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Thursday, 16 January 2014

Christmas at Waddesdon

Yesterday I posted a link to this blog on Facebook. With a wisdom tooth hammering through my bottom left gum, I threw caution to the wind and decided to detail my un-romantic and romantic new job to my un-romantic and romantic old friends.

To capitalise on the brief, subsequent rise in 'blog' traffic, and to make up for the fact that Waddesdon is now closed and the gardens plunged in to darkness for 100% of my non-working hours, I thought I would have a lil' #tbt.

Waddesdon gets really, really Christmassy

I arrived at Waddesdon just as Autumn began. It was what our historic gardens consultant Sophie Piebenga calls a 'phantom Autumn'; a bit like a phantom pregnancy, only with leaves that turn orange before the cold sets in, rather than a belly that fills with gas before the egg is fertilised. 

Pretty, pretty, pretty

With the stewards hurrying to finish jobs before the house re-opens, the collection department were roped into cleaning the statues in the North Fountain. Dentures' toothbrushes were worn to stubs as we attempted to remove a year's worth of pollution and moss from the marble allegorical figures, imported from the ducal Palace at Colorno, (now a hotel, with some- presumably- rather bare watering holes).

Once cleaned, the garden statues are wrapped in their rather attractive winter coats, ready for the frost. I live in a cottage on the estate, and it was a bit of a surprise wandering into one of these fellas in the dark on the way home from the Manor...


By the end of October, it was pitch black before I left the office at 5.30. I had to invest in a MagLite to stop myself tripping over falling conkers and to  help me investigate rustling pheasants in the bushes.
Luckily the main house had some new lights on show.

It's chriiiiiiiistmaaaaas

Christmas at Waddesdon is a really big deal. This year British artist Bruce Munro set up a field of light in the garden, and the house was decorated as an homage to Austria- with a Sound of Music corridor, Swarovski trees, and an information plinth on Klimt written by yours truly.

Yup, I finally hit the big time.

It is magical the first time you walk in. Strauss booming down the East Gallery, and roaring fires make you want to take someones hand and waltz them to the mistletoe.

It's pretty magical for the subsequent week, too. Enormous Christmas bouquets (I didn't even know what a Christmas bouquet was before Waddesdon), and lots and lots of trees.

But there are certainly downsides to living in a permanent cloud of Christmas cheer.

It's (still) chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiistmaaaaaaaaaaas

I was stationed in the Sound of Music corridor for three hours one night, standing guard while the press wandered around. No longer can I put the  SoM soundtrack down on my list of 'favourite things' (eh-oh).
The smell of pine trees becomes almost potent by December and the collections department is subject to the same temperature controls as the house, which has a set humidity level to protect the artworks. It gets cold.

This past winter has been magical, and properly full of festive cheer #festivecheer. But having overdosed on twinkly lights and thematic baubles, I was happy to be spending Christmas with my uncle in Africa, where I could keep the tinsel and santa hats at a safe distance.


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