Saturday, 14 November 2009


What makes Jan Struther's creation so beguiling?
I scan the short story
Mrs Miniver Comes Home
with forensic interest.

Upstairs in the drawing - room there was a small bright fire of logs, yet the sunshine that flooded in through the open windows had real warmth in it.

Small and bright.

What is so appealing about this? Is it small because it is not strictly necessary?
Perhaps it is simply a lovely embellishment.
Too small to provide real heat,
but bright enough to illuminate the room
when the sun moves off.
It is an anticipatory fire and someone has thoughtfully made it
in good time for Mrs Miniver's return.

It was perfect: she felt suspended between summer and winter,
savouring the best of them both.

She turned away from the window at last.
She has had the luxury of time to think,
about the weather, the circumstances,
her own age and the season of the year,
while she arranged her cornucopic chrysanthemums,
bought from the flower-woman -

no mean bunches from the supermarket here.
Is it too late to replicate any of this ?
Have I missed the chrysanthemums ?
Perhaps it's time for mimosa.
I love mimosa, I could have a Miniver moment with that instead.

On her writing- table lay the letters which had come for her that morning.

Invitations to take out a loan?
Plastic shrouded catalogues?
Appeals from charities?

Of course not.
These are proper letters.

A card for a dress-show; a shooting invitation for Clem; two dinner parties; three sherry parties; a highly aperitive notice of some chamber music concerts;
and a letter from Vin at school -

to be dealt with pleasurably at leisure,
not to be disposed of irritably into the shredder or recycling bin.
Hard to turn the clock back on emails.
Even the school has stopped writing to us now.

She rearranged the fire a little, mostly for the pleasure of handling the fluted steel poker, and then sat down by it.

Everything is fit for purpose in this story.
The key has already turned 'sweetly in the lock',
early autumn sparkles,
(not much sparkling today, gales, thunder and gusting rain,
but Mrs M would make the best of even that I'm sure)
door handles, light-switches and bannisters fit neatly under her hand.
The fluted steel poker is no mere utilitarian article,
it is well crafted and satisfactory to handle.

Tea was already laid: there were honey sandwiches, brandy snaps, and small ratafia biscuits; and there would, she knew, be crumpets.

And now we see that tea has been laid by an unseen hand.
A delicate sweet tea.
No doubt clouds this moment. Crumpets will appear.
No inefficiency.
No effort.

Three new library books, await her on the fender-stool in their bright paper wrappers.
How cossetted she is, but appreciative too.

The clock on the mantlepiece chimed, very softly and precisely, five times.

No clock would run too fast or too slowly in this house.
This is a well-tempered home.

A tug hooted from the river.

One by one, all the senses are being satisfied.

A sudden breeze brought the sharp tang of a bonfire in at the window.

And then from the other end of the square, comes the familiar sound
of the Wednesday barrel-organ playing:

All she has to do now is ring for tea.

Ting ting. Does anyone hear my bell?


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Delightfully rich in sensory appeal and complementary images. Most enjoyable.

    I like your final universal question: Does anyone hear my bell?

  3. Thank you. I thought someone might hear it! Liked your Oscar Wilde quote too.

  4. I bet you that tug was made by my great, great uncles company - Tough's Tugs!