October 12, 2020

Testing the Edge

Opening the visitor books from over a century ago, scrawled signatures and flourishes in faded ink mark the departure of weekend guests. Much like today, not everyone always remembered to sign. Hasty calls from outside on the gravel, or friends trying to locate wellington boots, automatically leads to slightly chaotic moments on leaving the warmth of the Saloon. As a result, some are forgotten, some only remembered as a footnote in a family archive but occasionally the extraordinary lives of some of these guests mean they are remembered in a much wider context.

The battery powered plane

Winston suggesting we all sign up for the RAF

Charles Rolls is one guest who stayed here over a century  ago and whose name is still remembered through the innovative engineering brand Rolls Royce Plc. This weekend we shared a video through Highclere Castle Facebook and Instagram about a battery powered plane developed today by Rolls Royce which hopes to win a speed record. Watch it on Sunday’s Instagram (it has the plane on the cover) It is about vision and craftmanship, of doing things differently and not giving up. Then compare it with the conversation I had with 3 Concorde pilots – the video begins with Concorde taking off in 1969. An amazing plane, powered by Rolls Royce engines, and ahead of its time. Link here: https://bit.ly/30W7Xg7

Over the weekend I was lucky enough to meet and record conversations with a number of amazing people who have lived such interesting and successful lives. Colin Bell – a mere 99 years old flew Mosquitos during WW2 watch the conversation here: bit.ly/30W7Xg7


Air Commodore Rick Peacock Edwards has written a book “Rate of Climb” (which I hugely enjoyed) about careers, joining the RAF, community, the skill sets you acquire there and the bonds of friendship you make, whilst General Sir Andrew Gregory joined me in the Library to talk both about army  careers and SSAFA, how we can help those who serve and save and give so much to the rest of us.  To raise money on our website we have offered prizes and some fun – something to look forward to.

Robin and Gavin

Only a few days before coming here, explorer Robin Hanbury Tenison climbed the highest hill in Cornwall to raise (so far) £60,000 for the NHS. Ironically, it was only in February this year that his latest book “The Four Horsemen” was published which looks at a pandemic scenario just weeks before spent 5 weeks in intensive care in a Covid coma. Definitely not a publicity stunt at 84 years old but perhaps he has a new career in front of him as a seer. This great explorer (he has written 26 books so far) argues for various solutions, some provocative, some practical but all worth a read given our current situation.

Cameraman Gavin Thurston asked us to think about the beauty of the world he explored and shared with Sir David Attenborough as they worked together on a number of films and documentaries. His book is equally fascinating and I watched the Netflix documentary last night. Sir David is a superhero and gives us hope about resilient recovery but cannot state more strongly that we are testing the edge with our current habits and expectations.

If we are testing the edge, then how should we go about defining strategy and setting goals? Between them Paul Tisdale and Tim Thurston have an astonishing ability to teach, motivate and drive you forward whether over the next 5 days, 5 weeks or 5 months. For those who feel this would help, whether at school, university or beyond, and who would like to zoom or ask for advice, let us know. Please do watch here  bit.ly/30W7Xg7

Kate Adie, renowned BBC journalist, reporter and author, talked about the challenges faced by others whilst the calm voice of Stephanie Flanders looked dispassionately at the economics. Neither should be missed and both are saved on the Instagram account as well as Facebook. Successful broadcaster Anne Diamond, who grew up with boffins a scant 100 miles west of Highclere, looked at radar and its key role in WW2 whilst author Robert Harris’ latest thriller V2, set during the war, should be added to your book shelves.

I found Violet’s soft spot..

We ourselves “tested the edge” of our ability to plan and organise within a COVID safe environment with a cast of enthusiastic re-enactors, a marvellously authentic Winston Churchill, vintage helicopters (Historic Army Aircraft Flight) and special guests Violet and Cora, our latest British Lop Eared Pigs. Then again, WW2 at Highclere was incredibly busy in the face of five years of constant stress and danger when everyone had to survive and share in a world in crisis: economically, emotionally and physically. These times are challenging but, if the War proved nothing else, it did show that, given time, industries and countries will make it through and we will survive.