It is a new year, a new spring and hopefully a new post-covid era as we welcomed visitors back to Highclere once again for our public opening at Easter. However, I suspect like many businesses, whilst we try to preserve a completely serene looking face for our visitors, it often feels as if we are all paddling for dear life under the surface, rather like a swan.
Small and large things regularly go wrong and often I find half the Castle team in Sally’s gift shop as we try to source, for example Rodda’s Cornish Clotted Cream. Chef’s usual supplier had none and, as we have afternoon teas, it is a fundamental ingredient. Somehow, in this instance, they did manage to find some and, furthermore, someone to deliver it, which was the next crisis.
Like every other hospitality business, we are finding it hard to recruit enough staff at the moment and, it seems to me, that each day is becoming a little more stressful. All the Highclere team has had to learn to multi-muddle unlike in Downton Abbey’s time where roles were more clearly defined. There are roles today but they are more fluid. Everyone is very used to swapping departments as needed along with occasional sudden clothes changes, if for example, they are suddenly needed in the tea rooms in their black and whites.
At this time of year, all the local students are revising for their exams and not able to work which is fair enough. Brexit has forced piles of paperwork onto foreign students who might want to work in the UK so they don’t bother and Covid has stopped the backpackers. The situation doesn’t look set to improve much so, looking forwards, we have taken the decision that whilst we will continue to serve formal afternoon teas in the summer, we will no longer do so at Easter. Instead, next spring we will offer our beautiful picnic afternoon tea boxes with champagne and all the trimmings (including scones with clotted cream) but no seated served teas. There are plenty of places to sit to enjoy it but we are just trying to adapt and stay afloat just like the swan.
Continuing like everyone to rely on Amazon, there must be some new drivers as our deliveries have been going astray and being delivered elsewhere. Sally- in charge of the Amazon account – dully filled in the complaint form, the first question of which: “Are there any distinguishing features about your address?” Immediately spurred on, she wrote “Large building with towers, visible from some miles, possibly the most famous home in the world, more commonly known as Downton Abbey”. The next question was were there any specific directions that could help the driver find the address to which “Follow the brown tourist signs to the front gate and then follow the car parkers directions” was the irresistible answer. I am not sure she has yet heard back but I do hope they begin to find us again.
We are perfectly capable of creating our home grown “own goals” as well. One memorable day we were refitting a new metal stairway and fire escape which runs up to the rooms above the tearooms and thus is much used. I know I was responsible for agreeing we needed to do it and, of course, that it should be a nice dark green colour. Various quotes were collected and a design finalised. I cannot remember, or perhaps will choose not to say, who was responsible for the doing the measurements but when it arrived it was two steps too short.
John G arrived on the scene and started offering helpful ideas that the gap could be a practise jump, a good place to stretch and then haul oneself up which would good upper body exercise… This all went on for about half an hour.
The contractors did not want to take it away because they had just got it here and I didn’t want to pay for a suspended staircase and it was starting to get a little heated amongst the Highclere humour. The resolution was to leave it as was, produce more steps, solder them on the bottom and add a longer hand rail whilst in the meantime using another staircase.
It is a busy place with many interrelated activities and so I and Sally were working on Saturday on our own in the Castle. I was quite happy but Sally had no internet – presumably for Amazon. After a veritable flurry of emails to the computer team, some basic checks and feeling slightly at a loss, she eventually found that someone had unplugged the netgear, as in internet, in order to plug in a two way radio which they, presumably, had felt was more important than outside communication. C’est la vie but nothing the coffee machine couldn’t make better
Lady Carnarvon, it can be so nerve wracking at Highclere Castle! You all seem to cope with it. Well done. Coffee in the morning, Highclere Gin in the late afternoon! Cheers, Cheryl
Frankly, I wouldn’t say no to Highclere Castle Gin the morning either!
For me it’s tea in morning, occasionally tea mid-afternoon and now Highclere Gin in the late afternoon. (I just received my first shipment….yum!)
I an in awe of your tolerance and managerial skills. I groaned reading all the glitches you had to deal with.. May the next week’s be more peacefu.
The tea looks absolutely amazing and the goodies,I wish someday to visit,love the reading of all your posts. From small town Woodbury ct USA.
I think this is my favorite post in a long time. Great beauty and even greater humor! How fun it must be to work there with you. You are all great sports. Thank you for the morning chuckles!
Suzy, I agree! I always look forward to Lady Carnarvon’s posts on Monday mornings. 🙂
Steadfast My Lady! You’re doing it, continuing to preserve this beautiful home for us all. I do hope to lay eyes on it one day. And this, well, gave me a great morning chuckle. Thank you!
“Are there any distinguishing features about your address?” Immediately spurred on, she wrote “Large building with towers, visible from some miles, possibly the most famous home in the world, more commonly known as Downton Abbey”. The next question was were there any specific directions that could help the driver find the address to which “Follow the brown tourist signs to the front gate and then follow the car parkers directions” was the irresistible answer. I am not sure she has yet heard back but I do hope they begin to find us again.
This was so enjoyable to read and so down to earth. I am so looking forward to my visit in August which I booked months ago! Living in Florida it is hard to distinguish between the seasons as it is summer year round. I look forward to your blog every Monday morning. Thank you
I look forward to meeting you in August!
You are so lucky Howard – it was the highlight of our trip to the castle meeting Lady Carnarvon! She is the most gracious person!!!
It’s always something. Nice to see you keeping a sense of humor. I had the privilege to visit Highclere in 2016. Hoping to get back again one day.
Just visited last Tuesday! If there were crisis and stress not one staff person let on!
After a 2 1/2 year wait for our planned visit – IT WAS PERFECT! So so glad we could experience the formal Easter tea and all that is Downton!
I do so look forward to your blog posts arriving in my email box! We are all struggling to stay afloat these days – are we “post -Covid”, or “Covid-age”… who knows? Life has turned on it’s ear, that is for sure! All the same, your cocktail hours and blogs have been a life saver to this swan, and given me many giggles and things to smile at, sometimes with oohs and ahs. A Downton fan, yes, but more intrigued by your beautifully written and photographed blog posts… I’ve booked two tickets for Friday morning 17 June! Hubs is taking me (at last!) on Trip #1 of my bucket list trips to England. Yours are the first of my tickets to book for the trip. Hubs is very much looking forward to the Egyptian things, and I’m just waiting to soak the entire experience in. Cannot wait to see everything in person. God Bless you all for paddling so hard to stay afloat!
I will see you in June!
Thank you for the lovely spring news! I remember making clotted cream once after I had visited your fair country. It took AGES, and of course was not as good as what I had enjoyed there. Just getting ready to take a wee hike and enjoy our Southwest Virginia wildflowers. Happy Spring!
Oh my Lady Carnarvon so sorry for all the struggles.
It is globally sad given what the Covid Pandemic has done to so many businesses and daily life all around. The lack of people willing to work or able or wanting to work for a living is still shocking as is the low wages so many are being paid for such demanding and challenging work these days. Wish I was close by as I’d love to come help you, as a volunteer with your events!
Your tea service was lovely and delicious as are the boxed ones. All will enjoy those as well!
Best of luck going forward with deliveries, connections and staffing heading back to pre-Covid normals.
Thank you again for your weekly blog and lovely photos.
This was your most entertaining blog yet. Thank you for bringing a smile to my face.
I just love your prose. You make your home come alive to all your followers.
Thank you so much & I cannot wait to visit in person!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Challenges on so many levels, and a good Monday morning reminder that we all must continue to be flexible, considerate, pack extra clothes, maintain humor, and adapt. Thank you for your eternal reassurance and compassion. Life’s challenges have answers, and I particularly like Sally’s description to Amazon of the delivery address!! Well done you!!
Hoping they find you, and… I’m looking forward to returning in the not too distant future. I won’t need the detailed description. Highclere is a jewel in the countryside.
All good luck, continued good health, and have a wonderful time at the Downtown movie premiere.
Charlotte Merriam Cole
So many folk are struggling to get help. Our small, but most appreciated, local restaurant had to close after struggling to stay open during the pandemic, because they couldn’t get steadfast help.
It all looks so utterly seamless whenever we visit. Somehow, it’s good to know that you go through the same nightmares and hiccups that the rest of us face in trying to present that smooth, polished, face to the outside world. Well done to all of the staff for their amazing efforts in wearing lots of different hats!
We all juggle lots of plates!
Oh dear, Amazon! We had similar difficulties and questionnaires when preparing for our daughter’s weddings on the lawn of our isolated farm, so I feel your pain! Hopefully they’ll figure it out, or you may have to do as we did, and post signs from the nearest primary road, pointing the way to our home!
How exciting & wonderful that Highclere has opened for the spring season. I love your humor amongst the day to day reality, along with behind the scenes of running your beautiful castle.
My friend & I were fortunate enough to meet you while strolling in the secret garden last Wednesday. Thank you for taking the time to chat & take a photo with us. It made our day & our trip to England! It was a lovely visit & a true joy to be part of
“ Downton Abbey” for the afternoon.
Wishing you all the best for an INCREDIBLE 2022 tourist season. Kind regards, Grace Moore, Indianapolis, IN
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
your allegory of the swans is lovely. We are suffering the same staffing problems, but I think we are more like wayward geese. Lots of noise and running around, but the job gets done in the end!
Looking forward to Friday, and the new movie, I hope you enjoy the premier. I am looking forward to visiting again later this year, and to appreciate your hard work. Always a lovely day out.
The idea for a boxed, picnic tea sounds like an ideal substitute!
We experience the same delivery problems here. I live in a 55+ community with 241 homes however, where errors might be more understandable than your location!
We can totally identify with the amusing, frustrating, unexplainable yet must be solvable situations that arise. As my mother would say, “it builds character” and as you have wisely stated in your job descriptions, “a sense of humour is an asset”. Enjoy your coffee!
I do so enjoy your blog. Highclere is #1 on my bucket list but at 76 and living in Texas, my bucket has a few holes. Soldier on. I keep a bottle of your gin in my bar and have ordered from your gift shop so that’s as close as I can get for now. I must compliment Sally on following up on receipt my gift shop orders. Much better than Amazon. Hope to see you one day for tea.
I will inform Sally!
What a wonderful early morning story!! The ‘funny’ thing about this is that visitors never know all the reasons for their visits to Highclere being so efficient, elegant and fun. What goes on beneath the water is totally lost on those of us who are fortunate to visit. Bless you for keeping on ‘keeping on! I hope Amazon catches on quickly.
Thanks for a great read!
Thank you for all you do. Take care and hopefully I will make it this year.
Hopefully see you soon!
I laughed just a little that Amazon couldn’t find “Downton Abbey” (Highclere Castle), the most famous world wide iconic castle. All anyone needs to do is Google it, and wa-la…found it. LOL.
I use Amazon for nearly all my home deliveries, and do suffer the same sort of problems, and like you, we all persevere.
Hello: I’ve never seen swans nesting or with their little ones.
It is 925 am in Canada and I’ve yet to have my morning coffee. What a wonderful read.
What a dream come true to be able to work there for a summer!
It has been three years since my visit to the castle for a lecture. I am a huge fan of Downtown Abbey, and naturally the Castle, I was thrilled to get a ticket with my two friends. Then came covid and ruined further visits if it were possible. I come from the United States. I am so thrilled to see the Castle open up but I am dismayed at all the problems you are experiencing. I do hope things get better for you. I do look forward to another visit in the future. I would love to bring my husband this time, he is just as big of a fan of Highclere Castle as me.
I am sure your husband would enjoy a visit to Highclere!
I so look forward to reading your blogs over my morning tea. It starts my day with a smile. It is always so inspiring to read about your love for and dedication to your home Highclere. It is very much my desire to someday visit and spend some time exploring your lovely property.
Perhaps you could explore starting a volunteer program for people to help you with your daily duties. I know If I lived closer I would find it a wonderful opportunity to volunteer to help you.
Regards from Florida, Lois
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
A delightful column this morning and your metaphor of paddling furiously under the surface whilst appearing calm up above is so true! Please know that your every effort is appreciated by all! We here in the States pay dearly for clotted cream ($8.99 for the smallest jar) but once you’ve had the real thing abroad you just can’t live without! And that’s IF the grocery clerk can understand what you’re asking for.
Hubby and I were there in October of last year, if you would please tell your chef it was the best high tea presentation we’ve ever experienced. We loved everything! The scones, the finger sandwiches, the small portions of creme brûlée, cups of soup—it was wonderful. Keep paddling!
Ps. The postal workers can’t seem to find our house either.
I will pass on your compliment to the chef
Everything looks perfectly inviting! It would be a delight to volunteer, if only I weren’t an ocean away! Looking forward to the new Downton Abbey movie and wishing you and your team a happy and successful season.
Thanks for the laugh. If Amazon can’t find you just think how hard it must be to find the rest of us in our smaller abodes. After reading this for a second time, I still chuckle. How the drive turns on his GPS.
You are one of England’s jewels!
I think I will share a link to today’s newsletter on Twitter – and tag Jeff Bezos. He needs to know . . . what great writers Highclere Castle employs.
Perhaps it will even help.
Grateful that you have a safe haven to vent your frustration and mishaps bee love you and are grateful for all of your outstanding efforts to keep that beautiful home at its best. As best you can which is all any of us can do. God bless you all
And yet in the chaos …….here are the swans……………..
Lady Carnarvon lovely the pictures of swans did you and lord Carnarvon have a nice weekend thank you email and lovely to highcelere castleand fan of Downton abbey
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for this, “it often feels as if we are all paddling for dear life under the surface, rather like a swan.” Such a great observation/analogy for how busy women (especially) since we juggle so many balls in the air and “must” appear unfazed to the public. ; )
Here’s and cheers to productive paddling!
Looking forward to our visit next year on May 1st.
Barbara Hobens, Hyde Park NY
Loved this blog as Amazon has played havoc with me as well. However a highly recognized estate as yours I’m even mystified that they couldn’t find you!!
Wish I could offer my services to help out. I’m over here enough but don’t live here yet.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Our world is full of obstacles, but all your supporters are sure you can manage and overcome all these difficulties ! Never give up. Best regards
I wish I lived closer and not across the pond so that I could volunteer to help at whatever was needed. Your home and grounds are beautiful and I am sure all will return to normal in good time
“Are there any distinguishing features about your address”? I love that! (All I can say to delivery people when they ask that question is that it’s a large two story house with blue and white striped awnings.) You are so cute, Lady Carnarvon. I hope it’s appropriate for me to say that, as I mean it in the most complimentary manner. There are so many wonderful customs, traditions and inventions the English have created – your educational system, your pageantry, your ships, pubs, good manners. I could go on and on. There are too many to mention here, but formal tea may be my favorite. In fact, and I suppose I can say this as an American, I don’t know why we ever rebelled! I hope the hiccups you are experiencing are resolved soon. Thank you for this sweet and humorous post, and thank you for mentioning Rodda’s Cornish Clotted Cream. I will see if I can get it here in the states. Carry on, My Lady.
I noticed the lovely swans as part of the tea service. How clever!
Easter tea in a box would still be an experience on your estate.
We visited in July 2019 and enjoyed it so much!
Wishing you a successful season at Highclere.
My friends were there recently and had your boxed afternoon tea. Both of them were so impressed with it, and their photos certainly made me wish I was there too.
Ahh, delivery drivers. How well we know them. Recently we and our neighbors are all receiving each others orders. We’ve learned to message each other that we’ll leave it at their doorstep but at least we’re closer than your neighbors.
Your descriptions of life at Highclere are always entertaining, but Sally deserves a raise for what is certainly the most memorable (and accurate) description of your address!
I will always remember our visit on a Viking cruise extension when you graciously stopped and spoke with us upon returning from your mission to find the perfect Christmas tree. I hope to visit again in the spring or summer to enjoy your wonderful tea service.
Best wishes for your continued success.
Look forward to seeing you again
Sally sounds like a million laughs! I, too, would have had sarcasm dripping off the page if I lived or worked at Highclere and they couldn’t find it. Hang in there, Your Ladyship, the problems keep coming but somehow, so do the laughs! 🙂
Oh my goodness!! Haven’t we all had those kind of days and unexpected outcomes.
Thanks for sharing a little behind the curtains at OZ, so to speak.
Honestly when I got to part about “the two steps too short!!” I had to laugh out loud. That was funny. Certainly not at the time I’m sure. But “two steps too short” sounds like it has potential for a type of ditty, such as…
The best laid plans might go awry,
we tell you this so you won’t cry.
We measured twice to cut it once,
we had a plan we a’int no dunce.
But on the day of delivery…
we were two steps too short!!
Soldier on troops. Hope to be there one day soon. Very sincerely…
Lady Carnarvon lovely pictures of swans and lovely to visit highcelere castle did you have and lord Carnarvon have a lovely weekend l am fan of Downton abbey film2
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
What a beautiful and true story. It’s the first time that I read your blog and I liked it so much because we are going to visit your estate. And as a special surprise from my husband we stay in your beautiful London Lodge in august( 16- 18). I am so looking forward to that. I was reading your story about the Afternoon Tea, regretfully it is fully booked when we are there but I saw the beautiful picture of the Afternoon Tea boxes and that ‘s a nice alternative! I am looking forward to stay at the estate of Highclere and visit the castle and taste the Downton Abbey atmosphere. In the meantime I am going to read your posts.
Thanks to give me some impressions already!
Mariette Yntema- van Wely
Lovely to hear from you
Another wonderful blog to read on this dull and rainy Monday.
I am resting on my couch reading this as I have suffered a herniated disc
It has really cheered me up.
Thank you for putting sunshine into my day.
Looking forward to next Monday.
Kathleen fro! Canada
Hope you get better soon
Cudos Lady Carnarvon for having a great sense of humor during difficult times. I am sure Highclere Castle gin is needed in the evenings if not before.
By the way, your gin is outstanding!
Here in Montana and many other states birds are dying from the avian flu.
People have been asked to take down all bird feeders. 12 Swans were found dead and they tested positive for avian flu. Any problems at Highclere?
I am so sorry. – all birds ( ie chickens etc) here have to be netted or inside…
I love your humour and how relatable you are as you go through struggles others are also finding – I hope that things continue to work well and I really hope to get to visit Highclere one day! Wishing you all the best from Down Under x
I wish I was near and could work with all of you. Best regards.
By the time I get to read your blog on a Tuesday in Qld Australia there are so many comments already! However, I am adding mine to the end as I just wanted to say WELL DONE TEAM on managing to stay relatively calm during these stressful obstacles… we all know what the Brits motto is and you are all following it through admirably. One day I will get to Highclere Castle for which introduction I have Covid Time to thank for introducing me to you and Downtown via Viking TV!
Thank you !
“Nothing the coffee machine couldn’t make better”. PRICELESS
My days and my attitude can be measured by the NUMBER of cups I drink. I understand your pain Lady Carnavon ❤️☕️☕️☕️
I know these were serious issues for you and the team and I am not underplaying them. But this week’s writing made me chuckle. To hear that a great house has so many of a small house and delivery problems, I found it amusing! I so look forward to visiting soon!
It is all the reassuringly the same…
I certainly enjoy your entertaining accounts of life at Highclere! I will say you do have quite a long driveway for the Amazon driver to navigate… When I drove it, the Downton Abbey soundtrack played in my head. I felt elegant. I would love to return and enjoy a picnic for Tea! I hope the logistics of running Highclere improve for you in these challenging times. Best, Claudia G. Maryland, USA
“When it rains it pours.”; as the saying goes!
Keep calm and drink tea (or coffee)! So “Keep on Keepin’ on!
Love your blog!
I always enjoy your blog on Monday mornings it is a nice way to start my week. I was supposed to visit your magnificent abode in April of 2020 but due to the pandemic it never came to fruition. I had reservations for a semi private tour with a tea. I hope I will be able to reschedule soon. My daughter and I are obsessed with Downtown Abbey and we were counting the days for our tour.
Oh my goodness. So many things to do. Everything sometimes just happens at the same time. The story about the amazon drivers is too funny.
Ha ha. Blessings to you and your team.
Curiously still waiting for amazon today!
I can’t remember if y’all have dairy cows; if not there must be someone in your surrounding community who could make the clotted cream for you…..we make it all the time here, plus it would be without artificial “stabilizers” unnecessarily added to it. My friend has an extremely popular tearoom here (laurastearoom.com) and most of her dairy products are locally sourced. Your humour today was enchanting……y’all must have a caveat that insists on “the ability to produce witty, fast paced retorts at the speed of sound” in your job applications process!
The local farmers are having a rubbish time taken out by supermarkets …
Lady Carnarvon lovely to visit highcelere castle and l enjoyed the new Downton abbey today it is very good and lhave a nice weekend you and lord Carnarvon have a nice bank holiday Monday
Greetings from Michigan, USA. I always look forward to your messages and beautiful photos. I love Sally’s comments to Amazon. Too bad they will probably be read by a computer instead of a real live person!
You should try Cheshire clotted cream from Clotton Hall dairy l am biased though being from Cheshire Long history of dairy products from this county from why before the advertising people heard of Cornwall
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
Thank you for your Monday blog.
I am sorry that you have had to face so many challenges. It appears, though, that everything worked itself out and in time.
Until next week, I hope you enjoy the last week of April.
P.S. On a non-related topic, I reviewed the information regarding the investment in Highclere Castle, and will make my decision soon.
Thank you once again for sharing the Highclere world with us. So sorry you are having trouble finding staff, which is actually kind of surprising considering Highclere is Highclere. If I lived close enough I would jump at the chance to work there, but it is a bit of a commute from the center of the US, even with less Covid restrictions, and the British government does not make it easy for non residents, as I found out one year when I considered volunteering for the Royal Windsor Horse Show. (I wanted the nifty volunteer vest). Even if you are willing to spend your own money to volunteer for no pay, there are a slew of regulations to navigate, which include a pricy work permit. Sorry to digress. Good luck with your hiring. For the first time since the plague, we have a trip to the UK scheduled for this summer, (although not back to Highclere, someday maybe) and are really looking forward to it.