It was a cool wet day when they brought Lovell home from the hospital. She was so excited to see and play with Crumbs once more. Deciding to keep life as quiet and normal as possible, Alice and Morgan had not told her of their decision about Nov 21st. There would be plenty of time for that and since Morgan had promised the ‘new dress’, he wanted to be with them when she chose it. A couple of hours shopping followed by lunch would be just the ticket. But not for a few weeks.
Driving through the entrance from the road, one lunchtime, Morgan saw a man walking along ahead of him. He stopped along side him and lowered the window, asking. “Can I help you?”
Recognising the driver as one of the owners of the property, the visitor tipped his cap in respect, then asked a question.
“I was wondering if there are any jobs going. Outdoor work. In the gardens. I had my own allotment for years. The land has been sold for redevelopment, a shopping mall I hear, so we were all given notice to quit. The garden centre I work in, has served notice, they are closing down at the end of the week. Times are hard and not many jobs going around here at the moment. I am an outdoor soul, love working on the land, close to nature.”
Opening the passenger door, Morgan invited the stranger into the car and up to the house for a chat. They went in through the back door and into the kitchen where George always had the kettle on the boil.
Over a pot of tea and fresh warm scones, they had a chat. Paddy Woods was his name, though known to all and sundry as ‘Wacky’! Morgan took to Wacky Woods immediately. Once the snack was finished they walked outdoors to the gardens. Automatically, Wacky pulled a weed or two, before straightening up and apologising for doing so without permission.
“No Problem, as you can see we were working on the house and it is only now we are thinking of the area outside. I think it might be a major task to keep the grounds in order. I might manage the grassed area with a ride on mower myself, but the walled garden, fruit trees and shrubbery would be beyond me. George the chef, you met him in the kitchen, would like us to provide our own produce, if possible.”
At that, Wacky’s eyes came to life and he oozed enthusiasm for the project.
“The land round here is healthy and not bombarded with modern chemicals. The walled area would give protection from the worst of the weather. Ideal for vegetable growing.
Is there a green house or a shed for potting and keeping tools?
How large are the grounds?
My brother worked in the garden centre too, he was indoors, mainly doing the heavy work, lifting, shifting and the a few bits of maintenance and joinery work. He helped me in the allotment when I needed extra hands, but he spent most of his spare time under the bonnet of an old jalopy that he bought from a car auction a couple of years ago.
Now it was Morgan’s turn to sparkle. Was Wacky’s brother a kindred spirit, with a love of engines?
“Now I have to end our conversation for today, I have a meeting in twenty minutes. Come back into the house and give me your details. I would very much like to have another chat with you and your brother, if he is interested. I am sure we could come to some arrangement. We do have a map of the land that I could dig out for our next meeting.
How are you fixed for Wednesday, I will be free all morning?”
“Wednesday will be fine for me and I am sure it will suit Willie, my brother too. I will check with him and let you know this evening. Thank you Mr Troy, I really appreciate this.”
With that, ` they shook hands and went their separate ways.
Morgan went in search of Alice. He found her talking to Mr Yates. At the new reception desk in the hallway. The desk blended in with the surroundings and it was difficult to believe it was only a week old. Carolyn was a real treasure, to source it for them.
Perhaps, someone else was won over to Carolyn’s charms? Mr Yates was appearing more dapper these days. Gone were the many layers of untidy clothes and he no longer looked like a well worn packed suitcase. His whole countenance had softened since the day he came crashing through the ceiling to their feet. That fall seemed to break through an invisible barrier between them. Now his beard had adopted a more shapely and cared for shape that emphasised his eyes. They actually smiled and looked alive, particularly when Carolyn entered the room.
With that, Carolyn came tip-toe tripping through the front entrance. Bubbling with ideas as usual, this time about the plans for the wedding.
Alice, before I go home today, I need an half hour with you and your fancy fiancé, to run through a couple of ideas.
“Fancy Fiancé indeed! Come on girls , we have interviewees eagerly or should that be nervously waiting to entice us with their talents.”
It was George’s idea for the interviewees to gather in the Oratory with tea and coffee on tap for them. It was a relaxing space and gave them the opportunity to chat together and also get to know the talent they were up against. He joined in with them, thus discovering how they interacted with each other. They had no idea that he was part of the team. This method worked well the previous week, when he was interviewing waiting staff. Morgan did the Oratory duty then, while Alice sat in on the interviews. Morgan said that he wished he had thought about this ‘extra pair of eyes’ over his years of interviewing.
George brought all the ‘kitchen’ folk that he suggested in on another day and together they prepared a meal, with Alice, Carolyn and Morgan in attendance. When it was cooked, they all sat at a large table in the banqueting room and shared in the feast. It was a good experience all-round. The interviewers, got a feel for the ‘heat and timing’ in the kitchen, and the cooks got to meet their employers on their own level.
By evening they had all but one member of the team to negotiate with: the Housekeeper. They wished to have another chat with Mrs Giles, but she was away, at her son’s wedding in new York and due back later in the week.
Carolyn had her time with Alice and her fancy fiancé, when she reminded them, of how they wanted the staff to feel part of the Hour House family.
“So why not involve them in the arrangements for the wedding, and invite them to join in on the big day? The meal they had with the kitchen staff, gave her the idea. Employment contracts would mean they were in place from the beginning of that week, to get a feel of the place and know where they fitted in the scheme of things.
“Be brave. Be different. Don’t wait a year before having a staff party. This way they will gel together and see each other both in the work situation and at play.
“It might work.” said Alice.
“Of course it will.” chimed in Morgan. “Then all we need is to have another chat with Mrs Giles, and find a few musicians. We need live music so that I can have a first dance with Mrs Troy! We need to put our thinking caps on.”
“Did you know that our Mr Yates plays the clarinet?” Asked Carolyn. “He is actually part of a quartet and I am invited to hear them play at the weekend. Would you like me to ask for a couple of tickets, so that you can hear them for yourselves?
“Please do.” Said Morgan. Our Mr Yates is a man of many talents. Just ask Alice, she had him falling at her feet!”
Now come on, dear heart, we are well on the way to living our dream!”