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The Butler’s Butler. Part 1.

At the top of her profession as a trainer for the worlds elite, Josephine Ive tells us about a life of service and why only your father would be more trustworthy than the hired help! When you ‘butle’, your life revolves around your employer or your guest. You get up in the morning way before your guest or employer is awake, and you are most likely still awake an hour after they have gone to bed. It is no secret that it is hard work as a butler, there is only one way to make it easier and that is to plan ahead and be well-prepared, that way if something either goes wrong or comes up you are ready to take it in your stride.

First up you need to get yourself ready, grooming being all important to how you are perceived, then make sure all public areas are tidy and presentable, nowadays newspapers are more than rare with electronic editions available, but even so they should be neatly laid out. Then you set up the dining room for breakfast, you already know what breakfast will be, if you have done your job properly the night before. Sometimes as a butler you may even find yourself cooking breakfast, acting as barista and washing up. These are, very much, the blurred lines of butlering…. Once ready to face the day, an elegant tray of tea or coffee will be the best ‘alarm call’ an employer or guest can receive. Whilst your ‘boss’ is in bathroom, you tidy the room, quietly collecting up clothes etc. and perhaps setting out clothes ready for wearing that day. All part of being an unobtrusive anticipatory assistant, you either sense things or make sure you find out. I still have a few private clients who consult me as a butler from time to time, but mainly my clients now are luxury hotels and yachts around the world. Having established Magnums as a butler training provider over 30 years ago, life is always varied. One week I will be in a gorgeous 5 star plus hotel, the following week a luxury villa in a casino for high rollers and then a remote island resort where the butler and cook are part of a team of only 4 staff, or onboard a brand new mega yacht where the interiors are sublime and it is so big you don’t realise you are at sea. When I am teaching nothing else matters, I enjoy sharing my passion for ultimate service, however, sometimes it is a bit like being in a gold fish bowl. I am never off duty, so to speak, I am always aware of the service and the surroundings, I continually like to put my students service to the test. I leave items around purposely to see what will be done with them, such as cables, a jacket with a missing button on the side as it needs re-stitching, a dress with hem down, a pair of suede shoes to see if they get polished or brushed! Why, because this is all part of the ultimate service, I should not have to ask for anything in a luxury service environment. If I ring at 2 in the morning for a glass of red wine and a cigar, I expect the answer to be ‘certainly, Ma’am’ and I wait to see how long it takes. If I leave a magazine that I have been reading open at a certain page, I expect to return to find it still open or with a bookmark in it. If I leave my sunglasses on the balcony, what will happen to them, will someone track me down as I walk to the beach? As a good butler should know what you need before you do, I don’t expect to be grilled by masses of questions, I expect the butler to have thought things through, just a I did when I was working as a full time butler. So I am not always the easiest guest, but it is done in the spirit of good will. Realizing that these days people have the riches to buy almost anything they desire, and suddenly they decide they want something then it is often down to the butler to source it, this can be a challenge, and one I love, and certainly I relish stretching new butlers into this area of service. Many times as a butler I also realized that some ‘bosses’ were a little unsure of how to do certain things such as addressing an envelope to a titled person, where to seat guests at the dining table, how to look after certain guests from different cultures. Although the perception has always been that the best butlers are English, now, globally, that has changed, butlers from Philippines, Malaysia, and India are well sought after, provided you maintain a cool, calm collectedness, don’t panic and make very little noise, any culture can provide a butler who is the epitome of service. Most importantly, butlers will always be the ‘go to’ professional who knows everything about their boss, what is wanted 5 minutes before it is needed, is reserved and most definitely lips are sealed, revealing nothing about their bosses to anyone. In fact, a butler should be your most trusted person after your mother or father, notwithstanding that both my mother and father were butlers. I was Butler to High Court Judges in England, so tact and diplomacy were definitely near the top of the personality traits. I witnessed many hilarious, challenging and unusual situations but nothing would induce me to tell you....

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