“Well how is the patient Mrs Travers?”
“In his own words… Mrs Wylie, “Clinging, clinging, clinging… to life by a thread.”
“So he has a cold then?”
“I would say so, Mrs Wylie, although Mr Wylie is convinced it is some rare tropical disease caught from his far eastern First Unpleasantness memorabilia.”
“What is the treatment?”
“I have given him a great steam snoak over a bowl of boiling water with menthol crystals, rubbed his chest with an embrocating product, dosed him up with Askit pooders and put him to bed in his best flannelette pyjamas in flannelette sheets with a hot pig.”
“What about nutrition?”
“Hot lemon and honey to drink, and a bowl of bread and milk with sugar.”
“Ideal Mrs T; we do not want him enjoying himself now, do we?”
“Certainly not Mrs Wylie, men enjoying sickness does nothing but make a rod for your back. Although I may give him a bowl of Scotch broth for suppa, after all we don’t want to be accused of cruelty.”
“As you say Mrs T, but do not go soft on reading material. I don’t want to discover that he is enjoying some new publication on the origins of the First Unpleasantness or gets over excited with the latest edition of ‘Capodimonte Collector Monthly’. That would raise anyone’s temperature.”
“I have given him Pilgrim’s Progress and the latest edition of the Church of Scotland’s magazine Life and Work.”
“Excellent that should stave off any malingering. If there is no improvement find some back copies of Home and Country, from the Scottish Woman’s Rural Institute. Now where is Hairy Mary, our nursery nurse from Inveraray and young Gayle?”
“They are having boiled eggs and marmite soldiers for tea and then they are going to watch a new children’s television programme called Blue Peter, which is to be very educational and involve lots of papier-mâché.”
“I hope it is not too long; I don’t want Gayle getting square eyes.”
“No Mrs Wylie, it is only 15 minutes long.”
“Good and don’t tell Mr Wylie. You know how much he likes papier-mâché, and I am already falling over his diorama featuring the preparations for the signing of the armistice in the forest at Compiègne and that wretched railway carriage he is making from a shoe box. I cannot wait until the 40th anniversary of the First Unpleasantness is over.”
“I will keep him in the dark.”
“Good thinking; reduce the wattage in his bedside light, tell him you don’t want him going blind.”
“I thought that was for measles.”
“Yes, but he isn’t going to know that. Of course he blames me for the cold having, he says, dragged him all over the country.”
It is true dear friends Jasper and I have been very busy of late. It is the burden one has to bear when one is a simply marvellous interior decorator in demand throughout the drawing rooms of the nation. One has also to be constantly on the lookout for new business as one cannot afford to rest on one’s deep buttoned upholstery alone.
I am also reminded by my business partner Cousin Lulubelle (who is from America and therefore very go ahead ) that Mr Chanter my accountant is coming next week to check “the goes-inties and the goes-ooties.” He will want to see plenty of evidence that fabrics are draping and legs on coffee tables are sticking out in the contemporary Scandinavian style. Running a leading business in a male dominated world is not all expense lunches you know.
By way of expanding horizons Jasper and I went to a Soft Furnishings Conference in Chester. We did not take the car as Jasper is not very keen on anything below Preston or, come to think of it, Oxenholm. Anyway the train is quite good to Manchester, which is an inferior sort of Glasgow so no need to hang about, and then a change for Chester.
This has a rather nice station building and close by is the Queen’s Hotel where Jasper and I put up for a few days. We arrived early so that we might get a feel for the city and Jasper could enjoy the walls as he has a soft spot for the Romans which make a nice change from the First Unpleasantness. I rather liked the black and white buildings and the shopping is quite good.
The Cathedral was most interesting and we were both intrigued by the Consistory Court where people were tried for witchcraft and heresy. I say people but there seemed to me to be to be rather a lot of the usual scapegoats – women. It was rather a forbidding little room with a bench for the judges and an uncomfortable chair for the accused, perched oddly in a corner. Like most such situations it was no doubt designed to humiliate. I of course am no stranger to this having had my face powder and lipstick removed from my handbag when I was captured by the Gestapo in the last Unpleasantness.
A Spot of Help for Edinburgh
As always travel broadens the mind and inspires and I came away from Chester thinking that a black and white theme might be good for the shop window before we enter the festive period with all its brashness. Of course I also associate Chester with silver. One tends to forget that it was also a Georgian city and the walls were a popular place for promenading rather like the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh where I had to dash to on return. Here I gave one of my popular etiquette classes.
You see dear readers ever since the Scottish Crown and Parliament moved to “that London”, the good citizens of Auld Reekie have had something of an inferiority complex. Not helped of course by the short distance to Glasgow, the second city of the Empire where the pigeons do not have to bring their own sandwiches. Conversation is one area where they feel they have fallen down and who can wonder with their fondness for diminutives like “wifey” and “ housey” and “manny.” I was able to help them on the road to linguistic recovery with some helpful hints about consonants and vowels.
I also suggested that they might consider that conversation is not just about what one says. It is really a performance and begins with entering a room and standing and sitting. There was it is said no one who could make an entrance like my grandfather. Indeed this was noted even by the early residents of the Home for Fallen Women for whom he did so much with his entrances. As for my grandmother, she was one of the greatest sitters I have ever known. Her bustle was known for its stillness in the face of adversity or when she saw grandfather entering her boudoir with a wry smile on his face. Of course as I pointed out a gentleman never laughs during conversation , he may give a half laugh in exceptional circumstance such as my grandmother’s bustle being ruffled by a gust of wind.
With the good burgers of Edinburgh being a little mollified, especially with my promise of a return visit at the considerably reduced price of I0 guineas for repeat business, it was time to move on. This time we bashed on up to Perthshire in the Humber Super Snipe, where a number of hotels were pleading with me for some of my ‘je ne sais quoi’. You see the Scottish hotel business is very competitive and the owners are looking for any little thing that gets them ahead of the game. I am that little thing!
We arrived at the Palace Hotel in Aberfeldy, courtesy of Ashley Courtenay’s Let’s Halt a While, to a hearty welcome and fires. I must say Mr and Mrs Gowans who own this hotel are really doing a splendid job and I simply recommended a few light touches – a tassel or two here and there and some framed tartans on the stair walls as a talking point for guests. Mr Gowans asked me about my views on the new Scandinavian look for furnishings and I said while these were undoubtedly popular, tourists expected a bit of ‘tartanalia’. Provided, of course, one did not overdo it – that would border on being common.
Despite the name this is a homely hotel of 20 rooms each with reading lamps and electric fires. The fare is of a high standard and Tay salmon is a speciality. Jasper was delighted to find a well stocked cocktail bar and an excellent wine list. Bed and breakfast is from 17shilllings and 6 pence with lunch is to be had from 5 shillings and 6 pence and dinner from 7shillings and 6 pence. Electric fires are included in the price and one can garage one’s car for an extra shilling. Golf is available locally as are salmon and trout fishing.
The Birks of Aberfeldy
It is a good job that I was working or I might have felt cheated by the weather. In between visits to hotels (where it seems they viewed me like an angel descending from pinch pleating heaven) we did get some fresh air. On reflection our decision to undertake the Birks (birches to the rest of you) of Aberfeldy walk, may have been unwise. Although it is only just over two miles, half of it is uphill to the tree line. We got absolutely soaked and this is possibly why Jasper has a cold.
On the plus side the spates of water, particularly at the Falls of Moness, were splendid. Here one sees a deep gorge lined with native oak, ash, hazel and birch. The latter are the famous Birks of Aberfeldy as immortalised in Burn’s poem The Birks of Aberfeldy by well known poet Robert Burns, in 1787. He obviously really liked Aberfeldy which is more than can be said for the curmudgeonly Robert Southey who said “Aberfeldy might properly be described Aberfilthy” with its beggarly streets and filthy inns.
Fortunately much has changed since the Poet Laureate’s visit and the inns are spotless and the streets clean and attractive. There is even a cinema and a wonderful fountain donated by Lady Breadalbane. There are also some rather god shops including McKercher and McNaughton’s Emporium which has been open since 1910 and sells all manner of things including wine, drapery, books and indeed almost anything.
We returned home only for Jasper to have to dash of to Edinburgh with his Hysterical Society as they were visiting Trinity House in Leith. This is an early 18th century building associated with ancient charitable purposes. Nest to it is the Leith parish church with Mary of Guise connections. On the way home, due to the damp and over-excitement, Jasper developed a sniffle which has become, like the falls, a torrent. He has retired to bed and according to the latest bulletin from Mrs Travers is putting his affairs in order. No doubt this will not stop him from being on the golf course by the weekend in “the unlikely event that I pull through.”
Well I must dash as Jasper is out of action I must attend to the window at ‘Chez Nous’, a woman’s work is never done.
“Muriel, there’s a really good programme on children’s television called Blue Peter, with that lovely Laila Ward and some chap called Trace, I am watching it with Gayle and Hairy Mary, the fay nursery nurse from Inveraray”
“Jasper I thought you were near Death’s door.”
“I am, but there is promise of papier-mâché and things to do with shoe boxes.”
“Jasper you are not having anymore of my Rayne shoe boxes, even if the Armistice train needs more than one carriage! Do you hear me?”
“Yes dear, any chance of some Scotch broth? It might be my last bowl. It would be especially good with toast cut into little squares. A little boiled egg would be nice as well and two would be even better. I feel the chitters coming on.”
“Mrs Travers that will be one soup and two more boiled eggs please. If anyone wants me I will be in the bath with a Fuller’s Earth face mask and a large glass of amontillado to ward off Jasper’s germs. “
Take it from me a programme centred on shoe boxes has no future.