Anthony Seddon-Holland of The Guild of Professional English Butlers says the job is never routine. You never know what is coming next
Think butler, and a couple of predictable names probably come up — from P. G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves to Alfred in the Batman series. Reality, however, says Anthony Seddon-Holland of The Guild of Professional English Butlers couldn’t be further from the picture.
“The butler has not been treated well in movies and books. The portrayals are erroneous, and have no relation to the actual job. Unfortunately they are what give people their perceptions of the profession,” he says.
The closest a film has come to portraying a real life butler is “Remains of the Day” starring Anthony Hopkins, says the gent who was in the city to train a team of butlers at ITC Windsor, “especially the attitude of a butler. He gives up everything in his life for his profession.” That, he says, has often been the one truth of the job — that it comes before all else.
“It’s a great commitment and sacrifice. You work long hours and the job is very demanding. Your guests are usually rather idiosyncratic and used to high standards, which makes them very difficult to deal with.”
What is more, explains Seddon-Holland, the job has only gotten harder since the time of his father and grandfather, who were also both butlers and so led him to this career almost by default.
“In my father’s day, all he had to worry about was running one household. In my last job, I had to look after two houses and one flat in Moscow, a country estate in England, penthouses in London, Paris and New York, five villas in France, one yacht, three planes and two helicopters and an additional 200-man security team.
I used to work 21 hours a day, seven days a week. I left after two years because I’d had enough.”
As difficult as the job sounds, however, there are few jobs in hospitality more exciting than being a butler.
“It is never routine, which is unusual in hospitality.As a butler you never know what is coming next and that is challenging. It is for anyone who has a brain and likes to use it and doesn’t like to vegetate all day long. The job can throw up some really interesting challenges .”
In that grand old tradition, says Seddon-Holland, none excel better than the Indians. “I think it is because, and I say this as a complement, the standards here are still old-fashioned. That attention to quality and commitment, that attention to detail that you don’t see in many other places, you get here.”