Friday, November 20, 2009

Wow! What a week that was!

Since I was last able to write early on the morning of Friday 13 November, it has been an extremely busy few days - a brief summary follows:

>> Friday 13 November

A wet and windy day (highly appropriate for Friday the 13th) heralded the arrival of various dignitaries to celebrate our various awards this year - but particularly the Siver Award for our Green Business Tourism Scheme entry. Lady Penny Cobham (Chair of Visit England) and John Williams (Chair of Tourism South-East) joined the Duke in welcoming David Cameron (our constituency MP) to Blenheim Palace for these celebrations. At the last minute we were notified that David Cameron was being accompanied by Her Excellency Madam Fu Ying, the Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to the UK - she apparently wanted to shadow a British MP to see how they worked in their constituencies. Now this was a huge opportunity and after discussions surrounding Plans A, B and C, we eventually agreed to go ahead with the planned tree planting despite the rain. An inspired David Cameron (down to his shirt sleeves in the rain!) set about the tree planting and then invited the Ambassador to join him to signify the "Chinese Friendship Tree" at Blenheim Palace. A plaque will follow (well why wouldn't we!) and hopefully many thousands of Chinese tourists will flock to see the tree at Winston Churchill's birthplace! What had seemed a wet and miserable day turned into a triumph and everyone went away inspired and happy.

>> Saturday 14 November

A calm/sensible day which culminated in a delicious dinner at The Grove Hotel in Hertfordshire where we met up with the Keane's and the Woodies - very old and very special friends from our Knebworth days. The Grove Hotel was heaving - wedding, parties and diners everywhere you looked. Almost too busy with car parks overflowing - but who says there is still any recession?

>> Sunday 15 November

An early return from Hertfordshire in time to get Annabelle to school for the Chamber Choir to perform in the Sunday morning service. Always moving to see Annabelle sing and she is thoroughly enjoying being in the Choir - they have lots of exciting engagements including being in the final 6 for the BBC Songs of Praise School Choir of the Year and also a choir trip to Portugal next Spring - lucky girl!

>> Monday 16 November

Tracy and I headed into London for a special treat - we were invited to attend the Christies Dinner in their Great Rooms off King Street. A stunning evening where we were also able to see the HHA/Christies 25th Anniversary Garden of the Year Award Photographic Exhibition - some amazing photographs and an amazing exhibition - which incidentally moves to Blenheim Palace for 6 weeks when we re-open on 13 February for the 2010 season - assuming we can figure out how to display it!. With Victoria very very kindly looking after our girls at home, Tracy and I spoilt ourselves by staying at the fabulous Goring Hotel in Beeston Place. One of London's hidden delights and without doubt one of London's finest hotels - we had a wonderful evening and just for a change it was nice to pamper ourselves!

>> Tuesday 17 November

Attended the 36th AGM of the Historic Houses Association at The QEII Conference Centre in Westminster - an interesting and valuable day to network with owners and colleagues from across this important and valuable heritage sector. Saw many friends and enjoyed a very positive day - rushed back to pick up Annabelle from school at around 6pm as the choir were putting in extra hours in readiness for the BBC challenges that lie ahead next week!

>> Wednesday 18 and Thursday 19 November

Up to Castle Howard in Yorkshire for the annual Treasure Houses of England Owners and Managers meeting and AGM. 450 mile round trip (carefully avoiding A1(M) closure courtesy of sat nav route through Doncaster and Selby) for a very positive gathering - for once our stunning performance this year through our Annual Pass scheme put us top of the class for visitor performance - something which both the Duke and I quietly enjoyed! We were looked after in sumptuous fashion - black tie dinner on Wednesday in The Garden Hall at Castle Howard; overnight at The Worsley Arms Hotel in Hovingham, meeting on Thursday back at Castle Howard in The Long Gallery followed by lunch in the Grecian Hall prior to departure and the long drive home.

Got back to Blenheim Palace just in time to attend the christmas reception for our press/media contacts as well as for our Friends of Blenheim Palace. A warm and friendly event which seemed to be enjoyed by all of those present - well done to all of those here at Blenheim Palace who worked hard to set up and deliver this important annual event.

>> Friday 20 November

And so the cycle completes and I am back at my desk and finally able to catch up on emails, etc. Today is the first day of our "Living Crafts for Christmas" event - we pray for sensible weather as we have to park cars on grass and nobody wants the underfoot conditions to become too severe. Last nights rain has not helped but we will keep our fingers crossed!

Phew - what a busy days - but throughout I have been inspired by how positive, how generous, and how engaged everyone is with regard to moving themselves and their business interests forward through the remainder of 2009 and into 2010.

Hopefully the "Chinese Friendship Tree" will flourish - and hopefully our fortunes will flourish alongside it!

Have a good weekend

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