Waking up in the small hours of the night, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of things to do, things I must not forget, or just the “too many promises made” that I worry about doing. Of course, worrying does not really help but such mental challenges have a physical effect, of which sleeplessness is but one.
Lying awake in the darkness, the house has its own noises and rhythms all of which seem far louder and more mysterious in the small hours. Over time I have become far more accustomed to them, even if sometimes unexpected doors or steps can startle the imagination. The answer is usually a cup of tea to banish all creeping thoughts and a notebook and pen to make a list. However, the project “make a cup of tea” requires padding along various corridors, across creaking boards and into an old antique part of the house, before scrabbling for light switches and not looking behind or down into the darkness.
Returning, clutching a mug, it does seem better: the sun will rise whether in a clear sky or hidden in autumn clouds and the dogs will think it is a fantastic new day whatever the weather. I then have the fleeting thought that inevitably, at some point, I will put down the notebook and lists and mislay them, so the same feeling of panic wells up again.
Apart from bumpy moments in the night, there are the many bumpy challenges that beset us every day just in terms of keeping going. We are all struggling to buy normal everyday supplies. Here, it extends from rectangular plates on which to serve food, to Christmas baubles, 6” nails (we can get 3” or 9”), bare root roses, wallpaper, oak tables for the tearooms, turkey (turkey sandwiches for Christmas events) plus Ashley keeps running out of fencing materials which is a truly endless task. In common with many other businesses, neither can we get enough part time staff for the busy weekends ahead. So tricky is this last one that sadly, as a result, we have decided not to offer any large events for the next 6 months for fear we will not be able to staff them.
Sally in the gift shop is also waking up in the small hours chasing Christmas decorations. Given that several million viewers watched last year’s Christmas at Highclere on TV, Sally and I had the bright idea of creating a very different Christmas theme this year. Many new items had to be ordered and, irrelevant of whether they are stuck on the high seas, or in port or that there are simply not enough HGV drivers, consequently not all the decorations are here. Sally is busy resourcing and re-thinking whilst the rest of us are feeling rather nervous in case it becomes operation “collect and spray from the woodland”.
Even our normal local Christmas tree supplier is struggling but we have eventually sorted that out and James in the estate office thinks it is a good new line of business to plan: Highclere Christmas trees.
Every week we try to meet together for 30 minutes to discuss and plan. We still meet outside rather than in a meeting room, although rather bundled up at this time of year. It makes any meetings as brief as possible and I am not sure we will ever go back inside; it is good for the soul. Much of the meetings are how we can be inventive or creative which is always good except that, at the moment, much of the time we feel we are trying to solve the wrong problems.
Planning remains the key strategy: planning before the process, carrying it out as a team and, afterwards, planning for the next time. Many people have bright ideas: they meet up and talk and then meet to talk. We also need to get out from behind our desks and walk, so sometimes we meet, talk and walk as well. Notebooks definitely go missing then.
One of the most memorable lines uttered by Sally in the TV show last year was when she asked the gardeners (who were in a cherry picker fixing a large garland to an archway) to lift up their balls. I do hope we have more such Christmas balls this year and that she will be able to utter such memorable lines again.
Dearest Lady Carnarvon,
Would that I could calm those midnight hours and relieve your Highclere worries. Your broad and beautiful and generous awareness opens wide the windows of my small life – – a gift for which I am miles more than grateful. I do so wish I could ease the strains of the mission you have chosen because you do so greatly inspire me.
How very kind thank you
We love what you do! You all are so appreciated and I have grown to love Highclere castle. I’m in the U.S. so I can’t offer my services, but if I were close, I definitely would. Why is it that some of our most creative thoughts startle us in the wee hours of night…or morning?
The challenges of “getting goods” are enormous this year and a world wide problem. Having been at Highclere for the Christmas gala three years ago, I am confident that you and your staff will use all possible resources to create a Christmas wonderland. Your hard work is much appreciated. An early Happy Christmas to all!
I wish I lived nearby as I would love a part time job. Getting older in a beach tourist area not much happens this time of year. I love what you are doing and Hope like we all start getting the supplies we all need.
Tell us about the ghosts of Highclere please!
I can only imagine the challenges of running and mist important keeping such a property, i do not think that Brexit has made things easier for now, we had such a link with the UK and now everything looks so far away, difficult to work part or full time there anylonger I am afraid. The rest of us in Europe wish you the best of lucks.
Where can we in the U.S. watch “Christmas at Highclere”?
Interesting to hear the supply chain and staffing shortages across the pond are the same as we’re experiencing here in the states. Wondering, do they call the labor shortage there the Great Resignation, too, as employees reassess their lives and decide to do something else more satisfying and/or pays higher wages, or go ahead and retire if they qualify? I know you and your staff will turn out a beautiful holiday decor despite maybe not having everything envisioned for it–your guests will be delighted nonetheless. Love your coffee mug inscription–may have to ask Santa for one.
How kind of you – thank you
I love your blog. Sorry I miss you last week but on track today. Winter colds are a b—-h. Take care and keep you’re e-mails coming.
Get well soon
I like Sally, having not ever met her ! Making unplanned and slightly risque remarks is one of my faults !
And the making of lists with a mug of tea at 3 a.m. is something I’m familiar with …. we all do it ! I even use the spare hot water in the kettle to top up my hottie for my icy feet, which have got even colder standing on the cold kitchen floor making tea …
Nothing better than tea at 3am!
I, too, was awake in the middle of the night last night, Lady Carnarvon, and so deeply empathize. Life is too busy and fraught, and then there are the dire aspects like climate change and immigration and the political division that are a constant backdrop. My father died recently, and so grieving and taking care of his affairs is what disturbs my sleep. Indeed, a cup of tea and list making helps calm the spirit. I cannot imagine running an estate like Highclere! The planning and details and constant reworking boggle the imagination! Sending moral support and good cheer for your endless optimism in the face of it. I adore reading your Monday posts. You are truly an inspiration, Lady Carnarvon! Blessings…
I too wake around two and add to my lists! Of course they’re never where I am later on. The shortages have increased folks inventiveness harking back to earlier times when funds were miniscule and outdoors provided all supplies… You’re always an inspiration,enjoy each day’s outcome with a smile! Donna
Hello Lady Carnarvon,
Oh I so feel for you as I know that feeling too well, worrying about to do’s. Mine will be small compared to yours certainly. I usually end up reading a book on my iPad in bed trying to ignore the to do’s!.
I hope all the preparations go well.
You can have me as a worker for 1 year for room and board and I won’t write a book about it!
Good morning from Fort Worth, Texas. Amidst the heartbreaking and frustrating pursuit of necessary paperwork and mislaid Last Will and Testaments due to the death of two well loved family members, once again, you have made me giggle. Hopefully I have wrestled with my last dusty and cobwebby box. Thank you. Oh how I do love to giggle.
So pleased i made you giggle!
Thank you Lady C for your wonderful winter thoughts. I will hoist one to you when I make a Highclere Gin & Tonic tonight. I finally had your blue bottle gin delivered to my home in California..
How wonderful – enjoy!
During lockdown my husband bought me a Teasmade machine for the bedroom. I keep sachets of all in one coffee/creamer next to the machine and it’s been my best friend. I live in a small flat but still find that by using my Teasmade in the early hours I avoid disturbing the household. Now when I wake at 3a.m. , my iPad and mug of coffee are good companions until I nod off again. I was surprised that you can still buy such old fashioned items!
Thanks for your lovely blog.xx
I share your interrupted sleep and midnight ruminations (though in a different time zone). My plan now is to simplify, embraces the basics, and enjoy nature. You are blessed with so much lovely natural surroundings to draw from that I can see where old fashioned decorating could lend itself nicely. I’m sure you will work wonders and I can’t wait to see it. Just breathe…
(And, I swear, if I find any 6-inch nails here I will send them to you!)
Hello Lady Carnarvon
You must get yourself a HEADLAMP torch for your night time excursions.
Even the warders walking round Fountain Court at Hampton Court find it a bit creepy and many great houses have mysterious stories. I recall you had some strange events at Highclere.
Christmas trees? How adventurous. Perhaps you should consider the wicker reindeer for next Christmas.
I bought a Highclere armillary for a friend as a Christmas gift. Found a large box for it with DO NOT OPEN TILL 25th.
Had to deliver other things as well but she did not notice it was for Christmas and opened it.
Highly delighted with this.
Carry on at Giggleswick Hall.
Misery loves company and it is good to hear that so many are having tea at 3:00 AM. I am doing the same anywhere between 1:00 and 3:00 AND I’m not even British. I would probably choose Louisiana dark roast but the caffeine would make it worse. Thanks for the blog friends you create. The art spirit brings souls buddies together universally. I am guessing those who share this misery of sleep deprivation are right-brained and have the ecstasy and the agony of that spirit.
Thank you once again for sharing your personal moments at Highclere. To echo a pervious comment from above, I am sorry you are having difficulty getting supplies, but it was also interesting to hear that supply chain and staffing issues extend beyond just the US. And, so far as your Christmas decorations, unlike those of us who wear the same outfit every year for specific Holidays and then realize that their old Face Book posts look just like their most recent, if your decorations do not arrive in time, I don’t think any real Highclere fan will be at all upset if you have some or all of the same decorations as before. We just love the chance to be invited back into your home and it will be lovely either way.
how kind thank you
Oh my!! Thanks for a very good laugh loud out loud this morning after reading the last paragraph of today’s blog! Was this “balls” scene recorded for live TV show? Or was it edited out? I keep reading it and chuckling.
Thanks for your comments. I am a flower farmer near Atlanta, Georgia, and while my responsibilities are not as big as yours, they seem just as overwhelming to me. I can relate to sleepless nights and the frustration of going from Plan A to Plan B, C, D, etc. It’s nice to have someone with whom to commiserate and yet you communicate cheerful hope. A woodland Christmas would be charming! We could all own a piece of Highclere … eventually … that is, once our shipping lanes are running smoothly again.
Lady Carnarvon lovely pictures of bumpy things did you have a lovely weekend you and lord Carnarvon lovely to visit highcelere castle and a fan of Downton abbey
Sally’s remark reminds me of a live Christmas special I helped produce some years ago where the hostess segued from a segment featuring organ music to a large gentleman bringing in holiday fashion with, “Speaking of large organs…”. She had no idea why she came up with that, and we all stifled our chuckles of course.
Hope your holiday preparations turn out even better than expected!
Absolutely hilarious misspeaks tickle my funny bone! Thank you so much!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I was wondering if Christmas at Highclere will ever be shown in the United States? Would PBS be a good candidate to showcase it?
Thank you for your lovely blog this morning.
I am pretty good at writing notes in the dark so I don’t wake my husband. If I write things down it helps me go back to sleep. Maybe you should move your tea accoutrements closer to your bedroom. Ha
I love your blog, thanks for sharing your world with us!
I couldn’t resist! Yours is the perfect cup. Sitting on my breakfast table is a Downton Abbey cup with the quote from the Dowager Duchess, “At my age, one must ration one’s excitement.” It holds pens and pencils for making notes quickly so I don’t forget them.
As far as your early morning tea, couldn’t you create a small teapot area in the bedroom sitting room? Or that might wake His Lordship!
Thanks for your thoughts on making-do with this year’s Christmas unexpected changes in plans.
I hope your “Christmas tree farm” for the public to cut their own or pick up a fresh-cut tree might be a new success for Highclere. They are very popular here in the mountains of North Carolina.
Here’s to the holidays!!
In a few years time!
You will have such a marvelous time watching children getting their “favorite” Christmas tree, sipping cider, their moms strolling through the Highclere Holiday Gift Shoppe (near the entrance!), the children being amazed at seeing Old Saint Nick, eating popcorn, etc! I guarantee you will be proud of your tree farm!
I always read your comments, Martha. I had such a dear friend who shared your name. I think your suggestion of the small teapot in the bedroom sitting room is such a great suggestion..like a coffee bar in an upstairs bedroom.
We have already been warned in the US that shipments, supplies, and shipping will be near impossible, and to start thinking way ahead of time, or rethink how you will celebrate Christmas this year.
I know many of us are thinking of focusing on family and friends, rather than how many gifts we can buy. Use the holiday decorations ornaments you already have, and don’t stress out. Enjoy it for itself.
And see what happens when you have a shortage? You come up with new ideas, like selling Highclere Christmas trees!
Val -in Southern CA, USA
SALLY!! . I once 20 years ago went into a men’s store in the mall… asked the two YOUNG MEN… “ do you boys have dickies?” For those that don’t know, it’s like a partial turtleneck. Oh my, I HEARD it as soon as it left my mouth. The young men looked stricken. I had to explain what a dickie was. Oh my ! So miss Sally. Yours is memorable .
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
3am tea does truly seem to be shared experience! With great responsibility comes great anguish! I also share in the bumpy things, living in an old house, as the timbers cool in the night, there are strange sounds that often sound like footsteps……..! Now that the weather has turned the mice are back (our cat died earlier this year, and somehow I just know they know that the coast is clear)they climb the wisteria and get under the soffits and live beneath the attic floorboards, just above our bedroom. As I was trying to sleep I had an image in my head of them wearing high viz jackets and hard hats as they hammered and built their nests, with a mouse sized JCB to move everything into place, finally going off to sleep just as the sun comes up. I don’t think they have any supply chain issues.
Frost on the pumpkins anyone? As for Christmas tree farming, it will take about 10 years to have trees that are the right size, color and shape to be marketable. I would quarter off about 4 acres and plant Douglas Fir or Balsam Firs with different stages of growth and do 4 field crop rotation to preserve the soil and sustain long term growth. It will take time to yield positive results to market. From the pictures of Highclere I have seen you have plenty of land to work with. May your family have all the good success with this endeavor and holiday festivities. Frank Chary
Netflix still plays Downton Abbey and I watch it! Such good memories. No series can challenge it!
Dear Lady Carnarvon
I am still laughing about the man in the cherry picker being asked to “lift up your balls”. I also loved Judy Mische’s comment about “speaking of large organs”. I must have a seriously warped sense of humor but then again it looks like I am in good company 🙂
Like you I wake some nights and toss and turn then eventually get up and come into the office, fire up my computer and start playing Patience or something. Soon I get sick of that and go back to bed and hopefully go back to sleep. At one stage before we shut down our business my husband and I would pass each other getting up or going back to bed, throw in our 2 girls coming in very late/early am and I seriously considered opening a hot dog stand ! I would love a copy of the list Danette del Castillo writes in the dark you might be able to frame it and pass it off as early Egyptian writing LOL
Well I have had my dose of mirth for today and thank you to all the participants. Laughter is definitely the best medicine 🙂 I hope everyone is well
Thank you – we have no Tv crew with us here this year and I think Christmas will be spectacular so I thought I would put together my own viewing to share on Instagram!
Phewww. Reading this could wear a person out. Too many things to do and too much to remember to do. For a bit of peace of mind I had to go back to the beginning where you were talking about your dogs. ~ “The dogs will think it is a fantastic new day whatever the weather.” ~ Oh, to awaken like the dogs – happy to have a new day in which to walk around the great outdoors, watch birds and squirrels, get scratches behind the ears, play with friends, take naps, eat good food, and end the day snuggling by a fire in a warm house with no worries in their minds – just happy knowing tomorrow will be another great day.
They are all with me now all around my desk and I feel good!
The most interesting (to me) of this blog was your commenting to ”not looking behind or down into the darkness.” I can quite imagine that I would not be comfortable to look behind or into the darkness either. You are a brave soul. Kathy Scott
Several years ago I walked into an accessories store and asked if they sold “thongs” (trying to buy flip flops for the beach) my daughter was so embarrassed when the young sales person said “no ma’am, but maybe at Victoria’s Secret” Btw, I love your Monday morning blog, you are so clever and sincere…wish I could work part time for you at Highclere, but commute from South Carolina, USA would be impossible! Happy Holidays!
Thank you !!
With colder weather on your horizon, I heartily recommend a small tea station nearer to your bedroom, and warm slippers to make the trek. Your notes are clearly important, please consider using the voice notes on your mobile. No worries about lost pencils and they can be transcribed at a time you can better edit.
Thank you sharing your experiences of bringing a grand traditional life and holdings into our modern Era. It reminds us all that we share this time and place.
I would like to work there too, but I’d have to commute from St. Louis, Missouri! It is so nice to read these blogs and be transported, just for a few minutes to the World of Highclere Castle.
Lady Carnarvon, tea can often work well for bringing on relaxation. Along with meditation it can be a good combination. Kind Regards, Cheryl
This is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to leave a comment, there are so many things I want to say that I’m afraid it would take a book. So for now thank you so very much for your grace n kindness in sharing your majestic home and its history with us, ever since the DA series n movie 8 have delighted in following enything related to Highclare. May you n yours enjoy a lovely season n may you continue sharing your adventures with us adoring fans
RC Paez Boham
You are kind !
I giggled out loud at Sally’s comment to the gardeners!
Living on a property such as Highclere, the supply chain issues would be multiplied exponentially. But I know you and your wonderful team will pull through with creativity and perseverance. Many of the same supply issues are here in western Canada, too, and the same shortage of staff. I just have to wonder where everyone went?
I hope that sleepless nights will be banished as you write in your notebooks and keep everything rolling at Highclere.
I hope Santa bings you a small electric tea pot to keep near your bed and a lovely cup to hold your tea. You should put this on your list for Santa!
MY DEAR LADY CARNARVON,
GOOD EVENING FROM BRAZIL MILADY, RIO CLARO, MONDAY , 17H07M , 25°CELSIUS
THANK VERY MUCH FOR SHARING THIS,
WHEN YOU’RE ALONE
AND LIFE IS MAKING YOU LONELY YOU SHOULD ALWAYS GO, DOWNTON. DOWN THE M4 IT’S JUST AN HOUR ONLY AND IT’S QUITE A SHOWN, DOWNTON. THE BUTLER IS CALLED LUIS COELHO ” LOUIE” AND HE’S JOLLY PORTUGUESE , DIANA’S MRS HUGHES SO BETTER MIND YOURS CUES AND PEAS.THE COOK IS CALLED PAUL – NO MRS PATMORE’S CALLED PAUL ARE… GEORDIE CARNARVON ‘ S THE REAL LIFE EARL, HIS COUNTESS HIS FI SHE’S A HECK OF A GIRL SO GO DOWNTON, YOU’LL BE ENTHRALLED DOWN AT DOWNTON WE’LL HAVE BALL HERE AT DOWNTON WELCOME TO ALL AND TO YOU. ”
CHAMPAGNE AND CABARET AT HIGHCLERE CASTLE.
I LOVE THIS MUSIQUE AND I SINGING FOREVER.
RIO CLARO – SP
P.S.SINGING KIT AND MCCONNELL.
Your blog is truly a joy to read each Monday. Thank you! As to Christmas supplies it is clear you have the heart of Christmas. The love and joy you express to your family, friends, guests, and blog readers is enough to meet the need. Have a very Merry Christmas indeed.
From Indiana, U.S.A.
Thank you Katie!
I SO enjoy your blog. It’s perfect for my tastes!!! And while I find myself being envious, you remind me that you have troubles too! Happy Holidays
Dear Lady Canarvon,
Thank you for another wonderful post. I often wish that my “3am brain acrobatics” would happen at 3pm when my eyes are actually open! If some supplies are stuck in the middle of the ocean I have no doubt that you & your incredibly talented team will have Highclere looking magnificent in all her glory! I’m hoping with all my heart to visit you next October & if you’re short staffed I’m more than happy to help Sally in the gift shop or give chef a hand in the kitchen or I would just be 100% happy to sit on Lady Mary’s bench & play with the dogs! Please be kind to yourself & try not to worry too much because as the past has always shown, Highclere & all it offers is always magical.
How very kind thank you
Dear Lady Carnarvon, Sorry to hear from the shortage of vital (food,nails,etc) and soul lifting (Xmas items,colorful baubles,etc)items in England.I know,however,that you will brilliantly manage all the problems and find lovely old tree decorations inside boxes forgotten,perhaps,in your attic!These are the sleep-deprived women times,all over the world…we are already immersed in tasks and worries about Christmas within our family and community,always wanting to exceed our own previous records…So ,you have company!Whenever you wake in the middle of the night,please remember that at least ten women in every small Village of our planet are taking a cup of tea,of coffee,or of hot chocolate milk,trying to sleep again or to awake earlier to accomplish more things from their long lists…As to bumpy surprises,perhaps you can use the same modus operandi I did when I was a child,living in a haunted appartment in Rio de Janeiro:just walk along your corridors,day or night with your eyes half-closed!Best wishes for you and your wonderful team that I happily met,two years ago,when I brought some typical Havaianas keyholders to them and received lots of wonderful thank you smiles everywhere!
what a lovely comment thank you and I will remember that none of us are alone!!
Oh dear, we’ve been so fortunate in Adelaide, your reflections really give us much greater understanding of how it is for many others. We are sorry for your plight but as they say necessity is the mother of invention, most important is the spirit and you all have that in abundance. Now, speaking of balls reminds me of when long ago our beautiful cat Max was euthanised and amidst sobs I asked the vet to bury him with his balls – his bewildered look suggested need for clarification! The balls I was referring to were golf-sized polystyrene that he joyfully batted around the house. Thanks to you and your team for everything you do for others near and far and for your leadership and sharing your fortune and pains. It is a great reality check!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for taking the time to share your words and pictures of beloved Highclere.
I am in East Tennessee USA, and the closest thing to a castle here is the Biltmore Estate in Asheville North Carolina. I have seen some of their Christmas decorating in progress, as well as the finished decorations. Decorating for any season is a monumental task and I thank you for sharing your problems and funnies “lift up your balls” !
Thank you for giving to us all!
Sincerely, Nancy Lingerfelt
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I think lists are most necessary and I delight in crossing items off of them. Sometimes I complete a task that I didn’t have on the list and write in in afterwards just so I can cross it off. It gives me such a feeling of accomplishment.
I know all that you have to juggle is immense but hopefully supply chains will resume normally so possibly that may be one less item to worry over. The magic of Christmas comes whether we are ready of not. I know Christmas at Highclere under your supervision will be as beautiful as ever.
Sleep well tonight,
If I was your husband and was wracking my brain trying to decide what to get you for Christmas, I would take heart with this post, and buy you an electric kettle for your bedroom. Set up a little tray with tea things and save you a trip down to the kitchens.
That is a good idea!
Another delightful piece! You know how to turn a negative issue into a positive one. I know that it was a difficult decision to cancel your large events for a while, but my prayer is that whatever you do it will be successful. May God bless you and all at Highclere!
Your Ladyship, a cup of tea ALWAYS makes anything better! Thank you for your weekly blog! It’s so refreshing to escape for a moment into a delightful cup of tea and tune the craziness out even if for just a moment to read your blog!
Would you consider doing some of your favorite recipes that you share with your family in a video format for the holiday seasons?
I wonder if some local crafters would be willing to help with decoration, for the opportunity to display their wares. Being on display at Highclere would be such an honor for them, and perhaps fill in spots where you might want help.
Love to all of you. I’m still determined to get there one day. Aloha, from the Big Island of Hawaii.
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
Thank you for last week (11/01/21) Monday’s blog.
Speaking of bumpy things, this particular e-mail happens to be one of the same. For whatever reason, I did not receive it until day.
As usual, great story line with accompanying pictures.
May today be less-than-bumpy for you.
P.S. I enjoyed watching the recent interview with you, Lord Carnarvon, and Richard Quest (CNN International fame) regarding the “running” of Highclere Castle. Thank you for sharing.
Please could you send me your mince pie recipe
The recipe is in Christmas at Highclere.
It is quite a long recipe to copy in to here!