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by Robert Cooper

Chapter 5

I went off on "walkabout".

First off I went to the kitchens. The contractors were already in and beavering away with steam cleaners and other machines. The filters were all off the ventilators and being steam cleaned out the back over the drains. I asked them to steam out the grease trap as well.

My own staff were busy cleaning china and pots and pans, sorting the cold store, refrigerators and the freezers and disposing of a surprising amount of out of date food.

I asked why so much and I was told that the previous chef would not allow it to be thrown out. It seems the old chef had not been too fussy about expiry dates. I said that Mrs Lang would no doubt have a recording system to avoid such waste in future.

I noticed that the general mood of the kitchen staff seemed a lot better, seems that sacking the old chef was the right thing. I asked if they had seen Mrs Lang yet and they said she had been in on Friday afternoon and Saturday most of the day.

She had collected all the paperwork from the office so it was clear for the cleaners and had said that she was taking it home to go through on Sunday and would be back today after lunch. I noted on my pad that a new desk and chair was needed. I left them to it and continued my walkabout.

I was down near the butlers pantry when I was challenged by one of the staff who I had not seen yet. I identified myself and when he tried to apologise I complimented him on his sense of security. He said he was the butler, Standish, and he had had the weekend off to go to his daughter's wedding.

I asked him to come up to my office later that afternoon for a general chat about the running of the house and the changes I had already made and those I intended. I told him that I had stolen Edward as my private secretary. He laughed and said he had already worked that out.

Lunch appeared from Thatchers, steak pie, very tasty.

Edward appeared as I finished and told me of my afternoon appointments.

Local builder, 2.00, electrician for survey 2.30, Plumber for survey 3.00, computer consultant 3.30.

I would explain to the builder that because of the extent and complexity of the major refurbishment of the bedroom floor I wanted a "big team" in for that so it would be completed in a timely manner and not drag on for months, I appreciated that one man could only do so much in a day but he could count on bidding for small jobs that he could handle like the accounts office. I wanted to use local artisans wherever possible.

In Seymore's office I had found a box of badges labelled "Visitor". After my encounter with Standish I decided to make use of them. I had Edward give him a list of who was coming and when.

l wanted to use local suppliers wherever possible and asked Edward to make a list of all the local businesses with an outline of what they could supply. I had a strong suspicion that Seymore had been making "commissions" on the side for the purchases for the Manor.

Edward went off to order bedding for Geoff and me.

I also wanted to find Sheldon and ask about the productivity of the kitchen gardens. We should not be buying in so much I thought. Did he have a Gardener and staff? I also wanted him to contact the local farmers about meat, poultry and eggs for the kitchen and stable supplies in consultation with Mr Lang unless we grew our own. I also wanted him to make a survey of the estate roads.

We had not had our Monday briefing this week as everybody was either new in post or already had enough to do but next Monday would be a very busy session. I must get my pad going as I had many things to ask of the managers that I now had.

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