Blanche and Helen -2 Preparing for the Party
I was busy cleaning in the kitchen floor when Mr. Warrington surprised me, by pinching my bottom on the way through. I was about to protest, but he put his fingers to his lips and smiled at me, shouting out to his wife that he was home.
“Hello, darling,” said his wife, Louisa, “and how lovely it is to have you home early. How was work today?”
“Much as usual, but I decided to come home early to see if you have had any reactions from the neighbours about our party.”
“Blanche, come in here will you?” he shouted, so I got up and straightened myself a bit and went through.
“Blanche,” he said, “did you take out all the invitations as I asked you to?”
“Oh, yes sir,” I said, bobbing a curtsy as I replied. “I took them to all the neighbours as you said.”
“And did any of them open them while you were still there? Did you get any idea of their response?”
“Well, not really sir. Some of them were right curious as to why I was giving them an envelope. Some of them started to open it but I didn’t feel I should wait around and watch,” I said with my fingers crossed behind my back.
“No, of course not,” he agreed. “But did they seem excited and pleased at the idea?”
“Well, if I had to say as to what they thought, it would have been confused. I don’t think they could understand why you, and they must have known the envelope which I was delivering was from you, should want to say anything to them.”
“Well, I guess I must just bide my time. I can’t remember, Louisa. Did we put in the invitation that they should RSVP?”
“No, dear, as we didn’t think they would understand what it meant.”
“So we won’t know if they are coming until Sunday when they arrive or don’t, is that it?”
“Well, we shall see tomorrow whether any of them have the manners to reply, which of course they should do, whether they are coming or not. But I don’t hold high hopes for them cottoning on to doing the right thing. You can go back to your work, Blanche,” she added.
So I left to go back to the kitchen, but as it was only next door and they were speaking loudly, I could still hear their conversation.
“How many did we invite in the end?”
“I think it was 67, counting the children but not the babies. But, of course, they won’t all come. And we wouldn’t be able to cope with them all if they did. I am only praying it will be a mild sunny day so we can have them in the garden. The thought of all those dirty, noisy children in my house is enough to make me cringe.”
“Well, Louisa, you know that in order for our plan to work, we must make sure we have the locals on our side. They have to feel that we like them and trust them and want them to go along with our plans. If we tell them they can’t bring their children, then most won’t come. If we tell them they are only welcome if the sun is shining, they will really wonder if we are to be believed.”
“Well, I am in charge of organising the catering, and I would very much appreciate knowing if I am to order 100 cakes, or 50 or what. It does make a difference, you know.”
“We must think positively. If we have invited 60, we must provide cakes for all - even though some of them might not come, and others might not want to eat cake. In fact, I think we should provide 75, and then we can offer second helpings.”
“And you really expect me to produce my china cups for all and sundry? They won’t know how to handle them. And they might well break them - and certainly their children will be into destroying anything and everything. I’m not even very happy about Blanche washing my precious dishes and glassware,” she said which made me very annoyed. I’ve never broken one of her blasted bits of finery.
“Now Louisa, you are getting agitated again. Please try to see this positively. We might lose the odd cup - but they can easily be replaced. What we need to do is convince these people that we want to be their friends - that they can trust us. That we like them and hope that they will like us, even though we don’t really mean it, of course.”
“Well, Harold, I hope you know what you are doing. It seems to me that you might be emptying a can of worms with all your grand plans.”
“I have thought this through, dear, and I do think that I have things under control. Anyway, changing the subject, how is Mother Hayes feeling today? Any better?”
“She does seem a triffle better, but she is so missing Daddy still. It was the anniversary of his death not long ago. You can’t expect her to not become depressed when she thinks back on it. But luckily she has her maid who is devoted to her, and she takes care of the situation most admirably. I hardly need do a thing when Alice is around.”
“You sound as if you wish you had the job. I thought that when we agreed that your mother could come here to live with us, it was only on the understanding that she would have her own maid, and that the care of her would not disrupt me or you, for that matter.”
“Yes, of course, dear. That was the understanding, and I do value Alice being here with her. But it does often seem that mother cares more for her than she does for me.”
“You have to remember her background, my dear. She has spent her entire married life going around the world with her husband. She has had only the best in everything - her every wish has been granted. Then for her suddenly to lose the man who provided all for her, and to find herself not only unable to make decisions for herself but incapable of doing so. She needed to come to us, and as much as she resents being under our guidance, she had really no alternative. But surely, once she has regained her self control, after this anniversary is over, she’ll be back to her normal self. I do hope she will not put us to shame on Sunday.”
“Well, it is my thought that she will stay the day in her room, Harold. She is not very convincing when it comes to dealing with the peasantry. She would probably do more harm than good if she came to the party.”
“If you think so, of course we will abide by your wishes. Will Alice be available to help with the festivities?”
“Not if mother needs her. She is employed by mother, you know, not us, and I think she would not be happy with handing around drinks of tea to those she considers beneath her, even though she is a servant, and they for the most part are a cut above her, at least from their point of view.”
“But you will have some help for the proceedings, will you not, my love? Blanche will, of course be here but you will need more than that.”
“I have asked May, the bar girl from the Travellers’ Call pub to come and help, and she has agreed, as long as she is finished by five. That will make two serving, which I think should suffice. I would expect that she will help with the washing up afterwards but if the group is coming at three, and we have tea straight away, and you do your speech to them at 3.30, surely most of them will have left by 4.”
“And what have you planned to give the children?”
“Well, the older ones can have cakes as well, but I thought lemonade would do nicely, and be easy to fix. I have ordered the cakes from the Co-operative bakery, and Mr. James Arden, the manager himself, who just lives down Glossop Road, will be delivering on Saturday, as of course they are not open on Sundays. Blanche can make the lemonade on Sunday morning. It shouldn’t need more than six lemons and 10 ounces of sugar. I’m sure she said she had a recipe somewhere. And we will have glasses for them to drink out of, which hopefully they will treat with care.”
“You won’t give them the cut glass?”
“Of course not, Harold. I have quite a supply of glasses of a lesser quality which will do perfectly well for the occasion.”
“What about seating? What will we do if it rains?”
“We cannot seat 60 inside, don’t be ridiculous. I was thinking to put blankets down on the lawn, and assume that they would sit there in family groups. We must put a few chairs outside for the more elderly who are coming. I am thinking particularly of Mr. Donaldson. It is very important that we have him on our side.”
“Yes, of course. How many elderly have we invited?”
“Well, he is the oldest. And then there is John Howard, he is nearly as old. Most of them are in their thirties and forties, with their children, of course.”
“Do you think the pub owners will come? They will have an eye to passing trade.”
“I would be very surprised if at least one of them didn’t show up. They like to know what is happening locally.”
“Let me see your list again. Do you think any of these are anything but ignorant farmers and mill workers?
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Thornley - 5 children (1 baby)
Mrs. Helen Morrison - 1 child
“Wait a minute, I think I might know this woman from the church choir. At least the name sounds familiar. I didn’t know she lived around here. Let’s see who else there is.”
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Higham from the Rock Tavern Pub - 2 children plus the two Simpson girls, Florence and Ethel
Mr. and Mrs. William Allsopp
Mr. and Mrs. William Potts
Mr. John Donaldson
Miss Margaret Hammersley
Mr. Fred Hodkinson
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Goodwin
Mr. William Goodwin - 1 child
Mr. and Mrs. John Wornall
Miss Harriet Wornall
Miss Margaret Wornall
Mr. and Mrs. Squire Higgenbottom - 1 child plus baby
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Jackson, one son
Miss Mary Alice Jackson,
Mr. Thomas Jackson
Mr. and Mrs. Jack Salt
Miss Lydia Salt
Mr. and Mrs. James Sayer from the Travellers' Call pub - 1 child
Mr. and Mrs. John Lively - 3 children
Mr. John Howard
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Oldfield - plus 4 children
Mr. John Driver
Mr. and Mrs. James Bromiley - 2 children
Miss Rosie Worsley
Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Steward, from the Lane Ends pub, plus 1 child, and his sister Emma.
“That makes 40 adults, 23 children, and 5 babies.”
“Well, I have written out my speech, and I think there will be no problems when it comes to convincing them that I have their best interests at heart.”
“I’m sure you’re right, my love. Now let’s settle down and have a drink before dinner. Would you like your usual?”
“How kind of you. Yes, of course. Thank you, darling.”
The day of the party dawned bright and clear, so Mrs. Warrington’s worries about having our fifty odd guests cluttering up the front room can now recede. There are no discernible clouds at all, and the temperature promises to be in the high 70s – ideal for an outside tea party.
James Ardern, the manager from the Co-operative was very curious as to the reason for the party when he delivered the 75 teacakes yesterday. But I had been told not to tell anyone. I guess Mr. Warrington wants to keep everyone guessing.
Mrs. Warrington is all aflutter worrying that things will not go smoothly, that the neighbours will not be interested in her husband’s ideas and might even turn nasty.
After breakfast was over and the washing up done, Mrs.Warrington gave us our instructions. Alice and I were set the task of laying out the cakes on plates with six on each, and making sure that the tea cups and saucers were washed and ready on each of 10 trays, with a jug of milk and a sugar bowl and spoons for each. Then each family group could be served together. Except those with large numbers of children, such as the Thornleys. They would require two trays.
Then the Warringtons got ready for church. Alice normally joins them, but today they felt she needed to stay back and help me get sorted. They needed to get there early as Mr. Warrington sings in the choir, and they have a short rehearsal before Mass. When the cabbie arrived and they set out for St. Mary’s Church in Marple Bridge, the gift from Lord Howard of Glossop, as Mr. Warrington often reminds us.
I’ve only been into the Catholic Church once, since I’m an Anglican, and when I am allowed time off, I go to St. Martins. I dislike their high church ways, but it’s closer than the other Anglican churches. But on the occasion when I did go to St Mary’s for a christening, it was, I was ever so surprised by it. It look just like an ordinary house and by going down the back path, and through a side door, you find yourself in a lovely little church. The story goes, that when St. Mary’s was built, back in 1856, Catholics were not accepted and had to have their services in secret.
Our tasks finished just in time, as the cabbie has delivered the Warringtons back home so we can get in some last minute preparations for the party.