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 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.
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.
MY DEAR LADY CARNARVON,
ESTOU INDIGNADA, ENQUANTO EM OUTRAS NAÇÕES A HISTORIA É PRESERVADA NO MEU PAÍS O BRAZIL O MUSEU NACIONAL DA CIDADE DO RIO DE JANEIRO PEGOU FOGO E TUDO FOI DESTRUIDO, INCLUSIVE A PARTE DO EGITO ANTIGO.QUE TRISTEZA!!!! PARABENS MYLADY PELA SUAS OBRAS ASSISTENCIAIS.
MYLADY TEM UM LINDO CORAÇÃO E UMA GRANDE DAMA.HONRA A SUA TERRA NATAL A LINDA INGLATERRA.
I am so sorry to hear that the museum has been destroyed – what a tragedy. All of that history lost. My thoughts are with the people of Brazil and with the museum curators and staff who must be devastated.
I could feel the energy and excitement with everyone running from place to place with their lists of thing still left to finish. I know how it feels to not remember where I have stored things for a later time. But alas, it does eventually turn up. Well done, Lady Carnarvon.
For anyone who cares to know what was written above: “I AM INDIGNATED, WHILE IN OTHER NATIONS THE HISTORY IS PRESERVED IN MY COUNTRY THE BRAZIL THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF RIO DE JANEIRO HAS SEEN FIRE AND EVERYTHING HAS BEEN DESTROYED, INCLUDING THE PART OF ANCIENT EGYPT. SORRY !!!! CONGRATULATIONS MYLADY FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE WORKS.
MYLADY HAS A BEAUTIFUL HEART AND A GREAT LADY.I FEELS HER LAND CHRISTMAS TO BEAUTIFUL ENGLAND.”
MY DEAR JANET, THANK YOU, FOR YOUR TRANSLATION.
Very well written; I can feel the hustle and bustle of the preparations! I had wanted so much to come for this event, but am happy that I will be there in October to finally see your beautiful home. Good luck with the Heroes event. It sounds like it will be amazing!
Boston MA USA
We are all looking forward to this weekend.
Really chuckled reading this – thank you! It sounds like you’re all working terrifically hard, but having lots of fun along the way. I’m definitely going to persuade ‘him indoors’ to come along for what sounds like a splendid weekend!
Work without fun is just drudgery. Laughter is so important.
Dearest Lady Carnarvon,
I have to admit I was laughing throughout the post! Having seen the Highclere team in action, I feel as though I am there with you all. I’m so sad not to make it to the amazing Heroes event this year but will be there in spirit. I send all my best and warmest wishes to all.
Thank you Patsy
Good morning to all.
What a jolly good read.
I hope your Heros welcome was a success.
With warmth – Shirley taylor
The world mourns the loss of Brazil’s cultural treasure.
Indeed – tragic.
THANK YOU, FOR YOUR WORDS ABOUT THE MUSEUM. I AM INCONSOLABLE
My Dear Lady,
I am sitting here with my mother of 16 years (and my disinterested father of just as long), following the most lovely of delightful mornings spent padding around the extensive, exquisite, and expansive gardens and halls that you have so graciously opened to us common folk. We were struck with the sheer majesty present in the hallowed grounds that you are so fortunate to be able to call your abode, and have been overcome with gratitude that we were able to bear witness to such marvelous beauty. Now, sitting in the metaphorical shadow of Highclere, at the Dog House pub waiting to take a right on the A338, we have been graced with the opportunity to discover the magnificent way you have of describing to us, your reading public, the minutiae of your dogged preparation for the eagerly awaited Heroes weekend. Wishing you always the best,
Simon and Wendy Grossman, your latest fans
I am delighted that you enjoyed your visit – and that the weather was kind to you.
I couldn’t imagine a more fun afternoon than taking 10,000 steps around the castle looking for ivy and twine amidst all the amazing history and beauty inside the Castle! Happy Planning. Much Joy-Christy
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Heroes will undoubtedly be a grand success based on everything Highclere’s staff have put into it!! I guess I did not realize all the logistics that go into ANY event at a large estate. I loved this detailed description of the preparations for this weekend. I feel my own life is simple in comparison!!! I liked your idea for the flags. I think they will look great. I loved all of your ideas for the event and think you have a brilliant crew to bring it all to fruition. “Don’t tell anyone your name is Fred” is my only advice because you have everything else covered!!
Regards to all my heroes at Highclere,
Ann Catherine Flood
What fun to read your amusing behind the scenes setup of a coming event. I hope it all goes as planned.
Many who attend will not notice the hard work you all do to make an event a success, but those who read here will appreciate your efforts.
Thank you and you husband for being such wonderful hosts.
I’m so shocked and saddened to read the Portuguese persons information on the tragic fire of the Historical Museum in Rio de Janeiro. I found more info about how many irreplaceable artifacts have been destroyed, the oldest remains gone forever! It’s so sad that WE as humans have lost some valuable history that researchers and scientists worked so hard to preserve for years.
THANK YOU,FOR YOUR WORDS ABOUT THE MUSEUM.
WE ARE IN MOURNING IN BRAZIL FOR HIM.
Dear Lady Carnavon,
I wanted to write to You for a long time! It was an honor to meet You in December last year as part of the Carols & Champagne Reception, the charity enening for the Southampton Hospital. It was an unforgettable evening for us. We are the couple from Germany. You probably do not remember, my husband is a lawyer and comes from Würzburg. You surprised us with Your german language skills. I work as a consultant for the most successful german primetime weekly. Its a Medical, like ER. We talked about the crazy filming of Downton Abbey and You talked about Your plans to make the hospital rooms and the surgeon theatre of Highclere accessible to the visitors. We had a nice chat and we are still watching Your activities always with interest. With great joy I red, You have the hospital set up. Congratulations! We also talked about the german version of Your book “At home at Highclere”. It has become very beautiful and always for me serves as an inspiration for societies in our house. I could imagine that we will return someday to Highclere. Until then, we sincerely wish You and Lord Carnavon all the best and lots of energy for your duties. Best regards from Germany (and a big sorry for my poor English skills). Lydia Rudolph
Ihre Englisch ist ausgezeichnet – danke für Ihre Worte, hoffentlich kommst du im Sommer wieder zurück, wenn das Schloss und der Garten vom Dezember ganz anders aussehen werden (bitte vergeben Sie mir die Fehler ….)
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
This looks so wonderful! I am eager and excited to board a flight later this week from America to attend Heroes at Highclere this weekend!
So very honored to attend and represent families of the fallen from Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. We are grateful for your support.
Look forward to seeing you – you represent a great charity but above all heroic families.
Thank you for sharing your wonderfully humorous version of your exhaustive and generous delivery of HEROES Weekend! Pure delight. Every success! Rest well at its conclusion!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
What an amazing hive of activity!
I feel exhausted from just reading your blog.
All of the very best wishes for every success for the coming weekend. A significant time for remembrance and reflection.
What a glorious way to being my day! For a few joyous moments I was able to leave the heat and humidity of the midwestern USA and return to the majestic grounds of Highclere Castle. I only wish I could live in England, the home of my ancestors, to visit more often and perhaps take part in the festivities. Thank you for this breath of fresh air. Not only is Highclere a place of beauty and majesty, but it is a place of caring, sharing, and good works to benefit others. There are actually many heroes at Highclere. Best wishes for great success at your latest endeavor!
There are a few Heroes here – some great women in the team here
Absolutely hilarious! It will all come together beautifully in the end and yes, when you don’t know what else to do brew coffee ( or tea)!
And I think I know how to throw a party!! The logistics are staggering and hilarious. Can’t wait to join the fun!
A weekend in a hundred years..
God bless Hannah~
I so wanted to attend the Heroes event. However, it’s fun to see the preparation “Behind the Scenes.”
Hannah is so charming..
While in bed due to a nasty case of flu, I d you to know I feel transported to your house and all the events you wonderfully describe. Your dedication its inspiring, From Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Get better soon
So funny sitting reading this. You all seem to have lots of fun and many laughs as well as climbing up and down lots of stairs.
Wishing you well.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Meetings can be dreary without some giggles. Sounds like you are having a great time getting ready for a great cause!
As far as losing things, I have trouble misplacing my stored items in my 900 sq foot townhouse, just Imagine the tremendous amount of stuff I could misplace in 9,000 sq feet!
Have a great party, love those Poppy flowers.
We walk a lot looking for things..
Best of luck on your upcoming event!
Thank you – I have everything crossed for the weather
Congratulations on the preparations of the Heroes event and what wonderful fun time your having. Wishing you all the success. It will be amazing.
Your search for the ivy was hilarious and reminded me of the fact that around Christmas time when we start decorating our house, my daughters and I usually start the search for ‘paddle wire’ This is an item used to hold the decorations in place and can be purchased at the local hobby shop. Every year we look for this in the house because we never ever use the entire roll. And every year we end up going to the shop and buying new because we cannot find the leftover paddle wire. Well after the holiday season is over and we start clean-up we invariably find 2 or 3 rolls of lost paddle wire. And every year we vow to put it someplace where it will be easily found the next time we need it. Can you see the vicious cycle? I am convinced that elves or those WWII critters, gremlins take the stuff and move it. Anyway I really enjoyed your blog. I am so looking forward to visiting later on this year or after the New Year.
Well I meant to look for kite wire today and failed – tomorrow is another day…
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
What could go wrong?? Nothing! You are equipped with a wonderful sense of humor which will carry the weekend….plus some coffee, a bit of champagne & some wine. Your staff sound marvelous, each and every one, and poor Hannah. It is challenging to begin with a monumental event!!
I particularly love the passage about purchasing things, putting them away, and never finding them. My home stands as a testament to such!
Wishing you and all every good luck. God bless you for the important work you are doing. and Have fun!!
Dear Lady Carnarvon
I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your blogs. I had the privilege of visiting Highclere in June. It’s was a beautiful experience and one that I willl never forget. (From Ohio, USA) And continue to dream of being back there for the Hero Event. In heart and spirit alas! Thanks again for sharing your wonderful home and life with the world.
Dear Lady Carnarvon
You are so generous with your time in entertaining us all with your colourful writings.
I can see it all as I read your words.
I wish you all a wonderful HEROES weekend .
Blessings from New Zealand.
Thank you – one of the airman who died here is from Roturua – I wrote to the local newspapers to see if they could help but none replied..
What an amazing event and such a fun and probably stressful time setting up. Looks like you have an amazing team around you to help. I love reading your blogs about your life there and the Castle. It was such a privilege to visit it last August. Everytime I see a picture of it I am transported back to how wonderful it was, and of course have watched the whole series of Downton again twice since returning.
I can see a third coming on before the movie gets to us.
thanks for sharing your wonderful life with us.
Thank you – hope you will come back
Delightful description! Definitely “Much Ado About…” SOMETHING!!! It certainly will be an event to remember!!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Reading about the weekend to come and the preparations you all do in order to make this weekend memorable reminds me of the flags we place every Memorial Day (as members of DAR – Daughters of the American Revolution) on the veterans’ graves near my home. I truly cannot imagine the work you, your husband and your staff do in order to honor those flying heroes who didn’t make it home. My father was in the Army Air Force stationed in Italy during WW2 and did make it home, only to die in a plane crash shortly after. Your honoring those airmen also honors the others who fought in WW1 and 2. Thank you so much and I wish I could be there. What a wonderful time you will have!
So excited to read about all the activity! Two more days and we are off, heading your way. So excited to visit again, this time with my son and his friend. See you Sunday!
See you Sunday! Bring good weather
Dear LADY CARNARVON,
I always enjoy your posts but this one especially. I can feel all the activity going on wishing I could be there. Hopefully someday we will be able to visit. Hope you have a wonderful Hero’s weekend. What a wonderful thing you are doing.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
As always, your blogs educate, entertain, and produce much laughter. What a blessing it is to work with such a wonderful group of people who work so well together and can laugh together. Good wishes for a wonderful event for you this weekend.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
You are an excellent blogger! Thank you!
Barbara, Napa California
Why thank you !
Adore these little behind the scenes peeks…my husband and I are so looking forward to visiting “Heroes at Highclere” this weekend! We’ve both been on the planning end of lots of events, so I know how much hard work it takes to pull off what I’m sure will be a fabulous weekend. Thank you so much for sharing!
Thank you so much – I am looking forwards to it – I am nervous but am remaining very focused as we drive towards the line. A lot to do tomorrow!!
A series (comedy) on every day life at Highclere Castle should be Julian Fellowes next project. It would be hilarious and he would not have to think too much about material for the script!!. But, who would play Lady Carnarvon? I see someone with a similar acting style to John Cleese playing your castle manager John G.
Best of luck this weekend.
John G might be on the stage already …
I am dying laughing. Literally laughing so hard I’m falling over!!!
I’m exhausted just reading all the prep work that goes into the Heroes weekend! On a sadder note – so sorry to hear of Brazils loss. What is the double banister on the stairs? Is it for ergonomics?
THANK YOU, FOR YOUR WORDS ABOUT THE BRAZILIAN MUSEUM.
Your ladyship this was a great read. Very interesting to read and see the behind the scenes. I am curious does the castle get cold in the winter or is it heated pretty well? I thank you.
The Castle stays cool in summer and warm in winter. We don’t have much central heating but we do have roaring fires in the principal rooms.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I love your blogs! They lift my spirits and give me a peek into your fabulous home. Is that the winding stairway, in a scene or two with Barrow and a maid? I also wondered about the double bannisters.
I’ll pray for a lovely sunny day for this most important weekend, that you and your staff have worked so diligently to prepare for. Please be careful hanging those flags!!!
All the best,
Shelley in Virginia
So looking forward to Saturday – we have forsaken Goodwood Revival to come and honour our heroes. The weather forecast may not be perfect but our hearts will be shining. Our small party of four will include a Surgeon Commander who has seen active service in the Falklands and Eastern Europe, a military historian and myself – an exhibition designer for historic houses. I am sure we will have a most enjoyable day! Looking forward to learning the Charleston with the Gatsby Girls!!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
This was a lovely read after visiting your lovely home today and experiencing the wonderful event that you organised so brilliantly today. I wanted to extend my sincere thanks to you, your family and your team for the fabulous day that my mother and I had. I am now in possession of your book ‘Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey’ and I can’t wait to read it. We will be visiting tomorrow as well and we can’t wait.
Thank you again.
Are all Autumn guided tour dates – that are sold out – officially unavailable or is there a chance of an extra ticket becoming available again (perhaps in late October)?
Not all our dates are sold out. Take a look here for the ones that are still available. https://highclerecastleshop.co.uk/categories/special-guided-tours
Dear Lady Carnarvon
Just arrived back home in Staffordshire after having a lovely day on Saturday at Highclere Castle. Loved everything we saw. It was of great interest to me personally to visit as an ancestor ‘Florence Adeline Borrett’ spent some time there as a nurse in WW1 (at least my research points to this). It felt quite moving to look around the castle and imagine how it was when it was a hospital. I wondered if in your archives you have any details of the nurses who were there during that time. Thank you & everyone involved for all the hard work in arranging the day.
Hello lady Carnavon
Is it a lot of working The downtown abbey movie
And your dogs is so cute
What kind of dog is Bella ?
Can you send a personal message to me?
Have a great day
Bella is a truly beautiful labrador – a lovely dog, kind and intelligent