Fortescue Towers

Random ramblings from the life and times of Col. Fortescue Featherstonehaugh Fortescue.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Mellow Fruitfulness

As one writes all is right with the world. The trees are alive with the colours of Autumn and all is quiet barring the gentle chatter of a Vickers from the North tower as the Mem' tries to bag a few migratory ducks as they pass overhead. Although judging by the starlings littering the lawn one fears that she is not having much luck on that front and nor are the starlings. Must get Clackthorpe to make sure they are cleared away forthwith, not because one fears a visit from the RSPB inspector but one is sure cooks menu for this evening mentioned 'Game Pie'.

Even the gazebo is back in its rightful place after being rescued from its watery grave and Blenkinsop has even recovered from the recovery attempt. At least physically if not mentally. One is still not sure how he ended up like that but at least his wooden leg kept him afloat even after Utterthwaites rescue attempt left him concussed and confused.

One is still confused oneself as to the discovery of a rather soggy pair of scorched Y-Fronts and some ladies frilly apparel in the submerged gazebo. One cannot imagine how they might have arrived in such a place and their parading by Utterthwaite on the end of his mole clubbing spade caused some consternation amongst onlookers. Lady J was heard to mutter "Oh my!" before crashing into the herbaceous border in a dead faint and the under gardener Luigi was suddenly nowhere to be found.

Anyhow, as one said, all is right with the world as one gazes from ones study window across the mist wreathed estate although it rather appears that the Mem' may have mistaken the postman for a Grouse. One thinks one should really get one of the staff to rescue him from where he is pinned down at the main gate as one would hate to raise the ire of the village postmistress again having lost another of her staff. Not so close to Christmas and the arrival of a postal order from great aunt Hortensia.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Bangers and Crash

With the recent spell of clement, some might say overly so, weather one decided that a little al fresco dining might be called for. The fact that great uncle Quentin was in residence and his constantly burning briar had necessitated a fog warning siren to be fitted in the long gallery naturally had nothing to do with it. One simply felt mans primal urge to hunt down and consume ones food beneath the azure skies or at least get cook to throw a few meaty morsels from ones local purveyor of such upon a barbecue on the terrace in the hope that even cook could not ruin them any more than the average outdoor chef.

One really should have learned by now that if cook is involved even water is in danger of becoming scorched, ruined and otherwise unpalatable. Gazing from the study window, one was momentarily convinced that the weather had broken and a dense fog had rolled in from the sea some miles distant but on opening the window one became more convinced that great uncle Quentin was puffing a particularly vile mixture of old English Shag mixed with Utterthwaites special compost mixture. However, this was not the case as uncle Quentin does not have a tendency to explode when he lights up.

Deep in the roiling fug one noticed a brief flash of light and one was surprised to hear the deep booms of several explosions the like of which one had not heard since ones service days. Seconds later the fug cleared and one was greeted by the sight of the Gazebo hurtling skywards on a plume of fire and a shower of smoke trailing chipolatas.

Rushing from the study one swiftly ascertained that cook, having some problems with the barbecue had adulterated the charcoal with a can of petrol Utterthwaite had been using to refuel 'Old Betsy', his faithful lawnmower with by the gazebo. On applying a match to the barbecue cook discovered that petrol, fire and chipolatas are rather a bad mixture, the resulting explosion hurling meat based products several hundred feet into the air. Worse however, was yet to come as due to spillage a trail of fire raced back to the gazebo.

It would appear that Clackthorpe, fearing another invasion of Johnny Foreigner had taken to stockpiling munitions once again and was using the base of the gazebo as a had wondered what the furtive rustlings beneath ones feet were when one was avoiding the mem' by taking a decent port and a good book out to the gazebo for a few hours solitude. Anyhow, on being exposed to the flame the stored explosives did what explosives are wont to do and rather went bang.

Luckily the gazebo made a splash landing in the ornamental lake and injuries were light, confined to a slightly scorched cook and the verger who was rather taken by surprise by a banger from heaven as he cycled along the lane. One is told that the resulting damage to the 'Tea Shoppe' is not too severe and that the cream gateaux saved the verger from any lasting damage. One was slightly perplexed to notice Luigi, the under gardener and the chambermaid sneaking through the kitchen garden, soaking wet, slightly scorched and in a state of deshabille. One really cannot fathom how they might have arrived at such a state as they were nowhere to be seen at cooks ill fated outdoor culinary attempt.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Flying the flag

One is, as regular readers will know, a patriotic chap. Loyal to Queen and country and always ready to fly the flag. Thus, with the rapidly approaching jamboree of sporting prowess that is the World Cup one thought one had better show ones support and fly the flag from ones car as so many other patriotic fellahs are doing. However, one feels that maybe one should have made it clear to Blenkinsop, gentlemans gentleman since 1947 that one required a small flag to fly from ones vehicle.

Imagine ones surprise then when emerging from Fortescue Towers for a jaunt to ones club to avoid the Mem' who had been at the medicinal brandy one discovered that the Bentley had sprouted a flagpole which was not too distant a relative to the one on the parade ground we used to hoist Cuthbertson Jnr to the top of on a regular basis when one was a junior officer. How the daft old beggar had managed to climb to the top of the East wing to cut it down evades one, especially after all his complaints about the damp in his wooden leg.

Of course, one would have had him remove it forthwith but the Mem' had roused from her inebriated fug and had managed to find the keys to the gun cupboard once more so one was forced to flee rather hastily lest a few ounces of buck shot perforate the upholstery.

Now one finds oneself in the rather awkward position of being up in front of ones fellow magistrates for dangerous driving. It's jolly well not on. A chap tries to be patriotic and show his support and is hauled up in front of the beak for his trouble.

All one can say is that surely that at least one of the village cycling club, the verger and the local bobby should have been able to see one pootling down the road. After all, the flagpole was large enough as was the flag and they really have no excuse for not seeing one and one did stop to help rescue them from the village duck pond.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Water, Water Everywhere...

One is in something of a pickle after the Mem' discovered ones good self sharing a tub with one of the servants. Of course one protested ones innocence and pointed out to the Mem' that despite the parlourmaids obvious nubile charms that one had not noticed in the slightest until the Mem' had pointed them out that one was in fact attempting to carry out ones civic duty to save water. One has a good memory and was simply remembering the old slogan from the last water crisis to "save water and bath with a friend."

Fortunately for one the steam in ones bath chamber had affected the two rounds of bird shot that the Mem' had loaded in the Purdey she was pointing at one at the time and she stormed off uttering the kind of oaths that would make RSM McNulty blush and mentioning that one might consider taking ones ablutions with Blenkinsop in attendance in future. Of course one was utterly outraged at this. Bathe with Blenkinsop ? That would mean standing in the stableyard whilst being hosed down by Luigi and scrubbed by the stable lad with a broom and carbolic. This was not always the case as ones staff did try bathing ones gentlemans gentleman in the lake but as a result of this dead trout were surfacing for weeks and one had several complaints from the local waterboard about toxic run off getting into their aquifers.

Naturally, other than the parlour and chambermaids this only leaves Clackthorpe, Utterthwaite and Perkins. Clackthorpe has apparently vanished into the shrubbery again and has not been seen for weeks barring the occasional furtive rustling amongst the Gladioli, Utterthwaite hasn't bathed since 1947 claiming the earthy aroma means the moles can't smell him sneaking up on them and as for Perkins, well, given his little peccadilloes one would rather not have him fiddling around for the soap when one is in ones bath.

So, one simply has no choice other than bathe with the parlourmaid if one is to save water as we have been asked to do. One wonders why the Mem' is so suspicious ? After all, one is a gentleman of the highest standing. One is merely trying to do ones bit and one had hoped the Mem' had forgotten the unfortunate incident in the linen cupboard that occured some time ago.

However, one is a tad perturbed that having heard of ones attempts at water conservation a certain caddish major of ones acquaintance has taken to following Lady J with a towel and loofah.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Row, row, row your boat

One knew it was a rather large mistake to agree to go off on a fishing trip with ones somewhat deranged cousin Arthur but one did believe that the poor chap had recovered from his little obsession about German naval power.

It was a sunny day in early February when one had Blenkinsop load ones tackle into a small boat and one along with ones batman, Perkins and cousin Arthur set off down the river for a quiet afternoons fishing. No sooner had our small party set off than Arthur began to mutter about searching for 'the Kaisers battleship' and took over the engine mumbling like a madman, which in the circumstances is an apt description, about ironclads and the dastardly hun. Before we knew it we were some miles out to sea pootling up and down the channel. Now this in itself would not have been too bad if Arthurs obsession had not led him to decide that 'jerry' was hiding in one of his ports and that the only way to stop his expansionist plans was to take the battle to him, cold British steel, grit, pluck and up the jolly old empire. The fog bank probably did not help either.

One can honestly say that getting lost somewhere in the Atlantic with a raving madman and a chap who one is most definitely convinced bats from the opposite end of the pavilion is not ones idea of a jolly jaunt especially when all one has to eat is a packet of cooks ham sandwiches which had curled into something that resembled sausage rolls. Of course being an ex-military chap one took the hardships with some fortitude and a stiff upper lip but one did rather wish that Arthur had not taken to firing potshots at any passing oil tanker in the mistaken belief it was a heavily disguised battleship out to take over the dominions of her Brittanic majesty.

Two damned months of floating around the North Atlantic until Arthur runs out of ammunition and we wash up in Africa, Tangiers to be exact. Thought the nightmare was over when one reached the consulate but then Arthur was spotted riding off into the desert on a camel followed by a pack of the local fellahs chanting something about "El Orrance!" and one has heard rather disturbing rumours about the local trains vanishing out in the desert. Probably nothing to do with Arthur but a party of German tourists did return somewhat traumatised after apparently being captured by a deranged madman in a djellaba ranting on about the Kaisers colonial aggression.

As you might guess, after all this one is rather glad to be back home in ones stately pile. Even the mems' little foibles and Blenkinsops constant complaining about the wet rot in his wooden leg cannot spoil ones relief at being back...although one is vaguely perturbed at Perkins wandering around the place offering to show anyone and everyone the 'artistic' postcards he got from the 'rather nice chap' he met in the souk.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The return of the Hamish

No sooner has one recovered from the excesses of the festive season and the last of the Stilton has been safely disposed of by ones manservant and a specially trained squad from the local TA than what should roll around once more but Burns night.

This year one was hoping for a respite from cooks culinary disasters and a generally peaceful time but instead one was rather rudely awakened by a terrible screaming emanating from the vicinity of the shrubbery. Naturally one immediately thought that one of the footmen had inadvertantly trodden on one of Utterthwaites mole traps or that Luigi had sunk back into his old ways and was exposing himself to the maid servants once again. This was discounted when one did not hear hysterical laughter shortly afterwards nor spotted a mackintoshed figure slinking furtively away.

Instead the screaming resolved itself into a strangled rendition of 'Amazing Grace' and one was treated to the sight of RSM McNulty accompanied by a shadowy figure weaving across the lawn puffing as hard as he could into a set of bagpipes. It would appear that Cousin Hamish has finally managed to extricate himself from the crate in which he was sealed last year and returned to castle McSlurry. Fortunately for ones eardrums one of his whisky sodden weavings took him into the rockery where one of Clackthorpes explosive devices lay undetonated by the rampaging French chefs of the summer invasion. A blinding flash of light and explosion later and the infernal pipes were sailing over the arboretum and Hamish was standing bereft of kilt showing that he truly is a real Scotsman.

Luckily the mem' was woken by the racket and with commendable speed and a far better aim than usual she gave the airborne instrument both barrels ensuring its brief reign of terror at Fortescue Towers was over. Although one is told that the local constable was somewhat surprised to be knocked off his bicycle by what appeared to be a giant smoking tartan Tarantula hurtling out of the night sky.

One has since heard that ones good friend and neighbour Lady J required reviving after inadvertantly viewing the terrible sight of Hamish standing naked in the rockery through her binoculars but one does rather wonder why she was bird watching at two in the morning.

Monday, December 05, 2005

A butler in a fir tree

One has discovered that ones gentlemans gentleman and fir trees do not mix awfully well.

After last years Christmas lights debacle which only saw the drive cleared of 737s in mid January one decided to ensure that this years festive decorations were a little more low-key. Just a small pine tree for the great hall and a bit of tinsel around grandfathers portrait above the stairs. Thus one sent Blenkinsop limping through the snow with Clackthorpe to select a suitable tree from the big wood at the top of the hill and one settled down for a pleasant post lunch nap as cooks mashed potato was sitting somewhat heavily. One must have dozed for some hours as the embers were glowing in the fireplace and dusk was falling about Fortescue Towers when one was woken by the kind of screams usually heard from below stairs when Great Aunt Agatha cannot find the key to the Sherry Cabinet. This time however, they seemed to be emanating from beyond the study window.

Ones gaze was caught by the sight of ones butler hurtling down the slope on a rather large fir tree, his agonized screams being caused every time the runaway pine hit a hillock and brought his nether regions into contact with the trunk. Like a woody torpedo he was headed straight for the front entrance. It was most fortuitous that the parlour maid was on hand as her quick thinking saved the door from destruction by the simple expedient of opening both it and the windows at the rear of the house.

Like a guided missile the tree and its screaming manservant cargo shot through the house, helped on its way by the mem' who gave it both barrels from the upper landing. Describing a graceful arc it shot over the verandah and through the ornamental gardens until its headlong flight was halted in an explosion of pine needles, squirrels and tumbling butler by the Summer house by the ornamental pond.

A fir tree stuck horizontally through the summer house is not quite what one had in mind but one must say that the servants have done a splendid job decorating it. In fact if the local W.I had a prize for the most Avant Garde decorated tree in the village one is sure one would walk off with the prize without any problem whatsoever. However, one thinks that next year one will get the tree from B & Q.

Monday, October 31, 2005


The village has gone absolutely crackers. Everyone from the vicar to the families on the council estate wandering round in protective suits and masks in case a swan sneezes on 'em. Papers are the same, every time a Sparrow drops dead half way across the globe there is ten pages on how we are all doomed. Bonkers, the lot of them and one is definitely not going to give up dining on well hung Pheasant in case it has forgotten to blow its beak.

In fact one is suffering from something of a surfeit of slightly gamey avian wildlife at the moment as the mem' concerned about her health has been blasting away from the clocktower like some deranged sniper. One cannot even go out without the risk of being brained by birdlife tumbling from the sky. The postman will no longer deliver after being knocked unconscious by a plummeting Cormorant and ones gun dog needed resuscitating after a flock of Starlings flew over. Poor thing was running around the great lawn picking up feathered corpses for two hours then the mem' spotted a couple of flights of geese headed our way.

One did attempt to remonstrate with the mad woman but to no avail and the avian slaughter got worse when she discovered the Bofors gun ones father had hidden after the last big shindig just in case the Wehrmacht tried another world tour or the reds arrived on the doorstep one morning. One does rather hope that she runs out of 40mm soon as the pilot of 4.30 mail plane may get something of a shock as he passes overhead. One really does not fancy a re-enactment of the Dambusters raid over the ornamental pond if he should suddenly get flashbacks to his days over Berlin. Birdlife falling from the skies is bad enough but having a sack of birthday cards and telephone bills skip across the lake and crash through ones study window is just not on. One should receive ones mail through the postbox, not be precision bombed by it.

Still at least cook is happy as she can now try a few recipes from her ' Origynalle Mediaevalle Cooke Booke - 1978 Edition' although if Blenkinsop can find ones tin helmet one is going to make a dash for it in case the mem' really does manage to bag four and twenty blackbirds.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

On Mobile Telephones

Ones niece Josella has recently acquired one of those portable telephones. Allows her to keep in touch with the other debutantes and plays 'Rule Britannia' every time someone calls her. Been trying to convince one to invest in one as well. Absolutely not, bloody infernal devices, see the local common oiks hanging around outside the village store using them. Tippity-tapping away to their equally revolting chums, probably informing them that Mr Bhutee has had a few cases of cheap cider delivered and to get there before they drink it all. Not going to lower oneself to that level and anyway, carrying one means that the mem' can get hold of one even when one is enjoying a quiet snifter at ones club or comfortably ensconced in the summer house with a G and T and one of Sir Percivals collection of vintage erotica.

Of course, one isn't completely out of touch with technology. Ones grandfather, the late Sir 'Binky' Fortescue VC, OBE, DFC had one of Mr Bells Telephonic Apparatus installed in the 1890s. Been providing sterling service ever since without the need for gimmicks and makeovers. Does the job it was designed for and can't see Mr Bell resorting to annoying blue amphibians to sell a few more.

However, one does rather prefer to use the old fashioned method of pen and paper. Scribble a missive and get Blenkinsop to deliver it to the mem' in the East wing. If he returns safely unmarked by a couple of rounds of birdshot and without his wooden leg in splinters one knows the message has been well received. Much more pleasant than having to listen to the mems dulcet tones emanating from ones telephone as she employs the turn of phrase that would make a navvy blush.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The battle of Fortescue Towers

Been a bit of a week here at the old stately pile as a dastardly plot by our continental neighbours was revealed to be happening right under ones nose or more precisely the Lower Meadow.

Seems that the great unwashed camping on the village green were in fact an undercover unit of top French chefs driven to Blightys shores by the likelihood of a rather poor truffle crop in their own country. Having caught wind of rumours of a rich crop beneath the lower meadow after last years celebrity fungus fiasco the blighters upped sticks and set up camp in the village, disguised as a bunch of itinerant peddlars and layabouts, waiting until they could put their infernal scheme into practice. Really one should have been more suspicious at the wafts of garlic and Gauloises drifting over from the village.

The first one knew about this terrible deed was when Utterthwaite heard the unmistakeable sounds of tunneling from beneath the Lower Meadow. Stout fellah that he his, he tootled off with his mole clubbing shovel, convinced that he had discovered a fresh outbreak of the furry little fiends just waiting to get at the hallowed turf of the great lawn. Several good hard whacks later he was somewhat surprised to have uncovered four chefs, two entremetier, a boulanger and a rather confused confiseur tunneling under the greensward from the direction of the village. A moment later he was running for his life as a small party of sous chefs gave chase as well. Damned continentals were trying to steal ones fungi by resorting to the kind of tactics last seen employed by decent chaps trying to get out of the Huns Stalags.

Naturally Utterthwaites yells attracted ones attention and he had the presence of mind to lead the raiding party towards the rockery which as regular followers of ones reports will know was heavily mined by ones estate manager. Moments later there were Continentals cartwheeling through the air towards the church much to the chagrin of the verger who had only recently finished prising the last of the druids from the steeple. Luckily the vicar was at an ecumenical conference and was spared the sight of an airborne sous chef landing in the baptismal.

One has been keeping ones elephant gun to hand in case any more of those dashed theme park chaps arrived at ones gates so one was able to pot a few of the blighters from the verandah. Must say, bagging a brace of Michelin starred restaurateurs is much more fun than Pheasant shooting. A couple of ounces of buckshot applied to the derriere and they turn the air bluer than that sweary fellah from the television.

Clackthorpe meanwhile had organised the staff and a swift bayonet charge across the tennis courts saw the invaders caught in a pincer movement between oneself and fine British steel. Although one must say that the sight of Blenkinsop limping down the grassy bank wearing the housekeepers chamberpot on his head did rather take the polish off the moment. There was a brief period when an attack by a force of determined sauciers almost flanked the chaps but the day was saved by cook who along with the housemaid had managed to gain access to the battlements and set up a barrage of rock buns and scones from the cannons one had installed for ceremonial occasions. The horror of being bombarded with rock hard pastries caused their nerve to crack, having only been used to soft as cream gateaux and eclairs and the whole bally lot of them fled with their tails between their legs only to run slap bang into RSM McNulty emerging from the shrubbery, sporran all a quiver with a somewhat wilted aspidistra attached to his head and a bunch of gladioli protruding from his kilt as camouflage. The sight of this, enough to break even the stoutest of resolve finally finished them off and they were last spotted attempting to swim the channel in record time. One thinks one will have no more trouble from that quarter any more. Bounders should be glad that the mem' was off with the ladies of the W.I otherwise there would have been a lot less of them making the swim home, especially after what the potager did in her prize Floribunda.

Still, saw the blighters off, another great victory for the jolly old empire and all done before afternoon tea as well.

Toodle pip!