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

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Climbing The Peak

Spring cleaning can be a laborious task. My role is usually to oversee things. It has been many a year since you would have found me high in the rafters extracting dust and grime from between 17th century carvings. I leave that now to the younger generation. Although I might have the spirit of a Henry V and would like nothing better than to ride into battle, preparing to close any wall up with our English dead, I am now more like King George VI, and must play a more sedate, but nonetheless vital, morale-boosting, leadership role in the proceedings.

Yesterday we tackled the Banqueting Hall. The scaffolding was put up early in the morning. There is something about scaffolding that brings the inner-child out in me. I can never resist. I always seem to get an urge to climb up it and to survey the majestic scene from its lofty peak. As the years roll by I am acutely aware that the scaffolding is getting higher and higher, for it takes me longer to climb these days. Such was the struggle and the sense of achievement when I reached the top yesterday morning that I felt like planting a flag at the summit.

The view was breathtaking from up there. It gives a man a different sense of perspective. Unfortunately timing is everything. When triumphantly astride the summit, a little voice called up to me from down below. I felt like Zeus, atop Mount Olympus attempting to hear a Greek shepherd's prayer called up from the valley beneath. It was Wendy informing me that Mr Miles requested my presence in the Library. It was as if, when he had reached the top of Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary has suddenly remembered he had left the gas on. I swiftly began my descent.

I finally arrived in the Library rather red of cheek. Mr Miles did not comment on this. His mind was no doubt on loftier things. He had a problem of his own. This problem found its form in the newly installed Agent of the Carstone Estate, Mr Downing; but more of that anon. There is no rest for this butler on Sunday morning. I am off to have a chat with Mr Barton about his new planting scheme in the Orangery Garden. Lady Carstone has left suggestions for him. The day is cold, crisp, but there isn't a cloud in the sky. A nice stroll through the gardens is exactly what I need to clear the dust and cobwebs.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Spring Cleaning

The standards of day-to-day cleaning are, I would like to think, extremely high here at Carstone, but the place is so large there are spots that even the most determined Housemaid armed with a duster the size of a knight's lance and a particularly springy trampoline cannot reach. The Carstone family have decamped to London and tomorrow we begin the great spring clean of the staterooms. Scaffolding shall be erected and no piece of dust, however cunningly disguised, shall escape the eagle eyes (and the cleaning equipment) of the staff here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Fortunately Damp Squib

I should aspire to resemble Churchill more. I do not mean start wearing a bowtie, puff away at cigars, and begin making rousing, defiant, speeches involving one or more of the following: blood, toil, tears, sweat, or beaches. I should instead learn from these wise words he once uttered:

"When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened."

I am pleased to report that the bombshell I had feared turned out to be a harmless dummy bomb useful only for training purposes. Mr Chando's article appeared last week and, although a Pulitzer Prize will not be winging it's way towards his desk anytime soon (at least a third of the historical 'facts' quoted, were, to use the correct technical term: piffle) it could have been a lot worse. Relief is the dominant emotion.