The Basic Teacher
My name is Joan. I am a servant in the flat of Mr. and Mrs. Bell. I do the housework but not the cooking. The cook is Mrs. Field, who is old and fat and frequently in a bad humour. We are not very good friends because whenever I do anything wrong she makes a protest to Mrs. Bell and get me into trouble.
Mrs. Bell is one of those women who take the view that servants have to be kept in their place. Nothing one does for her is ever right, and she has a (than content.) Poor Mr. Bell, who is a quiet little man with glasses, has much to put up with.
For one who does housework, one day is very like another. I will give you an account of what I did today and that will give you a picture of all the other days.
The first thing I had to do when I got up was to get the boiler fire lighted. I generally do this with one match, but this morning I had trouble with it because the sticks and paper were not quite dry. When Mrs. Field came in and saw all the used matches on the floor she was quite angry with me. It was a cold morning, so I was pleased when the flames came up and I was able to get my hands warm. Mrs. Bell put a kettle on the fire and I took some warm water to the bedrooms and got the curtains pulled back. Then I did the living room and the room for meals while she was cooking. When the food was ready I took it in a tray. Mr. and Mrs. Bell and their daughter were seated at the table. Mrs. Bell was looking at one of the cups. "Joan," she said, "this cup has a crack in it. When was this done ?" "It has been cracked for a long time," was my answer. "If you don't take more care with the washing up," she said, "everything will be damaged or broken." It was clear to me that Mrs. Field had been talking again.
After I had done the washing up I took a bucket of coal to the living-room. Mrs. Bell was there and when I came in she said, "Have you done this room today, Joan ? "When I said I had she put her finger on the top of a small table under the window as a test to see if there was any dust. When she took her finger off, it was dirty and there was a finger-mark on the table. I said that the table had been dusted that morning and that the dust had come in through the open windows. "That is possible," she said, "But it does not seem probable that so much dust would come from the window in such a short time. Go and get a duster and do everything in the room again." I did so and, because Mrs. Bell was still in the room and had her eyes on me. I gave the coal-bucket a special rub to make the brass bright.
I then had to do the rest of the housework. After making the beds and dusting the bedrooms I went into the bathroom. The hardest work in the bathroom is cleaning the brass. The brass polish is liquid. One has to give the bottle a shake before using it, and if the cork is loose the liquid comes out and goes over everything in the room. When the brass was done and I had got the dirty marks off the bath and wash-basic. I put some polish on the floor. This polish is made of wax and has a pleasing smell. By putting on a very little of it and rubbing hard I am able to give the floor a beautiful polish. This morning when the floor had been polished it was almost as bright as the looking-glass.
I got through the other housework as quickly as possible because this is my day for cleaning he silver. Before making a start I put all the silver things on the table together. There were silver spoons, forks, knives, and trays, and a great number of ornaments from different parts of the house, such as silver matchboxes, pots for flowers, and so on. Mrs. Bell has some beautiful silver things. Some of them are very old and the family has had them for a long time, but most of them are new and have been given to Mrs. Bell by friends. The latest additions are a silver hair brush, looking-glass, and powder-box which Mr. Bell gave her for her birthday.
A special paste is used for cleaning the silver. I put the paste on the silver with a small brush and give it a rub with a cloth. Then it has to be polished with a bit of soft leather. If the paste was not taken off with a cloth first it would make the leather stiff, and I wouldn't be able to get such a good polish.
When all the silver was clean I took the ornaments back to their place. The things for the table are kept in a cupboard in the room where I do the washing up. Anything which is not used every day has to be put away in bags made of green cloth. These bags keep the silver from the air, which would make it brown. I put gloves on before touching the silver because one's fingers make marks on it. If Mrs. Bell sees any finger-marks on the silver, it has to be polished again.
Mr. Bell never comes back from his office in the middle of the day, and today Mrs. Bell went to see some friends, taking her daughter with her. They say they wouldn't be back till late, so Mrs. Field had to get a meal only for herself and me. While I was washing up, she went and had a bath and put on her best dress, because she was going out for the rest of the day. Generally this is the day of the week on which I go out, but I made an exchange with Mrs. Field because her sister had come up from the country to go to the pictures with her. I will go out tomorrow. I made the exchange with some regret, because my young man and I were to go on the river and I had been looking forward to it, but when I saw that it was raining I was quite pleased that my day out had been put off.
When everyone had gone out I went to my room and had a rest, but not for long, because I still had some washing to do for Mrs. Bell. There were some stockings and some underclothing. One of the stockings had a hole in it, so I got a needle and thread and put some stitches in it to keep it from getting any worse. I put the clean things on a line in the back garden to get dry.
Before the family came back I got the fire lighted in the living-room so that it would be warm for them. Then it was time to get the meal ready. When Mrs. Field is out I have to do the cooking in addition to my other work. There was some cold meat for tonight, so I only had to put some apples in the oven and get the soup heated. When the apples were almost cooked, I put a clean white cloth on the table and got glasses and plates and the newly polished knives and forks and spoons out of the cupboard. I was putting some flowers in the middle of the table when Mrs. Bell came in and had a look.
"There is no salt on the table, Joan," she said, "and where is the butter-knife ?" These things were on a tray outside the door. I took them in and then got the plates and soup, but Miss Bell was changing her dress and Mr. Bell was reading the newspaper, so Mrs. Bell was kept waiting.
Later, when I took in the cold meat, Mrs. Bell said that the soup had been cold. But I was not responsible for that. It had been almost boiling when I put it on the table. When I took the soup pot away there was a black mark on the tablecloth where it had been. "The base of the pot is dirty, Joan." said Mrs. Bell, rubbing the place with her finger. "It has been on something sticky You don't keep the oven shelves clean enough." It is the cook's business to keep her oven clean, but I kept my mouth shut because if I had said anything there would only have been an argument. At first I got angry when Mrs. Bell said things of this sort, but I am used to it now. It is the same at every meal.
After the meal there was more washing up, and then, when I had taken the covers off the beds and put a tray ready for Mrs. Bell's glass of milk, which she takes before she goes to bed, my work was done. I took a seat by the fire, but I was very tired and after reading a page of my women's paper I went to sleep. When Mrs. Field came in she gave me a shake and said, "You've let the fire go out, you foolish girl. Put on the kettle and get me a warm drink. It's a very cold night." I got up, feeling stiff after my sleep, and put on the kettle. Mrs. Field kept me up for another hour, talking about the picture she had seen, and her sister's family troubles, and the argument she had had at the store because they would not give her another hat in exchange for one she got last week which she wasn't pleased with. If I had more sense I would have gone to bed before she came in.
servants have to be kept in their place : We talk of a person's place meaning his 'proper position or station in life', and to keep a person in his place is to 'keep him form presuming'.
a sharp tongue : A person who says unkind things which wound the feeling is said to have a sharp tongue.
poor Mr. Bell : Poor persons are to be pitied, and by expansion poor is used of persons for whom one has a feeling of pity.
glasses == spectacles, which are made of two pieces of glass.
which to put up with : The idiom put up with means 'endure.'
got the boiler fire lighted : In addition to having the straightforward sense of 'illuminating', lighting also means 'igniting'.
used matches : Many things are consumed or spent when they are used, and so used may have the special sense, as here, of 'consumed, spent'.
living-room : By expansion, living == 'dwelling' and so the living-room is the sitting-room, the room for general living in.
at table : Table when used with at, is one of the words before which the may be omitted to indicate that it stands for an activity (compare in bed, at school, etc.). At table ==seated ready for or having a meal.
take more care with == be more careful with. Note the use of take with care in this sense, and the fact that with is the preposition used to indicate the object of care when this is mentioned. Take care by itself may also be used in the sense of 'beware'.
as a test : Note this use of the preposition as in the sense of 'in the capacity of'. It is easy to see the connection between this sense and that of ' In the way in which ', which has been noted earlier. It is frequently the equivalent, as here, of ' for the purpose of '.
finger marks == mark made by a finger.
dusted : Dusting generally means taking the dust off, though it may also mean 'sprinkling with powder' (that is, giving a dust-like coating to), and is then generally followed by with (dusting the cake with sugar).
duster == bit of cloth used for dusting in the first of the senses noted above.
the rest of the housework : The rest of anything is what remains of it when part has been taken away (either literally or by being used or dealt with in some way). Another example will help to make clear the connection between the two senses of the word. If one takes some food off a plate, the rest is what is still resting on the plate.
the brass polish is liquid : Liquid may be used as an adjective.
if the cork is loose : The cork stopper of a bottle is called a cork.
wash-basin == basin for washing the hands in.
a beautiful polish : The shine such as is produced by polish or by rubbing on the sort associated with polish is also polish, or, as here, a polish. Polishing is giving a polish (to).
as quickly as possible : A contracted phrase for as quickly as it is possible to do it.
knives : Knife is the fourth and last of the words in Basic which form the plural in this way. self/selves , shelf/shelves , leaf/leaves , knife/knives.
and so on : An idiom meaning 'et cetera'.
hair-brush == brush for brushing one's hair.
powder-box == a box for powder which is put on the face.
birthday == anniversary of the day of a person's birth.
a cloth : A bit of cloth used for some special purpose is called a cloth.
cupboard : A cupboard gets its name from the fact that it frequently has shelves made of boards, and cups and other such things are frequently kept on them. But it is now used more widely for any piece of furniture with doors, such as a wardrobe.
looking forward to == anticipating with pleasure. Looking forward in time is a natural metaphor from looking forward in space.
my day out : That is, a day when she may go out of the house, has time free, free time. Also, my day off, where off == 'not working'.
had been put off : We have seen that off is used in the sense of 'away', especially in a forward direction, and that is just what it means in connection with time ; put off == put farther on in time (that is, 'postpone')
some washing to do : When no indication is given of what is to be washed, washing generally means the washing of clothing.
in addition to == as an addition to, as well as.
butter-knife == small blunt knife for cutting butter.
tablecloth == cloth for covering a table.
the cook's business : Business may be used, as here, in the sense of 'concern, affair'.
I kept my mouth shut == I said nothing. Note this phrase.
used to it : Used to is an idiom meaning 'accustomed to'. One is used to a thing with which one has become familiar by use, and from this the term is extended to apply to anything one is familiar with, whether usable or not. The name of the operation after this idiom must be put in the -ing form.
let the fire go out : A fire, like a light, is said to be out when it is extinguished, and to go out is to 'become extinguished'.
feeling stiff : When the joints or muscles are painful or hard to move, they or the persons who have them are said to be stiff.
in exchange for : Note this idiomatic phrase. When an exchange of goods, gifts, etc., takes place, one thing is said to be given or got in exchange for the other.
if I had more sense : Sense is the name given to the faculty of practical good judgment, which is the general ability to profit by one's sense, to perceive what is clearly reasonable from the facts.
The sense of these compound words is clear without a note : coal-bucket , matchbox , soup-pot.
7 . Answer in Basic :
(a) What are the signs that the woman has been having a meal ?
(b) What is she doing now ?
(c) Which part of the kettle is black ?
(d) Why is the woman's face bright ?
(e) What is by one of the plates on the table ?
(f) What damage do you see in the room ?
(g) Why is the liquid not coming out of the bottle ?
(h) Where are the boxes ?
(i) What do you see in the cupboard ?
2 . Fill in each of the blanks with an idiom :
(1) All the time he had been in prison he had been _____ the day when he would be a free man again.
(b) In the army one has to get _____ doing without food and sleep and being wet most of the time.
(c) She ___ that the silver ornaments do not have any finger-marks on them.
(d) Why do you _____ those bad conditions when it would be possible to get them changed.
(e) The committee meeting has been _____ till tomorrow.
(f) These were different experts for everything. The walls were painted by one man, the glass was put in by another _____.
Which of the following names of substances are used for objects made of the substance ?
(a) stone (e) wax
(b) cork (f) cloth
(c) glass (g) polish
Illustrate these uses in sentences.
4 . Write a short account in Basic of how a room is cleaned.
5 . Explain the connection between the two uses of :
(a) rest (c) stiff
(b) polish (d) poor
6. Illustrate the following words in sentences :
(a) regret (d) probable
(b) exchange (e) test
7 . Translate into Basic : Teacher Link
8 . Answer in Basic :
(a) What sort of women are Mrs. Bell and Mrs. Field ?
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(b) Why was Mrs. Field angry in the early morning ?
(c) What did I do when the food was cooking ?
(d) Why did Mrs. Bell put her finger on the top of the small table in the living-room ?
(e) What did she say about the cup ?
(f) Give a list of some of the silver things which had to be polished.
(g) What is the hardest part of the work in the bathroom ?
(h) What do I put on the bathroom floor ?
(i) Why do I give the silver a rub with a cloth before polishing it with leather ?
(j) Why didn't I go out today ?
(k) What had I put on the table before Mrs. Bell come in at night and what did she say was not on the table ?
(l) What did Mrs. Bell say when I took the soap-pot away ?
(m) What did I have to do for Mrs. Field when she came in ?