for writers and readers….
Mrs Finnegan’s Chronicles: the Celebrated Authority in affairs of the HEART and HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT has a chill in danger of turning into a cough which may become a cold of EXTREME proportions. She is not looking after The Regency Town House or its resident for at least two days. Normal service will be resumed in due course
Dear Mrs Neglected
It is a sad fact that you are INVISIBLE to both men. The vicar is not sending you secret messages from the pulpit and your husband is only interested in his stomach.
Dear Mr XXXX-XXXX
No, not on any account. And I do not care if you do have a double-barreled name and £240 a year. The answer is still no.
Dear Miss Giddy-in-Love
I recommend you PONDER the matter carefully. Half the time a wife is a decoration and the other half she’s a drudge. It may BENEFIT you to talk with Mrs Neglected.
Dear Cannot Sleep
Beat some gunpowder into the crevices . Fire it with a match, and keep the smoke in. If that doesn’t work boil a handful of Wormwood and white Hellebore in a proper quantity of urine, till half of it is evaporated. Waft the joints with the remainder.
(Also cut your nails VERY short.)
Yours with the utmost respect
Mrs Finnegan (from her sick bed)
I dislike mornings, the daylight demands that it be ‘faced’ & the sun is up & in charge of the world. BUT there IS hope of usurping its authority. That shot of light in the face empowers this DETERMINED housekeeper as she STRIDES into Brunswick Square. But Hark! I hear a noise. I turn to see Miss Martha call ‘Finnegan! Finnegan!’ from the steps of Number 10 and all hope fades.
That girl is a devil for exercise. I wouldn’t object to strolling as far as the Chain Pier to greet the boats from France perhaps, but no! She has me trotting after her at the crack of noon as she takes her rambles into the countryside.
YESTERDAY she was intent on investigating the village of Hove and set off at a formidable pace. There’s nothing to see, I told her, except St Andrew’s which was TUMBLING DOWN when Queen Elizabeth was on the throne. She calls the church quaint and declares a fondness for old things. I was tempted to tell her my age, but thought better of it.
She didn’t take much interest in the Coast Guard’s House on the left on account of it being newly built, which is probably a good thing. It was sited here because there is a FIERCE smuggling in the neighbourhood and the church is well known as a storehouse for smuggled goods. Or shop as we locals like to call it, which thought reminded me that I was due an order from the parish sexton.
Home again as weary as a donkey on Palm Sunday.
“Supper,” said Miss Martha. “Oh yes,” says I, forgetting myself. “And I’ll have a cup of strong tea to go with it.”
Miss Martha withdrew into the library.
How I long for the return of the household servants.
TODAY dark storm clouds BROOD on the horizon as if they want to inflict a terrible vengeance upon the land. It is not a day to put your NOSE out of doors.
“Sea-bathing,” announces Miss Martha, with the kind of enthusiasm that feels like a cold hand squeezing your liver.
“Never,” says I. “Your mother disapproves.”
“Oh no, Finnegan, not if you come with me.”
I plead frailty, fallibility and fear. I beg for another day when the sun shines and the wind plays gentle music upon the waters. Miss Martha smiles so sweetly I think she will relent. Instead she turns on her heel and marches down to the beach. I am forced to stumble after, loaded down with towels, beachrobe, soap, perfume and yards of white muslin trimmed with lace.
When Mrs Hankey tried to discourage her daughter from sea-bathing she may have images like this in mind.
The reality was more like this, only not so cheery.
Miss Martha asks if I have need of a dipper. “Oh no,” says I. “Not within 10 feet.” I’ve seen those big, brawny women about town. They would wrestle me into submission. What I really want is one of these.
What can I tell you about my travails? The bathing machine is as cold and damp as the insides of a fish. The floor is pierced with holes and every scrap of wind from here to Minsk whistles through the wooden walls.
Miss Martha’s costume is from France and she spins around to show the ease of movement it gives her before she – I can hardly bring myself to use the word – JUMPS in. I go shortly after. I am not entirely sure how. There is some tugging and pushing involved. A dipper may be present. There is some noise, I admit. Perhaps a little quiet screaming, but nothing unbecoming to a lady. I deny pulling hair.
“Isn’t that the most WONDROUS thing you’ve ever done?” asks Miss Martha on our way home.
Teeth chattering silence is I believe sufficient answer. I have never been so wet in my life.
I will remain in my room until this present health EMERGENCY passes.
In addition to a cold it is possible I am developing Chilblains with COMPLICATIONS. We shall see.
Miss Martha has been most solicitous and offered to make a bowl of nourishing soup if I could show her where the fuel for the oven is, how to light it, where the vegetables are stored and explain how to peel them. She also needs a recipe that can be completed before she goes out in approximately 10 minutes.
I thank her profusely and explain that my appetite is already in decline. There is a little cold cooked lamb, chicken and beef in the meat larder that will be sufficient for my small needs, along with a large pork pie in storage and baked apples and PICKLES on the kitchen table. I may be able to take a little medicinal brandy later on.
Mis Martha says she will arrange to dine out for the next few days so I think we shall muddle along quite happily.
Dear readers, try not to worry.
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This is a regular feature created and written with Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook