11am, an hour before we open.
I am getting the house ready, taking off the bat covers and checking the loos are clean. I spy three men the other side of the moat, walking towards the gatehouse.
I head over to the gatehouse myself. They are just the other side of the heavy oak door. I can hear their voices. I open the door, which momentarily surprises them.
“Hello! I’m afraid we don’t open until 12.”
“Yes, I know. It's ok. I’ve been before, I’m just showing these two round.”
“Right. But I’m afraid we don’t open until 12, as it clearly says on the signs on all the gates you’ve come through.”
He decides to go for the cheeky chappie approach.
“Have we woken you up? Were you having a lie-in?”
“No. I am busy getting the house ready for when we open at 12. In the meantime I’m going to have to ask you to leave the premises until then, for health and safety reasons.”
“Health and safety, eh? That gets everywhere these days doesn’t it?”
“Yes. It does. Are you members?”
“Right. Well if you want to visit the house you’ll need to go back to the car park and come through our ticket office, where you can buy an admission ticket.”
“There was nobody there.”
“No, that’s because we don’t open until 12.”
“We’ll be long gone by then.”
“’Oh, I’m sure you will. Enjoy your free visit.”