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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Location: United Kingdom

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

Friday, September 25, 2009

Love 'Below Stairs'

I am quite aware that the title of this entry sounds rather like that of an early Barbara Cartland novel. I can imagine its cover now: the lovesick footman, face exhibiting all the pain of unrequited love, gazing adoringly through the serving hatch at an oblivious 3rd Housemaid. No doubt the dominant colour of the tome's cover artwork would be pink.

The reason for all of this is a question put to me on Twitter (I cannot claim to have mastered the technology as yet): "Fielding, have you read 'Remains of the Day?'". The answer is yes I have. I think the book is a splendid one. It touches on many interesting points. In the 19th and early 20th century here at Carstone, staff falling in love was deeply frowned upon. The idea of female members of staff having 'followers' was the source of many a headache for the butler and House Steward of the day. Anything that would disturb the smooth running of Carstone House was deeply disturbing to them. Indeed, in the attics (where all the Servant's Bedrooms are - including my little butler's flat) all the female bedrooms are in one wing, and all the male bedrooms are in another. There used to be a gigantic leather-bound dividing door which separated the two which had to be ceremoniously locked each night by the Housekeeper.

Nevertheless, love often finds a way through even the stoutest of defences. There is a story that is still told here at Carstone of the time that the butler and the housekeeper fell in love (this was in the 1920s). Evidently, the then baronet, Sir Charles Carstone, gave his blessing to the match, but, when the butler finally plucked up the courage to express his feelings and proposed marriage, he was refused. The Housekeeper felt that it would upset the running of the House too much. She put her staff ahead of her own personal happiness. Heartbroken, the butler asked to be moved to the Carstone family's London house. Neither of them married, although the Housekeeper was always referred to as 'Mrs' as a courtesy title, as was customary for housekeepers at that time.

I only have time to dwell on such matters of the heart as I have been ordered to rest my knee by the local doctor. I currently have my leg propped up on a small stool, as I gaze out of the window of my flat. I can see the steep hill that leads to the Summerhouse from up here. Somebody seems to be striding purposefully up said hill. It is possibly Mr Barton, but it is difficult to tell (he really does wander all over the estate. He would be tricky to catch in a butterfly net). There is no way I could get up there at the moment. Getting upstairs was effort enough for me. This evening, knee permitting, I shall go and visit Llywelyn at the Lodge Gates (or possibly the Carstone Arms).

I am eager to return to work.

14 Comments:

Anonymous Reggie said...

Tut, tut, with all those seething passions running amok behind the 'Green Baise Door' I'm surprised dinner was ever served on time!

Good to have you back Fielding old man!

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Anonymous The Hon. Teddy said...

This Barton seems to be a free-range gardener. He is forever wandering about hither and yon. Sinister I call it.....

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