Posted by: thekimberleydiaries | August 13, 2009

The Diary of Miss Kimberley Jane – Ladies Allowed – Vol 1.6

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INTRODUCTION
Looks like our little publishing company will have to vacate our present premises and relocate to the box room at my house. The kids kept the rabbit in there, it stinks a bit, well a lot, hopefully the stench will fade by the time I’ve got my office set up in there. They don’t really look after it, I told my wife not to get them a rabbit, but oh no she thinks she knows best… Anyway, as I was moving the filing cabinet at the office, I found this manuscript behind it, it’s from the late 19th Century but the characters seem oddly familiar. Seeing they are no longer with us I don’t have to fear any legal implications so no need for disclaimers! Maybe things are looking up! I’m off for a drink to celebrate…

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SEPTEMBER 1887
THURSDAY
Dear Diary, y’alright lo…, I mean, good day to you! Habits die hard it appears! It has been a year since I rode to London on a penny farthing. It took me weeks to make that arduous journey from Yorkshire, my place of birth. That bicycle was not at all comfortable, my sit-upon was most displeased. I think others could sense this as many commented on my sit-upon while I rode through the towns and villages of this fine country of ours! I was seeking a better life in the capital, I had modest savings to pay for lodgings but not long after I arrived I chanced upon a gentleman by the name of Lord Hubert Felch. He looked me up and down (but not in a lascivious way curiously enough!), and asked me what a young woman like myself was doing in London town. I explained that I had dreams of taking to the stage, he raised his eyebrows and smiled. He explained that he ran a finishing school for young ladies, but he had recently reached an agreement with a local theatre owner to form a female vocal quintet. He had nine girls already in residence and required one more. “Miss Kimberley-Jane?” he enquired, “Would you like to be the tenth girl?” I threw my arms around his neck and said I would be most pleased to take up his kind offer. He huffed, “Very well, but unhand me Miss Kimberley-Jane, it is not proper for a young lady to fling her person upon a gentleman!” I blushed and apologised. He explained that I would learn how to conduct myself in polite society, and then bring a new respectability to the music hall world as currently it was full of “dishonourable hussies”. Oh I say!

So nervously I entered Lord Felch’s residence. I met the girls I would be lodging with amongst them was Miss Cheryl-Ann, she had dreams of being a dancer, unfortunately her background was so poor she couldn’t afford shoes let alone dancing shoes, so one day she sneaked upon a train travelling from the North East to London, where she serendipitously met Lord Felch. She has a keen eye for sporting gentlemen and we have become firm friends! Then there is Miss Nicola who had to flee her home town after locals feared her evil eye! When the local boys teased her she would fix her stare upon their faces and send them into convulsions! Her parents urged her to go when the local priest threatened to exorcise her! But what she has is an asset. Why if the fire goes out in the hearth, Miss Nicola only has to gaze upon the dying embers and viola! The flames are leaping once again! She also has the palest complexion, the rest of us girls are so envious of her! It is the height of fashion to be pale and interesting! Miss Nadine is Lord Felch’s protégé, he paid for her to sail from Ireland and join us here. The rest of us girls are well aware that he takes her aside to tell her she could go it alone and sing for nobility. Miss Nadine doesn’t seem to be interested in his underhanded plan, instead her head is full of romantic notions as she is courting an American gentleman by the name of Mr Jeffrey Metcalf. And then there is Miss Sarah, the rebel amongst us, sent by her mother in hope of making her a proper lady. But she does get herself into scrapes rather often! We ended up as the five ladies selected to be in the female vocal quintet, our accents were ironed out by Lord Felch (“Regional accents are utterly vulgar!” he exclaimed soon after I arrived). Assisted by Miss Jenny Jen, his strict methods included kneeling on pencils and our corsets being tightened if we didn’t speak the Queen’s English. This hasn’t worked on Miss Sarah though! She has affected a strong Cockney accent to the dismay of Lord Felch! “Cor blimey Guv” she says, “I carn’t be speakin’ like the bleedin’ Queen!” Really!

WEDNESDAY
There was a commotion last night! As four of us ladies were in our big bed (apart from Miss Sarah who was notable by her absence!), we could hear the sound of doors slamming and the raised voice of Lord Felch. Oh my, had Miss Sarah been discovered at the local gin palace again? Lord Felch roared downstairs, “You disgraceful young hussy, down at the docks, flashing your ankles, YOUR ANKLES! I will speak to you in the morning! Now to bed, upstairs NOW!”, “Don’t ya mean ‘the apples an’ pears’?” retorted Miss Sarah impudently. “And enough of that common Cockney slang young lady! Get out of my sight!” We pretended to be asleep as the bedroom door opened and then closed again. “Light a candle will ya?” whispered Miss Sarah. We opened our eyes and I lit the candle on the bedside table. There she stood with her back to the door looking thoroughly vexed. She sat on the bed, “Oh my darlin’ gals, I’ve messed up good an’ propah I ‘ave!” Miss Cheryl-Ann enquired, “What is it Miss Sarah? Why were you down by the docks?” Miss Sarah sighed and pulled out two photographs from beneath her skirts. “I fahnd these fotos among Lord Felch’s bits an’ pieces.” She passed them around, they were of naval gentlemen. “‘int they gawjuss?” she smiled. Well if you like sailors I suppose!

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But why did Lord Felch have photographs of sailors amongst his personal effects? Miss Nadine lingered on one of the photographs, “Gosh, that gentleman’s telescope is of generous proportions!” she exclaimed.

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Miss Sarah chuckled, “And ya know what they say abaht a geezer with a large telescope?!” Miss Cheryl-Ann and I glanced at each other and giggled into our nightgowns. “Is it that they can see further?” piped up Miss Nicola. Miss Sarah winked at us and said “Yeah, well ‘further’ comes into it somewhere!” and she let out a filthy laugh! “Really Miss Sarah!” I admonished her, “Such rudery! That isn’t the way for a young lady to speak!” Miss Sarah sighed and said “Oh don’t come the innocent with me Miss Kimberley-Jane! I know about you and that handyman!” A blush rose to my cheeks, “I am sure I don’t know what you are implying!” I spluttered. Miss Sarah rolled her eyes, “Oh I’ve ‘eard him goin’ on abaht your R.M.S!” The rest of us girls looked at each other quizzically. “My R.M.S?” I frowned. “Yeah! Your Rather Marvellous Sit-upon!” Miss Sarah laughed. Again I blushed, I had to change the subject rather sharply! “Anyway, Miss Sarah, don’t evade the issue here, why were you at the docks?” Miss Sarah’s smile disappeared from her lips. “Oh yeah that. Well, afta seein’ these saucy young fellas, I fancied ‘avin’ a nattah wiv ’em. Funny fing is, they didn’t seem that interested!” She shrugged her shoulders and continued, “I mean, I even flashed a bit of ankle to really get ’em goin’, but no! Then bleedin’ la-di-dah Lord Felch turns up! He looked a bit startled to be honest wiv ya gals. Then he started blusterin’ away and started to drag me ‘ome. Fing is the sailors seemed to perk up at that point, they were goin’ “coo-ee Huey”, isn’t that Lord Felch’s first name?” How curious! Then there was a knock at the door. The door opened and Miss Jenny Jen appeared, she whispered, “Ladies! Lord Felch has asked me to tell you to stop talking and get to sleep. Oh and hands above the covers girls! Especially you Miss Kimberley-Jane!” Then she closed the door. I was most perturbed, “What did she mean by that?!” I asked, the girls giggled. “The other night I was merely keeping my hands warm!” I protested. Miss Sarah piped up, “Weren’t you keeping Miss Cheryl-Ann’s hands warm another night too?” She chuckled again in a filthy manner. I sharply sat up in bed, “Miss Sarah, I have no idea what you mean! And I am quite sure the very practise of a woman keeping another woman’s hands warm does not exist!” Miss Sarah mumbled, “Very well Miss Kimberley-Jane, whateva ya say!” I blew out the candle and we settled down to sleep. Then Miss Nicola piped up, “Why is a man’s large telescope rude? And if Miss Kimberley-Jane’s hands are cold, why doesn’t she use a muff?” I shushed her and told her to go to sleep!

OCTOBER 1887
FRIDAY
Well after that night in September, Lord Felch told us, what with Miss Sarah’s latest naughty escapade, we were in danger of not performing at the theatre at all! He became even more enraged when Miss Sarah asked him if he knew those salty seamen down by the docks! He said he had never fraternised with said fellows and for us not to believe anything we have heard to the contrary! Most queer!

Nevertheless, we have continued practising our little routine for the theatre-going folk. Mr Higgins, or ‘Iggins as Miss Sarah calls him, has been teaching me the piano and offered us musical direction. We have composed a few songs, they include ‘Something Kind Of Oh I Say!’, ‘I Do Not Require Any Advice From You But Thank You Kindly All The Same’ and ‘I’m Simply A Contraption For Romance’. We also have a song called ‘Wild Horses’. Miss Nadine’s beau Mr Metcalf suggested a Wild West theme when it came to the issue of costumes. So Miss Cheryl-Ann and I assembled a look to accompany the aforementioned piece of music and lyrics. Miss Nadine fetched Lord Felch to offer his approval. She stood in front of the double doors and prepared Lord Felch for what we thought would be a visual treat! She dramatically pushed the doors open and…

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“Oh my Blessed eyes!” Lord Felch screamed, “I’ve never seen lady’s thighs and I don’t wish to commence now! I’ve never seen such, such… CHIMERY in all my life!” He seemed rather displeased. He then said that we could no longer perform at the theatre. Blood and sand! Miss Sarah started to eff and blind, “‘oo does ‘e fink ‘e is? We ‘ave bin working bloomin’ ‘ard for this! We should go a’ead gals, do the show wivaht ‘im!” It was tempting!

Miss Jenny Jen knew of our plight and took me aside after supper. She told me that she really sympathised as she’d known how much this show meant to us. She said she would create a diversion by telling Lord Felch that one of his gentleman friends (she winked at me at this point for some unknown reason) required to see him immediately tomorrow evening just as the show was starting! Oh dear Diary I hope this works I will tell the girls of this plan just before we retire for the night!

MONDAY
Well bless my soul! Saturday was quite an eventful day! As planned, Miss Jenny Jen relayed the bogus message to Lord Felch about his gentlemen friend. Before he departed he warned us that he knew the show was to take place that night but we were forbidden to leave the house. As soon as he was out of sight, Miss Jenny Jen rushed in and said she had informed Mr Fowell the theatre owner of our plan and that he seemed to approve of us deceiving Lord Felch, “It appears there is bad blood between the two gentlemen” she intimated. As arranged our carriage was outside to take us to the theatre, we arrived and prayed for our souls before taking to the stage. I’m afraid it’s all a blur from thereon. The next bit I remember was coming off the stage to rapturous applause! Miss Sarah said excitedly “We went down a propah storm gals!” We clapped and embraced each other, oh what joy! Mr Fowell came up to us, “That was great ladies, you truly are Ladies Allowed now! You owned that stage! This could be the start of something!” Then a bombshell! “Actually ladies?” said Miss Nadine, “I hate to say this now at such a joyous moment, but I’m leaving for America!” The rest of us gasped, she continued, “You see Mr Jeffrey Metcalf has proposed marriage to me and we set sail soon.” “Oh bugger!” swore Miss Sarah. Then Lord Felch emerged from the shadows, “So your plan to dupe me has been for nothing ladies!” Mr Fowell turned to Lord Felch, “But what of our agreement Felch, you said you’d have a vocal group for me!” Lord Felch smirked, “Oh Fowell I have come across four Irish sailors, in a strictly business sense you understand, they are unspeakably dull but they can sing and I think the public will love them!” And off they strolled to discuss this new business proposition. Bastards!

JANUARY 1888
TUESDAY
Three months on and sadly Ladies Allowed have disbanded. Miss Nadine sailed away with Mr Metcalf; Miss Cheryl-Ann decided she was pining for the coalmines of Newcastle and boarded a train back to the North East; Miss Nicola revealed that she had taken an interest in politics and joined the feminist movement and Miss Sarah opened her own pie and mash shop. As for me, I felt weighed down by a guilty conscience after deceiving Lord Felch. He might have been a ‘wrong ‘un’ as Miss Sarah put it, but he had housed and fed us for a year. I needed to salve my conscience and balance what I believe is called ‘karma’. So Miss Jenny Jen (Lord Felch sacked her shortly after that fateful day) and I opened our own soup kitchen with the addition of me baking my own bread for every hungry mouth. We inadvertently began a wave a loveliness through the whole of London town! But alas, the time has come to return to Yorkshire, I have no money left and my dreams of being on the stage have died forever. But I will never forget the dear friends I made. And maybe our descendants will succeed where we failed. Now where’s my penny farthing…

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THE END

© Lisa Allen 2007

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