MISSING THE MAITRE D’

COLLECTIONS OF STUFF

I’ve often reflected that a good Maitre de (front of house manager) is irreplaceable in a hotel or

restaurant, although the better he is, the less he will appear to be necessary. I’ve seen some very bad ones in my time: one who rejoiced in the name of Homer and appeared to have the sole duty of being everyone’s friend; a red-headed youth in Glasgow who when I said to him, That was a very nice meal and the service was good (to which he should have replied, We are happy to be of service, madam) instead muttered, Och aye, while not looking at me.

While we were in the Cotswolds we visited the National Trust’s house in Snowshill Manor with Joanna and family. We look it up for location and accessibility. It has a long cart with seats in it, pulled by a tractor. So we set off. It is not particularly easy to find, nor is parking very plentiful. As soon as we disembark from our cars, we see a sign that baldly announces, buggy transportation cancelled. A sign points to a rough looking track disappearing round a corner and announces, 15 minutes walk. I decide to attempt it with John and my walker but it soon becomes apparent that the person who measured the walk was wearing 7 league boots. In addition the path which is rough and difficult to push vehicles along goes up and down steep hills. I notice that people with quite mild difficulties – an elderly gentleman with a stick; a lady pushing a twin pram; a young man carrying a large, complaining child – are becoming quite distressed. John decides I will never make it there and back and leaving me to go with Joanna, returns (up hill and down dale) to the car for the wheelchair.

We rest, wheezing, on the small terrace before the house. Tickets are timed, and ours is for 4 pm. It is currently 2.30 pm. We send Lawrence in to use his friendly Glaswegian charm to persuade them to admit us earlier. He is successful and when John has taken his inhaler and rested for 5 minutes we seek admittance. The welcoming steward has eyes of the oddest colour I have ever seen; they are a deep, bight turquoise. He says to me, Now you have to remember, Madam, that everything in this house was hand-made. I am not quite sure why he is telling me this.

The house presents a classical exterior to the terrace (although windows to the right of the door are a slightly different design to those on the left). But once within you realise that the classical exterior is fraudulent and has been tacked on to the side wall of a mediaeval house which still stands in all its huddled disorder, In addition the house is not furnished really; it is stuffed with random ‘collections.’ I can see no unifying pattern to these hoardings; if the gentleman fancied them, he bought them, lots of them whatever they were; and you could not say that his purchases exhibited any great taste.

There are models of ships, some of great size (these are in every room.) There are Oriental cabinets, which in a Japanese house would be displayed in solitary splendour in an otherwise almost empty room but here are stuffed in great quantities (not very wabi sabi) into small poky irregular shaped rooms. There are uniforms like the terracotta army, but complete with accessories and made of metal. There are dolls and doll-houses. As with the boat models, vast numbers od very noisy clocks chimed at all the wrong times. There are penny-farthings with a little dog attached to the picnic but with a built in toolkit. There were musical instruments in a room which appeared to have been a kitchen.

Had we enjoyed our visit the reception guide asked, looking slantwise at us through the turquoise eyes. I realised why he had stated at the outset that these artefacts were all hand made. He knew they were trash. (More considered view: they weren’t all trash, and some of them were OK but one was left with the impression that this ‘hobby’ was an indication of a disturbed mind.) I replied that it was amazing what could be done and he graciously suggested that we did not return up hill and down dale. He would open a gate off the terrace and John could bring our car to there.

We were quite taken aback that he had not made anyone aware he had that option. John pulled himself together and accepted the kind offer.

We then went off at quite a trot to collapse into the car before someone countermanded his offer; we had a light refreshment and headed out for home.

Returning to the maitre d’. The staff at Snowshill Manor were kind and helpful. In the end, they gave us very assistance at their disposal. However they need to provide better access; it is not OK to blithely announce that the buggy service is ‘OFF’. And the attraction of Snowshill is the loveliness of the entire village, how one beautiful house after another sits peacefully in this glorious valley. They should make an exotic garden there, and build a really fine tearoom and shop, plus an adequate car park.

As for the motley collections – I’d recommend they throw them out.

I would not recommend you visit Snowshill just at the moment and when you do go, nake sure you are wearing boots, carrying inhalers, and have a loudspeaker to summon assistance when you get lost!

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About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

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