MB: living and writing the early days of parks canada

MB Williams to [unreadable], 19 Nov 1931

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Nov 19 1931
14, St. John’s Wood Court, St. John’s Wood,
London, N.W.8. 19/11/31

Dear [unreadable]

            We have now a permanent home in London, a small furnished flat, just a penny bus ride from Oxford St. It’s a comical Victorian place with family portraits (in oils) in the dining room and inlaid furniture in the living room. Three beautiful old pieces that you would love. The chintz-covered chairs look imposing but date back to the days before springs so that they are not luxurious. But there is some nice old silver & some remarkable old china, Rockingham & Spode, in the enormous china cabinet. The place is “centrally heated” that means kept at about 60 to 65 by hot

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water and the English think it is almost stiflingly hot. We, with our decadent colonial taste, prefer it a little warmer very often & then we turn on the electric fireplaces of which there are several. One of the best features is the kitchen. Meals are prepared just as in a restaurant but sent down the lift & served in your own apartment. Breakfast costs about 1s or 1 1/6 if you are very carnivorous, luncheon (4 courses) 2/6 & dinner 3/6. The cooking is excellent & everything is sent down with warmed plates & in covered silver dishes ready to put on to the table. After the meal is over you put the dishes back on the lift & only have to wash up the knives, forks & spoons. It’s quite an ideal way. We usually take one meal a day & they send us such large portions

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that if we order 2 we have almost enough left for another meal. Now we order one meal but omit one course either meat or fish & double up on the others. There is always enough soup & dessert for 2. So you see it’s a regular bargain counter. They serve delicious chicken, turkey, pheasant, sweetbreads etc. A little unimaginative about desserts as English cooks always are, but they come out strong on milk puddings. It’s giving us quite an insight into English ways of living because we have to shop & deal with tradesmen & so meet all sorts of queer people. Yesterday the dirtiest small boy I have ever seen, with a very large grocer’s apron rang the bell & when I opened it he announced himself as “Allshow.” Seeing I was in a fog he repeated it, “, Bagleys

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[Written in the left margin, vertically]
The fruit lasted all the way across & we ended up with a party in Cornwall.

Then the maid in the hall came to the rescue “Keshamp" Bagleys. Edgewater Road.” This still didn’t seem very clear so the maid explained. “Vim, paraffin, soap & dipso.” Then I tumbled to it that he was taking orders for cleaning goods. Evidently sold by one special shop so we ordered some good old sunlight soap & gave the kiddie a penny which I hope he uses to buy some Lifebuoy with. He was a poor advertisement of their wares though intellectually quite bright and shiny.

            Our landlady is a cousin of Sir Maurice Anderson, the King’s physician, or one of them. When she heard I had arthritis she said “Oh, but you must have that seen to at once. Now I’ll write to my cousin & ask him who would be the best man to consult.” We supposed she would forget all about it but two days later appeared a note from Sir Maurice kindly recommending some Dr. Scott, a specialist in neuritis, which he said his cousin said we had. Very English, both ways.

            We have been here less than two weeks but already

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Do you know a good book on anything that I could buy. specialists cost 3 & 4 guineas

have done a lot & met a number of people. We had tea on Mon. with Mrs. Raymond-Willis, a Canadian. I think she was one of the Cassells. Met a Mrs. Bethune, who is a niece of Lady [Moss], Toronto. A Lady Kirkpatrick (husband Indian general) & Mrs. Kirchhoffer whom we knew in Ottawa. She is 86 & as bright as a dollar. At 83 she climbed to the top of St. Pauls with her grandson right out on to the roof, up the final ladder & all. She said that all the way up there were signs: The Dean requests visitors not to write names etc. But she felt her achievement deserved to be recorded so wrote. 

            Clara Kirchhoffer aged 33 [sic] and Bob who is just thirteen

            have climbed to the top and written their names

            but they hope they won’t be seen. 

            For although they aren’t afraid of God

            They are awfully afraid of the Dean

Pretty bright wasn’t it.

            Mrs. Bethune has asked us to tea soon & to-day we go to the Lyceum Club, the most famous Women’s Club as the guest of Mary Macleod Moore, the writer, & to-morrow to the American Women’s Club as guests of an American woman. You see how friendly & kind people are. Already we have

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Weather truly British, rain every day but only about 50.⁰ Fog yesterday. Quite an experience. Love Fuzzy.

a circle & Mrs. Herridge hasn’t begun to look up her old friends.

            London is certainly a wonderful place. New York is more exciting but you are ready to leave it in 4 or 5 days. London goes on & on. There is something new every day. We heard the Gresham lecture on Astronomy & are going to the Hibbert Lectures next week. Heard a Stravinsky concert & opera & several plays. The list is inexhaustible. You must come some time prepared to stay & get into it. It is fun.

            My hand seems slightly better but I have been rather worried about it. All the joints are affected, from the shoulder down, & are sometimes quite painful. But you see I can now write fairly well. I have hesitated to consult a Dr. because there are so many quacks & I thought you thought time would probably cure it. I believe my liver isn’t working very well & that may aggravate it. Have difficulty with fats & sugars.

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M.B. Williams, “MB Williams to [unreadable], 19 Nov 1931,” MB: Living and Writing the Early Years of Parks Canada, accessed November 21, 2017, http://mbwilliams.academic-news.org/items/show/32.

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