There has been great excitement in the Judy Garland Wing of the Home for the Terminally Overdressed. Just in case you spend most of your life on your mobile telephone, this is a retirement facility for what are now known as “creatives” on the Slough Trading Estate. It is very cutting edge and most aspects of its work are “going forward.” This is in complete contrast to contemporary Britain which is going backwards.
This follows a recent vote where people decided that they wanted to live in a former Britain, with permanent blue skies in which there are hourly flypasts with spitfires overhead, daily Royal Weddings and Dame Vera is forever Number One in the hit parade.
Unfortunately this co-exists with the reintroduction of rickets, and soup kitchens, but do not worry this is all part of what is known as “back in the day” which is considered better. This has caused a great deal of division in the home, although all are agreed that television was much better in the 1970s when the country was bound together by Morecombe and Wise as well as Birdseye Crispy Pancakes, Arctic Roll and Angel Delight.
Shakespeare and Car Parks for the Masses
The most prominent resident of the home is Sir Sebastian Wylie Fox, Shakespearean actor, trained “in the method.” It was Sebastian who brought Shakespeare to the masses and for the first time let people understand, that these plays were actually written by a Shakespearean who was known as William Shakespeare who had lived with Anne Hathaway famous for Anne Hathaway’s Cottage which was built because biscuit manufacturers needed something pretty with which to adorn their Christmas tins of “chocolate assorted”.
This has helped to confirm the myth that once Britain was a land of rose covered cottages, until we became part of Europe and they banned roses as many were discovered not to be of a uniform colour or size.
Sir Sebastian has played all the great roles famously rehabilitating Richard III. This was in the 1950s long before King Richard was found in a car park. Given current hospital car parking charges it is quite likely that in the future, going forward, car parks will be a very fruitful source of other skeletons who have given up on the battle. Sebastian has himself never given up on anything for he was brought up by his legendary Aunt and Uncle, Muriel and Jasper Wylie in Glasgow.
Making Design Effortless
The Wylies were a major cultural force in the 20th century particularly in the field of domestic interior decoration. They succeeded, where others failed, because they were able to transcend their own time and style preferences. Despite being brought up in Edwardian Scotland, they would become the leaders of what we now know as “the mid-century” look. This look was very influenced by designs coming out of Scandinavia and was very suited to the house building boom of the 1950s and 1960s and the desire to get away from the Victorians, who were thought of as very dreary and “back in the day.”
The Wylies would become very wealthy as a result of their efforts. Strictly speaking these were Muriel’s efforts as Jasper was never over fond of effort, but he was very supportive. This he mainly achieved by staying in his shed or being at his Club.
Fine Principles and Good Sherry
The Wylie fortune is now bound up in a trust. Its principle objectives are the promotion of “a simply marvellous world” and the pursuit of “gracious living” for all. For, above all else, Muriel and Jasper believed in the democratisation of colour co-ordination, affordable accessorising and sherry drinking with canapes on a modest income.
It has been thought by many economists that Muriel Wylie was the originator of the idea of Universal Income, as a means of updating “one’s upholstery and lighting options.”
Chief among the trustees is their nephew who has the final say on how the funds are distributed. There are many calls on these funds because public funding of the arts has declined since the banks stopped sending cheques back with one’s monthly statement which was quite the best way of keeping an eye on where the money goes. The truth is no one knows where the money has gone which makes it very difficult.
Increasingly our arts organisations have to turn either to gambling for money or private trusts. Of course this does not mean gambling as in the horses, this would be rather to low a step, instead there is the lottery which is disguised gambling. Or is it taxation? That is one source of funds. The other is business and its profits.
Hardly a day goes by without Sebastian being in receipt of a letter requesting funds for this or that project. Notable among those who court his favour are Hilary Dee Range, correspondent of “The Sunday Slouch”
and Vivienne Valhalla, uber curator. To the wider world they are the queens of culture.
They are currently acting as consultants for The Museum of Scottish Things Scottish People are Interested In. They need a big idea “to bring the punters in”. They have decided that a major exhibition on the world of Muriel and Jasper is just the thing. It will appeal to “millennials” beguiled by beards and the mid-century look as well as that woman who does up things found in rubbish tips.
Our culture vultures are nothing if not full of guile and to achieve their ends they have persuaded Sir Sebastian to leave the home and travel with them to Stockholm near Sweden to look at the ABBA Museum as a model for what they hope to do in Scotland. We join Sebastian as he leaves the home in his car with his chauffeur Dean Travers (you may recall Dean is the grandson of Mrs Esme Travers, the daily woman what did for the Wylies, but not a lot) and his wife Pearl who acts as Sebastian’s secretary answering the many letters from fans as well as the producers of “Strictly” and that quiz programme no one understands, – what’s it called again? Ah yes, Pointless and so it is.
Also in the car is Sebastian’s key worker Chenin Blanc McGonagall, who has to travel with clients from the Home. “it’s policy you know; part of our caring package” and it bumps up the monthly fee. Like Sebastian, Chenin is from Glasgow, but from the south side. She is a beauty therapist and normally works with hot stones. She has that contemporary look with eyebrows that look like fur and a complexion which reminds the theatrical knight of caramel sauce. Aunt Muriel would not have approved.
In the Car Ready to Depart
“Are yous all right there Sir Seby , ther’s yer rug an’ I have yer in flight facial spritzer and thrombosis socks. Would yous like a wee travel sickness pill the noo before we get on that M4. I could fair dae wi’ wan mysel’, I’m fair scunnered and we’ve no even started yet. How about a wee Murray mint then?”
“Thank you Miss Merlot, but no thank you, I have some Palma Violets in Aunt Muriel’s silver box. And for takeoff I always like to suck on a Fisherman’s Friend, helps reduce the pressure.”
“If you are ready Sir, we can depart.”
“Thank you, Dean and Pearl. Do you have my passport?”
“Yes Sir and your special card with money ready loaded in Swedish Krona.”
“Because you are going to Sweden.”
“I know that I’m demented, not daft.”
“Sorry Sir, the preloaded currency card means you don’t have to use your expensive credit card and they are a cashless society.”
“Good Lord, suppose you are mugged?”
“That’s the idea Sir. You cannot be mugged if you have nothing to steal.”
“You could be forced to go to a cash point Pearl.”
“They don’t have those either Sir, seatbelt please.”
“Oh really if Aunt Muriel were here she would say “nanny state. Actually she was, now I come to think of it. She went to Stockholm near Sweden exactly 60 years ago and brought back the sticky oot leg and affordable well designed tableware.”
The car, the old Cadillac of Cousin Lulubelle shipped over from the States in the late 1950s, gently glides out of the Home for the Terminally Overdressed. Sir Sebastian waves to the other residents who have gathered to say farewell between Tai Chi and the No, No Nanette, rehersal. They join the motorway and head west towards Heathrow airport, passing Chalvey, Eton with Windsor Castle on the hill, Datchet, Langley, Colnbrook and then under the tunnel at the southern perimeter road.
At Terminal 5, Heathrow
“Here we are Sir, Terminal 5 and there they are.”
“There who are?”
“ The cultural ladies sir……………. talking to that other group.”
“Oh good are they coming as well?”
“No Sir they are a group of celebrities going on another trip to see if they would prefer to retire abroad.”
“Not on my money I hope. Don’t recognise any of them. Well Miss Sauternes have we everything we need?”
“Yes Sir Seby, Pearl has gi’en me the cash card and the passports.”
“Good morning Sir.”
“Good morning Miss Range and ”
“It’s Ms Range and Ms Valhalla..”
“Ah so it is. First class seats all ready?”
“Well not exactly been a bit of a who-ha actually. The Director would not sanction first class, but it will be fine, budget airlines are not what they were. Have you got your passport? We have your downloaded boarding card, so we can proceed through security and passport control. ”
“To the VIP lounge for champagne I imagine. Oh I once spent a happy afternoon in the VIP lounge with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. They tried to persuade me to direct them in Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolf but I could see it would lead to trouble.”
“Not exactly Sir, but we should have time for a quick spray in duty free and a cup of coffee in “Caesar’s” before boarding
“See you when you get back Sir.”
“Thank you Pearl and Dean, see you soon. Let us venture forth then ladies. Have you got my passport Miss Chardonnay? And goodbye all you other lovely people going to retire, I am such a fan, you were all marvellous, where are you going again. ”
“North Korea. No one else will take Miriam, will they Miriam?”
“Oh Miriam you were marvellous in that play. You know the one written by the “Waiting for Godot” chap where you played your part in the trash can, I thought it would never end. But Darling who are these other people? You have my sympathy.”
“Well that was an ordeal…….., Yes it was ……. Did you get some of that Jimmy Choo Blossom?”
“Yes the Eau de parfum; and you?”
“The Issy Myiak”
“Oh cool Darling. And here is Miss Mouton Rothschild. Over here my dear. What did you get?”
“Katy Perry’s, Meow – the spray.”
“Lovely and by the way, we are loving your jacket. So ironic, warm with the fake fur hood, but so clever. Not many people could pull off that menacing drug dealer look. Are you looking forward to the trip?”
“ Och aye. Never been to Norway before.”
“I think you’ll find you’re in Sweden, though Norway is nearby. And where is your client?”
“Och he’s just chatting up the guy selling the Eau Savage who saw Seby’s cameo appearance in Game o’ Thrones.”
“At least we got him through security and passport control. I have never travelled with anyone who asks to be strip searched before and then gets through Passport Control signing autographs. Good thing we allowed plenty of time. Will I get him a coffee and a wee muffin?”
“Aye that’s very good of yous, but here put it in this cup and saucer, he won’t drink oot o’ cardboard cups. That aunt o’ his drilled it into him that mugs and the like were equivalent to the inner circles of hell. And cut the muffin in half horizontally and we’ll call it a fairy cake. He likes the typecasting – well sometimes.”
“Thanks for the heads up Miss Grigot, I didn’t put you down as a Dante sort of a girl.”
“Dinae judge a book by its covers ladies, there’s the gate number noo.”
It’s Worth Paying Extra
Fortunately the two cultural ladies have forked out for luggage in the hold and priority booking at an extra £25 and more legroom at another £25 which spares them all the worst of budget travel – the unseemly dash to get round the barriers and to the aircraft. Baltic Air prides itself on its quick turn around and as the four reach the door of the plane they are greeted by Ebba, a member of the team who is a bit out of puff having just put the vacuum round the cabin floor, “Mr Sheened” the fold down tables and plunged the lavatory.
Meanwhile her colleague, Elsa, has bunged the toasties into the warming oven and switched on the company song, an upbeat jingle about elk burgers and Scandinavian throws which will subliminally enter the thoughts of passengers in the months to come and guarantee a further booking.
Erik the cabin services manager, who longs for the days when he flew with BA, is reapplying his tanning moisturiser in the other lavatory. “Flying does dry one’s skin out you know. Oh here they come.”
The cabin services’ crew make final adjustments to their fake fur tabards and place their Viking helmets onto their heads positioned as per the Baltic Air Cabin Crew Manual instructions. They recognise Sir Sebastian who has been dubbed in Swedish many times and escort him to the seat by the emergency exit, leaving the culture ladies to struggle with their cabin bags. Despite attempts to de-sexualise the role of the female cabin attendants, they still steal male gazes as they place cabin suitcases on the racks and in heaving them skywards allow their tabards to rise above the knee and reveal a hint of suspender.
Meanwhile Erik bends down and helps Sebastian to fasten and unfasten his seatbelt a number of times and tells him he once saw him as a child in an open air performance of Hamlet at Elsinore Castle near Denmark . Sebastian is shown how to open the window in case of emergency and Erik tells him not to worry as they will slide down the wings together through the flames.
Odd Design for an Aircraft
The interior decor of the plane, which like all budget aircraft is said to be “new to the fleet”, amuses Sebastian as he tries to come to terms with the fact that the look of Baltic Air is designed to convey a feeling of “hygge”, that special Scandinavian concept designed to make winter more appealing. However a wood finish, with hand carved bulkheads seems odd in an aircraft as do hand knitted seat covers. Sebastian hopes the plane is not powered by a log burner.
The female cabin staff switch the doors to manual and the aircraft starts to move backwards. Captain Sven welcomes everyone aboard and the cabin staff remove their horns for the take off, replacing them with blond plaited wigs and apply freckles to their faces. This makes the safety demonstration hard to take seriously. The key worker hands Sebastian a Fisherman’s Friend and the cultural ladies smile at each other. They have Sebastian onboard and the lottery money is within their grasp. Or so they think. As the plane taxis out ABBA calling “last night from Glasgow” replaces the company song and soothes the passengers. Soon they are airborne. Stockholm here we come!