BRIDGET WHELAN writer

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Am I getting old? Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper ponders the Question

The CELEBRATED Mrs Finnegan, the leading housekeeper of her generation, attends to the needs of the weary and worried WITHOUT neglecting any of her duties at The Regency Town House She WANTS to be very clear on that point.

I AM THE WIFE of a prosperous shopkeeper and never been afraid of hard work or early mornings.
Indeed, I feel the same now as I did before I reared 12 children but I overheard a young man refer to ‘the old lady over there.’ I turned around expecting to see someone behind me and then realised I was entirely on my own.
Am I old?
Mistress Dismayed

Mrs Finnegan replies

You must answer that question yourself, but you KNOW you’re old when:

You start losing hair
You start growing hair in places that has no business having ANY hair
You think churchwardens are getting younger.
You STILL call America the colonies.
Younger people describe you as old when they don’t THINK you can hear.
You remember wearing a wig.
You remember MEN wearing a wig.

You secretly WISH you could still wear a wig.
You look in the mirror and see your MOTHER.
Younger people describe you as OLD when they don’t think you can hear.
You get the Royal Georges mixed up.
You’re convinced everything is going FASTER including horses, errand boys and children with hoops
You’re convinced winters are longer and modern hairstyles ridiculous

Your sweeth tooth is the only tooth you have left.
Your best friend is a bourdaloue.
You tend to repeat things.
Younger people describe you as old to your face.

Dear Mistress Dismay, remember no matter how TRYING it is to age, it is better than the alternative.

Yours with the greatest respect
Mrs Finnegan

PS I an persuaded that the use of a walking stick should never be seen as a sign of CREEPING old age, but rather as a SMART device that adds grace and ELEGANCE to any indivdual with the added benefit that it gives the bearer a slight ‘lift’ when going upstairs.

PPS

Master Thompson Hankey Junior has departed.
He arrived stocious and left sneezing heartedly, not from infection, but BECAUSE he is addicted to snuff.
My own dear mother was a 30-pinch-a-day woman. I don’t remember her without a TRAIL OF BROWN running in a line from her nose to her chin. Sometimes – if it was CROOKED – it almost looked as though she was smiling.
It marked her for what she was, a woman of QUALITY, as the common people SMOKE their tobacco. Even so, I never CARED for it myself.

And I didn’t care for the SMELL left in Master Thomson’s bedroom. Covered in dust, it REEKED of tobacco and rose petals and ginger, his own special recipe apparently, and to my mind three things that never should go together.

I aired it within an inch of its life. It may be May (oh, look what I’ve done there), but there was still a BRISK east wind rattling the casements. I FLUNG back the curtains, opened the full lenght windows wide and let it in. Sissy, the poppet, looked on AMAZED as a gust as fierce as a mother lion searching for a lost cub roared into the room and knocked over the wash stand…No matter, the fresh air was in.
‘What can you smell now?’ I asked Sissy.
‘Grass from the Square,’she said. ‘And salt from the sea, but mostly dung from the horses.’

While tidying Mrs Hankey’s room I found her diary under the tallboy.

My dear boy has left to pursue his burgeoning career in London. That is all to the good, however, I have just received a letter from my husband.
Thomson Sr says that he intends to come back to Brighton. Imminently.  
He says he has grown tired of the country and of playing at cards every day with the same people.
He says he longs for the gaiety of Brighton. 
He doesn’t say that he longs for my company. We have a tolerance for one another but there’s no real affection. 

I wouldn’t say there was an AWFUL lot of tolerance, not after he sent a list of things he couldn’t eat because of his gout, EVERY single one a favourite of Mrs Hankey. Her groan echoed throughout the house from her parlour all the way down to me in the kitchen. I thought she was in pain. I thought at the very least it was a bunion and MORE likely to be a CONSTRICTION of the stomach, but no, when I ran into her room she had her husband’s letter clutched to her bosom.

‘Hare! We’re not supposed to eat hare any more. Or partridge! Or cream-rich desserts. Or bon-bons! Imagine a life without bon-bons. Mrs Finnegan!’

In the past I have lived through LONG years without so much as a sight of a bon-bon. I was in my twenties before I tasted ONE.

‘That wrecthed man’s list goes on and on,’ she wailed. ‘No pastries! What is to become of us?’ Her tone modified slightly when she discovered ANOTHER list. This one was of wines, ports and spirits to be PURCHASED before his arrival. She handed it over to me. ‘See to that,’ she ordered. ‘And you must do more digging.’ I must have looked mystified for we have no garden to dig in. ‘About Susan, of course. I am paying a lot of money for her services. I have a right to know more about her and her child. See to it, Mrs Finnegan and don’t forget the pearl earring. Don’t ever forget about that because I shan’t.’

There it is. The threat she HOLDS over me uttered again. Other mistresses can dismiss their employees, Mrs Hankey can ruin me. I am no thief, but I can’t convince her of that. There is no more to be said. In any case. I have to make the HOUSE ready for another Thompson Hankey. I wonder what this one will be like.

Later, when I was turning Mrs Hankey’s bed down ready for her to retire for the night, I happened to NOTICE a new entry in her diary. I only had time to read a snatch.

I should stop complaining about Thomson. After all, he rescued me when I needed rescuing. What would my life be like now if…

There was no time to read more.

Mrs Finnegan is written by Bridget Whelan with the support of the wonderful volunteers at The Regency Town House.
A special THANK YOU this week to Catherine Page.
Today is Tuesday.
If you find you need reminding subscribe HERE to make sure you never miss another EXCITING episode.


7 comments on “Am I getting old? Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper ponders the Question

  1. Glen Available
    May 3, 2022

    As combo aromas go… tobacco, rose petals and ginger together has got to be one of the more unique blends going!

  2. Maria Gardiner
    May 3, 2022

    Thank you for your advice about a walking stick. I have been contemplating the purchase of one for several weeks, so if it makes me look elegant -a feat I don’t usually manage – I shall certainly look out for one.

    • bridget whelan
      May 3, 2022

      Mrs Finnegan is glad to be of help

    • Sarah Waldock
      May 3, 2022

      Elegance is good, but mobility is better. My walker with built in seat has been a real boon to me and enables me to get about and do more than I could manage when resting only on pride…. I designated middle-aged as ‘when you have to sit down to put your stockings on.’ I am resigned to growing old disgracefully.

      • bridget whelan
        May 5, 2022

        I doubt Mrs Finegan has even considered the possibility of a walker but I am certain she would approve.

      • Sarah Waldock
        May 5, 2022

        carpe diem… it’s always been my motto, and as well as seizing the day, I’ll seize anything which will keep me upright. Ho hum, what a shame there’s a shortage of handsome young men when a woman needs a sudden support… but there’s always my dear husband.

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This entry was posted on May 3, 2022 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830 and tagged , .
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