A Scullery Maid’s Tale

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October 1935

It is my half-day off tomorrow. I’m not quite sure what to do. Sometimes I see James at the farm and other days I walk down to the Fairy Lake and sit peacefully. Being in the kitchens is so hectic I usually just want to sleep. But I must be getting used to the chaos of it all, because tomorrow I feel like going somewhere. Doing something. Some of the housemaids are going to the pictures in Bury to see Top Hat, but I don’t want to waste an autumn day indoors. Even though the weather is blowing and raining, the forecast tomorrow is for sun.

Cook told me that the housemaids always go to the pictures in the autumn, when it is too cold to sit and gossip in the Abbey Gardens. I asked Lily about the Abbey Gardens, and she said it is a public park that used to be a monk’s monastery before King Henry the Eighth burned it down. I thought it sounded quite interesting – I have never been to a ruin – so I have decided I will go there tomorrow.

Earlier today Jim brought in the pheasants which the upstairs guests shot down this morning. The shooting season has well and truly begun – I was plucking pheasants from noon until supper today, all the fluff floating around and making me cough and sneeze. Maggie whispered to me that these feathers sell well at a market, so maybe I should keep some and try to earn a little more money!

I’ve never been squeamish about plucking birds or animals – less so than James, who is three years older than me – and Lily shied away from the task immediately. I felt quite superior, plucking away all those feathers from the pheasant. Even Mrs Finkle made a face at the dead birds, and of course all the housemaids were complaining about the smell. But I scrunched up my nose and ignored it. I cannot wait for my half-day off tomorrow!

***

I had such fun on my afternoon today. I went on the bus to Bury with all the others, there were six of us all together. I spoke quite amiably with Milly on the way, and a couple of the housemaids seemed nice enough too. Of course, I could never speak to them in the servant’s quarters. They wouldn’t want to speak to me. But when we were in the bus with no uniform, all wearing similar clothes and all chattering about similar things, it seemed as though the barriers had been dropped. And Laurence was there too – getting on very well with Florrie.

The housemaids, Laurence and another footman Martin, went off to the pictures while I strolled through Bury to find the Abbey Gardens. It was so beautiful, especially in the low glowing October sun. The grass was still damp from yesterday’s rain and drops of silver moisture glimmered on the emerald grass. The path wove through like a ribbon, lined with trees which were gradually turning to dusky fire-side orange. The actual ruins of the abbey were strange – memories made of stone. Some were low mounds but others were tall walls with gaps that looked as though windows had once peered through.

I spent a pleasant few hours drawing and observing the park. Pleased with my sketches – I will probably send one to Mama with my next letter – I returned on the earlier bus than the housemaids and footmen. Of course the gardens were pretty, but they could not compare with the grounds of Ickworth.

“Enjoy the Abbey Gardens?” Maggie has just asked me.

“Yes,” I replied. “It was a lovely afternoon, but nice to get back here.”

“Did you know the first Marquess of Bristol owned the Abbey Gardens? Quite interesting, isn’t it.”

I was surprised at that. To think that the man who used to own the Abbey Gardens also owned the estate where I now work – the place I now call home.

Goodnight.

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