I Day-dream about the Nobel Prize for Home-Making . . .

I recently read Agatha Christie's 4.50 from Paddington and was struck forcibly by the interesting-ness of one of the characters: Lucy Eyelesbarrow. The idea of "domestic service" has been kind of dismissed in the last century. I've seen a lot of criticism for "the new domesticity," as impractical or even demeaning. I was amazed to see this character, smart, creative, and likeable, choosing a life devoted to care of the home. Long live care for the home! And how about some honors for it? Here's the passage which introduces Lucy:

The name of Lucy Eyelesbarrow had already made itself felt in certain circles.

Lucy Eyelesbarrow was thirty‐two. She had taken a First in Mathematics at Oxford, was acknowledged to have a brilliant mind and was confidently expected to take up a distinguished academic career.

But Lucy Eyelesbarrow, in addition to scholarly brilliance, had a core of good sound common sense. She could not fail to observe that a life of academic distinction was singularly ill rewarded. She had no desire whatever to teach and she took pleasure in contacts with minds much less brilliant than her own. In short, she had a taste for people, all sorts of people;and not the same people the whole time. She also, quite frankly, liked money. To gain money one must exploit shortage.

Lucy Eyelesbarrow hit at once upon a very serious shortage; the shortage of any kind of skilled domestic labour. To the amazement of her friends and fellow‐scholars, Lucy Eyelesbarrow entered the field of domestic labour.

Her success was immediate and assured.

By now, after a lapse of some years, she was known all over the British Isles. It was quite customary for wives to say joyfully to husbands, “It will be all right. I can go with you to the States. I’ve got Lucy Eyelesbarrow!”

The point of Lucy Eyelesbarrow was that once she came into a house, all worry, anxiety and hard work went out of it. Lucy Eyelesbarrow did everything, saw to everything, arranged everything. She was unbelievably competent in every conceivable sphere. She looked after elderly parents, accepted the care of young children, nursed the sickly, cooked divinely, got on well with any old crusted servants there might happen to be (there usually weren’t), was tactful with impossible people, soothed habitual drunkards, was wonderful with dogs. Best of all she never minded what she did. She scrubbed the kitchen floor, dug in the garden, cleaned up dog messes, and carried coals!

One of her rules was never to accept an engagement for any long length of time.

A fortnight was her usual period ‐ a month at most under exceptional circumstances. For that fortnight you had to pay the earth! But, during that fortnight, your life was heaven. You could relax completely, go abroad, stay at home, do as you pleased, secure that all was going well on the home front in Lucy Eyelesbarrow’s capable hands.

Naturally the demand for her services was enormous. She could have booked herself up if she chose for about three years ahead. She had been offered enormous sums to go as a permanency. But Lucy had no intention of being a permanency, nor would she book herself for more than six months ahead. And within that period, unknown to her clamouring clients, she always kept certain free periods which enabled her either to take a short luxurious holiday (since she spent nothing otherwise and was handsomely paid and kept) or to accept any position at short notice that happened to take her fancy, either by reason of its character, or because she ‘liked the people.’ Since she was now at liberty to pick and choose amongst the vociferous claimants for her services, she went very largely by personal liking. Mere riches would not buy you the services of Lucy Eyelesbarrow. She could pick and choose and she did pick and choose. She enjoyed her life very much and found in it a continual source of entertainment.

(And a later passage).

“I simply can’t make you out,” said Cedric Crackenthorpe.

He eased himself down on the decaying wall of a long derelict pigsty and stared at Lucy Eyelesbarrow.

“What can’t you make out?”

“What you’re doing here.”

“I’m earning my living.”

“As a skivvy?” He spoke disparagingly.

“You’re out of date,” said Lucy. “Skivvy, indeed! I’m a Household Help, a Professional Domestician, or an Answer to Prayer, mainly the latter.”

“You can’t like all the things you have to do ‐ cooking and making beds and whirring about with a hoopla or whatever you call it, and sinking your arms up to the elbows in greasy water.”

Lucy laughed.

“Not the details, perhaps, but cooking satisfies my creative instincts, and there’s something in me that really revels in clearing up mess.

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