Bob the Builder
Like many children at kindergarten, at one stage my son Edward was very keen on a series of books along with the associated TV cartoon called Bob the Builder. So popular was it that it became the theme of one of his more successful birthday parties, with an appropriate entertainer and various cranes, diggers and trucks scattered all over the floor.
In each episode, Bob and his team help with an endless stream of renovations, construction works, repairs and assorted other projects. It included his friends: Wendy was good at electrics, and there was a whole range of diggers and other machinery. For example, Scoop was a yellow digger with a scoop bucket and Lofty was a crane. The whole ethos was based on co-operation and a willingness to learn various skills and resolve problems. Bob’s catchphrase was “Can we fix it?”, to which the other characters responded with a resounding “Yes we can!” In fact, the series was so popular that the theme tune became the UK no 1 at Christmas in the year 2000.
In due course, Edward moved on to other things but in some ways these stories and tasks echo many of the actualities of everyday life at Highclere. The house and estate demand practical and innovative solutions to a myriad of issues and challenges at almost every level. I have a better knowledge of plumbing than perhaps I envisaged at one point and the drain rods are sadly a key asset. In rainy weather my daily life may involve clearing a hopper, sorting out who can repair masonry, spotting a fallen tile, clearing a fence line, replanting or re-laying a path.
Bob the Builder jobs are always best combined with the adage “a stitch in time saves nine.” Every evening, John the Castle Manager walks around the outside of the castle looking for windows blown open, listening for running water or something which just feels unexpected.
Friday evenings are particularly predictable: John goes to check the boiler and finds a pool of water. He finds me, together we find Luis, some phones and lights and the next element of the game is “spot the hole in the copper pipe”. Luis calls the plumber and it is better if John heads home (which is some distance) while we wait. Last week this happened on a Tuesday which muddled us all week so everyday thereafter felt like a Saturday.
Experience and old age on all our parts leads to cooperation, calmness and better decision making. We do fix things and we can do a surprising amount.
Rather excitingly, we have a digger on site at the moment in order to clear out an old walk and firm up a metal arch around which we will plant wisteria. I hope it will give much pleasure and lead you round a corner to a different “room” in the gardens. Whilst it is on site, we have also used it to help plant a beech hedge which now frames a temple, sort out some vegetable beds and renew the soil and fertiliser. Much easier to collect and tip with a bob the builder type truck – I think his was called Muck which, in this case, was entirely appropriate.
The farm has much larger machines and tractors of all sorts from combine harvesters to machines to pick up haylage bales. There are special machines to wrap bales or to load grain and new machines to drill and plant more efficiently to help us tread more lightly on the earth. For a long time now we have bagged our own oats for sale and now have recalibrated the machine to bag wild bird food and chicken corn as well. This is real Bob the Builder land not least in terms of the practical approach of multi-tasking various bits of kit.
Much of the presentation work then comes back to Sally in the gift shop with designs for new labels. Like the farm team, Sally and her ladies (age range 20 to 80), had to go on a manual handing course, though of course it was somewhat different. They had to to learn formally how to lift, lower, push, pull, and carry whilst remaining steady at all times. In fact, it was useful as we all put our backs out for no reason but, with British humour, you only have to mention the name of the course and everyone doubles over in gales of laughter and naughty comments. Who would have thought a health and safety course could be so funny.
Lady Carnarvon, There must be so very much maintenance work at Highclere Castle. It must be blood, sweat and tears but with much laughter thrown in. But all worth it as Highclere looks so wonderful. With Best Wishes, Cheryl
While I was reading your story today, I could not help comparing it with looking after our bodies as we get older!!! “experience and old age on all our parts” reminded me of this past year as all of a sudden just about anything was falling apart on my 66 year old body!! Could you send your get well team over to the beach in NW Florida to evaluate the situation please? Truly appreciate it . PS You can come too!
The Highclere team would love to come!
We loved this piece today. We live in a much more modest stone house built in 1851 with lead flat roofs, lead lined gutters and roof drains. We’re always up there clearing out drains and your piece made my husband and I feel that someone else out there knows what it’s like! Thank you x
Love the Bob the Builder saga. You all work so hard to keep Highclere functional and beautiful.
Thanks for sharing the inner workings of the estate. I really enjoy your writing.
Thank you Roberta
For the last 15 years I have been restoring a big old Victorian house that has had some indifferent care in the past. It’s a miniature version of what Highclere requires, but I love to see it coming alive and looking loved and cared for. I would venture to say that Highclere is probably in (perhaps) its best condition ever with your family’s efforts. What a legacy to share!
Good morning, Lady Carnarvon! It’s drizzling here in New England, and my Monday-off-from-work to-do list is long. Best wishes for a productive day, with no new mechanical problems.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Wonderfully enjoyable commentary again this morning. We dream of returning to visit again soon and see many of the new garden and grounds projects you describe. Your humor is so appreciated as you keep us Anglophiles happy with your stories of life at Highclere. We are thankful for you everyday.
Thank you Mary
Lady Carnarvon you definitely have a team of “Bob the Builders.” I can’t imagine the scope of work that Highclere requires but your team, with your lead, is most successful at solving all the problems that pop up.
Have fun with your “digger.”
Amongst scratching of heads too!
You all work so hard to keep Highclere functional and beautiful.Thank you, Hope to travel there someday.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for letting us in to see the less than glamorous life of living in a castle. I have learned that as I age, life has become a continuous maintenance program. So I guess we should be flattered that our bodies are much like a castle.
My week is off to a great start, once again, because of your wonderful and entertaining blog.
Wishing you a good week as well,
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Your humorous recap of the labors required to keep Highclere fit for the future led me to recall Lady Mary’s worries (“Is it all worth it?) in Episode 9, Season 6 of Downton. To which, OF COURSE, the answer is a resounding YES!
And isn’t it a good thing your son Edward has this thing for big machines? He’ll be in his element when he inherits the fruits of your hard work.
Thank you for opening your doors and heart to those who love you for your generosity, skill and dedication to this storied castle with its oh-so-massive foundation squarely planted in Yorkshire soil and the alternate reality of imagination.
Granite Hill, Hallowell, Maine
Dear Lady Carnarvon. I enjoy your stories so much. You are always busy with so much happening. So glad the castle is open again. My son gave me your entertaining book for Mother’s Day. I am beside myself with joy. Warm wishes from Australia.
Thank you so much !
Oh! My! Goodness! I LOVE Bob the Builder!
I made Bob’s acquaintance as an adult after moving to Northern Virginia and discovered Bob and his team airing on a local PBS station. I used (and acknowledged) Bob’s catchy theme phrase when leading my teams. I even looked for a Bob the Builder toy to stand on my desk but could find only his truck teammates.
When Barack Obama ran for President of the U.S., I was SURE that one of his speech writers must have been the parent of a small child when I heard the campaign’s “Yes We Can” slogan, although no one to my knowledge ever confessed to Bob the Builder as the source, perhaps for copyright or trademark reasons.
Thank you for this memory, and I even saved the Bob the Builder photo image to my desktop!
Warm regards and wishes for a most excellent day and week!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
the joy of owning an old house, drain rods are essential, but I have found that plumbing knowledge is not essential as we ring the plumber, and he doesn’t ask for details any more, as its guaranteed that the problem is not the cause.
A wisteria walk sounds heavenly, and an excuse to visit again.
Dear Lady Carnarvon
I too have been a “Bob the Builder” type person and loved every minute of it. I once was the Maintenance Manager for a large organisation in Sydney and had a team of carpenters, painters, plumbers and other associated tradesmen who I tamed into working as a team and with whom I got on very well. When I left they took me to a local pub (no, not my fathers one), presented me with a pink hardhat and a beautiful bunch of flowers by way of thanking me for being “a good bloke” to work for LOL. I appreciated that gesture greatly, it was their way of telling me I was one of the crew and I still remember their words of thanks. As a consequence of that job I learned to use electric drills, properly paint (yes there is a proper way).
I have had the pleasure of being down a fairly deep hole complete with gum boots inspecting a leaking sewage pipe (photos to prove it) and up on a shopping centre roof looking at some flashing around roof windows supposedly been changed but which had the original paint still on the flashing !!! Needless to say that plumber and I parted company rather quickly.
The moral of this story? Keep looking and learning, it could save you a
whole lot of money 🙂
Hope all our chatters are doing well and that you and Lord Carnarvon (looking quite the farmer leaning on the tractor) are both well and that Covid is on the run in the UK
The vaccine programme has been outstanding – that is the way out.
Merci beaucoup j’adore vous lire tout les lundis chaque rubrique est intéressante pour moi belle et longue vie à vous tous
Lady Carnarvon the pictures are nice of Bob of the builder and work go they and l would love to come highcelere castle and they was a song of Bob of the builder can we fix it
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
As an early childhood educator, I can attest to the team building spirit encouraged by Bob the Builder. The children in my classes loved the resounding chorus of, “yes we can!” when asked about class projects. And what is better than young ones learning about cooperation and teamwork?! The lessons of sharing, support, and kindness, taking turns and waiting are best learned in the early years, and important lessons for all ages.
Good luck with all the different projects, planned and unplanned! It takes a village, & also steady machinery & operators! I love the humor and lightheartedness you all share- many a “training” seminar has become fertile ground for great jokes!
Charlotte Merriam Cole
Even with hard work your Highclere crew works well with a good result always in mind – even if events are unexpected and change schedules around. You help lead a superb team to make Highclere Castle always seem perfect! Thank you from all your visitors!
Thank you – there is sometimes much padding underneath!!!
Thank you for another entertaining story of Highclere life. However, since I am from Iowa I especially noticed your John Deere tractor in the first photo.
Lots of those in this part of the US, including our own riding mower. As they say here, “Nothing runs like a Deere”.
They are good!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Lots of work goes on behind the scenes at Highclere. Thank you for sharing all your stories. I look forward to reading them every week.
When my sons were little they loved every kind of truck, digger and tractor, especially yellow ones. We used to have an annual Traction Engine Rally nearby as well (May Day Steam) and that proved great entertainment – an idea for Highclere perhaps? We even went back at the end of the day to watch the engines leaving, usually on low loaders, which the boys thought marvellous.
Later my grandchildren also watched Bob The Builder and the eldest in particular loved “Bobda”. Another one she liked was “Dora Splora” or Dora The Explorer, a programme aired around the same time. Toddlers are so funny when they’re learning to talk.
Bob The Builder must hold special memories for many of us.
I can still here the characters speaking!!!
Ha – such is life here in the Finger Lakes of central NY. My husband served in our Navy as a “SeaBee” whose motto is “we build we fight” – “can do”. For the look at 25 years his favorite toys have been his John Deere tractor, commercial lawn mower, golf car, and various carts, saws, trimmers, hand and automatic tools. He truly is our Bob the builder constantly fixing, building, creating, and maintaining our landscape of garden vegetables and fruit trees and flowering gardens. The joy it gives him is priceless. And the results a blessing to us and all who come here. Working the tractor is his true passion and “Bob the Builder” his hero! He’s 73 🙂 It’s a wonderful life! I commend you with all of your diversity of products and labors. Be blessed and enjoy a good bubble bath!
H-m-m. Perhaps persuade Sir Julian to bring the next Downton further into the future so that the men (and women?) can take an appreciative look at the heavy machinery? Downton’s car enthusiasts might really go for that ….
As with Donna Schiefer comment, I thought of old age on all our parts. I love my home because it is old and knows all my quirks just as I am old and know all its quirks. Wisdom says we are outward wasting but inward renewing. So happy Highclere does the same.
That is a lovey metaphor – thank you
An interesting episode. I am not actually able to share the obsessive enthusiasm for heavy work vehicles that consumes my four year old grandsons. The journey after Montessori school to home takes much longer than it should owing to the mandatory tour of every building site. My daughter is convinced that the neighbors will think she is ‘casing the joint’ as she drives past the vehicles again, and “again, Mummy!”
The maintenance of houses is depressingly mundane, expensive and never ending. A feral cat threw himself through a window the other day and so now I have to get busy and replace it. He had some ‘wives’ in the garden and assumed my poor old neutered cats were eyeing them. He attacked my little ones and attached himself to my arm which mercifully is now responding to treatment. My neighbour has tried to trap the Casanova but so far has only trapped an extremely angry old possum. Off now to look for perspex or something unbreakable! Thanks for your blog, I can really identify with it!
Golly that all sounds rqther tough!!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
The every day life at Highclere must be unpredictable and challenging as you and your husband manage quite a diverse estate. But you have great team of workers to keep everything working so that guests as well as family can enjoy the beauty and history of Highclere. It was quite evident during my visit in 2016.
When Downton Abbey films at Highclere, do you live elsewhere temporarily? I would imagine there is a lot of equipment in the castle during filming!
Much Aloha from Hawaii,
Not at all -we fall out of our bedroom over their equipment!!
So enjoyed your memories of Bob the Builder. It reminded me of the enjoyment I had watching that show with my Granddaughter. I was very impressed that you recall the names of Bob’s machine helpers.
I am new to to blog and I am so excited to be connected this way. We are planning a trip to England to see family in September (fingers crossed) and hope to tour Highclere and have tea while we are there!!
Thank you – look forward to seeing you!!
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
Thank you for your Monday blog. It was a fun-filled read with some cute jokes. You and the “Bob the Builder(s)” on the Highclere Castle team do a very good job of keeping everything looking tip-top and running smoothly.
Great pictures, especially the John Deere tractor scene with Lord Carnarvon and John, the Castle’s maintenance man. I wonder how much work would get done if we did not have today’s heavy, modern machinery to assist. Hope the digger project goes well, and that you show your weekly readers in a subsequent blog how the wisteria planting went.
Until next Monday, may you have no equipment issues and a productive week.
Thank you so much!!
I remember Bob the Builder very well. Reading the story and watching with my Grandsons. I have forwarded your blog to all of them.
Thank you for all the pictures of life on Highclere Castle.