The shed, they say, is a man’s refuge and as you know they say many things. Muriel, my lady wife, maintains that it is too damp and too cold in the winter months. However, a Valor paraffin heater and a can of Pink or Esso Blue does wonders, provided one remembers to trim one’s wick regularly and does not attempt to fill the heater while burning. Mrs Travers, our woman what does but not a lot, once did this in the bathroom and set fire to a set of Muriel’s new Osman towels from Jenner’s of Edinburgh.
The shed, therefore, is quite bearable provided one has on a good set of long-johns and a thick winter overcoat. I also find a nice cask of sherry labelled “weed killer” useful. And just for good measure the bottom drawer of an old filing cabinet to which one has obviously lost the keys is good for a bottle or two of malt.
Mrs Travers knows about this and supplying her with the odd tipple or two makes sure I receive regular cups of coffee and cocoa on inclement days. Muriel rarely comes to the shed after October as she says, “If I had wanted a life in a log cabin, I would have married Mr Lincoln.” All the same as Life President of the Hysterical Society (there being no other takers due to the vast workload) I have taken the opportunity to remove the Society’s collections into the house, after all antique mousetraps including a “three holer” and the wood-wormed tools of hedgers and ditchers are not as plentiful as they once were.
My own personal and valuable collections have also been removed to safety under the spare bed, including “the archaeological collections”, mainly broken pottery collected from the river bank, (“A once in a lifetime glimpse of Scottish domestic life – if you have nothing better to do” to quote the review of the exhibition), my stamps and collection of trade tokens not to mention letter headings of long gone local tradesmen. All are safely gathered in.
Muriel has gone to London on the train with a picnic supplied by The Rogano in Exchange Square. This is because there has been a strike involving the Pullman Dining Coach Service, and efforts to undermine the staff of British Rail. Muriel whose family had shares in the old Caledonian Railway Company quite likes it when the Nationalised Industries are undermined even if it means no reservation for lunch at Crewe. As my family’s only involvement in the railway company was in laying the tracks for the trains or digging coal for the engines or punching holes in the tickets, I am all for it but don’t say anything to Mu. Sometimes silence is golden. Well most times really.
In case you are wondering why Muriel has gone to London, she has gone firstly to inspect the interior of the new de Havilland Comet 4 aircraft as she has been a consultant regarding their interior design. British European Airways and B.O.A.C. are expected to be major purchasers of this advance in commercial flying. Then she goes to Tavistock Square to open the third “Doctors Hobbies Exhibition” at the B.M.A. headquarters Apparently this involves Tibetan prayer wheels, a collection of fishes’ ears, shrunken heads, model yachts, paintings and “1,500 other exhibits from 450 doctors.” Now this is not exactly Muriel’s thing and she has been quite rude about my paperweight collection in the past not to mention my Capodimonte, but it turns out they are paying for her to stay in the Imperial Hotel and she wants to see the lights in Regent Street as she suggested the Candelabra Theme to Liberty.
“Morning Mr Wylie, I have brought yer coffee an’ toasted teacake wi’ bacon for your 10 o’clocksies. Ooh nice and toastie in here, and I love the smell o’’ paraffin”.
“Me too Mrs Travers, fancy a wee warmer to set you up for the day?”
“Don’t mind if I do Mr Wylie, I’ve those new flannelette sheets to boil wash, you know the ones Mrs W ordered for Gayle’s bed. 68 shillings they were, in the candy stripe.”
“If they are new Mrs T why do they need washing if you don’t mind me asking the obvious?”
“The obvious and Mrs Wylie are not good bedfellows Mr W, it seems we do not know if the packers had washed their hands.”
“Oh yes, of course.”
“Anyway, there you are – coffee, Glasgow Herald and the Joan Hammond records you wanted for the wind up gramophone.”
“Thank you Mrs T, she is singing at the St Andrews Halls on Saturday with the S.N.O. conducted by Alexander Gibson, with a programme of music from opera.”
“Do you really like that stuff Mr Wylie or are you just pretending? Mrs Macaulay’s woman, what does far more than I do, and I are going to see Two Ton Tessie O’Shea at the Empire. Anyway before I forget Mrs W telephoned to say the B.M.A. Hobbies’ Exhibition was so boring she fell asleep during a talk about shrunken heads. However, the Christmas decorations in London are looking simply marvellous and they have adopted her suggestion of blue, green, pink and gold bulbs – festive but with a hint of feminine luxury. ”
“Oh that’s good.”
“And I almost forgot she also said, don’t even think twice about getting her tickets for The Georgian State Dance Company even if they are ‘direct from the Caucuses’. Joan Hammond will do nicely. Hmm – that sherry is going down nicely Mr W.”
“Have a suspicion more Mrs T, it’s Gonzalez Byass.”
“It’s certainly all a-righty-ho with me Mr W. That’s fine thank you or I will not be able to focus on the twin tub.”
I see in The Herald, therefore it is the case, that Mr Macmillan our Prime Minister has been speaking at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet at the Guildhall in that London. He has been suggesting that during these times of Cold War a series of summits is the only way to settle the world’s problems. It is a matter of “step by step.” He summed it up “It’s rather like that old fashioned dance The Lancers. First we had to “set to partners,” now we are “visiting,” let us hope we shall soon have the “Grand Chain.”
I am not sure that dancing is going to solve the arms race, it sounds like something Muriel has suggested. Apparently Mr Macmillan is about to meet Mr Kruschev in Geneva. I hope he understands The Lancers, perhaps it might have been wise to have bought tickets for the Georgian State Dancers, then we might have understood each other’s steps. Many people live for country dancing – one certainly wouldn’t want to die by it. One cannot help but think of Mr Pastry.
One cannot help but think either of Miss Margaret Isbisit, a dental nurse from Lerwick in Shetland which is quite close to nowhere. The weather has been so bad that her wedding on the Fair Isle, which is even more on the way to nowhere, was cancelled due to “storm tossed seas”. The Minister, the Reverend R McConnel, a missionary (and he would need to be) was unable to make any headway on the Royal Mail Boat ‘The Good Shepherd’. This journey normally takes 8 hours in good weather. When the wedding finally takes place, and I am feeling queasy myself now, Miss Isbisit will be the first “outside bride to be married on the island this century.” Well good luck with that one, best take your mouth wash and knitting needles, Miss Isbisit.
If the Reverend McConnel is having a difficult week then so to is the wider Church of Scotland. There has been a Report in the Glasgow Presbytery about women as Elders which has resulted in many letters of irritation to the Editor. It seems many in the existing establishment regard the prospect of women elders as the road to “corruption and degeneracy.” One sensible correspondent in The Herald writes that the lack of women is the reason the Church now “languishes” and such comments are “sweeping and ill informed.”
The old guard, it seems, quote St Paul’s strictures on women, but the correspondent a Mr Stephen of St John’s Road says these are “social” rather than “scriptural.” The scriptures ‘promote equality’ he says and “in Christ there is neither Jew, nor Gentile, male or female, bond or free.” I don’t pretend to know much about these things, but as a socialist I rather think Mr Stephen is on the right track.
If Mr Stephen is upset then Mrs May McWhirter of Stirling is very angry and in her letter says much about women being taken for granted and baking for the Church and even more about the Church of Scotland being “dishonest and illogical”. The crux of the matter she says is “the Church of Scotland is democratic in theory, but autocratic in fact.” She goes on to say that Scottish women should take a leaf out of the American colonists “no taxation without representation.” I guess Mrs McWhirter will not be providing any more baking for coffee mornings at her Church. Goodness what would happen if someone suggested female ministers or ministers like our Sebastian, who is a bit theatrical. I hope Muriel does not see this, the non-Scottish soup matter rumbles on.
“There you are Mr Wylie. Elevenses?”
“Oh Mrs Travers for a woman what does so little you are certainly a busy bee this morning. Nothing to eat?”
“No Mr Wylie, we are having early lunch as it’s visiting day for oor Billy. But I will be back for suppa and Mrs W says I can stay overnight to keep you company and I am turning out the drawing room first thing in the morning for the sweep.”
“Fine, we can watch the play on the B.B.C. which this evening is “Next to No Wife,” a comedy set in Drumfern Castle, home of Alexander Brodie whose life is devoted to marrying off his daughters. It features a rollicking Irish clergyman.”
“Well I would certainly like to see a rollicking Irish clergyman, but as Mrs Wylie is not here we could watch ‘Play of the Week’ on S.T.V..”
“Ooh Mrs T commercial television! That would be walking on the wild side, what is the play?”
“It’s “The Bright One” with Barbara Murray as sensible school teacher who goes swimming in the Meditereanean and comes out a very different girl.”
“Sounds a bit racy to me Mrs T; anything in it for me?”
“Apart from Barbara Murry there could be steak pie with links, followed by jam roly-poly.”
“Thank you, Mr Wylie. I long to be a woman who swims in the Med and comes out a different woman.”
“Well I think that’s something we might all look forward to Mrs T. Now what to do with the afternoon? I think a quick visit to the Scottish Motor Show is on the cards.
After coffee, I will go to the Club for a sandwich and then toddle along to the Kelvin Hall, there is to be a Rolls Royce worth over £9,000 with a special commissionaire whose sole job is to dust.”
“I know how he feels.”
“By the way did you phone the doctor for me?”
“I did but there are no appointments until Tuesday. He’s away at an exhibition with his Tibetan Prayer Wheels.”
“Jasper it’s me, how are you darling?”
“Oh fine, Muriel. Pining for you of course.”
“Glad to hear it, me too. Oh Jasper sorry to ring so late. The lights in Regent Street are Simply Marvellous, so uplifting after all those Tibetan Prayer Wheels and fish ear bones. Although one good thing came out of it. I have bought you a shrunken head for Christmas. This doctor, a neurosurgeon I think, had two the same – must have been twins. Anyway it’s in the post. Did you have a nice suppa dahling?”
“Oh no, not really Muriel – just soup and cold cuts, you know slimming things.”
“Glad to hear it, I hope you were not watching any S.T.V.?”
“No just a play about rollicking Irish Clergyman on the B.B.C..”
“That must have been amusing, talking of things clerical I managed to get The Glasgow Herald in the Hotel Foyer, and Jasper you should read the letters about women Elders, absolutely outrageous.”
“Oh yes, I think I saw something about that.”
“I am going to write a strongly worded letter before retiring.”
“Muriel there was enough trouble over the Mulligatawney soup. You have to think carefully about your aims and objectives.”
“Oh I have Jasper, I have.”
“What are they?”
“I intend to be the first woman elder with a Clear Soup Manifesto.”
“And how are you going to do that Muriel?”
“With the aid of The Lancers.”
“What’s that Muriel?…The line is breaking up … nighty night.”
Here we go again. The thought makes me peckish. I will just see if there are any cold sausages left; always nice with a bit of beetroot pickle.