Queen never puts a foot wrong”. This is particularly true of those who have recently had cameo roles in The Crown or Victoria as they know how to wear court dress and which side the Garter Star goes.
On the other hand there are those in the acting world whose political beliefs tend to the Left and would rather have a street party featuring a stream of consciousness around socially realistic themes such as housing and under-employment. Although even they agree this would make the consumption of Coronation Chicken and Battenberg Cake a rather miserable affair.
A Collection for All
For this reason and the prevailing attitude of “well at least it’s a party” the residents have come together for a week of activities designed to stimulate neural pathways and add a bit extra to the monthly invoice. A Mary Berry look alike, who was formerly a Top of the Pops cameraman called Martin, has judged a wedding cake competition. In honour of the groom, an afternoon tea has taken place with a ginger theme. Sebastian has curated an exhibition of wedding dresses as well as photographs of weddings his Aunt attended from his extensive collection, which is taking place in the Elizabeth Taylor Loggia.
It is to this exhibition that our two London ladies from the arts and media world arrive breathless with anticipation. “Oh Sir Sebastian”, said the Uber Curator, Vivienne, “if only the wider world could see this, how it would tick all our boxes about education, sorry I mean learning. I had almost forgotten that we no longer educate people.” “Wonderful” , replied the supplement journalist, “so full of inclusive possibilities. Tell me Sir Sebastian while we realise this is only the tip of the iceberg, is there anything else in your Aunt’s collection by way of reflecting gender issues or indeed minorities ethnic or dare I say it additional needs?”
“Darlings,” responded Sir Sebastian, “you name it, I got it. With the exception of course of the Southside of Glasgow and certain parts of Edinburgh, Aunt Muriel always believed this area of collecting was more the preserve of the ethnographer or unhinged.”
Probing Questions and Tantalising Answers
“Oh of course, we should have known” said the ace reporter.
“Yes you should. Aunt Muriel was nothing if not comprehensive and of course Uncle Jasper catalogued everything.”
“Is there a particularly important Collection within the collection?” enquired Vivienne.
“Well of course there are Cousin Lulubelle’s wedding dresses which are quite extensive in number. Not to mention her widow’s outfits which are equal in number.”
“What about archive material?”
“Oh many important and nationally significant items such as her letters advising Jackie Kennedy and Princess Grace about wedding dress style and design. Of course there are her letters to Kensington Palace, following the wedding of Princess Diana when she offered to buy the couple a steam iron as the civil list was clearly not what it was.”
“Anything else of importance?”
“Well you see dear ladies, the dress collection is important in its entirety. Aunt Muriel of course not only had a business designing interiors but she opened in the late 1950’s a dress shop to cater for the ordinary middle class well paid customer. Her financial backer my second cousin Lulubelle……”
“Was she once removed?” said the excited reporter.
“On more than one occasion” responded Sebastian, “but despite that she believed that Aunt Muriel had too many eggs in one basket and needed to diversify. “Honey lamb”, said Cousin Lulubelle, “y’all gotta expand horizontally and vertically; y’all need to help the appearance of the Glaswegian woman on the outside as well as the inside of her home. Honey, jist prey.”
“Did she mean pray to the Lord? I imagine she was a southern Baptist.” said the Uber Curator thinking of the title for an interpretive panel .
No, she…. not exactly…. she meant prey on Women’s insecurities and she could see the consumer boom of the 1960’s coming this way.”
“The way of the Lord ?”
“No! Just way along Great Western Road, where they opened a dress shop called Muriel’s.
“And are these some of the dresses?”
“Yes as well as some family ones and associated memorabilia to provided context and meaningful object handling sessions. Do you think your Museum might be interested in expanding this, Miss……….”
The Uber Curator is Overwhelmed
“Shut up, just shut up… why this is Museum of the Year stuff! Going forward, not to mention lifetime achievement stuff, going forward! Would you lend it to us? Better still would you donate it? We could then apply for Collection Significance status, expand our platform offer and I could get a better job. I mean move on to other opportunities in the public service.”
“Not really. Some American institutions are interested and they have very big pocket books. The Met has telephoned.”
This Time Next Year, Or The Year After
“Oh I thought they would be too busy with their exhibition on Catholic Influences on fashion,” said the Uber curator, looking puzzled.”
“They are dear ladies but they are looking for something for next year, or the year after; something really big, something really influential, something game changing.”
“And they think it’s your Aunt Muriel?”
“Indeed they do.”
“Well” they exclaimed in unison, “we must dash for the train for Windsor, Vivienne is covering the Wedding tomorrow from a Window in Peacock Street. I imagine Sir, you will be watching it on TV?”
“No, I will be there.”
“Where – in the quadrangle with the other invited commoners?”
“No, inside a few rows behind the Family.”
“Who is your plus one?”
“Oh Aunt Muriel of course; she is always my plus one. Now must you really dash? You are going to miss The Rovers’ Return Royal Quiz and The Call the Midwife Special in the General Hospital Set where the Nuns are asking for Princess Diana to be made a saint.”
“But Sir Sebastian aren’t you getting muddled up. Call the Midwife is set in the 1950s and Princess Diana was in the 1980s and 90’s”
“Oh dear ladies have you learned nothing. It may have been the 1980’s or 1990’s and it may now be 2018, but that is all fantasy. You see for many of us it will always be the 1950s in Britain. It wasn’t all plain sailing, but we had hope then as well as sticky out skirts and now all we have is the unknown, with the exception of the Eurovision Song Contest and Strictly in the autumn.
That is why we like Royal Weddings even when we don’t really like them and of course it means cake and in Britain one is never more than five feet from a cake and cakes are a mixture of chemistry and hope like marriage.”
A Piece of Cake
“Will you be back ladies? I do hope so. We haven’t discussed ‘Wylie World’ yet.”
“No Sir; thank you for reminding us, but that is big; very big it would mean lottery applications and actual work for us.”
“Ladies it would mean a lot more. Think of the audience development; it would be like Blackpool meets Royal Ascot, target audiences from A-Z.”
“You are so right…. Actually we should love a piece of that cake.”
“Glad to see you continuing to use my metaphors.”
“Oh and Sir , we have not even touched upon the whole spy thing and the missing map in 1958, and the death of Winnie of The Wool Shop, now considered the leading figure in Britain’s three ply and novelty knitting revival.”
“No neither we have. Perhaps I should come up to that London and talk possibilities.”
“Yes we could treat you to suppa.”
“Thank you The Ivy would be simply marvellous.
Sebastian Wylie Fox
Slough, near Windsor Castle May 2018