Monday, 10 September 2012

Thynne pickings


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.


14 comments:

  1. Think yourself lucky that you don't have to deal with Alexander... Mad as a hatter.

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    1. I was kept apart from the old Lord as well, but would occasionally bump into him as he emerged from a hedge, staring at the touristslike the madman he was.

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  2. Hello:
    We knew it well before the lions and all that madness, as we expect that you did too, and before the 'art' work of the present Lord Bath.

    The pun in your title appeals to us greatly. And they are all as mean as can be!!

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    1. I never knew it before Jimmy Chipperfield was let loose on it, sadly. I knew they widow of Valentine quite well before she died, and after she was evicted by the Thynnes to live in Bath.

      The old Marquis was fond of telling people how many books he had in his library, and how he had never read a single one of them. The interview by Auberon Waugh was a true masterpiece - "Reds under the bed..." etc.

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  3. Should have put the old boy on the island with a t.v. and let the gorilla run the place.

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    1. His younger son suggested that on a few occasions, I think.

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  4. Are you going or not? I'm hoping it's the prelude to another adventure. I think estates that big yield deranged behavior. Churchill's relatives, for instance.

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    1. Going where? It's been a while since 1987.

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  5. The more I read about your exploits both past and present Tom the more amazed I become!

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    1. I amaze myself, Weave. I always think I lead a boring life until I recap. I don't even embellish that much - honest - and most of the people around me have had the same experiences with the same people. Mind you, we don't always talk about the boring other bits which make up the bulk of our past.

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  6. Some people have more cents than sense.

    Like Joanne, i thought you were going to go look for mushrooms there now. As if the work you did in 1987 gave you some sort of lifelong pass or something.

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  7. The rich are different. They spend your money, not their own. QED.

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    1. Not true. I bear no grudge to anyone who has more money than I do, nomatter how they came about it. Although it may not be possible to gain wealth by any other method than impoverishing others, I still do not begrudge them that, just so long as the principal of 'noblesse oblige' stays an institution. I would, however, hang up all merchant bankers by the testicles until the money dropped out of their upside-down trousers, and a few starving children got something to eat.

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