You may well have played Hide-and-Seek – as a child as I used to play it all the time with my sisters. One person, the seeker, has to close their eyes and count out loud to twenty (or perhaps a bit more), whilst everyone else has to quickly run off and hide. Crouching in some dark corner you would hear one sister sing out “Ready or not, here I come!” when she finished counting and some stifled giggles from other sisters perhaps less well hidden. It was the thrill of hiding and the fear of being discovered. We used to play on many evenings in the twilight around the house on the beach in Cornwall and now occasionally in the Castle.
Geordie’s grandfather, however, preferred played Sardines – one person would hide and each of the party would then try to find them, the difference being that when you found them, you got in the same hiding place and hid too. We have played that in the Castle as well, limiting it to two floors, although sometimes we get bored looking and gave up, whilst those who were still hiding also became bored. So, I think we remain childish in spirit if, sadly, older in terms of years.
In fact, hiding seems to be a part of everyday life at the Castle, whatever our age. John, the Castle manager, seems to be particularly keen on it. Some eleven years ago John Legend and his team came to Highclere for a day to record a music video. It was an amazing day with a charming American director and a then not very well-known friend called Kanye West helping him. Some of the video was filmed outside at Jackdaws Temple but much of it took place in the Saloon, which has excellent acoustics. At one point, however, they suddenly switched to the Library. John the Castle Manager and Diana from housekeeping, who were in the Library at the time, realised they might be in shot and quickly crouched down on to their hands and knees behind a large table hoping they might be out of sight and trying to be quiet.
John thought he heard the director say “I can see asses”, “Stop! I can see asses” but, ever optimistic, he whispered to Diana “stay still and we should be ok”. The director then appeared behind the table pointing out that it was their asses in his shot and would John, in his brightly coloured trousers, kindly remove himself. He was polite enough not to mention Diana, still down on the floor. The finished video is only a few minutes long, but it was a joy listening to the extraordinary voice of John Legend.
Fast forward a few years and it is towards 7pm one evening and nearly the end of a Downton Abbey filming day. John, Geordie and I were hoping it would soon be “a wrap” – it had been a long day for all of us. Richard E Grant and Elizabeth McGovern were filming a final scene in the Saloon and Elizabeth – “Cora” – was then exiting towards the Red Stairs, where we were all standing and waiting.Gestured to get out of shot, Geordie and I quickly went around the corner and into the hallway. John, equally quickly, decided to improvise and squeezed – just – between a wall and a large, tall, dark, antique chest. Unfortunately, he then got his trousers stuck on a protuberance and was thus caught in a slightly awkward position. Geordie and I were crying with laughter, trying not to make a noise. “Cora” exited past John who tried to smile and make little waves with his free hand which “Cora” very sensibly ignored. Luckily, it was indeed “a wrap”.