Dear Mrs Henley,
Both my husband and I
were so pleased to
hear your cousins have decided to take our little home for the summer
while we are away visiting my sister in Australia. They will find our
little Bartsetshire village such a pleasant change from the United
States which we understand from what we have seen on the television to
be such a noisy place with all those guns. It will be wonderful for
your cousin to convalesce in peace and quiet after his operation and I
suspect his wife could do with a nice long rest too.
I will leave all the keys with Mr Green at the post office but he is a
little deaf and they may have to shout at him before he understands
they are to be my tenants. The front door key is labelled 'larder' and
they will have to turn it to the left and give it a good kick as it
sticks in damp weather.
They will find all the instructions on feeding the cats behind the blue
vase on the mantelpiece. Tarquin, the larger of our two
never drinks yesterday's milk and I always give him today's and finish
up yesterday's ourselves. Lucretia may run round and round howling in
that funny way Siamese have when she’s ‘on
it soon passes off when Tarquin ‘performs’. (We
have two reservations for the kittens.)
Tell them not to let Falstaff - that's the old pony - get into the
orchard from the field as apples don't agree with him and he will keep
them awake all night with his awful braying.
The Colonel’s peacocks in the garden at The Hall can be
irritating – that high pitched sound they make - but it is
usually only for a couple of hours in the morning and again in the
evening. Fortunately they won’t hear Mr Jones’s
unless the wind is in the east. The hooting at night is the
owls that have nested this year in the stables – we are so
pleased. They are a protected species now and they do help to
keep down the mice.
Speaking of the stables, it is wise to keep them locked (key behind the
clock in the hall) as the hayloft had become a venue for the village
Romeos and Juliets. They were never very quiet or discreet
their trysts so we had to be firm.
I am so sorry about all the buckets of damp clay in the kitchen and the
two pottery wheels in the hall. Since old Mrs Paddle died, the
Gilchester Women's Guild have been holding their meetings here and I
have been successfully reviving an interest in ceramics. They only come
one afternoon a week - Thursday - and I told them I was sure they would
not mind their continuing during their tenancy. They are so
enthusiastic it would be a pity to stop them now. Miss
Chubthorne, our librarian, can show them the statuette she made at our
classes. She says it was based on Rodin’s ‘The
but it is amusingly naughty, if you get my meaning.
When they are using the kiln my husband built for them in the back
garden, do be sure all the windows at the back are closed as the smoke
always seems to blow towards the house.
Your cousins will meet our new vicar – we say
as he has only been the incumbent for four and half years. The Reverend
Chubb will give them a guided tour of the church (parts dating back to
the 12th century) and doubtless show them the medieval stone carvings
that are of a ‘robust’ nature in keeping with the
Chaucer who may well have inspired the carver.
Rev Chubb (‘call me Charles’ he insists) was most
when he heard we were going to Australia to my sister's for the
summer. He was so worried as to who would run the Jumble Sale
look after the refreshments at the garden fete which is in July
the 22nd I think !Of course there is absolutely no obligation for them
to help him if he asks but I do think they would find it amusing seeing
all our quaint English customs. Last year we made
the organ fund and this year it’s the roof and tower and so
are aiming higher. It is such a wonderful cause but if you
feel your cousins would be up to jumble and refreshments, perhaps they
could judge the vegetables – as I expect they have those in
America. This is not at all difficult as
wins the broccoli and mixed greens and Colonel Featherstone the root
vegetables every year. Besides, foreign judges with their funny accents
and funny way of speaking would put them all on their toes.
Everyone is dying to meet them and Miss Chubthorne has penciled them in
to talk to the Woman's Guild one evening about life in America and all
about Hollywood and the Red Indians. Young Jim wants hear all about
Disneyland so I told him to stand up and ask when it comes to
My husband used to run the coconut shy and the cake raffles at the fete
and I know the vicar will be hard pressed to find someone else, but I
did explain your cousin's recent illness and he said he could switch
the coconuts and raffles with Harry Stout who collects the money at the
gate - so you hold him to it. That would
be a sitting
down job and you don't, I know, want your cousin to overtax his
strength. The coconuts can be very trying as last year we got
rather rough element from Cropbridge who didn't always bother about
throwing at just the coconuts.
Wasps have made a nest in the thatch outside the bathroom but I don't
think they will bother them if they keep the window
shut. If they do, then they must tell
Trotter and he
will do something - probably smoke them out.
About Trotter. He has been with us as gardener for more than forty
years and remembers my great-grandfather when he was head gamekeeper to
the Squire. He likes to come early – soon after dawn
if they want to sleep in best to leave the back door on the latch. He
is no trouble and cooks his own breakfast and washes up
Just leave the bread, eggs, bacon, sausages and black pudding on the
table. He's a little strange – given to grunting
than talking - but really very sweet when you get to know
never allows anyone other than my mother and myself to cut any of the
flowers in 'his' garden so let him get them for them. If they notice a
small boy wandering round at night that will be most likely his
grandson Adam, seeing how the conkers and the apples are getting along.
About cleaning the cottage – Mildred Potter used to come in
mornings a week but she is now coming close to full term and her bulge
rather inhibits her from doing more than light dusting. She still
won’t reveal who the father is as her own father, she says,
made terrible threats and he has been seen oiling the shotgun he has
not used for years. I think I can talk Annie from our local pub, the
Dog and Duck, to help out while your cousins are here.
I’m afraid your cousins will have to get used to warm British
beer while they’re here (unless they drink lager) but I have
taken the liberty of putting their names down for the pub quiz team at
the Dog and Duck– Tuesday evenings. Jim Cross, the landlord,
all ‘yanks’ play poker and wonders if he could get
Alice Neapole from Squires Pardon will be bringing her stallion over
when the Colonel’s brood mare is in season. The
‘covered’ in our stable yard as this avoids
other horses if they try to do the ‘covering’ up at
Hall. It is quite a noisy spectacle but fortunately of short
Before I knew your cousins were coming I did promise that the
traditional children's Wakerday Tea could be held in the garden. It is
the last Friday in August. If it rains they will have to have it in the
living room but as there are never more than thirty children they
should be able to fit them in. I do hope
mind. Mr Neil, the schoolmaster, and his
wife will be
there to look after them and keep them under control but it will be
best to move all the ornaments into another room just in case.
I do hope it doesn't rain as otherwise they won't be able to have the
Morris Dancers which are such a traditional part of the tea. Last year
it was so wet my husband had to do conjuring tricks for two hours in
lieu. I expect your cousins have lots of hidden
they play any instruments do you know?
I think they will find everything to their liking. The grandfather
clock in the hall always chimes thirteen on the hour during the night
and may wake them at first if they are light sleepers. The key to wind
it is behind the hallstand on a nail but Trotter likes to do
that. He will also clean up any mess in the cellar
husband’s last batch of home-made sloe gin has proved to be a
too lively and some of the bottles have been exploding at night making
quite a bang and strewing glass and gin everywhere as well as creating
quite an alcoholic odour.
I'm afraid they will find this part of Bartsetshire terribly quiet.
There is so very little to do here and I'm so afraid they'll be bored.
Still, there are nice walks and it will be a wonderful rest for them