Written by Romain Arrayet
Today was the Children’s School Picnic; Lady Bristol opened up the gardens to the children of the village. There was were outdoor games, sumptuous food and iced lemonade. Luckily the sun was shining and the garden looked as wonderful as ever in the yellow warmth. With the exotic smells and shady stumpery, you could have been in Southern France.
For me the day started as normal. I got up at 6.00 in the morning and got on with my duties, starting by taking coals to the sitting rooms, trimming the lamps and filling them with oil before preparing the family’s breakfast table.
I must have had my own breakfast at about eight o’clock, when cook was ready for us. I began taking food upstairs for the family and Lord Bristol was the first to come down but the others followed soon afterwards.
Mr Fox called me down to his office so Laurie and Martin had to clear the breakfast table without me. I can still feel my heart pounding wildly about in my chest as I had no idea why Mr Fox would want to see or talk to me at all. I know that yesterday I made a mistake when bringing the luggage to the rooms but I didn’t think he knew about it. Fortunately I had realised my error in time and exchanged the mistaken luggage before he or Mr Prosser noticed.
When I arrived in his office he did not reprimand me (see – ‘reprimand’ – isn’t my English getting better by writing these entries?).
“Thomas, my boy. As you must know, today Lord and Lady Bristol have invited the children of Horringer for a picnic in the garden. I have asked you to come down here as I want you to aid the preparation of the tables and the setting of the games. When the children arrive you will make sure they all stay within the garden and not come wandering into the house. All your normal duties for today have been shared between the other footmen. Some of the maids will be there in the garden too to look after the children and cook will send someone from the kitchens to attend the food and drinks.” Perhaps these were not his precise words, but certainly the gist of it.
When Mr Fox had explained everything I found myself both relieved and rather excited at the day ahead.
I arrived to see the preparations in progress. Jim asked me to place the games around the cricket field and Alice wanted my help bringing food from the kitchens out into the garden.
By the time the children arrived I’d already had my lunch. I managed to sneak into the kitchens just long enough to filch a slice of lemon cake from the tin…
Lady Bristol had given Jim some bunting to decorate the garden which that had been made by the children themselves for the extra special occasion. She stayed with us to welcome our guests and I must admit I was quite nervous in her presence. However she retired to the house after drinking a glass of lemonade and, to my surprise, playing a game of hopscotch with a group of young girls. It did make me smile to see the look of clear awe on their faces as a real lady joined in their games.
It was nice to be outside today amongst the beautiful gardens at Ickworth – it really was a lovely warm day. I enjoyed a jumping bag race with the youngest children and croquet with some of the older ones.
Later in the afternoon it was time to say goodbye to our little visitors. I helped Jim bring the tables back inside and then joined everyone in the servants’ hall for tea. After that I resumed my day as a footman, preparing the dinner table, serving food, pouring coffee for Lord and Lady Bristol…
I am writing this while I wait to hear the bell to let me know I can clear the coffee tray away from upstairs. It has been a rather different day for me and I have enjoyed the change. I forget how tense and – what’s the word? – tight-of-air the basement can be. No, that’s still not the word I want. Hang on, I’ll ask Rose. She seems to be a marvel with words.
There, I knew she’d have it. Claustrophobic.
Anyway, the bell has just rung and it’s time to go.
Au revoir for now.
The footmen are forever polishing.