If truth be told Muriel, my lady wife, is not very keen on the beginning of May.
There are some personal memories of this time which are difficult to deal with. Of course, I refer to her interrogation by “the nasties”. This was during the last Unpleasantness when Muriel, Dynamite Di and Winnie, (she of the bicycle and the Wool Shop in Auchterarder) were taken prisoners after rather too many bridges in France vanished in a puff of smoke. This seemed to happen just as the Gestapo were approaching a picturesque pont in a staff car on their way to a sausage and beer “get to know the occupied inhabitants” evening. Muriel has never forgotten the glare of the lights, the over friendly Alsatian, the removal of her powder compact and matching lipstick holder (a 21st birthday present from an early admirer). As she says, I looked out of the window through all those bars at the blossom and thought “I am going in front of a firing squad with a shiny nose.” Fortunately, Muriel survived, and she and les girls would later be awarded the legion d ’honour for services to France, (maquillage division, first class).
To this broad canvas of past terrors, falling blossom and stolen Helena Rubinstein, one might add that other May matter, the celebration of labour and the working man. This Muriel regards as a plot by the comrades and steadfastly hangs on to the 1st May as Empire Day. A diversion is usually the best thing for her. Thus Muriel went to Edinburgh yesterday to act as a thorn in the flesh of The Church of Scotland and then on to stay at Dunblane Hydro for the Soroptimist Conference.
Sometimes a marriage benefits from time apart. It means one or other has something fresh to bring to the table. Although my table has been very fresh this morning with grilled Belfast ham in well fired rolls, cooked to perfection by Mrs T who has now gone to Wilson’s of Sauchiehall Street for some “Gay Turkish Towels” which are reduced in price.
I have been quite busy. Not only have I had to deal with the backlog of wrought iron magazine racks and plant stands at ‘Chez Nous’, but also a punishing schedule for the Hsitorical Society. Earlier in the week I represented our Society at the special ceremony in Paisley Abbey. Here Provost Miss Isobel Leishman unveiled four plaques on the history of the Abbey. They represented Princess Marjory Bruce, daughter of King Robert; the six High Stewards of Scotland 1160-1326; the absolution given to James IV for any part he “may” have had in killing his father; and the 19 priors and abbots of the Abbey from 1169-1553. The plaques were designed by the architect James Steel Maitland and paid for by former Provost C. Stewart Black, who also wrote plays and pageants.
I stayed overnight at the Brabloch Hotel and then took the train back into Glasgow and hence to Queen’s Park, with the aid of a taxi, to attend the rally. This was addressed by Mr Frank Cousins, General Secretary of The Transport and General Workers Union. Speaking from the bandstand he attacked the new payroll tax which threatens the working class and the Polaris Submarines which threaten to blow us all, to kingdom come.
I had a spot of lunch at the R.S.A.C. and then popped into McLaren’s where they have an offer on “Daks suits for the world of today.” Muriel thinks I should update my wardrobe for the proposed visit to America near the United States. The plan is for her to assist the First Lady to tart up the White House.
Personally, I can see nothing wrong with my tweed suits. I do not think I am temperamentally suited to be either “Italian” or “lightweight”.
“If I might interrupt Mr Wylie, or are you engaged on historical research of a vital nature?”
“Certainly, Mrs T; and no, I was thinking about Italian lightweights.”
“Not Turandot again?”
“No; suits for Washington; and you are back from town very quickly.”
“Yes, I knew what I wanted among the many gay offers. I got Mrs Wylie the Turkish towels in lemon that she wanted. And for me, a couple of Ducal cotton sheets and pillowcases with a rose bud pattern for my room at the Further Education College.”
“I think you will find they provide bedding Mrs T.”
“That’s as may be Mr Wylie, but how do I know they have been on a boil wash after some frisky economics professor has spent the night with a lady trade unionist from John Brown’s Shipyard?”
“Is that something you fear Mrs T – the idea that an expert in supply and demand or the law of diminishing returns might find himself between your easy iron cotton Ducal?”
“No, Mr Wylie. I live in hope. Why do you think I bought the rosebud pattern?”
“I see, well I am trying not to!”
“Oh, and by the way there’s The Glasgow Herald. You said you wanted to check your portfolio like a good armchair soc…. I mean which seems like a good idea.”
“Splendid Mrs T, what time is lunch?
“1pm, it’s leek and potato.”
Now let me see, what is happening in the financial world. Ah good raw jute prices are “easier” in Dundee which should mean we can hold the price of this year’s linoleum bargains at ‘Chez Nous’. Chemicals are “firmer,” Muriel will like that; she does not care for flabby chemicals. Leather is also “firm”, which gives confidence. There has been “a rise in home coal demand” as summer prices were introduced last week. We Scots are always canny about our coal. Things are looking good at the Glasgow Fruit Market as shipments have arrived at the “tail o’ the bank”. There are jaffa oranges from Israel, grapefruit from Florida, lemons from the Cameroons, (wherever that is), potatoes from Cyprus and onions from Egypt. Ah and that is interesting Mr C.W. Bell of Bell’s Asbestos and Engineering Holdings has been reporting at the A.G.M. in Slough. I think we have one or two shares in that. Mr Bell is waxing lyrical about the firm’s progress in Venetian Blinds. It seems the progress of Sunway Venetian Blinds has been unchecked with “possibilities and potentials and a mellifluous and manifold wealth of windows new and old hold the promise of a prosperous future”. I must tell Muriel.
“Mr Wylie that’s the telephone, it’s Mrs Wylie from Dunblane.”
“Hello Dahling; how is the Church of Scotland?”
“It wasn’t the whole Church of Scotland Jasper ,just the Committee on Temperance and Morals.”
“Well, that must have been fun? Anything to set the heather alight?”
“They are worried about three things which might undermine the nation. They don’t want Public Houses to open on Sundays, they definitely do not want raffles for church purposes and there is still concern about the publication of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.”
“Heavy stuff Muriel.”
“I know my dear; good job I had my “dry weddings” hip flask inside my handbag. You know the one – the Mappin and Webb in lizard with the repaired handle. It seems they do not want to sit on the fence.”
“Perhaps they should take the fences down then and there would be nowhere to sit. Frankly, I think they are fighting a loosing battle. Any soup matters?”
“No, the soup matter is and I quote regarded as settled for a generation – no mulligatawny; and they’re not keen on minestrone either. There lurks the call on Rome. It’s appalling in this day and age.”
“What about Lady C and the goings on in the shrub roses?”
“Well, they were pretty steamed up about that as you can imagine. Indeed, there was much rubbing of half – moons. One member became so agitated he stood up and said he had read the book twice from cover to cover and was still of the opinion that it is “pernicious, pornographic and in some cases poisonous and possibly blasphemous.” There was such a clamour that the chair adjourned the meeting until tomorrow so that members could re- read the book to check they were right first time.. I was glad to get away”
“Oh, dear what a rumpus, and what about Dunblane? Did you get the train all right and is your room to your satisfaction?”
“Yes Jasper, nice view, good tie backs and tassels and the conference is going well. There are about 250 delegates and I have just been to a couple of interesting talks. The first was the opening presentation by the Countess of Mar and Kellie on an ill divided world…”
“Oh, that’s good coming from an aristocrat!”
“Wait a minute Jasper if you are going to go all tumbrils and May Day on me, I shall put down my receiver. It was an extremely sensitive piece about children who are so malnourished they cannot lift their chins from their chests, lonely old people and bewildered young people. This was followed by one of the Vice Presidents of the Soroptimist Federation who deplores the current prevalence of the use of ‘I think’ at the beginning of a sentence rather than ‘I know’, which is more positive”.
“Did you tell her you always know?”
“Jasper I hope you are not drinking. It’s coffee time. And now you come to mention it. I did. However, I notice a note of sarcasm in your voice. Why shouldn’t a woman know?”
“Sorry dear, anything interesting before lunch.”
“As a matter of fact, there is a presentation on the idea of introducing a Forgotten Family Members’ Day, you know like Mother’s Day.”
“And who do they have in mind?”
Aunts – you know the sort of aunts who never marry but stay at home to look after grandma so the rest of the family can have a good life.”
“Well yes, I can imagine they are very neglected. Anyone else?”
“Yes; bachelors – you know the sort, like your Uncle Bob who helped out unemployed window dressers in the Depression and by the time he was free to marry was too old and found an outlet in running a hostel for sheep shearers from the Highlands.”
“Perhaps we should have a day for your grandfather and the real reason why he set up the Home for Fallen Women and the Home for Orphans where all the orphans look strikingly like your grandfather. That skelly eye is genetic you know.”
“Jasper I am putting down telephone receiver now until you are cleansed of socialism. There is Camey (“the soap of the stars”) in the bathroom. Good day Jasper.”
“Jasper I apologise. That was entirely my fault. The Committee on Morals always makes me so grumpy.”
“That is fine Muriel I realised that. I was not much better . I am sorry too. It’s May Day you know, it does something to me.”
“Well, I did not want the sun to go down on our wrath. What have you been doing?”
“I went to the Empress Theatre with Mrs T for a night of folk music from around the world with Robin Hall and Jimmy McGregor. There was A Piper Came to Oor Toon, some Zulu songs on the Sharpeville Massacre and Mrs T was entranced by Robin Hall’s The Queen’s Four Maries.”
“Well rather you than me, but I am glad you enjoyed it. Did you wear your sandals and hold your ear? Only joking! Anything I should know work wise?”
“Well, yes I think we need to think about Venetian Blinds at Chez Nous.”
“Seriously, that’s quite a big investment?”
“Indeed, but to quote Mr C. W. Bell – The eagerness of customers, spreads trough towns and cities and villages like rivers flowing to the seas.”
“Well then Jasper, it’s an open and shut case.”
“I will do some research and contact your Cousin Lulubelle.”
“Splendid Jasper, listen I must dash it’s the gala dinner and then I am speaking on Fashion – Sensitivity and Marvelousness on a budget.”
“Bon Nuit, Dahling.”
“Bon Nuit Jasper, see you tomorrow evening and Jasper…”
“Sometimes I almost think you are cured of socialism….”