The Hall Boy’s Journal – entry No 1

*Written by Eleanor Betts, inspired by the character profile written by Richard Terrington

I have never written a journal before, nor anything else much either, except maybe a letter or two. I always hated writing at school. My schoolmistress had a real challenge on her hands trying to get me to write my lines. I am more of a numbers man.

Anyway, all the girls seem to be writing their life stories at the moment so I thought I might have a go at it myself. Why not?! I heard Rose reading a bit from her diary to Florrie a few days back, and I think the new girl in the scullery keeps a journal too. She always seems her happiest after jotting down something in a little leather bound book she carries around with her.

Of course, the girls don’t know that I know they write diaries. They try and keep these things from me. I suppose secrets and their hopes for the future are safest shared amongst themselves, or so they must think, but the way the housemaids gossip I reckon they have got that wrong. Still, I know pretty much all that is going on in the house – below stairs, at least. I’m no gossip. Far from it. I am actually quite shy, but as hall boy I am everywhere, all the time, flitting in and out of everyone’s lives without being noticed. I am the servant’s servant – though I don’t like that turn of phrase! I am no worse off than anyone else here. We all come from, and are heading towards, similar places.

I suppose I should start my journal by introducing myself properly. When I asked Jim what a journal was he said it should be a record of everyday life. I groaned when I heard this – how boring! – but then I came to think about it and changed my mind. It might be quite interesting to read what I did this day, and how I thought about this and that, in a few years’ time. So – a record of my life…

My name is John Mayhew and I turned fourteen some three months back. I was born, and spent my childhood, in a little Suffolk village called Horringer. Most in the village work on the nearby estates. There are three large houses nearby, the largest being a manor called Ickworth House. It belongs to the Marquis of Bristol and he lives there with his wife. They are very generous members of the local community and have a good reputation as the landlords of many villagers. I have been working as hall boy under their employ for nearly eight months now and I have become used to the way things work. I live in the great house, in a little room in the basement, but it is not like living in a normal home at all. How could living in such a large building, with so many corridors and passageways be so? Still, all the other folk who work here – and there is a fair few of us – are all jolly nice. I suppose we do all get along like one big family.

My actual family live only a stone’s throw away. The Mayhews have lived in Horringer for, well, for a very long time – a hundred years at least! Pa runs the butchers on the main street, as did my Gramps before him, and my older relations before that. I have no interest in working in the shop. Luckily my older brother Geoff has taken on that role – the son in Mayhew and Sons. He is married and everything! All settled down and all before he turns 20.

My wish is to travel far from here. Not that I don’t like Suffolk. I like nothing better than strolling through the rolling fields, taking time to sketch the farmed landscape and all the birds that live in the hedgerows. I just have this really strong desire to see more of the country, to see more of the world.

When I was younger my plan was to enlist in the army. I still dream that I am a soldier fighting for my King and country – standing tall and proud in my uniform clutching an Enfield in my hand. Of course, Ma was having none of it! She lost her two brothers in the war and Pa didn’t cope so well after he returned from France. Poor Pa. He seems at rest when he is engaged in the daily routine at work but nights are terrible. He hardly ever sleeps and I have often been woken by him crying. What a strange noise it is to hear your own Pa crying hisself to sleep. I suppose Ma just wants to protect me from all that.

It was she who got me this job. She marched me down to the House for an interview with the estate manager and the butler and the next thing I knew I was packing my bag and leaving home for good. I guess the army will just have to wait for me. Until that day comes I will work hard at being hall boy – perhaps I will then rise the ranks to footman, and even, maybe, valet.

Mr. Fox, a valet to Lord Macclesfield, one of the Marquis’ friends who visits regularly, told me that he has travelled to eight different countries as part of his employment. His most recent expedition was to India – the land of spices, or so Cook says. He saw so many wonderful things, the best being, in my opinion, an elephant. They ride them like horses! A sight I wish I can see one day.

Look at me going on! I thought I would be terrible at writing a journal and now it feels as though I have written an entire book! A slight exaggeration perhaps, and I bet most of what I have written doesn’t make any sense at all. I won’t read through it, just in case I get put off writing again. I have found this whole process surprising enjoyable! I wonder if I can keep it going? Finding time each day to jot things down, and keeping up the extra expense of paper. Perhaps Rose will lend me a few sheets if I ask. She is always at it, scribbling away.

Well, signing off for now,

John Mayhew,

Hall Boy

Autumn 1935


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