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, November 23, 2006

It IS November!

The signs are everywhere. They make me shiver, but they are everywhere. Christmas is coming. I went down to the village this morning and the decorations were up. The little shop fronts were all trying to convince me that it was Christmas Eve, or at the very least, December 23rd. I was not fooled. As long as my calendar states that it is November I steadfastly refuse to acknowledge Christmas or any of its trappings. Fortunately it will be several weeks before Carstone House gets decorated. A lot of work is involved in Christmas at Carstone. A large party is thrown for the children of the village and the surrounding areas. I arrange it, and all the children are invited into the Servant's Hall, for a (hopefully) wonderful evening of food, dancing, carols, and an appearance from Father Christmas. These children's parties are the stuff of local legend. Years ago, Sir Geoffrey's father arranged for reindeer to make an appearance at the party, to the delight of the children. Well, they weren't exactly reindeer: they were actually horses from the stables with little antlers fixed to them. I have never asked exactly how the antlers were fixed. I am assuming that they were lightly attached and resembled little ear warmers, but perhaps I do not wish to explore that avenue of inquiry. There will be no reindeer this year, but there is still much for me to do.

There. I've gone and done it. I've spent a full paragraph (in November no less!) discussing Christmas. Obviously the village shop front propaganda has got to me.

There is one shop that I must avoid in the future: the confectionary shop. It used to be run by old Mr Wilkins whose father worked on the Carstone Estate. Now his son has taken over. I cannot say anything bad about the junior Mr Wilkins' abilities as a shop keeper. I am sure he is very able. However if anybody is unfortunate enough to stray into the shop, they might as well write off the next hour as lost. I found myself entangled in a conversation from which I was unable to extricate myself. This always happens to me in there. I am never rescued either. Nobody else ever seems to go into the shop. I never hear from Mr Wilkins, while in full rhetorical flight: "Terribly sorry, Mr Fielding, do you mind if I pause here and attend to this customer?" It is as if Mr Wilkins waits for me. I am sure that when my back is turned he closes the shop so that his conversation cannot be interrupted.

An odd day so far. The weather seemed rather pleasant so I thought I'd have a chat with Mr Cromwell who was doing some work in the Boat House near the lake. As soon as I got near the lake the heavens opened and the wind started to howl. I got quite soaked and had to seek shelter in the Boat House. I stayed there for about ten minutes discussing cabbages and kings with Cromwell and found, upon leaving (the Heavens having halted their downpour) that I had got the side of my jacket quite filthy. Obviously one of the row boats was dirty and I had been (rather foolishly) leaning on it, while taking refuge from the wrath of Mother Nature. A quick change was necessary. Sir Geoffrey and Lady Carstone would not wish their butler to be anything less than perfectly attired. Although, perhaps Sir Geoffrey would not have noticed anyway. He has been given some medication for an ailment and he seems to be "away with the fairies." I encountered him on returning to the House and he greeted me with, what can only be described, as a giggle. He then mumbled something about cake. Lady Carstone explained all to me just five minutes ago.

I harbour a grave suspicion that the Hall Boy has been up all night watching the cricket. I specifically warned him not to do so. He looked awfully tired today and carried himself with a resigned air of weary despair. He obviously was not impressed with England's performance. Hopefully this will convince him to get a good night's sleep tonight instead.


Blogger UKBob said...

I think it's good that you have some shops in your village, even the post office has closed down here, all we have is a pub, the owner of which seems hell bent on sending that the same way as the shops by filling it with rogues and vagabonds from the nearest town.

5:48 pm  
Blogger Tea & Margaritas in My Garden said...

Christmas does seem to begin far too early here as well. As soon as the first of November arrives the stores and advertizing begin. I prefer to wait until the first week of December to begin feeling festive. Would dearly love to glimpse those pretty shops your way though.


11:14 pm  
Blogger Mr Fielding said...

Yes Bob, village life DOES seem to be under threat. The need to constantly visit the nearest town must be a dispiriting drain. We still have the post office here but rumours of its demise are always ominously circulating.

Absolutely Tea. I refuse to feel festive before December. The shops are very pretty. They have, to my great relief, gone for more traditional decorations. I have never understood the mania for tinsel, and, as for Silver or even Red Christmas trees......shudder.

11:46 am  

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