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

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Stitch In Time

It boggles the mind. Really it does. How can a Summerhouse get so grotty after being left empty for a few chilly months of winter? Perhaps the local wildlife squat there? Do deer break in, have riotous parties and cause devastation to the place?

Myself, Robert the Hall Boy (who, incidentally, is still smarting from England's so far anemic performance in the cricket world cup. Say the name 'Michael Vaughan' to the poor lad and he gasps and grabs his chest like a Transylvanian peasant asked their opinion of the local castle-dwelling Count) and Simon, one of the Footmen, began our trek shortly after lunch. Perhaps I should have waited a little while. Mrs Styles is a marvellous cook. Sometimes too marvellous, and it is safe to say that I indulged a little too heavily before setting off. The embarrassment I felt at feeling the sharp pain of a stitch in my side before we had even reached the first pathway was acute.

We have managed to make the Summerhouse habitable again. It will probably be in use over the week-end, weather-permitting.

Incidentally, for long-time readers of this blog (I really do still prefer the term 'diary' although strictly speaking this is more of a journal than a diary) my post of yesterday was something of a first. It was the first time I have posted a genuine picture of a portion of Carstone Park. Obviously my titanic battle with the knighted troll 'Sir Quintin' has emboldened me somewhat.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Tales From The Summerhouse

It looms over me. Every year it seems to grow ever more daunting. While snow flakes fall and the weather is crisp all is well. The hill does not seem so steep, the majestic beauty of the surroundings seem comforting. But when the sun comes out and the butterflies resume their fluttering in its warm rays, a touch of concern marks my brow. Sir Geoffrey and Lady Carstone, or of late, Mr Thomas and Mr Miles, at this time of year begin thinking of spending time in the Summerhouse. The Summerhouse was built by Sir William Carstone in the mid-Victorian period. He chose the tallest hill of Carstone Park, to give his guests the most breathtaking of views as they sipped their tea, twiddled their parasols, and stroked their moustaches and sideburns while discussing the latest actions taken by the Government of Lord Palmerston.

It has always been steep, I presume; after all, the hill was the site of an Iron Age fort. It seems to get steeper as the years wear on. It is the sort of hill that makes a marauding invader take one look and decide to maraude elsewhere. Somewhere flatter. Somewhere like Holland. Or Norfolk. But the British have always been fond of views, and of drinking tea, and the Summerhouse at Carstone provides ample opportunity for both pastimes. The hill provides the view, and I provide the tea; and therein lies the rub. It really is quite a trek; especially on a hot day like today. Also, I seem to have a certain magnetism that attracts wasps and other flying terrors. They usually hide behind trees and ambush me as I am half-way up the hill. Attempting to swat away a wasp while carrying a box of crockery is not an easy thing.

Then there are holes.

A couple of years ago I sprained my ankle rather badly when I lost my footing up there. Whether the hole I plunged into was made by a rabbit in league with the wasps, or whether the rabbit was acting unilaterally is uncertain; what was certain was the pain. I was eventually rescued by the then 2nd Footman, Michael (he has since left Carstone and now works in a hotel where presumably there are less holes), but a state of war has existed between me and the denizens of the hill ever since.

This morning, after breakfast, Sir Geoffrey asked me to 'prepare the Summerhouse'. I shall, with a heavy heart be taking the Hallboy, Mr Cromwell, and perhaps Simon (if he can be spared from the House), with me, as I begin the ascent shortly after luncheon.

No doubt the wasps are already whispering to the rabbits in anticipation.