Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I am told that the theme for tonight's extravaganza is "Fire and Ice" and the Memsahib has selected an outfit that I must wear. She will of course be the star of the show as the Ice Queen, but I have to counter this with a smoking hot performance in a caped dinner jacket with "flame" inserts. The girls, Persephone and Arabella, will dress as Ice Princesses and Tarquin has a devilish outfit that emits dry ice from under a cape and at the bottom of the trousers.

Fellows is overseeing the placement of the torches that will line the driveway and the artists have already begun carving the huge blocks of ice. Extra staff have started to arrive to help with the preparations. Just had the Chief Fire Officer arrive to do his checks - or should I say, collect his case of wine - but we have the "all clear" now that I have promised to have our Estate Fire Engine brought up closer to the proceedings tonight.

Nobody has any inking of the "special" fireworks I have arranged... and that will remain a secret to the end. (But should help with the remodelling I have planned for one of the lower fields).

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The preparations for the New Year's Eve masked ball are well in hand. I am staying well out of the way, leaving the Memsahib to deal with the staff and and Clarence and Fellows to deal with the tradesmen who are constantly coming and going, delivering this or that. The weather forecast is for a bitterly cold evening - so that should keep the various ice sculptures going for longer and perhaps prevent the problem we had last year when a rapid thaw turned Michealangelo's David into Davina and the Duchess was somewhat surprised by the shape of the ice cube in her g & t !

Monday, December 29, 2008

I've decided to spend the day at the Club. Trains are pretty empty so I had the First Class carriage to myself. The Club is pretty quiet - a few of die-hards using it to escape their family for the day, a few stopping off for a rest whilst escorting their young fillies to the Sales, and a few beavering away at some end-of-year accounting.

The children are getting bored with the ice rink so I've told Fellows to have it removed. The chappies from the Christmas Organiser should be back for the next few days setting up the fireworks for New Year's Eve. (I was asked to tone them down this year as they over-shadowed the display along the Thames - stuff and nonsense, damned if I'll kow-tow to these media types and PR men. In fact I've got some special surprises this year courtesy of Drummond - Thank goodness he's still in the Regiment and has access to "equipment").

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Though cold, the weather seems bright and settled. I've summoned Osborne and told him to bring the Range Rover up to the house. I think we'll do a circuit of the grounds and make note of any maintenance that's needed. The Hunt went through on Boxing Day and whilst they tend to be very good - some damage is inevitable. Obviously we don't allow them near the deer park, but they can use much of the rest of the property to chase saboteurs or whatever. (I don't participate, myself. I prefer watching the rugger).

Cook has prepared us a hamper so that we can stop for lunch, but we will need to get off pretty soon if we intend to be back before dark.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The staff are beginning to trickle back to the house. (I think one day is enough for them to see their families). 

I enjoy Christmas dinner, but actually enjoy even more cook's imaginative use of the left-overs. The meat will, no doubt, find its way into various curries, soups, sandwiches, pies and pastas. The Christmas pudding - so nearly our downfall this year - will be sliced and crumbed into cook's amazing home made soft ice cream. (The problem with Christmas pudding is the tradition of setting it alight. I hadn't realised that cook had poured brandy on it, so I poured another half bottle of brandy over the pudding. As I struck a match the vapours caught fire and pillar of flame shot to the ceiling. My look of surprise is probably what preserved my eyebrows, fortunately Clarence was on hand and still sober enough to grab a fire extinguisher and dowse the inferno in CO2... leaving it smouldering but edible. In the new year I will have to get Fellows to sort out the scorch marks on the ceiling frescoes.)

Friday, December 26, 2008

The house is running on skeleton staff this morning. Having let many of them return to their families for a day or two we are having to make do. 

Dawkins had obviously hit the sherry last night as she's looking a particularly doddery this morning and grabs at her head every time a door slams. Breakfast is laid out on the sideboard and may be the cause of her evident queasiness. Today we have a choice of porridge, omelettes, kedgeree, kidneys, mushrooms, fried bread (in goose grease), sauteed potatoes, bacon and sausages from hand-reared pork from the Home Farm, lashings of hot coffee and tea from one of our plantation in Assam.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The turkey is of such a size that Dawkins had to rise in the early hours to start the ovens, stuff the turkey, and start the gentle roasting process. I am, of course, not interested in this as such - but was pleased to be greeted by the gentle smells wafting from the kitchens as the staff go about the duties this morning. Once Christmas lunch is cleared away we give the staff their gifts and then allow most of them to have a short break with their families, but for now they have a busy morning ahead.

Persephone and Arabella are hunting their presents, Tarquin has not yet emerged. The Memsahib is directing activities. Mater has arrived and at some point I'm sure that I will speak to my brothers (one is in trade, you know - the other a gentleman scientist somewhere in the Pacific). 

Once things have settled we will start the family presents. We will all gather in the drawing room and I will hand Clarence the key to the store rooms. The staff will then create a procession of the gifts as they bring one after another to the family - hand them over and then back out of the room. What fun we have.

Happy Christmas to you all.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Trouble with the post

Trouble with the post

I've come over all "Victor Meldrew"….I don't bloody believe it. We waited until 8 o'clock last night ( well fellows and Dawkins did) and the hampers from Fortnum's failed to make an appearance. This sort of lack of customer focus is precisely why the country is going to ruin.

As soon as they opened this morning I asked Clarence to call the distribution department for me so I could give them a piece of my mind, and in the process perhaps teach them some valuable customer care lessons. I had barely spoken to the oik on the end of the phone before he launched into a tirade of abuse.  Before matters really took a turn for worse, I pointed out that its customers like me, that pay his wages and he should therefore show a little defference. Strangely he immediately put the phone down.

No matter, his marketting manager frequents my London club, and so I have made a call to him to ensure sufficient reprimand will be administered. Hampers promised for delivery before 11.00 this morning.( heavily discounted of course… )

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I know its early but Fellows has just called to say the turkey has arrived. Old man Tomlinson has made the effort to deliver it himself, God knows we deserve personal service having supported the butchers for so long. I remember when Grandfather told us about when he had the property seized, after the original Mr Tomlison was caught poaching Venison in the lower hundred. I'll never understand what they did, and for whom, to be presented with it back after the War.

Anyway Tomlinson arrived in his little van and it took two of them to carry the bird into the kitchen where Dawkins was waiting. I'm not sure whether this was actually a turkey or a small ostrich it was that big! By the time Dawkins had removed the giblets, which I generously allow her and fellows to share as a bit of a treat (what was known as humble pie in years gone by), it was nearly lunchtime. Tomlinson was rubbing the breasts, and thighs with butter (the turkey not Dawkins!) ready to cover it in some of the farm bacon. Completely ready the bird (again not Dawkins) was then placed carefully in the walk in cold room.

The venison and goose are already prepared and so its just the final ceremonial dousing of the pud to be completed before we are actually ready for the big day. That and inserting the proverbial sixpence are the only real manual labour I have to do for this Christmas lark, which is good considering the amount it seems to cost me.

That reminds me, Fortnum and Masons are delivering the hampers with all of the trimmings this afternoon.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I returned to the stable block before leaving for my club. I wanted to make it clear to Osborne that he was in charge of the clean-up after yesterday's events. He was moping around  - claiming still to be sore from the incident with the gang-mower and the peacock. You can't give in to emotional blackmail. I told him to pull himself together and get on with it.

Fellows dropped me at the nearby railway station and I joined the tired, the flatulent, and the hung-over on the brief Monday morning journey to London. (Why do people insist on blowing out on curry on a Sunday night and then sharing the experience on the train the following morning? I must, again, impress upn the railway company that I would like my own coach re-instated rather than continuing to share these journeys with such uncouth travellers).

The club was quiet. I suppose many members have returned to the country for a Christmas break or gone abroad. It does mean that the gentle drone of snoring, the sibilance of whispered conversation, the creaking of leather as the members adjust their position, and distant tappity-tap of secretaries and their computers is much reduced and affords a more relaxed atmosphere.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Well that was nice. Villagers had been arriving throughout the afternoon, knocking on the door to pay their respects and then head off down to the stable yard for the soiree at the ice rink. Some had even brought presents for the Memsahib and the children. Good sorts really, and many of them have been associated with the family for generations.

The St John's Ambulance had set up a tent for the inevtiable sprains and breaks that would occur - but we asked each villager to sign a disclaimer before entering the stable block.

Cook had laid on a good table. Even Tarquin had helped. He had declared that the Christmas theme demanded something special for the children of the village, and headed off down to the deer park first thing this morning. I had assumed he was going get a couple of 5-pointer stags to pull a wheeled sleigh. Actually he shot a couple of roe deer and spent the afternoon making what he called "Rudulph burgers" with minced venison and chilli patties in a bun with a cherry tomato on a coctail stick attached to the front. (The chilli was apparently to represent the heat of re-entry as Rudolf screamed across the skies). There were mince pies, plum puddings, and lashings of cream. A huge basin of mulled wine filled the air with a rich aroma of cloves, cinnamon and grape, and in the corner a grubby looking beggar was roasting chestnuts.

Villagers slipped and skidded across the ice, whooping with delight or screaming in pain depending on whether they were observing or feeling the crunch of bone against ice. How they enjoyed themselves! When the table was finally revealed the ice was forgotten and they fell ravenously upon the fare. For some, I suppose, it may be one of the few opportunities they will get to eat venison or drinke wine (however rough) this week.

At the end of the evening I made my customary brief speech, thanking them for all of their help throughout the year and wishing them a Happy Christmas... and when I had finished (some 55 minutes later) the local Constable led three hearty cheers for the family. I was so proud that even after all this time these traditions can be carried on (with little or no coercion).

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I think Osborne has been on the bottle. He was meant to be towing the gang mower to tidy up the pastures that we can see from the house. One minute he was there. The next minute he'd swerved to avoid one of the peacocks and disappeared into the ha-ha. Feathers everywhere!  

Must admit it did make us chuckle, particularly when Fellows went to help - I mean he's well-meaning but pretty useless. 

Good job it's a ha-ha and not a moat really.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I went to my Club in London. It gave me an opportunity to catch up with some fellow gentlemen of means and pop in to some Government departments to offer them advice and guidance whilst I was nearby.

I had thought of going to the country for the weekend but decided that it would be tiresome to fight my way through the traffic that infests the roads. With the ice rink now installed and operational in the stable block I think it will probably be a quiet family weekend at home, though I might suggest to the Memsahib that we invite the village to join us on Sunday evening. (I do try to remember my duties, even though we no longer operate a feudal system; we could probably hand out some mince pies and mulled wine - it will help get rid of some the rough stuff and free up some room in the cellars).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Yesterday evening I thought that I'd have a quiet dinner in a Worcester restuarant. It didn't work out as I had planned. A number of my workers turned up (they had obviously been saving up to have a special night out) and seeing me in the corner asked if they could sit with me. It would have been churlish to refuse as some of them are very dedicated and look up to me as their inspiration and leader. I must say that their table manners can leave a lot to be desired. Clarence would have been horrified, but I decided to maintain my beneficent demeanour and make no comment.

On leaving the restaurant I went to the infamous "Cardinal's Hat". This public house has developed a degree of notoriety for both its hospitality and its occasional live music. This was one such music night and the house band put on a fine show, collecting money for charity. Over all, it was a fine night - and I'm sure that the lingering smells of the great unwashed will be eradicated by Clarence (otherwise I'll tell him to burn the clothes I was wearing). 

I must say, if the family saw me with these ruffians they would be shocked and I'm sure the Memsahib would have an attack of the vapours. Deep down, however, they are the salt of the earth and I quite enjoy these evenings.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Memsahib phoned. Apparently the logistics man from the store in Knightsbridge had been on the phone to check we were able to accept delivery of the gifts we had ordered. She's done a splendid job and arranged to bring in help from the village to unload the vehicles. Tarquin will also be in attendance - but probably only keeping an eye on some of the young fillies.

Because of their size, several of the local roads have been closed to allow the fleet of lorries to get through unimpeded. At least it will all be done without my attendance.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It all becomes clear now.

The man from the CAA phoned back. He asked if I was the owner of the laser display and I proudly said that I was. He had been receiving complaints from pilots bound for Heathrow and Gatwick who had been startled by the presence of a reindeer and a sleigh appearing alongside their aircraft. He asked if the display could be turned off or at least reduced in intensity. Feeling cheerful this morning, I agreed.

I phoned Fellows and instructed him to call the Christmas Organiser and tell him to tune down the lasers. (I suppose this is why you put them under test - to discover any minor problems they may cause). It was at this point that Fellows pointed out that the edge of this morning's metal object was not frayed at all but crisply cut, and could the lasers have actually caught a wing tip? Pondering this I told him to bury the object and not tell a soul.
It seems we may have a small problem. As I tried to leave this morning I found part of the drive blocked by what I can only describe as a huge shiny metal object. I could not be bothered to investigate further, so drove round it and phoned Fellows to deal with it.

Fellows phoned back whilst I was still driving through Warwickshire. He had enlisted the help of Osbourne and they had shifted the object. It appeared to be part of an aircraft. Puzzling!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The phone rang and Clarence informed me that "a gentlemen from the CAA" wished to speak with me. I was not in a mood for officialdom, so told Clarence to take a message, and arrange for the chap to call me back tomorrow.
As I returned home from the Club I could see lights carving shapes in the night sky. It is clear that the Christmas Organiser and his team have been busy.

The tree is now in pride of place on the terrace. The house is decorated, and the lights are under test. He explained that traditional tree lights were "infra dig" and that we should do something more adventurous by decorating the tree with a new type of light and then illuminating the area further with lasers. As I write the lasers are displaying a reindeer and sleigh moving across the overcast sky.

I'm not sure about all this but I'm sure that Persephone and Arabella will be delighted.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I really don't understand why people make so much fuss about Christmas shopping. The evening news show vast throngs of the great unwashed filling the pavements as they rush frantically from one shop to the next. The Memsahib and the girls like shopping, and I too enjoy selecting suitable gifts. Young Tarquin is less enthused, but shows flashes of interest when suitable gifts are in view.

With this in mind we did some of our Christmas shopping today. That nice Mr Fathead from a certain store in Knightsbridge came to the house with a computerised catalogues from which we could select suitable gifts. He waited respectfully below stairs (where cook was selecting Christmas fare with the gentleman from Fortnum and Mason's). The whole process was very civilised, and the chosen gifts will be wrapped and delivered in several vans bearing the shop's livery, to the house during the week. I really don't understand why everyone doesn't do this.

The Christmas tree has been delayed, so the festive decorations are not as yet decking the halls. The tree has arrived from Norway, but is currently stuck under a bridge, on the way from the docks. The Suffolk Police (it was offloaded in Felixstowe - they wanted to dock in Harwich, but I really didn't want the tree to be in Essex any longer than necessary) assure me it will be clear and on its way by morning. I had to delay the Christmas Organiser who will oversee the placement of the tree on the terrace, and the subsequent dressing of the tree and the house. (Dungeness B has been warned of the extra supply that we will need - the last thing we want is to black out the county as we did last year - though it did prove a great cause of amusement at the time).

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Weather was a bit rum today. Shame really, I'd planned a shooting party.

The beaters were all arranged, the guns prepared, the hampers loaded. The weather was so foul that Memsahib said that it was unfair on the staff to expect them to go out in such conditions and the wind would make it impossible to hit the birds, so it would be a waste. She made sense - particularly after the problems at the hatchery earlier in the year.

I paid off the beaters with a few shillings and sent them home. There were mutterings of discontent, but I certainly wasn't going to pay them for not beating!

Gussie, Quentin, Kipper and the chums came to the house and we broke open the hampers early and scoffed our way through cook's goodies and several fine bottles of port. (That reminds me, I still haven't found any of the USB Port).

Friday, December 12, 2008

I was inspired by the sight of Somerset House (reminds me of our stable block) and how during the winter festivities they turn part of the courtyard over to an ice rink. Like her Britannic Majesty, I too have some German heritage and in winter feel a visceral urge to go to ski or skate or have a snow fair.

I have been thinking about having an artificial ice rink installed. At first the dilemma was where it should go - the East terrace? the South terrace? but we still have the tree to consider.

I have decided to follow the Somerset House model and install the rink in one corner of the stable yeard (away from the where the cars are kept). Hopefully this will prove great fun over the next few weeks. I shall have cook set up a second kitchen so that Clarence or Fellows can provide mulled wine and small cooked snacks. It will be nice to see Arabella, Persephone and the Memsahib doing their spirals, Salchows, toe loops, Lutz and Axels in their slinky outfits.

Closer to Christmas we'll host an evening for the local villagers (note, I'll have to find someone to roast chestnuts on an open brazier - I might have to send Fellows down to the east End of London to find someone suitable). The choir from the cathedral can provide carols (the Bishop owes me a favour due to my ongoing silence regarding a certain indiscretion).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Last night I witnessed a strange event. Stuck in Worcester I spent some time exercising - I should explain once more that my preferred exercise is with Indian clubs in the privacy of home, but here I tend to resort to running. Indeed rather than chance being accosted by the working classes I do not run in the streets or byeways, but rather in what the hotel laughingly calls a gymnasium (most of our bathrooms at home are bigger than this) on a treadmill (which reminds me of the mills that the family once owned). No masseuse was available to give me a rub down after, so I showered and went out into the night.

I wandered in to a local pub and was immedeiately accosted by the friendly atmosphere and the peculiar smells. It became clear after a few minutes that in order eke out their meagre rations the working classes had pooled their food and decided to share it out amongst them. I had never seen anything quite like it and was choked by their kindness in inviting me to partake. It would have been rude to say no, so I picked at various offerings. Most were pastry covered comestibles filled with God knows what. One chap from North Britain kept muttering about neeps and tatties and plunging into one of the offering.

All in all a strange evening. It is interesting to see how the working classes spend their time (though it is probably best to observe from a distance!)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Financial Assistance

I have a problem with the jalopy. The filler cap won't open correctly. When this tankful is done I'll have to switch to another car. We've had several on order but have re-evaluated the options. The Memsahib agrees (not that it really mattered!) so we have cancelled both Maybachs and the Phantom, and have decided to bolster the Newport Pagnall (what a ridiculous place to build cars of such quality - surely the Home Counties would be more appropriate... and probably wouldn't have Union problems) economy by ordering 7 new Astons. We thought one in each colour of the rainbow, that would mean a new one to drive each day of the week!! How fantastic is that!

After all, Every Little Helps…. So I'm told!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I'm distraught. The news from Aston Martin is bad - 600 people in
danger of being laid off and the unions making threatening noises.

I like Aston Martins (there's probably one or two still in the stable
block) and I think I have one on order (or was that a Maserati)?

When I first heard of the possible lay-offs I did think of putting in
an offer, but now the Unions are involved they can forget it.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The cheek of it.

I have just been through the mail. We have started to receive Christmas Cards from the great and the good. In amongst them I found a card with an Italian postmark and and signed jointly by Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Ferragamo, and Gucci thanking the Memsahib for her custom and offering to open up again at any time she "and your lovely daughters" are in Florence. I wondered where they had disappeared off to whilst I was enjoying breakfast in the Castillo. I suspect that Fellows may have been transporting more items back than he did going out.

Friday, December 5, 2008

I was horrified to hear of the jewllery raid on my favoured Harry Winston in Paris. Fortunately, Fellows had stopped off on his route back from Italy with the luggage to pick up a little something that I had ordered for the Memsahib. It was a good job he wasn't stopped at customs - what with the "gift" from Harry Winston and several Boticelli's that I took a liking to in Florence.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

So the rumour is that the Bank of England will be lowering interest rates again. I'm glad that the loans I have made to my bank are secured with my own rates and are not tied to the Bank. Though I do expect they will try to renegotiate after the news is confirmed. They have about as much chance of success as Clarence has of playing rugger for England (though I'm sure he'd enyoy the opportunity, it may not be entirely an aspect of his sporting prowess).

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Trouble ahead..

Trouble ahead..

Having arrived back at the ranch, as they say ( stately pile I say….), I took the bath that Clarence had helpfully provided. Having not spared the horses in the Jalopy on the way down I found myself with an hour or two more than expected before joining the gang on the jolly to the gallery.

As I haven't ventured into the west wing for a while, since I caught the "Memsahib" messing with sequins in the ball room, in fact, I thought a tour of the outlying quarters was in order. Trouble started when yet again I heard girlish giggling coming from the said ball room. At first I thought it was just Arabella or Persephone high japing, but upon closer inspection I could clearly see the back of the Memsahib in a little black number.

Just as I thought , that bloody new stable lad, Raoul, from Argentina or Peru or somebloodywhere, was there, prancing around to the sound of the tango!

The blood coursed through my veins, and I span around on my heels and thought about fetching my Purdie and getting my avenge!!!!

On the way to the amoury, I had an change of heart and decided to calm down with a glass of pink gin and listened to Betty's speech on the wireless before dressing and attending to the important duties of enjoying ones self with chums. The Stable lad can wait…  

It was too nice today to spend much time in the office. The staff seemed to be working hard and didn't need a great deal of coercion. I made the most of this and headed back home. I have a busy evening planned and need plenty of time getting ready. (I phoned Clarence to remind him - my bath will be ready, and a selected outfit pressed and laid out for me).

This evening I have invited a few chums and some business contacts to come and meet me at the National Portrait Gallery for a viewing of some of the family paintings that we have out on loan. No doubt we will enjoy a few glasses of festive cheer (though I made it clear that the fineest stock from home could not be used, they may use some of the domestic stock).

This evening will also an opportunity to meet with some aspiring artists who have been asking if I'd sit for them. I will have to give in at some point as there is still a large space on the wall at the back of the mezzanine landing on the grand staircase at home where traditionally has hung the portrait of the master of the house. Since father moved on, the space has cried out to be filled.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Still in Worcester trying to get over the humiliation of yesterday. I went out with the client and my staff to a local restaurant. The occasion was a celebration of the achievements completed to date.

What had not been clear was the fact that I was expected to "participate". This went beyond the normal level of participation (i.e. paying the bill). This time I was expected to dress up and cook! I was up to my elbows in salad, pasta, pizza dough, and balsamic vinegar. I'll never get the stuff out from beneath my finger nails - in fact I have had to book a manicure.

I know that I try to connect with the common man - but sometimes I fear I go too far.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Clarence woke me early today in anticipation of another run up to the Midlands in the Jalopy. He had thoughtfully laid out the cashmere Gillet that matched the Cashmere jumper, and scarf. No chance of getting a tad chilly on the frosty run up to Worcester.

Clarence had also sent Fellows out to de ice the drive and gates, which was more to do with trying to annoy Fellows than necessity demanded

After a delicious breakfast of kedgeree and black coffee to keep out the cold, I entered the sumptuous warmth and luxury of the car…(Clarence again, I think he wants a day off, the bloody creep..) No staff, no family, just me and the open road. Turn up the "Steppenwolf" and hit the accelerator..and start to sing "Born to be Wild Rich".
I have always enjoyed life in one club or another. Some are little more circumspect than others, and I do like to maintain the privacy of myself and my family (it cuts down on the begging letters to start with).

I was a little concerned recently when this photo appeared in the press. Fortunately, whilst the apalling "photoshop" editing left tell tales of a certain person's presence - it was not enough to be identified.