There’s a Price to Pay for Everything

Food Controls

“Mrs T didn’t you hear me ring?”

“Sorry Ma’am; I am up to my oxters in brambles and apples. I have taken the liberty of preparing a bramble and apple crumble for wur tea, sorry I mean suppa, and I thought that since there is an R in the month we might have custard as it always puts a smile on Mr Wylie’s face.”

Apple and bramble crumble

“Most puddings put a smile on Mr Wylie’s face and quite a few pounds on his waistline. Still my dear Grandmamma always said the best way to control a man was to fill him up and keep him close to death, or was it sleep? I cannot quite remember.”

“I am afraid it never worked wi’ ma man. I kept him filled up wi’ blackpudd’n’, fried bried, fried eggs, fried bacon, fried sausages – pork links and flat beef lorn, fried white pudd’n’, fried tattie scones, fried mushrooms…”

“And fried tomatoes?”

“No Mrs Wylie I grilled them. I didn’ae want tae over dae the greese. And he still carried on wi’ other women down at Busty Betty’s Unnecessary Lingerie Shop down by the canal.”

Any News of Mr Travers or for that matter Billy Travers?

“Is there any news of him? I don’t like to ask. Is he still living in the Sailors’ Refuge after the police raid on Busty Betty’s down by the canal and his escape and subsequent trip on a slow boat to China, where he bought you a stuffed lizard, which was made into an occasional lamp for your new radiogram, bought on the HP?”

“On he’s fine. His sort always come up smelling of roses. I can’t have him back in my hoose though, even if he did get me 10% off some inappropriate foundation garments.”

“What do you mean inappropriate?”

“Well have you tried vinegar washing a skirting board in a “roll on” trimmed with swansdown?”

“Umm. I suppose it must have ticked his fancy.”

“No Ma’am it most certainly did not, fancy tickling is off his menu.”

“I suppose there is a price to pay for everything.”

Mr Wylie’s car, The beloved “Super Snipe”

“Yes and I always seem to pay over the odds! Now I have oor Billy’s trial to face. How could he be so stupid as to ‘borrow’ Mr Wylie’s car to provide “the wheels” for a robbery in Glasgow?”

“I am sure your ship will come in one day and Mr Wylie has tried to do what he can at the Fiscal’s office; they play golf together.”


“I appreciate that Mrs Wylie, Mr Wylie is very thoughtful.”

“Perhaps things wouldn’t have been so bad if they had not broken into Lady Pentland-Firth’s Glasgow house and stolen the famous “Minch Tiara”, which came from her mother-in-law’s family. Lady Pentland-Firth is not as forgiving as Mr Wylie.”

“No; not at all.”

“I am afraid Mrs T that in her own way Lady P-F’s experiences with men have been just as catastrophic as yours. Despite a huge cultural, economic and social divide you have much in common.”

Back in the Berlin Days

“We have everything in common except money. And perhaps we are forgetting her Ladyship was not born to the purple but once a cabaret singer in interwar Europe with by all accounts a routine that would have made Busty Betty look like a mother superior.”

“You are right Mrs T, life is not fair or Mrs Lottie Macaulay, wife of the millionaire bungalow builder, would have been born with good taste and I would have one first prize in the flower show. Incidentally, where is Mr Wylie?”

A Hectic Half Day Ahead

Off to the golf club

“Oh yes he went out straight after breakfast and said to tell you that he had an exhausting half day ahead of him with golf before lunching at the Club as they have Peterhead herring in oatmeal on special and apple and bramble crumble with custard.”

“But I thought we were having that for suppa?”

“We are, and he said you would raise the matter and he said to tell you that as it would be the first in the season he wanted to check that after such a gap he was not allergic to it. That is exactly the look he said you would receive this news with so I was to follow it up by

Muriel is not amused

telling you that he has gone to the Cosmo to pick up tickets for a Robert Bresson film which has been at the festival, called Un condamné à mort s’est échappé – it’s about an officer of the French Resistance caught by the Germans who is awaiting his death sentence in a Lyons Prison. He said there are few laughs but that given you were in the S.O.E. you would appreciate it, plus the recurring symbolism of a whistle from a nearby train representing flagging spirits and then escape. The whole thing is accompanied by music from Mozart which was composed by the famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who was apparently once quite popular, despite being foreign, but recently overtaken by Elvis.”

“I see Mrs T anything else?”

“Oh yes he is also picking up the prospectus for “The SNO” winter season of concerts. There is apparently to be lots of Elgar and Benjamin Britten who are almost as famous as Mozart despite being British and there will be a concert performance of Aida with the Glasgow Choral Union. Many of the concerts will be conducted by the new boy, Alexander Gibson, others by visiting conductors for “rostrum variety”.  What else does it say here? Oh yes remember to collect winnings on Canebière, winner of the Silver Bell at the Lanark races, but do not mention this to Mrs Wylie. Oops! Sorry.”

“The gee-gees! I thought as much! I will need to have words with Mr Wylie. Now before you re-enter the world of autumnal produce might I have some coffee while I peruse the paper. By the way Mrs T, I am expecting some visitors shortly.”

Coffee and the Papers

the R.S.A.C., Jasper’s club

Now what is going on in the world, the usual doom and gloom I suppose? Well not entirely, Peterhead has just had its highest one day catch of herring which explains lunch at the R.S.A.C., but it does not explain Jasper’s enthusiasm as he does not really like fish. He says he finds it difficult to eat things that taste of harbours. I suppose that is what comes of marrying into the working class they tend to have their fixations. I blame his indulgent granny.

The sainted Granny Wylie

I see there is to be a 4th draw of the new Premium Bonds. I am glad I bought Mrs Travers one, it gives her hope. The T.U.C. conference is going on and on. As my father used to say if they are so keen on the Comrades why do they not go and live there.

Talking of the Comrades, I see Mr Duncan Sandys, our Defence Minister, has made a speech in Sidney saying that if the Comrades started a war it would inevitably result in the wholesale destruction of their own cities, and apparently most of the world now depends on America. I for one do not think it is a good idea to rely on anyone.

Sometimes I do wonder if Jasper might be right when he says that nuclear weapons are immoral especially as it seems the manned bomb, in the sense of being dropped by an aeroplane. is about to be replaced by long-range ballistic rockets. At least with airplanes one could see the result of what one had done. Britain is it seems according to the defence secretary “quite ahead in this matter”. Pity we are not ahead in other matters but then the comrades are he says becoming more and more involved in the middle east. As Jasper would say sarcastically, “unlike us who have never been involved in anyone else’s affairs.”

Art is a Very Personal Thing

Well it seems as if we humans are falling behind in the civilisation business and our relatives, the chimps, are making great strides for culture and the arts. An exhibition in London organised by Mr Desmond Morris features the paintings of Betsey, a middle aged chimp from Baltimore, and Congo, a young but gifted chimp who lives in London. Betsey it seems paints in the primitive style and uses her fingers whereas Congo is more typically British and something of a traditionalist and uses a brush. According to Mr Morris, the work of the British chimp is so distinct he “can spot a fake Congo anywhere”.  I wonder if I should take up painting again, my old headmistress always said she could see a lot of Angelica Kauffman in my work.


“Mrs Wylie two shifty looking men are here, one to measure up for a  new fireplace, and it is news to me that there is anything wrong with the Robert Adam one already in existence, and the other to tune the piano which I seem to recall was only tuned last month.”

“Show them in Mrs Travers and make sure they take their shoes off and issue them with hand towels so that they can slide across my parquet flooring without making a noise or any scratches.”

“Oh jings there’s the door again, it’s like running a bawdy house during the General Assembly.”

Lady P-F arrives

“The Lady Pentland-Firth.”

Patience is Not Always a Virtue

“Darling Muriel; my you look awful, so tired but then brown has never been your colour. I hope that husband of yours is home.”

“Do come in Patience and take a seat are you quite well? That blotchy skin can be so ageing? How did the Country House Concert go?”

Patience makes herself comfortable

“It went very well, of course we missed you, but I managed even with the Callas women flouncing out at the last minute, performers are so unreliable at times. Fortunately it turned out that Doris who works in the Pentland-Firth Dairy can do “The Queen of the Night” and for my money she was much better than Maria. Of course I had to make do with my second best tiara so wasn’t best pleased. I hope they send that Billy Travers down for good and throw away the key.”

“I know Patience, but he has had a very difficult upbringing, with that father as an example. Who can wonder he has gone to the bad? It’s his mother I feel sorry for and those children. I suppose there is no sign of the jewellery or the other gang members?”

“No Muriel; my late mother-in-law would be turning in her grave if she had not been buried at sea.”

“Anyway thank you for coming. Would you care for some coffee?”

Enjoying her coffee

“I am desperate Darling. And why are you having the piano tuned again and why are two legs sticking out of your chimney piece?”

“Oh there’s the door again; Mrs Travers, door.”

Someone Else at the Door

As if I haven’t enought to do!

(Muttering to herself) “Tote that barge, lift that bale… yes I heard the door bell and believe it or not, despite my class inadequacies, I can differentiate between a door bell and the noise of that wretched piano. I wonder if he would play some proper classical music before he goes something by that Winifred Atwell, who must herself have been trained by the famous composer Mozart.

Mrs Wylie, it’s Mrs Bunty Haystack – the impossibly smug and celebrated crime writer and author of rural mysteries such as “The Ploughman Poisonings”, “Haymaking Hussies” (not for readers of a sensitive disposition as it contains many lurid details about the preservation of winter feed), “The Sheepshearers Redemption”, and “The Great Crotchet Smothering.” Furthermore champion of champions at the historic a result of having swept the board in every flower arranging category including “Sunny Days” in which Mrs Wylie came second, baking, chutney and jam making.”

“Thank you Mrs Travers you are beginning to sound like a broken record; now do bring a cup  for Bunty please, and some scones too if that is at all possible, despite your feeling you are over worked on a plantation. I have very good hearing despite the piano and the man up the chimney.”

Three Women

“Do sit down Bunty, yes on this Mackintosh square; I am assuming you have not had time to change since coming up from the country and if you wouldn’t mind placing your feet in this upholstered but washable box, I do feel T-bar sandals with white socks are rather inappropriate for September and unbecoming for a woman over 50, clearly you don’t agree.”

“I have brought you both a jar each of my prize winning lemon curd and also my marrow chutney.”

Muriel and Lady P-F graciously accept the gifts with a thank you and a forced smile quickly accompanied with a splayed hand to the chest, sucked in cheeks and heads thrown slightly forward as if they might be sick. Both women know this is a meeting about national security but neither can they forget that this woman in damp tweeds and  inappropriate sandals took what was rightfully theirs at the Flower Show. Britain may be in the middle of a cold war but it is nothing compared with vegetable wars, jam skirmishes and flower battles.

“Coffee Mrs Wylie, should I bring field dressings?”

“Thank you Mrs T, that will not be necessary.”

Bunty Spills the Beans

“It is so very kind of you to invite me here today Muriel and as always a delight to meet you again your Ladyship” said Bunty having recovered her breath and composure. “You have both been so gracious about my success at the Flower and Produce Show. Let me say it was unexpected and I feel undeserved.” Both ladies nod in agreement. “I am, however, not here to talk about my success in your little rural conspiracy although I have earmarked it as a future plot, but rather to give you advanced warning that my Christmas book will be an exposure on the strange death of the late and hardly lamented Admiral Lord Pentland-Firth, hero of Jutland. His demise while eating a rissole supplied by your cousin, the American lady, is hardly coincidence.

The late Lord Pentland-Firth

Thanks to the intelligence of the medium Madame Voyant, I know he was, for 40 years, a double agent passing secrets to both the comrades and the other side. It is also something of a coincidence that having spilled the beans to a prominent and bestselling author the medium dies mysteriously at a bus stop while shopping in Oxford Street in That London. My book which will be of the “True Crime” genre promises to be the book of the century and my publisher is already talking film rights. Of course as much of the cover up centres around the Flower Show, this ancient institution will be ruined forever and I am sure the authorities will want to further investigate you both.”

All is Not As It Seems

“Oh I don’t think so” said the piano tuner who swivelled around on his stool.

“Why not?” asked Bunty looking surprised and cross.

“Because” said the legs emerging from the chimney “we are the Authorities and let us assure you we require no investigation as your proposed exposure threatens our squeaky clean war record and our current proposals to join the Common Market. We cannot allow the Comrades the satisfaction of creating disunity in Europe by making hay, if you will pardon the pun, with the truth about a British Naval hero second only to Lord Nelson.”

“And what will you do if I go ahead?” replied Bunty. “I am already at the proof reading stage.”

Hoisted by Her Own Petard

“Well apart from the fact I was at school with your publisher I think you will find these ladies have something to say.”

Lady P-F does not mince her words

“Yes, Miss Haystack indeed we do” replied Lady Pentland-Firth. “You see I am the hereditary life President of Presidents of F.A.F.S., an institution half as old as time and in the view of our community even more important, so I am afraid nothing will get in the way of our traditions of 3 hour presentations of cups by very late people and dioramas of Scottish history interpreted in vegetables on a sand tray and an afternoon where the rustics eat their own weight in Victoria sponges.”

“And how your Ladyship do you propose to stop me?”

“and so Bunty, It’s like this…..”

“Oh my dear Mrs Haywain” replied Lady P-F “you have stopped yourself. Isn’t that right Mrs Wylie?”

“Yes, Lady Pentland-Firth. You see Bunty, by sweeping the board and becoming champion of champions, a position held by no incomer since the great suffragette invasion of 1908, you have triggered an ancient right.”

“And what pray would that be?”

“You have, by winning all those prizes, automatically earned the right to be Honorary Vice President for Life with a non executive seat on the committee and instant elevation to the secret Conclave of Puddings and Petunias.”

“So what?”

“Membership of the C.P.P. means you must never speak or write about F.A.F.S. or you will be brought before your peers and following trial by tray bake, should there be a guilty verdict you will be debarred from every Flower Show and Rural Women’s organisation in the country, your lemon curd will never reach the dizzy heights again.”

“Oh I see, it’s a conspiracy; it’s like the masons or the inquisition.”

“Where” said Lady P-F “do you think they got their ideas from?”

“I am afraid” said the fireplace measuring man, “everything comes at a price.”

Later Over Tea and Toast

“Well ladies that was well done”, said the fire place specialist who was none other than the Handsome Stranger. “I don’t think she will be any more trouble and we have promised her a book deal on a ‘History of Rural Crime in Scotland’ which should keep her busy for years. By the way this lemon curd is not very good.”

“I agree” said the piano tuner who is really Professor Sir Boozy Hawkes Muriel’s handler from the varsity in Glasgow. “Not good at all. And now Muriel we have another mission for you. Pack a suitcase and get your passport, we have it on good authority that the comrades are planning to send a dog into space in November we need confirmation.”

“A dog in space, how ghastly has anyone told the R.S.P.C.A.? Where am I going Professor and what do I need?”

“Just a mask!”


Muriel Wylie

September 1957


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5 Responses to There’s a Price to Pay for Everything

  1. Matthew Bate says:

    Autumn culinary habits, rogue nations and the thwarting of Bunty Haystacks.

    Keeping me full would never work! Other methods of keeping me quiet would be required. Crumble though…

    I’m sure most young people would steal a car and drive as far as they could if the saw their mother cleaning the house in a roll-on trimmed in swansdown. I would. Although if the little sod took my tiara with him I’d be dining with the Home Secretary on the subject. Lady P-F though…

    Elvis overtaking Mozart? No Cadillac will ever exceed a BMW. There are no Austrian manufacturers, admittedly. Bavaria is not far. Britten though…

    I can’t imagine the terror of there being a rogue nation with nuclear capability. One would have to visit every pub in the land to teach the experts how to pronounce the word ‘nuclear’. Maybe I could train a chimp to do it. No. A bonobo.

    Ooh. Fancy having the handsome stranger up yer flue. Lady P-F’s strictness and unforgiving nature are very desirable though. I’ve said too much. That said, I’m mystified by the politics in that room. Please Mu, save poor Laika.


  2. Moira Taylor says:

    I do love reading your wonderful words Muriel but it took me simply ages to get past the words ” Bramble and apple crumble” ……
    Now, where was I? Oh Heavens, now I am being distracted by the image of Mrs T in a swansdown-trimmed roll on! Mercy me, she has more in common with Patience P-F than I thought possible!
    Goodness me! Now we have The handsome Stranger lurking in Muriel’s lum! This is all too much for me- I’m away back to the picturesque Isle of Arran – Hold that ferry for me!

  3. Patty C says:

    A dog into space?! Say it isn’t so! Might I suggest they send Bunty Haystack instead. This annoying, scheming woman, made of a high tensile-strength sinew of irritability would no doubt survive; and why chance the sacrifice of one of man’s best friends? She has the makings of a useful space cadet.

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

    Chérie Muriel,

    Zut Alors! Yet more secret missions…..but a mask, I ask you? It is a crime to cover up such exquisite bone structure, n’est ce pas?! One hopes, at least you are headed for sunnier climes than these shores à ce moment! The Autumnal tints are upon us……

    How deftly you and Lady P-F dealt with the abominable Miss Haystack – one shouldn’t mess with rural women of substance, now should one…..?! Her Lemon Curd will be scorned the length and breadth of Scotland!! She shall F.A.F. no more……

    Maintenant chérie, one feels the need for a little Mozart oneself to sooth the senses following the start of term and the demands of one’s little darlings. Plus, the darling daughter celebrates her 16th Birthday today (a fellow Virgo like your good self) and, therefore, one is feeling RAWTHER sentimental about the passage of time… emergency snorter may be in order……”Jeeves, the Gin!”

    Yours finding joy in Juniper,
    Lulu xxxx

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