BRIDGET WHELAN writer

for writers and readers….

There’s Devilment and Misery in Mrs Finnegan’s Mail Box. Advice from Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper Will Put a Stop to Both (sort of)

Can’t stop my sticky little fingers from sneaking morsels of food from the kitchen.
It’s not as if I am even hungry, it’s just the devilment of trying something that would not normally pass my lips.
I have tasted the delights of pressed quail, steamed artichokes and chocolate from Brazil.
How can I now survive on ordinary working man’s fodder?
But I’m worried I will be caught.
Ostler from Ovingdean

Mrs Finnegan replies


Sir, you are in danger of LOSING your position in the stables if complaints reach the ears of the Mistress. If you cannot curb YOUR DESIRE for the exotic I suggest:

  • Make FRIENDS with the cook
  • MARRY the cook
  • Make friends with the housekeeper (Unlikely. You’re ONLY an ostler.)
  • Marry the housekeeper (HIGHLY unlikely. It’s easier to eat above your station that to marry above it)
  • Become a footman, but you still need to be on good terms with the cook. And footmen are preferred tall and handsome. I’d say you have a FACE that’s better with the horses than the ladies.
  • That’s it.

But if Vol-au-vent Financiere topped with a larded sweetbread, truffles and cray-fish are on the menu in the establishment where you work – swipe one. It’s worth the risk. .

My family call me miserable.
So what if I am! There is nothing in this life to smile about. I’m sure you agree that the burden of being a woman is weighed down with pain and unpleasantness.
I have no wish to smile, let alone laugh.
I am particularly vexed by my young granddaughter who insists on singing and dancing to “cheer me up”. Why won’t they leave me alone?
Mother Grimace from Grimsby

Mrs Finnegan replies

You are clearly not being miserable ENOUGH. Put some vigour into it!

Start every conversation with the words When I was a girl…You can vary it with In the old days we never...And, of course, proclaim every politician a liar, every shopkeeper a cheat and the servants all thieves. When religion is mentioned insist that the vicar is gambling with the POOR BOX money and if a recipe should be discussed maintain that the cook stores poison in the larder. It goes WITHOUT SAYING all beggars dine on caviar and all charities are scams, but say it all the same.

But that is not enough. Show some BACKBONE if you truly want your family to leave you alone. Tell your children how much you suffered giving birth to them. Use phrases like I was never the same again.

CRITICISE everything they do and everything they DON’T do. Accuse them of vanity if they are good looking, not making an effort if they are ordinary and stomach-churning if they are ugly. Never mention anything they are wearing unless it is old, dirty or it doesn’t suit them. Shout at your granddaughter and make her cry at the FIRST HINT of a melody on her lips.

In short, Madam, DEMOLISH every moment of pleasure. And if your family persist in their WANTON BEHAVIOUR and still care if you are cold, or hungry or lonely take comfort in the knowledge you will soon be in the ground and a long time dead.

There are days when I rant against the world and all who live in it. But there are also days when BIRDSONG in Brunswick Square or a ruby-red sunset can set my world to rights and a child’s song (any child. It doesn’t have to kith or kin) will make my heart beat faster for the SHEER joy of it.
And there are friends who make me laugh.
And salt in the air.
And memories and a good glass of claret and a mug of hot chocolate on going to bed. (Two mugs if it’s chilly)

Nor would I live any other way. For we are ALL a long time dead.

Yours with the utmost respect
Mrs Finnegan

PS

I’m not saying I MISS Mrs Hankey, but I am missing her diary. She TOOK it with her, but should have taken me instead. I could have coaxed Miss Martha home where Mrs Hankey’s careless words will only drive THE DEAR GIRL away. She’s started the SEARCH in entirely the wrong direction too boot. She’s NOT in Tunbridge Wells where they both used to live, but Mrs H. wouldn’t listen.

Susan and I have used this time by ourselves to get on with various essential household tasks.

And she has AMUSED me with tales of the weather in the West Indies. I have not been anywhere warmer than Shoreham. I’m not sure the heat would suit me. I’d be lost without A SHAWL.

Late at night with the wind coming straight off the sea I hear something outside. Neighing horses, feet on the steps, a shout.

I pull open the main front door and THERE in front of me stands Mrs Hankey….and her daughter. I laugh, I cry. I call for two mugs of SWEET CHOCOLATE. Fortunately I have just made a whole pot. I STOP calling when I realise Susan is asleep at the top of the house and it is me that will have to fetch it.

Miss Martha’s back! Miss Martha’s BACK!

I can’t help doing a LITTLE JIG in the hall where none can see me. Didn’t I say this is the way it would turn out. Didn’t I? All is well.

And when I take up two mugs of my special chocolate (made with SKILL and the addition of cream, cardamom, CLOVES, bergamot and bread) I see the two ladies by the fire and my heart is glad – even though there is now only a half cup of chocolate left for my own bedtime routine. No matter! ALL IS WELL.

By the firelight I can see a STRANGE expression on Mrs Hankey’s face. I do believe she is smiling.

A new service for EVERY reader

Can you recall old misery guts at Number 60? Has her antics slipped your mind?
Are you a NEW (and very welcome) reader and uncertain why no one mentions Master Peregrine and dinner in the same breath?
(I said DON’T mention it)
Perhaps you can’t place Susan or Miss Martha….

Help is now at HAND. Click > The Story So Far and all will be revealed.

I shall update it as SOON as the ink is dry so you will ALWAYS KNOW what’s going on.

Do you have a QUESTION for Mrs Finnegan? SEND IT IN. She promises a frank REPLY
(Contact details are on the left)

MRS FINNEGAN is a regular feature created and written by Bridget Whelan with Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook and a host of volunteers at The Regency Town House, readers and subscribers. This week a special thank you to Jill Vigus 

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This entry was posted on May 18, 2021 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830 and tagged , , .
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