Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Monday, 10 September 2012
An autumn afternoon on the banks of Shearwater lake in the forests of the Longleat estate - one of my favourite mushroom-hunting grounds.
Lord Bath tries to discourage mushrooming close to the house, but I reckon I have a right. After the freak hurricane of 1987, I was called in to replace several tons of the ornate stonework which had blown off the parapets and through the roofs of coach houses, etc. and I believe I actually saved some lives when I spotted a 2 ton piece of 17th century frippery which was leaning right over the public entrance to the Orangery, ready to fall with the push of a finger. The old retainer said that during that night, stone finials could be heard cascading down the roof of the main house like hail.
I made friends with a few sea lions when I was there, and it was unnerving when they shot up to the little wooden foot-bridge to see me - they weigh about a ton themselves. I also made the acquaintance of some very large and noisy guinea-fowl; ditto peacock; ditto a parrot who was a mathematical genius; but thankfully I was not introduced to the baboon who ripped the arm off a keeper at the shoulder with one swipe of it's formidable teeth.
Nor did I meet the lone male gorilla who they had cruelly placed on a small island and given a television set for company. Idiots.
The old Lord Bath had a little cemetery devoted entirely to his deceased Rottweilers, and during my period at the madhouse, another one kicked the bucket. The old retainer asked me to price for making a very small and simple headstone for it, warning me that His Lordship cared more for those little memorials than all the stonework put together. I did not understand what he was suggesting at the time, but when I quoted some piffling figure (I think about £30), he said that His Lordship was shocked and horrified at my greed, and that a local mason had agreed to do the work for about £10. That was a wise mason. He ended up getting the rest of the storm-damage work as a result of the little headstone for Fido.
He's probably still there now, and I'm not sure I envy him. Like I say, the place is a madhouse.