January 30, 2023


By the end of January, most of us have had enough and are really looking forward to February: the shortest month of the year, longer days and the promise of spring. This January in particular seems to have been really heavy in terms of lowering weather and lowering thoughts which in turn leads to lowered positive feelings. All of which can make one feel a bit like Eeyore, AA Milne’s character in “Winne the Pooh”.

Highclere’s 100 acre wood

I sometimes think my husband Geordie definitely has a touch of Eeyore about him. For example, yesterday I told him I was off to take some videos for Instagram to which he simply commented “not very good weather” instead of “good luck” or “good idea”. Again, I let him know I ordered some wall lights and he told me they probably wouldn’t arrive for weeks, he would remain resigned to darkness.

I then have to coax him out of it, telling him that I think he is spending too long in Eeyore’s corner of the 100-acre wood and that he has to think of something nice and positive to say before he goes anywhere else. His initial positive thought is usually not good enough (I can see a little black cloud over him still) but by the end we are both laughing as is everyone else in the office.

Albert the Estate Clerk worked here for some 40 years although sadly he has now died. Before working at Highclere, Albert worked for the railways and always liked cricket and gardening. Whenever I asked him what he thought about a new idea he was 100% Eeyore. Nobody would come to an Easter Egg Hunt. In fact, on that day it would probably rain, it might even snow. Better to do nothing. He made a note of the weather every day of the year in his estate diary. It was always either windy, rainy, cloudy or too hot.

Every so often he would come out of his office and, at the opposite end of the long central estate office room, and, Geordie would come out of his. They would argue very loudly about who had made a mess of a diary appointment and then both would retreat back into their respective offices.

I was very fond of Albert and there was nothing he did not know about Highclere, especially about water and where the water pipes were and are. I have often looked at his files and the notes he put together and they remain most useful.

Some years ago, we suffered quite a large burst pipe behind the estate offices under a gravelled area. We were not sure which way the pipes were running and where to start with the digger. I had a eureka moment and found two pages of Albert’s writing giving clear directions: walk two steps towards the castle to find a pipe leading into the old coach house, ten strides forward east and three paces right and you find the ring main for the fire emergency supply and so on. My problem, it turned out, was I never found the starting point.

Undoubtedly there is a balance between pessimism and optimism, to be able to assess the lie of the land and understand what the risks are. In order to live and go forwards, we also have to find the confidence to deal with what goes wrong. It may just be mental calculations but we often think best when we go for a walk – to clear our heads or to find a friend just as Winnie the Pooh did.

After all, when Piglet, one of Winnie the Pooh’s other friends, was so worried about scary heffalumps such that he could not sleep, he then felt much better when his friends persuaded him to step outside and look up at the starry sky to see all the beautiful patterns.