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

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Chandelier Complications

Some days, things just seem to go wrong. Yesterday I believed that chandeliers were beautiful, useful things; they hung there elegantly and shone their glittering rays on those below, illuminating, and, in some cases, inspiring with their magnificence. Today I saw their darker, more malevolent side.

Today was the day that the freshly cleaned and spruced up chandelier was due to be returned to its rightful place in the Family Dining Room.

I was awoken with a cup of tea by Simon (the Second Footman) at 7am. Do not believe that such luxuries are the norm in this establishment, they are not. I am quite capable of getting by without relying on the kindness of passing footmen, but, I thought it a nice touch by a young man who is obviously trying rather hard to make a good impression. Apparently he had been reading a book on The Edwardian Country House, a Channel 4 (also shown on PBS for all of our American cousins) television series that attempted to re-create the upstairs and downstairs of Edwardian life. I did not see it myself, which is a shame. The delicious irony is, that whenever it was on, I was usually serving at table as a real butler! I can thank it for my cup of tea this morning though. Simon explained that the butler in the programme was always woken with a cup of tea by a footman. Long may Simon continue to study his book!

My usual morning duties, which include a short meeting with Sir Geoffrey, passed without real incident. The wine-list for this evening was agreed; all the writing desks in the house were equipped with both pens and paper, and I began my usual patrol of the rooms, ensuring everything was satisfactory. Usually I find everything in excellent order, but today I discovered a fly in my ointment; when entering the Italian Room, I encountered a man in white overalls lounged upon a sofa, smoking a cigarette. He didn't seem to jump up at my presence. He didn't seem to react much at all. He kept lounging there, and I half expected him to snap his fingers at me and command me to fetch a double scotch at once. In short, he had made himself at home.

My worry was that he would get cigarette ash over the carpet as he seemed to only have a vague notion as to the location of the ashtray. I politely enquired as to his business. He had come to replace the chandelier. Indeed. And why was he not, at this present time, engaged in chandelier replacing activity in the Family Dining Room? There were complications he explained, and his mate had had to nip back to the van for something. Finding himself alone (the other two workers had apparently disappeared somewhere also) he had decided to explore his surroundings a little more thoroughly. A little too thoroughly I thought, and bid him to follow me back to the chandelier-less Family Dining Room. He seemed a little put out at this, but eventually, and rather reluctantly, he followed me.

That was just the beginning of a day of 'complications'. I was interrupted many times through the day by the Overall Man and his requests and updates. My Pantry door was continually being knocked upon, and my telephone was practically ringing off the hook. I had not realised, obviously, the intense difficulty of cleaning, restoring, and replacing a chandelier. We have never had any problems of this kind in the past. I have made a note of the company. We shall not use them again.

After they had eventually departed (I half expected their van not to start through 'complications') I walked into the Italian Room to find that Overall Man, obviously failing to find the ashtray, again probably because of complications, had stubbed out his cigarette and had left the stub on a side table, cunningly pushed behind a lamp. Such things do not escape my attention.

Tomorrow evening there will be several guests arriving for dinner, with several of them staying for the week-end. We have much to do. I only hope that the Housemaids Wendy and Rhiannon do not find any further cigarette stubs hidden around the House.

I could not help wondering what Easter would bring at the household of Overall Man. Perhaps the traditional Easter egg hunt would have a slight twist there. Perhaps his smiling, rosy cheeked children, would dash around the house in a frantic search to find all the cigarette stubs lovingly placed by their father.

My day became complete when I was informed that Mrs Styles (the cook) had taken to her bed. She complained of feeling poorly earlier on today. I hope she will feel better in the morning. Lady Carstone has specifically requested one of her specialities to be served at dinner tomorrow evening.

England also lost to India in the cricket earlier today. My mood being slightly dampened in consequence.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Aunt Agatha said...

That Overall Man must have been Del from Only Fools and Horses. You are lucky they didn't ruin the chandelier.
One sometimes thinks that butlers live entirely for pleasure. I know better now.

11:03 pm  
Blogger Mr Fielding said...

To be fair, there were no breakages, and the work was done to a high standard. It was just the man's unfortunate 'lounging' and wandering habit that so tested my patience.

I am a great fan of the classic chandelier scene from Only Fools And Horses. There have been several times when I feared that it might be replicated here, but, fortunately, all has been well.

Aunt Agatha, as I am sure you know, butlers live entirely to serve; and some pleasure can always be derived from a job well done.

8:50 pm  
Blogger Tess said...

Just checking in: I am wondering how the weekend went? Did the chandelier stay illuminated and firmly fixed in place?

5:32 pm  
Blogger Mr Fielding said...

The chandelier is fine, Tess, thank you for asking.

I have had a rather busy week with the family returning, and, although I have taken copious notes, I have not had chance to update the diary.

I will get chance to do so tomorrow. Thank you for your patience.

9:56 pm  
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