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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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, August 31, 2006

The Stately Homes of England

The comment by 'the Hon. Brian' that popped up in response to my previous post, has made me dig out the lyrics to Noel Coward's 'The Stately Homes of England.' It is a song that I have often listened to with much amusement. The previous butler of Carstone had served Mr Coward (as he was then, his knighthood only coming later) on a couple of occasions and always spoke of him with the utmost fondness and admiration. So, as I prepare to enjoy myself tonight at the Servant's Ball, here are the lyrics to that most apt of songs:

The Stately Homes of England (Noel Coward)

Lord Elderley, Lrd Borrowmere, Lord Sickert and Lord Camp,
With every virtue, every grace,
Ah what avails the sceptred race,
Here you see-the four of us,
And there are so many more of us
Eldest sons that must succeed.
We know how Caesar conquered Gaul
And how to whack a cricket ball;
Apart from this, our education lacks co-ordination.
Though we're young and tentative
And rather rip-representative,
Scions of a noble breed,
We are the products of those homes serene and stately
Which only lately
Seem to have run to seed!

The Stately Homes of England,
How beautiful they stand,
To prove the upper classes
Have still the upper hand;
Though the fact that they have to be rebuilt
And frequently mortgaged to the hilt
Is inclined to take the gilt
Off the gingerbread,
And certainly damps the fun
Of the eldest son-
But still we won't be beaten,
We'll scrimp and scrape and save,
The playing fields of Eton
Have made us frightfully brave-
And though if the Van Dycks have to go
And we pawn the Bechstein Grand,
We'll stand By the Stately Homes of England.

Here you see
The pick of us,
You may be heartily sick of us,
Still with sense
We're all imbued.
Our homes command extensive views
And with assistance from the Jews
We have been able to dispose of
Rows and rows and rows of
Gainsboroughs and Lawrences,
Some sporting prints of Aunt Florence's,
Some of which were rather rude.
Although we sometimes flaunt our family conventions,
Our good intentions
Mustn't be misconstrued.

The Stately Homes of England
We proudly represent,
We only keep them up for Americans to rent,
Though the pipes that supply the bathroom burst
And the lavatory makes you fear the worst,
It was used by Charles the First
Quite informally,
And later by George the Fourth
On a journey north.
The State Apartments keep their Historical renown,
It's wiser not to sleep there
In case they tumble down'
But still if they ever catch on fire
Which, with any luck, they might
We'll fight For the Stately Homes of England

The Stately Homes of England,
Though rather in the lurch,
Provide a lot of chances
For Psychical Research-
There's the ghost of a crazy younger son
Who murdered, in thirteen fifty-one,
An extremely rowdy Nun
Who resented it,
And people who come to call
Meet her in the hall.
The baby in the guest wing,
Who crouches by the grate,
Was walled up in the west wing
In fourteen twenty-eight.
If anyone spots The Queen of Scots
In a hand-embroidered shroud
We're proud Of the Stately Homes of England.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't say I've ever heard the song, but the lyrics are hilarious.

5:36 pm  
Anonymous Vladimir Brusiloff said...

And here is a short snippet of Noel Coward singing it (click on Track 15).


1:30 am  
Anonymous The Hon. Brian said...

Good stuff. Thank you for the clip Vladimir. It has to be heard in the original Coward clipped tones.

My favourite bit:

There's the ghost of a crazy younger son
Who murdered, in thirteen fifty-one,
An extremely rowdy Nun
Who resented it,

Does Carstone have any spooks Fielding? A ghost nun perchance? Or what about a 'Grey Lady'?

I visited Firefly (Coward's Jamaican home) last year. There is a wonderful statue of the great man sat in a chair in the grounds. It is so good, you almost expect it to turn to you and say:

"How terribly, terribly, nice of you to visit dear boy."

7:58 am  
Anonymous tim said...

There is an alternative version of that song (A reprise in Act II) which goes:

Lord Elderley, Lord Borrowmere,
Lord Sickert and Lord Camp,
Behold us in our hours of ease,
Uncertain, coy and hard to please.
Reading in Debrett of us,
This fine Patrician quartette of us,
We can feel extremely proud,
Our ancient lineage we trace
Back to the cradle of the Race
Before those beastly Roman bowmen
Bitched our local Yeomen.
Through the new democracy
May pain the old Aristocracy
We've not winced nor cried aloud,
Under the bludgeonings of chance what will be- will be.
Our heads will still be
Bloody but quite unbowed!

The Stately Homes of England
In valley, dale and glen
Produce a race of charming,
Innocuous young men.
Though our mental equipment may be slight
And we barely distinguish left from right,
We are quite prepared to fight
For our principles,
Though none of us know so far
What they really are.
Our duty to the nation,
It's only fair to state,
Lies not in pro-creation
But what we pro-create;
And so we can cry
With kindling eye
As to married like we go,
What ho!
For the Stately Homes of England!

The Stately Homes of England,
Although a trifle bleak,
Historically speaking,
Are more or less unique.
We've a cousin who won the Golden Fleece
And a very peculiar fowling-piece
Which was sent to Cromwell's niece,
Who detested it,
And rapidly sent it back
With a dirty crack.
A note we have from Chaucer
Contains a bawdy joke.
We also have a saucer
That Bloody Mary broke.
We've two pairs of tights
King Arthur's Knights
Had completely worn away.
Sing Hey!
For the Stately Homes of England.

The Stately Homes of England,
Tho' rather on the blink
Provide a lot of reasons
For what we do and think.
Tho' we freely admit we may be wrong,
Our conviction that we are right is strong
Tho' it may not be for long,
We'll hold on to it
We might as well hold the bat
Till they knock us flat
Our dignity of race may
Retire into its shell
Our Minister of Grace may
Defend us none too well
But still if a child
Becomes too wild
And we're forced to use the rod,
Thank God
For the Stately Homes of England

8:12 am  
Blogger Mr Fielding said...

Carstone does indeed have ghosts, Brian, or at least, tales of them. Some of the earliest readers of this diary will recall a nocturnal ghost hunt that I was dragged into, with not particularly sparkling results.

We do have a 'Grey Lady'. It is inevitable. All the other great homes in this sceptred isle have one. The National Trust would sneer at Carstone if we didn't. In fact, if we didn't have one, it would be necessary to rent one.

9:24 am  
Blogger Tea & Margaritas in My Garden said...

Adore those old actors, Noel Coward included. Used to have to sit through their movies as a child with my Mum......boring then, but funnily enough, now I love them.


5:21 pm  
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