Category Archives: Tales from Crafty Dog Gardens

Boxing Day Football

The Traditional Family vs Staff Boxing Day Match at Crafty Dog Towers

The Great Hall – that’s a bit of a misnomer as its not that grand these days.  The hammer-beam roof sags a bit (more of a mallet-beam!), and when there’s a sou’wester the wind blows the rain through some loose stone setts which makes a puddle on the flagstone floor below.  There was a bit of a fuss last year when the tatty old vase we used to collect the drips in turned out to be something Chinese from the twelfth century.  It got broken during the annual Boxing Day staff vs family football game last year when Mrs Crafty Dog sliced her penalty kick and the ball careered of a Carravaggio on the wall and hit the vase clean over.  Smashed it to bits.  It took Higgins, Grainger and six tubes of copydex to stick it back together.  As Lady Penelope said, thank Dog we handn’t smashed a new one!  The game is another old tradition, a mixture of soccer/rugby/lacrosse, shinty and highland wrestling and is usually played on the croquet lawn but in wet weather we play the game in the Great Hall.  The football sticks we use must be over a hundred years old, made of very hard bog oak but  surprisingly light.  The ball is made from the bladder of a small mountain goat (well, not these days but it was in times past).  Outside, the goal is an elm tree on one end of the pitch, and the gate post to the paddock on the other end, and the ball has to touch it, by stick, kick, or touch, scoring 4, 3 or 1 point.  When played indoors, the goal is the newel post to the main stair at one end of the hall, and the left-hand of the door to the downstairs privy on the other.  The hazards are of course different indoors to outdoors; we don’t often get sheep in the hall, and outside we’ve never got the ball stuck in a chandelier.  Back when the estate had loads of staff it was up to 20 per side but due to cutbacks since the 1950’s its usually 4 or 5 per side.  We had Higgins (the Butler) on our team last year, with Pendle (that lazy gardener’s lad) and me up front and Mrs Crafty Dog in goal.   Well, we think it was her, under the cricket pads, elbow pads, shoulder pads, face mask and helmet (like some sort of over-cautious Hannibal Lector!).  Last year, like this year, the game was held indoors, with Lady Penelope as referee.  It was a 4 – all draw.  In spite of Pendle being incredibly fast for a gangly bean-pole, and very handy with his stick, the sight of Cook growling away in their goal was somewhat off-putting.  Lady Penelope did ensure that Cook didn’t have her false teeth in as that would have proved a bridge too far (hah – dental joke there!).  Higgins was accused of tripping Grout up when he was nearly at our goal (tripping not allowed) but fortunately he had followed that up with a full body-smash and a half-Nelson (which is within the rules).  That missed goal gave us the draw which we thought was fair (though Cook didn’t speak to us until the end of January).  Kick off is after Boxing Day lunch, with after-match refreshments in the scullery and infirmary as required.

Sir Humphrey’s Ghost & the Christmas Pudding

Why Sir Humphrey haunts the visitor’s car park, and the dangers of the Crafty Dog Christmas pudding!

It was Major Humphrey who held Crafty-Dog Towers when it was besieged by a Parliamentarian army led by Cromwell, who was assisted by Colonel Peregrine Crafty-Dog, Humphrey’s younger brother who took the side of Parliament during the war.  It was Peregrine who caught Lord Humphrey trying to escape down a secret passageway from the Chapel out into the lower meadows (under the sundial).  The tunnel is said to still exist though despite Pendle and Grout searching we can find no signs of it.   Humphrey was taken to London and suffered the same fate as Charles I.  He is now one of the ghosts of Crafty Dog Towers, and wanders where the east wing used to stand before being demolished by Cromwell and Sir Peregrine to make the towers less of a military structure.  Peregrine succeeded to the title in place of his brother.  Yes, Sir Humphrey now haunts the visitor’s car park, around the recycling bins, searching for that tunnel to escape down. Or maybe he’s still searching for his head?  Sometimes he’s seen with it, sometimes not. Anyway, less of the spirits, back to the pudding.  

Christmas Pudding used to be a spiced plum and dried fruit pudding which it still is to some extent.  Once again there is, a large (some would say inordinately) amount of alcohol in which the dried fruit is soaked, but instead of the minced meat of the seventeenth century we use a fine fruit mincemeat.  Then there is the florin. Sir Humphrey began the custom of adding a silver florin to the pudding, and whosoever found it would have a week’s leave and transport paid for them to go home and return.  Not an issue when staff came from the next village or so, but it became a problem in the last century when Cuthbert St .John Crafty-Dog liked to hire governess’s for his children from France or Germany.  Rents on the estate’s cottages had to go up just to pay for the tradition, which means it wasn’t popular.  Cook today substitutes a florin with a £2 coin, and we are very careful when chewing since the accident when Cook swallowed it and it took four of us to wrestle her to the floor and administer the Heimlich manoeuvre.  And even then it shot across the room and nearly killed the Under Footman – it missed his left ear by a few inches.  Hit him straight between the eyes and knocked him clean out.

            After lunch, if we have survived lunch, and it’s dry, we take a tour of the grounds, albeit the ones nearer the house, so we can retreat to the warm if required.  The greenhouses are looking good at the moment as Grout is growing lovely orchids, heated by his spirit stove. It’s a remarkable contraption, all gleaming copper pipes, fed by a large copper tank.  It has a bit of a leak it would appear, so Grout keeps an old gin bottle under it to collect the drips.  I have suggested I get the local plumber to sort it out but he keeps insisting that it’s no bother.  What a considerate chap old Grout is.    He even keeps a supply of empty bottles in case the leak gets too severe.  Considerate, and thoughtful. 

A Crafty Dog Christmas

The Crafty Dog Christmas Cake, and Christmas Pudding

This is pretty much the shape of our days over Christmas (not Christmas Day itself), apart from the arrival of the tree that is (or we’d end up with a hall full of trees – it’d be like Narnia!).  Lunch is normally something filling but not too heavy.  Cook does like to have dumplings with everything (we are sure that post Brexit she has snaffled the entire European suet mountain) but even she can’t serve dumplings with Christmas Cake.  Yes, even the cake is an ancient Crafty Dog Towers one, made to a recipe that dates back to our celebrated eighteenth century Cook, Mrs Beetrum.  Some of the more out-dated ingredients have been changed (where can one get real mincemeat made with Dodo these days?) and we don’t use Old Navy rum (Admiral Fortescue Crafty-Dog was rather partial to drop, if a bit too partial, judging by the way he behaved at the Battle of the Nile.[1] ) The Crafty Dog Christmas cake is always made in May and every month Cook soaks (she say’s sozzles) the cake in Beetroot Gin (Grout’s own favourite), which results in rather a strong cake, full of body and beta-carotene, and highly flammable[2].  Indeed, it has to be cut and served outdoors.  Far away from a naked flame.  Lady Penelope wasn’t too keen on Cook making it as she wasn’t allowed dried fruit, the cake made her eyes water, and I think if she had still been with us it’s a tradition she might have ended. 

As for the Christmas Pudding, this too is an ancient Crafty Dog Towers tradition said to date back to the days of Major Lord Humphrey Crafty-Dog.   He was rather an unfortunate chap, having taken the wrong side in the English (and Welsh) Civil War.  He was a great favourite of Charles I, and had the role of Keeper of the Royal Hat Box, which of course seemed a bit pointless after Charles I lost his head.  They were dark days, and it is said that young Prince Charles hid in the water-closet in one of the towers from Cromwell’s soldiers.  We even get the occasional visitor who wants to see this hiding place, and they marvel how he fitted in the cistern. We then have to explain that the toilets were a bit bigger in those days and a standard Twyfords would be far too small for a monarch, if even a tiny one. 

[1] He was up on deck waving round his cutlass and despite Nelson warning him he could take someone’s eye out – and that’s why Nelson had an eye patch

[2] During World War 2, in order to divert enemy bombers away from Swansea after the Blitz, one of the cakes was placed in the hills towards Brecon and was lit by a very long taper.  The Luftwaffe reckoned they could see it from the French coast!  It saved many lives though the diverted bombers did upset quite a few angry sheep.  They even sent a stiff memo to German High Command.

The Christmas Tree at Crafty Dog Towers

The tradition of the Christmas Tree and the start of Christmas at Crafty Dog Towers

As the sun rises on the first of December, Mr Grout, the Head Gardener, takes the large 4 wheeled barrow up to the woods where with his erstwhile assistant, Pendle the Gardener’s Lad, they fell a small conifer (about 12 feet or so) and transport it back to the house.  Mrs Grainger the Housekeeper has prepared the entrance hall, and as soon as the tree arrives, Mrs Crafty Dog and I welcome it into the house.  Everyone present has a tot of something warming (Lady Penelope usually had warm milk), then we sing a carol as the tree is placed into its pot in the centre of the entrance hall.  The staff always expect me to say a few words, we have another tot of comfort and are then ushered out of the room as Mrs Grainger and the house staff, under the guidance of Higgins the Butler (who acts in Lady Penelope’s stead this year) they dress the tree.  By now after a couple of warming drinks Mrs Crafty Dog and I retire to the parlour to read the papers and have a morning snooze.   

            We have stopped putting real candles on the tree after the incident a few years ago when the last Gardener’s Lad (who was no improvement on the current one!) fell asleep under the tree and woke up terrified that he had had a stroke as he had lost all movement in his legs and in his kerfuffle he nearly knocked the tree over but also damaged a number of the wrapped presents.  It turned out that as he slept the warm wax had dripped onto his overalls and solidified round his legs, hence he couldn’t stand properly, and thus we now have a tree candle ban. And a new Gardener’s Lad (the former one left for another more stately home – with glowing references, no pun intended).

            The new electrical light bulb contraptions are rather nice, if a little heavy on the electricity (I’ve no idea where Higgins got these light bulbs from).  Being a green estate we just turn on another generator on the water wheel in the meadows which is sufficient to keep them going, and run the staff’s electric blankets in their rooms up  in the eaves (it does get cold up on the fourth floor).  As soon as the tree is properly dressed (and Mrs Crafty Dog and I with it), Grout fires off a maroon from the front door step which is the signal for Pendle to pull the lever that runs water through the wheel and pushes the other lever across that switches the current to the tree.  I know it’s a bit archaic as a means of signalling but there’s no mobile coverage beyond the vegetable garden.  Once lit up, we all gather again around the tree, to sing another couple of carols, have a few more toddy’s then toddle off in all directions to do whatever it is that the staff do.  We’re never that sure, but as long as nothing gets broken, everyone gets fed and the sun comes up the next day then all’s well.  Mrs Crafty Dog and I usually stagger to the parlour to try and find the newspapers we were sleeping under earlier, awaiting a pot of dark, strong coffee to revive us before we’re called to lunch.

(the whole story of “A Crafty Dog Christmas” will be posted nearer the day, and more excerpts in the run up to the day)

The Ghost of Crafty Dog Gardens

A Spooky Family Tale for Hallowe’en

What was lurking in the vegetable patch? An old statue – or something more sinister?

As the evenings are drawing in we all tend to want to shut the curtains tight to keep the warm glow of a roaring fire inside and the gathering dark outside.  The dogs lie curled up in front of the hearth, and maybe, if we are lucky, then Cook will make us up a jug of mulled cider, full of cloves, honey, and slices of apple from the trees in the orchard.  Here we sit with a tapestry blanket over our laps, Mrs Crafty Dog and I looking like Darby and Joan, awaiting the knock on the drawing room door that is the signal that Higgins the Butler has brought in our steaming glasses of comfort.

However, on this particular autumn evening the knock on the door was a frantic one; it was Higgins, to say that there had been a “bit of a to-do” in the kitchen, and would we be so kind as to go down to help sort things out.

He couldn’t (or wouldn’t) tell us exactly what was going on, all we could make out was that Pendle, that Lazy Gardener’s Lad, was involved.  The Mrs and I just looked at each other and tutted – what the heck had he done this time?  We were still recovering from him and his mentor the Head Gardener trying to “sail” one of the tin baths from the scullery across the fish pond.  This latest adventure hadn’t ended well, and now Grout the Head Gardener was ill with a nasty cold and resting up in his bed, leaving young Pendle in charge (against our better judgement!).

We weren’t prepared for the sight that met us in the kitchen; Cook was leaning over the great Windsor chair beside the range (I say leaning, but as she is more round than tall, balancing precariously would be more descriptive), Alice the kitchen maid had a mug of something soothing (I could smell warm milk and nutmeg) which she was trying to pour into the young lad, collapsed (or more accurately, flopped like a wet rag doll) in the chair.  He was ashen-faced, almost as pale as the milky drink that gathered round his lips and dripped off his narrow chin.

It took a good fifteen minutes of gentle coaxing to get out of him what had put him into such a state.  He just kept saying, “I’ve never seen such a thing…”  As you well know, that left a great deal to the imagination (he, after all, had led such a sheltered life before he came here to the Towers).

It was a little while before he began to warm up and calm down and slowly he started to tell his story.  I’ll be honest, though there were five of us in the kitchen that night, as the young lad spoke, we could all feel the hairs on the backs of our necks rise, and cook even put a few more lumps of coal on the fire. 

“I was coming back from the Potting Shed after making sure that Mr Grout’s contraption was all wrapped up safe for the night [This was his still in which he made his beetroot and ginger gin]….”

Beyond the Potting Shed (or Still Shed as Mrs Crafty Dog and I had rechristened it) is a large vegetable bed, and further on is the great orchard, in which there are some very ancient trees indeed.  Grout has told me that he believes that the oldest apple tree may be as much as five hundred years old, and treats it with great reverence.  We call her the Mother Tree, or Lady Apple, and once a year as spring comes, we pour a bottle of good cider into her roots to feed her for another year, and some of the locals come and hang ribbons from her branches.  She looks such a well-loved tree, despite her gnarly branches and moss and lichen filled bark.  Even now she is starting to bear mistletoe ready for yuletide.  Sorry – I have digressed somewhat – back to Pendle’s story.

By the time Pendle had locked up the shed it was already getting chilly, and then he’d gone round the garden to close the cold frames and put sacking and straw round the roots of the tender plants.  The sun was beginning to slip behind the hills and on the other side there was the bluey-white glow of the moon as it plucked up the courage to lift itself from its slumbers for the night to come.  It was still light enough to find his way around so Pendle was not bothered at all.  On the great vegetable patch were the rows of bright orange pumpkins (“Potiron” the Cook calls them as like Mrs Crafty Dog she, too, is of French descent), all laid out tidily in their own beds of straw and compost.  Pendle as usual was whistling as he worked, unaware that the sun was sinking further down and the moon now coming up at a pace.   With the growing cold, a mist rose gently from the fishponds, not a thick one to begin with, but enough to make it a little more difficult to make out the path edges, and Pendle noticed that as he whistled he could see his breath.  Shivering a little, he pulled his jacket tighter about him.  He closed up the gate to the south parterre, the one that keeps the sheep from the vegetable garden, and turned to make his way back up to the kitchen.  It was now that he realised that it was darker than he had thought, and the mist was folding unerringly around him.  Looking up the garden, the light from the kitchen window was a good two hundred yards away – he’d worked the wrong way, away from the house and not the usual way back towards the house.  There wasn’t the faintest trace of a breeze but even so the mist seemed to be moving round him, not only cold but damp too.  He stopped whistling to blow breath into his cupped hands to warm them up but as he did he froze stock-still; the song he had been whistling continued – there was someone also whistling, close behind him.  He spun round – but he saw noone.  He called out to ask if it was one of us or the household staff but just as suddenly the whistling stopped.  He announced to the dark that it wasn’t funny, and turned to make his way up the path to the house. 

He was now beside the vegetable patch where the pumpkins lay.  As he walked past, a little quicker than when he’d gone the other way earlier, he saw that one pumpkin – the very biggest – was gone.  He halted, annoyed that someone had stolen the greatest one, the one that he was going to take to the Clydach show to try and win a prize for the largest pumpkin.  He glared around, though there was less and less to be seen, as the mist had thickened even more.  He called out to ask who’d stolen his pumpkin, but there was no reply.  He stood there fuming.

Now the whistling began again, the same tune that he had been.  As he glared into the dark he could just make out some movement – something was rising from the ground out of the vapour – it was the missing pumpkin.  Pendle’s feet were stuck to the path like they were stuck in some of Cook’s thickest suet pudding.  The Pumpkin stopped at the same level as Pendle’s head, and he could see that a face had been carved into it, light glowing from its eyes, nose and ragged mouth, and it was not a very happy face either.  The haze seemed to coalesce into the shape of a body below the pumpkin and the foggy legs began to walk out of the veg patch, and turn towards where the poor lad stood, transfixed.

Pendle felt his blood run cold as the pumpkin man strode towards him, whistling from his lipless mouth.  Then the whistling changed to words, as pumpkin sang the song that they had been whistling.  It was a reedy voice at first but by the second verse it was a definite song, sung by a stronger voice.  The figure even swayed, and moved as if dancing, a very old dance, but definitely a dance.  When it reached Pendle it bowed, and in its vegetable voice it said, “Good evening, sir.  And what, pray, is your name?”

“Pendulous Sedge,” Pendle replied.  He was freezing but could feel nervous sweat running down his back.  “Sir.  Who are you?”

The Pumpkin Man looked at him from his empty eyes, “I am the spirit of the gardens.  I am the ghost of all the fruit, flowers and trees that have been and ever will be in this garden.”

Pendle bowed hesitantly.

“I mean you no harm, young gardener,” the Pumpkin ghost said.  “Or rather, I may not.  It all depends, you see.  I must measure you up.  Judge you, so to speak.”

“How’s that?” Pendle asked.  He wished he could flee but his feet were rooted to the brick path.

The Pumpkin raised its foggy arms, and it had fingers, definite fingers, if more than a little claw-like. “You must be judged by all us garden spirits.”  The pumpkin glared (if indeed a pumpkin can glare) at the boy.  “Are you a good gardener?  Or a bad gardener?” As he said that the fingers took the shape of talons, like some sort of eagle or maybe more like a weeding rake.  Pumpkin called into the mists, to the plants and vegetables in the darkness. “Does he care for us?  Or not?”

In the darkness there was rustling, as of leaves and stems, and of green leafy voices whispering amongst themselves.  Pumpkin reached out and grabbed Pendle by the collar, pulling him closer. “Well?” he called to his misty jury.  “Should he live, or should he be pruned?”

The night fell silent, and Pumpkin moved his talons closer toward Pendle’s face.  The boy could smell earth, compost, mud and straw on the pumpkin’s breath, if he indeed breathed.

Suddenly a new voice, much stronger than the rest, a lady’s voice, commanded, “He is a good gardener.  Let him be!”

Still gripping Pendle tightly, Pumpkin swivelled his head and looked into the fog.  Another misty shape was appearing on the path before the Pumpkin, swirling and moulding into a long green dress, of green, gold and yellow leaves, and in the dress there appeared a tall lady with long brown hair, the colour of shiny tree bark.  On her head was a small crown – like the tiara Lady Crafty Dog wore to formal events, but this one had golden shapes on it – small apple blossom flowers and apples themselves, also small and of yellow and red gold.  As much as the Pumpkin was terrifying, the lady was beautiful; her eyes sparkled with light and joy and she smiled as she looked down at the terrified Pendle. “Don’t be afraid, young human.  I’ll not let this winter sprite do you any harm.”

She tapped the ghost on his shoulder and he let Pendle go, turning instead to direct his wrath and darkness at her.  As soon as he freed the boy, the Tree Spirit touched the Pumpkin on the head and whispered something.  The Pumpkin let out a cry, and began to raise its misty arms with their razor claws against her but the cloud quickly dissipated, and the body drifted into nothing.  The Pumpkin looked both annoyed, and surprised, then dropped to the floor and rolled back into the vegetable patch.

“There!  He’s gone,” she smiled at the still terrified Gardener’s Lad.

“Thank you, my lady,” Pendle bowed and touched his forelock.

“That’s alright.  The dark spirit of the gardens can only appear on this night, all Hallow’s Eve.  You’re safe now.  You should be careful to be out after sunset on this day.”

“Blimey – I forgot,” the boy shook his head.  With all the worry about doing his best for the sick Head Gardener he’d entirely forgotten it was Hallowe’en. 

“I’ll leave you now, you are free to go about your business.  Make your way to the house, and don’t be feared about the Pumpkin man or the Garden’s Ghosts.  They have no power the rest of the year, day or night.  Good evening.”

“Lady, who are you?” Pendle asked, bowing again.

“I am the Lady Tree, the spirit of the Old Apple Trees in the orchard.  I watch over you all, you and old Grout.  You are good gardeners who treat us all well, as have most of the gardener’s here – we remember them all, we garden folk, from us great trees to the smallest blade of grass, we remember the gardeners back into time before there were even gardens.  You and Old Grout honour me every year and in turn that respect is felt by all the trees and plants around you.  Now you go – you’re feet are free!”

He turned and, bowing as he went, fled up the garden.  “Here – something for Grout!” the Lady called to him and threw something.  Pendle caught it and put it in his pocket as he ran up the garden path to the house where he banged loudly at the kitchen door, where Cook let him in.

That brings us to where we now stood around the flustered young lad flopped in the Windsor chair.  The milk and nutmeg had made him much better, and he even managed a wink at Alice the Kitchen Maid (Mrs Crafty Dog saw that!). 

“Are you sure that’s what happened?” Cook asked him.  Pendle nodded vigorously.  As he did so, something fell from his pocket.  It was a lovely golden yellow apple, unlike any we had in the orchard.  He held it in his hand, admiring its colour, and shine.  It appeared like any other apple, though Pendle knew that it held a little magic, that could help his master get better.

“That’s for Mr Grout,” the young man told us. “ It’s a present from the Lady.”

(Characters and story Copyright Chris Dignam, 2021, reproduction permitted within reasonable use)

Do Not Disturb?

And who would dare upset Cook?

As you can see, one of our staff has been sent to their sickbed as they are not very well.  It’s old Grout himself.  He has a stinking cold so is being cosseted and possetted (if that’s a verb!) by Cook.  We never knew she had a soft spot but apparently she isn’t all irrational grumpiness (I guess it’s because she is such a creative soul).  Anyway, Grout has been told he has to have 5 days bed rest, lots of hot drinks, hence the possetts (I always thought they were a marsupial but apparently not, they’re a milky eggy drink very popular in times past and still popular in Cook’s household).  He has also been told by Doctor Death (his real name is Doctor Throckmorton but the former is easier to spell) that on no account is he to touch the Beetroot and Ginger Gin. 

And the cause of this cold and ague?  Have a guess who’s behind it?  Yes indeed – Pendulous Sedge, that Gardener’s Lad.  Considering that it should be Pendle following where Grout leads this is most unsatisfactory.  And wait until you hear what they were doing!

Remember the debacle over the wheelbarrow race?  And then there was hiding gin in the watering cans (now I am not convinced that Pendle was behind that one).  This one Pendle admitted was his idea when Mrs Crafty Dog called him up to the Drawing Room to explain the state that Grout and he were found in.  I distinctly remember the scream from Alice the Kitchen Maid and the sound of Cook dropping her petit fours.  When I ran down to the kitchen (only to have Higgins the Butler cough at me to hint that you should not run in the corridors) I will never forget the sight that met my eyes.

Alice and Cook were stood there, petrified, and when I looked where they were staring all I could see was a pair of bare bottoms sticking out of the pantry.  I took charge and sent Cook and Alice to take a good sniff of smelling salts.  Though I had never seen these bare buttocks before I could guess as to who they were.

Higgins had appeared now with two large warmed bath towels so I could call the culprits out.  They were both soaking wet, and they had their clothes bundled up in their arms and they were dripping green water and algae on the kitchen floor (I later discovered that it was this and not the nudity that had made her drop her hors d’ouvres).  Once suitably dried, and whilst we waited for Higgins to run two hot baths, I got these two vagabonds to tell me exactly what they had been up to.

“Well, sir, it’s my fault,” Grout looked rather shamefaced as he took the blame.  I noticed Pendle shuffle and stare at his bare feet.

So where did you get so wet?

It was Grout’s turn to shuffle, “In the fishpond, sir.”

And what were you doing in the fishpond?

I looked at Pendle this time.  His long face looked even longer when he knew how he had disappointed us. 

“Sailing, sir,” he replied.

Sailing?  Sailing what? (We have no boats on the estate at the moment).

“A bath,”


“A tin bath, sir, one of the ones in the scullery outhouse,” Grout said.

So you were sailing a tin bath in the fishpond?

“Yes sir,” they both replied together.

And how did that go?

Pendle’s face brightened, “We did ok at first sir.  We used a couple of old edging boards from the potting shed as oars and we were going well.  We made it across the pond and were on the way back when we were attacked.”

By whom?

“Him,” rumbled Grout, a knowing look on his face.

I was puzzled at first but realised he meant Old George, an enormous pike that was supposed to haunt the lake.  I saw him once, and I thought at first it was a half-submerged surfboard, until it leapt up and swallowed a mallard duck.  Whole.

“Old George rammed the bathtub and tipped us in the lake.  We swam and doggy-paddled to the shore, with that ruddy fish chasing us.  I swear he ate one of my wellies!”

I had to stifle a smile, I must admit.

Grout and Pendle went off to their baths and were much better after Cook had served them some hot food.  However the next day whilst Pendle was fine, old Grout was not himself and appears to have caught a chill.  Hence he was told that he was not sleeping in his lodge but here up at Crafty Dog Towers in one of the spare rooms on the second floor.

            The only concern is that Pendle is in charge of the gardens whilst Grout is off.  Now what could possibly go wrong?


Wheelbarrow racing! Have you ever heard such a thing!

Whilst we were tied up with the park wall being built, it appears that the gardens staff were messing about in the kitchen garden. Pendle (that lazy Lad) persuaded his master (Grout the Head Gardener) that racing wheelbarrows around the walled garden would be an excellent Olympic Sport. In order to make it more equal, Grout would be carrying Alice the Kitchen Maid ( a rather light load), and Pendle carrying Cook (substantially more of a load).

Old Barrows,Barrow racing,wheels,wheely good,racing round,racing,gardens
A Pair of Steaming Wheelbarrows!

The picture was taken when we went out the gardens and found the wheelbarrows resting after the race. The wheels were steaming. The race was won by Grout as on the third lap, on the potting shed straight, young Pendle was accelerating past the radishes and had a blow-out in his left welly. Cook flew off into a compost heap but nothing came to any harm. Grout and Cook will be having a dressing down in the drawing room after supper!

Bottled Out?

(Back in August, we had an issue with Cook and a large quantity of Bristol Cream Sherry!)

Here at Crafty Dog Towers, Mrs Crafty Dog and I are a bit concerned about Cook; she has been rather more irascible than normal lately. She even growled at the kitchen cat (and we haven’t seen him since!). Today she has been making a trifle down in the kitchens here at the towers. We don’t venture in there very often – it’s certainly her domain and not ours! When I passed earlier this morning (very rapidly I’ll have you know!) I saw these piled up by the scullery door. Well. Either she’s abandoned her usual Beetroot gin for another tipple or it’s going to be one heck of a sherry trifle!
I hardly think that she will be cycling to her sisters on the penny farthing tonight!

sherry trifle,Crafty Dog Towers,Cook,Crafty Dog Gardens,the kitchen,tales,tall tales,cycling cooks
How much sherry can you put in one trifle?

Where there’s a will…(there’s usually a solicitor)…

For those of you still catching up on the Crafty Dog Garden’s blog, this was the first Facebook post on the Crafty Dog Gardens page back on 1st July

There’s something of a party atmosphere here at Crafty Dog Towers today; that Gardener’s Lad and his mentor the Head Gardener now have their own FB page! Well, you all know that because you are reading this(!). Higgins the Butler has asked Cook to bake a small cake by way of celebration but she wouldn’t have any of it. Thursday is steamed pudding and not sponge cake. Instead I have heard that the Head Gardener has a small bottle of his very best Beetroot Gin that they will all have a small nip of. Maybe Mrs Crafty Dog and I will be included in that.
BTW I think I have found where he is hiding his still.

Crafty Dog Gardens, Gardeners Lad,Pendle,Head Gardener,Crafty Dog Towers
What could the Head Gardener be keeping in there?

Tales from Crafty Dog Gardens

Sounds Intriguing?

Here at Crafty Dog Towers we have a fairly large (fictional) cast of staff;

  • Higgins the Butler,
  • Cook
  • Alice, the Kitchen Maid
  • Mrs Chamberlain, Housekeeper
  • Grout, the Head Gardener
  • Pendle the (lazy) Gardener’s Lad

These whimsical tales largely revolve around the antics of Pendle and his mentor, Mr Grout, the Head Gardener. Pendle is a tall thin streak of a lad, not the sharpest shovel in the shed, but loved by everyone for his simple honesty. Grout is that typical earthy old sort who managed the gardens of country houses in the last century, but he has that touch of ingenuity and cunning that means he always has some idea to make him rich, usually without Mrs Crafty Dog and I knowing. These stories began during the dark days of Covid on our Facebook page and are now a Blog in their own right.

I hope that they make you smile!

S.L. Bannatyne