Episode 9 || 5 October 1980 || Synopsis || Old Country Wisdom || Manor Trivia
First episode of Series 2 (six episodes)
Guest cast: Ben Aris (Spalding); Nicholas McArdle (Miller)

The financial windfall of Audrey's adventure in crass commercialism apparently has not stretched very far; notices from the electricity board, the gas board and the telephone company all find their way into her wastepaper basket. A letter from the vacationing Brabinger brings more bad news: in addition to spraining his ankle over the holidays, he has now caught a cold, leaving Audrey without domestic help.

Marjory arrives to accompany Audrey on her shopping trip, and gets an earful about Audrey's dinner at the rector's. "I haven't had a meal of such unrelieved awfulness since we left school," Audrey complains. "I had no idea the church still went in for burnt offerings." On their way out the door, they run into Ned, who has been dragooned into working in Audrey's garden. "You've got the blight real bad," he tells Audrey. "I know," she says. "It comes from Mr DeVere."

Mr DeVere, meanwhile, is touring the estate with Spalding, his new farm manager. Their first stop: to meet Miller, the farm foreman, who is handing out the pay packets. Spalding's first discovery is that a gentleman named Old Frank comes in once a week to roll oats for Mrs fforbes-Hamilton's horses...which of course were all sold a year ago. The fruits of Old Frank's labors are discovered in the stable: dozens and dozens of sacks of oats.

Richard's plan is to turn the estate into a working farm, supplying foodstuffs to his supermarket chain. But Spalding is dubious. "If you don't mind my saying so, Mr DeVere, you've bought a period piece," he says, pointing out the antiquated equipment. "I'll give you a free hand to do whatever you think is necessary," Richard promises.

N E D:
"You've got the blight real bad."

A U D R E Y:
"I know. It comes from Mr DeVere."

R I C H A R D:
"What do you think we should run Grantleigh as?"

S P A L D I N G:
"A tax loss."

Audrey and Marjory, returning with their shopping, discover that Mrs Beecham, the cook at the manor, has left a cookbook for Audrey to use while she is on her own. "'Suppers for Simpletons,'" Audrey snorts. She next discovers Ned, muddy boots on and shovel in tow, in her living room answering her phone. This, of course, is an occasion not only for a scolding about wearing boots in the house but for a lesson in telephone etiquette. She demonstrates the proper way to greet a caller--only to discover that the call is for Ned. "I know," he says. "They want me to come collect my pay." He trundles off, Audrey's injunctions about Wellington boots following him. Marjory is enormously amused, and when the phone rings again she picks it up. "Mrs fforbes-Hamilton's residence," she intones, and then burst into laughter. "It's for Ned again!" Audrey, exasperated, goes to the patio to call Ned back. "And don't forget to take your boots off!" she warns; which poor Ned does, standing in the middle of the drive.

Their tour of the estate complete, Richard and Spalding return to the farm office. Richard is eager to hear Spalding's assessment of Grantleigh's potential. "Are we to be a dairy farm? Do potatoes, onions, cereals? What do you think we should run Grantleigh as?" "A tax loss," replies Spalding. But Richard is undeterred, and despite Spalding's claim that it won't contribute to the farm's productivity, Richard announces plans to renovate all the tide cottages--bathrooms, inside lavatories, insulation, "maybe even double glazing." He plans to begin with Mellow End Mill, Ned's lodging.

Ned himself arrives to pick up his pay, and is introduced to Spalding. "What do they call you?" he asks. "Spalding," comes the reply. "No, your first name." "Mister." Richard tells Ned he plans to do up his cottage; Ned is unimpressed; the plans have been on the books since 1956.

Richard also lets Audrey in on his plan ("We were just about to do that," she notes), and asks a favour: he'd like her to house Ned while the cottage is renovated, and in return Richard will pay Ned's wages while he helps Audrey around the house. After some initial misgivings, Audrey agrees. Ned is enthusiastic at the prospect; "I've always fancied myself as a butler," he says. "I can't say I share your fancy," Audrey notes, but she takes it upon herself to teach Ned the basics of the trade. She dispatches him back to his cottage to pick up whatever he'll need for the next few days. "I don't know how my ferrets are going to like living here," Ned says. Unfortunately, before Ned can leave, the rector arrives and there is a tussle between Marjory and Ned as to who will serve tea, with the result that the service ends up on Audrey's carpet.

While Ned is packing at the cottage, he sees Richard and Spalding arrive to look the place over. Richard points out that renovations will begin with this cottage, and Spalding again expresses his misgivings about spending money to renovate a house for a farm laborer who will soon be retired. He enquires about Ned's responsibilities. Richard puzzles over this for a moment. "Difficult to say, really," he finally admits. Spalding notes that he wouldn't mind living in the cottage himself, once it's done over.

Audrey is brushing up on her domestic relations. "According to this," she reads, "the butler's duties include brushing and ironing the billiard table...and in return, I have to provide him with a new livery every year," she adds, disappointed. Ned, meanwhile, dashes in, out of breath and his coat half off. Audrey is shocked. "What do you mean by rushing in here half naked?" she demands. Ned blurts out what he has overheard at the cottage--DeVere has installed him at the lodge in order to get him out of Mellow End Mill in order to fix it up for Spalding, the new farm manager. Audrey assures him that this cannot be true, that DeVere would not be so underhanded. The bell rings, and Audrey sends Ned to answer, then quizzes Marjory. Neither has heard anything about a new farm manager at the manor. "Could be true," Audrey admits. "Ned moves in here so DeVere has vacant possession of Mellow End Mill. But I'm left with a useless domestic who's also a sitting tenant."

Ned ushers in DeVere and Spalding ("Move along there!" he says crossly to the latter), introductions are made and Audrey offers drinks all around--sherry for herself and Marjory, whiskey for Richard, a gin and tonic for Spalding. She asks Ned if he can remember all that. "Oh, yes, ma'am," he says cheerfully. "Never had no trouble remembering a round of drinks."

Audrey, determined to learn the truth about DeVere's intentions, learns that Spalding is the chief farm executive for Cavendish Foods. She is unimpressed. "I suppose he knows an awful lot about polythene bags and coloured wrappers," she sniffs. But Richard says he is determined that the farm will run at a profit--despite what Spalding refers to as the deplorable state the place has been allowed to collapse into, remarks which do not exactly endear him to Audrey. Ned appears with the drinks, including a large one for himself. "Mud in your eye!" he toasts.

Audrey immediately launches a campaign to inform DeVere of Ned's haplessness as a domestic and to return him to his cottage. She digs out one of Brabinger's old liveries (rather ill-fitting on Ned) and apprises Marjory of the plan. "I shall put him into these tails and invite DeVere to dinner," she says. "And let Ned drop trays all over him," Marjory guesses gleefully. "Better than that, I'll get Ned to cook the dinner....Who else do I owe? Oh, yes. The rector....I'd like to invite Spalding but one has to draw the line somewhere."

Come the dinner, Audrey seats her guests ("I'm sorry we're an odd number," she apologises, "but Marjory couldn't get a man") in the dining room. She announces that Ned is responsible for the cooking, although she herself prepared the avocados. Marjory points out that it's hard to go wrong with an avocado. "You can go very wrong with an avocado," Audrey insists. "I've had an avocado that was like a lead bullet. And quite recently, too," she adds pointedly to the rector."

Conversation turns to Ned's qualifications as a butler (he has an astonishing grasp of wine vintages, due perhaps to his furtive tasting in the kitchen). Audrey points out that it might almost be planned, Ned moving to the lodge just in time for the new farm foreman to be given Ned's cottage. "I don't go around putting people out of their houses," Richard declares. "You put me out of mine," Audrey maintains. "Why not Ned?" "I didn't exactly put you out," says Richard. "Well, first the manor, then Brabinger's accident...they say disasters come in threes." "In that case, there's one more to come," Richard says. "If it hasn't arrived already," Audrey says, as Ned wheels in a tray with the main course. But when she pulls the cover off the platter, she reveals a beautiful rack of lamb. Appreciative noises all 'round the table. "I don't know about Ned's father, but his mother must have been Mrs Beaton!" Richard exclaims.

Dinner, to Audrey's chagrin, is a smashing success, but she stirs herself to give Ned generous congratulations. "We had to show him that old Ned can still turn his hand to anything," Ned chortles. Audrey tells him that she has made arrangements with Mr DeVere for Ned to stay at the lodge until Mellow End Mill is renovated, at which point Ned will move back home. And as she continues to praise his cooking, Mrs Beecham comes in looking for the big pan she cooked the lamb in. "If you ever want me to cook you all another meal sometime, I will," she says, exiting with the pan.

N E D:
"I don't know how my ferrets are going to like living here."
A U D R E Y:
"The butler's duties include brushing and ironing the billiard table...and in return, I have to provide him with a new livery every year."

  • "The tongue that talks most tastes least."


  • Ned likes to sneak smokes.
  • Richard drives a white Range Rover on the estate.
  • Richard tells Spalding the estate comprises about 1,000 acres.
  • Spalding has taken on unpleasant tasks for Richard in the past; he refers to a "hatchet job on the onion people in Wiltshire."
  • Ned's father was a butler.
  • Richard kisses Audrey goodnight after her dinner party.



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