New Year at Highclere Castle

January is often a difficult time of year; it is both and end and the start. It is a time for reflection and a time when people resolve to improve some aspect of their life, or to eat less or to drink less. It can make one feel a little downcast…..where are the bubbles? More seriously, it is a sobering and sad time if you are coping with recent sudden tragedies or just trying to survive in a war zone, hoping not to be forgotten. Supposedly January is named for the two headed God Janus looking both ways, forwards and backwards, the Roman god of war and peace. Some say January is named for Juno, a complex theological female figure, a divine protectress, but one also associated with war.

Walking quietly through the gardens here, thinking what I should be doing, (calling the roaming dogs back might be helpful) it is a few moments to try get a sense of order. Just looking around, there are uplifting signs, the earth is warming up, and there is promise ahead of new bulbs as green shoots optimistically appear. The days are slightly longer too, if still full of mud.


It is a good time to think through various talks that lie ahead of me. The first is at Christies in London, and my husband is coming too (dinner is involved). He is full of helpful suggestions. I gave a talk, however at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford some time ago.  He and our son were in the front row – it was just dreadful, they both told me later I should have given more time to this not that, etc etc. I felt increasingly forlorn at the detailed appraisal, but my son did begin to notice, he looked at me and kindly said “never mind Mummy, it was fine really”.

January will soon be busy and my pottering days will be few; school starts for my son, we have some private tours, a big dinner  The inevitable building projects continue and they never seem to decrease in number which I never understand, (I think that it is some joke God is having with me), I am pushing on well with finishing a book and thinking of fun prizes to offer for people who love history and books I have put one up on the web site. Downton reccees start again for the next series, meanwhile The 5th Downton season is now out in North America. Highclere’s web site is much explored.

Our dogs and horses sensibly do not worry about January, they merely keep on going, ever optimistic. So perhaps we make our own challenges and make them up to more than need be. So I am going to forget the stoicism bit and acknowledge the blessings I have. I do, however, have an aim in January. I am going to enter one of our dogs in the naughtiest dog competition I saw advertised in Country Life. He is very handsome and quite irrepressible. What will be encouraging is I suspect he is not the naughtiest. He does look both ways, however, here one minute gone the next.