Thursday, June 25, 2009


My bedside clock radio clicked on at 6am this morning with the news that Michael Jackson - the King of Pop - had passed away - apparently from a heart attack - but what a shock. I only saw Jackson perform once - at Wembley Stadium several years ago - and he gave an awesome and utterly mesmerising performance as he rattled through his iconic back catalogue of hits - a memorable concert and now never to be repeated. The planned O2 concert series was due to be his swansong but now the world will mourn a music legend - albeit a slightly flawed music legend. His last album was titled "Invincible" - sadly he was not.

At least this will push politics (and politicians) from the front pages for a while! In that vein I had an opportunity last week to attend at Business Leaders surgery in Witney with David Cameron - our constituency MP and leader of the Conservative Party. Always interesting to connect with "the local MP" and David Cameron is particularly impressive with his infectious energy, enthusiasm and knowledge both across his patch and (obviously) into the wider sphere of politics. It was good to have the chance to probe him on tourism related matters as it is a powerful driver of revenue for this county and for this country and it was good to be able to remind him that we continue to knock on the funding door as we strive to restore and conserve this unique world heritage site here at Blenheim Palace. There is no doubt that the air of invincibility surrounding MP's has been massively dented by all that we have read over recent weeks and it is going to take time - and strong resolve - from all of those within politics to win back confidence across the country and this is unlikely to be achieved until a general election is called so that everyone can have a chance to vote in those people who they want to trust and represent them for the next term of government - and vote out those that they don't!

Last week ended with the Oxfordshire Business Awards dinner at the Oxford Thames Four Pillars Hotel and 11 of us attended from Blenheim Palace as we were shortlisted for an award in the Property and Construction Category. The evening was hosted by Adrienne Lawyer - a very feisty TV presenter - and we were all delighted that we won our award category for the unique quality surrounding the restroration and delevopment of the Blenheim Palace Sawmills Site near Combe. A good night was had by all (and an especially merry night was had by some!) and it was excellent to come home with another prestigious Oxfordshire Business Award for the wall. This one means more than most as we dedicate it to our late colleague Tony White who passed away in March - the Sawmills was Tony's last project which he had virtually completed before he left us - I am sure Tony was with us last Friday and I am sure he would have smiled as the award was won. We will give the award to Mary, his wife, as a lasting tribute to Tony's achievements here at Blenheim Palace.

Life through this week has been dominated by preparing for our Summer Trustees meeting in July - accounts are being audited, reports written and a pile of papers finalised for distribution ahead of the meeting. Always a stressful time (especially for Dominic with all the accounts preparation) and a meeting that we are always pleased to get behind us - but the positive trading performance that continues into June means that we can be on the front foot with a very positive story when we meet with them next month. Always sobering to remember though that none of us are invincible - but we have a great team here and everyone works amazingly hard to succeed and to deliver/exceed the high standards that we set for ourselves in every area of the business.

The other interesting aspect of the week has been watching Lord Blandford on the "Famous Rich and Homeless" programme on BBC One - not really his finest hour but very much his personal decision to take part in the programme. The plight of the homeless was certainly painfully showcased across the two hours - and it is frightening to hear some of the stories as to how people slip so easily into that sad and tragic world - none of us should lose sight of this part of our society and we should all remember that none of us are invincible.

On that sobering note - have a good weekend!

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