Saturday, August 5, 2017

Ashley Sterne Advice to the Anxious

This little parody of a domestic advice column was taken from the April 30, 1927 number of the British magazine The Passing Show.

[Note:  Condy's fluid is a common British household disinfectant consisting essentially of an aqueous solution of a permanganate.]

It gives me exceeding great joy, my dear ones, when I have evidence that you regard me not only as your little friend, but as your little guide and little philosopher, too.

I am more happy than I can say that you should invest me (quite rightly), with the knowledge of an Aristotle and the wisdom of a Solomon, more especially in domestic matters in which most members of my sex do not usually shine.

It is, therefore, that what is for the good of one may be for the good of all, that I have purposely refrained from answering by note of hand alone the many letters which have reached me, asking my advice and help on the various problems and difficulties which arise at the annual spring-cleaning, and, instead, have collated the answers here.

I am sorry if, having kept some of you waiting unduly for my replies, you have already blundered through the tiresome business without the advantage of my assistance.  But, fortunately, what I have to say will do equally well for next spring or, for the matter of that, for all time.

MRS. AMELIA GUNN (Gunnersbury)  -- Can I tell you how to make soft soap?  My dear lady! what a ridiculous question!  Didn't you listen to what I said just now about Aristotle and Solomon?  Very well, then?  I cannot tell you how to make soft soap, because I don't know.

What precisely is soft soap?  Is it that stuff which looks like vaseline?  If it is, why not use vaseline for whatever it is you want to use soft soap?  To save the time of both of us, I may add that I can't tell you how to make vaseline, either.

MRS. AUGUSTA PECK (Peckham) -- Dear, dear!  However did  you manage to get tomato ketchup stains on the drawing-room carpet?  The best way to remove them is, of course, to cut the stained part clean out of the carpet.

Alternatively, they may be burned out with strong sulphuric acid, or you can stain them a different colour by pouring neat Condy's fluid over them.

MRS. MATILDA WIMBLE (Wimbledon) -- If the inside of your grand piano is so dusty and dirty as all that, I should strongly recommend you to flush it well out with a few buckets full of hot caustic soda solution.

If the instrument has no hole in the bottom where the pedals fit in, and consequently no orifice through which the liquid can escape, I am afraid that you will have to turn it on its back and let it drain.

You must then take it into the garden and allow it to dry in the sun.  On no account should you dry it before the kitchen fire, as doing so would certainly spoil the delicate mechanism.

MRS. EUPHEMIA BALL (Balham) -- Personally, I should advise you to have your chimneys swept upwards, instead of downwards.  The soot is then pushed out of the top of the chimney, whence it conveniently falls on to the roof, and is thereafter dissipated by the wind.

This method obviates the necessity for covering up the furniture, and saves all that nasty mess in the fireplace which sweeps invariably leave.

MRS. SOPHIA CRICK (Cricklewood) -- Your carpets must either be drycleaned with a cloth-ball or wet-cleaned with a tea-leaf.  On no account must they be beaten.  Corporal punishment for carpets was abolished by the Kindness to Kidderminsters Act of 1926.

But why not white-wash them?  A white-washed carpet looks awfully smart, and brightens up the dreariest room.

MRS. HEPHZIBAH MORE (Moreton-in-the-marsh) -- Well, of course if you must live in a marsh, you must expect your cork bath-mat to get damp occasionally.

It may be dried, however, by impressing it upon a sheet of blotting-paper, or if more convenient, by fanning it with a warm fan.

MRS. ELIZA GRIM (Grimsby) -- Those spots of beef-dripping may be dislodged from your bedroom mantelpiece by heating the mantelpiece red-hot when the dripping will first liquefy, and then turn to steam.  The steam should then be carefully blown out of window with a pair of bellows.

MRS. SARAH MACCLES (Macclesfield) -- The finger-marks on your lacquer cabinet can be removed with a coarse file, and the marks of the file can be erased by rubbing vigorously with emery-paper, and the marks of the emery-paper by rubbing even more vigorously with sand-paper, and the marks of the sand-paper by rubbing with pumice-stone. and the marks of the pumice-stone by scraping with the rough edge of the lid of a pineapple tin.

You need not worry about the marks of the tin, as by this time you will have made a hole right through the side of your cabinet.

MRS. MARTHA GIGGLE (Giggleswick) -- Yes, rather!  I can tell you how to clean the holes in your hammock.  Mix in a saucer a pint of sweet oil of bitter almonds, a bottle of ink and a pound of walnuts.  Add water to taste, and stir till the walnuts are dissolved.  Then squirt the mixture through the holes, one at a time, with a hypodermic squirt, taking care that the liquid does not touch the strings, as it is highly corrosive.

MRS. HANNAH SWAFF (Swaffham) -- The ink-stains on your dining-room ceiling may be successfully hidden by covering them with ceiling-wax.

MRS. ELIZABETH LAZENBY (Pickhill) -- No, madam.  Frightfully sorry and all that, but I must decline to tell you how to pickle spring onions, as they have nothing whatever to do with spring-cleaning.