Jasper’s Jottings: Trying to Stay In the Shed

  • Posted on: 06/04/2019

Owing to problems with the Muriel & Jasper website, we continue to give them shelter here on the Artemis website.

It is April 1959 and Jasper is in his shed at the rural bolthole.

Muriel is Out

Ah there you are – I imagine you are looking for Muriel. Well I am afraid she is out. She took the early morning train back up to Glasgow. Unfortunately she is in a bit of a cream puff. I don’t know if she has told you, but the visiting minister singled her out for some pretty tough treatment at the service last Sunday. Something to with Lent. To be honest I was snoozing – there is only so much abstinence a chap can take. Have you noticed that they tell the same stories every year? I know I repeat myself but honestly some new material would be a boon and might attract a bigger audience.

Muriel has written to the moderator telling him she thinks – it’s time a woman’s touch is introduced, beyond just serving at Jumble Sales. In the meantime she has made appointments to see the Dean of the Episcopalian Church, “my understating is you are a home for those who occupy society’s most elevated citizens, especially in Edinburgh and Perth” and to the Bishop of Glasgow, where “in terms of filling a pew, I can promise a selection of eye catching ensembles and it has often been mentioned that in a mantilla, silhouetted against a background of incense smoke, one is positively ethereal.”

Muriel of course regards most places and events as backdrops for her role in life to be enacted. She thinks of them as stage settings in which she must play out her destiny as an arbiter of taste and manners. In all honesty there is nothing wrong with that, for goodness knows the world can be a grey place and it needs its Muriels. Sorry I mean it needs Muriel. Let us be honest there is no one who can communicate using a handbag and a movement of the eyebrow like Muriel.

 New Bedroom – New Lottie

This is not the only reason for her bashing off to town. Muriel has been asked to decorate Lottie Macaulay’s bedroom in the south side of the city. This I might add is the spare bedroom, as she and Mr Macaulay, the cement king and bungalow builder, are estranged but living under the same roof. Mr Macaulay plays away from home, indeed in the home when Lottie is out. He has been unmasked, but we had better not talk about that.

Anyway Lottie has gained the upper hand financially and is making Mr Macaulay pay in every way possible. Apparently Lottie wants a boudoir of tranquillity, a sort of inside garden where she can recharge her batteries and plot the next phase in her management of the man who made the bay window part of Bearsden’s bungalow world.

Muriel has to this end found some rather lovely fabric, mimicking bark cloth, which she feels says trees.

It has rather old fashioned pattern of pink roses, which she is going to use “to great effect” at the window and to upholster an indoor swing hammock. The walls will be green with an over laid wooden trellis entwined with foliage and flowers made from Japanese silk .One wall will have a’ Muriel Mural’, featuring scenes from a Shakespearean play called Midsummer Night’s Dream, which in case you are not literary was written by a famous Shakespearean playwright known as William Shakespeare. The characters are to be depicted with the friends and family of the Macaulays, not that they have many. Mr Macaulay will be Bottom and Mrs Macaulay, Titania. The Donkey will probably work as Mr Macaulay has the ears, but Muriel has real anxieties about portraying Titania, as Lottie is something of a “winter model”. Oberon is to be “deliberately obscure” as Lottie feels this will keep Mr Macaulay nervous.

New Legs

Muriel is also going to The Scottish Furniture Trades’ Exhibition which is to be opened by Lady Isabel Barnett, I am sure you know her, she is a panellist on What’s my Line and an excellent after dinner speaker. Muriel has been asked to speak at one of the associated events and has chosen as her topic:

“How I came to terms with the new sticky oot leg – Scottish Furniture in the wake of the Scandinavian Design Revolution.

An illustrated lectureete, by Mrs Muriel Wylie of Chez Nous.

 Free entry, with complimentary sherry and nuts (remember use the spoon not your fingers).

To sit on the stage next to Muriel and Lady Barnett please send  a letter of application with curriculum vitae, and 3 referees, none of whom should be members of the Labour Party or other people who do not wash out their milk bottles before placing them on the door step.

New Kitten and New Tricks

So yours truly is at a bit of a loose end.  Not of course that there is not plenty to do (Muriel leaves a list longer than that at Lloyds) nor watch being done. Watching can be as tiring as doing you know.  Our new kitten Cleopatra is very busy learning new tricks hunting mice and voles. It is quite exhausting. Frogs are a mystery to her and she keeps presenting them to Mrs Travers, our woman what does but not a lot, who screams and runs and hides. Muriel says this is typical of the working classes who bunk off at the slightest problem and is the reason the nation is covered in free spectacles and false teeth. I am not sure about the nation, but on the last presentation of an amphibian while Mrs Travers was hanging out the washing, her “top set” shot out of her mouth and ended up in the blackthorn blossom.

New Addition But An Old Naming Pattern

“She’s not really a country woman is she?” said Young Auld Jock (YAJ) who as “junior deputy moudiewart man” of the village has spent the morning with traps and mole smoke trying to do something about our lawn. “Mind you” said YAJ leering at Mrs T as she fled into the house, “that’s a fine pair o’ child bearing hips  –  they’d produce some fine dairy workers, ya ken.”

If anyone should know it’s YAJ whose relatives and progeny are legion in these parts. Every other inhabitant of this rustic paradise is a relative, not that they are always aware of it. It seems his youngest Maureen is expecting (sorry Muriel, anticipating). “Will he be Young, Young Auld Jock?” I asked him as he hung another velvet coated gentleman on the washing line between Mrs Travers’ aprons and my socks. “Naw jis’ Wee Jock, but there’s a wee bit of a problem.” “What’s that?”  I asked. “His faither is Young Auld Accordion Archie and his faither before that was Auld Auld Accordian Archie”.  “And before that?” I enquired”. “Och he didnae play the accordion, he was a fiddler –  Fiddler Frank.” “That’s a bit unusual”. “Aye that’s what all the lassies used tae say.” “Just supposing” I proffered “that your grandchild turns out to be a girl, will she be Maureen too?” “Din’ae be daft man that would be confusing. In these pairts, a lassie is always called after her grandmother, so she’ll be Big Bertha.” “But she might be petite.” “That’s the trouble wi’ you incomers; always looking on the negative side of things.”

New Plans for Old Buildings

The trouble with being on one’s own is that the ladies of the parish tend to find out and call. So I am hoping that by taking refuge in my shed that I can, so to speak, remain under the radar. Lady Pentland-Firth, who has that dreadful Duchess of Dunstaffange staying with her, has threatened to call to discuss improvements to her enfilade which she says needs widening. I think she fears the Hysterical Society might object to her tampering with one of the historic elements of her house.  We will shortly have our AGM so I expect she is trying to head off the zealots at the pass.

Lady P-F

We had the most awful trouble a few years ago when Rear Admiral Pentland – Firth was alive and he decided to blow up the Robert Adam Gunpowder Factory on his estate. He wanted to use the site for a massive boating lake so that he could re-enact his famous part in the Battle of Jutland with the help of the Solway Model Boating Club. While the old factory indeed disappeared, following an after dark demolition, the lake is incomplete as of course the Rear Admiral died mysteriously at a F.A.F.S. luncheon, unleashing a battle between Lady P-F, his widow, and the new heir to the P-F estate, who was subsequently eaten by lions. That, however, is another story.

The New Arty Woman and The Old Neighbour

If Lady Pentland-Firth and her house guest are possible intruders when I am on my own, I also have to guard against interruption by several other well meaning neighbours including, that new arty woman they call “The Merry Widow” who is running a furniture repair French polishing business in an old byre and enjoys discussing ill-fitting drawers and how to get a shine on your burr walnut whatnot. Then there is  Bunty Haystack, the author of the Rural Mysteries Series of books such as “The Slurry Pit Slayings”, “Sheep Shearing Stabbings”, “The Bailer Twine Beast”, and “The Tractor Went Forwards And Then Backwards”.

For such a harmless looking woman, Bunty has a very vivid imagination. She is also suspected of writing under the name of Delia Delight who writes more lurid novels and tales of passion in the countryside such as “The Farmer Wants Another Wife”, and its sequel “The Farmers Is Alone In His Den” not to mention “Bondage In A Bonnet  so we won’t. These are publications which are not generally available in County Libraries, but by post from a Soho bookshop and they would explain Bunty’s rather comfortable lifestyle.

Jasper Can’t Be Bothered Doing Much

To be honest I don’t really feel like doing very much. I should be writing the Chairman’s Report for the Hysterical, saying in glowing terms how wonderful the December talk on “Drystone Wall Variations” was or how lucky we were to have Miss Manifold’s presentation on “The History of Comforts for the Troops”, or even the undoubted success of Professor Sir Boozy Hawkes’ Christmas lecture, “Fun with the Fugue” and finger food buffet. Well it should have been we had to pay him a fee, plus extra for expenses and put him up for an overnight stay which extended to a weekend.

It can wait and I shall just adlib. So instead I think I will turn up the paraffin stove pour myself a little freshener and have a look at the paper.

Brief Diversions in The Glasgow Herald

What can The Herald offer us today? Well for a start tomorrow’s Budget promises price stability and generous tax relief. The Chancellor, Mr Heathcoat Amory, is also promising increased spending, so my guess is there will be a general election before the year is out. Clearly Mr Heathcote Amory does not feel like putting the finishing touches to his speech any more than I do as he spent yesterday onboard his yacht in the Medway.

The Labour Party, whom I hope will be successful in the next election, are meanwhile engaged in more important activities than sailing about the Kent coast and  that is discussing the dangers we face from radioactive waste. In other news De Gaulle has influenza which will please Muriel especially as the French have been criticising General Montgomery who is proposing to visit Moscow.  Muriel is not keen on the comrades or Moscow, bur Montgomery like Churchill is beyond reproach in Muriel’s book. Oh that’s interesting a B.O.A.C. Britannia has flown from Tokyo to London in 33 hours with only 3 stops.

No Escape

“Mr Wylie sorry to interrupt, but you don’t seem to be doing anything. And I’ve brought you something to bolster you up.”

“Not a problem Mrs T, just the exhaustion of reading, but worry not. Have you come to collect my money for the Grand National? Not a word to Muriel of course……”

“Well yes Mr Wylie, that would be helpful as I am going to see our runner later, but there are several people who are in the drawing room to see you and they know from meeting Young Auld Jock in the front garden that you are here. “

“Who exactly?”

“ Lady Pentland-Firth and the Duchess of Dunstaffnage, with an invitation to suppa , Bunty Haystack from next door with a cake and one of her books and that arty woman with a proposition, she  wants to know if you have anything you would like to have French Polished.”

“Oh Mrs Travers one’s life is not one’s own.”

“It’s those come to bed eyes Mr Wylie.”

“Really do you think so Mrs T?”

“Well I suppose I could entertain them for half an hour. Pity none of them look like Sophia Loren.”

“It’s the country Mr Wylie, beggars can’t be choosers.”

Toodle pip

Jasper Wylie

April 1959