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 13, 2006

Spirits With Llywelyn

With Sir Geoffrey and Lady Carstone dining elsewhere, the house empty of guests, and the quick departure of Mr Miles back to London (not looking happy in the least) yesterday was quite a calm one after the storm of activity brought by the previous week.

With my duties for the day completed I left Carstone House with something of a spring in my step at about 8pm. Although the wind was rather blustery (if I had been wearing a hat it would surely have been blown off my head and probably been nibbled on by one of the swans on the lake) the walk to the Lodge Gates was rather a pleasant, bracing one, and the House behind me looked quite dramatic as the sun started to set. Mr Llywelyn had obviously spotted me, because he was waiting by the open door of one of the Lodges, with a glass of whisky in one hand, and a smile of benign friendliness on his face.

His living space is actually a lot larger than it appears from the outside. Llywelyn is addicted to clutter, however, and the whole effect is one of infinite cosiness. I think he likes an audience to listen to his stories and I was ushered to a comfy chair next to the (unlit) fireplace. Although he also had a chair next to mine, he did not spend a great deal of time sitting in it. As our conversation progressed, and a few drinks were imbibed, Llywelyn's opinions became more vocal and his excitement grew. He passed judgement on many things: from the dark nature of the swans on the lake, to the unsuitability of Mr Miles as heir (I blushed at this, and kept quiet; apparently Mr Miles sometimes drives his car to the Lodge Gates at 3am, and toots his horn, with the sole purpose of waking up Mr Llywelyn - at least according to Mr Llywelyn), to the myriad mistakes of Mr Barton's gardening staff. As he grew more animated, he paced back and forth, waving his arms about. I could imagine him as a 19th century firebrand politician, perhaps upbraiding Mr Disraeli for crimes against the people. The Welsh lilt to his voice made me wonder if this was the sort of thing that Mrs Lloyd George was subjected to of an evening.

After a couple of hours of Llywelyn putting the world to rights he charged into his favourite topic: the ghosts, ghouls, myths and legends of Carstone. He asked me if I had seen or felt anything strange. I confessed that in my fifteen years at Carstone, I had not experienced anything supernatural, and perhaps I was not sensitive enough to do so. Llywelyn sniffed at this. Sceptics apparently rating somewhere below cat burglars in his mind.

Seeking to convince me he brought out a large, very large book. Mrs Beeton would have been proud of its dimensions. He semi-staggered with it and placed it on a coffee table, which groaned beneath the weight. This book reminded me of the 16th century poet who said of a great tome: "It is a portable work if your horse be not too weak." Llywelyn explained that it was a collection of all the sightings and paranormal experiences and stories linked to Carstone over the centuries. Flicking through its leaves he informed me of a previous Steward who regularly conversed with spirits. Since the Steward's Room (now used as a store room) is situated right next to the entrance to the cellars, that did not surprise me in the slightest. In fact, I know of one Steward who was imbibing a bottle of whisky a day at one point, out of convenience, probably, more than anything else. Seeing the fire in Llywelyn's eyes I decided to remain silent and merely nodded, quietly trying to work out exactly how much whisky I had consumed so far that evening.

When he had completed his ghostly peroration: from poltergeists in the parlour, to ghouls in the Long Gallery, Llywelyn conjured up a 'brilliant idea'. On Friday night, he informed me, he would take me around the House and its grounds and give me a 'ghost tour'. Perhaps I would then feel some of the eerieness so obviously apparent at dear old Carstone. "Perhaps then" he said ominously, "you won't be so much of a sceptic." I suppose it was the whisky, and I regret it now, but I agreed to the scheme.

By the time I left the Lodge, I was slightly tipsy, and there seemed to be more than the usual number of stars in the night sky (and since apparently it was overcast last night, it shows how much alcohol I had actually consumed!) as I tottered back across the grounds towards the Tradesman's Entrance at the rear of the House. I had almost reached my destination when I heard a rustling sound coming from my right. Was this one of Llywelyn's spirits? No, it was something far more sinister. It was Barton moving rather quickly towards the Orangery Garden. Do gardeners never sleep? What was the man doing out and about at that time? It must have been past midnight.

I must remember to ask him when I get the chance. My head hurts now.


Blogger Tess said...

I am so incredibly sorry to have to put on my Grammar Nazi hat, especially after you used a lovely word like ‘peroration’, but it’s my sworn duty…

”Do gardener’s never sleep?” should not be written with an apostrophe. With “gardeners” being plural, it should be “Do gardeners never sleep?” (And the answer is “no”, by the way, or at least not the good ones. Could you sleep if you knew that someone as powerful and capricious as Mother Nature was possibly planning an attack on your pantry? I think you would not.)

I will now doff my G.N. hat and say I love reading your blog, please keep it up.

PS: You know we will all be disappointed if you don’t find some ghosts – we expect them in a manor house! :o)

3:54 pm  
Blogger Mr Fielding said...

You are of course quite right. I shall edit said word. That is what comes from typing quickly with an aching head. I am not exactly 'on the ball' at the moment.

4:22 pm  
Blogger Stas said...

What a quaint old English charm this blog has.

I like it

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