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THE AGENDA The Hedgehog


Our nocturnal news-sniff er reports on a castle in the news again, an aquatic banker and a very green bike. Edited by Alec Marsh


Watch this space


What’s it like having your home take centre stage in a fi lm? One person who knows is the Countess of Carnarvon, the chatelaine of Highclere Castle, which is due to return to the big screen next spring with the release of Downton Abbey: A New Era, starring the original cast plus Laura Haddock and Dominic West. ‘It is extraordinary, completely surreal,’ the Countess tells me. She recalls being invited to watch the fi rst episode of the very fi rst series with trepidation, but now hopes the house itself is beginning to be recognised ‘as the real icon’ of the TV series and movies. ‘Downton is fi ction and the characters fade and melt, but this actually is here, and Britain’s visible history is what brings tourists and visitors,’ says Carnarvon, speaking to me over Zoom from the castle. ‘It is our calling card, if you like. That’s part of our culture and provides such an important backdrop.’ It also provides an important injection of cash for all concerned. ‘Hopefully we all watch it and they do another one,’ confi des the Countess. Downton Abbey 3, anyone?


The man from Auntie


Scarcely six months into the job of chairman of the BBC, Richard Sharp is undaunted by the task of changing the organisation to make it a match for streaming giants such as Netfl ix and Disney+. Indeed, the former Goldman Sachs bigwig (where he was Rishi Sunak’s boss) and former mayoral adviser to Boris Johnson sums up the challenge with an interesting form of words. ‘Winter is coming,’ declares Sharp, before checking with Hedgehog that he is


aware of the cultural reference to the blood-thirsty fantasy series Game of Thrones, which aired on HBO. Underlings at the BBC, take note.


WHILE MANY wealth managers claim to walk on water, one of their number has attempted to swim across what is arguably the world of wealth’s most iconic aquatic body: Lake Geneva. This past summer, inspired by the memory of his sister Emma, who died of a brain tumour in 2003, JM Finn’s head of research Sir John Royden attempted to become the eighth person to swim across the lake without stopping. Sir John, 56, who splashed across the English Channel in 1993, aimed to complete the 42.8-mile endurance swim – more than twice the 21-mile Channel distance – in just 36 hours, and had been training hard for a year.


Alas, the challenge proved too great


and after 22 hours of hard swimming – having begun at midday the day prior and


swum through the night – his lifeguard threw in the towel. ‘I’d actually just run out of strength,’


confi des Sir John. The support team also thought he was suffering from hypothermia, which he wasn’t, but he was starting to suffer hallucinations because of exhaustion. ‘People do die during long-distance swims,’ adds the banker. ‘You do, sort of, have to be a bit sensible about it... you are pushing the limits of human endurance.’ The good news is that he aims to


return to Geneva next summer to fi nish the last 15 miles. ‘The story is not over yet,’ Sir John assures me. Meanwhile he’s raised nearly £350,000 for the Brain Tumour Charity – well on his way to his target of £500,000.


La vie en Rosey


Having been at the centre of an alleged bullying battle with the Institut Le Rosey, the world’s most expensive school, where


Highclere Castle (aka Downton) is returning to the big screen soon


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