I was lucky enough to have been taught by some inspirational teachers at school and thereby developed a lasting passion for English literature. One of my texts was Geoffrey Chaucer who began the Canterbury tales thus:
“Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote”
Without doubt, we have now had more than our fair share of April showers. Unfortunately – and unlike the Chaucer scenario – March was by no means a drought in that we had not only a large amount of rain and but snow as well. In fact it feels as if there has only been one day of sunshine in about three months.
Consequently our “parking” fields were, and are, unbelievably wet and soggy and Easter car parking has been a marvellous, if rather exhausting, team effort. I cannot thank everyone enough for all they have done; for pushing cars in and out of the mud, for their humour and for their perseverance. John, our redoubtable Castle Manager, has been dressed in the same clothes since December: oil skins, a heavy damp jacket, wellies and a flat cap. I ask each morning how it is going: “Living the dream, Lady Carnarvon, living the dream.”
As the forecast became more and more dire, we had to email our visitors to warn about the mud and explore what would suit them in terms of arranging their visit. Some visitors came and braved the awful conditions, whilst others opted for hopefully drier conditions in the summer and transferred their tickets to the later opening time.
Paul, our head gardener, became the ADC for car parking strategy. We rented all the local track mats we could find and his gardening team, Ben and Matthew, acquired expertise at putting the mats together. Dorian from the farm and Sam from our Highclere team drove visitors round in circles, collecting and returning them to their cars which were scattered all over the estate. Alex, George H, Dave B and others parked cars far and wide, on verges, around our cricket pitch and by the chapel. I specialised in moving track mats, looping four of them behind my little grey car in the evening and heading off to the next new parking area.
Paul Mac, in waterproofs and bobble hat, conducted cars left and right from the middle of the Park – and welcomed the hot tea and Cornish pasties I dropped off returning on my rounds with visitors.
Some of my passengers asked me if I worked here, to which I replied that I did and when they kindly asked what I did, I said I was not really sure – a mixed bag and swiftly asked then where they came from. Some visitors asked if I lived nearby – “not far,” I replied. Another set had asked my husband if he had worked here long “ yes – too long” came the reply. As the week came towards the end, one of my sisters came down with her children wearing white. London has obviously been having very different weather!
Whilst the weather forecast now promises a glimmer of sun, so far it has seemed rather like November again, so misty that one day the Castle nearly disappeared. In fact, I think King Lear got it right: “The rain it raineth every day”. I am just hoping that Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh got it right when he said “The nicest thing about the rain is that it always stops… eventually.”