Friday, 11 January 2013
I have fired the draught excluders, sacked the soup-blower and retained the toilet-seat heaters
It's that time of year when the Owl Towers household staff usually get ideas above its station (the estate has a separate station for the staff, it's about a mile further away down the hill and accommodates second-class carriages only).
There was some sort of sorry attempt at a coup durin' lunch. All of the usual warning signs were there of course.
The southern-fried quail drumsticks were served late and in chip-cones, not baskets. The lark tongues in aspic were arranged haphazardly and had set at incongruent angles. Some of the lollipop sticks hadn't been pushed into the frozen caviar rockets far enough, so they were a little bit wobbly to eat. The pheasant slushies were warm. Then came a vicious volley of breadbuns from behind the soup tureens, followed by a hail of live tomato-crowns-with-Primula-cheese from an improvised trebuchet hidden behind the salmon mousse, that sort of thing. Nothin' the diners' pith helmets couldn't handle.
Had to fire over their heads to disperse the revolting staff of course. Shot the under-butler in the buttocks with grape, sent the hounds to clear the stragglers back below stairs and horse-whipped the piano player (he lapsed into Le Marseillaise until he realised the coup would fail when he sashayed back into Drumsticks for two, Death or Glory and God Save the Queens, hopin' I wouldn't notice).
Honestly. In spite of the smell and the infestations, one does one's best to provide employment for these poor people and the unemployably-ugly or hard-of-thinkin' and this is the reward one gets. Insurrection. Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me.
Got ruddy indigestion now. Mind you, the Bakewell Pudding was pretty dreadful, even once we'd rolled Cook's cold lifeless body off it and added what we could find in the way of still-warm custard.
Since Trafalgar we've used the Newmarket-Cheltenham formula to work out the household staffing. Whatever remains of Grandmama's Civil List payment after the early meets at either Newmarket or Cheltenham gets sent to Cholmondeley-Buggers at the Department of Corrections. She then sends us whatever she can parole out for the money and my faithful h-h-h-h-handyman, Phisticuffs, beats them into shape for use around the house.
[Phisticuffs is a particularly useful cove; he also serves as the C-c-c-c-c-candyman.]
In addition to the Mrs Beeton household staff staples, we generally make do with the addition of fourteen draught excluders, a couple of dozen doorstops, six to ten domestic spider-catchers and a chap to blow on the soup at formal dinners. This past year we added automatic all-weather gates and garage doors, a human spit-dog and toilet-seat warmers in all of the guest wings.
Well, to be bwutally honest, after a couple of frosts you had to poke the automatic gates with a sharp stick to get them to work, and the toilet-seat warmers almost all tended to make conversation at inapropriate moments. Then, last October, there was the most dreadful punch-up between the doorstops and the draught excluders that resulted in some quite nasty scratches on the Jacobean oak panelling outside the Chinese Room.
Tryin' a new approach to staffing this year - having some of Honda's "robots" sent over for field trials along with a couple of lorry-loads of Durcell batteries and a small Javanese overseer. Might have been a Japanese overseer - we were still clearing the last of the redundant footmen out of the Billiards Room when the phone call came through and the sporadic gunfire made communications difficult, plus I was drinking coffee from a thermos.
That's that then. All-change this year for Owl Towers. It's goodnight and thanks for all the fish to the human radiator-thermostats and a ninja back-scratcher in the corner of every room, and hello to technologee whizz and the whirr of little robots. I'll let you know how we get on as the year progresses.
Nota bene - naturally, I have retained the human toilet seat-warmers since there's nothing, but nothing, that can achieve the perfect 98.6°Fahregezundheit better than a set of indentured peasant buttocks on piecework rates. The guests will just have to work around the conversation problem somehow until Honda adds a heated buttock option to their robots.
Boing boing wibble moo eh? Progress marches on, even when times are hard.