So what kind of staff is needed to run this place?
Here's how we're organized.
Well, that would be me, head of the staff. Ha! In England we're called Butlers. In America, as of late, we're more usually referred to as Household Managers, or just House Managers. There are some hybrids of this, of course. Some houses in America have a Household Manager and a Butler under him. But in this house I serve as both. My business card title is "Administrative Household Manager", simply in that I'm in charge of the household budget, and hiring and training staff. All said and done, I'm mostly called butler--but quite honestly, I think of myself as just the errand boy. Ha!
Then, there's Nelda, the Executive Housekeeper. A wizened old dear that's been with the Mrs' side of the family for twenty-seven years. She regards me with supreme suspicion, but is generally quite pleasant to me. I defer to and depend upon her greatly. But she doesn't drive, she doesn't get out much, and her cleaning techniques, tools, and cleaning chemicals are all so terribly outdated.
She can be really cranky, but with each new cleaning technique I introduce she has always, I must say to her credit, shown genuine interest, and adopts most procedures right away. The Mrs, who is British, brought her along when she first came to America, along with an accent so thick her words are barely recognizable as English. Every word Nelda she says to me I always have to respond with "What, what...?" Ha!
She thinks of herself as being from the servant class, as her parents and grandparents were also servants in Wales. And I cannot tell you how much I've learned from her in regards to demeanor, presence, and proper relationship with the family. This was all covered in Butler School, of course, but nothing compares to old-world, servant-class experience. I adore her!
Anna is part-time, but shows up on Nelda's days off, and for any special occasions which I may have mentioned before are way too often! She's been here seven years, she's good at her job, we get along well, and whenever I don't feel like coming in, I can call her for backup and she's just here, right away. Bless her heart!
The Upstairs Maid:
I'm pretty sure Eleanor hates me. She's been with the family for thirteen years, and not about to take anything from the new upstart House Manager, although I've been here three years. Ha! And I don't care. I trust her so completely that I rarely have to venture upstairs at all. Her work is perfection! But when I told her the palms overhanging the Mrs' marble bathtub are dying from the chlorine water, she immediately started using bottled water, as I politely suggested. And the palms are looking a little better. Elanor is also in charge of laundry. But there's not that much. A few sheets and towels, underwear and cleaning rags--the Laundry/Dry Cleaners come and pick up everything else, even the linen napkins.
Maurizio, an Italian immigrant, is our Groundskeeper. And his nephew Dario is his Assistant. Physical laborers, yes. But these two fellows are true artists in their work, bringing their old-world expertise of formal gardens to us. They are wonderfully self motivated, and as they've been here for years, they know just what to do for each and every season. They assist inside, changing light bulbs, cleaning the fireplaces after each use, helping to move furniture when we need to clean underneath, and so on. They're also in charge of seeing after the vehicles, cleaning and gassing up, inspections and repairs.
The Chef in this house works Wednesday through Sunday, which is a little unusual. But as my employers usually have Guests on the weekends, they want him around. He makes lunch for the staff, and dinner for the Mr and Mrs. The menu is up to him, and he's in charge of shopping for the menu-specific items he needs. (All other shopping is assigned to me.) Generally his menus are American (whatever that is), French and occasionally Asian cuisines. He very kindly leaves Italian to me on his two days off, since he knows that's all I can make. He's usually quite dependable, especially if there's an impromptu cocktail party. But there's the "party animal" side to him that keeps us all guessing.
So there's seven of us to see after this family, the 22,000 square/foot house and eleven-acre grounds.
Which sounds like enough. And it usually is.
Especially if our employers are out of town. Ha!
Thanks for reading,
UPDATE: June 2011
In mid-March we had to replace Eleanor, hard as that was. We hired a terrific new Upstairs Maid, Ester, and she's doing really well. She fits in here like a glove, and has a professional eye for detail. We miss Eleanor, but we're already thankful for Ester.