BRIDGET WHELAN writer

for writers and readers….

Don’t let Anyone STEAL Your Dreams advises Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper

Mrs Finnegan IS AN ACKNOWLEDGED expert on affairs of the HEART and HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT in addition to being housekeeper of The Regency Town House.
Her life is ruled by the following maxim:
GOOD ADVICE IS ALWAYS CERTAIN TO BE IGNORED, BUT THAT’S NO REASON NOT TO GIVE IT

AMONG MY CORRESPONDENCE I found this intriguing letter.

Dearest Friend
I am a banker in ADB BANK. I want to transfer an abandoned
$18.5Million to you. 40 percent will be your share.
No risk involved but keep it as secret. Contact me for more details.
Please endeavour to give your Full Names and Address. Five shillings to cover essential administration fee regarding transfer to ensure the monies are with you before Christmas.
Devotedly etc

Pascal Yembiline Esquire

An address in Pall Mall is given – so Master Pascal is a neighbour of dear King William and Queen Adelaide. I wonder if they know each other.

A number of thoughts occur to me:
1) The current EXCHANGE RATE hovers around 5 American dollars to 1 British pound so that means the total is worth over Three Million pounds (£3,700,000 to be exact).
“My” share would therefore be a little under One and a half million (for fellow housekeepers, who like exact numbers as much as I do, that is £1,480,000) from which five shillings must be deducted.
2) There being 61 houses in Brunswick Square at an average price of £3,000 per house – let’s say £3,500 to account for little TWIDDLY BITS bits – a wider porch here, a stained glass window there – I could buy the whole square for around £213,500.
And the look on Mrs Hankey’s face would be PRICELESS.
3) Mental arithmetic is a PLEASANT AID to sleep.

Sleep comes readily after a few taxing equations…

READERS be aware that there are MANY in this world who wish to make money MORE RAPIDLY than by the paths of STRICT RECTITUDE.

Confidence Men and TRICKSTERS may TALK of hundreds and thousands and even – like dear Pascal – of millions, but what they really deal with is the SHILLINGS belonging to men and women like you and me. They AIM to grow rich by THROWING US A DREAM. Do not let them REEL you in. Let me very clear: there are no ABANDONED millions and NO money would ever come to me if I were to reply.

We have dreams of our own. FIVE SHILLING DREAMS. And they are better and kinder than the dreams of avarice they peddle.

oooOOooo

Why on earth would any girl want to go into service? I read your survey of Brunswick Square kitchen maids with palatable horror. Horrible hard work and – I have no doubt – for small wages. They should be warned against it.
Unconvinced of Upper Beeding

YOU WRITE as though young girls choose to work outside the home. If the choice is between eating and not eating it is no choice at all. The only decision to be made is between hard labour in the fields, hard labour in the factories or hard labour in the homes of others.

I will not stand here (actually I’m sitting at my desk, but you get my POINT) waving a banner declaring that life in service is the BEST LIFE of all. I will not say it and I cannot say it. But I do think that being a servant offers some OPPORTUNITIES that are missing from the factory floor and the field. In a PROSPEROUS ESTABLISHMENT, a serving girl will eat far better than she would at home, probably be warmer than at home and learn skills that may benefit her in other areas of LIFE.

If you SCYTHE HAY what are you going to become EXCEPT a hay scyther? If you labour at a spinning machine what else will you be but a mechanised cotton spinner?

But a quick AND NIMBLE kitchen maid may progress from peeling vegetables to chopping them and then to boiling them and then it is a smallish step to learning how to make a dish she may ONE DAY put in front of her own husband and children. Or which is served to CROWNED heads of state!

Yours Respectfully
Mrs Finnegan

PS
REGULAR READERS will remember that I am searching for the family of the coachman who were abandoned by the Mistress when she suddenly decided to flee West Brighton for healthier climes (She supposes. I do not say she is wrong, I simply say that I am not entirely unhappy to be left behind, not entirely glad either, but let’s not dwell on that.)

I have five sovereigns to give them (thanks to Miss Martha) but no address so I first make enquiries with Master Peregrine the retiring riding master at Number 61 Brunswick Square.

Why him? you ask. Mister Peregrine has not been outside for some weeks mindful of current health precautions BUT he does sit at his drawing room window most of the day and has a very good view of the SQUARE.

Plus (and this is important) he is the sort of gentleman who will answer an HONEST HOUSEKEEPER’S letter and do it with kindness and civility. And you don’t get many of those.

The result? A BUZZ OF ACTIVITY on the other side of the Square. He sends out his head servant to make enquiries. (I would not call her a housekeeper, but she is a pleasant DEPENDENDABLE sort. I suspect Mr P cannot afford a housekeeper. I say no more.) Hour after hour Mr Peregrine sends me bulletins of the PROGRESS being made. The footman at Number 57 saw mother and children weep at the side of the road as Mrs Hankey drove off taking their only means of support with her! O heartless Mistress who refused to take them as well!
The parlour maid at 42 went out and offered a LITTLE FOOD, which was gratefully accepted. The kitchen maid at 30 says the poor family took refuge for a night in the stables at the back of Brunswick Terrace.

I thought the SAD STORY would end there, but then we learn that the family have taken lodgings with a sister in Croydon village. Mr Peregrine sends a message and yes, they arrived safely, WALKING a good part of the way, but the new home is horribly overcrowded – two families squashed together in a cottage not big enough for one.

Miss Martha’s five sovereigns are dispatched. They will do much good and we can all rest easy. Mr Peregrine waves at me from the other side of the Square. We are united in our jubilation and yet I sense he misses the excitement of the search. Now he is perhaps a little deflated. Truth to tell, so am I.

Out of sorts, unable to settle at anything, I decide to peruse the Master’s library for books on SELF-IMPROVEMENT. I need a new hobby.
Someone called Epictetus wrote this,

If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, “He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone.”

Epictetus was never a servant that much is certain. Picture the scene. Mrs Hankey complains about the quality of the meat I ordered from a butcher. I tell her: ” Madam, you are only saying that because you don’t know I also broke two bottles of wine and am responsible for the burn mark on your best rug.”

There are times, like today, when I feel that time is not marching on. It is drifting along, seeping through the cracks in the floorboards, and I am afraid that one day I will turn round and find it has all been used up without me noticing…

When I look back it’s not that I don’t want to see things exactly as they happened, it’s just that I prefer to remember them in an artistic way. It makes them a little more bearable somehow.

Mrs Finnegan is the creation of Bridget Whelan  and Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook 
HAVING TROUBLE REMEMBERING WHEN IT’S TUESDAY?
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