Since time immemorial people have tried to look into the future. In 100AD, the Roman author Pliny wrote about soothsayers and crystal balls, early Christianity banned it for a period but by Tudor times the idea of divination, astrology and alchemy were part of everyday life.
Séances were much in vogue during the era of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon (Edwardian times)who, along with the then Prime Minister Balfour, was very much interested in the British National Association of Spiritualists and their meetings. Such things were all the rage at the best addresses in London and séances were commonly held at weekend house parties.
Even now, for example, everyone one of us, at some point, has probably fantasised about winning the lottery as we let our minds drift off to exotic holidays and carefree times. So entirely different from our recent experiences. Much of what was ordinary is now just a distant memory: walking through busy streets, the hubbub of people, the noise of distant music, the clatter of deliveries on pavements or the casual pleasure of walking into a cinema, choosing popcorn, something to drink. All our assumptions and every day routines, the things we took utterly for granted, have now changed as work and holidays, casual shopping, schools, films and theatres, sport, music and dinners, even in some ways the days of the week, have been stripped out from us. Luckily perhaps, there are no real crystal balls and we did not know the journey that lay before us all.
Some things are slowly coming back but many of our lives are still upside down and our diaries, past and future, are all muddled together with vouchers, delayed plans, events re-booked 3 or even 4 times now and, if there is a crystal ball, it is a very muddy one. The description “topsy turvy” is particularly apt these days with its suggestions of mild chaos and slightly dishevelled or unkempt lives and how many of us have felt like that recently both in body and mind?
Given the challenging first five months of this year, like so many others, Highclere has re-written, and then written again, times and dates. Yesterday, on June 13th, we welcomed some wonderful guests for Mothers’ Day, postponed in time and month but now never mind the true date. Some rather attentive media followers wrote in kindly pointing out we had got the dates wrong, both for the UK (March 14th) and for the USA (May 13th) but, given this peculiar world, we replied that we had and we hadn’t. Instead, we had taken a slightly eccentric and unliteral decision and moved it to when the gardens are in bloom and afternoon tea can be taken in the sunshine.
Equally, in another enterprising inspection of the crystal ball, we have moved our Valentines celebrations too. Next weekend we are welcoming guests for a Valentines themed tea with swan shaped patisseries and heart shaped chocolates. We are winding a rose garland down the staircase and the real roses in the Monks’ Garden and rose arbour will be a joyful mass of colour and scent, unlike the bare earth and cold winds of the real date in February.
We are so grateful to all those guests who have, with such good humour, accepted our revision of time and dates. I too am looking forward to the day, to picking the flowers and roses for the table decorations for the champagne tea and the magic of an English dreamy summer afternoon.
Last year we had planned a Mozart concert in the gardens which has now been shifted forward one year to next Sunday. Equally we had to cancel our event Magic of the Movies last year but this September fun beckons with with Castle tours and costumes and music as well as a little film script …
2020 tours have become 2021 tours, last year’s Spring guided tours have become this years’ Autumn guided tours or even 2022 tours, the Easter 2021 public opening visitors are being welcomed this summer and last year’s Christmas might come this summer or maybe this Christmas but the main thing is to hope Christmas stays still and happens when it is supposed to. Coach tours are figuring out what to do, cruise pre and post excursions are a bit up in the air, weddings are still wondering how to plan and product launches have entirely disappeared as, with the combination of Covid and Brexit, there is such a shortage of goods there isn’t anything to launch in any case.
There is no shortage of enquiries from fans of the paranormal but at the moment I am unsure about any further events exploring helpful, or perhaps not quite so helpful, spirits unless you are discussing our Highclere Gin and I am very sure we are going to follow the 5th Earl with any seances in the bedrooms.
Meanwhile, the sun is shining and I am simply going to take each day as it comes!