Joining the Gentry

Goa, a state in South West India, is home to one of the only surviving schools for butlers. It finds young handsome Indian men, grooms them, trains them to speak English with very little accent, and turns them into immaculate well trained butlers. Presumably decades ago the market for these young men was in England where the landed gentry set great pride in having the very best butlers. But today the gentry are no longer landed and the landed are no longer gentry. The market for butlers in England is, I suspect, very limited.

The School for Butlers was rescued from imminent oblivion by the cruise ships, who were discovering that the more well heeled passengers were prepared to pay a hefty premium for a penthouse suite that came with a butler.

Why am I telling you this? Because, Dear Readers, having lost large amounts of money over the last year on the stock market we decided to spend what little we have left on traveling in style. So it is that we find ourselves in a 440 square foot suite with a butler. We are not the only one. There are many “Penthouse” suites such as ours, plus a smattering of much grander accommodations, all of which come with a butler.The butlers are to be seen coming and going all day, pampering their guests. They are all Indian. They are trim, fit and handsome dressed during the day in traditional morning suits, with grey and black striped trousers, crisp white shirts, and a waistcoat with lapels . In the evening they wear a black tailcoat. They all look terrific, with one noticeable exception.

His name is Cyril which I strongly suspect was not the name his parents gave him. I hope it was one the school gave him and not one he chose himself. He is indeed Indian and handsome, and he may have been slim and fit pre-pandemic, but post pandemic he is not. He clearly took those pandemic years to hone his eating skills.

Today, he is a large imposing Indian with an impressive girth. He does not wear the striped trousers and waistcoat, presumably because the ship does not provide his size. He does wear a white shirt but no one would call it crisp. With it he wears what would appear to be his own black suit, which he bought sometime before his girth grew to its current size. The jacket has two buttons but only one can reach its opposing button hole. It does so with some great effort. The button straining to be let loose, must have been sewn on with industrial strength cotton. If he took a deep breath the button would become a projectile causing grievous bodily harm to anyone in its path. Below the button, the jacket is spread wide over his stomach, showing a large triangle of white rumpled shirt above his waist band.

Cyril of course turns out to be our butler. Perhaps you have to pay even more to get one of the slim trim ones. We meet just hours after we board the ship. The butler will unpack for you, but we would rather do that ourselves, preferring a certain amount of discretion over where we put our undergarments. I have already unpacked and am returning from the laundry room where I have pressed all my shirts. Struggling with the door into our suite, while carrying a dozen hangers supporting my newly ironed shirts, I am confronted by the rumpled Cyril.

“Mr Andrew” he says with formality and without a trace of an accent “let me help you with that”

He sweeps up the hangers into his large arms, immediately crushing my beautifully crisp shirts, opens the door and walks into our generously sized closet. Placing the hangers on the rail he steps back and looks at what is hanging there, the entire cruise wardrobe for both Gordon and myself

He is quiet for a moment, while he takes it all in.

Finally he says “Oh my! How very colourful!”

Are butlers really supposed to critique the clothes of their employers?

“Where is Mr Gordon” he continues

“He is resting on the bed” I tell him, thinking this was a polite way of dismissing him.

But Cyril did not take it that way

“Aaaah” he says, as he walks into the sleeping area of the suite

He looks at Gordon, who is propped up against several pillows reading a book.

Cyril smiles, and looking at Gordon, he says……………….

“You must be the Queen”

(Ed note: I was not the one who chose to capitalise the title!)

Then turning to me he says

“So you are the King.”

Cyril obviously thinks he is being amusing.

Gordon obviously thinks he is not.

Gordon favors him one of his withering looks which have become famous over the years.

It works as it always does.

Cyril leaves the room rather quickly.

We get on the phone to the Butler School in Goa and suggest that Cyril is recalled immediately for further training.

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3 Responses to Joining the Gentry

  1. Mike says:

    Love your way with words.

  2. Mark Ledet says:

    Perhaps poor Cyril didn’t realize that there could be two queens in one suite. Bless his heart.

  3. fatso says:

    my buttons pop in the same way….back to butler school in Seaford.

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