BRIDGET WHELAN writer

for writers and readers….

The Embarrassing Things Mothers Do…More Problems for Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper to Solve

Mrs Finnegan is a celebrated EXPERT on life, love and laundry and WELCOMES letters from all, no matter HOW grand or LOWLY, especially as it now appears she has SOME time on her hands, but she wants to make it PLAIN that SHE is still Housekeeper at The Regency Town House

MY DEAR MAMA is frugal to a fault and leaves me socially embarrassed.
She insists that rather than buying delicately embroidered dainty handkerchiefs we use old discarded bed linen to wipe our sensitive noses.
Oh the shame!
Apart from anything else these dreadful objects are huge. I can barely accommodate one in my reticule. While I appreciate that saving money is a fine attribute for the mistress of the house, I fear people will laugh.
What shall I do and how can I broach this with Mama?
Mortified Monica of Morecambe

Mrs Finnegan replies

Avoiding waste and lavishness is the DUTY of every sensible Mistress and HOUSEKEEPER. Worn out bed linen should ALWAYS be utilised for other purposes. As they WEAR THIN in the middle they can be cut up and used to make:

  • pillow cases
  • BOLSTER covers
  • aprons
  • bibs for babies and AGED parents

and hankerchiefs too if the linen is of FINE quality.

When no longer GOOD ENOUGH for that work they can be used for cleaning.
When they are no longer FIT TO BE SEEN in the house, the ragman will be pleased to buy them from you for a few pennies as he can SELL them on for paper-making.
But what you cannot do is COMBINE frugality with laziness.
Get YOUR scissors out.
Cut the LARGE swatches of linen into handkerchief-sized squares.
Hem.
Embroider.
Make your MAMA proud and blow YOUR NOSE with your head HELD high.

AT 26, YES A FULL TWENTY SIX! my mother thinks it is very amusing to show any young beau that comes calling this picture of me as a little naked baby. I am so embarrassed.
She says it is a fine likeness and coos like a dove about how adorable I look.
How can I make her stop?
Embarrassed Edna of Edmonton

Mrs Finnegan replies

I rather suspect it is not you she is SHOWING OFF, but herself 26 years younger.
She doesn’t look like THAT now, does she?
Thinning GREY hair?
Furrowed forehead?
Mouth pursed to HIDE missing teeth?
Coarse dry skin weathered to an UNAPPEALING puce?
Double Chin? SAGGING jowls? Maybe a smattering of small pox scars?

Let her remember her GLORY days.
But if you cannot BEAR it (and in TRUTH you weren’t a pretty baby) why not offer to have it reframed so it can be more prominently and permanently displayed.
In the process AN ACCIDENT may happen to the left hand corner of the canvas, Oh dear, how sad, what a shame!
Luckily the REST of the painting can be salvaged…

PS

This week I took two women into my CONFIDENCE – dear Miss Martha, the daughter of the Mistress and Susan, the Lady’s Maid.

Susan, we haven’t seen her for awhile

I invited them to the housekeeper’s room at the front of the house and we sat together NIBBLING on muffins and apple jelly (now that I’m back in control of the kitchen I have developed something of a PASSION for apple jelly). I told them that I was IN NEED of more help in the house  – they both agreed loudly – and the only help I needed was a slip of a girl Sissy Jewell who had come to my aid during the Great Robbery (I believe it is known locally as When Mrs Finnegan Saved The Day).

I described Sissy’s WRETCHED home, her poor mother and the invaluable assistance she would be to me in SAILING this great ship of a house. I MAY have overdone the maritime metaphors for Miss Martha PUT a hand on my arm and SAID softly, “Finnegan, you’re making me sea-sick.”

No matter. BOTH women have known heartache and HARD TIMES themselves and were BRIMMING with compassion.
“But what are you going to do?’ asked Susan ‘Now the Mistress has said no…”
I pressed ANOTHER muffin on them before answering.
“I have decided to go on strike!”
“You’re going to hit someone,” Miss Susan LEAPT to her feet, shocked.

‘NO! I believe in WORDS not swords. I’m not going to go around burning HAY STACKS or threathening police officers with WHOM I am on very good terms. No. I am going to temporarily withdraw my services that is all. In the kitchen. In the dining room and parlour. In the drawing room. In the bedrooms…on the stairs.’

‘You’re ill.’ THIS was Miss Susan again.

‘No, I’m very well , thank you.’
‘You’re pretending to be ill.’

‘There’s no pretence involved. I am ready AND WILLING to work. I am DELIGHTED to work but I must have Sissy here in the kitchen,’ I coughed. ‘AND remuneration commensurate with my responsibilities.’ I said no more on that point but REGULAR readers may remember my discovery earlier IN the SPRING that Susan is paid £10 a year MORE than me. If you are CONFUSED about how that could come about all I CAN say is that I am CONFUSED as well. And while I hold no grudges it is PERHAPS time that situation was resolved.

At that MOMENT Mrs Hankey rang the bell in the parlour.

Miss Martha looked up surprised. “That’s rather irriating. Does that happen when I need you to bring something?”

“It doesn’t MATTER who rings the bell. It always sounds the same.”
‘When does your strike start?’ Miss Martha wanted to know.

‘About now,’ I said. The bell RANG again. ‘I believe there are some BASIC supplies in the kitchen.’

‘Oh good. What?’
‘A bowl of cold blancmange and two slices of rhubarb pie.’

‘And when will you be struck? When will it all over?’
That probably depends on your mother, I thought.

The bell rang for a third time.

Dear reader, what have I done?

MRS FINNEGAN is a regular feature written by Bridget Whelan working with 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 November 30, 2021 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830 and tagged , , , .
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