September 3, 2018

Behind the Scenes

Everyone was gathered together in the conference room for our last major Heroes meeting. We ran out of chairs and places at the table so I contributed some bouncy balls and various whirly stools to sit on, whilst some large back office chairs were hauled in by late arrivals and became a perch for the impromptu team in the back row issuing comments – helpful or otherwise. Chef Paul and Hannah G, my press ADC, spent much time cracking jokes, which they found very funny, whilst Charlotte and Stephanie doggedly read through the event plan line by line, which hopefully now will not change very much.

The chair team

The first marquees are already up and so Saturday was designated a “standing on chairs day”‘ stringing up garlands and bunting. The idea was that two tents could be decorated early, several more to go later in the week.

Sally, Sarah and the gift shop elves are in charge of bunting and they seem to buy it by the mile, store it and never find it again. I do always think I am short of storage space, although none of my girlfriends have much sympathy for me. Sarah did her 10,000 steps and could not find the ivy and Sally was about to buy more when I had a light bulb moment about a new room designated as storage, up the Barry stairs, past the robing Gallery and in one of the rooms there. Another 10,000 steps for Sarah to find I was perfectly correct.

Meanwhile, Paul, Pat and John G had already spent some time gazing at the entrance marquee and planning exactly where to position the reception kiosk which was carefully added to the plan. Pat’s current visitor reception is now officially “control centre”, so he has been rechristened Major Tom (ground control).

We are delighted that a Chinook is landing at the Castle on Sunday morning but, following the meeting about that, we realised we will have to move the bus with the Indian exhibition about WW1 plus the Red Arrow Simulator and the Gazelles. Therefore we will need drivers and, even more importantly keys, on Saturday night. Then on Sunday morning, after the Chinook has landed, it will all have to be moved back again.

In another corner, James and Mimi have been banging in posts to rope off paths and roads that have to be closed. Mimi, very sensibly, said that they had better have some help, and sooner rather than later as, on current form, one post was taking James 2 or 3 hours. So better to plan now.

As part of the celebration, I decided we would hang flags around the Castle. Since the Indian High commission had already given us theirs, I thought I would try it out to see how we could do it. Louise my PA proved a dab hand at throwing a flag corner across from her window to mine and she then came up with the idea of kite string which I think would work. I know I have some somewhere but of course it is not yet found.

Eddie and I sorting planters for the marquees

Justine is in charge of drawing up media plans and Hannah is orchestrating the press who are coming. My husband wants his own schedule which I have explained is allied to mine but I am not sure he has listened. Lastly, we have ordered more radios as they are an excellent and fast way to communicate.

Every radio voice and method of delivery are very familiar and much enjoyed by all at Highclere. John G, our incorrigible Castle Manager, answers a radio call by saying “Go for John”, which I have always thought unwise and an own goal. Scottish (Army) Robert is brief and expert as well as able to convert to alphabet speak (ie Lima Alpha Delta Yankee) at the drop of a hat. Others speak too loudly, one or two too quietly (rare). Hannah G is relatively new to the Highclere radio waves and we all wait with bated breath for her to come on air. Nervously she carefully presses down the button on the side of the radio in order, theoretically, to pass on her message.

“Hello? Hello? Hannah here. Hello it would be incredibly kind to find out, if you don’t mind awfully, if anyone might know where Lady Carnarvon is and were anyone to find her, could you say to her that we are waiting for her in the Saloon for her interview. Could anyone let me know if they do find her? Would she like a cappuccino do you think? You see the thing is the press have arrived early and I thought we might start early. Hello, hello? Hannah here. I am in the Saloon. Can somebody help?”

Sitting at a meeting with John G, he will not let me reply. Instead, grinning, he holds the speak button down to ask Hannah to repeat her message, as he missed part of it. Young Robert, James, Justine and the rest of the office are hardly able to speak for laughter and Hannah earnestly replies to John G for another few minutes. By that time I could have crossed the courtyard, gone up the Gothic stairs, along the Red corridor, past the Red Stairs and into the Saloon and Hannah will probably still be on her radio, John G listening, Julia, his PA, leaning back in her chair, shaking her head.

Elsewhere, to add to the general entertainment, Fred, who helps in banqueting, is unsure of a security code for a shed behind the conference room and asks for it over the radio – Jorge tells him and therefore everyone else, at which point my husband leans out of the window to ask why bother with security if it is all public knowledge? “Don’t tell them your name Fred!” he quotes (from a classic English TV series Dad’s Army) as he disappears back inside again.

Then Pat and Paul come in. Someone has arrived for a meeting and taken the wrong turn and vanished. Half the office disappears off looking for them, all armed with radios of course. What on earth could go wrong? Sally does the only possible thing and bustles off for more coffee.