Archive | March, 2013

Meet the maids – and the manservant

29 Mar
Wordsworth House servants visit Dove Cottage

On holiday: The Wordsworth House servants visit Dove Cottage, former home of William and Dorothy Wordsworth

Our costumed servants enjoyed their annual day’s holiday last week, despite the wintry conditions, visiting Wordsworth’s other homes – Dove Cottage, Allan Bank and Rydal Mount – in Grasmere.

William and his sister Dorothy used to walk miles each day, come rain or shine, and the servants felt distinctly Wordsworthian as they tramped through the snow to keep their appointments.

The teams at the houses they went to were amazed that they hadn’t cancelled and stayed warm in Cockermouth – but our servants are made of sterner stuff than that. (Lovely Chris at Allan Bank even blogged about it.)

Many of our servants are seasoned travellers – and all have had interesting lives.

New maid Ruth Akers once went on a plant collecting expedition on the second highest mountain in Belize, while Helen Helm – who’s in her second year with us – has swum with penguins and seals off the Galapagos Islands.

Their line manager Alex Morgan spent two months travelling around Europe on a double decker bus with 22 other people, and Gwen Irving, another new recruit, has driven the Flying Scotsman train.

Gwen’s husband Keith – our new manservant – has a second job as Cockermouth’s town crier. Rachael Marrs and Lynne Wild, who have both been with us for several years, also have part-time jobs as a nurse and an assistant on the local newspaper.

Meanwhile, Sophia Atcha, who is also in her second year as a maid, is a talented make-up artist who worked on the film East is East, and now provides a make-up service for brides on their special day.

Sophia in the kitchen

Daily grind: Sophia hard at work in the kitchen

Helen tidying the children's bedroom

Nurse maid: Helen tidying the children’s bedroom

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Welcome to our world…

25 Mar
Jim with the Tardis

Have Tardis will travel: Jim, one of the new arrivals on Wordsworth House reception

I’d like to introduce you to some very special people – a former children’s TV presenter, a Doctor Who fanatic, a leather-clad motorcycle tourist, and a lady with no sense of smell.

If you visit us here at Wordsworth House and Garden, you’ll meet at least one of them at the start of your journey of discovery, as they’re all members of our seasonal visitor reception team.

In her early 20s, new starter Elaine Wise was a children’s TV presenter for Channel 4 and she worked with megastar Jonathan Ross when he was just a humble researcher.

Fellow newbie Jim Hughes is Doctor Who crazy and used to run a shop that specialised in Egyptian arts and crafts.

Intrepid retired advisory teacher Jen Jackson, who is in her second season on reception, has toured Europe on a motorbike.

And lovely Susan Smithson, who has been with us for several years, rues the fact that she has no sense of smell. She told me sadly: “I miss out on all the lovely scents of your garden.”

Susan was a huge help after the horrendous flood of November 2009 – as the picture shows.

Susan brushing bushes

Bush brushing: Susan clearing silt after the flood

Jen in reception

Warm welcome: Jen ready for the day on visitor reception

Bring us your money, your picnics – and your skills

20 Mar

View from the Stepping Stone in KeswickIf you’re in the Keswick area, come and see our lovely new National Trust shop and information centre, which opens this weekend on the foreshore, just beyond the Theatre by the Lake.

It’s twice the size of our old shop, packed with a wide range of goodies and practical outdoor kit, and is the perfect stepping stone to all the North Lakes area has to offer.

If you’ve got time to spare, it has a fabulous new raised picnic area, where you can relax and admire the view (above).

The Stepping Stone, in Keswick, takes shape

If you have even more time on your hands and fancy joining our friendly staff team, Kirsty, who runs our café at Wordsworth House, here in Cockermouth (below), is looking for a casual staff member.

Wordsworth House cafe

They need to be great with people, fully flexible about when they work – and good at multi-tasking in a bustling environment.

If you think that might be you, check out our advert in Friday’s edition of the Times & Star newspaper – and send us your CV by April 7.

An apology from the Snow Witches

15 Mar

Fletch in the snowAmanda and Alex, who provide my technical support (ie typing), would like to offer a sincere apology for causing the horrendous weather of the past few days.

No sooner had they posted my last entry about the lovely spring conditions than the blizzard began. Since then, we’ve had intermittent snow, some frost, constant freezing temperatures and torrential rain.

What a week for us to begin the 2013 season – and for my new friend, cockerel George (below), to take up residence with us.

Cockerel George in the snow

I’m so glad the garden team have made me a new scarf and epaulets from off-cuts of the children’s bedroom carpet – they’ve kept me cosy and I think I look very grand.

Amanda and Alex have promised me better days for Easter, but I remain to be convinced. Just to be on the safe side, I’m banning them from mentioning the weather again.

A host of golden daffodils…

11 Mar

DaffodilsSpring has definitely arrived in my lovely garden. The sun is out and so are the first of the daffodils. These early arrivals are Lent Lily, the variety that Wordsworth admired in the woods beyond Gowbarrow Park, at Ullswater, which inspired his famous poem.

The fine weather has also brought the garden volunteers out in force. They’ve been mulching the hen enclosure ready for the return of my feathered friends, brushing down the yard, and giving the garden a through spring clean.

Alison and Jean hard at work

I will leave you for today with an extract from that wonderful poem…

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated

8 Mar

… as Mark Twin almost said.

I was at the centre of an almost-murder enquiry yesterday. Amanda and her team were sprucing me up for the reopening of Wordsworth House and Garden tomorrow, when Manager Zoe looked out of a window and was horrified to spot the scene below…

Whodunnit - is Fletch dead

She thought I’d been murdered, so took this snap for evidence. A few minutes later she looked out again and was even more alarmed to see Amanda digging a hole to hide my body. Again, quick thinking Zoe took a photo to show the police…

Burying the evidence

But before she could pass on the evidence of the heinous crime, my number one fan, costumed servant Sophia, rushed out and gave me a reviving kiss…

Sophia gives me a kiss

We thought that was the end of the tale, until first thing this morning when Amanda and Zoe arrived to find a member of the local constabulary interviewing my other friend Alex, Sophia’s boss, in the back yard.

Was she the culprit? Was she being framed? No. It turned out that Alex, who’d been very upset by the previous day’s events, had arrived early, spotted me risen from the grave and been so amazed, that she completely forgot to switch the house alarms off before she started work – and the lovely officer had immediately come to check we weren’t being burgled!

A hug from Amanda

Still, all’s well that ends well, as that other famous writer said.

Meet the Wordsworth family’s servants

5 Mar

Costumed interpreters dressed as servants in the Kitchen at Wordsworth House, Cockermouth, Cumbria.

I’m looking forward to seeing my friends the costumed servants back at work in the house and garden – and getting to know the new members of this and our other staff and volunteer teams.

As I get to meet them, I promise I’ll introduce them to you too!

In the meantime, here are some picture of last year’s team hard at work in the house!

Costumed interpreter dressed as a servant in the Dining Room at Wordsworth House, Cockermouth, Cumbria.

Costumed interpreter in the Back Office at Wordsworth House, Cockermouth, Cumbria.

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