While Year 6 and half of Year 5 have been on residential, the remaining children have been writing diary entries for a servant who worked at Blenheim Palace in the 19th century. The children were encouraged to use a range of sentence starters and descriptive devices as well as sharing emotive detail. Her’s Daisy’s entry:
Tuesday 24th June 1884
Today has been absolutely awful! I hate this place, I really do. I wish wish wish wish I was back home with Mama and Papa, and baby Rose, but even though I am only 12 I have to work because I need the money, and this is my only opportunity. It is a harsh place. I have to wake up at six sharp every morning, and if I over sleep I get a good tug of the ear and a slap around the face.
Let me tell you about this infernal day. Firstly, I had to empty the disgusting chamber pots. It’s really Brooke’s job, but at the moment she has a bad case of influenza. I do feel sorry for her, of course, but I can’t help but wish that she was here. After I had emptied them all into the slop bucket ( eleven as Master and Mistress have guests staying) I had to polish Master’s shoes and light the huge coal fire in the drawing room.
With coal smeared across my cheek and polish on my new white apron, I scurried out of the palace to pick some herbs for Cook. The huge eyes leered at me from the ceiling. As intimidated as a little robin in the hands of a tabby, I flew (not literally) down the concrete stairs, grabbed a handful of mint and dashed back inside. Those eyes are so scary; Mistress must be mad. They follow me through the great hall, and still haunt me in the kitchen. I hate this job.
“There now,” Cook said gently. “That stag been following you again? No need to look so frightened, you’ll get used to it eventually.”
“No Cook,” I reply. “It was the eyes this time!”
Shaking her head, Cook told me to ignore them. I would, but how can I? They are huge! I think I will faint next time I see them.
Mary Mac was waiting for me when I came out. She’s the Duchess’s eldest daughter, about 4 and 10.
“Good morning, miss,” I said, performing a delicate curtsey, then clamped my hand over my mouth. “I’m terribly sorry, I know I must only speak when spoken to, Mary Mac, I mean miss….” I was now horribly flustered.
“Calm down,” reassured Mary Mac. “I won’t tell mother. Come along, now!”
Dazed, I followed her into the great hall. It certainly is great. Giant! Next to the stag’s corridor, it takes ages to get to. Grudgingly, I polished the dusty skirting boards, and by the time I was finished it was lunch: A meagre slice of bread with a bruised apple. As it is Maisy’s birthday today, Cook made her a lovely creamy cake.
“Here, Elsie,” she whispered, slipping a slice into my pinafore pocket. “For being a good, helpful girl!”
Elated, I smiled at her, but then I suddenly spotted the Duchess looking towards us. For one terrifying moment I thought she had seen Cook’s sneaky move, but is was much worse than that.
“Come with me, Elsie Lockwood,” she said stiffly. Before I had a chance to respond, she grabbed me hard by the arm. “ I require your service.”
Breathing heavily, she tip-tapped down the stag’s corridor in her stupid pink shoes. The big stag’s head right in the middle followed me all the way down, but for once I didn’t really care. She stopped me to pick up some linen to iron, then we carried on. I was still wondering where on earth she was taking me. Abruptly, she let go of my short arm. We were now outside the scullery, just next to the kitchens.
“This will be your new room,” she announced. “Pollyana will be taking your old one.”
“But… but…. I don’t want to be a parlour maid!” I protested.
Impatiently, my mistress let out an agitated sigh.
“You will still be a maid of general work, Elsie, what is it that you don’t understand? Polyana is much more well behaved than you, and you know that the good ones receive the privileges!”
With that, she dumped my few but precious possessions into my arms, and then she tapped back down the floor, fixing her luxuriant raven-black hair into an elegant chignon as she went.
“Windows!” she called over her shoulder. Grumbling, I emptied the linen onto the floor and then trudged away to find some cleaning rags. By the time I had cleaned all 129 windows, my poor hands were neon red and my nails were scrubbed so much that some of them were bleeding. By this time I was INCANDESCENT WITH RAGE!
Exhausted, I collapsed into my itchy bed at half past ten (I am never in bed before that time). Finally, all my duties had been done! Time to get some well-earned sleep…. Suddenly, an ear-piercing scream shattered the silent air like a rusty wrench.
“Sorry, Pollyana!” I cried, and fled out of the room, across about a hundred corridors, until finally I reached the scullery. It is even worse that my other room in the servant’s quarters, as I have to share it! I share it with Hetty, she’s quite nice, who snores like a pig. Anyway, I must go. My candle is burning out. I am as tired as though I have run a marathon, so goodbye, dear diary. I will eat my cake tomorrow, even though it is slight.
By Daisy MacDonald