The Hall Boy’s Journal

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

2014-05-24 13.15.28

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. How 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 khaki 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, a 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! Perhaps a slight exaggeration, and I bet most of what I have written doesn’t make any sense. 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


A Walk in the Park

October 22 1935

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


2 November 1935

“Those Footmen…”

 

Those footmen really think a lot of themselves! Prancing around in their red waist-coats and acting as though they were the Lord of the manor hisself. It makes me blooming mad! They need to get down from their high horse (or whatever that saying is) and join the rest of us in the real world. A servant is a servant, after all!

***

those footmen

Two footmen, Laurence and Martin – Photograph taken by NT photographer Philip Mynot

***

I suppose I should explain my little outburst there – letting my feelings get the better of me again. I mean, Laurence, Martin and Harry are nice enough chaps. They just make me feel so inferior sometimes. I know I am actually lower than them in the pecking order of things here, but surely us chaps should stick together. The whole House is full of girls – there is only a handful of us men.

What really got my goat yesterday was when Martin and Laurie dismissed me from the servant’s hall. I had just finished cleaning the grate and decided to join them for a cup of tea, a bit of a rest, when Martin gave me a right funny look and said,

“Hello Laur, who’s this sooted scamp headed our way?’

Sooted scamp! Well, I know I might have taken on some of the dust from the grate but I’m no sweep’s boy! Laurence smirked and joined in the game, waving his hand at me,

“Away with you soot boy! You’ll mess up our threads.”

Of course I just stood there, expecting them to laugh at their joke and then invite me over, but instead they turned their backs on me and started sniggering. I stormed out of the room, and I am not too proud to admit that the anger I felt inside me erupted into a tear or two. I know they were only cheeking me, but still – they were hall boys once! Why pick on me now?


Sunday 10 November 1935

Well, that was a waste of time! I suppose I should have twigged on a bit earlier but I thought Pa would feel proud to see his son donning a poppy on his breast. I’ll start from the beginning shall I?

Today was my Sunday off and, after Church, I set off to visit home. Ma sent Alfie, a boy from the village, round to the House a few days ago to pass on a message for her (she never trusts the postal service). Apparently I haven’t been to visit often enough – and coming to think of it, she is right. Time just speeds by. A day turns into a week and so on, so forth. I sent a message back – cheeking that Alf should charge Ma a telegram fee – to let Ma know that I could make it today.

I trudged down the lane to the shop – soaked through with all the rain – and came across an old lady selling red paper poppies. She was hauled up in the porch of St. Leonard’s, staring out miserably at the weather. I suppose rain is not a paper poppy’s friend. Her face lit up when she saw me running up ta her.

“Penny for a poppy, lad? All proceeds help the families of those fallen.”

Now, I’m saving up my wages for a pair of skates but I searched through my pockets for a bit of spare change. Finding a copper in amongst my stash of marbles (I always carry a few around with me just in case someone is up for a game, you know) I brushed it clean with my sleave sleeve and handed it to her.

I got to choose my poppy – and I picked the biggest, brightest one of them all. She also gave me a pin so I could attach it to my jacket. Of course, I waited until I was home to pin it on. As I said – rain is not a paper poppy’s friend.

I hid in one of the outbuildings before I walked through the back door, pinning my badge of rememberance remembrance (funny word that) onto my lapel. I then entered the kitchen, brimming with pride. Ma rushed up ta me, nearly choking me in a hug, and then scolded me for neglecting my family. Before I could make my excuses she squeezed my cheeks together and kissed my head (I hate it when she does that), lead me to the table and placed a plate in front of me piled high with bread and dripping. Now, Ma’s bread and dripping rivals that of Cook. Cor – she ain’t half a good baker!

Pa came in from the shop for his lunch not long after. I wasn’t sure if he noticed me at first, so I stood up and muttered a, “Hello Pa.”

“Alright son.” He helped hisself to my plate of dripping goodness. He had a slice of bread half in his mouth when he just seemed to freeze – like one of those statues situated around the Estate. His eyes were fixed on the poppy. I unpinned it to give him a better look,

“Got it on my way here. Only cost a penny, too!”

He didn’t respond though. The bit of bread fell from his mouth to the floor and Ol’ Bill (Pa’s dog) snatched it up straight away.

“Pa?” I asked – my confidence and comfort of being at home waining. “Pa?”

He then turned an awful shade of grey gray grey and fell to the floor – Bill sniffing at his feet in case he had dropped any more crumbs for the licking.

“Pa?” I panicked now and called for Ma. She ran into the kitchen and rushed to Pa, scooping him up in her arms. He looked like an overgrown infant child. He was sweating, breathing funny and crying like a babe. I was taken aback – and I’m embarrassed to say, rather scared scarred of him. Ma seemed to know what to do though. Without looking up at me she demanded,

“What happened John?”

“Nothing. I just showed him my poppy and he…”

She looked up then and saw my badge. She then held Pa’s head in her arms, stroking his hair and cussed at me,

“You careless, stupid boy!”

I was shocked at this. I bought the poppy for him! To show him how proud I am of his going to fight for King and country.

I left pretty soon after that – the poppy discarded in a hedge further down the lane. It was only after I returned to my room when I understood what had happened. Poor Pa – perhaps he doesn’t want to be reminded of the Great War. Perhaps he just wants to forget.

poppy2

Poppies growing in the walled garden at Ickworth House


11 November 1935

(Armistice Day – 17 years since)

I wrote a letter home today with my apologies. I wrote it to Ma so she could choose to read it to Pa, or not. I don’t really understand why Pa reacts like he does when he is reminded of his time as a soldier. I suppose Jim, too, says very little about it, and I haven’t really heard much about the War from the gardeners. Come to think about it – most of what I have heard has been told to me by Ma and from what I have read in books and magazines.


 

18 November 1935

Rain, Rain, Rain

It has been raining constantly for two weeks now! The basement gets ever so dark, but at least we have electric lights to get us through. At home Ma and Pa are relying on candles.

Of course the weather has not put off the shoot. It actually makes it easier for us beaters. The birds cower in the bushes and scrub, away from the rain, and get startled so easily. Only the best shots are hitting them though. The store rooms for game in the house should be twice as full as they are now – at least, that is what Jim told me.


 

23 November 1935

The Great Flood

The Estate flooded today. Not all of it, of course. That would surely require the construction of some kind of Noah’s Ark!

It was the porter’s lodge that got hit worse worst of all. Poor Mr and Mrs Smythe had to move all their worldly possessions to the upstairs room. The water just kept coming in. It was running like a stream from the main house, down the hill, and gathered to form a pond with the porter’s lodge right in the middle of it. Most of the house staff were busy keeping the room in the west corridor of the Rotunda from flooding – that room always leaks something terrible. I helped the gardeners and gamekeepers at the lodge though. We were all armed with brooms and developed quite a routine between us sweeping water out of the house, and preventing it from flowing straight back in agayn from outside.

The problem was, it just kept on raining! The heaviest I have seen in a long time. God, I hope Ma and Pa are alright. I’ve not known the shop to flood, but then I’ve not known such rain! I will make an effort to see them at the weekend in case they need a helping hand. Ma has been on at me about it – I haven’t been home since Pa’s fit.

Anyway – we managed to stem the flow by placing sandbags and logs in the doorways. I cannot see how the Smythes can live there now though. It will be ever so damp! Lord Bristol will have to get another place on the Estate for them to live – though I bet it will be Mr Prosser (the Estate Manager) who will sort it all out.

What a day! I am soaked through. All the warm water was used by the others and I have only a blanket or two left in the cupboard. I think when all else have gone to bed I will sneak in the servant’s hall and make the most of the embers in the grate.

***

Here is a photograph of the flooding in Kent. I cut it out of The Times once everyone had done with the newspaper and thought I would paste it in here. Our floods warn’t quite this bad, but what a month of weather!

this week 3


 

December 1935

The Scullery Girl

I feel sorry for that new girl in the scullery – not that she is that new anymore. She always seems so down at heart, quite quiet and shy. I don’t know her story but maybe I should get to know her more. Perhaps she just needs a friend. She is, after all, the only other servant in this House the same status as me.

 

My Morning Routine on a Cold December Morning

Woke at half past passed five and started on the servants’ hall. The housemaids have been complaining that the room is too cold in the mornings so I am having to get up even earlier than usual to prepare the fires. They are not rong wrong though! The whole house is awfully cold in the mornings. Why cover the floor in stone? The wooden boards at home might let a draft in but at least they warm up under your feet.

I then sorted the fire in the senior servants’ sitting rooms and in Mr Prosser’s office. They should be warming up nicely now. I popped into the kitchens too and helped Arianna stoke the ovens. She seemed happy to have the help. She’s a nice girl. Shy, but nice. She has no family nearby – well, a brother, but she cannot see him that often. I am lucky I have family and friends so close by.

I then loaded the scuttles with coal for the housemaids to take when they prepare the fires upstairs and then refilled the scuttles and log baskets in the hall and downstairs rooms.

I am now waiting to hear movement in the House. Soon the housemaids will be down in their skivvies to start their morning routines. Next job for me – laying the servants’ table for breakfast and helping Jim and Albert with the boilers. Mornings can be the busiest time of day for us hall boys.

 


 

I rambled across the Estate again today – my half day off. The gardens are looking quite bare – winter has most definitely set in. The tree have lost all their leaves. Except those great giants on the front lawn. They stay green all the year round! The squirrels are hiding away out of the cold and the grass seems ever tinged in frost or dew.

I decided to walk down to the fairy lake – to see if it has frozen over yet. There is a layer of ice there, think enough for the cooks and moorhens, but not yet for the likes of me. I snuck a bit of toast from breakfast and threw crumbs onto the lake. It was ever so funny watching the birds skating around on the ice to get at them. I left the lump of bread there – it can’t be easy for water birds to find a meal in the winter.

I then walked along the canal, though it is more of a stream really, and I found a tree on the edge of the pond that had lots of old initials carved into it. Even though I have walked these footpaths time after time, I have never spotted these marks before. Perhaps they were hidden by leaves. Well, I didn’t have to think twice – I grabbed the penknife my brother Geof gave me for my 13th birthday and carved a neat(ish) “J.M” onto the side of the tree. I wonder who will find it in the future. The tree is sure to outlive me.

***

When I was down at th walled garden today, helping Kitty pull the cart piled high with vegetables up to the House, Old Bert (the head gardener) stopped me and asked,

“You been down to the pond lately, Mayhew?”

He asked it with such a knowing tone in his voice that I afeared I was to be in trouble for carving out my name in the tree. I stuttered and shrugged a reply, though what I really wanted to do was laugh it all off and confidently walk away. The old man raised an eyebrow and they laughed, all raspy like.

“Get on with you lad.” He tapped on Kitty’s haunch and she began trotting on. “We’ve all made our mark somewhere on the Estate.”

I learned from Jim that the “A.C” on the tree I carved my initials was carved by Old Bert when he first started here as a lad. I can now breathe a sigh of relief.


 

December 26th 1935

Merry Christmas! – a greeting only too proper for my Christmas this year. Boy, did I get merry!

This was my first Christmas at Ickworth House, well, as a hall boy that is. Every year since I can remember I went with Ma and my brothers and sisters to the great round house on a crisp winter’s day not long before Christmas. All the children of those living and working on the Estate were invited with their families. We sung carols under this great big tree standing tall and proud in the magnifisent magnificent hall. It was always covered in hundreds of candles and sparkling decorations. We never had a Christmas tree at home. I suppose we don’t have the space – a twig covered in candles just isn’t quite the same (and a bit of a fire risk I reckon). Anyway, after carols every child was handed a small gift from under that great big tree. I got a sixpence once, an orange another year and a toy train the next. Happy times!

This year I helped to erect the tree in the front hall of the Rotunda. Jim and some of the gamekeepers worked to heave the great beast through the doors without knocking anything over or scratching the stone and marble floors. If they had of damaged something, cor, they would have felt the wrath of the housekeeper, Mrs Seddons! The tree was stood just in front of the big statue by the stairs and is so tall that the top almost touches the first balcony on the upstairs landing! Now, it’s not often I get to go “upstairs” – as hall boy my work is in the basement. It was quite an excitement to venture up those stone steps, I can tell you, and emerge in the main hall. And what a strange thing to be in the house and not invited to attend the carol singing! I could hear the voices of my old neighbours flowing through the halls and corridors. I imagined the little kiddies staring hungrily at the presents under the tree. I suppose I felt a little jealous – a little sad to be missing out.

Christmas day as a servant, though, surpast surpassed was more than my greatest expectations. I knew we all had to work as normal and I knew we were all sitting down to a meal together in the late afternoon, but what a meal it was! We had two turkeys (just one turkey costs more than a month of my wages), a goose, hams, trimmings, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, gravy, plum pudding, sweets…the list can go on. The table in the servants’ hall was so full of food that I’m surprised it could take the weight.

At home we usually just have a cut of meat Pa puts aside in the shop and a sponge pudding. Ma said that all the fruit and raisins and such are too expensive to make a Christmas pudding. This year they will eat better. One of the perks of working here is that we get first dibs on any excess stock. I sent Ma and Pa a brace of pheasants and Cook gave me a bag of dried fruit and nuts (the raisins sourced all the way from the other side of the Empire!). I hope Ma finds a tasty use for them. I wish them all a very merry Christmas.

Oh yes – back to the “merry”. At the end of the Christmas meal a great big Christmas pudding was presented to us all. It was so big that we all got a slice. I have now tasted heaven! Soon after though, cor I felt funny! All giddy and that! I couldn’t stop talking, laughing and joking and the like. Even flirting with the housemaids like a common ol footman! Everyone laughed when Cook confessed that the pudding was laced with sherry. With SHERRY! Now, I’m no tee-totaller. I’ve enjoyed a pint of ale at the village cricket club with the rest of them, but never sherry! What a head I had on me this morning! I suppose I’ll be laughing about it soon enough though.

Have a happy Christmas everyone – and a merry one, if you like. But not too merry, eh!

John Mayhew

Hall Boy, Ickworth House

 


A February Entry

Snow and Ice and All Things Nice

It snowed again this week and now that the mayhem of shooting season is over I have more time to go out and enjoy it. If the snow is still around on Saturday night Mrs Seddons (our housekeeper) has said she will allow us junior ones an hour or two outside after supper.

Jim is putting together a sledge for us – a ruff ruf rough bit of wood smoothed down with a little ridge at the end to hold the feet of the person up front. Rough is a strange word – it don’t look right on the page!

I know Rose, Carrie and some of the other housemaids are going. The footmen (Laurie and co) are playing it cool (no pun intended there) and are saying that such sillyness silliness fun and games in the snow is for children. I’m going to ask Arianna is she is allowed to attend. The kitchens have laws of their own. Cook is queen there – not Mrs. S. I’m sure she can spare a scullery maid for an hour or two. I knows of a few footmen who could help out if not. They’d like that! Heh!

I went down to the Fairy Lake last Sunday after church and the snow was nowhere near thick enough for a sledge. It now sits a good seven inches on the balustrades outside the House. Good, deep, compact stuff! Just right for bombing it down the hill to the walled garden. I’m so excited – I can’t wait!

It was cold enough last Sunday for me to put my new skates to the test though. I’ve been saving my wages to buy a pair of skates for ages and then, when the time came to it, I only went and got them for free! Mrs. S – the angel that she is – pulled me aside one afternoon and I thought I was in for it. Thought she’d discovered that packet of Woodbines in my side cupboard. Turns out her nephew outgrew his skates and was going to throw them out. She saved them from the skip and, blow me, handed them straight to me!

“I thought you might appreciate these John.” She said.

Not half! Of course I offered my thanks over and over and over again. She seemed happy enouf enough with my response – and it was no act neither. The skates fitted perfect like. I joined a few of the younger gamekeepers on the lake, skating this way and that, up and down (mostly down on my part to be truthful). The boys warn’t even wearing skates! Just ruff rough boots with rubber soles. They didn’t even wear mittens or a scarf! I was wrapped up like a fresh leg a ham from the butchers. These outside chaps must get used to the cold.

What a feeling, though! Joining those silly moorhens scooting over the lake. You feel like your you’re flying, skimming over the fish an frogs cased under the thick sheet of ice. The feeling can’t be beat, I reckon.

Well, here’s hoping the snow lasts for Saturday.

Signing off for now,

John Mayhew, hall boy.

 


 

Back to Business

Written the last weekend of May

The weather has perked up somewhat in the last few weeks. The muds pretty much dried up and I’ve started walking the grounds again during my hours off. Sketchbook and pencil to hand, of course, just in case I spot a subject to study.

Now, I’m not one for flowers really – I’m more of a bird man – and maybe it’s because it was such a long, grey, dull, bear bare winter but I keep getting stopped in my tracks when walking the woods and meadows to admire the beautiful spring blooms. I’m blooming mad, I reckon, taking a fancy in something so girlish and silly as flowers. Either that, or I’m destined to work in the gardens.

Them gardeners don’t half give me a right rollicking when I pass them with my sketchbook – all jest, of course. ‘Here’s our little Constable out on a jolly…Enjoying the fruits of are our labours are we?!’ I first thought they were calling me a peeler, but have since found out that this man Constable was some painter and not a member of the police force. And, ‘enjoying the fruits of our labour’ – well, that’s a gardener’s joke if ever I’ve heard one! Especially those chaps as work in the walled garden. Anyhow I reckon they’ve imagined some gripe with us house staff – probably because they spent the freezing winter outside in the snow and rain. Well, I can tell them with some certainty that it warn’t much warmer inside! A good deal drier, I will admit, and there was far less white stuff lying about inside to make snowballs with – just the frost on the window sills.

So when I was out last week I managed a few sketches and thought “hang on one measly minute! I wonder where I placed that journal of mine?” I knew I’d never keep it up. I mean, what’s there to write about over the winter months – and how to keep a shivering hand still enough to scribble a few words?! Well, I’ve got some sketches to paste in now – to fill up those pages – but it didn’t half take me an age to find the blasted thing. I turned my room upside down – quite literally at one point (well, it’s its contents at least).

I’m one of those chaps who once started on a mission never gives up until its it’s completed. Silly really, and what a pile of mess I was faced with afterwards! There came a point, my books scattered across the floor, my bedding pulled about and my mattress overturned, that I began to suspect the journal had been lifted by prying hands. I was just about to confront Laurie – that footman is always the chief culprit – when the journal made itself known to me. Somehow I managed to jolt the shelf high up above my bed and the blooming book fell right on my head! They do say that authors make their mark on the world through their words, so I suppose it goes without saying that the written word can make its mark on the authors too – a horrible purple bruise sort of mark right above my left eyebrow! I looked quite a sight and got the sympathy of the girls at tea – of course I made up some daring adventure to explain it.

So I have my journal to hand again and I am determined to keep it up this time – I’ll try, at least. Here’s to the summer and to many more adventures on the Ickworth Estate.

Writing off for the day,

John Mayhew, Hall Boy.

And after all that – I’ve only gone and mislaid the sketches.

September on the Estate

September is an odd month, isn’t it? The weather can either be as hot as July or as cold as a November evening.

Last Sunday was my half-day off and me being me, I decided to make the most of the decent weather while it lasts. Soon enough I’m sure we’ll all be stuck grumbling about the cold and huddled around the fire in the servants’ hall.

I didn’t see Ma and Pa as I often do on my half-day. Instead I thought I would escape from the servants’ quarters and go off on a jolly. Sometimes I’m so caught up in polishing this, folding that, scurrying after whats-his-name that I forget all about the estate.

But it’s a bloomin’ beautiful place, specialy   especially  when the sun is low like this.

Right, signing off now as I can hear Mr Prosser’s footsteps down the corridor.

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