My granny Jane Best died soon after I was born. Her mother Bertha had been in service and in one of my father’s letters it mentions that she had been housekeeper to Gerald Balfour, Arthur Balfour’s brother. Jane was one of nine children, most of whom lived in Earl Shilton. She was born when her mother was in service at Dovedale House in Blockley, Gloucestershire. How that side of the family managed to move from service to relative prosperity in so short a time is a mystery. When I was small, Bests owned the village shop up at our end of the village and Bests baked the village bread. I don’t associate that side of the family with warmth. However, for better or worse I always felt that they were my tribe. I look like them. Those in service are often more snobbish than their employers. Many of the Bests possessed an air of superior, authoritative disapproval and lacked warmth. Nothing was good enough for my father’s mother Jane and certainly my mother wasn’t good enough for her son Will.
When widowed and poor Jane rented out an upstairs room to a dentist (my father remembers the fireplace full of pulled teeth after he had left) and the downstairs front room became a sweet shop run by herself and her sister Hepsibah. However, after my father married she still found time to call at ‘Braeside ‘ three times a day to inspect what Will had been given for each meal.