Fruit Cocktail and Space Monkeys

  • Posted on: 31/05/2019

This week’s offering from the Simply Marvellous Wylies comes for Jasper. It is May 1959…. 

At Home 

Ah peace, perfect peace. I am in the drawing room of our Glasgow home, reclining on a newly acquired chaise longue with a coffee and a medicinal whisky chaser. The Glasgow Herald crossword is nearly completed.

An Inspiration

You might wonder at such “a well appointed” room (to use the words of Muriel, my lady wife) requiring a piece of new furniture. So, frankly, do I. However, Muriel insisted on buying it from Derek Dealer at Times Up Antiques in ‘The Barras’ (don’t worry she has a special set of clothes just for going there) who has convinced her that it was the inspiration for a painting of Madam Recamier by Jacques-Louis David, which one can see in The Louvre. This is an art gallery in Paris quite close to France.

Juliette Recamier (1777 – 1849) is a heroine of Muriel’s or more correctly someone with whom she identifies. Like Muriel she was a salonniere and her home a “temple of elegance” which was was a magnate for the leading writers and politicians of her time. Her circle included the gifted intellectuals of the day and the finest artists of the time. As Muriel says “She too was beautiful, accomplished, loved literature and was deeply shy and too modest for her own good.” Both are it seems icons of neo-classism and good with shawls and turbans. Shawls according to Muriel were the duster coats of their time.

Expensive Silk and a Well Received Lecture

I for one doubt the provenance, but Muriel is convinced and £10 is a small price to pay for a piece of woodwork which will enhance the temple and ensure rhubarb crumble with custard at the weekend. The only problem is that ‘we’ are now searching for several yards of appropriate silk form Lyon or Spitalfields. This will no doubt add considerably to the cost. I am not supposed to be lying on it nor is Cleopatra, but we both have our Mackintosh Squares to rely on.

In some ways furniture has been the topic of the week as some new teak units in the fashionable Scandinavian style have arrived at our shop ‘Chez Nous’. These are to display the very latest in ceramics.

I have also, as Chair of The Historical Society, given the final lecture of the season  – “Sit Nice: Chairs through the Ages”. It was very well received and there were many kind comments. Miss Herron and Miss Finch who run ‘The Bird in the Hand’ public house said they had developed a new interest in upholstery and had no idea horse hair could be so fascinating.

Backhanded Compliment?

Mrs Braithwaite of the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute asked if I would consider a follow up for the winter season on ‘The Art of Good Sitting’, as I seemed to be something of an expert. She also thought a grown up version of Musical Chairs might round off the evening after the raffle. It is nice when one’s talents and expertise are recognised by the wider public, many of whom could not previously have identified a cabriole leg from a cup and cover.

I might consider it, but I do not care for Mrs Braithwaite. She is one of those professionally acerbic northern women who regard all men as intrinsically useless and anyway she fancies herself as something of an artist in “mixed media” and if that isn’t suspicious I don’t know what is. They say her wealthy husband ran off with Wendy Wallace who with her sister Wilma ran the Pick ̓n’ Mix counter in Woolworths. Argyle Street, not long after they had received a promotion which included supervision of the roasted peanut machine. The Wallace girls were identical twins and redheads known for their generous picking and mixing and other things. They were also very talented in the musical way and were known for their exotic dancing which involved a selection of patisserie and confectioner’s custard. Professionally they went under the name The Strawberry Tarts. Mr Braithwaite never knew which one he had got and they made sure he remained confused. In fact he lived with both but they were never home at the same time.

Muriel’s Busy Schedule

Muriel went out early as she has an appointment with Miss Hastwell at Westbourne School for Girls’ preparatory class where she has decided to send young Gayle, our the ward next autumn as she will be 5 next year.  Muriel has been told there is an entrance examination but has told the Headmistress that there is no need to bother with this as all members of the Lochhead family (Muriel’s maiden name) always exceed expectations and she wouldn’t want to upset the other children with more limited abilities. Just to be on the safe side Muriel has presented a new Trophy for Marvellousness and Deportment (or the M.A.D. Award for short) to be presented at prize giving this year for the first time. It comes with a suitably useful endowment.

 The Danger of Losing the Thread 

Having read that the Paisley mill workers have gone on strike, Muriel intends to head straight from Westbourne which is in Beaconsfield  Road (Muriel approves of a school located in a road named after a Conservative prime minister)  to the haberdashers’ to stock up on sewing and embroidery threads. Nearly 1,500 out of 4,500 of the workers belonging to the National Union of Dyers, Bleachers and Textile Workers at both the Anchor and Ferguslie Mills have gone on strike. They have asked the Dockers in Greenock to support them. This it seems will depend on whether or not the strike is official. In the meantime “there is a great deal of good natured booing at the factory gates.” Muriel, however , sees only Bolsheviks at the gates and “…there is nothing good natured about them Jasper, I say if you want to be like the comrades, then go and live there, and see how you like it.”

If she is successful in stocking up on threads she is then heading out to Milngavie where Mrs Hugh Fraser is opening the Unionist Association’s Garden Fête. Muriel has presented a coffee pot and stylish plate for the tombola stall.

Can We Trust the News?

Mrs Travers, our woman what does (but not a lot) is also out. She was supposed to be bristle brushing the washed Chinese rugs but heard something about the Mau-Mau on the wireless.  They clearly worry her despite my assurances that they were not known for their activities in Maryhill. Had she listened to the news, instead of getting overexcited, she would have realised that the guerrilla activities have largely ceased due to the British policy of divide and rule and that the report referred to detainees being reunited with their families and being given a “hut and four acres.” This news comes from Reuters who are fairly reliable, but I have a feeling history will not show the British to have behaved terribly well in this sorry colonial event.

To take Mrs Travers mind off unlikely terrors I have sent her to Galloway’s  to get a steak pie. Muriel will not be back until after suppa so we are free to indulge in puff pastry  and television. I have also suggested we might splash out on a tin of fruit cocktail and some evaporated milk. This went down well as it is Mrs T’s turn for the cherry. Muriel would not approve; she would say it’s a working class wedding menu. True, but yummy.

Don’t Mention the Monkeys

At least Mrs T has not picked up on the story of the Space Monkeys.  Despite her tough, no nonsense, bandage-enveloped figure she has a heart of gold and would be appalled by the experience of Able and Bale who have been sent by the Americans on a 10,000 mile per hour flight into outer space, which is a long way from Glasgow. They have been recovered and put on a ship at San Juan in Puerto Rico and are now on route to Washington D.C. which is the capital of America.

A spokesperson, as opposed to a spokes-monkey, has said they are in excellent condition, but as yet no one has seen them to confirm or deny, a bit like the mud hut and four acres in Kenya. I am not sure I would be in excellent condition after that. I can be something of a wreck after a Cha-Cha with Muriel round the Locarno Ballroom.

Talking of going too fast, Miss Wisdom, a lady driver, was injured following a collision with a lorry during the Acropolis Rally in Athens. She is in hospital in Greece. Apparently her Austin Healy was one of two taking part.  Perhaps in future she might be better off with a Frisky car. Frisky Cars Limited of Wolverhampton, near the Midlands, has announced the agreement with the Egyptian Government to manufacture Frisky cars in Egypt under licence. The car produced in Cairo will be known as The Rameses. Take it from me, getting into a car with Colonel Nasser will only end in tears.


“That’s me back Mr Wylie, I’ll put the kettle on if you fancy a cuppa. I got everything we need including The Racing Times and a packet of wine gums. I also thought you might want something for your snack before beddy-byes, so I got two strawberry tarts. They are good ones made by Tunnocks who had 72 crates of French strawberries delivered yesterday, I know that for sure as Mrs Gilmour from across the landing works on the Caramel Wafer line and she says they are very good.

Now while I was on the bus, trying to avoid that awful Mrs Braithwaite, who had been oot fur polyfilla, string  and Gloy Glue as she’s doing “a monumental interpretation of The Battle o’ Bannockburn which, by the way, includes milk bottle tops, old egg boxes and paint made only from pigments found on the battle site. She’s very rude, not to say ‘aff her heid’. She said two American monkeys had been seen last night going through space at over 10,000 miles an hour. Well she clearly thinks I came up the Clyde on a Banana Boat. It was cloudy last night for one thing.”

“Oh dear Mrs T she is a horror but she’s not had her troubles to seek remember the pick and mix.”

What to Watch

“Not only that but she said the last speaker at the Hysterical Society was some tedious fool talking aboot auld chairs. Who was it you got to do that again Mr Wylie? Does’nae sound like one o’ yer mair dynamic speakers. Now I will jist put the oven on to warm up and yous can put the television set on to warm up too. I had a quick look in The Radio Times and at 7.30 it’s Harry Secombe at Large and his guests drawn from the “fabulous world of entertainment” are Cliff Michelmore, David Nixon and the film star Julie Andrews. Now Cliff Michelmore is a bit highbrow fur me and I know you can’t stand magicians, so as Mrs Wylie’s oot we could throw caution tae the winds, live a little an’ watch Frankie Vaughan on S.T.V. even if deserting the B.B.C. consigns us to the flames of Hell. After all we’re a long time deid.”

“Well why not Mrs T, but there will be no choice tomorrow evening as she wants to watch Val Parnell’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium.

“But that’s also on commercial television, Mr Wylie”

“Yes I know but apparently she is making an exception as Margot Fonteyn and David Blair are dancing with full supporting cast and she intends to make a charitable donation to offset watching a channel designed for those who do not aspire to gracious living.”

“Och no! Not men in tights! Many o’ them need scaffolding to support that lot!”

“Really Mrs T – good job Mrs Wylie is out.”

“Well Mr Wylie yous know what I mean, reminds me o’ when that Dimitri lived here with your Sebastian. You know him that defected from the Bolshoi, that wandered around ma kitchen in they tight tights all day long. I’ve never looked at a Scotch egg since.”

“Well he didn’t live with Sebastian Mrs T, he was just helping him with his stage craft.”

“And his patchwork quilting.”

“Well I suppose so, but he was a nice lad, kept his room tidy and so good with floral art.”

Making a Connection

“That Margot, is that the same wumin that we got oot o’ Panama on oor secret but as yet unexplained trip wi’ the Handsome Stranger , Professor Sir Boozy Hawkes and the Sadler’s Wells Ballet Company?

“Actually Mrs T, it was Tunbridge Wells Ballet Company. The others were too busy with Giselle and the Willys. However, you are correct; we cannot talk about it.”

“Doesn’t usually stop us.”

“No but we risk undermining the world of classical ballet, not to mention Princess Margaret.”

“Oh I think she can manage that by hersel’.”

“So Harry Secombe or Frankie Vaughan?”

“Let’s toss.”

“Righty oh. Babycham first?”

“Don’t mind if I do Mr Wylie, and put a drop of that scotch in it while I put the pies in.”


Jasper Wylie

May 1959