Tales From The Pantry: A Butler's Diary

From the pantry of an historic country house comes the ongoing diary of its butler, Mr Dean Fielding. I shall be giving you a glimpse of the family I serve and of the lives both 'Below Stairs' and 'Above'. I hope you follow my jottings daily.

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Have been butler here for over 15 years. Having previously, and unusually for these days, worked my way up from footman to under-butler to my current post. You can now follow me on Twitter via: http://www.twitter.com/butlerfielding

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Busy, busy, busy

Things are so awfully busy here at the moment, so I apologise for the lack of an update. I will post in greater detail when I get the chance.

In short:

All the decorations are now up. The Christmas trees look splendid. And they are green. Not even a hint of tinsel in the House, much to my satisfaction.

Sir Geoffrey accepted his birthday present with the matchless grace and tact you would expect from him. However, it sits, practically untouched on his desk in the Study. Every time Lady Carstone begins to demonstrate it for him, Sir Geoffrey usually finds some emergency he 'simply must attend to.'

The Medieval Birthday Party was rather amusing. I have discovered however that the knife and fork is among the greatest inventions of mankind. Eating sans these important implements is a dreadful, dreadful thing. Never have I had to supervise the cleaning of so much grease and mess from the Hall floor and furniture. I could feel Mr Chippendale shuddering in his grave.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

It Arrives

The computer arrived at 4.15pm yesterday. Despite being directed, by both telephone and by Llywelyn at the Lodge Gates, to deposit this dubious (in my eyes) gift at the Tradesman's Entrance to the rear of the house, the delivery men had other ideas. Obviously presuming that the directions were more of a guideline than a rule they veered adventurously off their set path and drove around the turning-circle right to the Entrance Porch and rang the front door bell. I am sure Lenin would have done the same had he chosen to enter the delivery business rather than politics. Unfortunately, Sir Geoffrey Carstone, baronet and unwitting computer owner, happened to be peering out of the Drawing Room window at the time and spotted the offending vehicle. I was serving his afternoon tea (slightly earlier than is normal) and witnessed his ears prick up like a spaniel at the sound of the van's engine.

"He appears to have gotten lost." Sir Geoffrey pointed out to me.

Then the front door bell rang and I left to answer it. The delivery man, looking less like Lenin than I had imagined, asked me to sign his paper, and then unceremoniously dumped the box on the newly polished floor of the Entrance Hall. It cannot have done either the floor or the computer any good whatsoever. I asked him to take the box around to the Tradesman's Entrance where there would be somebody waiting for him. He looked at me as if I had asked him to scale Mount Everest before dinner. With much muttering he eventually picked the box back up and getting into his van (did it have the hammer and sickle on the side? I didn't spot it but it is possible) he drove around the side of the House. Rarely have I seen a van driven in such a huffy way. If Lenin had driven vans, he would have driven them in this way.

I don't think Sir Geoffrey realised the package was for him. When I returned to the Drawing Room he was engrossed in a book about horses. Somehow I can never imagine him to be engrossed in a book about computers. I am sure Lady Carstone knows what she is doing, but I have the gravest of grave doubts about this.

I'm not sure how she knew, but within minutes of the box, and the delivery man's muddy feet touching the floor of the Entrance Hall, there was Rhiannon, polishing it again. Perhaps she has some kind of radar. She really is very thorough in her work. Not as dreamy or as absent minded as Wendy, the other Housemaid; Rhiannon takes any dirt or dust as a personal insult to her professional skills. One day she will make an excellent Housekeeper. Unfortunately she knows this, and I have often seen her looking with envy at Mrs Berry, and stroking the armchair near the fire of the Housekeeper's Room. Ambition, I daresay, is a good thing. I do not think we will have a coup any time soon. She will not seize the keys to the Spice Cupboard and barricade herself in the Housekeeper's Scullery.

The Christmas tree is ordered. I went to the village this morning to purchase a few additional decorations. The lady behind the counter attempted to point me towards a whole batch of discounted tinsel. My expression changed her mind about her sale tactics. On leaving the shop I noticed a pound coin gleaming on the pavement in front of me. I picked it up. If finding a penny brings you good luck, then finding a pound can only be a good thing, I thought to myself. As I turned to head home, I spotted, coming out of Mr Wilkins' Confectionary Shop, two little girls, one of which was in floods of tears. I politely inquired as to the matter, and her less-tearful friend told me that she had lost some money. I happily re-united the tearful party of the first part, with her lost pound coin. Her face brightened up, she thanked me, and they both dashed back into the Confectionary shop. Tragedy on the scale of Macbeth had been averted.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Good Present?

December 8th is the 57th birthday of my Master, Sir Geoffrey Carstone. It has come to my notice that many of my posts involve parties, balls, and social gatherings. I do not wish to give the impression that Carstone House is one large den of carousers. We do not spend all of our time in that state of debauchery that the Romans knew all too well.

Bacchus does not rule the roost here.

Although, admittedly, he visits sometimes.

We give him the Chintz Bedroom.

Sir Geoffrey's birthday will be celebrated with a Medieval Ball. It is not going to be a big event, only close friends and family will be invited. It should be a pleasant enough occasion.

Lady Carstone called me into the Drawing Room early this morning to discuss the plans for Sir Geoffrey's birthday. She told me that his present should be arriving at some point today. It is a computer. I was not entirely sure I understood correctly, so I asked Her Ladyship to repeat herself. She confirmed that her husband's present was indeed to be a computer. Personally I believe this to be a startling revelation. Giving Sir Geoffrey a computer is akin to handing Henry VIII an exercise bike. He will be confused and ultimately repelled by such a gift. Lady Carstone insisted that it was time "we dragged him kicking and screaming into the 21st century." She sounded determined. Her face was set with a "Rome has spoken. The matter is settled." expression. I did not like to point out that Sir Geoffrey has a deep distrust of the 20th century, nevermind the 21st.

Later this afternoon I must order the Christmas Tree. Decorating Carstone House is a large job. I try to ensure that the decorations are as traditional as possible, as befits the setting. Certain things at this time of year make me shudder. Red Christmas Trees for example. Or purple. Or any other colour that isn't green grates on my nerves dreadfully. I also have an intense dislike of tinsel. I suppose we all have our own little peculiarities in taste.