for writers and readers….
This week Mrs Finnegan is OFFERING ADVICE in the form of lists. The Celebrated Authority on ALMOST EVERYTHING and housekeeper at The Regency Town House has heard that LIST MAKING imposes disciple on THE troubled mind and quietens RESTLESS spirits and as she has both at the moment is willing to give it a try.
Rising early every day, I am so neat and tidy that I finish all my chores by mid morning. With being mainly housebound and with this bad weather I run out of things to occupy my time. Can you suggest a gentle pastime for me? If only there were something like moving pictures that I could relax on my chaise lounge and look at all day.
Madam Monotony of Meadow View
You could try:
Sea shells (and make PICTURE frames)
Bird feathers (and make PICTURES)
Wax (and make flowers. I’m not ENTIRELY CERTAIN what you are supposed to do with them afterwards)
If you have already considered and DISMISSED such suggestions, you may wish to contemplate becoming a NOVELIST. Although I have never attempted it myself, I am CONFIDENT that anyone with the imagination to CONJURE UP moving picture entertainment (My goodness! A personal mini theatre in the drawing room!) would find that fiction requires very little effort and would be an easy way to pass dreary afternoons.
Write stories DOWN.
Ask two TRUSTED FRIENDS for their opinion.
Think of a pen name.
Make it a MALE pen name.
Make it fit your subject. (Here are some examples: SPIRITUAL: Rev. Chrysostom Challis, ADVENTURE: Errol Wildeblood, ROMANCE: Lieutenant Eugene Broodingly-Silent)
Have your stories printed up at your OWN expense.
Ask shops to sell them. (Book shops for preference.)
If you are an overnight success my COMMISSION is a mere 10 percent.
My time is spent feeding and clearing up after husband and six strapping sons and I have decided that if this is how I am to spend my days I should make some money out of it. With that intent, I am turning our home into a lodging house. My sons say no (they object to sharing a bed). I have not told my husband yet. The first four lodgers move in on Thursday.
I intend to run a respectable establishment and not accept any nonsense. (My neighbours already call me the Mrs Finnegan of Brighton back streets.)
Can you foresee any problems I may have overlooked?
PS Have you a QUICK remedy for bedbugs?
The Other Mrs F
LODGING HOUSES do not have a good reputation as no doubt you are aware. Set high standards from the first day and you will attract respectable lodgers. I am sure that anyone who has already earned such an outstanding SOBRIQUET does not need to be told PAYMENT IN ADVANCE and in good coin of the realm.
LIMEWASH walls and ceilings before Thursday. Repeat twice a year.
Invest in PROPER mattresses – don’t just throw straw on the floor.
Go single sex – it doesn’t matter which, but choose one or the other. As you already have an UNHEALTHY PREPONDERANCE of men in the household, you might as well continue.
Only ONE body per mattress.
Allow two feet width between each mattress. (By feet I mean the things at the end of your LEGS, not a 12 inch measure. You’re not aiming to run a hotel.)
Beware of a common mode of stealing that is peculiar to houses that let lodgings. ROGUES pretending to be postmen send sham letters to the lodgers, and, whilst waiting in the entry for the postage TO BE PAID, go into the first room they see open, and rob it. HOWEVER, I am sending you an excellent bedbug remedy by post later this morning – look out for a bona fide postman this afternoon.
You are wise not to have burdened your husband with unnecessary information at this stage. He only needs to be told when:
a) he notices that there are extra people in the house and
b) you can show a decent cash return on the endeavour.
It is important that these two events CONINCIDE.
Dodging raindrops, I made my way across The Square several times this week in the hope of catching a glimpse of the woman staying with Madam and Monsieur D’Arthur, alas to no avail and all I have caught is a cold. Today I decide to knock boldly on the door after quaffing half a bottle of extra strong cough medicine, made according to the pharmacist’s special recipe. I was hoping the son would answer, but when the door swung back it was his mother who greeted me, a woman mean to the bone and cold to the marrow.
But what to say? Given the family secrets, I knew I could not be too direct and ask if their new lodger had been been impregnated by the son of my employer… my delicate diplomacy is famous, but even I couldn’t think of a way of putting that question. Instead I asked after the health and well being of Miss Martha. When I say ask, I mean blurt. And my question was perhaps not quite so well-phrased. It was more of…
Have you heard from Miss Martha? Is your son playing with her feelings?
Miss Martha is another of the Hankey children and as good and noble as her brother is rotten to the core. Her mother is convinced that the young Monsieur is in secret correspondence with her daughter. I think it both highly likely and highly undesirable. While I disapprove, I would not do anything to hurt Miss Martha by look, or by word, or by writing a letter home telling tales, but I do worry as Miss Martha would have a substantial dowry were she to marry. That is probably why I was a little rash.
What are you are two living on now you can’t give art classes or dance lessons?
I have always been interested in economics, but that was perhaps a trifle blunt. It didn’t help that I started coughing quite violently at that moment which necessitated another sip from the medicine bottle.
Without a how are you? Or good afternoon. Or come in for tea and cake, Madam D’Arthur announced: Tu es bourre which was most unfair as I hadn’t had a chance to be the least bit boring, but the woman has no manners.
She attempted to shut the door, but one of my shoes got in the way which caused some confusion. At that moment I saw the mysterious young lodger on the stairs, come down to investigate what all the fuss was about no doubt.
She has a most striking countenance, and I forgot myself and waved a greeting, although we had not yet been introduced. I made amends by calling out that I was from Number 13, the Hankey residence and I resided there entirely alone, the rest of the household having fled to the country because of the contagion.
I might have said more which would have been indiscrete, but Madam D’Arthur managed to unfree the door and I found myself on the Brunswick Square side of it.
All in all, I was well pleased with my endeavours. While walking back across The Square I heard footsteps behind me. Light feet on wet grass. Could it be…Had I said enough to encourage…
I turned to find the general maid of all work from Mr Peregrine’s house somewhat out of breath. The riding master (retired) had sent her across when he saw me from his drawing room window.
He was anxious to know if I could come to dinner on a certain date at a certain time or if that were not suitable to set another day. Dinner.
Me and Master Peregrine.
Master Peregrine and I.
These past months he has been very careful to keep his distance from the world. Perhaps he feels able to lessen his precautious. Perhaps he feels able to make an exception.
It must be a good nine years since I was last asked out to dinner and that was by a curate’s wife who wanted someone to look after her 14 cats.
My cold is so much better, but I think I will acquire another bottle of cough mixture to be safe. However, I don’t think it agreed with the glass of port I had after lunch. I may retire early tonight as I feel unaccountably tired. And happy.
Dinner, dear reader! Dinner.
Mrs Finnegan is the creation of Bridget Whelan and Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook
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