Muriel’s Musings: Small Annoyances and New Delights

  • Posted on: 06/06/2019

This week we are joined by Muriel Wylie, an honour indeed. It is June 1959 and the Wylies are in Glasgow….

Stately as a Galleon

As you know dear readers I am not a woman who is easily irritated. I am like the Queen Mother – a beautiful galleon in full sail on choppy waters.

Boundaries and Corner Cutting

Irritation does not promote marvellousness or contribute to my ideal of gracious living. Today, however, I am. I had to speak firmly to Mrs Travers, our daily woman what does but not a lot. This is never a good way to start the day, but once one’s staff begin to call the tune we are on the road to anarchy.

I discovered (following a spot check) that she was putting out unwashed milk bottles. This is my bête noir. Not only that they were the gold tops containing my full cream Jersey milk from named cows on a lovely farm in south west Scotland. “Mrs Travers”, I said “you can stop making that cloutie dumpling in the old twin tub and bring those milk bottles back in.” She was not best pleased as she wants to get off early for a chat with her Billy’s probation officer. “Mrs Travers this will not do. For one thing the dairy industry is part of the fabric of this great farming nation and I will not have you undermining this by the placing of unwashed milk bottles between two of the Doric columns on my classical portico. For another I feel it in my bones, and waterworks come to that, we shall be facing a general election come the autumn. As everyone knows, those who place unwashed milk bottles on their doorsteps have a tendency to vote Labour. This is only one short step away from collecting the family allowance in curlers, dressing gown and carpet slippers.”

A Forensic Mind in Sling Backs

Naturally she was not best pleased, judging by the next few hours of banging about in the kitchen and a batch of less than satisfactory scones which appeared with morning coffee and were served with noticeably bad grace. The trouble is when I am away Jasper lets her get away with murder. I know being a socialist, he is all for equality but once you wedge that door open it’s a short journey to George Square and the guillotine. Well actually it’s a fare walk if you miss a tram.

They think I came up the Clyde on a French Fancy!

I found distinct evidence of what the Americans call a TV dinner (and I call one small step to barbarism) the other day . They forget I have a forensic mind. As I said to Jasper this morning after a dawn raid on his jacket pockets, “You cannot deny it Jasper, I know four Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer wrappers when I find them. I am keeping my knowledge of an illicit copy of the Racing Times hidden in the pages of Life and Work as a soldier keeps his powder dry. He is in big trouble especially as the runners and riders for the 2.30 at Epsom are obviously marked. Not only that but that rag has been placed between the pages of a double spread on ‘Our Missionary Partners in the Picnic Islands’, which I thought looked quite interesting, although the bits about courtship rituals I thought most unnecessary.

Cousin Lulubelle, a Trans-Atlantic Irritation

So the day did not start well and was further clouded by a telephone call from my American cousin and business advisor Lulubelle, who likes to keep me up to date with what she calls “opportunities” and I call yet another escalator on the down ward journey to mediocrity. I know we at ‘Chez Nous’ have to modernise and look for new sources of income, but really do you see me putting in a tender to Glasgow Corporation “to supply chestnut fencing” for the Castlemilk Scheme? No, nor me.

I know the Glasgow overspill schemes are trying to address the problems over slum housing in Glasgow, but really the word design is not in it. Now a heated stone wall for peaches or a laburnum walkway, I could manage but chestnut fencing, ugh! That only leads in one direction, creosote. I think my cousin sets out to annoy me, nevertheless I shall call in on the Lord Provost at the City Chambers to feign interest.

When All Else Fails….

There is only one course of action when such a morning threatens to undermine one’s sensibilities. A dab of Ma Griffe behind the ears, a silk scarf from the drawer, a duster coat from the wardrobe and a quick call for a cancellation at the hairdressers – and I am off. They always have a cancellation pour moi.

So you have caught me under the dryer once again. The only drawback to my sudden arrival is that I did not have time to check out the other clients and I find myself next to Lottie Macaulay. Lottie is the estranged wife of the millionaire bungalow builder who is big in concrete.  Fortunately she has fallen asleep and if she is not careful that forehead will suffer third degree burns, perhaps I should wake her, well maybe after I have had a quick peek at her Scottish Field. I hadn’t realised she was so lined. I must lend her some of my Ponds. Still she does not have her troubles to seek. Mr Macaulay has a wandering eye, not to mention hands. He once chased me round the sofa. Fortunately I move like a gazelle.

A Whole Field of Interesting Things

Well then what is in The Scottish Field this month? Oh I might go to that – T.J. Honeyman, Director of the Art Galleries is giving a talk on “The Secrets of Burrell Collection”.  My grandfather knew Sir William so I rather know most of them. They really need a special museum for this collection. I might suggest it to Mr Honeyman and give him a little cheque to start things off. Trouble is Sir William was very particular as to where and when his collection should be displayed and Glasgow has something of a bad reputation for air pollution.

Here’s an article by Maurice Lindsay on Aberdeen, not too extensive I trust. Very gray, Aberdeen needs backlighting. Even more exciting David Stephen has written about his Barn Owl Family that nest in the doo cots of his farm. Well that’s exciting but oh there’s the programme for the Pitlochry ‘Season of Plays’. On second thoughts might as well go to Aberdeen. Think I will look at The Herald instead. “Lottie, wake up you’re burning, turn it down. Here you dropped your Scottish Field – some lovely articles, many of them interesting”.

“Coffee ladies?”

“Don’t mind if we do, better put Mrs Macaulay’s on the table she’s drifting.”

You Can Tell It’s Summer in the Theatre

Talking of the theatre, here’s a piece on next week’s theatre. I see The Citizens has an American farce about the tolerant mother of convict sons – Mrs Gibbon’s Boys. I think I have already seem! Barbara Mullen in that one, still it might be of interest to Mrs Travers, when we are on better terms. Although she might prefer the offering at The Kings, “The Gypsy Wanted Me”. Well I certainly don’t want her at the moment. Unfortunately it has Max Wall, and he can be a bit rude.

Well here is something I could take Gayle to, “The Polish Ballet” which apparently is coming “straight from Poland”, where else would it be coming from? Journalistic standards are falling, they clearly think they are writing for idiots. Now here’s another example – The Empire offers the celebrated “coloured pianist” Winifred Atwell. Why is it necessary to say that? Surely all that matters is that she can play? In fact she plays extremely well, if you like that sort of thing, and is a great favourite of Jasper’s. She is appearing with Kathie Kay and Des O’Conner. Interestingly, their colour does not get a mention. If it wasn’t at the Empire I meet treat Jasper, provided he is sticking to plain digestive biscuits that is.

On the other hand I quite fancy seeing “Carve her Name with Pride” at The Cosmo. Although I may regret seeing something that reminds me of my wartime experiences undercover in France near Paris. It would be suitable as this weekend is the anniversary of D Day.

Prepare for Wool

My dear friend Jean Kelvin has written a piece about the forthcoming National Conference of the S.W.R.I. (Scottish Woman’s Institute). This is a treasured institution designed originally to combat rural loneliness, but somehow I think it’s has got a little stuck in the mud rather like the Church and Woolworths. This conference will take place next week on Wednesday and Thursday. As Jean says it does not happen every year, which may be just as well. A thousand country women delegates will descend on Edinburgh. It will be like drowning in tartan skirts and twin sets. Better stay clear if you have an aversion to damp itchy wool and the all pervading smell of pancakes and jam.

Women’s Horizons

Naturally I have been asked to speak, but have yet to make my final decision on my choice of subject. I am thinking about something a little more provocative than the usual fare such as “The Subversive Soup and other Hidden Messages in Female Domestic Activities.”

When I see what else is on offer I wonder if I might be going a step too far. Thus, we have a resolution on whether the subscription should be raised from 3 to 5 shillings. Lady Riddell Webster, from Perth and Kinross is proposing that “more stringent measures be taken for the protection of good agricultural land against encroachment by builders and extravagant planners.” Perhaps she could send her extravagant planners to do something better than chestnut fencing in Castlemilk.

An Institute from Roxburghshire is putting up a motion to “deplore the ever increasing number of married women with children of school age who seek full time employment.” Perhaps in Roxburghshire they are unaware that working women with children are the backbone of this nation and that most have no choice. I wonder if they teach the industrial revolution in our schools. Meanwhile the ladies of Wigtownshire, which is like Alabama with tartan, are worried about “weavers’ knots in first quality knitting wool” which they feel warrant a reduced price. On the other hand the ladies of the West Stirlingshire Federation want no reductions in sentencing by the courts and feel that retaining the death penalty will increase chances of “respect”. Thinking of my earlier comment about the guillotine in George Square, it is very odd that knitting and capital punishment seem to go together.

Pink Around the Edges?

I am beginning to sound like Jasper.

Perhaps I am beginning to go a little pink around the edges. “Yes, Lottie I did say pink. Your forehead is getting too pink around the edges have you turned up the dryer again?” Not so pink that I am not annoyed by the London Dock strikes or the London Bus strikes or for that matter the coal miners on strike in Uddingston. Incidentally I think that’s where they make Jasper’s Caramel Wafers so they will never go on strike. Talking of the death penalty it is reported that Peter Manuel, sentenced to death for a number of murders “is very cheerful”. Perhaps someone should put him in touch with the ladies of the Stirling West S.W.R.I. as this news might cheer them up.

Somethings Are Moving Forward, Thank Goodness

At last something more positive and forward looking. Here is a report about the extension to The Royal College of Science and Technology in Glasgow. Its reputation for engineering and innovation is such that, apparently, it equates with the expression “Clyde built “. Now there is something to be proud of. It should be a university.

“Mrs Wylie, that’s you ready for combing out. Mrs Macaulay is waiting for you in reception. I am afraid she is a little burnt on top, said she was engrossed in an article about Barn Owls.”


“Jasper I am back; where is Mrs T?”

“She asked to go early so that she could pay a call on the Servants’ Registry”

“So she is looking for a new job is she? Well we shall see how far that one goes without a reference regarding use and care of dairy vessels. What are you doing?”

“Well since I also seem to be performing little in the way of a useful function, I too am looking for a job.”

“But Jasper, don’t be silly! There’s no need to be in a huff. You help me and you are such a talented window dresser; no one has your way with dressmakers’ pins and fishing wire. Anyway let me see the classified ads, what are you considering?

“ Dynamic man with management experience, aged 26 – 43, must have experience of accountancy and cost control – the position is an interesting one and offers considerable opportunity for a man with prospects and ability.”


Oh Jasper, where will I begin? Let me make you a cup of tea and get you a Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer seeing as the scones are sabotaged. Then I think we will go and see Winifred Atwell even if it means the Glasgow Empire. I can right my address for the S.W.R.I. tomorrow. It’s better to be subversive at the beginning of the day.

à bientôt

Muriel Wylie

June 1959