The Silly Season or “Cucumber Time”

The silly season is when there is little news and Parliament and the courts are on holiday.
It is also the dull season in the tailoring trade.

The Germans call it “Die saure Gurken Zeit” (pickled gherkin time). Hence the expression Tailors are vegetarians because they live on “cucumber” when without work and on “cabbage” when in full employ)
Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable,1898

Muriel is at the Hairdressers

Under the dryer

“How are we getting on Mrs Wylie?”

“I am getting on just fine Senga, is M. Antoine coming back?

“Oh yes of course, he is just having a wee lie down, he says cutting your hair exhausts all his creative powers and he wants to recharge for the challenge of the comb out.”

“Well I can understand that; it is always a case of pushing the artistic boundaries when one is dealing with hair that has been likened to those of the Pre-Raphaelite beauties.”

“Is that what they called ginger in the old days. when you were a girl Mrs Wylie?”

“I do not have ginger hair Senga, if one can name such an elusive and lustrous entity as my coiffure it is strawberry blonde; as in Burne -Jones strawberry blonde.”

“It doesn’t look burnt at all to me Mrs Wylie, a bit faded in parts, but that is nothing that M. Antoine cannot sort for you, he does wonders with dye.”

Some Unlikely Pairings

“Yes I have seen him with that Welsh coal merchant; you know the one with hands like a packet of pork links and the suede shoes.”

“M Antoine says he is trying to bring out Mr Jones’s softer side to give him kerb appeal.”

“Yes from what I have heard he is certainly succeeding there. Is it true M. Antoine is directing Ivor Novelo’s Glamorous Nights for Lady Pentland-Firth’s Country House Concerts later this year?”

“Yes, apparently she needs some dosh for her Grinling Gibbons, I never knew she kept animals, they want me backstage”

“I can understand that. Who is in the cast?”

“I believe The Handsome Stranger has agreed to be Anthony Allen the inventor and your Cousin Miss Lulubelle has suggested she play the Gypsy Princess.”

“The Mary Ellis role?”

“I believe so.”

“But Mary was a sophisticated operatically trained star; she sang with Caruso and Chalialplin. My cousin is…. well, a bit rough around the edges.”

“That’s exactly what M Antione and Mr Jones said, but they also said Glamorous Nights has complicated and expensive sets and Miss Lulubelle had offered to put up some greenbacks.”

Country music as you’ve never heard it before

“I cannot understand that at all; my cousin is a country and western devotee, who has put the Na into Nashville. Her singing interests revolve around train accidents and mining disasters. Who was second choice?”

Muriel Second Choice – Never!

“I think your name was mentioned Mrs Wylie.”

“Well really! At least they recognised my talent.”

“I think Mrs Wylie it was more that they thought you would be able to dress the set of the imaginary Ruritanian kingdom of Krasnia as, and I quote “that is what her drawing room looks like.”

“Oh does it indeed, well we shall see about that!”

“Now Mrs Wylie, are we ready for the dryer, just sing out if it gets too hot. I will get you a cup of coffee and The Herald, not that there is much in it as it’s the silly season of course.”

“Tell me, I haven’t got my distance glasses, is that Mrs Macaulay in the corner?”

“Yes she is having a demi-wave, she has very fine hair that needs a lot of backcombing.”
“Yes I thought I recognised her. Oh dear she is waving. At least I won’t get caught as I am meeting Jasper for lunch.”

Such a sweetie, apparently!

“How is Mr Wylie? He’s such a sweetie?”

“Oh just as always, Senga; able to get a piece at any door, actually he is at a lecture on the Battle of Amiens at the good varsity here in Glasgow. It is 40 years since the beginning of the end of the first Unpleasantness; they have some veterans giving first hand accounts.”

“Must have been terrible Mrs Wylie. My Dad was in the last one in the desert. Can’t stand the sight of sand to this day. He was once given packet of Camel cigarettes as a Christmas present. Ran amok, he did. My mother had to have him serrated. Here’s The Herald, coffee in a tick.”

Alone with The Herald

Well if that does not take the biscuit I don’t know what does. Ruritanian drawing room indeed. The cheek of the man; I might just transfer my patronage to the Healy’s ‘Little Paris Salon’. After all the years I have been coming here!

There is something odd about this time of year. People do behave in very strange ways in August. Perhaps it is because those of us who are left at home think that those who are on the move are having a better time.

Commander Anderson has certainly been having an interesting time. He has been spending July and August under the North Pole in his submarine, the Nautilus. He has discovered that the depth of the water under the North Pole is at 13,410 feet, much deeper than previously thought. Apparently it is very difficult to navigate under the ice and the ship can become confused and think it is going in a straight line when it is actually going in circles. This is very much like Mrs Travers (our daily woman what does but not a lot), when she operates the vacuum cleaner.

Mrs T , the woman what does but not a lot, is easily confused

As I have told her “if you vacuum backwards like they do at Buckingham Palace you will avoid feet marks on the Axminster and you will not be tempted to go around in circles. Perhaps there are no carpets on a submarine. I shall at any rate send a brief billet-doux to President Eisenhower to pass on to the Commander with my advise on avoiding “longitude roulette.”

Of Course the Comrades Know, They Know Everything

Apparently Commander Anderson has told the President that the comrades are unlikely to have been aware of what the Nautilus has been up to. Frankly I am beginning to wonder about Captain Anderson’s suitability for command. Perhaps he has missed the news that they have just launched Sputnik III which was seen earlier this week passing in a south easterly direction “below the handle of the plough and through the neck of the swan”.

Not only that, but this was seen in Inverness by a holiday maker from Glasgow. Now granted the Glaswegian holiday maker was very likely to have been on the sauce since Fair Friday lunchtime, but even so it has to be agreed that if this is possible then it is highly likely that the comrades have noticed an American submarine travelling between Greenland and Spitsbergen even under ice.

Restlessness Everywhere

There is obviously restlessness about, which will calm down once the nights have started to draw in. Not only are Americans going around in circles and Russians are zooming around in space, but the Chinese are up to something along the edge of Formosa involving 1,200 aircraft.

The British are not immune from this wandering about in warm weather either. According to The Herald we have sent the 1st Battalion of the Cameronians to Jordan from Aden where they are now camped in Akaba and Amman “ready to protect British Forces communications.” I wish they were here as I have some communications issues with M. Antoine and that coal merchant.

Even the Royals are Wandering About

There is much wandering closer to home as well. Even Her Majesty, (never puts a foot wrong) is on the move. She is sailing to Scotland for her summer holidays. The 1st Battalion of the Black Watch have already arrived in Balmoral where they will form the Royal Guard for the next two months. I wonder if they wish they were in Jordan. They certainly will once the rain starts. At least if they were in Jordan they would be able to see Petra which I long to see. It is half as old as time they say, and some days I feel like that myself.

My tasteful hamper

There seems to be much stopping en route by the Royal Family. Yesterday they were seen with Earl Mountbatten and a large number of picnic hampers. At least that is something we have in common as both Jasper and I do like a picnic and our hamper is the envy of the West End of Glasgow. Jasper of course does not care for the Royal Family as he is a miserable socialist intent on making us a vassal sate of the comrades who then no doubt will be listening to us making ice in our freezer compartments. That is if they allow us to have fridges, which I doubt.

Thanks, but No Thanks

the Tunnocks’ teacake

“There you are Mrs Wylie a nice cup of Maxwell House and a Tunnock’s teacake as M. Antione says you are one of our better customers, sugar in the spoon if you need it. Mrs Macaulay says she can do lunch if you fancy the new Chop Suey at The Rogano.”

the R.S.A.C., Jasper’s club

“Thank you Senga. Please tell Mrs Macaulay thank you, but I am meeting Jasper at the Club after the Battle of Amiens.”

One Does Wonder

Sometimes I wonder if we Scots can really cope with good weather. It seems to make us sillier than most in the silly season. There is for example a proposal to remove the Loch Nevis’ mail steamer service from the Mallaig – Kyle – Portree route. We need more transport in Scotland, not less. This will only lead to rural depopulation. I realise I am sounding like Jasper, but there is common sense and there is no sense.

Here too is something Jasper will disagree with – a leading scientist has said that there is no danger to health from Nuclear tests. This is surely like saying there is no danger in giving Lizzie Borden an axe or Sawney Bean the sight of a nicely turned ankle. Really do these people think we have heather growing out of our ears?

Clearly there are some who do for a baby has disappeared from a pram while his mother left him while shopping in Aberdeen. Fortunately someone has been apprehended, but more importantly I have to ask who goes shopping in Aberdeen? Exactly! They would have to find oil offshore for me to do that.

Tourists- Cue the Loch Ness monster

More sillyness!  According to this morning’s Herald there has been a sighting of the monster by motorists a mile east of Invermoriston. The report says… just excuse me while I take a sip of coffee. .. The report says:

A commotion on the calm surface of the Loch was caused by some object travelling at between 15 and 20 miles per hour in a straight line for the centre of the Loch. Then it paused and they could see three dark coloured points above the wash. Next it turned and moved haphazardly about – glistening in the sunshine. No one had binoculars or a camera.

Funny that. Always be suspicious of any piece of Scottish writing that begins with the favoured word “commotion” which covers everything from a mild disagreement to a full scale riot. It is often paired with exclamations such as “It’s outrageous” which may be the increase in price of a session in the swimming baths or the outbreak of war, or “pure dead devastating” which covers everything from an unexpected shower of rain to discovering one’s husband Derek is occasionally Deidre.

Bride Over the Cliff

A report in The Herald which might well be paired with “devastating” or “commotion”  concerns a case at Bude Magistrates Court, where John Sanders Oldfield was committed for trial at Cornwall Assizes on a charge of attempting to murder his wife Daphne by pushing her off a cliff and hitting her on the head with a stone. The prosecutor clearly had a sense of humour as he said “Unhappily perhaps, attempts to murder a wife are not as infrequent as one would like to think, but I am glad to say attempts are almost unique when they take place in the first week of honeymoon”.

Apparently there had been three attempts to consummate the marriage which had “not been entirely successful”. I am beginning to wonder if The Herald has sensational intentions as that is hardly the sort of detail one expects from a quality newspaper. Consummation is not a subject to be discussed willy-nilly. Mr Oldfield in his defence said his wife had become a “rotten woman” immediately they were married. Obviously he was ill prepared.

Surely Not a Tennis Club Member

According to the bride she had no idea what was coming as they had had a lovely day in Tintagel and were walking along the cliffs hand in hand when “…the next thing I knew I had been pushed over the cliff.” Now I do not think we should read anything into the lack of consummation, as my dear Grandmother said it was a year before she allowed my Grandfather to see her with her hairnet on and he did not push her over a cliff.

Dear Grandmamma

What does bother me about this case is that they met at the Thames Ditton Tennis Club. Firstly is it likely that a murderer would be a member of a tennis club? I mean in our Glasgow Club we think twice about allowing people in with a parking violation. After all one minute you are illegally parked across a driveway in Bearsden and the next you are banging your balls too aggressively in Bridge of Weir. It all smacks of the sort of people who do not donate raffle prizes. Secondly, how many murder victims do you know called Daphne? Thirdly, I wouldn’t like to be on that committee discussing a refund of the membership fee.

A Careless Rupture at Comb Out

“Mrs Wylie that’s you done; now if you just let me remove the hood and the cotton wool, M. Antoine will float towards you for the comb out.”

“Thank you Senga.”

“Madame Wylie, you are done to perfection, just let me work my magic and while I backcomb I wonder if a woman of your talent would consider playing the role of Phoebe, the maid, in my new production of Glamorous Nights. It will be magnifique.”

“Oh I am sure it will M Antoine. I am surprised you did not consider Novello’s other triumph.

“What was that Madame?”

“Careless Rupture, monsieur”

“Don’t you mean Rapture Madame?”

“Oh Mrs Wylie – sorry to startle you but that’s Mr Wylie in reception he says the war finished early and wonders if you might like an early lunch and a drive to the coast and then a cliff walk, as it is so nice.”

There is a commotion as Muriel suddenly swings round in the chair and her elbow, cup and saucer hits M. Antoine where he will be most devastated. M. Antoine doubles up.

“Thank you Senga. Oh dear, Antoine sorry about that. Must dash. Oh I am most sorry I have nothing for a tip. Bye Lottie see you soon dear, you have never looked lovelier. Bye everyone. Must dash.”

à bientôt

Muriel Wylie
August 1958

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