Almost every day I walk down to the Monks Garden and push open the wooden slatted gate. Glancing to the right, I look down a long bed of Hidcote lavender and above it, in between the arches, Geordie and I have planted clematis and a rose called “Compassion”. It is the softest of apricot colours and looks very well against the brick. Once more it is flowering. I love it for the scent and for the colour, but above all for the name.

Today, September 11th, is another day of remembrance. Following the attack on the twin towers, deep feelings of sadness and resolution well up again, and such emotion are reflected in the endless moving water.

People around the world rallied behind the overwhelming feeling of horror and grief at that time sharing their thoughts, prayers and in some cases were there on the ground to help. Apart from those actually trapped in the twin towers, many died trying to save them, they died because of their compassion for other human beings.

The very word compassion literally means to suffer with someone, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive,” (the Dalai Lama)

Coincidentally, here at Highclere it was the day my father- in-law died, collapsing before being taken by ambulance to hospital. Shock, overwhelming emotional sadness, seeing my husband’s face framed in the doorway when he returned from hospital …I can remember it all so clearly. It is however a memory whereas the 9/11 attacks are watched time and time again, a re-lived trauma.

Historical dates follow us through school where, unwilling to learn them all we too often forget them. In fact, they are really rather useful, as they provide a scaffold for our history. “When” helps explain “how” or “why”.

As you might expect, we are surrounded here by locks on offices and shed doors and codes for endless alarms. The perennial question is then is what number should be used for each code?

I began by choosing the dates of battles perhaps the battle of Poitiers or the Anglo Saxon battle of Edington, treaties such as Vienna, Lausanne, the end of the Seven Years War, or of the First World War. I soon realised there were so many possible dates of conflicts which meant I could find one for every year which just seemed so sad.

Increasingly, I only look for codes which remind me of something better. A peace treaty or the date Sir Charles Barry was born or when Hatshepsut’s temple was built (approximately!). Perhaps the accession of a king – George II for example or Edward III.


The uplifting news is that much of team Highclere are better at historical dates than perhaps they ever imagined and I will continue to cultivate more “Compassion” in the garden!