The Ides of March marked the Roman midpoint of the month and the first spring full moon although now, of course, they are best known as the date on which Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. In Shakespeare’s play, Caesar is warned to “beware the Ides of March”. Caesar comments they are come but the Soothsayer replies: “Ay, Caesar; but not gone”.
In both the play and real life he was stabbed to death at a meeting of the Senate, by those he thought of as his friends, having failed to compromise. Hopefully, despite the crises, politics these days don’t go quite that far but compromise is often at the heart of successful partnerships. Many British traditions, words, and cultural references stem from our long relationship over thousands of years with our European neighbours. We have worked together and stood together despite different points of view.
Highclere’s own heritage is much influenced by classicism in terms of the architecture, works of art and detail of furniture. The Etruscan temple, or the pillared Greek temple (Jackdaws Castle) on the East Lawns, the Temple of Diana and in fact the inspiring Italianate gothic architecture of the Castle itself testify to the inspiration of the past. Many of the references are almost forgotten and at the back of the little Etruscan temple above are some fascinating friezes. They remind me of the poet Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn”
The processions, the riders and fighting figures are from Greek temples and yet they sit overlooking a spectacular English Park.It is an Arcadian inspired ‘Capability’ Brown landscape and one with many plants and trees brought back from overseas to now create such dreamy vistas and beauty in the park and gardens here.
The British have always been great botanists and plant collectors and we have cedars brought back from the Lebanon, azaleas from china, narcissi and daffodils from Southern Europe and Africa, crocuses originally from Greece and tulips from Asia by way of the Netherlands.
There are few better sights than well-turned soil, and working consistently through March in the garden leads to spectacular results later in the year.Paul, and his team of Ben and Matthew, have been digging in mushroom compost and generally making ready. Geordie has bought a myriad of different tulip bulbs this year which are netted as a deterrent but, despite all efforts and remedies, some have been attacked, so I have a disconsolate husband. Some older lavender has been replanted but the old woody bushes have then gone over to an area more open to rabbits on a “waste not” basis and the hope that they will not like old plants to nibble on.
We have a lot of lavender here, most spectacularly where it lines the remnants of the old walls in the Monks’ Garden, which is lucky as we are using it as a botanical in our new Highclere Castle Gin. Working with our American partners, we have taken the heritage and environs of Highclere and incorporated it into the story of the gin, even adding a soupcon of my husband’s premium oats for a slightly more mellow flavour.
Naturally, we have tried it out in a variety of cocktails, which tasted utterly delicious but were perhaps stronger than anticipated, which to be fair Luis, as he was serving them, did remind me. Nevertheless, or perhaps as a consequence, it was a fun evening. Not so much from the farm to the table as from the land to the glass!