The Hall Boy’s Journal

A Walk in the Park

I managed to get all of my responsibilities done by mid-afternoon. What a rare occasion! Especially during shooting season. Usually I am at the beck and call of the odd-men and gamekeepers but I haven’t really seen them at all today. Jim rushed passed me towards the east corridor so quickly that he had to shout back a “morning John” and I had no time to reply at all. I suppose I was quite put out at first, you can always rely on Jim for a good laugh, but he must have had something particularly important to do in the Round house. Perhaps the boilers are playing up again. They are always playing up – but far better to have boilers to heat up the water than me with a kettle on the stove.

Finding myself with nowt to do I made an effort to busy myself in the servants’ hall – perusing through books, making boats out of the housemaids’ letter paper, that sort of thing. Miss Edgeley, the head housemaid, managed to sneak up on me – which is quite something as the sound of Miss Edgeley’s footsteps marching down the corridors have become legendary. She does it on purpose, stamping as hard as she can on the flagstone floor, so the housemaids know she is coming and can get back to their duties and stop their gossiping.

“Mayhew! Why are you moping around and cluttering up my servants’ hall?’

I jumped as I hadn’t heard her approach. She put on a stern voice but her face and her eyes were smiling – she is always smiling. I just gave a sheepish grin in reply, shrugged my shoulders and told her that I had nothing to do. After she scolded me for shrugging (with a smile, of course) she suggested I take a walk in the park. Quite why I hadn’t thought of that myself, I don’t know. I suppose I am so used to being in the basement that I forget there exists a world outside.

It was perfect weather for a walk too! Clear and crisp, the morning fog having completely cleared. Any leaves that still hung on the trees were dripping with dew and the birds were making a right royal chirping chatter all throughout the estate. I walked down past passed past the pond, the Church and the walled garden – keeping clear of the gardeners just in case they enlisted my service. My mind was on the trudging adventure through the park that lay ahead of me, and I didn’t want to waste this opportunity to explore because a gardener needed help dead-heading and the like.

The feeling of freedom that went through me this afternoon as I stood alone on the edge of the canal, surrounded by fields and woodland! You would have thought I had never seen a tree, a duck, a meadow of grazing sheep, before. I’m a Suffolk boy – I knew of these things before I was even born. They were just mundane objects of everyday life – now they are things of beauty.

Oh Lord, I do hope I’m not turning into one of those creative sorts, all dickie-bows and poetry. Pa will have a fit. He has no time for all that. He is all facts, figures, and the daily grit of life. But, really, to not be moved by the parkland surrounding Ickworth, especially in late autumn, you would have to have lost all your senses!

Luckily I had thought to bring my sketchbook and a pencil when I left the House so I could make some attempt at capturing what I saw. I have enclosed two sketches of a sparrow and a woodpecker I saw in the woods to the left of the walled garden. The woodpecker, in particular, was a right poser. I may have added a few inches to his waistline. I’m still a little sketchy at drawing – a little pun there – but I don’t think I am too bad at it.  I have pinned a few pieces on the wall of my bedroom in the House and they certainly give a bit of character to the dull little room.

Sparrow

Woodpecker

All the birds were out today – all but the game birds. They seem to know what’s good for them at this time of year! I even saw a huge great hawk circling right above my head. You’ve got to feel sorry for the four-legged creature he had his eyes on. There is no escaping the might and strength of that bird!

I didn’t venture too far from the canal. I didn’t want to get lost and miss tea or be late back for my evening chores, plus I am never too sure how the tenant farmers feel about people roaming on their land. I walked to up to the Fairy Lake – and not a fairy in sight; surprise, surprise! There were three lovely swans commanding the water though, and several noisy moorhens popping in and out of the reeds. I cannot wait until the winter properly sets in. Sam, one of the gamekeepers, has told me that all the boys who work on the estate skate on the lake when it ices over. No skates, of course, just the worn-down soles of old boots and a good deal of balance on your pins – sorry, legs – Ma hates it when I use slang. “That’s what comes of reading too many penny novels”, she tells me.

Well, I’m going to sign off now. I seem to have rambled on for long enough – another walking pun there! Till the next time I am inspired to put pen to paper,

John Mayhew

Hall Boy

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