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Bristow's Inferiors
Mrs Purdy the Tea Lady  
Highslide JS
Strip 5307a was drawn for Saturday 6 January 1979 and therefore published in the Evening Standard. It was published in The Penguin Bristow. This scan is from the Sydney Morning Herald January 1979

Twice a day Mrs. Purdy pushes her trusty tea trolley around the offices at C-Ps. She dispenses a vile brew from the urn, accompanied by whatever goodies Mr. Gordon Blue has elected to bake that day. A traditionalist, Mrs. Purdy appears to wear rollers in her hair under the lace top, and it is her privilege to take the surplus food home to her "little fat children", in Bristow’s words.

She probably works in the canteen at lunchtime as a waitress (since all the waitresses are drawn the same it is hard to tell). She started her working life as a humble office cleaner, since being without connections or qualifications it was the only job she could get. And how then, asks the fascinated Bristow, did she land a job as tea lady? "Old school tie".

Despite all her years of experience, Mrs. Purdy's tea seems to be of dubious quality. Although Bristow drinks it avidly, he invariably recoils as Mrs. Purdy blasts hot water in all directions whilst filling his cup with a heartfelt "Holy Mackerel" Having drunk, Bristow must then subject the leaves to Mrs. Purdy's searching scrutiny - "You can't argue with the leaves you know" - before learning that he is due to encounter a hitherto unknown person of above average height and sallow complexion.

Highslide JS
Strip 3624 was published in the Evening Standard in November 1972 and in More Bristow. This scan is from the Melbourne Age November 1972

The job is no sinecure. Aspiring tea ladies must undergo a test, similar to the driving test, in which their theoretical knowledge of how to handle the cups and cakes is matched by practicals, including stacking a full trolley ("No No No, meringues go on top") and a full scale tryout along a test run. Mr. Gordon Blue is the judge but hidden observers are strategically placed to watch for correct three-point turns and the like.

It does not do to argue with Mrs. Purdy. She has a bust-up with Fudge, who snarls at her for entering his room without knocking. Little does Fudge realise that she is extracting full revenge in a way that only a tea-lady can strip 3945
Strip 3945 was published in the Evening Standard in November 1973. This scan is from the Sydney Morning Herald November 1973
. And on Thursdays (the day before payday) she puts up the familiar sign "Please do not ask for credit as a refusal often offends"
As well as tea Mrs. Purdy dispenses macaroons, buns, jam tarts and the speciality of the house - home made, light-as-a-feather fairy cakes. It is possible that she bakes these delicacies herself. Her clientele know the product well and are somewhat cautious. For example, Jones when asked how many he would like says "Just one..if I take two it means two journeys". Bristow holds one speculatively and ponders on the price of lead. On another occasion he points that out that a half of one, left for the pigeon, fell to the street and nearly killed a passerby. Mr. Gordon Blue receives a request for a large quantity on the occasion that the Sports & Social Gardening section plan a giant Alpine Rockery. But they need to be exercise great caution over their naturally critical tongues if they want to keep their trousers dry - strip 5250
Strip 5250 was published in the Evening Standard in October 1978. This scan is from the Sydney Morning Herald November 1978
The clients can turn nasty. On one famous occasion Mrs. Purdy’s trolley is hi-jacked by Production Control strip 3512
Strip 3512 was published in the Evening Standard in June 1972 and in More Bristow. This scan is from the Sydney Morning Herald July 1972
. Tired of always being served last, they insist on first go at her tarts and doughnuts. This break in routine causes uproar with other departments. Naturally it is Bristow who is sent in to negotiate with the hi-jackers (who are threatening to decapitate her gingerbread men). He succeeds, apparently, but no one can tell because it is rude to talk with your mouth full.

Although a humble tea lady Mrs. Purdy, like Bristow, dreams of better times. In her case this means passing round choice Indian teas in fine china to appreciative directors. She has been known to pace the hushed corridors of the top floor, getting in some practice for when the call comes. But her place is with the buying clerks, trading insults about her tea and the age of the rock cakes

In some strips on in June 2003, Bristow speaks of Mrs. Purdy to a new tea-lady, implying that she was responsible for the Great Tea Trolley Disaster and that she worked for C-Ps from 1960 to 1992. It is rare for "real" dates to be used in the strip. I have to disagree with these. When the strip started in 1962 she was not present. She certainly was present in a strip published in 1999, when Jones ventured to describe her tea as 'joyous' and Bristow, having considered the word at some length, agrees. It is also wrong for Bristow to implicate her in the GTTD when he knows perfectly well that the culprit was Mrs. Mylett strip 3396
Strip 3396 was published in the Evening Standard in February 1972. This scan is from the Sydney Morning Herald March 1972
. But anyway, if Mrs. Purdy has retired, then may she long enjoy her well earned rest, probably with a nice cup of coffee.