Part of the utter joy of living at Highclere is the contrast between practical jobs (often outside) and the glamorous evening dinners. From evening kit one moment to animals and mud the next.
One night we were at a New York Gala, with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arriving to support St Andrews University. Long dresses, amazing fund raising (I think our auction prized hit the top note) and then back today to chasing naughty ponies round fields. I often feed the horses in the winter mornings, usually slightly late and this time perhaps jet lagged. The little chestnut pony, Earl, nosed out of the field gate and escaped within one unfortunate second. Revelling in freedom, lots of grass and the huge area in front of the Castle I had no hope of catching him. The large open landscape and park rather lost its attractions for me at that moment. Earl just kicked up his heels.
I returned to the Castle courtyard. There were perhaps 5 men there but they looked rather comfortable where they were. Wonderful Robert Coleman offered to help me. He tried to pretend he was a sheepdog in a car and herd the pony towards a corner in the field. After half an hour Robert commented “I did not know he could move so fast”
We retired for coffee. No other man offered to help (they were all remarkably busy around cars..) but they had wished they had videoed me running round the field. I changed into the next set of clothes to trudge out and get wet again. It was two hours into my morning, the fields are truly huge. I walked to retrieve the trail of empty food buckets with which I had been trying to bribe the happy Earl. To my delight he started to follow me so I realised that rather than catch him, I and the buckets and he would all try to go through a gate together. And oh joy it happened.
At lunchtime my husband – the other Earl -said it was a bit silly not to shut the gate carefully first of all, so he was quite lucky to get any supper.