“Ticklish Business”

In the “Drift Inn” Cocktail Bar of the Allan Hotel, 935 Sauchiehall Street 

A swing back duster coat for spring

 “Mrs Wylie, how nice to see you again, what can I get you?”

“Oh Barman, how kind of you to remember me.”

“Not at all Madame, how could one ever forget the simply marvellous Mrs Muriel Wylie, doyenne of the duster coat, champion of the cabriole leg coffee table and a vision in a veiled hat?”

“Goodness what a memory. Would you be by chance a friend of…..”

“Yes Mrs Wylie, a very good friend of your nephew Sebastian, who played the definitive Shakespearean role of King Richard at the Ayr Gaiety in a play called Richard III by well known Shakespearean play write called William Shakespeare. I had the honour of being his dresser he said no one could tie a chiffon scarf for the after show party like me.”

The young Sebastian in the definitive performance as Richard III at the Gaiety theatre, Ayr

“Really, where did you learn your craft?”

“Oh Mrs Wylie I learnt all I know from you; I attended every one of your scarf master classes.”

“I don’t recall any men at any of my classes…. Oh I see were you perchance …?”.

“Yes Dorothy Lamour.”

“Yes now I recall; that monkey was a wretched nuisance, but he did look good in a turban.”

“Chimpanzee actually.”

“It’s all one to me bartender I am not one for fur, unless it has a satin lining and matching hat.”

Cocktail  – Easy on the Garden

“What will it be then?”

“Surprise me, a cocktail I think, but not too much garden.”

“Coming up, and is Mr Wylie joining you for luncheon?”

“No I have sent him to a conference organised by Remington Rand Ltd called ‘An Introduction to Computers for Senior Executives’. They are going to explain the basic principles of computers including their latest Univac File Computer, which is said to be that most advanced of its kind in business. I aim to be the most advanced in my business.”

“Do you think Mrs Wylie computers will have much to do with sticky out Danish style chairs and tassel tie backed curtains?”

“Everything. dear boy everything. ”

“Well there you are, one mint julep easy on the garden.”

“”Umm well anticipated barman, actually I am meeting my cousin  and business partner Miss Lulubelle du Bois from the very Deep South.”

Cousin Lulubelle from the U.S.A.


“No; not of Glasgow of the United States – where cotton grows, bed sheets have multiple uses and Ava Gardner is still waiting patiently for her man.”

“A bit stereotypical, have you read The Grapes of Wrath?”

“No, I leave reading anything dreary to Jasper. However, as to stereotypical I generally find it works for me.”

The bar telephone rings.

“Excuse me Mrs Wyle, I must answer that. Here have these peanuts with my compliments.”

A Lone Woman  in a Bar

“Good afternoon The Drift Inn and will you…….. Oh yes certainly she is already here , very well Madame, I  will pass that on. I shall have it waiting; yes with additional garden and yes indeed Madame despite this being Glasgow, we do have ice in the drinks.”

“I didn’t mean to eavesdrop as that would be the height of bad manners but might that be my cousin?”

“Indeed; Madame Miss Dubois is running half an hour late as her motor bike ran out of gas and it turns out the A.A. man is a Country and Western fan and she will be with you as soon as she can. Why don’t you go and sit over there by the window? It is more comfortable.  I will bring, your drink over and the peanuts and perhaps you would like The Glasgow Herald while you wait for your cousin. And do not worry if the management comes in and questions why an attractive young woman is sitting on her own in the middle of the day, I shall of course tell them you are expecting company of the female variety.”

“You are too kind, but can I remind you that this is 1958 and not 1858 and I am a businesswoman looking for business of the soft furnishing kind, not funny business of the kind you are thinking of! And if I was I would certainly be plying my trade somewhere where a three course businessman’s lunch cost more than 4/6d.

The correct way to serve peanuts

By the way change these peanuts and serve them on a doilly with a spoon. I never toy with nuts that may have been fingered by unwashed hands.”

Lulubelle –  a Cross to Bear, but a Cross with Cash

Really it is typical that I am left hanging around for Lulubelle. I could have gone to Watt Brothers and picked up that patterned Celanese fabric skirt for 3 guineas that would be a nice treat for Mrs Travers (our daily woman what does, but not a lot) after she has finished vacuuming the rafters in the attic. I could not help noticing as I passed by the window that they also had Grosgrain Duster coats for nine and a half guineas ‘in all colours’ and Cotton Brocade Duster coats for nine guineas. The moral of this story is never  go into business with a relative  who set fire to your dolls’ house in the nursery while shouting  ‘Mamma come quick, Muriel is burnishing Atlanta again.’

Miss Marigold Berry

The trouble was I had no choice after that awful business with my manager  Miss Berry and her paramour, Mr Napier in accounts. I should never have put them at either end of my newly installed vacuum pump change system. They nearly brought me to my knees and financial ruin. Lulubelle stepped forward with a cash injection and conditions, as she says ‘blood is thicker than water’ and she sensed a money making opportunity.

I suppose in many ways she has helped me to modernise with her American Business Models and know-how, but relinquishing total control has been difficult. At least I know now that volume sales of room dividers for open plan semi-detached living brings in more cash than a Queen Anne bureau and a Jacobean linen fold blanket chest in Kelvinside.

A Visualiser and Man of Ideas?

A Man of ideas

Now what have we got on in Glasgow for the weekend ? Well the theatre looks promising  – The Citizens has Bell, Book and Candle, which I am not sure I fancy so soon after The Crucible, one can have too much of the devil, even if it has “already completed a successful week at Ayr”.

I rather like the look of Ticklish Business at the King’s Theatre. It is a new play by Ronald Millar written especially for Yvonne Arnaud and Jack Hulbert. It is about a retired concert pianist and also has Moyra Fraser, who has “deserted ballet for light comedy.” Now that sounds promising; I could walk down to Bath Street and see if there are any seats left. That would be a nice surprise for Jasper.

He is feeling a little down since he decided that he needed to increase our income and applied for a post he saw in the classifieds which read ,  “Visualiser Ideas Man – must be fully experienced in all aspects of creative work.”  Even Mrs Travers nearly choked on her lunchtime bridie and beans, (don’t worry it is something the working classes eat, it will not affect you – I hope). Needless to say Jasper  who had, to give him his due, created several  idea boards did not get beyond the first interview. It seems Renaissance painted ceilings are not quite “of the moment”.

Quite frankly I don’t know why he bothered as Mrs T said when one has hair the colour of a Galloway Sky there is really little point. Mind you going via the Club was not the best of ideas either. He did not need to explain his ideas for promoting Spirit of Glencairn – A Whisky for our Times, as he needed only to open his mouth.

“Freshen your glass Mrs Wylie?”

“You’re reading my mind.”

The Usual Women’s Pages

I might have a look at that as an outing for tomorrow – The Scottish Covenant Association has its annual Scots Mercat at the McLellan Galleries tomorrow to be opened by Moira Shearer at 2.30pm. There are to be a number of stalls – “Bairns’ Wear”, “Peenies”, “Hankies”, “Bundle and Go”, “Cake and Candy”, “Flowers”, “Hamely Fair”, “Gee-Gaws”, “Drouth slakers”, “Buicks”, “Hamecraft”, etc.. Sounds a bit couthie, but I might take Mrs T if she has finished cleaning those rafters in the attic and it is only 6d.

One does wonder why the women’s pages are always reduced to fundraising and cooking items –  and look at this a main article on the ‘Around and About’  page, ‘Sewing Awards for Ayrshire’.  It seems that Ayrshire Scottish Women’s Rural Guilds have swept the board  in handicrafts winning prizes for a pink and white embroidered luncheon set in which 9 members learnt to do exactly the same number of stitches per inch! Now that will put us on the moon and provide a solution to the world’s problems. Some of us are Glasgow Women who Mean Business!

A woman who means business

Oh yes, more excitement ! The Lena Meiklejohn trophy for embroidery in wool has been won by Maiden’s S.W.R.I. for an evening bag in navy and red with shaded feather design.  All very clever in its own way – however, you will notice there is no page in The Herald devoted to men and their ability to use a fret saw or countersink  screw heads.

Still the S.W.R.I. National Conference in Edinburgh is to have a young woman called Shirley Williams, an economist on The Financial Times  talking to members, but I note the title is “The Nation’s Housekeeping”. What about the Nation’s garage spring clean? No… exactly!

 Miss Brodie – an Architect For Our Times

Now here is a piece about a woman who has achieved something in the world of men. Jean Kelvin is writing about a friend of mine Miss Margaret Brodie who has designed St Martin’s, Port Glasgow, and what is believed to be the first church in Scotland to be designed by a woman.

“Good afternoon Muriel”

“Goodness Margaret, what a coincidence I am just reading about you in The Herald and your new church. Do sit down, what can I get you?”

“That is very kind of you; I cannot stay long, I am off to Port Glasgow to supervise the installation of a piece of marble from Iona into the transept. A quick whisky and water would hit the spot; got to keep up with the men you know.”

“According to The Herald you have done just that Margaret, sounds as if it is going well.”

“Well yes and no Muriel. It has been a ticklish business. It is a church extension project and therefore on a very tight budget. My brief is to produce ecclesiastical dignity with feeling. So I have gone for simplicity, using random rubble from a demolished building in Greenock and a mahogany roof.”

“What about the Minister?”

“Oh he has been very good; excellent at fundraising. He is a member of the Iona community, which is why I am putting stone from the island in front of the Communion Table. I am also keeping things simple with a St Martin’s Cross which is a Celtic cross within a circle, all freshly cut in wood.”

“I see you have forbidden Jean Kelvin to report on your past history. I thought they might have said something about your role in the Empire Exhibition.”

“Well Muriel one needs to keep a bit of mystery, especially if one is a woman in a man’s world.”

“I agree Margaret, tell me do you need any pulpit falls or decorative features? I have a generous discount for friends.”

“Send me some ideas, but of course I hear you are not exactly flavour of the month with the Moderator at the moment.  Is it true that you encouraged the introduction of a non traditional Scottish soup at a soup and sandwich lunch?”


“Goodness! Heresy! And foreign as well.”

“Well yes, but there does seem to have been some recanting and after all I am very generous when it comes to my weekly covenant and I have hinted at Episcopalianism!

“No I don’t believe it, you wouldn’t.”

“Probably not, but they don’t need to know that.”

“Well. I must bash on.”

“Are you getting the train to Port Glasgow?”

“No Muriel in a man’s world one has to arrive in a fast car, but not forgetting the eye shadow. See you soon.”

Well that was nice, haven’t see Margaret for ages. She really was the main woman, if not the main man at the 1938 Empire Exhibition. Twenty years ago now, everything pre- war seems so far away. She looked marvellous in her large picture hat. It was a wonderful day in Glasgow.

A Busy Bar

“I have just had a message that there is man in the garden who wants to see you; he says he’s a professor from the very good varsity in Glasgow, but I’d be careful Mrs Wylie. He looks shifty to me.”

“Let me see. Worry not young man, he is none other than Professor Sir Boozy Hawkes, head of music and an expert on alpine horns. I do agree he needs a haircut. I will just pop out and see him”

My goodness, you do need a hair cut!

“Good afternoon Mrs Wylie, sorry to bother you at luncheon but your woman what does, who is currently stuck on a beam in your attic due to skelfs in her leg, said you were here. I have a message from the Handsome Stranger. We are making progress on the break in and the missing map. The evidence particularly, the boil in the bag frankfurters suggests one person. That person is in That London so we need you to be there as well.

Here are tickets for the Star Light Express from St Enoch’s Station,  sorry the Department is a bit short of cash for flights. Further instructions will become available, but we have booked a room in an Earls Court hotel. We have still to explain the mystery of the torn ticket stub with cow horns – our boffins are working on that. We have also received two tickets for My Fair Lady from an unknown source with your name on them and a cryptic message, “The clue is in the song, find me if you can, it is plain for all to see.” signed ‘Professor Higgins’.  All very ticklish but you can handle it I am sure. Must dash have an oratorio to conduct, Goodbye Mrs Wylie.”

The Royals are Busy Too

Well what a busy little place this is! The royal family seem to have been busy too . Princess Anne has had her tonsils out and for the three day Highland Bazaar in St Andrews the Queen Mother has sent a crocodile handbag. I wonder if I have time to go up there? No perhaps not. Still if I must go to London on business of national importance  at least I can go to the Chelsea Artists’ Show, I love the smell of corduroy and the chit-chat of Bohemians.

At Last Cousin Lulubelle Arrives

Cousin Lulubelle enjoys her drink

“Why uhoo y’all Cousin woman, it’s li’le ol’ Lulubelle heya, over heya; sorry to keep y’all waiting. My that A.A. man had some interesting chaps and boots, little ol’ me was feelin’ a might homesick. Now before we go in for lunch,  how are ma investments’ doin’, up, up, up? I hope things are  better in the U.K. than the U.S.of A. We have a depression!  Ma holdings are down in Detroit  where unemployment has reached 20%. Still the good news is Richard Nixon’s car has been stoned by students in Lima which is near Peru and met with demonstrations in Caracas which is close to Venezuela. I know a shifty politician when I see one Mu.”

“How was New York?”

“It was fine Muriel, Cousin. Sebastian is settlin’ in well and just loves the Village. He sends his love. I took him to see Paul Robeson at the Carnegie Hall just before I left. It was a sell out. He’s just got his passport back – Robeson, not Sebastian.  Talking music, I hear Connie Francis is in the hit parade over heah. Whose sorry now, thinking of doing a cover version maseyalf;  maybe with that little ol’ A.A. man – my what leavers and spanners he had in that li’le van. Now let’s see the figures honey lamb. I hope they are prepared by Mr Chanter for ma perusal.”

“Of course they are.”

“Umm why what beautiful copper plate and marvellous coloured ink, but overall a bit disappointing honey lamb like Detriot , just a touch ticklish in the black ink side wouldn’t y’all say? Now Muriel, did I hear y’all are going to theyat London?”

“How do you know?”

“Why we Southerners are all ears as well as all crinoline skirts. Now I want you to have a look at the latest fashions and trends and comeback with some ideas. Shall we order, ah could polish off a gaitor wi’ side orders of grits and gumbo.  4/6d for a three course business man’s lunch, why that’s day light robbery, let’s see if I can do a little business with that manager. Hey boy, what’s a girl gotta do for a discount around here? Now have I missed any news?”

“Well Bolton Wanders won the F.A. Cup against Manchester United  2.0 and we now have life peers and women can sit in the House of Lords for the first time. It’s a start, well it isn’t really; it’s 40 years since some women got the vote.”

“A seat in the House of Lords? Let me buy you one, that’ll be good for business, where do ah send the cash?”

“Oh y’ll, I mean Cousin, you can’t  just do that! This is Britain.”

Oh Cousin woman y’all so sweet;  so naive, so like that soppy woman in Gone with the Wind…… Boy! More mint in ma julep.”

à bientôt

Muriel Wylie

May 1958

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3 Responses to “Ticklish Business”

  1. seileasdar says:

    Modernising the Muriel Way: Improving not Impovering

    What a week was had in Glasgow. And it is good to see that Muriel is taking a well-earned break and her drink easy on the garden.
    But trouble is never far around the corner and things keep finding her, be it good friends with benefits of apes for Sebastian, be it academics with mysterious messages, be it friendly female architects, or even Southern cousins. And all during this most sacred hour of the day, luncheon.

    Her business, of course is thriving and investments are reaping benefits. Masterclasses are held, including on scarves, interior design and strutting furniture legs. Even impromptu classes on the correct way of serving peanuts (a doily and a spoon are required) can not disrupt the even keel of this most distinguished of Modern Glaswegian Businesswoman, ready to modernise the world and show them where to put effective countersink screws heads to best effect.

    Dear Jasper has been sent off to a course on computers to counteract his glumness about not being considered for the decorating position, and to probably keep his mind on important improvements. If ever these cumbersome large machines will catch on for business, administration and organising things remains to be seen, though. But it is good to keep him and his mind occupied and make him happy.

    It is encouraging to see Muriel once again holding the candle high for the achievements, talents and skills of women. Her insights are simply marvellous, and indeed very encouraging. There is more to life than stitching, sewing, knitting, baking and winning crocodile handbags at village fêtes!
    Muriel is of course well-connected and knows important female influencing heads in all important parts of society, including Miss Brodie, dear friends Daphne and Agatha, and that young enthusiastic politician she met on the train to That London a few years ago.

    Speaking of which, once again, she is sent down on important business by that good varsity professor, so Our Fair Lady will once again be on important secret business, maybe even dressing up inconspicuously and mingling amongst those English.
    But I think we Just have to Wait On the Street Where she Lives, and With a Little Bit of Luck, We will Get to the Church on Time, where She will Show Us how She Did It.
    Now, Wouldn’t It be Loverly, indeed?


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

    Chérie Muriel,

    A ticklish business all round, Honey Lamb! Ticklish in places which ought not to be tickled, if you ask moi! Oh, that Lulubelle is a fly one – in fact there are no flies on her at all – as one is sure the AA man will vouch……are his chaps still intact?

    Anyway chérie, one digresses…….one must confess one had a funny turn at the notion of nuts which ‘may have been fingered by unwashed hands’. What was the barman thinking? Him being a friend of who has attended all your masterclasses in Gracious Living dressed as Dorothy Lamour complete with chimpanzee?! Silver spoons and doilies should have been at the forefront of his mind! Still, as my dear late Mama used to say, ‘there’s no friend like a friend of……’ We shall forgive him this one wee faux pas on account of his being a friend of darling Sebastian’s and his ability to tie a chiffon scarf like no other. One is sure there’ll be no further ‘toying’ with nuts – not unless Lulubelle is involved, of course…….

    Maintenant, back to tickling; one does RAWTHER fancy ‘Ticklish Business’ at the King’s Theatre. One will gladly take your tickets, dwaaling, now that you’re having to dash down to That London on the Star Light Express on secret business. Do be careful, dwaaling, it all sounds dashed dangereux to moi! Do remember to pack your ladies handbag-size Swiss Army knife just in case and an extra large Mackintosh Square for the sleeper. One never knows who’s been in the the banquette before one!

    Ah, all this ‘tickling’ has tickled one’s fancy for a Mint Julep, “Jeeves!”

    Yours saying ‘it’s never too early’,
    Lulu xxxx

  3. Matthew Bate says:

    A discounted businessman’s lunch, free nuts, and good news from Caracas.

    A musical bartender. Exquisite.

    I think there should be a scarf masterclass series on YouTube. I’ll assemble a shortlist of guest presenters.

    Dear Cousin LLB! One must feel sorry for the poor chap from the AA. And I’m leaving the nuts alone. I can only hope that Cousin LLB displays similar taste and judgement in the forthcoming meeting. I fear there could be cow skulls in Chez Nous before too much longer. Obviously many of the changes have been for the better. I’m sitting on a simply marvellous settee with sticky-out legs, and my side-table is similarly equipped. I owe both to my involvement in computers so I would be the last person to criticise modernism, as long as it’s achieved with art.

    I sympathise with Jasper. Once one’s hair has migrated there’s nothing for it but to initiate projects and employ the callow. It won’t happen the other way ‘round.

    I see that Muriel is of a similar mind, although her hair is clearly braver than mine and she remains a vision.

    I hope that train ticket is for the sleeper. I liked the sleeper, on the one occasion I took it. If not she’ll be more comfortable on roller skates. The show tickets are more promising: wouldn’t it be lovely. All at at once am I, several stories high.

    I think history would have a different view of Nixon had he been stoned more often. I hear SCROTUS doesn’t drink. What more can one say. At least he didn’t buy his seat with someone else’s money, dear Cousin was just suggesting.


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