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Monday, 19 November 2012

Bob Sharpe - They Also Serve

review by Babs Simpson live on show 15th Nov 2012 I know Maggie reviewed this a couple of weeks ago but I just had to add my review after reading the book. It is the story of Bob's life in service as told to Tom Quinn, the editor of 'Country Landowners Mag' and found it very interesting and enjoyable. bob is expected to work on the Hertfordshire estate where his father is employed as gamekeeper and where his mother had worked until she was married. He expected to work outside with his father but instead finds himself employed in the house as a hall boy - the lowest of the low. But he knuckles down and gradually works his way up the hierarchy. His descriptions of what he and the other lowly servants are expected to do are both amusing and horrifying, but thats the way things were just before the 1914-18 war. Servants were there to serve their masters, not entitled to opinions or, heaven forbid, to challenge anything asked of them. bob gets to the position of junior footman and, with the encouragement of a friend, decides to spread his wings and apply for a position in London, lured on by the prospect of meeting girls. He gets taken on by an elderly and very eccentric lady with a large house in Regents Park then ends up as butler to an even more eccentric gentleman in Kennington who has had to leave Mayfair because of his frowned-upon lifestyle. Bob does meet the girl of his dreams and in the way of those days, becomes engaged for a very long time until circumstances allow them to marry. There are some lovely descriptions of weekend bicycle trips out into the country and how London visibly spread out in all directions so rapidly, it was noticeable from week to week. This is an absorbing, informative book written in a chatty style with all sorts of anecdotes and reminiscences. anyone who enjoyed the original 'Upstairs Downstairs' or 'Downton Abbey', will find it a fascinating insight into how things really were below stairs. Most employers weren't anything like as considerate as the families in the tv shows - in fact their servants were largely invisible to them. How things have changed!

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