Need To Know
There was a dreary interconnecting door between the Saloon and the Smoking Room in the Castle. Feeling at the time that I had undertaken rather a lot of dutiful and rather more mundane tasks, I decided to turn my thoughts to having some fun and improving it. With a girlfriend, Ellie, who is a talented painter and gilder, we sketched out a trompe d’oeil for the door. I chose a design which reflected some of the decoration of the Library shelves in order to give it a “realistic” frame and then Ellie then carefully planned what would be on the shelves, from books, to a photograph, as well as statues and bowls from the Egyptian collection.
She began to create it and the project continued to develop until it looked right, adding a few more books leaning askew, or another jar or statue. My favourite “shelf” has a “photo” of my son Edward, at about two years old, and our first Labrador, Percy.
Of course, all the books needed titles. Geordie, my husband, is especially good at thinking up pithy ones: Diana Moyse, our head housekeeper, has apparently written a book called “Good Reflections”; Paul our Head Chef, “Food for Thought”; John Gundill, our Castle Manager, “Green Wellies” (in several volumes) and so on. My husband’s book is “Sporting Diary” which I am not going to explain other than to say it is a matter of contention. I have written several books, including one titled “Need to Know”.
Many wives, I am sure, are aware of the virtues and attributes of this title. Although I trained as an accountant, I do find the marrying of budgets and costs a challenge. One approach my husband finds maddening is the argument that if I start without a budget there is no need to worry whether the costs have overrun. Another approach is that, if he has not yet seen the wisdom of my next plan, I begin it the second he leaves the park at Highclere on a sporting diary engagement. By the time he is back, some days or a week later, I have made good progress. I can always claim he was informed but must have forgotten because what man does not switch off when his wife is chatting? Of course my next argument is that you never know the extent of the project at Highclere as you always uncover more challenges than you thought there would be and, as it is his home, it is his fault so there is no point worrying.
Some of my “need to know” projects have been quite large, from scaffolding and paint stripping, to internal scaffolding and decorating in the Castle. I had a team working on the first tower landing for nearly four months before he unfortunately discovered the very lovely hand-blocked wallpaper. Pat Withers the decorator rang me to say she could see I had not yet found the right time to bring him in on what was going on. I asked her how he was taking it and she replied not very well: she had retired down a corridor behind a bedroom door. I suggested she stay there a little longer and I would rescue her.
Of course my husband thinks it is all wonderful now (it is stunning). Coincidentally, however, this autumn his sporting diary is somewhat lighter than usual so I will have to think carefully.
PS Just to reassure blog followers, for all the levity, my overall concern is that there is more money coming in than going out and I do cut the cloth accordingly…sort of….
Dear Lady Carnarvon. I love the door painting. The book titles are fun especially the one by Percy Puppy and Cryptic Clues by Fiona and Geordie. Was the last book title also by Lord Carnarvon ? Laughing at the part about you saying you told Lord C but he must have forgotten or had stopped listening to you!! This post and pictures would make a great entry for your blog book.
Percy was a wonderful dog, he lived for 13 years and I still miss him.
I rather like crosswords so that may have been mine. Pat the decorator’s phone call to me was the funniest – Pat has been decorating here for nearly 60 years and she has just agreed to be photographed for my next book. An amazing person with whom I feel lucky to share much laughter and adventures.
Haha! You forgot to put a book in the painting, “How to Survive Household Budgets Without Alarming Your Spouse.” I think anyone who has been married has faced these hurdles!
The main thing is to remind your husband it was always like that -he just never noticed…
Dear Lady C., Absolutely love the painting! Thank you for everything 🙂 You are a true blessing.
I so love this door that Ellie painted every time I look at it I see something I have missed from before, Makes good viewing & from a far too look so real 🙂 I love the Archaeology bit of Wall from somewhere special & I so want to look in that jar to see what is in there 🙂 maybe one day I will have a book too with a title of Time Explorer Exploring History in Our Time 🙂 hee hee
Great blog again Lady Carnarvon 🙂
Lady Carnarvon – this is stunning. I am a book lover and the artist has done wonderful job.
It is really pretty! Ellie can make such beautiful things!
It is amazing what is achieved with strokes of a brush!
More coins please Paul! I do need to add a few books though!
Very well done. It is playful and purposeful. How often do you use the doorway? Or, is it permanently closed now? The reason I ask is that it might be fun to add or change things on the
“shelves” once in a while and see if anyone notices.
I thought the very same thing! It must be a Candace thing 🙂
I need to add a few more books. The door is used a lot and we leave it propped open to amuse visitors.
This project reminds me of the Hogwarts secret passages hiding behind paintings. Maybe you can get it to open with a password too! Thanks for sharing your projects with us Lady Carnarvon, your blog is always interesting.
Your friend, Ellie, is a wonderful painter!!!
It looks great!!!!
I’m glad you can still create projects that are just fun to do and are not always necessities. Enjoy seeing your end product, thanks.
Always enjoyable to read your blog. The door was a lovely idea. Well done. Cannot begin to imagine the coordinating of your household. You seem to be up for any task.
Brillant! I love it!
Marvelous! Love it! How ingenious. Your friend is very talented, kudos!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
What an amazing use of “Trompe L ‘Oeil in such a secret space – I love your idea!…Ellie the artist certainly created details which look so realistic that at first glance it looks as though you wouldn’t imagine its a door at all! I’m an interior designer and always find that it’s the smaller projects that become the most magical component of a room….Thank you for each and everyone of your lovely updates on “castle life” since the conclusion of “Downton” my friends and I find that your blogs are a great remedy for “Downton with drawl symptoms” – such a great way to start the day (even in the summer heat of Scottsdale, Arizona). Keep on restoring and refining… can’t wait to see it someday on a holiday back in England….
What a lovely surprise to see your article about my painting of the bookshelf, I loved the project and am so grateful for the opportunity. My favourite bit was painting Edward and his puppy Percy.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Beautiful work, you are so talented. Pat and Ellie must enjoy working with you, sounds like you can find some fun in all the hard work you are doing, it is what makes it really joyful to look at in the end.
Thank you for a wonderful and interesting blog, always a pleasure to read.
Great article, although I fear you may have revealed too much of your strategy to Lord C in this post!
Resonate with all you have written. A great, warming read.
THERE ARE NO WORDS. SIMPLY STUNNING. lOVE YOUR HOME. i WAS THERE IN SEPTEMBER. cAN’T WAIT TO COME BACK.
This latest undertaking is so creative, it’s More than marvelous. What a Wonderful dimensional job, and what ideas you’ve given so many of the rest of us . . . Thank you!
It is a tribute to people here too. It is fun.
How delightful, Lady Carnarvon! The end result certainly supports the route you had to take to get there. What woman worth her salt has not gone forward on a project or two, (maybe many more), in which her husband would not have shared the vision in the first place had he been told. However, once completed, he would feel quite proud that we had been so brilliant to think up the project and actually make it happen! Bravo, once again to your marvelous outcomes.
My friend Brenda and I will be arriving via Viking mid month to tour the castle and hopefully see this delightful project among many other marvelous things. Most of all, I am looking forward to meeting you and some of your dear dogs along with the picture of your son and one of the first dogs in this latest endeavor. As always, Thank You!
Then I hope I might see you!
Lady Carnarvon, your boundless energies amaze me and after gazing upon this marvelous door I suddenly remembered a quote from Germaine Greer:
“Libraries are reservoirs of strength, grace and wit, reminders of order, calm and continuity, lakes of mental energy, neither warm nor cold, light nor dark … In any library in the world, I am at home, unselfconscious, still and absorbed.”
The painting looks fantastic!
It is indeed splendid. Very creative and really well done.
Also, a very interesting choice of titles for the books. And very wise of your husband to suggest “Need to know” rather than (although undoubtedly it would have been in jest) a Rumpolean-type title of “She Who Must Be Obeyed”.
Very wise indeed.
It was an excellent idea of yours to embark on such a project. And your friend Ellie is obviously very talented and did wonderfully well. I have always been fascinated by trompe l’oeil (“trick of the eye”) and the art of illusion. For the benefit of fellow bloggers, I can recommend a ‘visit’ to the website of German street artist, Edgar Mueller, who is a master of fun trompe l’oeil paintings. Mueller’s website (“http://www.metanamorph.com/m/index.php”) is filled with awe-inspiring images of incredibly detailed and realistic street paintings, which include waterfalls, trees and caves – including my favourite, “The Crevasse”. There is even a video of that street painting’s creation.
Thank you again for sharing ‘the magic’. Another most enjoyable “blog”. Cheers.
I must at some point record the background to the books too.
I have used the technique quite a lot in the buildings around the Castle to disguise boring things.
Great story about this lovely project, Lady Carnarvon! I like the thought that there is a little bit of highly personal detail about you, your family, and the rest of the support staff at Highclere to intrigue visitors for years to come. 🙂
Dear Lady Carnarvon, love the idea of the “painted” door….my favorite part of the blog was about the decorator !!! Thank goodness for telephones..else you may have another ghost walking the castle, rattling doors and hitting walls…….by the way why does the UK have no Counts but they do have Countesses, could it be that Earlles just doesn’t have the same ring to it ??
I don’t know how a door with that gorgeous decorative surround could have ever been dreary, but I certainly love the finished result! I hope to visit some day, but in the meantime watch Downton Abbey episodes over again just to admire the house.
My favourite book title: I Don’t Believe It, by Geordie Carnarvon! It reminds me of his response to you (and guests) pushing the stuck bus out of the mud. Such a fun blog!
The pushing the bus story has gone down in history, not many visitors get such a tour!!!
I love Tromp L’Oeil. Any other in the castle?
Speaking of doors … I was fortunate to be part of one of your June private tours and remember our guide explaining the quote above the dining room door. I thought I would remember but have since forgotten. Could you tell me what the quote is? I am thinking it is also above the front door. And by the way, the tour was a highlight of my first trip to England. It was wonderful!
Dear Lady Carnarvon, I cannot stopping laughing, all the way here in NZ, at your humorous description of budgeting, So funny, I open your blog email first when it appears they are always so light-hearted and fun.
Beautiful! I love how personal you have made it! I have wondered about these interconnecting doors – I understand the need for them between rooms for privacy but why are they between the bedrooms and the hallway? (Lord Grantham’s dressing room shows one in the scene with him and the maid. Is that to keep out drafts?
Oh, I remember seeing Ellie and her work-in-progress as we toured Highclere in April, 2015. Surely she had begun doing this, though I don’t recall a painted photo of Edward and Percy…but there were books already painted. Being an artist myself, I was so fascinated by this creative way of livening up a door! Most wonderful projects you have for Highclere, Lady C.! Thank you so much for this fun blog.
It is still a work in progress – often the last 10% seems to take another 80% in terms of time!
Wonderful. As a veteran of Naval Intelligence, I am very familiar with the “need to know” concept. And now, thanks to your idea, I have another way to address certain issues with my wife. I will be reporting back on how that works out.
We have a marvellous ex military man who works here with us – lots of useful phrases and humour.
” Plan prepare predict” is one of my favourites.
Lovely door painting. Your friend is very talented!!
I hope your husband doesn’t read your blog or you will have to think of a new strategy!!!
Dear Lady C,
I love that door and keep strolling to the top for another look-see. Someday my husband and I will see it, in person.
I just heard the great news about Julian Fellows writing another Downton Abbey script. And it being a movie this time.
With a projected Christmas of 2018 as a release date in the US perhaps we will be there during filming.
Your blog brings a smile to my face. Thanks
That is incredible – I feel I could walk right inside. I always marvel at the skill and mastery of painters and the illusions they create. I love your creative thinking as well.
This is fabulous!
How fun to name the books!
I think I’d name mine:
“You Never Know.”
I think it looks stunning, Your husband was a wise man when he picked you to be his “life partner” ! It is wonderful blessing for all the things you have done to help preserve all of its history. You have brought Highclere back to life , and mllions of people thank you!
Wonderful! Very creative. Perhaps vintage fun titles, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility!
That is so positive! I met some friends who knew you from Houston…
Really beautifull, a talented Lady.
TO ONE AND ALL!!! This painting of the bookshelves is Wonderful and very whimsical. The titles on the books are there for one to look at and be amazed. Such imagination!!I I was lucky enough to see it a year ago when visiting the Castle. I will also say that Lady Carnarvon is the Ultimate hostess! The prospect of a movie just makes me smile but one really needs to see the castle to appreciate all the detail and love that has gone into the restoration.
Bearing in mind Geordie’s love of his farming activities, i would have expected to see The Seeds of Success by A. Cornfield on your shelves.
I love the painting of the bookshelves!!! It’s perfect!! And what fun to name the books!
What a wonderful way of adding your generation to the castle history. Just think future generations will tell the story of how the secret doors decoration came about. A great legacy.
A bit mad!!