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Unformatted text preview: A day in the life of a stately home owner
by Alan Townend A day in the life of a stately home owner
The Pelham-Smiths are no longer as rich as they once were. At
one time they owned a large house in London, an estate in
Scotland and Pelham Manor, a seventeenth-century house
standing in sixty acres of its own grounds near Gloucester. Now
only Pelham Manor remains in the family. The present owner, Sir
John Pelham-Smith, inherited Pelham Manor on the death of his
father five years ago. Sir John was immediately faced with a bill
for death duties which he was unable to pay. He did not want to
sell Pelham Manor, so he made an arrangement with the
government to pay the bill over a number of years. Now he and his
family live in one wing of the Manor and the rest of the house is
open to the public. Sir John hopes to be able to pay the death
duties from the entrance fees. Large old houses like Pelham Manor
are known as stately homes, especially when their owners find it
necessary to open them to the public. Being a stately home owner
is not easy, but Sir John thinks it is worth the effort to keep
Pelham Manor in the family.
One day Sir John thought he had found the answer to some of his
difficulties, but things didn't quite turn out as he expected. That
morning, as always, he got up at six o'clock to make his daily tour
of the house and grounds. Everything seemed to be in order.
Then, after breakfast, he talked to the estate manager, Cedric
Hoskins, who was an old friend of the family. Cedric looked glum.
"The accounts for this quarter don't look at all good," he said. "We
may have to raise the entrance fee." "But that will only discourage
people from coming. Few enough come as it is," said Sir John. "But
personally I'm very hopeful about this American contract. If it
comes off, well be all right."
"Well, that depends on how things go this afternoon," Cedric
reminded him. "The agent for Americo-British Tours, a Mr.
Schulman, is coming with a party of American tourists and he has
promised to let us know by tonight whether or not he wants to
sign the contract."
The American tourists, fifty of them, were coming that afternoon
for a trial visit. If it was a success, Americo-British Tours would
sign a contract guaranteeing to bring large numbers of American
visitors to Pelham Manor each week. This would give Sir John a
steady income, but first he had to impress Mr. Schulman and his
party. The gates opened at ten o'clock. Sir John took parties round
himself and knew the history of each room by heart. At half past
ten he started the first tour with thirty schoolchildren and their
teachers. By the time they reached the art gallery, the children
were beginning to look bored.
Sir John: This is an unusual painting of one of the Pelham-Smith
family in the eighteenth century. If you look closely at the bottom Photocopiable 1 © www.english-test.net A day in the life of a stately home owner
by Alan Townend righthand corner you can just see a small picture of the artist's
wife and child. And next to that.
Boy: Please, sir, can I ask a question?
Teacher: Be quiet, Brian. Wait until the lecture is over.
Sir John: That's all right. I'll try to answer his question.
Boy: Were the Pelham-Smiths ever short of money?
Sir John: Yes, indeed they were. The family fortunes varied a
great deal. But why do you ask?
Boy: It's that picture over there in the corner.
Sir John: Oh, yes! 'The lady with dog". One of my favourite
Boy: Was she a Pelham-Smith?
Sir John: Oh, yes. That's Lady Laura Pelham-Smith.
Boy: Well, her husband can't have had much money. She hasn't
got any clothes on!
Sir John wasn't sure whether this question was entirely innocent,
but it would make an interesting anecdote to add to his repertoire.
After lunch Sir John called the entire staff into his study: the cook,
the gardener, the security guard and the odd-job man. They were
not much good at their jobs, but at least they put up with the poor
wages that he was obliged to pay them.
Sir John: Now I've called you in here this afternoon because a
party of American tourists is coming at two o'clock. A lot depends
on this visit. If they like the place, we shall have more visits. And
that'll be good for business.
Gardener: Are they all millionaires, then?
Sir John: I wish they were. And by the way, do try not to shout at
anyone who walks on the lawn. The people you shouted at last
week were very annoyed.
Gardener: Well, they walked all over the grass just after I'd cut it.
Sir John: Yes, but politeness is always good for business. As for
you, George, you're to keep your eyes open when there are people
here. So don't go to sleep, will you?
Guard: No, sir.
Sir John: Are you all prepared for the fifty teas, Cook? Photocopiable 2 © www.english-test.net A day in the life of a stately home owner
by Alan Townend Cook: Oh, yes, Sir John.
Sir John: Splendid. Well, remember, it will be good for all of us if
things go well this afternoon. Thank you.
Sir John couldn't help smiling to himself as they walked out. They
were a strange-looking crowd, but they were all very loyal. He
wondered what sort of impression they would make on the
Sir John changed into his best suit and walked down to the gate to
meet Mr. Schulman. The coach had just arrived. Sir John crossed
his fingers as he led the group to the entrance hall.
Sir John: Ladies and gentlemen, may I take this opportunity to
welcome you all to Pelham Manor. It is an honour –
Cook: Sir John!
Sir John: Not now, Cook. I'm busy. As I was saying, it is an
honour for me to show you round. Many people who come here for
Cook: The John is ready, Sir tea. No, no, the Sir is –
Sir John: Go away, Cook! As I was saying, people who come here
for the first time often tell me –
Cook: Do you think they'll all want tea in their sugar? Oh, dear, I
Sir John: Excuse me a minute, please, ladies and gentlemen.
Sir John took Cook's arm and led her out of the hall. He knew what
was the matter with her. She kept a bottle of gin in a cupboard
and often had a glass or two when she was feeling nervous. He
took her to the kitchen and made her sit down. Then he went back
to his visitors in the hall.
Nothing seemed to go right that afternoon. The gardener drove the
lawn mower too fast round a corner and knocked down one of the
guests as he was walking to the chapel. The security guard almost
arrested another for picking flowers when he had quite innocently
bent down to pick up his handkerchief. And tea, needless to say,
was a disaster. Cook had drunk so much gin by four o'clock that
the odd-job man had to prepare it for her. Unfortunately he was in
such a hurry that he didn't boil the water for the tea, and the
sandwiches he made were about two inches thick.
The tour ended in the shop where souvenirs were on sale. Mr.
Schulman came up to Sir John while the tourists were choosing
postcards to send to their friends. Photocopiable 3 © www.english-test.net A day in the life of a stately home owner
by Alan Townend Mr. Schulman: Very interesting tour, Sir John. Thank you so
much for taking us round yourself.
Sir John: I must apologize for all the things that went wrong. I
suppose there's little chance of your signing the contract now?
Mr. Schulman: I'm afraid not. But it's not your fault, Sir John.
It's your staff. They're just not good " enough.
Sir John: I know what you mean.
Mr. Schulman: Well, thank you once again, Sir John. Goodbye
and good luck. Oh, I almost forgot: one of my party, a Mr. Milsom
would like to talk to you. I don't know what it's about.
Sir John shook hands sadly with Mr. Schulman. Mr. Milsom he
remembered, was the man who had almost been arrested for
dropping his handkerchief.
Mr. Milsom: Say, Sir John, where did you find your staff?
Sir John: Oh, yes, I really must apologize.
Mr. Milsom: Apologize?
Sir John: Yes, apologize.
Mr. Milsom: Don't look so miserable. They're perfect!
Sir John: Perfect? I don't understand.
Mr. Milsom: Look, do you want to make some money?
Sir John: Of course I do.
Mr. Milsom: Well, sign here then.
Later that evening Sir John told his wife that Mr. Milsom, a film
director, would be making a film at the Manor, using the staff as
actors. And the film, a highly successful comedy called Panic at
Pelham Manor, made Sir John Pelham-Smith a very rich man
indeed. Photocopiable 4 © www.english-test.net A day in the life of a stately home owner
by Alan Townend New words and expressions
faced (with a bill) confronted bill the charge for something death duties taxes on the money and
property of someone who has
died turn out happen, prove to be the case glum dejected, unhappy quarter period of three months fee price (of entry) come off succeed income money you receive from your
work and other sources. Usually
calculated annually, e.g. My
income is £2,000 a year. short of (money) not having enough (money) anecdote a short story, usually
interesting or amusing odd-job man a person who does different
small jobs that do not require
great skill put up with tolerate, submit to Photocopiable 5 © www.english-test.net A day in the life of a stately home owner
by Alan Townend Questions and exercises
A. Comprehension questions
1. When did Sir John inherit Pelham Manor? 1. How does Sir John hope to pay death duties? 2. Why did the estate manager look glum? 3. What effect will raising the entrance fee have? 4. How many American tourists were coming? 5. There is a staff of four. What are their jobs? 6. Cook says: 'The John is ready, Sir tea." What does she mean
to say? 7. What was the man doing who was almost arrested for picking
flowers? 8. Why didn't Mr. Schulman sign the contract? 9. Who was Mr. Milsom? B. Choose the right word to complete the following sentences:
put up with
sign 1. He told a very interesting _____. 2. The staff _____ very poor wages. 3. The security guard _____ me for picking flowers. 4. The house _____ in its own grounds. 5. Mr. Schulman may ______ the contract tonight. 6. The children looked _____. 7. We may have to raise the entrance _____. 8. Look closely at the _____ righthand corner. Photocopiable 6 © www.english-test.net A day in the life of a stately home owner
by Alan Townend C. Complete these conditional sentences, using the verbs in
If you _____ the flowers, the guard ______ you. (pick,
If you pick the flowers, the guard will stop you.
1. If the contract _____, we _______ all right. (come off, be) 2. If we _____ the entrance fee, people _____. (raise, not
come) 3. If the weather ______ good, we _____ tea in the garden.
(be, have) 4. If things _____ well, Mr. Schulman _____ the contract. (go,
sign) 5. If you _____ closely, you _____ see the artist's wife and
child. (look, can) 6. If Mr. Schulman _____ the place, we _____ a contract. (like,
get) 7. If you ______, people _____ annoyed. (shout, become) 8. If we ______ a film, we ______ the staff as actors. (make,
use) D. Turn the following sentences into the past simple tense:
1. Only Pelham Manor remains in the family. 2. Sir John does not want to sell it. 3. He thinks it is worth the effort to keep it. 4. Few people come here. 5. Sir John takes the visitors round himself. 6. Are the Pelham-Smiths short of money? 7. It makes an interesting anecdote. 8. We all drink a lot of tea. Photocopiable 7 © www.english-test.net A day in the life of a stately home owner
by Alan Townend Keys to exercises
1. On the death of his father five years ago. 2. From the entrance fees. 3. Because the accounts for the last quarter didn't look very
good. 4. It will discourage people from coming. 5. Fifty. 6. Cook, gardener, security guard, odd-job man. 7. "The tea is ready, Sir John." 8. He was bending down to pick up his handkerchief. 9. Because the staff were just not good enough. 10. A film director.
1. anecdote 2. put up with 3. arrested 4. stands 5. sign 6. bored 7. fee 8. bottom Photocopiable 8 © www.english-test.net A day in the life of a stately home owner
by Alan Townend C.
1. If the contract comes off, we'll be all right. 2. If we raise the entrance fee, people won't come. 3. If the weather is good, we'll have tea in the garden. 4. If things go well, Mr. Schulman will sign the contract. 5. If you look closely, you can see the artist's wife and child (or
you will be able to see the artist's wife and child). 6. If Mr. Schulman likes the place, we'll get a contract. 7. If you shout, people will become annoyed. 8. If we make a film, we'll use the staff as actors. D.
1. Only Pelham Manor remained in the family. 2. Sir John did not want to sell it. 3. He thought it was worth the effort to keep it. 4. Few people came here. 5. Sir John took the visitors round himself. 6. Were the Pelham-Smiths short of money? 7. It made an interesting anecdote. 8. We all drank a lot of tea. Photocopiable 9 © www.english-test.net ...
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