Far removed from the decorous characters elegantly reclining on the sofas of Downton Abbey, weekends at the Castle tend to be a whirlwind of activity, rushing around madly in several directions all at once. Saturday was its usual busy self but Sunday was particularly special. It began at 7:30am with the set up for the 10km Highclere run in aid of Multiple Sclerosis.
We have hosted this for perhaps 12 years and it is a great community event. As well as firing the starting gun, my husband usually runs in it as well, although in recent years this decision tends to be made on the day, followed by grumbles about how stiff he is the next day! I prefer cycling or riding so it’s an easy decision for me to opt out but I was delighted to hand out the prizes. The best one was to an 84 year old man who completed what is really quite a tough course, with a fair number of ups and downs, in only 1hr 10minutes which was amazing. However, congratulations should go to everyone who took part and for a very good cause.
Afterwards I took Geordie back home, finished cooking lunch for the 15 people we had as guests that day and then got ready for our annual puppy party. This consists of various friends arriving with their yellow Labradors, the sons and daughters of our bitch Bella (they are now 3 years old) along with the recent cocker spaniel puppies and their new owners. Trying to get all the dogs to sit and stay posed for a photograph proved impossible but hilarious. Watching the owners lined up in a row all begging their dogs to sit almost made a better photograph than the dogs themselves. Meanwhile, Winnie the spaniel (who has previously been commended in this blog for being the naughtiest dog) hoovered up the cucumber sandwiches. My sister Lucy’s dog Peggy was found with her paws and her nose delicately sniffing out and tasting some pate, three of the Labradors took an executive decision and headed off to play elsewhere and the Labrador owners realised that none of them could recognise their own dog, so alike are they to each other.
I took the opportunity of the party to launch the latest of the children’s illustrated little books about the dogs that live at Dogton Abbey. This one is called Afternoon Tea which I wrote for fun in conjunction with Karine Hagen and Viking River Cruises who give any profits from them to their education foundation. It has the sweetest illustrations and recipes for tea… scones, cucumber sandwiches and gingerbread, with Paul, our chef here at Highclere, taking the lead role in the narrative.