Some years ago, we met a remarkable retired couple. They had spent part of their life in Kenya and, in retirement, returned to build primary schools in an area where there were too few and create a sponsorship programme to pay for some of the children to go on to secondary school. Schools in Kenya are not free from 13 years old and of course neither is university. Once qualified, these children, now engineers, doctors and nurses, often return themselves in their spare time to teach and inspire the children in the primary school.
Drawn in by the practicality and dedication of this couple, we tried to help the “Langalanga Trust” and went to visit to understand a little more about its work. It was an unforgettable trip, not just because of the African scenery but because of the attitude and warmth with which these two remarkable people were greeted. We saw children, sometimes no more than seven years old, who had walked five miles or more to get to the school, understanding that education mattered, it was a way forward and would give them options.
Returning to Highclere, we have since helped fundraise in support of the buildings and sponsored a student ourselves. He has now completed university.
Today, in the UK, almost all children are in lockdown and being home-schooled by their parents. Most of them would far rather be at school and most of their parents wish the same, not least because they are not teachers and children are not perfectly attentive pupils with their parents.
My two youngest sisters – like other working mothers – are truly struggling with the combination of the requirements of home schooling whilst also holding down full-time jobs. They, like others, fully understand the reason for schools to close, yet felt devastated that more education was being lost. Another of our sister’s works in a London hospital. Whichever “space” you are in, everyone is very tired, very anxious . Structure, achievement and seeing their friends are all now absent from these children’s lives.
With this in mind I thought this coming week I would explore below stairs in my quirky coffee mornings (Instagram – @highclere_castle 11am, Highclere time and then saved). However, we will not be travelling back to the below stairs domain of Mrs Patmore but all the way back to the time of the Pharaohs and, Tutankhamun in particular.
In 1922, Highclere and Lord Carnarvon, alongside his archaeologist Howard Carter, were front page news around the globe. The unfolding discovery of the untouched tomb of an ancient Egyptian king has continued to intrigue and fascinate both children and adults ever since. Documentaries, fictional adventures and books lead us through secret trails and false doors to an unimageable treasure which might have terrifying consequences as well as good fortune.
Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter were two men passionate about Ancient Egypt – its architecture, works of art and culture and were much liked by many of the local Egyptians with whom they worked in the Valley of the Kings. Mavericks, diligent and experienced Egyptologists, these two men now unexpectedly stood at the centre of a global media storm.
So this Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday on Instagram I will begin in a corridor face to face with Carnarvon and Carter to introduce you all. In addition, partly because Tutankhamun and ancient Egypt are part of the school syllabus here in the UK, but also because it is the fascinating story of the discovery of the tomb of a Pharaoh who lived 3,500 years ago, we have created some fun worksheets for you to try (along with the answers). The worksheets can be found in the first photo box on the front of the Highclere Castle website as PDFs so that you can either see them online or download them if you have a printer. On Friday we will publish the answers in the same format.
I hope that you and any children will find them both interesting and informative.
Given that we are unlikely to be out of lockdown by then, we would like to return to ancient Egypt on February 16th for the anniversary of the grand opening of the tomb: the day they broke through between the Guardian Statues into the inner burial chamber. We can then spend a few more mornings exploring the recreated tomb at Highclere together.
See you tomorrow!