By August, the light summer hours and days are starting to shorten. To prolong the feeling of summer, I like to sleep with the shutters and curtains open a little so I can wake gradually to the light filtering in round the corners, letting the dimness of our bedroom lift slowly. No doubt about it, I do not leap out of bed but, instead, rather peep across the room, thinking about all the things I left undone yesterday and what is on my list today. However, over the last few days, the early mornings have been punctuated not by birdsong but by the very persistent beep, beep, beep of reversing forklift trucks. The stage for our annual fireworks concert, the Battle Proms, was being built and, given the heat, everyone started early.
The day of the concert was a particularly busy one. I began by setting off on my bike with six dogs (Bella, our older labrador, is keeping her daughter company) but came back with only five dogs. Not ideal as it meant I had to return in a car to search for Scooby, eventually to be seen trotting back from afar before he hopped, unrepentantly, into the car.
I was now already late to sort out the family picnic area and give my list of guests to the car parking team. To add to the chaos, the alarms were going off in a series of sheds behind the Castle and John G was waving an unread email at me which he had sent to me but also printed out as he knows I tend not to read his emails (this two pronged approach is his new ploy).
John G and Banqueting team: “Lady Carnarvon is this your list of guests?”
Me: “Yes and No.”
John G: “Any further clarification?”
Me: “Some of them I have asked, some I meant to ask and have not, and then I have asked others who are not on that list but should be because they’ve been asked. It is somewhat flexible. I have been rather busy actually.”
On the afternoon of the concert my solution was to drive round giving ice-creams to all the car parkers and suggesting that they all call me on the radio when anyone arrived claiming to be a guest. The ice creams went down rather well in the heat.
In fact it was a rather lovely evening. It was a very special concert as it was the 100th Battle Prom concert which was also marking the 100th centenary of the end of the First World War. We were also using it as part of our effort to share the Heroes at Highclere weekend which incredibly is only a month away. The programme highlighted the music of George Butterworth (The Banks of Green Willow) who died at the Somme, Hubert Parry (who died in 1918) and Edward Elgar, whose latter works responded to the poems and carnage of the First World War. On a lighter note, it also included Rossini, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Ravel for balance.
As the evening developed, so did the fireworks which are set to music against the darkening skies around the tall, ancient silhouette of one of the cedar trees. The whole evening had a wonderful atmosphere with nearly 10,000 people talking, laughing and singing more or less together.
As a special treat, by way of extra entertainment, at 6.17pm precisely, the Red Devils dropped out of the sky to land perfectly on an X just by the Castle. Amazing as there seemed to me to be rather a lot of cedar trees – both large and small – in their way.
We thought we would end our September event with some parachutists trailing poppies on the Sunday evening which, I rather suppose, we will have to clear up in double quick time as they are unlikely to be wanted by the Downton Abbey film crew who will be moving in almost immediately afterwards.