Since we now have lovely newly built and decorated space in the old estate offices, I have tried to rationalise some of the filing and storage. As a result, some of the files which John G, our Castle Manager, used to keep in his office in the Castle are now in neat, purpose built cupboards upstairs in these new offices. Whenever I ask John a question which needs a little confirmation, he replies, in happiness, “Do wait, Lady Carnarvon, whilst I go and look at the file for you – I won’t be long. I will just leave my office, walk along a corridor, down a flight of stairs, along another corridor, down more stairs, along a long corridor, out into the courtyard, across said courtyard, into the door, through another door across the office, up more stairs, along one of the longest corridors ever, find the key to get into the locked room where the files are now kept, open the files, forget what the original question was and undertake the return journey”.
Crying with laughter, I answer that I cannot remember what I was thinking and he replies that it would help if I read his emails, especially the one he has just resent me for the second or third time. However, he has now printed it out so he can read it with me and I can tell him what my thoughts are. John is renowned for printing out emails and there is a tall line in filing cabinets around his desk and piles of paper clipped together with large black bulldog clips.
My husband, in contrast, files on chairs – he always has – and his new chic office looks just like his old, less chic office but with a larger number of very nice newly covered chairs grouped near his desk with papers on top and around them. It is rather reassuring.
I cannot speak, as I have an office that is full of papers, my study in the Castle full of papers and there are so many books on the sofas that the floor is a better option. In addition, I have a third, smaller office in another building that is as bad as the first one.
Whenever we interview applicants for a job, we do try to explain what it is really like to work at Highclere. The first round of interviews begins with my husband and John. They are both very good and earnest men explaining the areas of responsibility for each role but explaining that the Castle is very unique. In the midst of winter, I might be driving John round in a truck so he can shovel salt off the back of it. Wellies are very useful. Phones are also useful to photograph water leaks and, in fact, John has the best collection of field puddle photographs in the UK. John is from Yorkshire and opens all his windows wide. The girls in the office next door close his door, close all the windows, turn the heater on and have blankets and hot water bottles to hand. The views from the office windows are, however, amazing, no-one ever tires of them.
Often new members of the team are curious about the top floors of the Castle and, if we are putting together costumes, everyone has to help find them and the mannequins. It may well involve a bit of exploring. James, who helps me with estate matters, went up with Maggie who helps look after the horses. Wandering along a dim corridor out of curiosity, James opened a cupboard. In it was Gladys, the First World War nurse mannequin. Completely horrified, James collapsed, sat down and burst into tears. Maggie was laughing so hard she was unable to help him stand up. Gladys has occasionally sat in John G‘s chair when he opens his office door in the morning. She is, in fact, very precious and will reappear to her public again when Arundel bedroom once again turns into an operating theatre for the First World War commemoration next September.
Occasionally John enters my office and saying sorry to interrupt you? Failing to politely assure him that he is not, he then plays charades for all the office and we have to guess play, film or book and what the topic is. Rather scarily Scottish Robert now enters from his office as some sort of comic character, often wearing a random hat before exiting stage left. Quite a few Highclere team go to jump classes on trampolines and return the next day to detail their new moves. Sally bustles in from the gift shop looking for her gift shop girls who are either late or have got the day wrong.
I returned from London one day to gather that Hannah, our Press and Media lady, wanting to listen to a radio show I was on and finding the outer door locked, had decided to climb in though my office window.
What she failed to realise was that the alarms were still set. They went off and John and the team came running to find her very athletic figure precariously balanced half way over the window ledge. She did actually get to the radio in time so that, at least, was a success whilst they got the alarms off.