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" ASK BRABINGER "
 
 
Do you have a social question, want to know what wine goes with which meat, or would you like to know what life is really like working for Mrs fforbes-Hamilton, then drop Brabinger a line and get the answers you are looking for from the man who knows.
 
Q:  Brabinger, what do you like to do in your spare time?  Seeing that you live at the Lodge it must be difficult to have any time alone.  Also do you drive? Did you ever learn. 

A:  Spare time is really a rarity at the Lodge.  Madam keeps me quite busy, even on my days off.  Yes I do know how to drive but Madam prefers that role.  She often told me my driving skills leave a lot to be desired.  I honestly don't know what she means, although I do take the Rolls Royce to Marlbury Motors for its service's.

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Q:  When the door bell rings at the Lodge, do you answer it directly, or do you wait until Mrs fforbes-Hamilton tells you to do so? 

A:  A good butler will always answer the door or telephone without prompting, unless of course madam has instructed me otherwise.  I'm sure that in the 400 years madam's family were resident at the manor they never answered the door.  Madam however struck luck on the occasion the American film director ( Bob Roberts ) came to the door.  She took it upon herself to attend to the call as I was in no  condition to perform my duties.  The result being a substantial increase in the depleted coffers and a considerable improvement in diet

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Q:  All my quests are arriving at the same time.  Who's coat do I take first?  The one from the oldest lady or the oldest person present? 

A:  I pondered your question long and hard.  On the one hand taking the coat of the eldest woman present is certainly polite.  However, working in this household has taught me that recognizing an 'older woman' as indeed the eldest could be perceived as VERY insulting.  Madam would have rather choice words with me afterwards were I to imply in any way that one of her guests was OLD. 

I usually find that if there are gentlemen present they will often offer to take a lady's wrap and hand them to me for proper storage.  Otherwise I will offer to assist a lone lady and therefore showing respect whilst not singling out anyone in particular.

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Q:  Does Audrey have a television?  It never appears that she watches any programming. 

A:  Yes, Madam does indeed have a television set.  She especially enjoys watching Show Jumping and of course the Queens speech which is broadcast on Christmas day afternoon

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Q:  I know that Mrs fforbes-Hamilton believes in 'Noblesse Oblige' and seems to constantly remind Richard DeVere of it, but what is does it mean? 

A:  Noblesse Oblige literally means 'Nobility Obligates'.  Although I refer to the Oxford dictionary, I trust you make use of Webster's version.  According to Mr Webster, the meaning is : The obligation of honourable, generous, and responsible behaviour associated with high rank or birth.  This is indeed a concept madam often tries to instil in Mr DeVere.

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Q:  Can you help me by suggesting what to serve with afternoon tea.  I am due to host a small group of ladies who are expecting a true English tea.  Other than cucumber sandwiches can you recommend a few easy-to-make items that will compliment this formal occasion? 

A:  In reviewing madams own collection of cook books, I realize how little there is in the way of easy recipes.  I naturally ignored 'Suppers for Simpletons' and took the liberty of consulting Mrs Beecham at the Manor who has graciously offered a few ideas for you to consider. 
Crumb cakes, walnut-cinnamon pound cake an assortment of fancy biscuits (cookies) or fruit scones with cream and strawberry jam (jelly).  Please do let me know if you require any further assistance.  My best wishes to you and for your tea.

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Q : When the Port is being passed round at the end of a meal does it go to the left or the right or does it not matter? 

A: The Port is always passed to the left.  So make sure you sit close to the decanter in an anticlockwise direction.

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Q : I recall an episode where you are serving Mrs. fforbes-Hamilton breakfast and she refers to your tray as "EPNS" .  What does that mean exactly. 

A: EPNS stands for Electro-Plated Nickel Silver.  The tray in question is actually made of nickel and then plated with silver using electricity.  Nickel is used as a 'white' metal rather than Sheffield plated silver which uses copper as a base metal.

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Q : I am writing in hopes that you can help me understand why you should always use a wooden or other 'organic' spoon to serve caviar with. 

A : Caviar should always be served with an 'organic spoon as you put it.  Varieties of this would include not only wood but also bone, ivory or horn.  Metal spoons react with the caviar making the taste less pleasant.  Although madam would never approve, a plastic spoon would be a better choice than silver, gold or other similar metallic serving pieces.

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Q : We are planning our first trip to England this fall, and have two questions for you regarding English manners.  Since we're typical Texans (outgoing, informal), we want to avoid any embarrassment, and would appreciate your advice:  (1)  Is it true that it's considered RUDE to ask people you meet what they do for a living?  If so, why?  Here in the States, it's the first thing you ask someone after an introduction,  to show that you are interested.  What are some accepted subjects?  (2)  What is a nice gift to offer your hostess at a small dinner party?
 
A : Many English people consider being asked what they do for a living as a way of asking how much money do they earn rather than an actual interest in their career.  I am well aware Americans have no problem in asking about jobs and status.  It's just a cultural thing . - Some English people consider Americans to be overly concerned with money and status.   Personal wealth is a very private matter in the UK.
A few suggestions :    It might be better to ask about people's interests and hobbies or sports.  Football (US=soccer) is a major sport here and almost everyone has a favourite team.  They love to talk about their interest in sports.  Be prepared to hear some innocent jokes about American football as we don't understand this at all!
As in America, a well thought out gift for a host/hostess is much appreciated.  Again, do not try to impress with expensive gifts - think small, but personal.  A box of quality chocolates or a small bouquet of flowers is always a good choice or a small hand made gift is a safe choice. Consider how well you know your host.  How about taking a small item from Texas with you for the occasion.
 
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Q : I'd be grateful if you could help with the following query, a very important point brought to my attention by a 'My Fair Lady' website.  When at a buffet meal, after sitting down with one's plate of food should one wait for others to sit down?  It might take a while for the table to fill up due to the unstructured nature of the seating.

A : The simple answer is no you do not have to wait. You may consider it good manners to wait for your partner if they are close to sitting after you, but even this is not necessary. As you stated in your enquiry it might take a long time for everyone to settle down at their places.
At a formal 'sit-down' meal where there is a host and hostess you would always wait until they indicate it's time to start by raising their cutlery tableware.

 
If you have a question then email Brabinger on :- 
 
grantleigh_lodge@yahoo.com
 
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Copyright TTMBIAS 2000                                                  Issued 18 January 2000