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

Sunday, August 27, 2006


The Brothers Carstone are as different as two brothers possibly could be. One is studious and has made a great success of his London legal practise, (to nobody's surprise here) and is a firm believer in duty and tradition. The other is Mr Miles Carstone....

Both brothers are to co-host a dinner party this evening for the local great and good. Their father, Sir Geoffrey, believes it important that the heir (and dare I say, the spare) play a greater role in the local community. They spend so much time away from the ancestral home that they could probably stroll around the local village without being recognised. Perhaps the odd person might catch a glimpse of their noble profile in the early morning light and find it familiar, but few could confidently identify the sons of the baronet from the 'Big House.' Theirs is a London life. Carstone but a week-end retreat and a place where the family roam.

Mr Thomas arrived early this morning, punctual as ever. We spoke for twenty minutes in the Drawing Room, discussing the plans for this evening. Mr Thomas is a most thorough man. It was decided that the festivities should be simple but elegant. I am not sure that Mr Thomas enjoys the social aspect of his role; he appears to see it more of a duty than a pleasure. We inspected the guest list. It seemed rather disparate to me. Several of Mr Miles' friends have been invited. They are not local, or great, or, I hesitate to say it, particularly good, as far as I have been informed, but perhaps that was the carrot dangled before Mr Miles to entice him to Carstone for the evening. We are expecting 18 to sit for dinner. No guests are staying the night, which simplifies matters.

Mr Miles arrived not long ago. There is a wonderful refreshing breeze whenever he appears. I have known him since he was young, and have a lot of affection for him. I do however concede that what I describe as a 'refreshing breeze' is often seen by others as a 'howling gale'. Things are rarely dull in his company. He does have his little eccentricities. It is little wonder that he gets on so well with Lady Blanche. The weather has been quite kind over the past few days and there is little sign of a downpour today, and yet, while sweeping into the Entrance Hall this morning, Mr Miles handed me an umbrella. This was curious enough in itself. If I inform the gentle reader that the umbrella happened to be purple in colour I am sure my surprise (shock is too strong a word when applied to umbrellas) will be appreciated.

After gingerly placing the umbrella in the stand, and assuring that Mr Miles was settled, I sought the company of My Master's valet, Mr Copeland. I found him in the Servant's Hall locked in conversation with Mrs Berry. Copeland was not surprised by the purple umbrella, even though his expression suggested a distaste for it. In fact, he knew its history, and the Boswell of Brollies enlightened me. Apparently, about a fortnight ago, Mr Miles attended a cocktail party in Knightsbridge, where everything, from the paint on the walls, to the attire of the staff, was coloured a rather garish purple. He greatly enjoyed this 'purple party' and picked up the umbrella for the occasion. He has grown rather fond of it, and it is now quite as a cane to him. I am sure it is only a phase, and it will pass.

The Bishop is due to arrive later to have lunch with Sir Geoffrey. My Master is not staying for dinner; he has a prior engagement.

Wendy has handed in her notice. It has come as quite a shock to us all. I must ponder the matter carefully. She has been very badly let down by a young man who works on Home Farm. It seems rather dramatic to give up her position here for that reason. I am sure she would regret such a drastic move. Her heart seems quite broken. I used to be known as something of a heartbreaker myself at one time (although I confess that was rather a long time ago. I am more likely to break a hip than a heart these days) but was ultimately unlucky in love. I am therefore sympathetic to Wendy's plight. I gave up on the possibility of marriage several years ago. As a notable Welsh peer once said: "I have stood on the precipice of marriage for so long, I can now peer over the edge, without fear of falling."

The Wendy matter must be resolved soon.

NB: I was very pleased to find an image of a purple umbrella to add to this post. It is not quite the same as Mr Miles', but, purple umbrellas are purple umbrellas, and a little illustration DOES help matters along, I always think.


Blogger Tea & Margaritas in My Garden said...

Can`t wait to find out how the dinner went. A purple umbrella...ew. But it does definately show his flare.


1:57 am  
Anonymous Tim said...

I like Miles Carstone! He has flair by the bucketload. Come on Fielding, stop being an old fuddy duddy and embrace the purple theme!

I can imagine you now in a purple suit, carrying a purple salver, and on it a purple cocktail.

You could even paint Carstone House purple!

9:23 am  
Anonymous Wayne said...

I was born and bred in southeastern Virginia 51 years ago, and in my youth there was a local woman known as "The Purple Lady." She was a recluse and lived in a big old country house outside town. The house was set well back from the road and was painted purple from foundation to roof. According to local legend all the interior furnishings, and indeed everything she owned, was purple. She seldom was seen outside, but on those rare occasions she always was dressed in a long purple dress and a big purple hat.

At some point she wearied of the gawkers who came by to stare at her house from the road, and so had a fence of sorts erected. In keeping with her eccentric ways, rather than having a conventional fence she had a long row of wooden pallets stacked several feet high across the lawn next to the road. They were, of course, painted purple. Since they were oriented such that the hollow spaces on their undersides afforded quite a good view of the house, it was difficult to see what was accomplished by placing them there.

It's been more than 30 years since I passed that way; I've often wondered whatever became of the "Purple Lady."

11:00 pm  
Anonymous The Hon. Brian said...

The Purple Lady? That is an extraordinary tale. I suppose every town has an 'eccentric'.

Mauve, I could have lived with, but purple? Ghastly.

10:25 am  
Blogger Mr Fielding said...

An odd story Wayne. My word, I can almost imagine the director Tim Burton including your 'Purple Lady' in his next gothic fantasy. Quite eerie, but strangely intriguing at the same time.

I wonder what pushed this poor woman towards the purple (the colour mania, of course, not the priesthood)?

2:14 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The purple lady tale is one of my best child hood memorys. I waited each year for our field trip just to go pass her home and watch as most people did. Virginia was a great place!
Academy Park/Fairwood Homes 1975-1998
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2:24 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last I heard was she went to Toledo Ohio. Apparantly she misconstrued the phrase Holy Toledo. Probably just a rumor. I'm from Portsmouth.


11:22 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember the Purple Lady from Portsmouth, as kids we used to watch out for the telegraph poles that she'd painted purple. Also she once asked my Grandma who was visiting from England for some money outside a Revco!
I moved back to the UK in 1994 and no one believes me that she was real when I tell them about her :D

9:59 pm  
Anonymous Jewel said...

I just saw a article on the main Yahoo page about the purple lady...hence my search. OMGosh I grew up in Hampton VA and too was on a field trip when we passed the "Purple Lady's" residence. WOW funny how things throw you back mentally to your childhood. Gonna forward this to my siblings ^^

11:26 pm  
Anonymous hoosiermom said...

I grew up in Portsmouth, Virginia and remember the Purple Lady very well. She died a few years back and her house has since been torn down. There are some great eccentric characters in/from of Portsmouth, Va! Someone creative should write a book...

9:54 pm  
Blogger Joann A. said...

I remember this well when my mother would take my sister and on trips to various places. I remember the mailbox and the poles that were purple. My grandmother told me that her husband had an untimly death and that his favorite color was purple. So with her pain of losing her husband she began compulsivly dedicating her life to the color purple in memory of her late husband. Of course Grandmother made it sound very romantic and I suppose if we think about todays society, it was very romantic. Like a story from the old days.
I was raised in Portsmouth and chesapeake.

9:12 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed The Purple Lady did exist. She lived on Route 17,also known as Bridge Rd in Suffolk, Va. The house has been torn down and the property cleared, although one can see a telltale sign of the driveway. All the purple poles have faded or are long gone. Mysteriously though in the spring purple wisteria blooms all along the the path she traveled and painted. Commerce and construction have taken over much of the area, but the purple wisteria reminds us of the her every spring.

7:20 pm  
Blogger Costa said...

I remember well the Purple Lady. She painted those telephone poles and they would come and paint them black again; and she would do it all over. I think its nice to remember something good of our childhood. She used that color for peace... and wanted all that knew her to see it. I am from Chuckatuck (Suffolk now)my Nana lived in Portsmouth; passed by every week. I am now 63, super memories!

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Anonymous Mark Hoggard said...

The Purple Lady has recently hit Facebook! Check it out at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/We-love-The-purple-lady-Welcome-home-Delzorra-Presha/116470631732777

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Anonymous Alyssa said...

Great piece about her birthday party:


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