Three Women Meet

  • Posted on: 12/12/2021

In early 1960s Scotland, life was as normal in the early part of December. Christmas preparation were low key until about the week before when the Tree “went up”, as is reflected in this week’s bit of fun from Muriel whose search for help in the house is reaching a climax. We join three women on the Southside of Glasgow for a very top secret mission….

Three Women Meet on the Southside – Whatever Next?

“I thought you didn’t like the Southside Muriel?”

“I don’t Lottie.”

“So why are we meeting at a golf club in Newton Mearns?”

“Because, Cynthia, we are less likely to be overheard here where few people know us. Let’s be sure about one thing – preparing the interview for a new woman what does is a very serious business, and the perfect candidate is hard to come by. If we had met at my spacious villa, Sharon would be constantly disturbing us on some pretext or other, as well as listening at the door. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that someone else is looking for a new daily woman and knows my methods will be fool proof, therefore a West End location is also out of the question. There are poachers everywhere and I am sure you are well aware that Mrs Baxter, you know her in Queensborough Gardens with the skellie eye and Constable’s ‘Haywain’ from Boots the Chemist’s Picture Department has just lost her woman what does. Walls have ears, and she sits directly behind me at church with her hearing aid turned up full pelt.”

“So, we understand Muriel, in fact I heard it, and correct me if I am wrong Cynthia, that it was something to do with Mr Baxter, a top loader and a tin of treacle from a Fortnum’s hamper!”

“I heard it was Golden Syrup, but I doubt that it was from Fortnum’s. That’s just ridiculous! Stir up Sunday is always something of a tricky moment in the preparations for Christmas. I think it’s something to do with all those spices, seems to do something to men. It’s best if they can be kept out of the house or one ignores tradition and makes it on a Monday when they are at the office. You should know Lottie; Mr Macaulay has something of a reputation in the Yuletide department. I once had a bad experience with him in the janitor’s cupboard at the Glasgow City Chambers during a charity function for Highlanders in need.”

Undisclosed Injuries

“Yes, that sounds like my husband, and he never could explain those bleach stains on his tuxedo trousers. Consider yourself lucky Cynthia, after the Iron founders Ball and an incident with Beryl from ledgers in a decommissioned Bessemer Converter, he had to go to the Accident Department at the Western Infirmary.”

“But Lottie, everyone said that was due to injuries sustained while saving an apprentice in the triple expansion department, whatever that is?”

“That was just a smoke screen, let us just say after that Mr Macaulay went back to a traditional button front. The consultant said he’s never seen such an injury and the staff at Henry Burton’s cannot keep a straight face when my husband goes in for an alteration. Serves him right.”

“Ladies, thrilling though it is to hear about the downside of Glasgow’s heavy industries we are here to decide on the interview questions. Now who’d like a Cinzano and soda before lunch? Rather herby for the evening, but perfect for lunch.”

“Sorry Muriel. Yes why not, if we must.”

Meeting and Greeting the Candidates

“Now I suggest that Cynthia you greet the candidate in the Hall, once Sharon has taken their coat.”

“To hang up.”

“No, well yes, but firstly to check the label.”

“Whatever for?”

“Petty crime, Cynthia, petty crime.”

“What do you mean Muriel?”

“Well, it’s quite simple. A Daly’s label in a daily woman’s coat, suggests shop lifting.”

“Or a gift from a grateful employer having a clear out. Presumably you must have given Mrs Travers one or two of your old swing backs.”

“I would be grateful Lottie if you didn’t mention the name of the deserter in my company.”

“Well, I know you did. I have seen her at the bus stop in Great Western Road in cerise wool with black buttons and Muriel only you would wear that colour.”

“Sorry dear what do mean? Perhaps, you might elaborate?”

“I mean that colour requires panache, confidence and a model figure.”

“Yes, I see where you are coming from, perhaps I did give it to her. I gave so much.”

 She Might Have Saved For It

“Yes, Lottie – have you something to add of a useful nature?”

“It’s just that she could be a woman what does who is a great saver and has treated herself from her account with the Trustee Savings Bank.”

“Yes, I suppose I did encourage Mrs T, I mean the traitor, to put something past each week for a rainy day. Of course, she was grateful for that when that rainy day did come when her husband was discovered with Busty Betty at the Unnecessary Lingerie Shop down by the Forth and Clyde Canal. Then of course he ran away on a slow boat to China, where he bought a stuffed lizard, subsequently turned into a lamp, to sit on Mrs T’s new radiogram.”

“We think you are missing her Muriel; don’t we Cynthia?”

“Indeed, we do. Well certainly Jasper is, they say he has a vacant look.”

“He always has a vacant look, all men have a vacant look.”

“There have been reports that he was not his usual self. When giving the talk about St Cuthbert in Scotland at the Hysterical, quite a lot of the members nodded off.”

“Ladies, the Hysterical Society members nod off even when Jasper is on sparkling form, but I agree he is missing her. Let us get on and find someone new who is not going to be put off by a man in a shed with a collection of broken pottery. What should the first question be?”

First Things First

“What about –  how was your journey, how did you get here?”

“After handing them a Mackintosh Square.”

“Of course, Muriel we had quite forgotten about that. Suppose she does not know what to do with it?”

“It will be a great insight into her character, but why are we asking her about her journey.”

“Well Muriel apart from buses being a reason to require one of your famous Mackintosh Squares to sit on, and your pink and gold regency stripe dining room chairs, it tells us if she is likely to be at work on time. After all, three buses from Riddrie might be a problem, might it not?”

“I take your point Cynthia and I can see why you help your husband with personnel matters at ‘Savage’s Pickles and Condiments’. I suppose one wouldn’t want to hire anyone who was likely to be held up by complicated public transport arrangements courtesy of Glasgow Corporation Buses when one is due to be on the pickled beetroot line at 8am prompt.”

“Precisely Muriel. Cheers this Cinzano and soda is almost passable, let’s have another. We need something to dull the moment.”

Paper Quality

“What about references?”

“Good point, Lottie. Cynthia if once you have glanced at the label, you might ask for the references and pass them to me on entering the room. I shall note any suspicious coat labels, when you give me the wink, right eye for all is well and left for dig deeper into the label. Then while she is dealing with the Mackintosh Square, you both observing, I shall run my fingers over the letter heading which are very sensitive and can instantly tell embossed or engraved from merely cheaply printed. That will give us an immediate clue about previous employers. One can tell a lot by an employer’s expenditure on stationary. I will pass it to you Lottie and if you could hold it up to the light and check for watermarks. I hate cheap paper. Once she has settled herself, I will ask about the journey, then we will alternate the questions amongst us.”

Cleaning Techniques

“What will I ask Muriel?”

“Lottie, I would like you to ask about cleaning, specifically damp dusting and experience with stair runners. I am looking for knowledge about cold tea leaves and bristle brushes. Then move on to skirting boards and paintwork, try and ascertain if she has vinegar wash experience. You might finally ask about vacuuming. What we are looking for here is not only an awareness of furniture legs but moving backwards to as not to leave footprints. ”

“Do you want me to ask anything about cooking?”

“Certainly, not Lottie you are a terrible cook. I will never forget your catering at the Lunch for Fallen Women. Even that pathologist from the Infirmary wasn’t sure if it was sherry trifle or a road accident. I think at that point you can hand over to Cynthia, after all she is in the food processing business, even if her Piccalilli is a little on the piquant side.”

“You do realise Muriel that Mrs T is going to be hard to replace.”

“That’s quite enough from you.”

Cynthia’s Roll

“What would you like me to ask Muriel?”

“I want to see evidence of Meal Planning as well as an ability to move from good plain Scots’ cooking to a running buffet suitable for a committee and of course an interest in children’s parties. I have young Gayle to consider as well as Jasper. He is fine with nursery food and Shipham’s paste sandwiches rolled and thinly cut.”

“So, something on jam tarts, dumpling and gammon and pineapple?”

“Good thinking dear, I can ask supplementary questions about the cherry garnish, savoury butters and that sort of thing. I am then wondering if she should have a practical exercise or two.”

Being Thorough


“What have you got in mind Muriel? At this rate the interviews are going to last all week and that evening Mr Savage and I are going to hear Alexander Gibson conduct The Planets. According to The Glasgow Herald, his Uranus is furnished effectively with weighty grotesquery’s.”

“I wasn’t aware that you were so musical Cynthia, but as Jasper and I are going to the same concert we should be finished in time for everyone to go home and change. We of course are very familiar with The Planets. One of my relatives knew Hershel, and my grandfather was never without his telescope in Blythswood Square. For me it will be, the second half which speaks to me – the Beethoven Fourth Piano Concerto in G Major.  I agree with The Herald that James Gibb, the soloist, is wonderful at capturing the gentle eloquence of the opening Allegro, the tender persuasiveness of the ever remarkable Andante and the lilting vitality of the Finale. I was thinking of spoon identification, a table setting for a three-course supper followed by making a bed in the guest bedroom and a sandwich for a busy business woman’s lunch.”

“What about our lunch, will Sharon be making something for us?”

“No I wouldn’t subject you to that. If I were you, I would bring your own packed lunch. Now talking of lunch let’s eat. The roast beef looks good.”

In the Taxi on the Way Home

“Really Cynthia. We give up all this time and have to bring our own lunch! How does she manage it? And trust her to know all about the concert.”

“The sooner this position is filled the better. I am not sure I can take anymore. Let’s hope she doesn’t decide on annual reviews!”

“She probably does that with the ‘Chez Nous’ staff.”

“I am not sure about that; it sounds a bit too American for her and anyway I am not sure any of them make a year. Fancy stopping off at mine first for a real drink. Lottie? I cannot stand that Cinzano stuff.  We owe it to ourselves. Remind me again, what’s a hospital corner?”

December 1961