Or, simply put – don’t make plans about what you will do when you have something until you actually have it.
Contrary to many reports, this famous line does not emerge from the late Isabella Beeton’s Book of Household Management. Which is fine – I have no need for hare, although I am rather partial to a nice bit of braised bunny.
No, what I need is some good, old-fashioned advice on how to get my household in order.
In order to manage the day-to-day running of a ‘modern day house-hold’, Mrs Beeton’s instruction manual observes the roles of mistress, kitchen maid, butler and more. It takes only a few fast flicks to find exactly where lie my errors. I find the section on the ‘role of the housewife’ leads into outline of ‘domestic servants and their duties’, before moving on to ‘the duties of the cook’, and then finally, the far more practical ‘labour-saving in the home’.
And that’s just chapter one.
I am sure if I had a servant, a cook or even a housewife of my own I would already have all of the labour-saving requirements I would need.
As well as taking on full-time studies this year (actually, I am one and a half students as I have added an extra half-timetable to the schedule – insane), I’m juggling business commitments and writing work. I am loving it, am learning and living so much, but am completely and utterly pooped.
And I haven’t even reached the end of chapter one.
Mrs Beeton writes of simpler times. But I do value her practicality. And thoroughness, with great attention to detail.
Such as the comprehensive guide to ‘laundry work’.
I know mine does, if someone gets around to using it.
The later chapter on ‘meals and their arrangement‘ is brilliantly detailed. Breakfast, luncheons and suppers ‘should be well-arranged‘, advises Isabella. I have that.
Here, the arrangement is I cook it, they eat it, or someone nips over the local Japanese take away. Then we argue about the washing up.
The chapter on ‘how to wait at the table‘ is very apt. I don’t even need to read it. My family have become very skilled at waiting at the table – for someone to clear it, for someone to set it, for someone to remove the washing from its dusty surface. And more often for meals, especially when I am knee-deep in assignments and writing tasks and forget that when day turns to dusk people might require feeding.
‘Table decoration‘ – I have that covered. Usually with ironing.
I am not even going to begin with ‘farinaceous preparations‘.
In the preface to her revised new edition, (1866) Mrs Beeton says “I must frankly own that, if I had known beforehand the labour which this task entailed, I should never have been courageous enough to commence it.”
I know what she means.
Later, in that same preface, Mrs Beeton adds: “I trust the result of years of incessant labour which I have expended will not be altogether unacceptable“.
So do I, Mrs Beeton, so do I.
And I’m not yet even close to the end of chapter one.