As April approaches everyone here starts to turn their thoughts and efforts towards the Castle’s spring public opening. Josephine Vanessa, the Citroën Van which now acts as a mobile tea room, needs to be cleaned and spruced so that she is ready to offer coffees on the way into the Castle and cocktails whilst waiting for taxis on the way out. She is called Josephine because Napoleon’s desk sits inside the Castle and thus she is the other half and, given she is a van, Vanessa.
Signs need to be found and dusted down: this way in, over there for the exit, coaches, disabled parking, signs for tearooms or the gift shop or over here for the gardens. The theory, of course, is that they were all neatly put away in some shed but naturally are now neither to be easily found nor complete.
Fred has been washing down chairs and tables in the rain and, although cleaner, they are now even wetter and need varnishing. This means they have to dry out for ages so I am not sure how this project is proceeding. Pat Withers and her team have been painting but only have so much time in between the other smaller events we have held here recently and we all have different views of the priorities. By intercepting all emails I find I can usually direct most priorities but occasionally someone gets there before I do and it’s all change.
Stephanie is well ahead. The cut-out colourful hens, bunnies and piglets necessary for our Easter egg hunt are already lying in a pile on her desk ready to plan the Easter Sunday trail and she is now counting out lanyards for the Art and Architecture tours in May. Luis, Jorge and Matthew meanwhile are planning their table configurations in the Coach house for the afternoon teas which is rather like doing a giant jigsaw puzzle each day.
Another white van laden with boxes of all shapes and sizes arrives in the Castle courtyard inevitably for Sally in the gift shop. She has her own sign and arrows but in any case is rather well known to every delivery man. She has also decided to rearrange the shop showcasing old favourites and making room for new lines.
Whilst she is contemplating her themes, I have added a little project I have been developing with a girlfriend: a new perfume. Lucy lives across a few fields from us and has a studio in which she has been creating and searching for the next best scent… the one which captivates in the first moment and develops with layers and notes as you wear it.
I think we often forget some of our other senses so in thrall are we to the sight of a screen or monitor and the beep of a phone. Perfume is about elegance. It may be unseen but it makes the first impression. I clearly remember the image of my mother bending over my bed when a child to kiss me goodnight, smelling of some wonderful scent and wrapped in a glamorous coat before she went for supper with our father. That moment of time never leaves me.
Like me, Lucy has had various careers and interests but over the last few years has created La Maison Hédonïque. Now based here, she creates and sells to a number of shops in London, Paris, and further afield. We thought we would have some fun and the result is two scents. The first is based on musk roses with a dark green edge which stops it being cloying or heavy. Inspired by the old roses in the Peach House in the Monks’ Garden which cascade in colour and scent through the summer, it is close to my heart. We have called this perfume 1793, which is the date of the Carnarvon title. The other one is called LORATÔ. Full of fresh scents like bergamot, lily of the valley, cucumber, fresh grass, a hint of orange blossom and running water, it is summer in a bottle.
The bottles are hand filled with a black velvet and gold lid and come in luxurious black boxes, hand blocked by Lucy in gold. I think they look very chic and rather art deco. I am not sure what visitors will think and we have only made a limited number. Otherwise, I will simply smell delicious for a while and I think they will look very smart on Sally’s shelves.