Helping out at a heritage property has beenan eye opener for me. I have always enjoyed looking around old properties – the tudor ones really keep me engaged but the one I volunteer at is 18thC and has had many changes over the years. Last year the trustees opened up the basement area after a very selective programme of patching up and making safe for visitors. It hasn’t been cleaned up or made sterilised and all the grubiness from decades of beuig unloved are still there for all to see. The point of the below stairs experience is to see how the footmen and oddjob man worked and lived. they had to carry out tasks in a fairly dark area. – no electric lights or running water. They worked with smoky oil lamps and candles. The hot water had to be from a boiler that took hours to heat up. Reading the instruction booklet for footmen, they had to use all kinds of ghastly stuff to clean the hunting and riding gear of the many visitors to the house. We are so lucky with our vacuum cleaners and running hot water . . . . .