Was That Wise Jasper?
If truth be told, and why not I say, I have had one too many for the road. Not that I am driving of course, that would be far too silly. No; I left the old Humber Super Snipe at home and have slipped Billy Travers a quid to give it a wee going over with the chamois. Billy is the son of our woman what does but not a lot, Mrs Esme Travers. Billy is something of a wide boy and the only down side of leaving him in charge of the motor car is that I may well discover at some future date that it has been the getaway car for some daring robbery involving leading figures in the Glasgow gang world.
Still beggars cannot be choosers otherwise it would mean doing the job myself and I have far more interesting things to do. In any case I would only get wet and dirty and Muriel would make me sit in the conservatory, steaming like some tropical plant, until I was dry enough to enter what Mrs Travers and I call the decontamination process or gradual re-entry into the world of carpets and soft furnishings through the back door.
This involves removing the old gum boots, leaving them on newspaper, but not the Daily Telegraph or anything containing a picture of H.M. or Princess Margaret. Then one has to pass over at least three coir mats which is dashed sore on the old feet, sliding on two old hand towels (one foot on each towel) across the linoleum to the cold room where Mrs T removes my overall and throws it out of the open window. I am then allowed to proceed to the bathroom and I am ready for a bath – in Dettol! If I need refreshment prior to the steeping then I am allowed to use the gardener’s china, which Muriel has for outside help, visiting trades people and those who read The Daily Herald. I will spare you the details of what happens when we visit a farm; let’s just say if the plague makes a return visit to Glasgow it will be halted in Kelvinside.
Never One to be Contained by the Four Walls of an Office
I don’t know about you, but there are days when I find the conventional office a bit confining. One cannot think, given all the time that is required to be spent on thinking about work. I like to think of the world as my office and so, and please do not tell Muriel but I have set up pad and fountain pen at The Rogano in Exchange Square. Muriel is in a huff with the Manager here over his special last week of “eels” which she said made her feel like an East End barrow boy and is making her point by currently patronising The Spanish Lounge and making it known she has ordered castanets. So she will not be pleased if she knows I am here.
I will have to remember that I had lunch at The R.S.A.C. in Blythswood Square. That is the trouble with being married to a lady who, by her own admission, has managed the rare trick of combining a forensic mind with the right shade of kid gloves. It is not easy to cover one’s tracks – a bit like living with Miss Marple, only Muriel has better millinery.
If I can come up with a good back story then it will have been worth it for I have just had the most delicious “Karisma” – “a lobster dish, par excellence, served hot or cold for effortless enjoyment – this delectable dish is another of the many good things at The Rogano”. I totally agree and just as well I spotted that advertisement in this morning’s Glasgow Herald or I would be having last night’s leftovers with Mrs T, Hilda, zee german vuman vat does zee heavy vork, and “Hairy Mary” who is from Inveraray and is young Gayle’s Nursery Nurse.
Gayle is our ward and is proving to be a delightful, but messy, child who likes nothing more than to upturn her bowl of Heinz beef and veg and watch the reaction. To be honest I do not mind as I am rather partial to a spot of the old Heinz beef and veg myself – saves the bother of chewing and I can read Capodimonte Collector Monthly at the same time.
A Work in Progress
I must say that Pouilly-Fuissé is slipping down rather nicely, I might just have some crumble, it’s quite light and then the cheese board which will help with the hunger pangs later in the afternoon. The old vino is also helping my sore hip, far more than the wintergreen Muriel had Hilda applied this morning. I swear Hilda saw service on the Eastern front, she has hands that could chill vodka, which reminds me – I am supposed to get olives on the way home, don’t let me forget.
Just to put you in the picture vis-à-vis the old hip – Muriel is insisting that we take up the Cha-Cha-Cha. It seems we have had an invitation from her dear friend, Shona who runs the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh, to bring a bit of 1957 to this Georgian Institution next month. Muriel feels that Edinburgh is ripe for a little of her “je ne sais quoi” and needs a little something to add to its party repertoire other than shortbread and strathspeys. Needless to say, despite an already impossible workload, I am required to take part.
Now I am no natural terpsichorean so this is not easy, and the Taylor – Buckley School of Dance has been engaged to teach me some of the essentials for a simple routine. I am now waking in the middle of the night and all I can hear is Xavier Cugat in the background and Mr Taylor waving his cane at me and shouting at me is “and hips and hips” and to “go bigger on the New Yorker”. If I go any bigger I’ll stop the traffic at Anniesland Cross. Really I am not sure how it is possible to combine feet, hands and head and apparently never stop. I think I will just call the waiter to refresh my glass.
Business in Dundee
I am not expecting Muriel back home until later, she has gone to Dundee to see some of the jute manufactures about new products to retail through our business “Chez Nous”, which is Scotland’s leading interior design company and purveyor of quality three piece suites and unusual knick-knacks or what Muriel calls bibelots. Our business partner Cousin Lulubelle believes “Chez Nous” needs to widen its customer base and go for products that will appeal to the pocket of the ordinary Scots who will increasingly find themselves in what are called New Towns.
Whole areas of our countryside are being turned into places where the new industries will flourish and people who formerly lived in Glasgow tenements will live in modern comfort. As the Scottish Land Development Corporation puts it “General Wade used a spade – now bulldozers do it”. Of course Cousin Lulubelle with her American get up and go has sensed a market for furnishings and is accordingly pushing Muriel to take an interest in leatherette and glass clowns when her heart is really in tassels and deep buttoned sofas. I do sense a change in her, however, and she has even expressed a liking for beech tables with sticky out legs describing Ercol furniture as “one of the finest designs in British furniture of all times”.
She has gone to Dundee to see Mr Irvine at The Verdant Works, a splendid gentleman with whom she hopes to do some business regarding jute carpets which she thinks may well be just the thing to aim at those seeking to furnish a young person’s bedroom. Muriel telephoned last night to say he had given her the most marvellous tour of the works and she finds it a comfort to know that he still looks like his Edwardian predecessors – every inch the gentleman. She did say it was rather noisy and the women have to speak to one another in sign language. A jolly good idea all round if you ask me.
Apparently she also bumped into a certain young man, Craig, who was at the very good Oxford Varsity learning about art. Muriel is very fond of Craig whom she calls “the dear boy”. They share an interest in cathedrals despite Muriel being a Presbyterian. I suppose she is a sort of high Presbyterian if that is possible and let’s face it with Muriel anything is possible.
Muriel Speaks Or, Rather, Writes Her Mind
Making the day one’s own is always possible if one has at least made a jolly good stab at completing what I call “Orders of the day”. These are instructions which are usually listed just as one is tucking into a toasted grapefruit or a juicy kipper. They are listed twice once verbally and then in paper form in what Muriel calls “reinforcement”. Thus this morning I posted a birthday card to H.M. The Queen Mother who is 57, making sure the stamp was straight and that Mrs Travers spit was not allowed to seal the envelope in case it contained republican germs, and letters to a Miss Nott and Lord Altrincham.
The letter to Miss Kathleen Nott is Muriel’s response to an article in Encounter entitled “My Life in Hard Cash” in which Miss Nott says “the English are more abnormal about money than any other European nation”. Muriel’s rejoinder was along the lines of “remembering that the nation was Great Britain, whatever the peculiarities of the English and their relationship with money and indeed, had she ever visited Paisley, the use of the word abnormal in the context of Britannia was surely an inaccuracy as anyone who had carried out proper research would know Britain is not any other European nation, it is the European nation as is obvious even with the shortest glance at a globe. Admittedly” she continues “it is set a little to one side, gliding between the North Sea and the Atlantic, but only in that benign way of a truly loved Emperor. For as we all know familiarity breeds contempt.”
The letter to Lord Altrincham is in connection with his recent piece on the Royal Family in which he “takes a hard look at the monarchy” writing with “sturdy, not servile. loyalty”. He criticises their public functions, presentation parties and the social composition of the court which largely comprises “people of the tweedy sort”. He wants change so that the Queen can “come into her own as an independent and distinct character” with more cultural activities and less unveiling of stones.
Well I will spare you the details of Muriel’s reply suffice to say it had to be sent as a parcel and there were long critiques of the words “character” when describing Her Majesty and the possible danger to the Scottish economy if the tweedy sort were to be replaced by people in man-made fibres. The words “Traitors Gate” and “Tower Hill” were mentioned, but if I were to tell all I would have to order another drink and that would be unadvisable. Personally I agree with his Lordship but as Prune Whip is on the menu for suppa I shall opt for silence as usual.
The letters duly posted, I called in at The Kelvin Hall to present Muriel’s entries for “The National Sweet Pea, Rose and Carnation Society” which is to be opened by the Marchioness of Bute along with a hand written note to the President. This reminded him that the wooden staging had been the gift of her father in 1919 as the previous structure had been broken up and used to make stretchers for the western front in the First Unpleasantness and along with a yearly donation, reviewed annually, once a year by the Lochhead family. It was, however, the letter went on to say not necessary for Muriel to win yet again “the most fragrant” categories despite having done so since 1919, others should have a chance while they still had the staging.
Good Old Fashioned Service
Talking of staging things, Muriel suggested that she thought my wardrobe was in need of a little refreshing which is her way of saying if I want that old gardening jacket it has gone to the forthcoming jumble sale in aid of The Home for Fallen Women which can expect to be busy after Glasgow Fair Fortnight. So to show willing I went first to Coplands, where we have an account, and bought a couple of pairs Clydella jim-jams in their sale, a poplin shirt and a crew neck pullover. I expect that Muriel will send the crew neck back as being suitable for the sort of man who wears suede shoes but, sometimes I like to put up a fight.
I then went to Rowans in Buchanan Street and was greeted by the Manager who said “Ah Mr Wylie, Mrs Wylie telephoned we have been expecting you, the man who is fastidious about his clothes appreciates the Rowan Service.”
I am clearly an appreciating and appreciated customer as he and his two assistants took infinite pains over my measurements for “a ready tailored summer lounge suit”. My inside leg had to be measured three times as, apparently, they would hate to make a mistake in that department as the front of the trouser can so easily hang badly causing great disappointment all round. “What do you do about keeping it up Mr Wylie?” asked the Manager, with the sort of concern one only gets with the best outfitters of the gentleman’s sort”. “Well generally” I replied, “I just use willpower, an old tie or a piece of string. I find that works when one is toiling away in an unkempt bed full of bindweed and sticky willy.” They were so amused I got an extra 10% off the sale price.
When a Hair Cut is an Investment!
They did ask if I would like to see some sports shirts which they had in the store room out at the back for valued customers with a modern approach to life but I had to decline. Muriel had made me an appointment to have my hair dressed at Sturrocks in Exchange Square. They offer more than just a hair cut, they offer “an opportunity” and their advert suggests, “A personal Investment, Gentlemen, that pays dividends is to have the hair dressed regularly at Sturrocks”. Well it was certainly an investment on my part and much dearer than my usual, quick whizz round with the clippers by Jimmy at Herr Cuts, the demon barber, but I have to admit it was handy for the old lobster lunch which is just around the corner and jolly good it has been too.
“Well why not waiter, just a double brandy and then I will be off. Don’t let me forget my shirts and suit; I don’t have long enough for anymore measuring and remind me again about the olives or was it tonic or was it vodka or maybe gin? Better just get the lot in case. Oh waiter if you push that table back I will show you my cha-cha-cha. Yes of course I do the New Yorker, like Gene Kelly.”
Later that Night
“Jasper, Mrs T, I am home. A bit late as I stopped off at Gleneagles for a bite to eat. And before I look at your new purchases, Jasper, there are two policeman here who would like to see you with some silly story about your car being seen leaving the scene of a gangland robbery.”