Is it Friday, or in fact still Tuesday? Can any of us tell anymore? Every day I keep to my normal morning timetable so that at least part of my circadian rhythm is not as astray as some of my mind is but, as the days runs into each other, I find I have to really concentrate to remember which one it is. Time runs away from me at the best of times as everything telescopes into too much to do but particularly these days. This is not helped by the fact that the week has reversed for us at Highclere and Friday has become our new Monday.
This is because firstly at 7pm we have to be ready to film “At Home at Highclere” for Viking TV, whilst every other Friday we also live stream a virtual cocktail party at 9pm from the Castle for Highclere Castle Gin(now the largest in the world apparently). I can assure you that we definitely drink the gin cocktails which, by then, are very much something to look forward to!
We film 30 minutes of television for Viking which takes place from a different room in the Castle each week. A very small part may be pre-recorded elsewhere, depending on the “theme” of the evening, but each week the WIFI box needs to be re-positioned and we have to practise. 7pm creeps up on us unawares and there is always a crisis: a microphone that has not been charged properly or Geordie is actually talking on his phone when it is, in fact, our camera, which he has forgotten. We begin and I suddenly see an expression of panic on an ashen faced Cat as she realises that the phone is not switched to airplane mode so could now ring in the middle of filming.
It is the same as we move towards 9pm. Geordie and I quickly run through our order, Paul Mac drops all the timing boards and the dogs start barking. Hannah, normally an impeccable yogi impersonation of peace and harmony, turns at this point into something very different: scary Hannah. With laptops and phones in different ears and on her knee, her alter ego expresses itself and we never know whether we can giggle or, more wisely, shut up. My son Eddie is meanwhile very relaxed behind another phone camera. Suddenly we are counting down and off we go.
I wonder what all the ancestors think of our antics as they look down on us quizzically from their ornate frames on the walls. In one form or another, Highclere has been “in business” for over 1000 years and has successfully survived for so long because of its ability to adapt its business to circumstances. Todays’ “business” is about heritage and hospitality, visitors walking through the door, but suddenly we are having to adapt again and “fish” in slightly different waters. It is about social and digital media, about bringing our heritage to people rather than them coming to us.
We now have a Highclere Castle App offering a virtual tour of the Castle, narrated by Jim Carter (Carson the Butler). From the cooking videos to sharing evenings, relating stories about life and parties here, to online shopping offering goodies inspired by the life here, Highclere, like other heritage attractions, is trying to offer a taster of what the actual experience of being here is like. Last week I launched “Lady Carnarvon’s official podcast” (posted every Thursday) and tactfully, I asked Geordie to be my first guest. We are dancing to a new tune, feeling our way forward.
Looking around enquiringly at its beauty and variety, Highclere suggests money. As I replied to one surprised visitor, sadly I had never been offered so much as £20 by a single door or window in the building.
We are lucky that this week has been especially busy as on other days we have also been filming “Down on the farm” with our sheep and pigs for Channel 5. Two of our rare pigs, Lady Mary and Lady Sibyl, were about to give birth so, with Hannah and Eddie once more behind the cameras, we gingerly climbed into the pens to get close up shots.
Agriculture of course has been the staple business here throughout but even that has been impacted as food production and food imports have both been hit by the Covid-19 crisis. From relying almost solely on home grown products for most of our history, by 1939 Britain imported 70% of its food from abroad – 50% of meat, 70% of cheese and sugar, 80% of fruits, 70% of cereals and fats and 91% of butter. The aftermath of WW11 lead to a desire to return to our own food production but we still rely heavily on imports. Now, once again we are in a muddle.
Clearly, the answer is to drink gin – Highclere Castle Gin – and to consider at length the balance harmony and delight of numerous different cocktails!