Madazine
Chapter 4: Telemarketing

“Lord Garthlemmon’s residence. May I help you? ... No, sir, I am the butler, Threadbare ... Very droll, sir. However, I was referring to my name, not my apparel ... Perfectly all right, sir: I am accustomed to such quips. What can I do for you? ... Sorry sir, that is out of the question: His Lordship does not take telephone calls ... Quite understandable, sir. The instrument was installed many years ago at the behest of Lady Garthlemmon, who is no longer with us ... Thank you, sir, but your condolences are a little late. Her Ladyship left us fourteen years ago, as a result of a riding accident ... No, sir, the mount was a motorcycle. Lady Garthlemmon was leader of the local chapter of Hell’s Angels ... Quite, sir. Unlike His Lordship, she was widely considered a little eccentric ... Very kind of you, sir, but she had a good life and was eighty-two at the time. Please forgive me for a moment. It is midday and I must open the kitchen curtains.

“Now, sir, I assume you had something in mind ... Reducing the telephone costs. That would be impossible. His Lordship lives on the state retirement pension, which suffices to cover the line rental charge. He does not make calls, so his bills for actual usage are always zero, plus VAT, of course. He has maximum resistance to salespeople and never makes purchases, not even of the things he wants ... Beg pardon, sir? ... Oh, food. That is of no consequence here. We have a large supply of tinned goods, mostly corned beef, sardines and peaches, acquired by His Lordship’s grandfather in 1902, after the second Boer War. We also have dried milk, obtained by my master during World War Two, and instant mashed potato, procured when there was a shortage of the fresh produce some decades ago ... Do not distress yourself, sir. With the garden and a little imagination, we manage very well ... No, sir, His Lordship has no interest in the nutritional quality of his food: he concentrates on its shape ... Yes, you heard correctly. He likes his meat or fish to resemble chicken legs, regardless of origin or colour ... Excuse me again; another minor duty.

“Where were we? Ah, yes, the fowl. That is no problem. In fact, the canned meat is perfect, as it can be formed much as one wishes. I have designed a mould that fits the bill. Sardines are rather more difficult but with a little forcing, they conform ... What was that, sir? ... Oh, potatoes. The same principle applies. His Lordship prefers them crenellated, in the same way as his seat ... No, sir, by ‘seat’ I do not mean his anatomy but his home; the turrets, you understand ... Quite all right, sir. By a happy coincidence, I took responsibility for the grounds when the gardener died, so am familiar with topiary. One needs only to extend the idea to the dinner table. His Lordship delights in a mound of mash with the appearance of battlements, the whole edifice surrounded by a moat of onion gravy ... No, sir, we do not buy them. We usually have a surplus of vegetables. At present, there is a splendid array of savoy cabbages here, far in excess of our requirements. His Lordship’s normal procedure is to distribute them to the poor of ... No, do go on ... You would? That is most gratify ... er ... interesting. A moment, please – one more domestic matter.

“Are you still there? ... Certainly, sir. I checked the position this morning. We have a thousand prime specimens, scaling on average just over three pounds each, almost all heart. His Lordship amuses himself with the thought that they resemble him in that respect ... The cost? Well, we are not worldly at Nevermore Hall, but I believe the commercial practice is to price goods fractionally below a round figure, to give the impression that they are cheap. I had in mind a pound per head, but shall we say ninety-nine pence? ... Excellent. And you are based locally, could collect at three p.m. and harvest them yourself? ... Splendid. Oh, pardon me yet again – the oven needs attention: I am also the cook.

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