It takes about an hour for the harp to settle after a long journey in the car. It’s all about temperature and it’s not worth trying to tune 122 strings until it’s ready. This means I am often the first to turn up at a venue. The venues are often amazing private houses and castles all over the UK. I drove up the winding lane passing all the ‘PRIVATE’ signs and turned in front of the house just as a lady in a ‘pinny’ came out of the kitchen door. She beamed at me, spotted the harp and instantly started apologising she wasn’t yet ready and was making jam. No worries I replied and explained about the harp. I’ll just park it in the room and come and help. Brilliant she said. She stirred the massive cauldron on an ancient ‘make-shift’, almost camping-like gas stove and I placed over a hundred spoons into the waiting jam jars on the table. She topped up each jar and we chatted as we sealed the lids. The kitchen was amazing, massive dressers and long tables and benches. The original range and pans and pitchers all over the place. It was lit with loads of dangling electric bulbs of slightly different lengths. She had ‘brightened’ the place up with these coloured huge paper ‘globe’ lampshades. After we had finished she showed me round asking if I thought it looked okay. I loved the settees – I have never seen anything so big. They were Knowles and had lovely ‘lion’s feet’ but were massive – at least 20′ long! At another house I ‘joined’ in the preparations. The Countess and I picked up sticks in the wood filling 6 huge baskets to light all the fires. Just before the guests arrived for the evening ‘do’ her three children, the staff and I all grabbed brooms and snow shovels and long handled dusters to ‘encourage’ the bats to leave through the doors and windows. They roost behind the drapes and it’s a never-ending battle apparently. We didn’t do too bad as I only noticed 2 bats swoop across the room as the couple got married.
I have struggled to get near the computer these past few weeks – Dave has broken his leg and I am in charge! I have loved every minute of feeding the animals in the stable. Not really built as a stable it is a low stone built Medieval building with 6 rooms and ‘Vaccary’ walls. (Huge slabs of stone 4’x 2’x 8 inches wide sunk into the ground to make the walls) You are struck by the warmth and ‘scent’ of straw and hay as soon as you go in. The commotion of Dodge the Donkey’s greeting and the sheepdogs lasts about 10 minutes. Talking of Dodge – we were getting ready to set off for the School Nativity play when we received a call … ‘Jack says you have a donkey’ … ‘yes’ … ‘oh brilliant, can you bring him down to the play for Mary to ride?’ … thoughtful silence … We had to explain that getting Dodge into the horsebox (which was in the back field on some hard standing for the winter) and getting him brushed and ready would take slightly longer than 10 minutes! We were actually quite sorry as it would have been lovely but we did have a giggle at the thought of Dodge entering the School Hall with 300 kids and parents, a huge tree with lights etc … It would have taken at least 10 minutes of braying before he had finished greeting everyone. Sat in front of us were 3 young mothers talking about their first scans. A very exciting time which one girl had quite given up hope for until she bought a puppy … The conversation was cut short as Mary and Joseph entered.