Highclere is our home and our business and we do of course live above the shop. I am fairly hopeless at stopping work and always think there is something else to be done, which of course there is. Just like many other businesses, Highclere is seeking to build a brand through its culture and marketing. Fortunately, it has a very unique silhouette, and one which is now iconic with the elegant carved stone turrets and central tower dominating the landscape. We have used this silhouette of our home as our logo and pictured it on tea towels or gift items for at least 25 years. Prior to that, previous Earls used it on booklets about the house. Now, and most famously, it has also been used by “Downton Abbey”, so it is really something of a delightful muddle and intertwined marketing tool.
This autumn in particular, it sits amidst such a beautiful setting. Whilst it cannot rival New England’s famous displays of foliage for example, it is very much Keats’s “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”. The yellows and reds are spectacular this year and I enjoy collecting and arranging the last of the flowers. Then, after the leaves of oak and beech have died and gone, leaving just dark skeletal silhouettes, the evergreen Cedars of Lebanon become ever more majestic. Some 250 years old, they frame the Castle and provide welcome colour through winter months. We replant today to give pleasure to those who succeed us 150 years hence, and are so grateful to the vision of those who planted them in the past centuries.
Cedars are extraordinary majestic trees, a resource much used since pharaonic times. Whilst we are able simply to admire them, they are actually needed for shelter and firewood in the war-torn hills around Syria and Lebanon. What an unimaginable grief and pain so many families are suffering. Once ancient and beautiful cities, homes with schools, hospitals and markets, they are now places of rubble and death. Journalists keep reporting in order to show what is happening, to bestir us all, desperate for some sort of cease fire.
We are linked to these countries through culture, through art and through history. Families flee, find shelter of a sort and they need help, from food to clothes to makeshift schools. Their Christmas will very different to ours.
So – at 11am on December 11th – we thought we would gather like-minded people together to raise some money to try to help: children and families singing together to help other children and families. We have created a list of songs and what is rather wonderful is that “companions” in other parts of the world are also gathering together to sing from the same list of songs, to donate and to help.
Please join us and sing on the 11th December wherever you are.