January is nearly already over and we are full steam ahead for Badminton, albeit a Badminton like no other – behind closed doors – which means we have had to throw away the accepted brief. Everyone, especially our volunteer force – fortunately, many of them live locally – have been wonderfully supportive; some people, along with certain contractors, have had to accept gracefully that their role will be non-existent this year, the rest that there will be none of the usual perks like complimentary tickets or bringing members of their family. However, I do sense among the Badminton community, from officials to riders, a real will and enthusiasm to make this happen.
Even before the national lockdown, Badminton was in Tier 4, so we have been working remotely for what feels like months, but I feel very grateful to have the structure of work, even it means busy days, and I have got into a routine of going for a lovely walk with my dog, Missy, at the end of every afternoon before dark. I was also very tempted to buy another horse, but perhaps it was wise to resist!
Vicky Candy, our office administrator, and Alex Harbottle, our bookkeeper, have both been beavering away in the background – despite the many Covid regulations, there are still many constants, like ordering car passes and doing the FEI schedule – and I have managed to see our stable manager, Margaret Hopkins, who is already working on getting the stables ready.
We also have a new member of the team in Paul Hooper, OBE, who will be my Covid officer; he was involved and Society Secretary of the Bath & West for many years and is Secretary of the Association of Outdoor Shows, so he will be a fantastic help in these ever-changing times.. Another lovely piece of news is that Sue Ansell, who left at the end of last year after decades as a mainstay of the Badminton office, has announced her engagement to Graham Edwards.
The media team are well on the way to finalising the livestream details so keep an eye on the website and social media for updates.
Cross-country course-designer Eric Winter will be starting work at the end of February and we have had two good meetings with our long-time showjumping course-designer, Kelvin Bywater, about the re-siting of the main arena in front of Badminton House. This is new territory for him, but, like all of us, he is excited about the opportunities offered by such a splendid backdrop.
We have acquired in the office a copy of The Horseman’s Year from 1959 which, along with some fascinating and brilliant articles, has a picture of the arena in front of the House: that was the year the late Duke, as David Somerset, finished second to Sheila Willcox, who was achieving her record hat-trick of wins, and it feels like a good omen.