February can be quite a damp wintery month in England and we often get a scattering of snow or a sharp frost. However, there are two highlights: the first is Valentine’s day and the second is that February has only 28 days which should help Spring approach a little more quickly. For Valentine’s Day we have started asking guests to join us in the Castle for a tour and afternoon tea, or a reception with music and drinks in the evening. Given most people work during the week, we cannot always offer the 14th itself but choose the nearest weekend instead.
These images are credited to Burlison Photography – (www.burlisonphotography.com)
The Friday before, finds Sally and her gift shop elf – Camilla – winding a garland down the oak staircase, carefully hanging more roses from it, before helping to decorate the table settings. This weekend is one of the very few chances for guest to have tea in the Dining Room and, of course, champagne. The most special moment this year occurred during the the evening when a serving soldier, looking so smart in uniform, asked me if he could propose (not to me!) I ran off to find the photographer as well as Luis with a tray of champagne. Moments later, standing slightly back behind the pillars in the Saloon , the garlanded staircase was all theirs. It was a moment of utter surprise, tears and happiness for his girlfriend and left several of us near tears. Our jazz singer, who had the most wonderful voice was providing the entertainment for the evening, and she sang as the couple confirmed their love. (She said yes!)
Throughout, the weekend was a special time for affection and for love and for remembering those whose love helps anchor us both in the midst of everyday humdrum life and during times of stress or anxiety. However, love has much broader meanings too. The Bible describes true love as being self-sacrificial rather than self-seeking, of seeking what is best for others rather than for oneself. Earlier in the month I was in Naples, Florida for an event called the “The Art of Giving” where I was giving a talk.
It was a weekend event to raise money to help local Florida charities helping disadvantaged children, mental health charities and providing educational support to families who are really struggling. The committee arranging the event, headed up by Nancy and Carol, were amazing and raised a record amount of money. Led by the Naples Episcopalian Church Trinity by the Cove, this event was a practical way to love as the Bible suggests – to give faith, hope and charity. I was honoured to be asked and delighted it was such a success.
“I was walking along looking for somebody, and then suddenly I wasn’t anymore.”
Winnie the Pooh and AA Milne
Nancy and Carol with Father Gleeson and myself at the Art of Giving Reception