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.