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Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, December 2021, Message from the Chairman

Steven FerryMessage from the Chairman

This is not a goodbye….for two truisms come to mind when I sit down to write this last edition of the Modern Butlers’ Journal: Without change, life would be boring; and the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The fact is that the Journal has been published without break for 15 years, well into the age where quick and easy-to-assimilate information delivered on smartphones and social media has become the general preference.

At the same time, Mrs. Ferry and I are not just well past retirement age—like so many of the leading lights in our profession—and needing to turn over to the next generation to carry the torch of knowledge, but we are also heavily involved in supporting human rights organizations as well as developing real artificial intelligence that can be used to improve our lives, rather than replace us with cyborgs and control us within an inch of our lives.

While these are amongst several projects vying for our attention, we will always remain a part of the butler community and help out where we can.

That is why Mr. Amer Vargas, who has been with us almost from the beginning, has been taking over the reins of the Institute and bringing it up to the 21st Century. He will also be the editor for the MBJ. Yes, the MBJ will live on, not as a journal but as a regular series of short posts on LinkedIn and other social media where appropriate.

You will see some of the same columns, including from myself, from time to time. And you will see new material.

Why?

Because the Institute is opening up the MBJ, as the longest running publication in the profession, to the Alliance of Professional Butler Trainers, to be the journal that represents the entire profession, not just the Institute. That means you will receive the benefit of the wisdom and perspective of multiple professional butlers and trainers and be part of a much larger community as the members of the Alliance send out posts to their members, too.

If you have not already done so, follow the International Institute of Modern Butlers in Linkedin so you can receive notice of the posts as they are published and remain part of this privileged community of butlers and household/estates managers.

With gratitude for those who have walked this unique road for so long with us and wishing you continued success and happiness—starting with the 2021 holiday season and your decisions for 2022 and onwards.

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people- skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.

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Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, November 2021, Message from the Chairman

Steven FerryMessage from the Chairman

A meme recently caught my eye, as it is particularly germane to butlers caring for their employers and the property of their employers—just as much as it is to familial relationships, friendships, and vintage cars.

And with so much that is worrisome today, it helps to sit down with a cup of tea (or coffee) every now and then and remember these words:

Which brings us to a small announcement of modernization at the International Institute of Modern Butlers: We will be leaving behind the 20th Century idea of newsletters for communicating to members and readers, and instead, be switching to LinkedIn/social media. This issue, and the next one in December, will be the last ones, ending 16 years of constant coverage.

You will still see the same content, but through our LinkedIn portal, so if you are not already connected to The International Institute of Modern Butlers on LinkedIn, please do so.

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people- skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.

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Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, October 2021, Message from the Chairman

Steven FerryMessage from the Chairman

Without the silent intervals between sounds in music, we would be inundated with continuous sound. Like «bad» is needed to understand «good,» so we need silence to help understand and appreciate sound. And so it is that I have no particular message to relay to you this month, except «Take joy in the wide variety of life before you,» and I shall leave you now with silence!

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people- skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.

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Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, September 2021, Message from the Chairman

Steven FerryMessage from the Chairman

It was heartening to see the response to my last message about calming the turmoil in the world by everyone knowing and insisting upon their Human Rights, as delineated in the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Some of you really did take to heart the vital necessity of Human Rights in a civil society—and if butlers represent anything, it is the civility and caring that lie at the root of civilization, so please do continue.

We have found over the last couple of months that it takes a constant effort to bring the message through to the majority, as they are so distraught and distracted by…the turmoil in the world!

To this end, we have created a web site defendinghumanity.global that provides more information on Human Rights and links to very good videos on what they are.

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people- skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.

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Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, July 2021, Message from the Chairman

Steven FerryMessage from the Chairman

When one is confronted by other people, such as employers, colleagues, family members, or even an entire environment, that are hostile to one’s general welfare and success, the feeling of helplessness and despondency can be overwhelming. This is certainly something one can experience as a butler in the workplace and, these days, even in life in general.

It helps to know that there is something one can do about it.

Simply find one little thing one can do toward that hostile person or environment to push back, to make it better. The magic being that in the process, one settles back into the driver’s seat and starts to steer one’s life in the right direction.

By building on this little act of self-assertion with other creations or actions, one can regain control over one’s own life and one’s happiness.

Try it if you feel you are not valuable or appreciated, your views do not count, or you feel threatened and seem not to be able to do anything about it.

Because the truth is, you can!

One person who is on a roll is the recipient of the partial scholarship organized recently by Mr. Jim Grise and supported by several players in our industry—she has now secured employment as a Personal Assistant on a fine estate in the United Kingdom. We wish her continued success.

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people- skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.

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Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, June 2021, Message from the Chairman

Steven FerryMessage from the Chairman

So much good news this month—we are happy to announce that the International Butlers Day launched three days ago on the 28th of May, turned out to be a great success. Equally momentous is the launch of the Alliance of Professional Butler Trainers with a core of a dozen schools and trainers and more requesting to join. This really is a new beginning of stability and professionalism for our profession.

As Mr. Charles MacPherson, one of the founding members points out, “The importance of any alliance is to promote and guide that group to strive to be the best they can be; that is just one of the reasons I am proud to be part of this Alliance of Professional Butler Trainers.»

Another member, Mr. Wayne Fitzharris is «proud to participate in the formation of The Alliance—bringing together the world’s best trainers has been quite an accomplishment. Although competitors, we are all uniquely different but share one common goal: To unite the butler training Industry under common training values and standards designed to enable our students to become the professional butlers of tomorrow.»

Additionally, the Institute is close to launching its new, online hospitality butler course and otherwise, amongst other gems in this edition, we have expanded the Creative Corner column to include other butlers who apply their creativity not just to their work, but also to the fine arts.

Best wishes for the month ahead.

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people- skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.

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Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, May 2021, Message from the Chairman

Steven FerryMessage from the Chairman

We are happy to announce International Butlers Day for the 28th of May. The date was set and the day conceived by Ms. Josephine Ive of Magnums in Australia, to commemorate her father’s birthday—who was born on the 28th May, 1921 and worked all his life as a butler, starting as a footman, and then a valet before being promoted to butler. Ms. Ive is spearheading the organizing of the celebrations for the day and has put out an infographic toolkit to help you organize celebrating the day wherever you are around the world. There is even a nicely produced International Butler Times for your enjoyment and edification.

We are also happy to report that the recipient of the partial scholarship arranged by Mr. Jim Grise and supported by several members of the private service industry, has completed her program at Cornell and is rearing to go to put her newfound understandings and skills to use! Congratulations to all!

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people- skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.

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Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, April 2021, Message from the Chairman

Steven FerryMessage from the Chairman

Furore over a fork—and the fork in the road for the modern butlers

A number of media outlets had a few words to say about an ex-butler for the British royal family who recently claimed: «Ladies and gentlemen, remember we always use a knife and fork or chopsticks to eat rice! We do not use our hands or fingers.”

The lesser problem here being the definition of «we,» for certainly truer words were never spoken about the modern British royal family or those of occidental cultures, but what about earlier times, and what about the rest of the world? The main issue for those taking umbrage at this statement was the implication and underlying intent that everyone should do as Westerners do, or more particularly the British royal family, because these ways are superior.

This little spat highlights the crisis of culture as once-dominant western empires, which find their apogee or best expression in the lives of their royal families and the butlers who serve them, are literally being overrun by other cultures, their values questioned and institutions undermined from within.

Any attitude that an intrinsic superiority exists based on wealth, position, or cultural preferences is not likely to be met with much support outside the circles of the privileged few and those who seek to emulate them, and will only erode any support for their culture in general.

Typical responses to this statement, for instance, were: “We don’t need the so-called civilizing colonizers anymore—ours is an older civilization than yours;” others felt the use of toilet paper over a bidet and the habit of wearing shoes indoors called into question the legitimacy of any unsolicited advice from a westerner. There are no doubt good reasons for TP and bidets, and for wearing shoes inside in a colder climate as well as wearing no shoes. Neither are right, just different, and the only error is to close one’s mind to other points of view from which one can learn and improve—a social trend that has become endemic with the advent of social media—people in the isolated world of their smart phones and computers taking extreme and unrelenting points of view and losing any sense of brotherhood or connection with their fellow man and woman.

It’s a cute game to say the port must always be passed clockwise after the host has offered it to the guest of honour on his right, but is it intrinsically superior or right—outside the following of tradition—and is anyone not knowing or following this protocol therefore inferior in some way?

As a Brit brought up in one of the top private (public) schools in England, I was so blinded with arrogance that I would consider with unquestionable certainty that those whom I met while traveling abroad to be the foreigners and therefore not quite right or acceptable in some undefined way. Furthermore, anyone belonging to a lower social class could not possibly have anything to offer of interest. It took a while traveling the world and looking at my own insular culture from an exterior point of view to learn humility, to appreciate the uniqueness of each individual and of each culture, and to accept that perhaps everything British does not happen to be right just because it is British.

It is an interesting observation that the sense of self-importance grows the less certain a person is of their own uniqueness and value—insisting upon one’s own importance is about as acceptable as turning up at a formal wedding in work dungarees and exhibiting disdain for the family and other guests for their attire while lacking the knowledge of the proper dress code and any caring for the expectations, comfort, and happiness of others.

An improved statement regarding how to eat rice might have been:

«The British royal families ate rice (and everything else) with their fingers for about 600 years until 500 years ago when the more refined in Great Britain adopted the fork for eating (note, however, that until just over a century ago, British sailors refused to use forks because they were considered «unmanly,» but it is not certain they were ever served rice!). Fork over fingers has the benefit of keeping one’s fingers and hands clean and of being more hygienic in the event one has not had access to resources for washing ones hands before eating. On the other hand, it seems that eating rice with fingers may be more efficient—can anyone confirm this or explain the benefits of eating rice with one’s fingers?»

This statement is both true and informative, and avoids condescension while granting validity to other cultures.

As we no longer rule the waves and half the planet, we would do better to respect the many cultures that, in many cases, have succeeded thousands of years longer than the English culture (the Chinese have been consuming rice for 9,000 years, and Persia [Iran] was how both rice and forks eventually came to Europe and thence England) and from which we can continue to enrich our own culture—if we can indeed rise sufficiently to confronting the threat to its very existence and take actions to maintain it.

Which brings us to the fork in the road for butlers, particularly British Butlers, and most particularly, ex-royal British Butlers.

Do we keep marching straight forward, noses held high and signaling the appropriate level of sneer, comfortable in our innate superiority; or do we wake up and recognize that we have much to offer the modern world with our understanding of the superior service experience, the care of an employer’s interests and quality possessions—for the delivery of which we depend upon the service of others whom we appreciate and respect? This perspective is appreciated by others and will guarantee the continued relevance and value of our profession in this world—whereas an innate sense of superiority will not.

PS: For those of you interested. here is a very interesting article on forks.

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people- skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.

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Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, March 2021, Message from the Chairman

Steven FerryMessage from the Chairman

It is encouraging to see butler schools busy with on-line and in-person assignments as well as placement requests, and the butler world, whether in private service or hospitality, slowly starting to come back to life again.

It is also very encouraging to see the principals of many butler schools coming together to set the standards for butler training so that those who put their trust in the butler training profession are enabled, not disappointed.

Which brings us, yet again, to the sorry and sad saga of the South African Butler Academy, now going chameleon- or octopus-like under various other additional names. One might wonder why we keep making an issue of it, why it has become such an unseemly and seeming tit-for-tat. But there is a difference: We are not targeting an individual in some psychotic determination to destroy them, but holding fast to the uncompromising line in the sand that is not to be crossed any further if we are to have any chance of  passing on butler skills to future generations so the profession keeps being useful and relevant.

While the principal of SABA has decided to attack myself with great gusto instead of seeking to resolve the multiple complaints of his clients and students, it should be known that my offer of assistance, confidentially, to help SABA become a force for good (by abandoning knee-jerk attacks on dissatisfied clients and students and instead, helping mediate resolutions for all those aggrieved, as well as bring SABA up to nominal standards so their program is able to produce good results) was at first met with what seemed like interest but which quickly turned into another stab-in-the-back diatribe.

As I have said before, the issue with SABA is not myself, but itself and its failure to train students properly in the first place, and then attacking students who express concerns about the training that was delivered versus what was promised.

I leave you with another story of just one ex-SABA student, Mr. Henry Musoke from Uganda—his story is why we (and others) will not be bullied into silence despite legal threats and social media rantings, or mumblings about how titillating and improper all this controversy is. While I am sure SABA will be reading this, they can rest assured that I do not read their diatribes about myself or anyone else. Why? Not because I am so conceited that I think I am 100% right and anyone complaining is 100% wrong. No, it is because a trainer starts to die the moment he fails to learn something from his students, peers, or clients. I am not perfect, and can always use correction from any number of my peers, but Mr. Cross is not someone I would ever seek counsel from in order to improve my performance as a butler trainer, because as a butler and butler trainer, he has nothing of value to teach me, judging by his conduct and the results he is achieving with his students.

In reprinting this letter to the editor, SABA also should know that any efforts to continue to vilify Mr. Musoke will have no effect, as he joins the many other ex-students who are no longer being bullied into silence—he being one of the participants in the Joint Class Action against SABA. After he was mistreated, he approached the Human Rights Commission, but gave up eventually due to the trauma of dealing on his own with SABA. He is no longer alone.

«I came across your article [written by the Chairman of Aspire Globally Limited] and I can only report on one butler school. Not that I want to be biased, but you spoke about the alcohol use and sex. I was a student at SABA in Cape Town in 2015, my sponsor had paid my tuition and we selected this school because they promised to get me ready by the end of the training. We paid upfront, I was excited, it was a fantastic moment.

«But during the training, I was always belittled, it was like I needed to become some English guy of the Victorian era or a 5-star Chef to feel comfortable. The school had a problem with me right from the start. They promised to teach me chauffeur services, [but] these were never conducted. Every time I asked about this training, it was asking for trouble. Being a religious man, we are not allowed to drink, [yet] the academy demanded that I test the wines to show my appreciation. In no time I became drunk and requested to take a nap because of feeling drowsy. Instead, they recorded me on their camera and told my sponsor that I came drunk to the academy, something the sponsor did not approve of. Numerous times I was excluded from various trainings despite paying in full. I do believe that some butler schools lack professional expertise and fail to admit it. 

«I think the course was meant to last for eight weeks, but they stopped my training three weeks short without reason and called security to escort me off the premises. It was the biggest shame I had [experienced]. I tried to take matters to court but being alone and confused, my sponsor no longer believing in me, I took my pain with me and completely withdrew and [will soon be] completing my MBA—I am no longer in the Hospitality industry [as I am] not interested [in it] anymore.

«I was robbed. I hope students are not going through similar experiences that I went through at SABA. Thanks for the article, it was great reading it. I saw a response from SABA, but it is expected for them to act that way. I personally forgave them because I have the power to do that and because there is life outside the butler industry.»

So why do we continue with this unseemly public fight? Not to do battle with a belligerent SABA, but simply to make sure that when people look up SABA online, they will find the other side of the story and not just streams and streams of incessant self-promotion on all social media lines. In this way, potential students and clients can make an informed decision—think of this as a TripAdvisor service!

Please forgive us, therefore, while we tend to our dirty laundry, but also realize that SABA is just one little annoyance: there is so much good going on with the many other players in the industry that we have plenty of cause to cheer.

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people- skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.

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Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, November 2020, Message from the Chairman

Steven Ferry Message from the Chairman

by Steven Ferry

While this month’s journal has many butler-related pieces that we hope you enjoy, there is one message that is particularly important; it may seem to be on the no-no subject of politics, but this is far from the case, for it relates to the very survival of the hard-won democratic principles and freedoms that man cobbled together over the centuries and from which we have all benefitted in the lifestyles we have chosen. In all the confusions and disruptions of 2020, it is not easy to see that we are about to lose all these benefits unless we take some action—and this has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with our standard of living and cultural survival.

Have you noticed how the fear of Covid-19 promoted by governments and media around most of the world is being used to justify continued lockdowns and human rights violations (freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of movement, freedom to practice one’s religion, the right to work, etc.)?  And yet, the number of deaths from Covid-19, which has yet to be identified as a virus even, are less than the annual deaths from the flu while the number of suicides and deaths from overdoses and unattended medical conditions because of the lockdowns are skyrocketing; and the economies of the world have collapsed with citizens going hungry or being dependent on government handouts as they can find no work?

As predicted in the three articles I wrote in the summer (combined and available here), the failure of governments to manage the pandemic sensibly betrays another agenda driven by certain individuals, and they are unrelenting in the drive to lockdown and collapse economies until citizens will accept any solution to get on with their lives again—not aware that the future envisioned will be something they would never have agreed to if they had not been brought to their knees economically and socially.

Unsure at the time of a ready solution that would allow individual citizens to fight back against this monolithic and seemingly insurmountable agenda, I was not able to give any specific and simple recommendation.

I am happy to report now that one response has appeared around which independent individuals (who can think for themselves) can rally and actually stand a chance of pushing back successfully against this oppressive agenda.

In his article «An International message of Hope for Humanity» Mr. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. states the simplicity and dangers of the situation we are all in and provides a simple call to action that applies around the world, wherever governments are continuing the lockdowns that are proving so destructive to the interests of the citizens they are sworn to protect.

If you share my wish for a return to a life where humans are free to pursue their goals and enjoy the thrill of life, to help others, to flourish and prosper, then please support this new global movement in whatever way you can, even if only letting your friends, colleagues, neighbours, and even strangers know of it. Our strength comes in our numbers, and when large enough, we will all win this most bizarre of battles.

Lastly, on a different topic, the Institute was founded with the purpose of setting and raising standards for the profession. As such, it has a duty to close the door on any training that purports to be professional but which actually reduces the stature of the profession; this is why we have included a Special Notice in this month’s journal about court actions being taken against one particular school that by all accounts is long on social media self-promotion and short on delivering viable training.

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people- skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.