18 June 2008

Lessons learned

Many years ago, in another life, I worked at Balmoral Castle from August to October for three consecutive years. Despite a life travelling this was my first experience of working away from home and one that I enjoyed immensely (lessons learn - independence, having to be resourceful with money).

I was in my late teens and working with much more experienced staff in the kitchens so was the butt of many a kitchen joke (lesson learnt - go with the flow and laugh at yourself). The work was hard, but enjoyable and I did learn quite a lot - having a chance to try things out that you had never tasted before was good. How to cook venison, in a variety of ways including roasting, casseroles etc. How to kill a lobster; (lesson learnt - I like cooking it seems despite the fears of my domestic science teacher) I was hopeless at this, despite my ability to despatch a rabbit, I hate killing things which are sentient - quite why I eat meat I am not 100% certain as it does touch my conscience.

We had a number of social occasions during the stay, not least of which was the scottish country dancing held every Saturday in the hall down by the stable block. Attended by the attending scottish regiment which my first year was the Black Watch and yes it is true (and was demonstrated) about the correct dress when wearing a kilt. (lesson learnt - persuading two left feet to dance; Once I knew what I was supposed to be doing I actually enjoyed the set steps of country dancing) Twice during the 12 weeks of duty, they held a Ghillie's ball where we had to dress up and was more formal that the dance at the stables; I even got to dance the dashing white sergeant with the Queen Mother, Prince Charles and Andrew and there can't be many people who can say that - just wish I had the photo's to prove it though I do have a pre-picture somewhere as we glammed up in the staff quarters.

One year they arranged for half the staff to take a coach trip to the Bell's whisky distillery, I love whisky so this was a real treat for me to see how it was made and the tasting afterwards was excellent as was the half bottle they gave to each member of staff.

Another year was to go to the Baxter's jam factory where we were treated to tea with Edna Baxter and her sons and had a personalised tour of the factory; we felt like we were important visitors as they made us feel really welcome and to this day I still like their soups and jams.

I was lucky in that we did get an occasional couple of hours off, and the stables staff let us take the fell ponies out on the surrounding hills. Quiet apart from the grouse spooking the horses underfoot leading to a number of falls and long walks home as the ponies made their own way back.. one reason you were not allowed out on your own.

After three years, I didn't want to go back to London and enquired about a job in Scotland - I would have been happy to work on the Estate in any capacity but they didn't have any vacancies at the time so regretfully I returned to London and left the following March to start work in IT; do I regret it, no I had a great time but living in London took it's toll - I am a country girl at heart and living in the city was stressful no matter how good the job so it was time for a fresh start.


A. said...

It sounds a most wonderful experience, and a demonstration of correct dress for a kilt thrown in! ;)

Nicey said...

Hey I know where ya coming from, I had a great time on the Kildere estate up there in scotland, fishing on the Tay for Salmon and drinking the local whiskey from the distillary cant remeber which on ethough

Nicey said...

Oh yeah to be able to wear the tweeds you had to catch a brace of pheasant, shoot a stag and catch a salmon

Emma said...

From one country girl to another I know exactly where you are coming from...but some great fun along the way..xx