Living Diaries – Diarist 2
Original extract, 1909 – Feb-March
Thoughts on Miss Burke
‘Miss Burke is dowdy and plain, but she reeks of vanity always so….so….assiduous is she in the care and attention of her appearance. There’s something about the way she touches away the crumbs…something about the way she uses her napkin that reminds me of the wolf dressed as grandmama.
She delights in counting and cutting. Even the smallest transaction is a measure of power. The more detailed and time consuming the work the less she wants to pay, even though she’ll get plenty more from her customers than she pays the lacemaker.
“There are respectable women in Catford who want the work,” she said to me once. Last time, there were some threads of Fluffy’s hair caught in the cotton. Its dirty orange stained the spotless white. She took eyebrow tweezers from beneath the serving counter and worked it lose. Painstakingly working away at it, while I was kept waiting.
Did you know Miss Burkes brother is a bishop? He gave her a carriage clock. It’s placed in her private rooms that are through a door behind the counter. It’s deliberately positioned so if the door is left open a customer may catch sight of its polished front. A sad, effete little thing, the chime. And always ahead of the church bells. Miss Burke would have it no other way.
She would have her hair no other way, her belt tightened no other way, her stockings…her dainty shoes…her…her…
One day I’d like to say something to all the Miss Burkes in the world, with your napkins and lace agents and warm fires. I’d say damn you for pitying me and damn you for judging me.
And damn me for needing the work.’