Projects and Improvements

by Robert Cooper

Chapter 6

We were driving on roads away from the Manor with our instructors. There are some real idiots on the roads. Geoff. and Edward had some near misses. I was not so lucky. A young person with his phone clamped to his ear came out of the car park in the town and ran straight into the side of the school vehicle despite my trying to take evasive action. The police were called and the dash cam footage from our car was played clearly showing him on his phone at the moment of impact. He was charged and taken in for arrest paperwork to be completed. He looked glumly at his vehicle and said "Gosh, what will Mum say when she finds I have wrecked her car." The school car was badly damaged on the side but drivable enough to get back to the Driving School and change cars. My instructor said that it was good experience for me and to get into the other car and continue driving back to the Manor. I was a bit shaken up but managed to get back O.K. He said that it was like falling off a horse, you just get back on and carry on riding.

Oh well. Another day.

The rest of the week was just quiet routine Manor affairs. Sheldon told me that the big tractor and disc plough was due on Monday. His senior ploughman was going first as he has driven similar beasts before. They want to get all four leased fields turned within the week. He also needs this week to decide if we need to lease such a rig on a permanent basis. Harvest has started. Already the yields are looking good on the fields cut so far. Other fields not yet harvested are not looking so good. The crop is abundant but Sheldon's warning about land exhaustion is proven. Next year we are going to have different crops and some fields manured and laying fallow for the summer.

Once Sheldon has finished playing with his 'Big Rig' I have asked him to sit with Geoff. and myself so we can pick his brains for advice on our University courses.

School commences next week with a series of staff 'In service Training days' then they get real pupils to work with the following week.

Steven has been enrolled and his classes allocated. Edward took him to the official outfitter for his uniform. I told Edward to discretely buy him some support underwear for his sports activities as he is a growing boy.

Maroon sweater with school logo on the left breast, grey shorts or longs to choice. Black socks and black shoes or trainers. We checked that all items are available from local chain stores if the parents wish. School logo badges are available from the school office. Assistance with uniform and school meals is available. P.T. kit is simple white polo shirt, white shorts and trainers to choice but NO BLACK SOLES. We do not want black skid marks on the floors in the gymnasium. School swimming team members will be issued with speedos and towels in school colours. Miss Lacy has agreed to supply some squash racquets and balls for the students to try. When it is operational there will be tennis racquets and balls available for school members use. There will also be a selection of clubs and balls for the 'Pitch and Putt'. It is assumed that students who show ability will purchase their own racquets in due course. We have agreed a 10% discount for Braebourne students at the local sports store. All students will be issued with I/D cards. Amongst other things they will be able to get discounts from some local stores like the sports store and gain free access to the Leisure Centre facilities when they are open. Geoff is working on this. It will be sized like a debit card with a number on it and this number will be on the issue log at the school. Convenient and long lasting. There will be no tracking of any sort. It is purely a form of identification.

I went for a walk down to the Kitchen Gardens. I found the Head Gardener and asked him about his requirements for fruit trees for planting this autumn. He was surprised that I knew about such, but he replied that he and Steven had a list of fruit trees and bushes for planting in October. Did I wish to see it? I said " No. Go ahead and order what you want. Are they whips or four year old trees."

He replied "All trees are four years old so we shall have some fruit perhaps next year but he expected full crops the year after." I thanked him for his time and went into the kitchens to see Mrs. Lang. She said that all is well in her department. She was planning a Harvest Supper for all estate workers and Estate Village residents. She is working with Standish and Edward on the arrangements. She intended it to be free of charge, was that o.k.? I responded that it was her plan and I had no objections. She also told me that she was planning two new freezers to cope with Steven's forecast of a glut of produce but she would wait a bit before ordering them. Her eyes gleamed it this, as if she did not believe his forecast. I told her to go look at the gardens and she would believe. I said "Good Day" and went back to my office.

Usual pile of estate business, cheques to sign, letters to read. One caught my attention. It was from the Dean of the local University. The Uni was offering open classes (on line and part time at the Uni) in Estate Management and Business Finance. Following our recent excellent grades at A level would we be interested. I put it aside for Geoff. to read. If nothing else we could ask for a prospectus and see what the course offered.

Reports from Sheldon. Some of the fields are showing low on yield of cereal so he intended to alter his cropping plans. He wanted to manure two of them, sow mustard to deter weed growth then leave them to rest for a whole season. Two others he would sow Lima beans and after harvest plough in the green parts to restore the nitrogen levels. If he felt a need then he would plant alfalfa in two others and plough it in late spring and immediately sow a late crop of one of the high yield exotics.

I like a man who can think on his feet and come up with alternative plans as soon as he sees a need.

I showed these reports to Geoff. He said that they were not unexpected and that we had been warned. He is the estate manager, let him manage. I sent him an e-mail to say that Geoff. and I trusted his judgement and thanks for the 'heads up'.

If it works out as he plans then we should still be on our 12% and once he gets the fields sorted then we shall see that margin go up.

I showed Geoff. the letter from the Dean of the University. He also expressed interest and agreed that we should request a prospectus for the courses. The Estate could possibly help with practical for other students on the course provided Sheldon did not object. He might enjoy being a teacher. I will have a word with Sheldon then write to the Dean.

A thought occurs. If Steven is so involved with the kitchen gardens would he be interested in continuing his advanced studies into Market Gardening. The Head Gardener is only a few years away from retirement and it seems a natural progress for Steven to take over and if he is interested, to expand the gardens to produce an additional revenue stream for the Manor. There is plenty of unused or part used land on the East side. Certainly enough for a sizeable market garden operation. As' Ward under the Estate' he had certain rights and privileges and this certainly came under his purview. He could take this project on and it would become another part of the revenue stream of the Estate. Organicly grown fruit and vegetables command a high premium if marketed properly. I must talk to Geoff. about it.

Edward passed on a message from Miss Lacy. She has some ideas about membership subscriptions that she would like to discuss and she had another member of staff that she would like to employ. He was L.B.K amputee and would fit in well with our non discrimination policy. She would be in her office most of Wednesday if I could spare the time. I asked Edward to liaise with Geoff. and Miss Lacy to fit in with my diary.

With my office door open I could hear somebody playing the piano, sounded like 1920's jazz. I strolled down, caught Standish on the way and we went to the ballroom door to listen. The two stable boys were playing four handed jazz? it sounded very good to us. I coughed and when they stopped I asked if they could play 'The A Train'? One started and the other segued in and soon had a fully syncopated version echoing round the room. They were twins aged 16 and worked in our stables. They had been playing solo and four hands since they were 7 years old. Standish asked what they felt about doing a couple of numbers for one of his music nights. They said "fine, just let us know what he wanted in style and how long a slot he wanted filled." They then went into Mozart's concerto for four hands and gave Standish a sample of that, then they played a Disney number, 'When you wish upon a star' from Pinocchio, they sang the words as well. We had a mini concert all of our own, these boys were very talented.

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