Fortescue Towers

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

Friday, December 24, 2004

Food for thought

Oh dear! One knew it was a big mistake allowing cook to roam in the library. Seems the mad old bat has found a tome on mediaeval Christmas catering. A nice plump, juicy goose is off the menu at Fortescue Towers this year as the crazed woman has decided on something a shade more adventurous. Even as one writes the sound of gunfire reverberates around the study as she stalks the estate for anything that walks, squawks, crawls, has wings, eyes or vaguely looks edible. Half an hour ago there were several explosions from the kitchen garden as she shot the veg. Wouldn't have thought the sprouts needed both barrels, they only become dangerous after cook gets her hands on them. At least, one thinks it was cook, maybe the mem' is shooting the natives again. Damn! They'll be more revolting than ever if she is.

Even the peacocks in the formal garden have flown south for the holiday season although there are unsubstantiated claims that they are hiding in the cellar at the 'Jolly Weasel' having not made it that far. Most of the estate staff are hiding in the bar.

A tentative look over the menu reveals we are apparently having swan with a jus of finely ground squirrel and stuffed with magpies tongues. One hopes that it being carried flaming around the great hall as the illustration shows has escaped cooks notice as we cannot afford any more repairs after the accident in the east wing. However, the fire brigade have been notified just in case. One also hopes that none of her shots go astray, what with her being a little shaky after a shade too much of the cooking sherry. If Luigi gets hit again heaven only knows what he will do, the topiary is still causing consternation in some quarters.

Ah well, one will just have to send Blenkinsop to the village for the usual seasonal order of a gross of 'Old FoulBellyes Patent Stomach Elixir' and hope not too many of the guests are hospitalised this year.

Toodle pip and 'Merry Christmas' to one and all!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A Jolly knees up

Had a bit of a bash for the below stairs staff yesterday. Jolly good fun was had by all although one fears that cooks decision to add a few bottles of her parsnip wine to the punch might be the cause of the hideous screaming emerging from the footmans water closet this morning. Of course, one attended briefly as master of the house then left the staff to their own devices. Nothing further shall be mentioned of the incident involving oneself and the chambermaid. We were in the linen cupboard checking that the sheets were correctly folded, the staff have been a bit lax on proper folding etiquette recently. It was all perfectly innocent and if the tabloids mention a word on the subject they will be hearing from ones solicitors.

Anyway, there were far worse goings on. Enough said although it was jolly unfortunate that the Mem' managed to get into the gun room again. At least the damage was minimal although one does think that Luigi, the under gardener has over-reacted a tad. Of course, he's continental, damn excitable those foreign chappies, can't see that Titchmarsh fellah getting worked up like that although one is told that he does scribble some quite racy novels. Couldn't believe what Luigi had done to the topiary. The great drive is now dominated by a giant...well....John Thomas, artistically sculpted from the Laurel that has stood there since Sir Cholmondleys day. It took Blenkinsop three hours to revive Lady Jacobea when she arrived for afternoon tea and the vicar is claiming it quite puts him off writing his sermon every time he looks from the window. What's worse, had some of those druid chappies turn up and start dancing around it at sunrise this morning, something about solstices and fertility symbols. Dashed nerve. Would have set the dogs on them if they had not been the local MP and chaps from ones club. Quite put one off ones kippers to see Sir Humphrey dancing round the garden in a sheet with a towel on his head and waving a sprig of mistletoe. I suppose one should be grateful for small mercies, at least they don't do that thing with virgins any more.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Rambling free

One reads in the broadsheets that under the governments 'Right to roam' drive, huge tracts of land have been opened for the hoi-polloi to wander about willy-nilly. Damn well had one choking into ones scrambled porridge this morning. Parties of the great unwashed traipsing around ones estate. Probably find that they will be demanding that guard rails be fitted around the lake in case someone falls in and that the memsahib is kept securely locked away and unable to get to the gun cabinet...although the latter would be a damn fine idea, save on bribes to keep wounded servants from going to the tabloids.

Although, this may have its advantages. After all, the chaps in office have stopped us landed gentry chasing cute, fuzzy little foxy fellahs but nothing has been said about chasing less cute rambler types across the countryside. Clackthorpe is positively ecstatic at the idea. After all, those day-glo anoraks they wear means they are easier to spot when they go to ground in the big wood. Less likely to escape than foxes and much more sporting than just giving the bounders both barrels of ones Purdey. One can just imagine the splendour of the Fortescue hounds charging across the lower meadow, the blare of horns, riders in hunting pink, faces all ruddy from the exhilaration and a hot toddy, chasing down some common oik who dared sully the hallowed turf of the formal gardens. What's more it saves us having to cover Blenkinsop in Aniseed and set him off for the hounds to follow. What with his wooden leg one doubts he would make it as far as the gates and one fears the sport would not last for long unless he was released at least a week beforehand.

Tally ho!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Christmas Illuminations - Part II

Having sent Blenkinsop back onto the roof of Fortescue Towers, securely anchored this time to avoid any further damage to the memsahibs roses and having banished Clackthorpe to a distant part of the estate it was hoped that the sorry state of the Christmas illuminations could at last be sorted out.

Indeed, with a little help from Utterthwaite, the great house soon boasted a fine display of seasonal lighting by yesterday evening. A million twinkling fairy lights stretched down the long drive. Saint Nicholas could be seen peeping from the west wing chimneys, illuminated deer gambolled through the arboretum and a thousand festive lanterns brought cheer to the formal gardens. Even the charred remains of the east wing roof shone with cheerful seasonal light. Quite splendid and almost certain to win the prize for the best illuminated dwelling in the village. Can't be shown up by ones workers and servants can one ?

Safe in the knowledge that the horrors of the weekend had been erased and with the mem' off at one of her W.I meetings one settled down with a large brandy and ones chums Carstairs, Fanshawe-Smythe and the vicar for a few rubbers of bridge and some reminiscing about the good old days on the frontier.

We had just reached the story about sergeant major Wilkins, the two donkeys and several 'ladies' from the 'Club Cha-Cha' when our evenings entertainment was rather rudely interrupted by a loud roaring noise and a quantity of plaster falling from the ceiling. Of course, one immediately thought that cook had got into the wine cellar again and was attempting to kill Blenkinsop, an all too common occurence given their volatile differences. However, a few moments later the infernal racket was repeated sending us all outside to locate the source to find a large aircraft parked on the lawn and Blenkinsop attempting to guide another down the long drive with two table tennis bats from the games room. It would seem that several pilots mistook the long drive for runway three at the local airport and the flashing Santa Claus on the west wing for the lights of Terminal two.

Of course, being a military man one immediately set to sorting the whole jolly mess out. After all, the wily pathan could never bother one so why should a couple short haul passenger flights parked in ones drive. A couple of hours and we had them on their way although one is told that PC Brown was none too happy about a couple of 737s rolling through the village at 1am.

All in all, quite an adventure but one does wonder how to explain the tyre tracks across the mems croquet lawn.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Santa goes hunting.

Having seen the array of festive lights festooned across the houses of the estate workers and others of the lower classes in the village one decided that perhaps Fortescue towers might benefit from some illumination, what with the festive season upon us once again. So, over the weekend one instructed ones estate manager and Blenkinsop to brighten the ancestral pile up a bit, a topical but festive tableau was ones suggestion.

Now, not having much experience of this sort of thing and in hindsight one should have realised that things were not as they should have been after the air was rent by the sound of chain saws sometime after dinner on Saturday. One was also rather put off ones brandy and cigar when Blenkinsop plummeted past the study window clutching what appeared to be an armful of puppies. Fortunately the mems' rose bushes broke his fall and no-one was least not until the mem' spots the damage done to her prize Floribunda. Must remember to slip a few non-slip patches for wooden legs into the old chaps Christmas box this year.

One really should have remembered Clackthorpes pro-hunting stance as come the grand switching on of the lights in the presence of the vicar, the assembled ladies of the W.I and a select gathering of staff the full horror was revealed. When one asked for topical but festive, one had envisaged a tasteful nativity tableau accompanied by a depiction of the good Saint Nicholas handing small gifts to the poor and needy all presided over by a host of benevolent angels and a banner bearing seasons greetings. Instead, what was revealed was Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer pursued by a pack of cuddly Snoopies (ones niece Joscella assures me this is a popular cartoon character) and a red-coated gentleman whom I believe may have been Santa Claus at some time before a Clackthorpe removed his headgear with a chainsaw and replaced it with a riding helmet. The banner that one had hoped would wish 'A Merry Christmas To One And ALL.' now announced 'Up Yours Blair!' in six foot high letters across the roof of the great house.
The whole lot was illuminated by thousands of fairy lights that caused a distinct glow in the night sky that could be seen for several miles.

In fact, one is reliably informed that this horrific vision could be seen as far away as Biss-Hopp Hall where my dear friend Lady Jacobea immediately took to her bed with a large G and T and a bucket of smelling salts. In the immediate vicinity the silence was only broken by several of the W.I ladies hitting the ground in a dead faint and the vicar uttering something quite un-vicarly.

One fears that one will not be receiving a Christmas card from No. 10 this year.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Ladies with weapons

The memsahib had one of her little turns last night. One became aware of this as several heavy calibre bullets punctured the summer house where one had sought refuge from cooks sticky bloater pudding. God knows how the mem' managed to get hold of ones service revolver but it rather brought ones post-prandial musings to a sudden halt as ones years of experience on the North West frontier came to the fore and one sought cover behind a wickerwork chaise.

It was over an hour before the lady of the house could be subdued during which time she had taken pot shots at several servants, the vicar who had called to discuss ones judging of the jams at this years Christmas fete and a pair of hikers who had the misfortune to be crossing the lower meadow at the time.

Fortunately one had the presence of mind to send Blenkinsop sprinting at high speed across the rose garden...or at least at as high a speed as a one legged retainer can draw her fire whilst several of the houseboys and the under gardener stormed her room in the west wing.

Luckily there were no casualties barring Blenkinsops wooden leg which stopped a round during his dash through the rose bushes and even now, Utterthwaite has been set to whittling him a replacement from an old kitchen chair. Heaven knows what would have happened if one of the other servants had been hit. In the old days you could have amputated a limb and they would have been up and about the next day, black leading the range with a smile and a small plaster. Nowadays, anything more than a flesh wound and you're up to your neck in lawyer chappies and the bounders are suing you for industrial injuries. A jolly bad show!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Mouldy Fungi

Was reading the broadsheets over breakfast this morning when one noticed that a recently excavated truffle that had been auctioned for £28,000 had been allowed to go somewhat inedible after being kept rather too long. Seems that a number of celebrities are now a bit out of pocket after the mouldy fungi was buried with full honours in some fellahs back garden. Of course this has set one thinking and what with the east wing needing re-roofing after cooks little disaster with the salad, one wonders if one could convince a few of the rich and famous to part with a small donation for one of cooks mushroom omelettes which are quite disgusting to start with so no hanging about waiting for it to go off before it needs to be interred, thus saving valuable time to be getting on with whatever celebrity chaps and chapesses get on with nowadays.

In anticipation of the bids coming rolling in one has despatched Blenkinsop, gentlemans gentleman since 1947, off to the lower meadow to collect a few fruits of the field. I know there will be a rich crop as this part of the estate always seems popular with mushroom pickers as many is the time one has heard ones estate manager discharging his twelve bore and exclaiming "Gerroutofit y' hippy mushroom picking layabouts!". Luckily the mists that seem to hang over the gardens at this time of year seem to have muffled Blenkinsops complaints about rising damp in his wooden leg as he squelches off into the distance. The silence is now only broken by the quiet thump of Utterthwaite, the head gardener, clubbing moles in the arboretum.

In the meantime one has settled down to polish off the rest of ones kippers in lemon curd...another of cooks little culinary experiments one believes but at least not quite as incendiary as the salad....and to wait for the first cheques to arrive.