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My epic life

December 20, 2010

So the boiler started juddering and smoking today, as it does every other day or so – when it’s working at all, that is. Despite my running to switch it off and throwing open the windows and doors to the sub-zero air, the smoke set off the fire alarm and the poor fire brigade had to schlep all the way along our snow-covered ice rink of a drive just to check that we were safe. I think every firemen in the area must know about the boilers at Castle Beastie. Last time we had a call-out it was at five a.m. They must hate us.

Anyway, because of having to wait for the firemen to arrive, I was unable to collect my younger son from school. A kind friend stepped in to the breach, scooping him up with her own child and taking them home for hot chocolate. She also, bless her, sat me down for a badly-needed cup of tea once the crisis was passed. Over tea, her Aussie niece made the mistake of asking how things were going at the castle. So I told her about how the builders are pulling apart one end of the castle to try to deal with the dry rot; about how the down pipes at the other end are frozen up and we are running out of options for washing; about the chronically misbehaving boiler and the consequent lack of heating (it is 0.7 degrees C in the ballroom where the dry rot is, and a balmy 7 degrees C on the bedroom landing at the moment), how we wear coats inside to go to some parts of the castle, how the power cuts out every now and then and how, to cap it all – sigh – the Christmas food deliveries have failed to arrive.

‘Wow,’ breathed Aussie niece, wide-eyed. ‘I think your life sounds epic!’

This has cheered me up no end. Ladies and gentlemen, you are reading a modern epic.

Meanwhile, outside the castle, there are several inches of fresh powdery snow on top of the earlier falls. The local roads are as yet untreated, so driving on ordinary tyres is hairy to say the least. Since we are planning to spend Christmas at home, though, we are not affected by the weather chaos at stations and airports. It was minus eight degrees yesterday, minus five today: white and sparkling in the low midwinter sun. This morning I dropped in on a neighbour who is in his ninetieth year, and who has been farming in this area since 1949. He was saying that he cannot remember a single winter as hard as this, starting so early. My boys, on the other hand, will grow up remembering these snowy winters as the norm in their childhood. It’s not epic: but it is magical.

midwinter sun skimming the horizon, around 11a.m.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. December 20, 2010 8:28 pm

    Ah – the Scottish stoicism that doesn’t make a drama out of a crisis! Though if I were in your shoes (with fleecy socks) I may not get out from under the duvet for the next five years! And yes I too think your life is “epic”!

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      December 20, 2010 8:58 pm

      Bless you. Whisky helps.

  2. December 20, 2010 10:56 pm

    Oh. This epic-ness silences me. As I moaned all day on how bad I have it with a broken heating (yes here also), undelivered goods (amazing huh?), and that chimney that’s still waiting to be repaired. But I see now that my 13 degree Celsius living room, and a cosy 15 degree Bathroom are rather snug. Cold showers are also very good for the skin, so I’ve heard.
    I did make some extra hot soup though…You never know.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      December 20, 2010 11:06 pm

      A good approach to problems. Everything looks better after a bowl of hot soup!

  3. December 20, 2010 11:23 pm

    I remember snowy winters as a child, back in the 1950’s in Wales…but can’t ever remember the temperatures being this low – especially before Christmas.
    Glad to hear you do not have to venture away from Castle Beastie for the holiday and thus are avoiding the horrendous travelling conditions – commiserations with all the heating problems, though. Winter drawers on, no doubt!
    Warmest wishes, in all senses of the word, to you and yours for Christmas and the New Year!

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      December 20, 2010 11:30 pm

      Ooh yes, we have a good selection of industrial strength thermals! 😉
      Thank you for your much needed warm wishes. And a good Christmas and New Year to you too!

  4. December 21, 2010 12:52 am

    I hope you are saving printed copies of your epic story for future generations to read. It sounds adventurous, but I am cold in my house right now and am getting colder thinking about being in your castle.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      December 21, 2010 3:23 pm

      We do keep a couple of rooms cosy, so it’s not all doom and gloom! I wouldn’t want you to feel any colder than you already do…Wishing you a warm and happy Christmas.

  5. December 21, 2010 12:04 pm

    I do love the word ‘epic’, and does sound very apt for your life right now, I am full of admiration for you managing to get through it all maintaining your sense of humour. And that photo is beautiful, magical indeed.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      December 21, 2010 3:24 pm

      Thanks, Becky.

  6. Margaret Lambert permalink
    December 21, 2010 12:41 pm

    My frigid winters were on the vast Dakota prairie, in the U.S. Our poorly built government issue homes happened to be built on bentonite, which swells and shrinks. Cracks in the walls made daylight visible, and windows grew icicles- inside! It didn’t bother me, children tend to adapt to the circumstances around them, but I remember my mother’s deep frustration with blizzards that howled around us for days at a time, while my father’s squadron flew their planes off to sunny Florida or Texas. Christmas was whenever the crews flew home.
    The holidays we tend to remember are not those where everything is perfect, but the unusual ones, and no doubt your ‘epic’ Christmas will become part of the history, and your own family’s stories of the castle. Wishing you comfort and joy…

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      December 21, 2010 3:22 pm

      Goodness, Margaret, I can’t imagine how cold that childhood house of yours must have been. That really does sound ‘epic’ to me! But you are right, it doesn’t have to be perfect to be memorable – often quite the opposite. Hope your Christmases are merry and warm these days!

  7. Jenni permalink
    December 21, 2010 2:56 pm

    It’s true that the winter memories I have are of the “exciting” variety: the ancient Ford that had to be push-started every time we stopped; Mum in the back of the car with me and my sister trying to put enough weight over the rear wheels to get some traction; getting down from the Black Mount and being told by a laughing policeman that the road we had come down from was officially closed; wearing multiple layers of clothes (including a woolly hat) in bed; ice on the inside of the window; feeling like a visitor to Narnia as we walked through forestry; the taste of the ice that formed on my balaclava; the insane sledge runs which often ended perilously close to streams and rivers; the meteor shower on top of a hill.

    The discomfort and inconvenience and mum’s stress will be forgotten in years to come. You are making memories for your boys. However, for your sake, I still wish we were sharing a pot of tea in my cosy kitchen!


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