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, July 25, 2006

Dog Walking

Lady Blanche has come and gone. I am sure I detected a soft sigh of relief emanating from the battlements of a relieved Carstone House on her departure. There now seems to be a spring in the step of all, the world seems a better, less fraught, place.

Only Barton maintains a look of grave concern, but that is all to do with the state of the lawns. There is still no sign of rain. You see him pottering around muttering darkly to himself. He actually climbed up to the Summerhouse yesterday evening to peer sagely at the clouds as the sun set. He was looking for any sign of moisture in the air. Any indication that his torment will soon be over. His look seemed to say, "Forget Pennies From Heaven, just give me a Bracing Downpour."

For the rest of us, however, life is returning to normal. One can actually now approach Mr Copeland without him leaping several feet into the air; there is less of a jangling coming from his nerves. I can even enter the Kitchen without the fear of being snarled at by Mrs Styles (her cake was a great success). Things were very different at the week-end.

Saturday saw the Carstone family invade the ancestral home. Lady Blanche's arrival put everyone on edge. I hope I did not give the impression of an advancing dragon. She is not particularly strict, her voice is very soft and friendly. In fact, if you didn't listen to the words she uttered, she would seem pleasant. She is the sort of person who can insult you dreadfully, and you only realize it later that night in bed. Her insults are fired, not with a blunderbuss like some, but with a sleek revolver with the silencer firmly fitted. She is also undeniably odd. She has a passion for birds and animals, which makes her marriage all the more puzzling. Her husband, Lord Hallross likes nothing better than to go out shooting. Lady Blanche sides with the birds. There would be terrible arguments if only the two conversed.

Accompanying Lady Blanche to Carstone was her favourite Skye Terrier, named 'Bailey'. Lady Blanche is obviously very fond of Bailey. When listing her favourite things Bailey would appear noticeably higher on the list than Lord Hallross. Just before dinner I was summoned to her regal presence with a beckoning finger. The conversation (which I guarantee is absolutely true, no matter how unusual it may sound) went something like this:

Lady Blanche: Wilson! (she always calls me Wilson. I have never quite figured out why)
Fielding: Yes, My Lady
Lady Blanche: Bailey needs to be taken for a walk!
Fielding: Indeed, My Lady? I shall inform the Hall Boy.
Lady Blanche: Remember Wilson. Don't let Bailey actually WALK. Far too dangerous. He is far too precious.
Fielding: My Lady?
Lady Blanche: I was reading that last year only 35 Skye Terriers were born in this country. Did you know that?
Fielding: Indeed I did not, My Lady.
Lady Blanche: They are a dying breed!
Fielding: Very sad, My Lady.
Lady Blanche: Tragic Wilson! tragic! We can't afford to lose darling Bailey. Take him out for a walk. Get the chauffeur to do it!
Fielding: You wish Mr Reynolds to walk Bailey, My Lady?
Lady Blanche: Not WALK, Wilson! Far too dangerous. Get the chauffeur to DRIVE him!
Fielding: Very good, My Lady.

And so it was that visitors to Carstone Park on Saturday evening would have witnessed the remarkable sight of Mr Reynolds in Sir Geoffrey's Rolls-Royce driving at a sedate pace around the turning circle, his only passenger being a small Skye Terrier perched on a velvet cushion in the back seat. If this passenger had sat up and looked out of the window he would, no doubt, have seen a Gardener muttering darkly, his gaze always up at the darkening sky, his attention on more important matters than chauffered dogs.

Sometimes this is a very strange place to work. I was telling this tale to an estate worker at the nearby pub, The Carstone Arms, only last night, and he repeated an opinion I have heard many times before. Leaning back in his chair, he snorted, and said: "Only the aristocracy are eccentric. If you have money you are 'eccentric'; if you have no money you are 'barking mad.'"

I merely raised one eyebrow and changed the subject to cricket.

I have much more to report from the week-end's festivities. I hope to have the time to write again very soon.


Anonymous Shimi said...

barking mad. perfect! :D

8:56 pm  
Blogger jude said...

I must sincerely offer my thanks to you and Bailey for brightening my day. Nothing like a dog being chauffered and muttering gardeners for a quick smile!

2:18 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Parts of Britain had a huge downpour and thunder storm. Did it reach you? Has Barton's mood lightened?

4:44 pm  
Blogger Mr Fielding said...

Alas, no. Not a single drop of rain has yet to reach us.

Great for the Test match; not so great for the formal gardens here.

10:14 am  
Anonymous Ben said...

Good lord Fielding! Lady Blanche was right. Look at this, from The Times of June 18th:


What is it about Scots and breeding? The problem of too few offspring is not unique to people; Skye terriers are also failing their country. According to Kennel Club figures released last week, only 30 were born in Britain last year, against 45,000 Labradors.
This, quite frankly, is an outrage. Labradors are the chosen pets of the English green-welly county set and Hampstead yummy mummies. They are large and — whisper it — often a bit dense. Anybody is their friend, particularly anybody with food.

A Skye terrier, on the other hand, though able to match any Labrador in bin-emptying and cake-scoffing, is reserved and cautious. His affection is bestowed selectively, and only after the honoured human has passed several tests. Unlike Labradors, who tend to pant and lick, Skyes are firm believers in the quick bite, particularly if strangers touch them without permission. It is a sad day for Skyes if they really are on their way out

10:50 am  
Blogger Tea & Margaritas in My Garden said...

Unbelievable story, but I do indeed believe it! As one who considers oneself slightly eccentric and also passionate about dogs...though a car ride would simply mean puppy was coming along to stick his head out the window and have his ears flap in the wind, we commoners should be allowed the 'eccentricities' and the aristocracy...'barking madness' for certain.

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