NEW NORCIA – the berated kitchen hand




Around the turn of the last century; New Norcia. 


He drank far too much, and treated his young kitchen hand poorly.  

His kitchen had a large hand powered dumb waiter which ran between the kitchen, heading upstairs, servicing a sparse, yet Monk packed dining room.  The kitchen itself was large, and filled with all make and manner of kitchen utensils, sinks, large wood fired stoves and ovens, long table and benches completing it.


There was also a well.


The well provided water to the kitchen, for both consumption and cleaning. Stone walled, and roughly a metre across, it was deep, and never ran dry; it was always uncovered due to its regular use.


One evening, no different from any other, the cook, a large man whose thirst remained unquenched no matter how often he drank, and drink he did; florid nosed, his fiery disposition was one to truly behold, being quick to anger over the slightest indiscretion.  His ‘hands on’ approach to discipline did little to create a happy working environment for the lad that was billeted to him. ‘Kitchen Hand’ the lads title.  So, on the particularly non-descript evening, the cook had stayed true to form, and had ‘sampled’ a certain amount of wine and spirit, for medicinal uses of course, and was less than happy with the lad that could do no right.  


When the dumb waiter failed to appear, and the evening repast did not reach the hungry Monks, another boy was sent downstairs to investigate. Having no love what so ever for the cantankerous chef, and the unexpected joy at escaping the dining room, the messenger took his time, finding the longest, most indirect path, to the kitchen.  Once he arrived, he and the kitchen hand had a good natter; finally the question was raised “Why hadn’t dinner been sent up?” The reply to this being “The cook fell in the well.”  On having a boys look down the hole, and establishing that neither of the could get him out, Father Abbott and some senior Monks were summoned.  After the inevitable inspection, “yes the cooks’ in the well” was the statement made to no one in particular.  Retrieving him proved less than easy, the well being as deep and narrow as it was, and when the chef was finally extracted, it was his feet that first appeared over the lip. Why? According to the berated and harried kitchen hand, chef had fallen head first down the well, and was now drowned and deader than Good Friday.


Interestingly enough, as hind sight was to later prove, the boy, not the cook, who was the one to draw the water from the well as a rule. So, how did he come to be at the bottom of it?


It was a cold meal served to the Monks that night.


So that was the story I was told.


Following routine, I’ve embedded Joan Jett in the picture above, click on it, and get your groove thing on.






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