the point of living in a castle
..is that you have room for all your friends to come and stay. Modern families survive living in ancestral piles by retreating to a handful of manageable rooms; usually a large kitchen and/ or adjoining playroom/snug. The result is that one sometimes forgets that there is a different world of rooms elsewhere in the place. These superfluous rooms come into their own, however, when there is a big event here, like Christmas or a shooting weekend.
Last weekend was our opening partridge shoot of the season. Beds were made, menus planned, furniture polished with beeswax, flowers brought in from the garden. (The bulk of the work is done by the lady of the house these days: even in a castle there are no longer hot-and-cold running servants, although one can usually cobble together some emergency help.) The house was filled with friends in jolly mood. The castle comes alive on such occasions: one can almost feel it stretching and smiling. A traditional Scottish shooting weekend involves a lot of tweed and a lot of eating and drinking, interspersed by plenty of fresh air. (This is not the place for a debate on the pros and cons of shooting, though suffice it to say that I do have sympathy for the endearing little partridges – it’s unfortunate for them that they taste so delicious.) Once upon a time – only a generation ago in this house – landed families lived this sort of life on a daily basis. For us, a weekend like that is a delightful escape from the mundane reality of school runs and supermarket shopping and pasta in front of the telly. We move up to the more formal rooms, with fine old furniture and log fires, and for a day, at least, recapture the gracious living of the past with our friends.