Archive for January, 2020

“the use and beauty of the small duties, joys, and sorrows which make up our lives”

27 January 2020

I am tired of trying to fight myself, trying to manage myself, whatever one calls it. Tired of making lists and not doing the things on them. Tired of not being enough. It doesn’t feel as if fighting oneself should make any logical sense.

Knitting in Miss Silver Comes to Stay (1951)

25 January 2020

Having fairly recently learnt to knit, I am enjoying picking up references to knitting which were previously lost on me.

It turns out that knitting is the major structural factor in Wentworth’s Miss Silver Comes to Stay. At the first mention of Miss Silver in Chapter II she “closed a capacious handbag upon her knitting” as she got off the train.

Later we are told she has “a ball of pale blue wool from which she was knitting a cosy coat and knickers for her niece Ethel Burnett’s little Josephine. She kept her hands low in her lap, holding the needles after the Continental fashion as she … had been taught by the German mistress, Fraulein Stein, when she was at school. It has the great advantage of making it almost impossible to drop a stitch. It is not, therefore, necessary to watch either one’s hands or the work. Miss Silver rarely glanced at the rapidly clicking needles or the lengthening strip of blue.”

Later on she is “completing the second side of little Josephine’s jacket”. The knitting follows her through the detection, or the detection through the knitting.

the thin strip of knitting which represented, embryonically, the back of little Josephine’s woolly jacket

The two fronts and the back of little Josephine’s jacket having been completed and sewn together, she was engaged upon the left sleeve, for which four needles were in use

She was well away with the second sleeve of little Josephine’s jacket, and hoped to finish it before lunch. She would then crochet an ornamental edging all around and furnish it with bows of washing ribbon, after which she would start upon the knickers

She paused to measure the pale blue cuff, and finding it long enough, began to cast off.

Right at the end of the book, when Miss Silver is explaining the case to the Chief Constable (and her former pupil) Randall Marsh, she completes the jacket:

“Well, Randall, there you have what was in my mind … ”
She cast off the last stitch, pulled the wool through the loop, drew it tight, and transfixed the pale blue ball with the needles she had been using.

“The right thing will come up, I know. I wonder what it will be?”

18 January 2020

The Abbey books increasingly feel to me like a guidebook on ways I might live. They’ve been important to me for years because they deal with stuff that I don’t find elsewhere – daydreaming, friendship, service. I’m increasingly finding messages in the story of Mary-Dorothy. Having just lost my job as she feared she would do in The Abbey Girls Win Through, I need to try to react in the way she does, with some trust.

Anyway. I have been looking at jobs in 1930. The Scotsman has an ad headed “H.M.’s Inspectorship of Taxes, open to ladies and gentlemen, age 21 and under 24 … A real chance afforded to secure permanent first-class Government appointments.” This turns out to be an ad for a college, however, Skerry’s College in Edinburgh, which carries out “expert oral and postal preparation” for the examination.

There is a post for a lady as Principal Warden of hostels for women students in Edinburgh. Pay starts at £400. You have to have a university degree, “give evidence of administrative ability” and have “residential experience in a college or hostel”. The last criterion puts me out, unless they just mean having lived in one.

There is a slightly mysterious ad for a “Lady of initiative and ability for outside interviewing required by a large business house operating among schools and educational institutions in Scotland”. Pay is partly on commission. “Lady without travelling experience might be suitable if other qualifications are satisfactory.” Some sort of sales job, perhaps for a publisher?

In the Birmingham Daily Gazette there is a post at the Austin Motor Works, “must be accustomed to boring crankcases”.

The same paper advertises posts for beginners on liners, including stewardesses. There are various ads for homeworkers, mostly writing “showcards”, which seem to be some sort of advertising material displayed in shops. In businesses for sale, there is a fish and chip shop in Walsall which is “a little goldmine”.

In the Western Mail, there is a governess wanted for a fifteen-year-old girl near Swansea.

The Essex Newsman advertises an opportunity for women to emigrate to Canada as domestic servants. In the same paper, an experienced Lady Shorthand-Typist is required by the Automobile Association. “Write, stating age, experience, and salary required.” There is a “Young Lady Required, 17-20, to learn Photographic and Optical work; some knowledge of shorthand and typing essential. Apply, Boatman, Market Rd., Chelmsford.” That might be interesting, but I don’t meet the criteria.

In the Western Morning News, “a Refined LADY” is wanted “for outdoor interviewing purposes. This is an opportunity for a widow or married woman, of good appearance and tact”. Again, I think probably a sales job. There is also an ad for Civil Service vacancies, Ladies, 14-27, but I think it’s another college – the postal address is Loreburn College in Manchester.

There is an ad in the Buckingham Advertiser and Free Press for an Assistant Workmistress at London County Mental Hospital at Hanwell. Under 40 and with experience of dressmaking, especially cutting-out. Starting salary 18s 6d a week plus a fluctuating bonus of 12s a week.

The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette has other posts in mental hospitals, as a probationer nurse at the Devon Mental Hospital, which has 1,600 beds. Sounds grim.

There really do not seem to be very many jobs for women, apart from in domestic service.

In Situations Wanted in the Daily Herald, a 33-year-old “educated woman, lover of children” wants a post as a foster mother.

The Daily Herald also reports that Trades Council had carried a resolution opposing the employment of women in Army canteens at Aldershot. The issue appears to be that women do not want to work there, but if they turn down a job they may lose their unemployment benefit.