Gratuitous fluffy animal pictures
Sometimes life just gets too busy and complex to be distilled into a blog post. At this time of year, our events season is getting under way. We are occupied with preparing for and looking after the visitors who come for various reasons: music groups, history buffs, land agents, garden-lovers, tree experts and others all have something to discover in the castle and its policies. My husband loves the variety of this work and does it very well. I am better as background support, muddling along with daily domesticity in between making preparations for visits and – occasionally – playing the gracious hostess.
Recently we’ve had a couple of such days. The group we had here at the weekend were an exceptionally congenial bunch and hosting a black tie dinner for them in the evening was a pleasure, more like fun than work. Today we had a coach load of American visitors, here on a whistle-stop tour to see something of Scotland’s castles and traditions. They were also a rewarding group of people to spend time with; friendly, cheerful and enthusiastic. But my battery seems to be running very low at the moment. Other concerns – health, family, finances, all the usual complexities of anybody’s life – have been taking up time and energy too. If my photos give the impression that life here is all beauty and peace, it is not because that is all there is, but because that is what I choose to turn to. We are blessed with natural beauty here and celebrating it at Dancing Beastie is much for my own pleasure as (I hope) for yours. So, once again, I soothe out the creases of the day by turning to nature. Specifically, the wonderland of flowers and wildlife that surrounds us in late May.
In the woods, the bluebells are in full bloom now, hazing the ground with heavenly colour.
This, to me, is one of the most calming scenes of the year: a bluebell wood in May. I carry this landscape in my head, bringing it to mind in bleaker places (like at the dentist’s, for example).
Soon the ferns will blot out the light to the bluebells, and the cow parsley and meadowsweet will replace the blue with frothy white along the verges.
This long fresh grass provides a haven for the baby rabbits that abound at the moment. I see them all over the place, though, not just in the cover of the lush grass. They sun themselves on the gravel right in front of the house, and this one was sitting outside the kitchen window yesterday.
While I gazed adoringly, neglecting the washing-up, he just continued doing his rabbity thing,
completely untroubled by the papparazza in rubber gloves trying to take his picture out of the window.
I do wish I had a zoom lens. These are not the whiskery close-ups which readers of Dancing Beastie have a right to expect. Particularly as I also have red squirrels to show you. Every time I step out the door at the moment, I see squirrels under the yew trees, busily scrabbling away at the earth to find morsels to eat. The reds have most expressive tails, and are quick as a whip. It is impossible to get close to them: they are scooting up the trunk of a tree if you so much as twitch.
We are on the frontline here of the battle for dominance between the native red squirrels and the larger, imported greys. The two species live happily side by side, but the greys carry squirrel pox which has wiped out red squirrels across almost all of England and much of southern Scotland.
So we keep a concerned eye on our cheeky little red squirrels, for all that their numbers appear to be holding up for the moment.
What else is cheering the spirits at the moment? Oh, well, yesterday I discovered a late cherry tree still in bloom: one of those frilly ones with petals like crumpled tissue paper.
It is past its prime but still pretty, as it thrashed about in a stiff breeze.
In the garden, there is wisteria flowering against one wing of the castle, which reminds me of a blissful summer I once spent working as a cook in rural Tuscany, where we would eat al fresco under the wisteria vine every evening.
And the kitchen garden is looking promising, especially the currant bushes and the strawberries.
But it is the wildlife that really gladdens my heart. We are so lucky to live amongst so many wild birds and animals. While I was sitting watching the squirrels a couple of days ago, I was just about to put away my camera and head inside when another movement caught my eye. A young roe deer, picking her way cautiously between the squirrelly yew trees and an avenue of azaleas.
As she emerged from the trees, I saw that a second deer was following her. They trotted off down the main castle drive, skipping and cavorting, not a care in the world.
Looking back over these encounters, I am certainly feeling more carefree too – as I hope are you. I’m off now to check up on how my husband is doing. He has been up some scaffolding this morning, hoovering the walls of the ballroom. But that’s another story.
You might enjoy another post about flora and fauna here in May: An evening walk.