for writers and readers….

Why is My Sister so very Awkward? Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper knows the answer

Mrs Finnegan – housekeeper at The Regency Town House – finds herself thinking a lot about dinner parties past and future. If there’s a CHANCE you might be invited to such a party click HERE for your FREE copy of How To Be A Guest.
Mrs Finnegan has a feeling you may need it.

I don’t KNOW if you Answer letters from children. I expect you DON’T, but I’m giving it a Try anyway.

The problem is My sister Hilda. She used to be Fun. We used to have GREAT games together. She doesn’t do ANYTHING now Except look in the Mirror, or SWOON in a Chair. (Swooning has become a hobby.) Or talk ROT about Flowers and sunsets and recite Soppy poetry.

I pretty much Hate MOST boys but she doesn’t seem to mind them so much. They pull my Hair and call me Names like Miss Swot because I am better at SUMS than THEM while she has taken to putting their names in an exercise book in squiggly Writing.

How do I tell Hilda that these creatures are not worth a light and that she should PLAY with me outside MORE and Appreciate the Pleasure of talking to a VERY nice Pony.

WHAT’S wrong With Her?

Fed-UP Phyllis from Felixstowe
PS I LIKE the WAY you Write Mrs Finnegan

Mrs Finnegan replies

I like the WAY you write Phyllis (although perhaps you are a little too generous with CAPITAL letters. I think you will find that a sprinkling will suffice).

I am very PLEASED you felt able to confide in me. I take it as a GREAT compliment and I can tell you that there is nothing wrong with your sister apart from the fact that Hilda is 12 years old and you are not.
She CAN’T help it so don’t blame her.

Very soon she will be 13 and 14 and thinking about more than flowers and sunsets. Yes, I am afraid she will be thinking about boys and love.

She will spend an AWFULLY lot of time thinking about love until she gets married and THAT will be the end of that.

It is the way the world goes and you will feel differently, my dear, when you are 12.

I’m not saying you will be like Hilda.

You will remain completely and UTTERLY Phyllis and be 12 in your own way, but you will find NEW interests and discard old ones. However, you will NEVER EVER lose your liking for Arithmetic, that I can promise you.

AND you will ALWAYS be better than the boys.

Yours faithfully
Mrs Finnegan


Mrs Hankey is away in Tunbridge Wells VISITING Lord and Lady For-Ever-Showing-Off (can’t recall the name but it’s something like that) as part of her plan to THROW the Greatest Dinner Party Brighton has ever SEEN and to be condescended to in the process…it is Lady F’s favourite hobby, but the Mistress doesn’t seem to notice. She’s taken her diary with her, by the way, but it’s been remarkably DULL of late so WE shan’t miss it.

The PURPOSE of the trip is to scout suitable dinner guests, especially eligible titled ones. Mrs H. was most PUT out to learn how few DUKES there are left…Her hopes were RAISED last Wednesday when she heard of ONE visiting Portsmouth, but alas he is only nine.

The household was told we could EXPECT an unveiling of the great dress next week. Be still my BEATING heart! But I must acknowledge a MILD interest as some of the other housekeepers in the Square have PRESSED ME to take part in an amusing little game of chance. It’s nothing, a TRIFLE, a hazard, a wager of the refined KIND.

If gambles belonged to the INSECT race this one would be a new-born gnat.

Still, I stand to win a half GUINEA if Mrs Hankey presides over the GDP in emerald green….

I am GLAD she is away because a mishap has occurred which NEEDS to be righted before she gets back. A silver tea spoon is missing. Mrs Pool, our new temporary cook, KINDLY volunteered to take over the silver cleaning which is an onerous task in house like this. That does not mean I have lost INTEREST in the household silver. It is MY responsibility and my honour and so I was counting the flatware yesterday when HORROR! I discovered we were short one teaspoon.

Does that seem a SMALL thing to you?

Of course it doesn’t. You are sensible person and know very well that a solid silver teaspoon from the reign of the present King’s father is worth a goodly sum. I daresay you could work a week from dawn till Nine O’ Clock at night and still not have enough money to buy one.

Yet Mrs Pole attempted to make light of it.

She said it was merely MIS-PLACED.
She said it was BOUND to turn up in the by and by.
She said I shouldn’t worry.

I said the house would be turned upside down until it was found. I instructed Miss Susan to search bags, trunks and pockets in the upper two floors while I started on the basement. I left Mrs Pole to sort through the kitchen.

It was still lost when I went on my early evening walk around the Square. Nothing strange in that you may think and you would be right, but I did so at the invitation of Master Peregrine, the retired riding master from Number 61, and I was determined not to cancel it.

Afeared of the contagion, Master Peregrine has kept indoors many months after others ventured out.

Indeed, you may remember one of his very first ADVENTURES occurred outside The Town House five weeks ago when he was the INNOCENT victim of Mrs Hankey’s temper. Read about the flying scone incident HERE if you suffer from a feeble memory.

Walking in the autumn sunshine with Master Peregrine was exceedingly pleasant and made me forget my many concerns. He enjoys puns and was generous enough to entertain me with some of his favourite. I give you a sample.

  • Who is the greatest chicken-killer in Shakespeare? Macbeth, because he did murder most foul.
  • Why should the number 288 never be mentioned in company? Because it is two gross.
  • Why is the devil riding a mouse like one and the same thing? Because it is synonymous.

He has many more, but I urged him not to spoil me.
In any CASE I needed his counsel on a matter of great urgency. What LIGHT could he throw on the relationship between his neighbour Monsieur D’Arthur, the French dancing master and Miss Martha?

Him again

Something happened earlier this year, of that I am certain. I reproach myself daily for allowing my attention to have wandered at the time.

Dear Miss Martha, a gem of a woman, a pearl of the South Coast

Master P confirmed my suspicions. There was, he believes, letters passing between them at a RAPID rate and at least one meeting ON THEIR OWN. He spied them out of his drawing room window in THE SHADOWS of a chilly March evening. He could not be certain, but thought that tears were shed.

“That wretch has broken Miss Martha’s heart,” I told him because I knew WHOSE eyes were crying. It’s possible I may have become a little heated at this point.

Of course, I do not consider a mere dancing master to be a suitable partner for a lady of the QUALITY of Miss Martha, but the thought that he might have spurned her affections! Well really, blood does NOT boil. It steams. It evaporates. It forms a cloud and wants to RAIN down upon the head of HE who did wrong

Not so quick, Master Peregrine advised. “For I thought I saw tears on both cheeks…”

“Oh,” I said, not quite able to conjure my thoughts. I may have added a few umms and AHHS before demanding to know why he HADN’T told me sooner.

He was preoccupied, he said. It was the night before the SPECIAL dinner we were going to share. There was so much still to do because he had been determined to make it the VERY best dinner he had ever hosted.

I kept QUIET. How could I comment on the dinner that never was?

“I thought we could talk about it over coffee and discuss what together we should do for these young people. I had ordered beans from the HEART of Africa and ground them myself.”

Oh, Master Peregrine. The dear, dear FOOLISH man.

Had he really intended to SHOUT down a tube from his drawing room to me sitting on my own in the basement area and DISCUSS the very PRIVATE life of two people one of whom was his next door neighbour and the other my employer’s daughter?

(If you want to revisit that TORTURED NIGHT of excruciating emotion you may do so HERE. I go BACK there often in my dreams.)

It is perhaps just as WELL that dinner did not go ahead. It was as though he read my thoughts BECAUSE he turned and placed a gloved hand upon my arm.

“Would you be so kind, Mrs Finnegan…”

He looked down at me and I LOOKED up at him. Dear reader, another dinner was going to be arranged, I could feel it. A proper dinner. With both of us INDOORS.

He was about to say more (and I was just imaging what the first course might be) when at that VERY MOMENT Mrs Pole screamed across the Square. “Mrs Finn-ee-GAN! I found the spoon. I found it! ‘Twas in the rubbish store all along.”

Was it? I thought as I gathered up my skirts and galloped across the sun-lit Square, flinging a quick farewell in Master Peregrine’s general direction.

I HAD searched that store thoroughly before I left. I knew every discarded rag and chicken bone. There was no silver spoon there an hour earlier.

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

Have you subscribed to Mrs Finnegan’s SPECIAL MESSENGER SERVICE?
Every Tuesday morning the latest Finnegan Chronicles will be delivered to you ENTIRELY FREE OF CHARGES, TAXES and TIPS.
All you have to do is Click HERE

Just think you will never miss an episode again. (And we promise that the coach and horses won’t disturb you or your neighbours – something to do with tying sacking over the horse shoes. I’m a bit sketchy on the technical details.)

4 comments on “Why is My Sister so very Awkward? Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper knows the answer

  1. lesleyscoble
    September 14, 2021

    This is so good! Made me laugh! Forget upstairs Downstairs—I can’t wait for the next episode.

    • bridget whelan
      September 15, 2021

      Mrs Finnegan is gratified that you have noticed her small efforts.
      She wonders if one of your comments might prove to be a fitting epithet when the time comes…. drafting an inscription for her tombstone is a popular activity when the nights draw in, but can’t think what should follow BELOVED by all and Leading Housekeeper of HER Generation….

      • lesleyscoble
        September 15, 2021

        😁 might prove a fitting SOBRIQUET indeed — SAD to think a tombstone is so SOON required 😂

  2. bridget whelan
    September 15, 2021

    My understanding is that Mrs Finnegan has been writing and re-writing the inscription since she was a slip of a girl…she sees no reason to call in the stonemasons any time soon. But, as she reminds young maids, we are all just a runaway horse away from meeting St Peter

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This entry was posted on September 14, 2021 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830 and tagged , , .


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