Monday, December 14, 2015

Story: Molly in Singapore. Part 8.3.

by Lady Charlotte

Three Questions
3. Question Three

‘Tell me, Julia,’ said Signora Moretti, ‘back when you were the youngest ever Professor of History at Cambridge, what did Mark Fitzwilliam mean to you?’
I tottered at the question, clutching at the desk. Perhaps it was my exhaustion. The Signora, who had rescinded her instructions that I join the university cleaning team the moment I had begun going to church, had reassigned me to it for the whole of the past week. I stood before her in my hideous yellow housekeeping uniform, my long black hair pulled back into a ponytail and threaded through the gap in my baseball cap. Naturally, I was standing.
I blinked back tears.
‘Address your comments to Professor Carpio.’ She indicated the stout and bespectacled Filipino sitting behind the desk in front of me. It was his office in which I was standing, having been summoned there from mopping the main hall of the Psychology Department. The Signora had introduced him to me as the psychologist who had been translating my Tagalog for her. I remembered what else she had told me about him – that he was fascinated professionally by my case. And now, here I was, standing before him: an exhausted, dirt-smeared cleaner.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Story: Molly in Singapore. Part 8.2.

by Lady Charlotte


2. Question Two

"Tell me, Julia,"
said Signora Moretti, "back when you were the youngest ever Professor of History at Cambridge, did you reckon yourself an atheist?"

I looked at my employer in surprise. For months now, ever since our chat about my one-time feminism, she had only ever summoned me to discuss matters more appropriate to a domestic: cleaning, childcare, errands. Now, out of the blue, an unexpected question once again.

‘I… when, Madam, I…’

Signora Moretti raised a hand. "Silence, Molly. There is no point trying to have a discussion on such a topic with someone whose English and intelligence are as limited as yours. As it happens, I know the answer to my own question. Look."

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Story: Molly in Singapore. Part 8.1.

Lady Charlotte, the author of the original story Arriving in Milan, has kindly agreed to take the story where Monica Graz (will a little help from yours truly) have left it. This is the first of at least three questions that our heroine will have to answer. I hope you enjoy this installment as much as I did. And to make reading previous installments of the story easier I've created a Molly saga label. 

by Lady Charlotte

1. Question One

“Tell me, Julia,” said Signora Moretti, “Back when you were the youngest ever Professor of History at Cambridge, did you reckon yourself a feminist?”

I stared in consternation at my employer. It was a long time since anyone had called me by my original name – and even longer since mention had been made of my original career. I could feel myself going red – and then I paused to wonder if someone as dark-skinned as I now was could actually go red. I tried to meet Signora Moretti’s eye. Of course, it was impossible. As I did instinctively now, whenever I looked at a European, I found myself lowering my gaze to the floor, and fiddling with the hem of my apron.

“Well, girl?”

I tried to find my voice. “I… I…” A cascade of thoughts and memories had come unbidden into my mind; but my words were humiliatingly inadequate to expressing what I wished to convey. “When I… first… when I no maid, Madam… I no want…”

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Story: Molly in Singapore. Part 7.

by Camille Langtry and Monica Graz

I was so tired! I was in bed for over an hour and I couldn’t fall asleep. My whole body was aching and my cheap cotton nightie was clinging to my skin because of the everlasting heat and humidity. But my mind was racing, thinking how my life had changed once again since my arrival in Singapore as a FDW.

I wasn’t certain anymore how long I have been in Singapore. I have lost track of time completely, but it should have been well over a month. The tropical climate wasn’t helping either since there was no change of seasons and the days were repetitive and, for a FDW like me, full of the same mundane chores which were endless and of all kinds.

All the past month’s scenes of embarrassment and frustration were coming back to me as I was lying in bed dead tired but with my eyes wide open and my mind in a race mode changing from one scene to the other like being in the middle of a very lively dream. I remembered how embarrassed and stupid I felt when Mr. Singh took me to the settling-in program, the traumatic visit to the health center and to see a plastic surgeon the day after...

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Story: Molly in Singapore. Part 6.

by Camille Langtry and Monica Graz

On the way home I couldn’t get Linda’s question out of my head. “You don’t want to be a maid a decade from now, do you?” Indeed, did I? Who did I see myself as in the future? Did I want to return to my real home country? Would I want to return to being Julia? Or did I see myself sinking deeper and deeper into my new identity as Molly the Filipina maid until my old life was nothing but a distant memory? Is that the life I truly wanted for myself? Or will I end up regretting it - if not now, then in a few years when it would be too late to change anything?

Ever since I landed in Milan I had all the decisions made for me by other people without asking me what I needed or wanted. I have completely surrendered all the authority to Signora Mattei, Conchita, then her sister Juanita and, now, finally, Signora Moretti.  As a matter of fact, the thing I really wanted - even if I didn’t fully admit to it - was to have all those life-changing decisions made for me.

My path of submission got me to where I was now. Where would it take me further? I was still young, I still had at least 30 years of active work life ahead of me. I tried to picture myself as an old and destitute Filipina maid, her knees swollen and her skin rough from many years of scrubbing the floors and doing other endless household chores. Was that the life I really wanted for myself? Part of me screamed “yes”, it was a dark and disturbing - yet, strangely appealing - fantasy of mine. But the other part of me found the prospects incredibly scary.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Story: Molly in Singapore. Part 5.

by Camille Langtry and Monica Graz

I wasn’t sure what to wear for my orientation day, but Signora Moretti made the choice for me, grabbing a simple light blue maid’s dress from my small wardrobe and putting it on the bed.

“You are an FDW in this country, Molly, there is no reason to hide this fact,’’ she said casually. She turned her back to me, but not before urging me to dress as quickly as I could as Mr. Singh was already waiting to take me to the orientation, or the Settling In Program.

“Yes, Ma’am. I be bery past”, I uttered in my thick Filipino accent, but she’s already left the room.
I slipped on the dress and, almost without thinking, tied an apron around my waist. I quickly brushed my pitch black hair - I dyed it again just days ago when still in Manila to conceal my natural auburn color - and put it in a simple ponytail, when I heard Signora Moretti shout from the hall: “Girl, are you ready yet? Mr. Singh is waiting! You are running late!”

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Story: Molly in Singapore. Part 4.

This is an experiment for me. As much as I admire Monica Graz's writing I had still been bombarding her with endless ideas and suggestions. As I result she has kindly agreed to allow me to write a chapter of my own. The next chapter will come from Monica herself, possibly followed by one from me.

Molly in Singapore. Part 4.

by Camille Langtry I was sitting in a small room with a table and two chairs and nothing else. The grey door was shut. There was a mirror, taking up half of the wall to my right. I’ve seen enough movies to know that in reality it was a one-sided window that allowed people from an adjoining room to monitor me. I didn’t know how long I’ve been there, but it must have been a while.  Suddenly the door opened and a Chinese officer in a navy blue uniform entered, holding a thin folder, and set in front of me.

“Do you know why you are here?” he said by way of introduction.

I nodded nervously and the officer took it for a “yes”. He opened the folder and took out my passport and several pieces of paper.

“Are you Molegunda Angelica Apuya, born on September 10, 1986 in Romania?”

“Yes, sir, I am, sir.”

The officer shook his head disapprovingly and put my passport away.

“We both know this is not true, Molly. Or, shall, I say… - he grabbed a piece of paper from the folder and read from it in a rather dramatic manner - Julia Ann Simmons, born on September 10, 1986 in London, the United Kingdom?”

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Story: Molly in Singapore. Part 3.

by Monica Graz

When Signora Moretti departed I had the chance to inspect more carefully my new room. It was tiny and hot but I noticed a small ceiling fan. I managed to start it by turning a switch next to the door and a soothing current of air embodied me gently.

I inspected the tiny bathroom as well and I found in the wall above the toilet a small window looking to some sort of back balcony. That was a huge relief because I started having claustrophobic feelings in the windowless room.  

I looked more carefully at the uniforms in the closet. They all looked brand new; six different dresses plain or stripy were hanging in various pale colors. Nothing unusual there, typical front buttoned maids’ dresses with the usual white collar, and white piping around the short sleeves and the front pockets. I felt the material, light but hardwearing polycoton material, the right kind for multiple washes. Next I saw two more dresses a dark blue one still plain looking and a fancier black one with a lace collar, clearly the ones for formal use as Signora Moretti mentioned before. Then I noticed a dark green tunic and matching trousers with an elasticized waist, the kind that hospital orderlies wear. That puzzled me a bit; I couldn’t imagine myself wearing something like that.

I also saw several aprons of all kinds and plain cotton underwear, several bras and panties in a dull cream color, nothing fancy there as well.  

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Story: Molly in Singapore. Part 2.

by Monica Graz

I was still shaken by the reception I had from the immigration officers. Such arrogance!  The passport control officer after scrutinizing my passport and my visa asked the obvious question in Chinese sounded English, ‘Do you understand English, Miss Apuya?’
‘Yes, sir, I do’, I answered timidly using my Filipino adopted accent.
‘Can I see the other papers you have? Education diploma etc?’
I showed him the papers I was carrying. He looked at them very carefully as I was becoming more and more anxious. What if he could see that my education diploma was false? Or even my passport for that matter? I was profusely sweating feeling my cheap lycra blouse sticking in my skin.
He finally gave me back the papers and waved me in. What a relief!  

The customs officer, an Indian looking lady was slightly more sympathetic. She knew instantly of course. She looked at my passport and simply asked, ‘Are you here to work as a maid?’

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Finally A Guide to Becoming a Perfect Maid!

As I've stated before, I am a big fan of Victorian-era etiquette and household management manuals. There are many such books that can be found online and some of them allow us to understand better what life was really like for a servant back in the day. And I am not even talking about the many daunting duties performed without the help of modern appliances such as a vacuum cleaner or a diswasher. There existed a great divide between a mistress and her maid - in manners, in speech, in dress, in life aspirations - and these guidebooks often played an important role in securing these divisions by making sure that each side was fully aware of their different stations in life and acted accordingly.

There is no shortage of books addressed to the lady or the housekeeper, but a book whose primary reader is supposed to be a maid is hard to find. It was therefore with great pleasure that I discovered this 1859 gem titled "The servant's behaviour book or hints on manners and dress for maid servants in small households". The author, "Mrs. Motherly", refers to her readers throughout as "my dear girls", leaving little doubt that the book is addressed to a young woman aspiring to become a good maidservant. Upon reading the book and remembering its many lessons a girl will emerge as a "well-behaved and agreeable servant'', making it far more likely for her to secure a better position as her domestic career advances. Who knows, may be with time she will even become a lady's maid at one of London's aristocratic mansions! Oh, the excitement!

This short book contains a traditional list of behavior tips that can be found in many such books. They can be summarized as follows:

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Story: Margret and Jane

By Jackie J Margret, a widow and recently retired school headmistress, lived in a large house on the outskirts of the village, quite secluded, which was a worry at times, being somewhat remote. Taking early retirement seemed a good idea, getting away from the stress, but with less money she was struggling with the upkeep of the place and could not afford any help to take care of the house, a house she had always wanted to become a guest house. Still only in her mid forties she considered taking another position, but decided against it. She was seriously considering selling up; that was until she met Jane.
Jane, much younger than Margret, in her late twenties, lived in a splendid property on the other side of the village with her husband who was a successful broker, but, whilst money was not an issue for Jane, she had confided in Margret that her husband, who had had a series of affairs, was getting much too serious with his latest fling.
Jane was a bit of a snob and talked incessantly about her possessions, holidays and general affluence perhaps to cover for her relationship or lack of one with her husband. She liked to think she was the lady of the village.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Story: How to Find a Maid

By T. H. Enerdly 
Authors Note

This story is a prequel to
“Interview With Madame Nguyen,” a story that appears elsewhere in this blog. It is helpful but not essential to have read that story before reading this one. A portion of this story is in the form of an interview, inspired by a file, written in French, found in a now moribund Yahoo Group, and probably authored by someone who styles herself as Hanna, femme de chambre. My translation is quite free and has been altered somewhat to fit the needs of the story.
Deep within every womans unconscious, a battle rages, a battle between her inner mistress and her inner slave, a battle that decides who she will become: the mistress who commands or the slave who obeys.
My inner Mistress won my battle. Unfortunately, I dont have any slaves to commandafter all, slavery is frowned upon these daysbut I have the next best thing: a maid. And make no mistake about it, a maid is a latter-day slave. Consider what Célestinethe maid in Octave Mirbeaus novel, The Diary of a Chambermaid”—proclaims:
They pretend that there is no more slavery. Oh! what nonsense? And what are domestics, then, if not slaves? Slaves in fact, with all that slavery involves of moral vileness, inevitable corruption, and hate-engendering rebellion.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Story: Lady Harcourt's Rightful Place

by Jackie J
Lady Jenny Harcourt seemed to have everything. She was well educated and pretty, had a bubbly outgoing personality and was rich following the death of her parents. But, like many who outwardly have everything, she was lonely and meeting Simon gave her the happiness she was missing.
Simon was wonderful, handsome, funny and attentive. Soon engaged they were married at Lady Harcourt’s local church and she could not have been happier. Simon had no family to speak of and Jenny, the only child, also had only a small circle of friends so the wedding was a simple affair.
After their short honeymoon Jenny had no problem agreeing to sell her properties in the city and move out to the country to live in Simons, a secluded, rambling manor house at Downway. Jenny had visited the old manor a couple of times; situated just outside the picturesque village of Downway, it was a perfect place to start married life together.
Large trunks containing Jenny’s belongings had already arrived when Jenny and Simon’s, now, Lord Harcourt, having taken the title through the marriage, carriage was driven up the gravel drive to be met by a smiling Francesca, the house keeper.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Story: Molly in Singapore. Part 1.

Finally a sequel to Monica Graz's saga that has taken our heroine Julia - now simply Molly - from Milan to the Philippines and now to Singapore. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, Monica keeps outdoing herself with every new installment.

I know I haven't been a frequent poster and I apologise profusely. Please watch this space for several new stories that I will publish in coming weeks. There is a prequel to T.H.Enerdly's marvelous Interview With Madame Nguyen, stories by Jackie J, the author of The Demise of Lady Charlotte Rhodes, as well as a lady-to-maid story of my own that is set in 1880s England.

Molly in Singapore. Part 1. 

by Monica Graz

The female flight attendant’s voice of the Singapore Airlines flight to Singapore woke me up from a disturbed sleep.

“Ladies and Gentlemen we are approaching Changi airport. We’ll be landing in 20 minutes. All the non Singaporean nationals are required to complete the disembarkation card provided.”

The announcement brought back all my fears and worries and once more I felt the familiar butterflies in my stomach.

I took out of my handbag all my documents including my Filipino passport and I started filling the card with a slightly trembling hand. Another big step down the social ladder I thought, since I was about to enter this country as a Foreign Domestic Worker, FDW for short. This time everything was going to be very real. I was going to be employed as a maid and nanny in Singapore following all the formalities and rules of this very strict and organized country.  

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Story: What Goes Up.. Must Come Down

I would like to appologize to this blog's readers for the recent lack of updates. There are a few stories currently in the works that I hope to publish here in the near future. Meanwhile, here is an old favorite of mine.

I first read Joe Doe's sequel to Denise's original on C.Lakewood's site a while ago and I've been fascinated by the "mistaken octoroon" genre ever since. There are very few stories touching on the topic I've located online over the years and this is probably still one of the best.

What Goes Up...

By Denise

Susana Dupree lived a life of luxury and privilege...and she was  bored. She had always belonged to the Jamaican planter class,  and now, in 1730, her life was settled into such a deep groove  that she often thought she was inextricably trapped.

In the early days, she had been occasionally diverted by  interesting news from Europe -- but the War of the Spanish  Succession had ended half her lifetime ago, and there hadn't  been anything of similar importance since. Local pirate raids  and outbreaks of pestilence had their moments, but there had been none near enough or remarkable enough for a long time. In her early teens, she had been intrigued, briefly, when she'd come across her grandmother's journal and its allusions to some  mysterious "Family Secret," which apparently involved Susana's French great grandmother. But Susana's mother denied knowing anything about it, and, shortly thereafter, the journal vanished. 

(The family motto was not "Out of sight, out of mind," but it might as well have been.)

When she was 16, she had married Jack Dupree over the objections of her parents. He was less wealthy than her family, but was such a devilishly attractive rakehell, and his very character defects  made him particularly exciting.

But it was not long before the boredom returned. Jack was always gone some place or another. She was lonely. There were a few opportunities to socialize, but she was always alone. After all,  a married man could have any number of affairs and still remain a  "gentleman," but a lady was not so free. The wild abandonment of her early relationship with Jack was soon enough replaced by his  indifference. She longed in vain for their lost passion. No matter what she did to rekindle his interest failed miserably.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Story: Departing from Manila

By Monica Graz

I heard with trepidation the supervising officer’s sharp voice, “Mollie Apuya, in my office this instant.”

I hastily wiped my hands in my large white working apron as I abandoned my hand washing sink and rushed to the other side of the large ‘classroom’ where the office of Miss Renata Vigo, my immediate supervising officer, was behind a glass panel.

I slightly curtseyed in front of her saying in my trained voice, “Yes Ma’am, you asked for me, Ma’am!”

“Yes, Mollie, I asked for you because I have news,” she looked at me as my legs started trembling, what news I started wondering. At this stage in my life any kind of news was scary for me. What next I wondered?

“There is a job offer for you from Singapore!’ She said that phrase looking at me expectantly. It was well known to all students at Manila’s state-run Housemaids Academy that to get a job in Singapore was quite prestigious for a maid. Much better than those harsh Middle Eastern Muslim countries.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Story: Arriving in Manila. Part 3.

by Monica Graz

Pumasok mutsatsa!” I heard Juanita’s voice inviting me in as I arrived in front of the kitchen door which was facing the garden. Later I found out that mutsatsa meant something like ‘girl-maid’ from the Spanish word ‘muchacha’ - a girl. 

Juanita and two young boys were already sitting around a large kitchen table as a young man in a ponytail wearing a pretty feminine bib apron was doing the serving bringing the food to the table. Juanita pointed to a chair and I sat down as she made the introductions.

“Those are my two young boys Mollie, Alphonso who is twelve years old and Ruperto the younger who is 10. Benito with the pretty apron on is my eldest son and my joy and pride at the same time; he is just nineteen and my best assistant both in the house and in the hairdressing salon. Without him I wouldn’t be able to cope.”

I said hello politely but the two young boys simply ignored me, either because they were too hungry or because they were too shy. Benito on the other hand gave me a big smile and said in English with the characteristic Filipino accent, “Hi Mollie, glad to meet you, my mother was eagerly waiting for your arrival. Now I’ll be able to work full time at the beauty salon, the house is yours to run.” He finished his sentence with an effeminate laugh.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Story: Losing Valentina

by Idea Factory

My name is Valentina, well... my name was Valentina.

My story of how I lost my name and my identity begins back when I was 25. At the time I was fresh out of business school, and I was determined to make it in my career. Several headhunters offered me jobs, I decided to go with a growing firm out of Chicago. I was working on a high floor in a building located in the heart of downtown, my window had a great view of Lake Michigan. But my gaze wasn't set on the water, it was on the corner office that I wanted to be in by the time I was 30.

I was a fourth-generation Latina, my great grandparents came over to the United States during WWII when there was a labor shortage. My parents had both have advanced degrees and they put a lot of work into making sure I would be a success. My father, a bit of a bleeding heart, is a doctor and I think he was a bit disappointed that I chose finance over medicine.

I kept myself in good shape, image is important in the professional world plus I loved the way I looked in jeans.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Story: Arriving in Manila. Part 2.

by Monica Graz

I looked at my room once more as I changed to fresh clothes after a much needed wash. It was practically a shed at one corner of the garden quite a distance from the main house. Juanita said simply that there was not enough space for me inside the house. There was a smaller shed attached to the larger one used as a very primitive toilet facility, just a toilet bowl and a metal sink with a cold water tap.

When I asked about a possibility of hot water Juanita laughed and said, “Don’t be absurd Molly, you don’t need hot water in Philippines, we are a hot country. In the rare occasions you need it you have to heat it yourself in the kitchen stove.”

I looked once more at my new room; there was a high window with a broken glass and iron bars outside and a single metal door without a proper key and lock. It could be secured with a bolt from inside and a padlock from outside. Looking around I realized that it was nothing more than an old store room turned hastily to sleeping quarters for my arrival. It really had the feeling of an old fashioned prison cell!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Story: Arriving in Manila. Part 1.

by Monica Graz

When I stepped out of the plane I was taken aback by the humid heat and a strong, nearly intoxicating smell, a mixture of tropical flowers and kerosene fuel. For a moment I thought I was back in my Julia days, remembering my visit to Central America a couple of years ago when I was researching for my PhD on the slave trade at that part of the world in  the 18th and 19th centuries. It was the same feeling of heat, humidity and smells as it was then.
But I was brought back to reality when I heard the person next to me addressing me in Tagalog and asking me to start descending the ladder. I instantly was back to my Mollie Apuya role.

The fear and uncertainty of the unknown came back to me and I felt a cold shiver in my spine even in that hot weather.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Story: Departing from Milan. Part 6.

by Monica Graz

This time I was not pushing a cleaning cart at the airport, this time I was about to travel and I was simply pulling a rather gigantic and cheap suitcase towards the check-in point. This time I was really and truly departing from Milan and my destination was Manila, Philippines!

Of course I was scared to death. I was carrying a false Filipino passport, pretending to be someone else. Conchita came with me trying to make me feel better, talking to me all the time in Tagalog trying to build up my confidence.

The check-in was easier than I thought. They simply asked for my passport which had an entry visa stamp less than three months ago so for the authorities I was a legitimate tourist and not an illegal immigrant. That was another one of Signora’s accomplishment. Not only did I obtain a passport, but I had all the necessary stamps in it.