Sunday, November 30, 2008

It's a bit much.

We were having a quiet moring in the piazza, drinking coffee and reading the English papers whenb my Blackberry buzzed. 

Damn it. It's the weekend, and we are have a quiet break.

It's Fosdick from the bank. On a Sunday! Upshot of the message seems to be that the bank finds itself a little embrrassed by the current crisis and wants to borrow some money.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Fellows met us at the airport. The hotel was not up to standard so he went to see the Italian side of the family and arranged for us to stay there. We don't usually do this in case they decide to come back and stay with us...(and there's history there). So we found ourselves in a convoy of limousines with outriders approaching the Castillo. A guard of honour with flaming torches lined the rain-sodden red carpet as we went up the steps to meet cousin Silvio and his lovely wife Radiccio (striking red hair and a bitter sense of irony). We were shown to our suite and settled in. The room was about a hectare in size with marble floors, ornate frescoed ceilings, and a splendid rendition of the Adoration of the Magi on the wall.

The reason for the trip was an Uncle's brithday. The reason for the location was a family joke. Several great grandfathers back one of my ancestors made it to Firenze on his Grand Tour (hence the Italienate garden beyond the west terrace at home). He loved Firenze - the art, the gardens, the churches, the frescoes and the statuary. It was this last item that was his downfall, but more on that later. He stayed in Firenze for several months and had a fleeting liaison with the daughter of the noble house of Borgia-Berlusconi. All went well as long they kept their liaison secret, but when he became notorious after the incident, she spoke up for him - their friendship became public knowledge and he was run out of town not realising until years later that he had started a new branch of the family.

The incident? Yes. Well. 
I mentioned before that Firenze is famous for its statues. One in particular is known by everyone - the Venus de Milo. In a childish prank he tried to dance with the staue to impress his lover. The parts of the statue fell off and he panicked. That was it. The broken bits were brought home to England as a trophy and now reside in a room at home that we mischievously call the "arm"oury.

Friday, November 28, 2008

You may find this hard to believe, but did you know that you cannot order quail's eggs in aspic followed by Crepes Suzette on these flights. In truth our requests fell on deaf ears and we were given a rather paltry choice - indeed less than I expect on cook's day off. I asked the airline servant if I could speak to the chef but he seemed affronted by the suggestion and tried to fob me off by saying they don't have an in-flight chef. Amazing.

I asked for a drink for the Memsahib and myself while we waited for what can only be described as chicken jerky. The servant put down a plastic tumbler, a microscopic bottle of gin and some tonic in a can. We sat there waiting for him to realise his error and replace the tumbler with lead crystal - in the end I had to call him back. He again fobbed me off and we had to make do with the plastic. Again we waited for the can and the bottle to be opened and poured (obviously any thought of a decent decanter was out of the question). In the end, gasping for a drink I helped the Memsahib (I've see Fellows and Clarence open cans when out shooting) and we settled back.

I will have to write a stiff letter to airline on my return, remonstrating with them regarding the standard of domestic staff they use on their flights and their lack of proper catering facilities. (Don't get me started on the nonsense over the red carpet).
Travel today lacks much of the glamour of the bygone era. I really don't enjoy it - it used to be limited to the well to do, now it appears that anyone who wishes can get a passport and board a plane. It used to be that people would dress to travel, now they appear to turn up in tracksuits, shorts or God knows what. You used to be able to wander in at the last minute, but now... ah well actually that hasn't changed for us, but I'm told that the great unwashed spend hours queueing before spending more time shopping before going to the boarding gate. (You really do have to question whether some of these people should be allowed to travel at all).

Gatwick Airport as you probably realise is built on what used to be Gatwick Racecourse - which is where the family, using one of the outlying farms on the estate, used to race their horses. Over the years we sold this off to BAA - this helped finance the purchase of a small island. These links mean that we have the advantage of using the VIP Suite which keeps us away from the masses of shell-suited riff-raff. Obviously when we board the plane we turn left, which again keeps us apart and allows a modicum of comfort for the journey.

Anyway, must go. Memsahib is ready and the journey must begin.

Being away again this weekend the box at Twickers will be used by the Windsor crowd. Nothing to dreadful happened last weekend (except for the score on the pitch) - so let's hope they behave again for the All Black's game. (During a replay of last weekend's game, I noticed young Windsor out in the crowd - ungrateful yob). 

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The thought of working again today was too much. I have decided to rest at home. The staff in Worcester can fend for themselves.

Clarence (mother would have called him a "sensitive" man) is wandering around like a lost sheep without Fellows to bark at. Fellows takes it all in good heart, but I suspect he is enjoying the break afforded by the drive across Europe.

Exposure to some of the staff has opened my eyes to a new world of gadgets and technology. It started with this computer, progressed to the mobile phone (which is both a phone, a music player - see earlier comment about "Sweet Home Alabama" - and is capable of linking to the interwebnet or something). My latest gadget has been a triumph. It is an automatic watch winder. I can now sit and watch the gadget wind my automatic self-winding watch without having to trouble my wrist to move. This is ideal for a lazy day such as this.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Well it was a nice day and it seemed churlish to hide at my club again so I decided to take the old jalopy for a spin up to the Midlands. Clarence was good enough to wake me early. dressed and ready I headed out into the dark winter morning. I was glad of the driving gloves and silk scarf as the gentle throbbing below turned into a roar as the old jalopy exploded out of the stable yard and started down the drive.

It was a good journey but I must have a word with cook regarding provisions. She had left me some apples but they were far too juicy and I ended up with pectin stains on my silk tie. If I'd been going anywhere important I'd have been livid. I phoned Clarence and told him to get me a replacement as I would obviously discard this tie at the earliest opportunity.

I checked up on staff matters in Worcester during the morning and then headed back home where a quiet soiree is planned.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

One of the things I have learnt as a result of the weekend is to trust my instincts.

I have decided that we should send the luggage on ahead. Fellows or even Clarence can drive it out to Italy and then we will neither have the irritation of check-in, the excess baggage fees, nor the frustration of missing bags on our return. Another idea is to travel light and just buy outfits once there, but there will be insufficient time for bespoke tailoring or couture in the agenda. So I have decided that Fellows will travel on ahead - and that way he can also check out the hotel for us before we arrive (we never stay with the Italian side of the family if we can help it).
Good news. The eight missing bags of Memsahib's luggage have been returned.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Back home. These foreign places are all very fine, but you cannot beat your own home. (Details of the trip to follow when all of the paperwork is done - excess baggage etc.)

Decided to head for the club today. Must say the weather is a bit brisk!
This credit crunch is becoming a bit of a bore. I have had Gordon and Alastair on the phone looking for ideas about what they should do. Apparently standards in public life are such that resignation or a locked room with a bottle of whiskey and a Webley are no longer an option.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I will spend some time at my club today whilst preparations are made at home.

We will be away at the weekend (but more on that later) and Clarence (the Butler) will start today selecting suitable outfits and packing for us. This is one of the few times that normally unflappable Clarence gets flustered - never quite sure what the weather might be doing - and worried that the traditions and mores of the location may require some different approach to that with which he is familiar. It is never good to be around when Clarence is flustered, so the family leaves him to it and steers well clear.

Being away this weekend has meant that I was able to pass on use of my box at Twickers to some minor Royals. I do hope they behave - last time they used our box we had to replace all of the crystal, restock the refrigerators and have it redecorated to cover all the graffiti - "Dads got big ears", "Chelsy for the Cup", "Kate loves Will's Chopper" and so forth.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It was strange to witness the denizens of these West Midland towns as they meet up after they have finished whatever they do during the day. I saw young women out alone with young men (no chaperones); I saw young men who had evidently not bothered to change from their work clothes; I saw one club that required large security men (reminded me a bit of my Sikh batman) to control access; and I saw public houses with rowdy crowds, and staggering patrons.

The occasion - saying farewell to the trusty retainer - went on well into the late evening. It had been decided that we would use an Indian restaurant of some notoriety. I was appalled to realise that I was expected to serve myself (after all, it's not breakfast - where cook leaves the various choices on the sideboard for selection). It was astonishing how many people turned up and evident that said retainer had become quite well known during the time he's been with me.

We moved on to one of the local hostelries, and then moved on again to another. This last stop was a rowdy affair, and had several of my other staff not been present I might have feared for my safety among such rabble.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Spending as much time as I do in Worcester, I have obviously had to get local staff. This week one of my most trusted and educated retainers will be leaving to pursue some futile existence in the fens. After such stirling service for the past two years, it is only right that I wish him farewell in a manner that is appropriate to such staff. To this end we will be hosting a meal this evening at a restaurant of his choosing (heavens knows where or what this will involve) and then progress to a public house to wish him bon voyage.

I do hope that things remain seemly, though I might have a quiet word with the Chief Constable to makes sure we have no unfortunate surprises.
After the debacle that was the heron I decided that real food was required. So last night I gathered several of the congenial, presentable, and well-behaved members of staff and took them to Worcester's finest restuarant (it's such a drag eating by oneself).

The Maitr d' was polite enough not to ask what I was doing with such a rag-tag band, but the look of pity (or was it embarrassment) was clear.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Well that's the last time we'll eat heron. Very strange flavour. Mixture of muddy and fishy (much worse than the swan). Not much meat on the legs either (reminds me of one of the maids).

Took a lot of port to wash away the taste.

Monday, November 17, 2008



Aaarrrggghhh! I'm hungry and dinner isn't ready. How long can it take to pluck, gut and cook a heron for gods sake.  Cheesy comestibles and a glass of port until dinner arrives please Fellows, and make it quick!

After the weekend I decided a quiet day at the club was called for. The soothing sight of the mighty Thames flowing by would ease the brain back into gear.

Making my way to town is a bit of pain nowadays. In the old days, we had our own signal and halt on the railway line and the trains would stop for us (Great Great Grandfather negotiated this as part of the sale of some land to the railway in the mid 1800s). Now I have to drive (or be driven) to a public railway station and travel with the great unwashed. I did approach the railway company and request my own carriage and buffet, but they were disinclined to oblige.


Heard a terrible kerfuffle outside the orangery last night from the direction of the ornamental ponds and gardens. Told Osborne to check the grounds. Jeeves and Wooster went with him, tails wagging. Osbourne reports something had been at the koi.

Before dawn this morning Osborne had erected the hide, and I found myself and Purdey waiting for the thief. Just as dawn broke the bally heron landed amongst the lillies and bold as brass plucked another from the pond.

Blam, Blam, good shot, what ooh! 

Osbourne fished the bugger out and took it straight to Dawkins. As I took off the Barbour and put Purdey away, I heard Dawkins in the kitchen..."more Game" she said to Osbourne, "I bet this will be almost as good as the swan we had last week... "

I can taste dinner already!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Damn that John Logie Baird.

The Memsahib has been watching some television programme called Strictly Come Dancing. As a result she has asked the staff to lift the carpet in the old ballroom. I fear that this will not end well. Young Arabella and Persephone have been whispering a lot and breaking into fits of the giggles when I have approached and I have even seen one of the maids sewing sequins onto one of my old dress shirts. Boarding school may be a suitable way ahead for the girls, and I suppose I could alsways sack the maid... but the Memsahib is another kettle of fish (the old trout).

I am very sure this will not end well.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bloody hell - the convicts we transported all those years ago came back to Twickers and gave our brave lads a bit of a slap.
Weekends tend to be interrupted by the realities of owning a large estate. There is always something that needs to be checked, mended, replaced or installed. 

During the summer many of these jobs get pushed to one side by social commitments (the local paper still insists on mentioning the incident during the weekend croquet tournament - it was unfortunate, but hardly our fault; and there's no reason to believe that the Duchess will not make a full recovery given time. The surgeon did manage to recover the ball, the mallet and the hoop and return them in time for the next weekend's game).

This weekend I have had to get Osbourne to look at the electric gates. They are very good, and open promptly when the old jalopy approaches, or when at a visitor's behest we press the button from the house. They do tend to snap shut however, and this morning Persephone was upset by the sight of a neighbour's (one of the staff I think) pet cat bisected by the alacrity of the closing mechanism. Shame it wasn't their rabbit - she could have given it to cook for the domestic staff's supper. Osbourne assures me that some febrile nobodys called the Health and Safety Executive would not approve and agreed to adjust the counterbalance and fit a failsafe sensor (seems to me the dead cat serves that purpose). 

Friday, November 14, 2008

Being Friday I headed for my Club in town.

I like Fridays at the Club, I can sit there with like-minded people, gazing down at the Thames as it sweeps by, reading The Times, and drinking fine coffee. Then after luncheon, and maybe a glass of port, I settle back in my chair and perhaps take a quiet nap before heading back to the Memsahib and the heirs for a weekend on looking after the estate.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Her Majesty, God Bless Her, has interesting challenges from her offspring. It is in this spirit that I take heart. If Her Majesty can continue despite such challenges, so can I. At least I don't have to worry about the heirs talking to trees, ignorant of science, or wedded to their damned horses.

I have never understood the allure of long hair on men. It would appear that Tarquin has a different view and that this is now in vogue as a way of contrasting with my own follicly sparse scalp. I'm sure that I am not the first to undergo this hirsute contrast, but at present feel that the family allocation of hair follicles is unevenly balanced.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I went along to a public house frequented by the staff - I was trying to stem any gossip that may spread the identity of this journal. How strange the life of this underclass - with their beer, their flippant approach to life, and peculiar camaraderie.

I tried to blend into the background, but obviously that is not so easy when one is so well known and so highly regarded.

It appears that this journal has been discovered by some of my staff and labourers.

I saw one of the more educated fellows reading an earlier entry. To be fair, he was following the lines with his finger across the computer screen and mouthing the words (with some evident difficulty). I have no doubt he will discuss this with some of the rougher elements when they meet in some pub or other. I must consider a greater degree of circumspection.
One of the disadvantages of taking employment is that they have many formal processes that have to be followed.

When we just ran the estate, the farm managers would take care of the labourers and so forth. Now I find that I have to waste my precious time with such trivia as assessing the labourers and staff who take leadership, direction and inspiration from me. This can be onerous and I found myself looking for new epithets and descriptions that may adequately describe their performance. Some phrases that I found myself using included: Delusions of adequacy; wretched; poorly dressed; inarticulate; oaf; execrable choice of car; and bemused. (You have to understand that many of these people probably went to secondary modern or comprehensive schools and as such are making the best they can of life - but are obviously of limited intellect).

Monday, November 10, 2008


Unusually, feeling a tad guilty about ranting at Fellows.

Was on a promise with "the Memsahib" last night but fear too much "stocktaking" in the cellars may have left the  auld trouser monster ( or Python Lee Jackson, as the Memsahib likes to call him)  somewhat less attentive than she would have wanted.

Shall have to keep an eye on her, as it seems we have employed a new stable lad today. I certainly hadn't approved that addition to staffing!

Tree fall.

Blasted weather is causing havoc with the estate. Fellows came in like a drowned rat this morning, complaining that the severe gale last night has damaged the thatch on the stable roof. He said he was out in the "bloody rain" for hours last night trying to resolve the problem, which he seems to have done. However now he says I wont be able to drive the old Jalopy out of the main gates as there is a tree down over the drive… What does he expect?  Me to move it myself??  Good god man, get cook and an chainsaw and get it moved! And he's dripped all over the parque in the entrance.  Bloody riff raff.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

As I continue into the second day of my inventory - plagued by the mouth-watering smells emanating from the kitchens as cook prepares luncheon - I reflect on a drink that I have heard my technical chaps mention, but never really been interested enough to question though must say that it sound intriguing. I often hear them talking about USB Port. Now I've spoken to a friendly sommelier, and also my normal importer, but neither of them has come across this label.

Was pleased to see I had two barrels more than expected of the '96

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Taking advantage of the weekend lull and appalling weather I decided to retreat to the Wine Cellar and begin my annual inventory. It is nothing too grand any more, as I'm down to my last few hundred barrels and cases though some do date back to Grandfather's time. Beneath the north range and hidden from prying eyes the vaulted chambers stretch beyond the witness of electric light (installed by Pater so he could find the Montrachet).

It occurred to me that rooms the Cardinals Hat Public House (an hostelry to which I was introduced by my staff one evening a year or so back) reminds me of the cellar's chambers or is that just because it specializes in Austrian beer - and could not really be used to hide relatives for years on end.

Enough day dreaming, there are bottles to count and turn. A task that I do not shirk, nor delegate to Fellows or the Butler though the latter does have a key, but is under continual surveillance once in the cellar by hidden CCTV cameras. I suspect this will take the rest of the day and much of tomorrow.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Dropping into and onto the Whitehouse

Continuing my notes on the infrastructure and lodgings in the Worcester area, I should mention that although Worcester is not served well by hotels at all - for example, I have found none with in-house masseurs or helipads - however I should let concerned readers know that my regular lodgings are at least acceptable at the local hotel the Worcester Whitehouse. Though rooms are tremendously pokey (it's not really possible to play tennis or rugger in the rooms - have tried, broke a lamp!), and there are only standard sized double beds (one likes to have room to sprawl at night), it at least has a certain pretension to grandeur about it (relative to the general disposition of the town, clearly!) including but not limited to a winding staircase in the centre of the building. A reasonable selection of whiskeys can be had, including with breakfast, and the bar staff are fairly well spoken and suitably deferential. There is a gymnasium and a paddling pool (they have the audacity to call it a swimming pool, but for a man of my broad shoulders, it is but a mere stroke from one end to the other), however the gym is lacking the Indian clubs which I am very fond of when exercising in my hereditary long johns at home.

I realised just after the historic victory of Senator - now President Elect - Obama this week, the not insubstantial irony of my own arrival at this particular, parochial Whitehouse whilst he must be preparing to install himself, his family, and by all accounts a new puppy, at the real Whitehouse!

I realised I should have spotted the portents of his success in advance. Let me explain ... In the car park of the Worcester Whitehouse I am sad to report the PoshMobile is often blighted by the outputs from passing seagulls, who appear to use my vehicle alone as target practice. The windscreen and bonnet is often plastered with their sticky oomska and it takes not inconsiderable efforts on behalf of the staff to clean it off satisfactorily. Suddenly it struck me (the idea, not the seagull droppings, I hasten to add)! All the time I have been lying awake listening to these clamouring birds, clearly lost and far from their homes by the sea, and even as they deposit in great quantities onto my paintwork, they have been issuing the clarion call of the Obama campaign:

"Yess we caaaaaaaaaaan! Yes we caaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!"

* * *

Thursday, November 6, 2008

It has been a busy day, leaving me few opportunities to consider the wider aspects of life such as what must it be like to live in the Midlands? where do their domestic staff live? where do these people keep their horses? or ride them? As I look around Worcester I detect very few, if any, houses with stables, or a paddock. They seem to get by, however.

On a more parochial level I have also been asking myself whether I need to upbraid my immediate staff who consistently fail to dress for dinner when we meet in the evening? Though Mother would probably question whether I should really be mixing with the staff at all?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

As I drove up to Worcester this morning I had time to reflect on the US Election of Barack Obama as the new President and what a change this may make. Of course it is a matter of record that his father came from Kenya. I often wonder if he was on one of our family plantations and whether I met him when visiting as a child during one of Pater's inspection trips.

I also observed that it always seems strange driving through Warwickshire, knowing that most of the county was family land until the mid 1800s. (Indeed, our Grinling Gibbons armoire came from the Castle).

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Well it can be annoying how things work out.

I had planned to visit Worcester, but yesterday the heirs were playing badminton in the Long Gallery and one of them (they won't admit who) hit one of the chandeliers. Several of the crystal droplets were shattered, and the Memsahib was a bit flustered.

I decided to stay put in order to oversee the ordering of correct replacements from Swarovski. It was also necessary to have words with Nanny: the children should not be playing racquet sports in the Long Gallery. The real tennis or squash courts can be used if they must play.

Monday, November 3, 2008

What a performance

Must visit the "customer" this week - bit of a nuisance, but then I suppose it provides some relief from constant administrations of the 'trouble and strife' (I learnt that little piece of argot from a training weekend in the East End; salt of the earth, the lot of them. Apparently they even have a regular TV series just about their lives. I imagine it's the kind of thing watched below stairs.)

Where was I? Ah yes - bit of a fracas currently - something do with the "performance" of the "system" we have put in for them. Apparently some people are having to wait longer than they expected for results - I can understand their frustrations, having had to wait over 3 minutes for crumpets and port the other evening in the library. In any case, I have asked a few of the technical wonks (odd chaps - more to follow) to look into it all and see if the nobs and cogs of said system cannot be more thoroughly oiled and lubricated. Surely it can't take much more than that.

Besides, I cannot understand this never-ending yearning for speed in the modern world. What happened to just letting life's events unfurl in a natural and orderly fashion? I see too many young turks rushing hither and thither, all of a pother. They are understandably trying hard to impress me and others of my seniority and standing, but I ask you, when did you ever see Winston Churchill break into a sweat? Precisely.

As an example - as I drive the jalopy in a Worcesterly direction this week, I will never be exceeding 70 mph. (I have to confess, by the way, it's a bit of a nuisance having to drive myself at these times, and in such a small car; but I have made a deliberate decision not to take one of the proper cars to work as it might just been seen as too damned ostentatious. In my position, perception is everything, so I with great restraint I limit myself to this rather compact Jaguar number. Quite nice inside I suppose, but nowhere to really put your feet up. It is therefore with substantial irony I refer to it as the "PoshMobile"!) More haste, less speed, I say. Ghandi said "There is more to life than simply increasing its speed." Scientists tell us that the fastest animal on earth, with a top speed of 120 feet per second, is a cow that has been dropped out of a helicopter. If I was going any faster in the PoshMobile, I wouldn't be able to spot them coming and steer carefully out of the way, would I? I rest my case.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Of Fine Music, Leather and Cocktails

I must say that I rather like live music. This is how I got caught up in the moment and ended up singing at an open mike night in some bar in the back streets of Worcester. Now I find that I am rather hooked on the legendary local "Cardinal Sin and the Bum Notes"... and always join in during their rendition of "Sweet Home Alabama". This may seem a little anachronistic until you realise that the city of Montgomery Alabama was named after one of the ancestors so I've always had an affinity for it. In fact, it also features as the ring tone on my mobile phone.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, live music. The Memsahib, Lady Hermione, had decided that we should have a family evening listening to some music as I had been out the previous evening and Tarquin and the girls should see more of their father. After cook had cleared away from dinner we retired to the drawing room where a fine string quartet played a selection of Bach, Handel, Elgar, Manilow, E.L.O. and Winehouse. A most satisfactory evening.

Took a stroll down to the stable block earlier - weather hasn't been conducive to a run on the motorcycle but nevertheless I dressed in the full leathers over the underlying silk and sat astride the beast for a while, imagining the sinuous curves of the country lanes and seductive views of rivers, lakes and towns as I sped by. Persephone interrupted my reverie as she clattered back onto the cobbles and leapt from her steaming mount. She enjoys nothing more than a canter round the estate.

Must go. Neighbours are starting to arrive for cocktails before lunch.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Bit of thick head this morning after yesterday's rugger. Met up with several chums to watch the game, may have over-dosed slightly from the hip flask. Good job we were using Farting Freddy's chopper for the trip, the boys in blue may not have been too impressed if we were in the car.

Game was a rum affair. The magnificent Bath were trounced in the Quarter finals of the Cup by the riff-raff from Cardiff (should never have let them out of the mines, in my opinion). Rather put a damper on the planned celebrations (a de-bagging contest - two teams heading back to the chopper had to gather as many pairs of trousers as they could - loser pays for dinner at Groucho's next Saturday; convinced we'd win, had told Memsahib I was having A Night at the Opera). Bath having lost, we abandoned the contest and flew straight back to Surrey. The neighbours always complain if the chopper lands late at night, so that added to the fun.