Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Nice Little Retirement Job

It had been a long day.

The school holidays mean that a sunny day is often a long day. It is wonderful having so many visitors and it is lovely to see happy families picnicking by the moat and enjoying the walks. It really is. No, it is. Really.

It's just that lots of children in the house means lots of extra care has to be taken to ensure that they are entertained and that the precious things are unmolested. The two states do not naturally exist together. On the typical family intensive day I will find the pot pourri liberally sprinkled around the place, rubbish in the leather fire buckets, stickers on the furniture, devastation in the Family Room, and situations you really don't want to know about in the lavatories.

It was at the end of just such a demanding day that a final family came through the doors a couple of minutes past closing time. They knew they were a little late, but could they have a look round? "Of course," I replied. "Do come in".

I could hear the sound of the early 20th century typewriter in the study having its keys thumped enthusiastically from downstairs. I climbed the stairs and found three children clustered around the - admittedly tempting - typewriter and explained that it was very old and by bashing all the keys at once it would simply jam and break. At this point their parents, who had been in the adjacent room, came through and I engaged them in conversation too.

At one point the fact emerged that the part of the house not open to the public was still lived in, and from there it was a short step to being identified as the fortune favoured person in residence.

The usual "Oh, you're so lucky," conversation ensued, but then the woman asked me "how do you get a job like that?"

I sketched in the sort of background needed.

"The thing is," she said, "my husband will be retiring in a few years and I can just see us in a place like this, pottering about."

Pottering about? Pottering? It's not their fault, I know. They obviously think that standing in the house, talking, is the job in its entirety. I debated telling them about the fact you can't leave the house without arranging cover, the three nights in a row I'd been awoken by the alarms sounding at 4am due to an errant bat, the working every weekend and Bank Holiday, the lack of privacy, the fact that if someone does crap all over the toilet seat then it's down to you to clean it up, and so on, but then thought better of it and simply explained how these jobs are advertised in the local press and can be searched for online, on our website.

They'll find out.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Successful Event Planning, the Stately Moans Way

When we first had the idea to hold a Fairy Tale Trail it seemed relatively simple. We'd held one before, after all. Apart from the trail itself, and our cunningly concealed creations, we only had to prepare an area for the activities we had promised - wand making, mask making, that sort of thing. A couple of tables in a marquee should do the trick.

Lovely Warden and my Boss duly arrived a couple of days before the event and put up the marquee. They hammered in the tent pegs and tethered it well. "Safe as houses," they declared.

"It looks a bit bare inside," McColleague mused, once it was up .

"We could get some material to create swags," I said, over-confidently, as if I knew about this sort of thing. "And hang up some fairy lights. It'll be a Magical Wonderland!"

So, we went into town and bought acres of pink material and returned, triumphant, ready to work our creative magic.

We were intercepted on our way to the office by a colleague. "Go and look at the moat!" she cried.

The problem was immediately apparent. My Magical Wonderland had developed a definite aquatic theme. Putting the swags up now was going to be a challenge.

I hastened to reassure bemused visitors and volunteers alike that we did not actually erect the marquee in the moat and that it must have blown in. After the tenth repetition I got bored with that and started telling people it was for a duck wedding instead.

Eventually help arrived, in the shape of our gardener, Lovely Warden and assorted other estate staff. They donned waders and climbed into the moat. Progress was not simple, due to the knee high mud and dense vegetation. I gamely assisted by taking photographs and calling out helpful comments like "Careful now!" and "I think it's going to tip over."

It tipped over. It was bit like a warmer, muddier version of Titanic.

"It's not going well, is it?" said McColleague, somewhat redundantly.

"Never let go!" I shouted, but it was too late. Several of the leg poles sank to the bottom of the moat, never to be recovered. That's really going to confuse the Time Teams of the future.

At last the bulk of the marquee was dragged out of the moat and onto dry land. Several key elements were broken, bent or entirely missing. The plastic covering was covered in foul smelling mud and pondweed.

"I don't think I'm going to bother with a marquee for Fairy Day," I decided. "Let's put a couple of tables in one of the buildings in the courtyard instead."

It was at this point we discovered that every single trestle table we owned had been taken away to one of the tenant farms, where they were hosting a wedding party. And that the building in question was full of a disassembled shed, some rusty metalwork and a rickety old piano.

If it wasn't for all the hot wardens-in-waders action the day could have been a tad on the frustrating side.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Return of the Doris

It has been a stressful time lately, hence my quietness online.

There have been work issues ranging from staffing problems to grievance hearings, all of which have required my time and attention.

Then my father became ill and had to go into hospital and all my work related dramas paled into insignificance.

Anyhow, the good news is that while none of these issues are entirely resolved they are better than they were. I have decided to re-open the blog and continue posting on such vital subjects as biscuit consumption, suicidal sheep and batty behaviour.

Stay tuned for comedy marquee japes aplenty!