Music Shop Rendez-Vous

  • Posted on: 26/02/2022

The Artemis website is the home of the Muriel & Jasper blog which is set exactly 60 years from present time. It was begun as an experiment to see if we could engage people in looking at the past in slightly different way and mixes the life of Muriel & Jasper with information about life in the 1962.  As you read today’s, you will discover that history as a nasty habit of repeating itself!

It is late February 1962. The Cold War intensifies. It is snowing in Glasgow and the news is not great.

  • President Kennedy has announced an embargo against Cuban goods.
  • The Soviets have announced the equivalent of $134 million for military aid to Cuba.
  • Britain has agreed that the U.S. can test nuclear weapons on Christmas Island.
  • U.S. spy pilot Gary Powers has been exchanged for a Soviet spy.
  • The United States has sent an astronaut (John Glenn) into orbit for the first time.
  • Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev dance together in Giselle – another first.
  • Pettigrew and Stephen of Glasgow have a White Sale which “begins tomorrow”. 

Bargains in Sauchiehall Street

So Mrs Wylie, that’s a cosy quality wool blanket in gold at 52/6 a pair of heavy bleached cotton sheets suitable for women what do and are staying overnight also 52/6; plus a pair of candy-striped sheets, with matching pillow slips, in hard wearing cotton with one row of cord hems at 75/- and a lovely Alhambra  bedspread, heavy quality, reduced from 52/6 with to 41 shillings. Will there be anything else?”

“No thank you.”

“Cash or account?”

“Account please.”

“Would you like me to wrap them for you to take now?”

“It’s never wise to carry packages while wearing fur or an unsightly line forms across the fur giving the impression one has had to climb through barbed wire to get here. No, have it sent round for the attention of Mrs Sloan, my wonderful woman what does and oh so much.”

“Very well Madam; our exclusive account customers home delivery is as usual on Tuesdays.”

“Does that van also go to the Southside?”

“Yes madam.”

“Well make sure it calls at my house first. I don’t want anything brought back across the Clyde.”

“There you are Madam the receipt and a card for 10% off cellular blankets at our Spring special next month. Will you be visiting any of our other departments this morning?”

“Not really; I shall have a gentle peruse as I make my elegant exit down the staircase and I stroll purposefully to the music shop.”

“What a thoughtful idea Mrs Wylie. The manager was saying only this morning there is nothing like a Mrs Wylie exit.”

At Cuthbertson’s Music Shop

“Good morning, Mrs Wylie, not having any trouble with the Challen Boudoir Grand I hope?”

“So very kind of you to ask Mr Quaver. No the Challen is performing well. Indeed I have just had it tuned. I may need to speak to you soon about hiring a Steinway for Lady Pentland-Firth’s Country House summer season of concerts.”

“They are marvellous, whoever organises them has a real appreciation for classical music. Might it be you Mrs Wylie?”

“You are too kind well. I like to say it is the committee but as you are, as they say, on the inside of the business one does indeed carry most of the burden of cultural dissemination in the city and southwest Scotland. I feel I owe it to my grandfather. He entertained Chopin when he came to Scotland, he just loved Fingal’s Cave.

“Forgive me but wasn’t that Mendelssohn?”

“Oh, him too; Grandpappa took everybody everywhere. Chopin was seasick and asked for it never to be mentioned.”

Inappropriate Musical Instruments

“Is there anything I can help you with today?”

“I am thinking about my ward young Gayle. It’s never too early to become accomplished in one or more instruments. Do you have any suggestions?”

“What about a recorder Mrs Wylie? They are relatively inexpensive and in no time a child can play Three Blind Mice and feel they are making progress.”

“A bit mundane Mr Quaver and I have to confess that wind instruments and ladies do not traditionally go together. My Great Grandmother Macavity, who was said to have been the flame sparking the Edinburgh Enlightenment of the late 18th century, was always against young ladies putting wooden instruments into their mouths, she felt it was the height of vulgarity. I know times have changed, but one is a prisoner of one’s past.”

“Quite so Mrs Wylie, what about the violin?”

“Almost as bad, in a vibrato one tends to get wobbly bosoms, which is very distracting in the stalls.”

“What about the cello?”

“Of all instruments Great Grandmamma Macavity regarded the cello, an instrument placed between what she referred to as lower limbs, if she referred to them at all, as the most shocking. One thing was sure a girl in Edinburgh’s elegant Georgian New Town, appearing at a Soirée with a cello was ruined. No, I was wondering if you had a spinet?”

“Let me take a look in the stockroom. There are one or two instruments of an antique nature at the back and there are two gentlemen over there waving to you. So while I head for the bowels I will leave you in their capable hands. One of them is a regular customer Professor Sir Boozy Hawkes, from the very good university here in Glasgow who is a specialist in British Art Songs, with a monograph on Dame Ethel Smyth, who some consider rather masculine for a lady composer.”

“Perhaps Mr Quaver she was given access to wind instruments.”

 “Accidently” Bumping into the Music Professor and the Handsome Stranger

“Mrs Wylie, how lovely to bump into you. You of course know the Handsome Stanger?

“Of course, we go back a long way. And what do I owe this accidentally on purpose encounter in a Glasgow music shop.”

“We thought it for the best. To come to your house would have been tricky, there are eyes and ears everywhere. The international situation is on a knife edge. We just want to know how Mrs Sloane is working out?”

“Well Professor, I will say one thing she is very efficient and if I did not know better, I would say she is the ideal woman what does, as she does so much. She is currently reorganising my linen cupboard, on a seasonal basis, I have had to buy new sheets as Spring was a little bare.

“Sounds ideal, but what of Jasper?”

“Oh dear, Handsome Stranger, I am afraid Jasper loathes her. He misses Mrs Travers. Mrs Sloan is cleaning out his wardrobe and her cooking is not to his taste. Mind you he has lost ten pounds since she came, so it’s not all bad.”

“It so easily could be Mrs Wylie, I know we are playing with fire here, but it is best he knows nothing. It is more convincing.  I am sorry about the food. That’s typical of the eastern sector if you get my drift – a devotion to inner cleanliness. Just make sure you avoid the suppositories; they are very keen on those.  You must be vigilant. She will be on your tail, building up a picture.”

“Well, I imagine gentlemen, with an interest in suppositories she will be on most people’s tails!”

“Be careful; she managed to create a very difficult situation at Cliveden with the Minister of War and a young lady with connections we would rather not have. Now we must go. I need to brief the Service and the Professor has work to do on achingly beautiful English Songs at the time of the first Unpleasantness. Ah here comes the young man back from the musical dungeon.”

Delivery Worries

“Sorry to keep you Mrs Wylie, but the good news is we do indeed have a spinet. Needs a bit of work and I could give you a good price.”

“So, kind Mr Quaver I do appreciate it, but I really should consult my husband first and then I will get straight back to you. Meanwhile could I purchase this sheet music for my boudoir grand, and these gramophone records for Mr Wylie?”

“Certainly, would you like them in an elegant paper carrier bag, or sent out? As it is you, I could put them on the van that goes to our Paisley shop tomorrow. The driver will happily deliver on the way back. I wouldn’t like to see a bag marking that rather beautiful fur coat.”

“Coming back from Paisley, you say, hmm. I think I will just take the items with me. After all I am only going across the road to Daly’s, I can hold the bag at arm’s length. A musical purchase can only enhance an elegant walk across one of the nation’s finest shopping streets. Thank you, you have been most attentive.”

“My pleasure as always Mrs Wylie. Did the gentlemen leave?”

“Yes, they are on top secret missions.”

“ Very droll; as always Mrs Wylie you are most amusing! I imagine they are heading for a wee refreshment at the R.S.A.C..”

“Indeed, au revoir.”

Coffee with Big Nana in Dalys

“Mrs Wylie, yoohoo! Over here.”

“Ah Big Nana, how nice to see you?”

“And yoose too Mrs Wylie. Are yoose all right? Yoose look as if yoose have got the future o’ the western world on they befurred shoulders.”

“Oh, I am fine Big Nana, just fine. I have just had a busy morning buying new linen and looking for a musical instrument for Gayle.”

“Aye, the weans is always after somethin’.”

“Now are you ready for your lesson on taking coffee, with a well-known Glasgow personality when out shopping?”

“Aye I like a wee coffee when I’m oot goin’  fur the messages.”

“To start at the very beginning, it is shopping. And it is about being seen as marvellous when shopping. It is one of the elements of gracious living. Shopping Big Nana is an art form.”

à bientôt

Muriel Wylie

February 1962