When the sun is shining and there’s a gentle breeze, the drive into the Castle makes it appear an almost magical dream world: a quintessential England, rolling down hill and past dale, green pastures on either side dotted with sheep.
We all dream and daydream: our unconscious thoughts, feelings and desires swirling around in contrast to the ordered processes which characterize so much of our daily lives. Indeed, my mother’s standard recommendation was always cheerily to advise my sisters and me to sleep on something at moments of crisis or indecision in the belief that a good night’s sleep would help us find our way through.
Most of those who work here live close by and they always comment that one of the aspects of their job they enjoy the most, is that it is the most beautiful commute, almost whatever the weather is doing. That twice a day, every day, they get to sweep down the driveway into this magical landscape.
For many of them, it is more a way of life than a job – a “living the dream” choice more than a commercial one. Paul, one of visitor team, always claims that he comes every day not so much to work as to play, that it is his “dream” job and quite often he tips up to help out even on the days he is not officially on duty.
Visitors often write in to say Highclere is their “dream” holiday trip and that coming here is on their bucket list. It is a treat for mothers and daughters, a special day out for a husband to give his wife, a romantic location for a marriage proposal, a convivial meeting place for friends. It leaves visitors with memories, smiles and thus new dreams.
In one newspaper I read that Highclere came out on top as the place people dream of staying. Of course that dream is partly made possible by staying in one of our two lodges which are charming, quirky and a world apart.
John, the Castle Manager, has the best view from his office window and, in the office, next door a fabulous team of very competent women. He also has a nice line in finely judged irony. Whenever matters get stressed (and we seem to have been more than usually busy lately), I always ask him if he is doing ok. “Living the dream, Lady Carnarvon, living the dream” is his invariable reply, the subtext of that reply meaning that his inbox is out of control. To cheer him up I might hide behind a pillar as he exits in order to make him jump, but the last time I waited patiently, he had unfortunately seen me and came from another door with a megaphone to relay very loudly that I was caught out.
Justine says she has found her dream job, Sally in the gift shop said how lucky she felt to be part of the team, I assume Pat finds it dreamy as she has been here for over 60 years and there are few better sights than Les appearing at the very young age of 92. Gift shop Ann has just retired at 82 although she is rather young!
Yesterday evening three of our team returned from playing football together on a local pitch to find the drive inside the park gates completely blocked by sheep. At 11pm therefore, in the summer darkness, we all became shepherds, looking at each other, smiling. Fred inched his car forward at the top of the park entrance to push them down the drive. Arms akimbo we blocked the crossroads to turn them along a narrower drive, with my husband ‘s car blocking them to turn them back into a field. Luckily they began to follow each other, calling loudly in different notes and tones. The stream of sheep seemed wonderfully endless. It turned out there were about 500, and it certainly all took some time, but at the same time it was rather magical standing in the gloaming before checking all the gates were shut and then turning in ourselves, counting sheep, of course, to fall asleep. Just living the dream…….