It is December so we have begun to decorate the Castle, the driveway leading from the gates to the front door, and the tearooms. Despite all the careful thought that goes into this, there is always something that doesn’t happen quite as planned. The main one for us this year was the height of the tree. We ordered a 20ft Christmas tree but the one that arrived was 30ft. Even with my maths that is quite an increase. Ever optimistic however, with men helping and even more men watching, it was hoisted aloft. Sadly it then had to come back down to earth and be significantly reduced in size. It was all quite tricky.
More Christmas trees arrived for the Castle drive and Courtyard with a lack of certainty over their position, the numbers of tubs and quantity of lights. However Sally and Camilla were making good progress with winding the garland and lights down the oak stairs as well as creating the decorations around the fireplace. Later on Sally’s team (her Christmas elves) were found surrounded by Christmas paraphernalia winding wired red and gold ribbons together for table decorations. Eventually the tree was hoisted loft again and on the work went.
Christmas marks a time in the year to bring people together and to give as well as to receive. Through carols, through stories about early refugees (Joseph and Mary) we take time out to celebrate the start in life of a tiny baby. Last week I gave a talk in London in aid of the British Red Cross, a long established charity which responds to conflicts, natural disasters and the individual emergencies.
Next week on December 7th we are organising a day here at the Castle to help Oxfam called “Songs for Peace”. The impulse behind this event is simply my way to try to say we have not forgotten the desperate plight, the homelessness, the hunger, the grief and trauma of millions of people in camps around Syria and to help raise some money for a much needed cause at a time of year when other families are coming together for happy memories.
Highclere is a large house with a prominent profile which we are trying to use to raise as much money as we can on the day and give it to an organisation, Oxfam, which has the skill set to use it where it is most needed. The challenging state of the world today means that it is ever harder to raise funds and we hope that people might enjoy seeing the Castle at Christmas and buy tickets to come along for the day.