We never thought the words ‘too many malteasers’ would be spoken by Hog & Fitch; does such a state of affairs even exist? We’re just back from the marvellous monster of a building that is Penrhyn Castle in North Wales.
What a place! We were working in the library where, every morning, tempting smells from the kitchen wafted through. So food was always on our minds. It got to the point where every decorative feature we cleaned reminded us of something edible.
When you spend a long time in any single room, you develop your own relationship with it. As we gradually worked our way slowly around the complexities of the library, we got to know every nook and cranny. And there were plenty of them.
It’s a room and a half, well maybe two rooms…or is it three? Four? We have to admit that sometimes we just wished they’d known when to stop. There’s hardly a plain surface -and do those pelmets have to be quite so big…really? The picture below shows one of them during cleaning. They’re certainly big enough to collect a lot of cobwebs.
Lurking in the gloom at the tops of our ladders, we kept hearing the gasps of astonishment as visitors came in for the first time. We were also gasping and grunting - but not only from astonishment at the room but from cleaning and buffing yet another section of complex carved decoration.
A lot of the patterns repeated and, when you’re working together, it’s important to be clear about who’s cleaned which bit. The carved figures on the ceiling were really useful in this respect; it’s easy enough when moving horizontally to say you’ve got up to the pig’s left trotter or just reached the far side of the man that looks like Mr Burns (see below).
But when working vertically, we found that -as ever – the Hog & Fitch minds were on their bellies. The decoration just took the form of food. Wherever we looked, we saw Malteasers, Tunnocks tea cakes, mini rolls, sausages and more: ‘I’ve cleaned down as far as the maltesers’, ‘I can reach to the 4th chipolata from the top’; ‘it’s harder to get the dust out of those things like ice cream waffles..’ etc etc
But ultimately the power of craftsmanship can divert attention from the occasional hunger pang. Nothing beats the emotion of being up there in another world, grappling with the grime on yet another beautifully crafted ‘noah’s ark’ high on top of a bookcase’ or teasing the dust from a bearded face hidden away and hardly visible from below.
It was a privilege to work with the edible and non edible wonders of the library at Penrhyn – and we couldn’t resist a snack in tribute to one of our favourites in the car on our way home.