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

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Thorn of a dilemma (or 'Gardeners Never Forget!')

Well, this is quite exciting. My first real blog post. I daresay that some are wondering what it is I actually do. Well, wonder no more. As Butler of Carstone House, I am the senior member of the serving staff. I have many duties, and it is my responsibility to ensure that the Household runs smoothly. Certain tasks can be delegated to others, but you will often find me serving at table, supervising the cleaning of the silver and crystal, answering the front door and telephone (not at the same time, although elasticity is called for in this post), ensuring that the cellars are well stocked, administering the budget, and many other sundry tasks. I am in charge of the male members of the Service Staff. The female staff are under the supervision of Mrs Berry, the Housekeeper.

The staff here are not as numerous as in years gone by. It used to be taken as a rule-of-thumb that in Victorian times there were thirty servants in the house, thirty on Home Farm, and thirty working in the gardens. When there is a busy social occasion looming I often find myself wishing for just a fraction of the manpower of those halcyon days. But, it is not good to whine about such things. We go on as we must.

I take great pride in my work and have a keen affection for dear old Carstone. This House has certainly gotten into my blood, so to speak, and, if I'm being honest, my blood has gotten into this House. Such as today when I caught myself on a rather nasty thorn that was protruding from a bush near the Orangery. It caught the side of my hand and cut it rather badly. The name of the guilty plant, I could not say, it was probably an incomprehensible Latin one. I readily confess that I know little about gardening, and Mr Barton, the Head Gardnener, is not always the most approachable of fellows to ask about it. In some Houses and, indeed, here in years gone by, the Gardening staff were deferential to the Butler. Not today I am afraid. My Master likes to keep the 'inside' and 'outside' staff as almost independent bodies. I sometimes believe that Mr Barton is too 'independent' by far. I am not convinced that he has forgiven me for playing cricket on one of the lawns last summer. We had permission, of course, but that meant nothing to him.

He was preparing for one of my Master's garden parties, and he did not approve of Robert, the Hall Boy, bashing stumps into his, admittedly beautifully kept, lawn. I am not sure about Barton. He arrived last summer with all sorts of ideas and changed an awful lot. He also does not like cricket, or indeed any sport that might cause damage to his beloved plants. His predecessor, Mr Wells, I got on far better with. He supported Yorkshire and was a decent leg-spin bowler in his day.

Have I been poisoned by the possibly strategically placed thorn? I wouldn't be a bit surprised. I got a clean rag from my Pantry (the first-aid box that is stored in the drawer beneath the knife polisher was out of bandages or plasters) but it took a while to staunch the bleeding. The colour seems strange too.

I had intended to introduce you to the family and staff that live here, but time seems to have gotten the better of me, and my hand is throbbing quite painfully. Tomorrow should be a relatively quiet one as most of the family are away with my Master in London. Hopefully I will get the opportunity to properly introduce you to Carstone and its inhabitants then.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Barton sounds foul. I think you should hit him with your cricket bat!

Hope your wound heals.

11:24 pm  
Blogger Mr Fielding said...

To be fair, Mr Barton does a fine job, and I am sure he is very friendly to his plants.

There are times, I admit, when I would rather like to practise my hook shot on his cranium, but, fortunately the feeling passes quite quickly.

8:23 pm  
Blogger Lord Emsworth said...

The Angus McAllister of Carstone!

Did Mr Barton make Scottish noises at the back of his throat when he espied you playing cricket on his lawns?

I thoroughly enjoy your blog and your writing style. I look forward to many more delightful posts about life behind the Green Baizew Doors!

7:17 am  
Blogger Mr Fielding said...

I think I would probably get on far better with Angus McAllister.

Barton is not Scottish, and he is not one to make noises, he just glares, and the message he wishes to convey is immediately understood by all.

Thank you for your kind words. It seems a lot of PG Wodehouse fans have taken to this diary, of which I am profoundly grateful.

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