Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Castle Dreams and Realities

Of all our holiday diversions, next to flipping rocks and walking wooded paths, the best was a castle tour. Now we have toured castles before but this one was truly exceptional with so many rooms and an overly large garden. The history of it was intriguing as well. Truly fascinating tales about the ‘reality’ of the people who initially lived there and how that castle was built through more sweat and brawn than you would ever find in today’s world even if you arranged an international ‘muscle-man convention’ with steroids allowed.

It was a towering structure built in amazing quick-smart time from heavy rocks that were obviously split without the convenience of a rock-splitter and lifted into place with an oh-so-crude pulley mechanism.

Hub and I were spellbound by the imposing structure and amazing architecture. By the sturdiness of the wood within and the veneer of the ornate floors and fireplaces. We just looked and looked and looked some more. The eye so delighted, the mind so intrigued, that that night we dreamed dreams of that castle.

The next morning, it was easy to see Hub was tired and he was able to see I was tired as well. It wasn’t for lack of sleep. It was the hard labor of the work we engaged in during similar dreams. Hub spent the night running his castle and I spent the night running mine. As Lords and Ladies we were very busy.

Hub could barely manage to keep up to the steady flow of coal and wood needed to heat the place. There were livestock concerns. And at the same time, he was trying to select appropriate helpers from staff that knew everything about rocks and wood and mortar, but nothing about electricity or water transport (except by rope and pail), to maintain power sources and water lines. He was organizing gardening crews, dealing with maintenance issues, and wondering in this harried state, how best to find enjoyment in his castle. And that enjoyment part was the part that evaded him most.

I was having similar problems. The deepest cut was the guilt I was feeling about having 22 vacant guest-rooms while so many in the work-a-day world were working too hard, too long, and sleeping in cold dank conditions on straw mats. It seemed to me that if I had occupants in those rooms, that might ease my guilt.

So I planned suppers and over-night weekends for the upper crust and then shuddered with fear that the kitchen staff would fail me. That the pate would not have sufficient seasonings and the aspic would not gel properly or the roast duck would be too cold by the time we managed to get to the main course.

I already knew that the smallest disaster would spread like wildfire through the ranks of the famous and then I would have to entertain that same group ten times more in quick succession to show that it was a coincidence, not a failure on my part.

I found these people outwardly gracious but severely critical, so soon after I formed an alternate plan. I would convert my group of paid staff into one big happy family. And so I moved the castle staff to those beautiful rooms and invited them to come eat with me. That was a grand idea. They were such fun. Such good company. But by treating them that good they became contemptuous. In short order, my gentle ways had them acting like irresponsible teenagers.

They engaged in games of backgammon and lawn polo and told me they would do the laundry and scrub the kitchen floor ‘later’. They became disrepectful and I became angry and hurt by their disrespect. But then being angry is no more enjoyable than isolation or constant criticism. And so I found that life in the finest surroundings was sad and perturbing because I could not manage to maintain the kind of serving and friendly alliance I had hoped to.

Truly, how does one define and specify in accurate terms that thing that is more necessary than completion of daily tasks? Loyalty and respect, even if it can be articulated, cannot be demanded like a demand for starched and ironed sheets. And so, in my frustration, I began construction of a labor camp next door for disciplinary time-out and to renew their appreciation for my kindness. That’s when I awoke from my dream.

And so on our tour day, Hub and I were so envious of the early inhabitants of that castle that had lived in such finery. But the next day, we were grateful that we just have a bit of land, a simple home, and occasional ‘socializing’ with friends who find more joy in our faults than they do in our perfections.

And we were doubly glad we were not a Lord or Lady of that castle when we went for breakfast the next morning. There was an overly large breakfast-crowd and only two waitresses moving at break-neck speed to try and keep up. While we waited for our order to be taken, we overheard the wife at the next table ordering what-should-have-been a very simple meal for her and her husband.

“I want two eggs, sunny-side up. Firm, but not hard. No runny eggs and no hard eggs laced with brown or charcoal edgings. As for him, he’ll have one smallish egg, poached, with lean bacon and light toast. And could you trim the crusts—a quarter inch—from his toast? He’ll also want his raspberry jam in a side dish. He can’t open those fiddly jam envelopes and that is the only way to ensure he only has the one level teaspoon of jam his dietary condition allows.”

While the waitress clamped her teeth and maintained a frozen smile, Hub and I looked at each other and grinned. Obviously these people could run a castle without guilt about empty rooms or exhausted staff. Efficiently, without worry or concern and with every detail adeptly attended to.


Matty said...

Lady Roberta,
You dared to 'interrupt' a backgammon game? Surely you jest! It's no wonder the staff pulled rank!
Oh...when I play backgammon....nobody interrupts..the telephone doesn't dare ring...the Jehovah's dare not ring the bell...at least not till they hear the cry..."I won!"

Pauline said...

That couple at the end? They could run the castle but not without help from the people who trim crusts and open jam packets. It's diners like them that keep me from being a waitress!

Roberta S said...

matty, you certainly know how to draw me in. Ooooh -- "Lady Roberta" has such a lovely enticing ring to it.

And the backgammon -- reconsidering now -- you are so right -- I, too would be contemptuous if someone interrupted my game. Not backgammon, mind you, but equally disturbed when my game of Scrabble is interrupted before it is finished.

Thanks for visiting. It is always such fun when you stop by.

Roberta S said...

pauline, thank you for that astute observation. You are so right. Indeed you are very right.

It is nice to think there are still some people left in this world with awareness of the people "who trim crusts and open jam packets."

Certainly your comment leaves us all with something worthwhile to think about.

Anonymous said...

Roberta, I was rolling my eyes as you described the woman placing the breakfast order. Whatever happened to common sense. When a room is that full, and there are only two servers, you choose the simplest meal you can and let them get on with the business of serving you.

I loved the night's dreams about the castle. I probably would have fretted about getting the weeding done! *G*


Roberta S said...

Hi buffy. Thanks for the comment. When that woman was placing her order, we rallied to think of a way to top it just to make a point how ridiculous it was. We had breakfasted there enough we were certain that with a nudge and wink the waitress would know we were kidding. Hub was thinking of ordering two eggs, 3 inches in diameter, one inch apart on the plate, etc...but try as we might we couldn't construct something that we were confident would be ridiculous enough for her to see the nonsense in it. So we scrapped the idea.

Glad you enjoyed our castle ponderings. And indeed, the weeds would be another big concern with such huge rambling gardens and grounds.