Well, I can say I wasn’t warned by the experienced Guides that peak season was going to be much busier than the first few months. For the 6 weeks between July 24th and September 2nd our opening hours extended by an hour to 5:30 pm; tour frequency increased from 7 per day (every 45 mins) to 11 (every 30 mins) and of the 37 days we were open (including one Bank Holiday weekend Saturday) I worked 30 of them. The good news was that there was a new dedicated ice cream hut installed, so we no longer had to sell lollies, but the bad news was that the Victorian Kitchen was to be an additional “stand-alone” feature, requiring we Guides to man it for ½ a day at a time. This in addition to doubling up manning of the Welcome Hut (ticket booth) during busy hours and, of course, litter picking, provided plenty of scope for keeping us well occupied.
In the week before this I almost managed to cause one luckless guest a heart attack whilst covering the gift shop at lunchtime, when I tried to charge them 3 ½ grand for two small items. Whilst this would have proved a welcome boost to takings, I quickly realised that I had simply entered £3.50 twice, without the till spotting that this was for 2 items – obviously the till’s fault, not mine!
So, Highlights from those frantic 6 weeks:
24/07 Enchanted Dragons week enhanced by the appearance of 2 large Chinook Helicopters – apparently they only managed to avoid hitting the castle when our resident witch turned them away with her wand!
03/08 Sadly, just as we are getting into the swing of the new schedules, Peter, our Head Guide, took a fall and had to be off work for a couple of weeks. This required rapid reworking of rotas to provide cover but did mean the VictorianKitchen reverted to being unmanned (albeit added on to the end of tours, so guests didn’t miss out).
04/08 – A fascinating question from one of the guests on my tour today – “Do you ever appear in Panto?”. Hopefully this reflected the spirited manner in which I endeavour to run my tours, rather than suggesting I looked like a bloke dressed as a woman. And for those who don’t know, yes, I have been both appearing in and producing pantomimes in Kenton for about 14 years now – Oh yes I have! Book your seats now for this year’s presentation of Mother Goose, Oct. 27th – 29th.
07/08 – Another day dawns and I’m whizzing through the courtyard just before opening time, when I notice a chap strolling in my general direction. Not recognising him and thinking he may be involved with the archery event being held that day, I greeted him with a friendly “Hello, mate”! Later, down in the Guides room, I am advised to keep an eye out, as Charles Courtenay (son & heir) is in the Castle today and I start to think – had I actually seen that face before in a number of family photos around the place?
08/08 Great news – managed to blag a whole box of Devonshire Tea from the lovely ladies in the Tea Room today. Had previously been surviving on handfuls of other teabags, not of theDevonshirevariety, which had been sent over. Many thanks to Gavin and the team for creating such a reviving brew!
16/08 Whilst it has not been unusual to spot either Lord or Lady Devon on occasions around the Castle from time to time, today I bumped into his Lordship 3 times. The last of which was in the gents by the Estate offices. Even though I had studied Debretts web site to check for the correct forms of address in various scenarios, this one had me somewhat tongue tied! Fortunately, in his usual friendly manner, he simply commented on the need to get the paintwork attended to.
16/08 Got my 1st. First Aid call for assistance today. As usual, adrenaline levels rising rapidly as I go to check. Proves to be an older gent with a bee sting on his chest. Fortunately he is relaxed about it and has no previous history of adverse reactions to such attacks (potentially anaphylactic shock scenario, for those in the know) and apart from the soreness, has no other symptoms, so advise he goes down to local pharmacy (5 min drive away)to get appropriate medication, which he was happy to comply with.
19/08 Tours varying considerably in numbers now, frequently depending on whether they clash with the Themed Week events for each day. Today I hit my record number – 61 people in 1 tour. Difficult to converse clearly with such a number, let alone the practical issues involved in navigating them round the 12 rooms we visit, within the allotted 60 minutes. Have heard rumours of tours in previous years with in excess of 100 people on them – nightmare scenario!
26/08 Happily (!) selling tickets in the Welcome Hut this morning when a bloke asked what time my next tour was going to be. He explained that the family had come for a return visit and that his kids had told him how much they had enjoyed my tour previously, so he wanted the same Guide. Modesty forbids any further comment, other than that I was really touched. If only I got as much positive feedback as we have heard for Jonty and his team – both kids and adults alike praising the fantastic themed week shows they put on throughout the 6 weeks – and rightly so!
27/08 Bank Holiday Saturday, but the peak season finishing line is now in sight – what could possibly go wrong? Well, the sign of diggers as I walked up to the Castle didn’t bode well. Apparently one of the Victoriandrains had collapsed the previous evening, cutting off water to various areas, including the loos. The good news was that someone had reacted very swiftly as Portaloos (posh ones!) were already being installed in the courtyard. The bad news was that, coincidentally, the contract cleaner for the toilets had taken the Bank Holiday weekend off and his deputy wasn’t available. So muggins was given the glad tidings that the Guides would have to cover and guess-who got first go with the mop and bucket?
Looking forward to a slightly more relaxed period and then – SpookyToursWeek – bring it on!
Spooky Tours 24th -30th October, is anybody there?????