Author: Barbara Mary Crampton Pym
Dates: 2 June 1913 – 11 January 1980
Title of Book: Excellent Women
I bent low over the bin and scrabbled a few tea leaves and potato peelings out of the bottom of my bucket. I was embarrassed that we should meet like this. I had meant to ask Mrs. Napier to coffee one evening. It was to have been a gracious, civilised occasion, with my best coffee cups and biscuits on little silver dishes. And now here I was standing awkwardly in my oldest clothes, carrying a bucket and a waste-paper basket.
Mrs. Napier spoke first.
‘You must be Miss Lathbury,’ she said abruptly. ‘I’ve seen your name by one of the door-bells.’
‘Yes, I live in the flat above yours. I do hope you’re getting comfortably settled in. moving is such a business, isn’t it? It seems to take so long to get everything straight. Some essential thing like a teapot or a frying-pan is always lost….’ Platitudes flowed easily from me, perhaps because with my parochial experience, I know myself to be capable of dealing with most of the shock situations or even the great moments of life – birth, marriage, death, the successful jumble sale, the garden fête spoilt by bad weather…. ‘Mildred is such a help to her father,’ people used to say after my mother died.
‘It will be nice to have someone else in the house’ I ventured, for during the last year of the war my friend Dora Caldicote and I had been the only occupants, and I had been quite alone for the past month since Dora had left to take up a teaching post in the country.
‘Oh, well, I don’t suppose I shall be in very much,’ said Mrs. Napier quickly.
‘Oh, no.’ I said, drawing back; ‘neither shall I.’ In fact, I was very often in, but I understood her reluctance to pledge herself to anything that might be a nuisance or a tie. We were, superficially at any rate, a very unlikely pair to be friendly. She was fair-haired and pretty, gaily dressed in corduroy trousers and a bright jersey, while I, mousy and rather plain anyway, drew attention to these qualities with my shapeless overall and old fawn skirt. Let me hasten to add that I am not like Jane Eyre, who must have given hope to so many plain women who tell their stories in the first person, nor have I ever thought of myself like her.
Brief Biography: Pym was a novelist. She wrote a series of social comedies in the 1950’s. Pym served in the Women’s Royal Naval Service during WW2.