Monday, 2 October 2017

Harvest Memories


This is the time of year that evokes one of my dearest childhood memories – that of Cook permitting me to pop beribboned containers of homemade grouse paté into the bespoke hamper mother annually donated to The Home for Fallen Women and their Subsequently Disadvantaged Status. Harvest Festival has ranked highly in my affection ever since.

            Yet, as the seasonal celebration approaches, I am experiencing an unequivocal quandary. And one, in all probability, I am surely honour bound to resolve. For The Parish Church’s imminent service leads me to recall with acute dismay last autumn’s offerings which, frankly, were barely tolerable. Indeed, I recall remonstrating with the newly appointed Vicar, enlightening her of my sure knowledge that a number of local families had the ability, though clearly not the desire, to delve a little deeper into their larders, as well as their wallets.

So, determined as I am to ensure the debacle is not repeated, I will shortly indulge in a spot of casual canvassing in order to prompt a more acceptable level of generosity around the Parish. A tiresome task, encouraging donations, but nevertheless one I feel compelled to undertake.

            I mentioned my calling to the Vicar yesterday following her somewhat belated acceptance of my invitation to morning coffee. Though a demanding schedule precluded her from staying little more than eleven and a half minutes, I used the time effectively by airing my discord concerning her pulpit plea for non perishable goods. Surely, I implored, given the obvious need for vitamins amongst the deprived classes, more attention should be focussed on freshly edible offerings. Her politeness warranted praise though her doggedness in refusing to take on board my unquestionable familiarity with village life less so.

            I shall, therefore, plough my own field this year as I have no more intention of contributing packaged food than I would venture from the privacy of my private quarters without pearls.

Meanwhile, I have despatched Rodgers to call upon a number of purveyors since a supply of sturdy boxes is paramount. With a multitude of fruit ripening in the orchard, robust containers will ensure my award winning heritage pears remain blemish-free until their delivery to, and consumption by, the needy.

Only then will my Harvest wishes be sated.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Academic Duties


A few months ago when I mentioned to the Vice Chair of our Village Action Group my desire to further extend my influence in the community, according to a diary reference I have just now located, I anticipated an imminent opportunity. It is not in my nature to dwell upon delayed prospects, of course. Not to mention inexplicable tardiness. Yet such a belated response to an overwhelmingly generous proposition is mightily discouraging. My numerous commitments encroach upon a significant amount of my time and I do not make such offers lightly. Nevertheless, I am pleased to have - albeit belatedly - joined the Board of Governors of the village school. My aspirations extend to the position of Chair, of course.

Although I have so far attended but an initial meeting, there is clearly a wealth of issues to tackle. The slovenly attitude of the outgoing Governor is no loss and, if my fellow Governors care to follow my paradigm of energy and enthusiasm, I am convinced the establishment has the capability of enhancing its existing, somewhat average, reputation. I sincerely hope so.

During our gathering - to which I took a quantity of Cook's excellent shortbread together with some elderflower tisane, the former rapidly consumed while the latter was disregarded in favour of excessively sweetened tea - I suggested utilising the opportunity to share a brace of proposals which I have been cultivating during the summer months.

Sadly, the agenda did not specifically permit the discussion of such far reaching proposals as the advantages of installing an adult presence at the school gates in order to deter lunchtime absondence. Heaven knows what tempts the youths to leave the school premises what with a plethora of stimulating activities available. On which subject I would be delighted to organise an intensive Conduct and Deportment Workshop for those young ladies who need to learn that skirt length is intrinsically linked to academic achievement.

Yet my innovative suggestions were not particularly welcome. Indeed, by the end of our intercourse I was a trifle suspicious that my colleagues were displaying a degree of reticence about endorsing new initiatives. A little lobbying via my legendary Farthing Hall morning coffee gatherings should, however, furnish me with the appropriate juncture to persuade them to adopt my principles.

In the meantime, word has reached me of mutterings encompassing an outrageous rule which restricts Governor appointments to ex pupils. Such a preposterous notion! Having attended the finest boarding school in the land my demeanour and protocol far exceed those of my working class associates who clearly lurched through their precious State education system only to emerge with barely the rudiments of social etiquette.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Horticulture


Plans are afoot to expose my rear access. Frankly, this was not part of my initial aspiration when I offered Farthing Hall as a venue for a pioneering village horticultural event. Yet the growing possibility of the local community scrutinizing my main entrance was simply too much to bear. I may be of some standing in the area and, as such, willing to host the Show (the first of an undoubtedly regular summer occasion), but I do not wish my private approach to be on public display.

            Hence the decision to steer visitors along one of the previously defunct tradesmen’s routes. This will not provide as stunning a vista as when perambulating the cedar lined drive, admittedly, though I trust an appropriate willingness to contain disappointment will be in order.

Of course, the refurbishment is in danger of bestowing undue burden upon my gardening contingent. I have therefore selected an additional workforce to offer assistance. Terms of temporary employment have been agreed. Once satisfactory references are within my safekeeping, the recruits will be under instruction to revive the entrance used by delivery boys of old. It has become remarkably unkempt of late and I refuse to stint on first impressions. After all, a fine floral display is paramount in order to reflect the quality of the inaugural event.

            Meanwhile, I have invited representatives from a nearby printing establishment to visit me at noon today in order to discuss the programme design. In point of fact, a draft schedule has already been compiled.  This includes one of my rather charming pencil sketches of the magnificent magnolia grandiflora which I frequently appreciate from the parterre. Admittedly, I did not invest much time on said illustration. My schedule simply precludes such luxuries. I hardly need add, however, that it reflects my usual artistic standard and will, therefore, make an excellent front cover.

            From mutterings below stairs, of which I became aware only this morning, I learn that a youth of a reporter from our regional newspaper has got wind of my project. That is all well and good, but I will not have a fledgling journalist exploiting either my premises or horticultural exhibition to further his career. I have assured the company’s Group Director, whose wife I fleetingly encountered at a recent sherry decanting workshop, that I will not only submit my own article covering the day’s activities, but will ensure it is delivered to the Editor. By hand, of course.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Backhanders, Havannas and Double Handed Lobs


My passion for, and commitment to, that most quintessential English celebration which infuses my diary at this time of year is well documented. And rightly so. I have been a regular attendee of The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club since Papa first settled me on a velvet seat in the Royal Box. He may have momentarily popped down to the locker room to partake of a hand rolled Havanna or two with HRH, but his absence was sufficiently lengthy for me to cultivate what quickly became a lifelong ardor for backhanders.

            Yet despite my obligations, I have been obliged to return to The Hall where, with more than a soupçon of displeasure, I find myself undertaking crucial work for the Village Fête. It is all quite intolerable at such a late stage. Indeed, the event may have been my inspiration but, really, despite an initial and healthy burst of enthusiasm from the ladies of the village, the Committee has dwindled to myself (Chair), the Deputy Librarian who rarely attends our weekly meetings despite my frequent postal reminders, and the local Meals on Wheels representative, who turns out to be more mince and mash than scones and cream.

            With the celebration a mere two weeks hence, planning time is now of the essence.

            Immediately after perusing today’s luncheon menu, therefore, I contacted a number of potential benefactors to persuade them of our need for both quality and copious raffle prizes.  I look forward to the arrival of appropriate deliveries from my chosen donors. Heaven knows, if the county’s Care Home is to stand the remotest chance of replacing those blemished mattresses, generosity is paramount.      

            My subsequent task involved penning a note to the village school Headmistress requesting further details of her somewhat courageous suggestion of a fancy dress competition. There were mutterings, reported to me by Cook, that a cluster of senior girls, overflowing with unregulated hormones, were contemplating transforming the event into something akin to a St Trinians débacle. Clearly, there is no room in village life for such outlandish behaviour. I shall do my utmost to ensure both skirt lengths and conduct remain within the boundaries of polite society.

            As far as catering is concerned, Farthing Hall will, of course, lead the way.  The kitchen staff are fully aware of my expectations.

            After a somewhat exhausting day, reasonable headway in both marquee décor and ticket design has, I believe, been achieved. Barring any unforeseen hitches, I shall return to the Championships after breakfast tomorrow. The Master is likely to accompany me. After all, there’s nothing that satisfies him more than the occasional double handed lob.

 

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Arts Extravaganza


Farthing Hall’s Arts Extravaganza is under threat of infiltration by crocheted paper handkerchief box covers of insipid hues. Such blandness wreaks of charity shop status. Indeed, so does the telltale odour.

I might well have anticipated such influx. For recently, whilst ordering a tin of ointment for The Master’s furuncle which has yet again surrendered to unregulated distension, my attention in the pharmacy was diverted by nearby mention of yarn remnants. I glanced around to witness a couple of helpers from the Tea for the Retired Afternoon Club who were rather too loudly vocalising their views. If only they embraced their washing up duties with such verve. The topic of their excitement soon became apparent: Caring for The County’s Women of Disrepute outlet’s box of random skeins. Leftovers from indeterminate origins, I would say. The wool, if not those females whose morals have long since deserted them.

            It seems a number of other villagers have also been making similar purchases. Their resultant lilac, pastel pink and sky blue offerings are now littering my orangery. How they clash with the Italian marble décor! I cannot imagine anyone yearning to purchase these items. Yet nevertheless I am honour bound to coordinate a display. A discreet position will be found where they will not distract those attendees - and there will be a profusion - expecting quality works of art created by professional exhibitors.

            To this end, I have been in touch with creative groups throughout the county. Doubtless they are all eager to be included in my exposition. The inspiration first presented itself during one of our weekly Arts for the Gifted masterclasses, an initiative I established after experiencing undue frustration on a previous course which, had I realised it came under the jurisdiction of the Local Authority, would have been disinclined to attend.  However, at the aforementioned masterclass, over a cup of Earl Grey with an accompanying Rich Tea biscuit during a break in finalising my latest landscape, the Arts Extravaganza notion presented itself.

            I delayed not in undertaking the organisation. A number of colleagues of similar artistic enthusiasm – though inferior execution - were recruited.

            I, of course, have undertaken the bulk of the work. Catering and decor, sherry and canapés fall within my jurisdiction. Artists and their agents similarly liaise directly with me. That my pre dinner drinks were last night disturbed by a query over easel positioning matters not. A little persuasion to call at a more reasonable time - avoiding morning coffee, luncheon and afternoon tea – will surely be met with consideration. That is, if they wish to remain part of this most prestigious event.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Swearing In


 
What an invigorating day and one culminating in equal measures of exhilaration and reward.  Not only to me personally. I believe society will also benefit.

I refer, of course, to the Swearing-In of the new High Sheriff. He will prove to be a most worthy appointment, of that I am certain, hence my unshakable backing of his tenure.

It is high time a traditionalist returned to office. Last year some do-gooder more akin to left wing shenanigans than solemnity and duty took on this historic role. Indeed, I can still barely believe that the incumbent was of female variety. Thank heavens society’s equilibrium has now been restored.

In addition, I am also pleased that the new High Sheriff acted upon my recommendation of a military tailor. True, the premises of the custom clothier, being on the far side of the county, involved a lengthy journey but, frankly, the resulting velvet jacket and breeches, gauntlet cuffs, three pointed pocket flaps and black hose were worth every mile. HS cut quite a dashing figure, in fact. His choice of gloves - cotton in preference to kid - I will continue to question, yet he kept a firm hand on his cocked hat so I could ask for no more.

The County Assizes based ceremony was brief by official standards.Thankfully the weather proved loyal for the town parade which followed. Some citizens unfortunately appeared to regard the procession as nothing more than an opportunity to stare without restraint or respect. I understand such behaviour is quite commonplace nowadays.

By way of support to our new High Sheriff, I insisted on offering Farthing Hall as a venue for the obligatory Reception which followed. Members of the judiciary were in attendance, along with the Under Sheriff, one or two of our more respectable Councillors, several business entrepreneurs with a leaning to charity affiliation and the Editor-in-Chief of our local newspaper consortium. I trust the latter will carry front page coverage of the event in next week’s edition. 

Despite HS’s suggestion for a casual gathering, he eventually relented at my proposal of a formal luncheon. These occasions should, after all, be marked appropriately. As I pointed out, it is not within everyone’s capability to juggle canapés and drinks whilst conversing in intellectual dialogue. Particularly if they have failed to benefit from attendance at Finishing School.

The afternoon concluded with a speech from the High Sheriff. He really is rather eloquent, a point I mentioned to him prior to my suggestion for regular monthly gatherings. I would, after all, be pleased to retain my association with, and offer guidance to, this figurehead of our community. 

He appeared delighted at my proposal. Yet being such early days he currently felt unable to commit to a date.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Easter Treats



Much as I yearn for an era when children associated Easter with spiritual matters rather than culinary intake, I have decided to impart a measure of cheer to local, less privileged offspring. I believe there are quite a number. No doubt the limited incomes of their parents regularly stretch to procuring copious quantities of tobacco and alcohol, of course, but then not everyone’s priorities are correctly aligned. Perhaps the Chancellor’s recent budgetary announcements may in some way positively influence the moral outlook of those parents who doubtless took on the role with little forethought and even less planning.
            To this end I have advised the Vicar to include a modicum of financial guidance in his Easter Sunday address. Such revelations might even be transferred to printed pamphlets and popped through the letterboxes of those properties displaying nicotine stained net curtains.  Outreach at its basic level, I believe. The Reverend assures me he is considering my proposal.
            But to return to my hitherto mentioned project. I have already summoned a number of retailers to Farthing Hall where, to my delight, they assented to donate chocolate eggs. True, I was dissuaded from my initial suggestion of distribution via means testing. Yet how I would have found the time to undertake this task I cannot imagine what with my preoccupation collaborating with a courier company. I trust the chosen driver is now en route to the south coast where a shipment of Swiss chocolates is awaiting delivery to The Hall. 
            In addition I rang the Headmistress of the village school this morning and suggested that, as part of their Domestic Science syllabus, children make and decorate their own chocolate eggs then arrange them in hand woven baskets. This turned out to be a remarkably difficult conversation. To have reached such a lofty position in charge of a school – albeit a State one - without appreciating the negative impact of confrontation is incomprehensible. I do hope she extends more politeness to her charges than she did to me.
            And now to my other seasonal duties. I have instructed the Housekeeper to acquire fragrant soaps and towels. It is all very well for the elderly to turn up for their ritual Maundy Thursday foot cleansing, but the Vicar cannot be expected to sully his hands on grubby callouses.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Rhyme and Rhythm


My decision to hand over Programme Coordinator responsibilities will, forever, rankle. Tasked as I was with catering necessities and dressing room decor, however, the impossibility of monitoring the minutiae of performers was beyond even my legendary capabilities. Yet my regrets remain manifold. The Poetry Evening was well attended, it is true, resulting in sufficient takings to bolster the flagging coffers of the Church’s bank account. Frittering away money on the Vicar’s penchant for organic bread must not be tolerated when superior collecting receptacles are needed. I will mention my priorities during our next impromptu morning coffee Tuesday hence at ten o’clock. Indeed, I might even promote the idea of the Embroidery Guild taking on the task of creating velvet pouches: rectangular ones to encourage banknotes and round ones for coinage, the latter for those unfortunate members of the congregation whose generosity is lacking.

Another positive result of the event was the take up of flyers for my Tippet Tying Instruction. A number, I noticed, drifted into the wastepaper basket though, judging by the sartorial inelegance evident during the evening, I am confident of the need for accessory management.

Nevertheless such misdemeanours are comparatively peripheral. My original suggestion of a Poetry Evening encompassed honouring the delights of Walter De La Mare and William Wordsworth. I should have known better when a local youth tendered his organisational skills. It seems his offer to source poets was no more than literary hijacking.

With an appearance more gypsy than gent, the long haired man I had witnessed loitering outside the Village Hall and whom I was considering reporting to the local constabulary if not for being sidetracked by wilting canapés (hardly surprising given the kitchen staff’s inattention to sunlit surfaces) appeared on stage and, with excessive verve, delivered the most racy language I have ever encountered. Equally shocking was the audience’s enthusiastic response. There was but one saving grace: many attendees I failed to recognise, having clearly journeyed from neighbouring estates (not the landed variety).

Hourly tisanes of peppermint tea throughout the event neutralised my trauma. Performance poetry is a medium to which I had never previously been exposed; I will ensure that I never am again.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Back at the Helm


I still recall with unseasoned distaste the demise of the Townswomen’s Federation following their Treasurer’s mishandling of the Bring ‘n’ Buy stall’s profits.  The village fête remained tainted for some while thereafter.  For not only did the débâcle end in the sad decline of said organisation but also the demise from polite society of the woman who, having been charged with overseeing takings, could barely resist fondling the funds.  Indeed, her downfall prompted the eventual closure of the group.

Although at the time engaged with the overhaul of my colonnade, such disarray in the community necessitated the need for an alternative professional organisation and I delayed my personal itinerary for the greater good.

Hence the founding of the Women’s Guild in whose establishment I played an integral role.  Indeed I led by example, taking on the inaugural post of Chair and only stepping aside when a number of members reminded me that I had surpassed the three year maximum tenure permitted by the Constitution.

In the intervening period I have refrained from active involvement.  Yet various shortcomings have been all too obvious and I have become increasingly disenchanted by wavering standards.  It was with some relief, therefore, when I learned of the forthcoming Chair vacancy. I duly registered my interest.  Regardless of copious commitments, I will do my utmost to restore the Guild’s status.

Voting will take place imminently.  There is little doubt about the outcome, however, and my plans for future organisational enhancement are already in hand.

Several new Committee appointments are to be confirmed imminently.  A couple of women whom, I understand, expressed an interest in my position but clearly lack the necessary leadership qualities, will ideally suit the more minor roles of Refreshments Monitor and Stationery Officer.  I sincerely hope my suggestions will be unopposed at next week’s gathering. I would not want petty infighting to taint proceedings.

Once the formality of elections is completed, I shall concentrate on rearranging this year’s programme.  My numerous contacts will enable me to entice an abundance of speakers to address our group, speakers capable of generating a more proficient air to proceedings.  Local do-gooders may experience a frisson of excitement at imparting their limited knowledge of bland topics such as flower arranging, stamp collecting and the like, but public speaking hardly falls into the same league as floristry and philately.  Hobbies such as these, I suggest, are best savoured within the confines of one’s home.

The Women’s Guild is of utmost significance to the village and I will ensure its profile is rekindled accordingly.  I expect other members will share my aspirations.
What joy to be back at the helm.
 
 
 

Monday, 2 January 2017

New Year, New Under Butler



A fundamental aversion to embrace responsibilities is prevalent in Farthing Hall forcing me to contemplate whether the handsome salary increases I sanctioned just prior to the Millennium were made in error. Indeed, I once again find myself recalling my dear Papa’s perspective: service is a calling, he frequently asserted, and the standards of anyone who prioritises financial gain or personal values over their station will eventually plummet to depths more usually associated with the lower classes.

To be specific, I have been compelled to begin the New Year with the rather distasteful yet, under the circumstances, wholly obligatory, act of dismissing the Under Butler.

His ethics were called into question during our recent Gosworthy-Pringle Gala Dinner.  All was progressing to plan: my hors d’oeuvres selection – initially frowned upon by Cook in a quite unnecessary burst of culinary uncertainty – were much enjoyed, if not commended, by guests whilst the temperature of my welcoming Manzanilla Pasada sherry remained faultless. 

Yet, despite such accomplishments, I will be forever tainted with the discomfiture of witnessing Baronetess Beauchamp Beauford-Beaumont. As she took her place at the mahogany dining table my parents commissioned during the second month of their honeymoon tour of The Continent, I was on the point of sharing my utilisation of smilax fern amongst the flower arrangements when I noted her gaze drawn to a tarnished bouillon spoon. 

Composure never left her visage. I would expect no less. My own horror at the public appearance of flawed silver cutlery, however, ruined my pleasure of this annual occasion.

The following morning I summoned said Under Butler.  He proffered various excuses, as one might expect: the pantry boy had distracted him by seeking help to locate the condiments; a smear on his lower livery required urgent attention. 

The more he vocally floundered, the more I resolved that Farthing Hall would benefit from his absence. Indeed, I have always found the act of grovelling rather unsettling so I somewhat generously offered to provide a reference – modest, of course - then sent him on his way.

The fact that the Staff for the Aristocracy Agency remained closed until well into the New Year caused me some irritation. (Do they truly believe employment issues plunge into dormancy during the holiday season?) I left several succinct messages on their answering machine which I followed up with a hand written letter. At least they troubled to call me immediately upon reopening for business.

The Agency is forwarding to me the personal details of a brace of worthy candidates. 

Meantime, I have set aside next week for interviews. Fosdyke, our septuagenarian Butler, is keen to oversee the appointments, as is part of his remit. However, in order to avoid any further mishaps, I have notified him of my intention to personally decide the final appointment.