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Whirling and paddling: just another week in a castle

November 13, 2013

It has been windy today, a westerly that has filled the sky with leaves whirling from the trees. The colour is being whisked  from the landscape, leaving the bare branches of winter.,12.11.13-1

My life has been in a bit of a whirl too these past couple of weeks. I apologise for writing less than I’d like here recently: other concerns have pushed out blogging. Since Dancing Beastie claims to be about life in a Scottish castle, however, here is a taste of the very varied goings-on which have been keeping us busy.

The week after half-term, we hosted a concert in the family chapel. An unusual and beautiful building, the chapel formed a wonderful setting for a concert of folk songs by a well-known local singer. The event was sold out and we are full of great memories. We love being involved in the local folk scene, if only peripherally: it’s a friendly and laid-back group of people who are a pleasure to work with. Plus we then get to sit and listen to some of our favourite music!

Last week we were back to more core business, with the Fishings AGM. Salmon fishing is an important part of our estate business. When the factors, accountants, laird, beat representatives and so on congregate here for their annual meeting, it is my job to provide the lunch. I am told that this annual lunch at the castle is their favourite business lunch of the year, so the pressure is on.

As my husband found with putting on the concert, a one hour event can take two days to organise. I made life as easy as possible for myself, cooking a casserole and preparing the vegetables the day before, so that on the day I needed only to make the pudding and lay the table and do the flowers and walk the dogs and prepare a tray of coffee and cook the main course and finally whip off my apron and appear, calm and smiling, in the drawing room to welcome our guests in to lunch. And then run back to the kitchen again once the visitors had gone, to get started on the clearing up before the afternoon school run. Oh yes, an awful lot of paddling goes on beneath the surface to keep life in a castle running smoothly!

On the morning of the concert, I had opened the back door to the man delivering my groceries when I discovered  a puddle on the floor made by one of the dogs. So I was busy with mop and bucket, as well as boxes of groceries, when a stranger with a Canadian accent appeared, looking for the concert venue. I wiped my hands on my pinny and used the mop-free hand to point out the chapel to him. Later that afternoon – after he had sung a couple of rousing songs in the concert, for he turned out to be the guest artist from Cape Breton – I spoke to him again and introduced myself properly. He simply could not believe that the dishevelled woman at the back door with the mop was also the lady of the castle, and that we have no house staff. ‘Nope, just me and my mop,’ I insisted cheerfully.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. My husband is also a dab hand with a mop when necessary. In fact he is brilliant at knuckling down to anything that needs doing for events, from mending fuses to scrubbing loos. We have a stalwart clerk of works whom we rely on to co-ordinate any building repairs which are needed, and a hard-working and unfailingly cheerful cleaning lady who comes on Mondays to do laundry and general cleaning. But we have no permanent house staff and, while we like it that way on the whole, it does make it frankly impossible to run the castle in the style to which it was once accustomed. Downton Abbey we are not. Hence the paddling.

This week I am occupied in family events, as we have been looking at new schools for our elder son (for the next stage of his education) and preparing for younger son’s birthday this weekend. The daily round of family life takes up a good deal of time, and unpaid work outside the home seems to swallow a fair bit of the rest. In addition to my regular work (how did that happen?!) on behalf of our parish church, I have also been much taken up recently with collaborating on an article for the national press aimed at raising awareness of the brain injury charity Headway. The article was finally published today. Within hours, Headway told me that someone had already contacted them for help as a direct result of the article; which makes all the effort worthwhile. It is very satisfying to be able to bring something positive out of my own experience of head injury.

Before you think I have become a cross between a saint and a Stepford Wife, let me reassure you that I do still manage to think for myself sometimes. Even if one of the things I found myself thinking wryly last week was, ‘Here I am come full circle, cooking business lunches just like I did in my first full-time job when I was eighteen. Whatever happened to (quote the newspaper article) my ‘high-flying career’?’

I have to let you in on a secret, however. I’d rather be paddling at home than flying high in an office: I feel very lucky to have the choice. And if that does, after all, make me a bit of a Stepford Wife, here’s another independent thought. I don’t care.

You might enjoy more on life in a castle in Ten years and an age: the family in the castle , or some thoughts on motherhood and that career of mine in You know that dreaded question at parties?

17 Comments leave one →
  1. Toffeeapple permalink
    November 13, 2013 1:15 am

    I like the ‘I don’t care’ attitude. It is one that I have held for most of my life, good luck.

  2. November 13, 2013 7:19 am

    I think this is the difference between having a ‘life’ and having a ‘career’. I had to laugh about your fishermen’s lunch and the mop incident. I could tell a few stories about people arriving at our door as well, expecting to meet ‘the artist’. I am disappointed that you don’t have a butler like Carson – I think this would make everyone’s life complete! 🙂 Good luck with the school hunting!

    • November 13, 2013 1:13 pm

      Oh that’s it – life vs. career! It must be very satisfying to be able to meld the two happily, but I would always choose the first if a choice could be made.

      The castle really ought to have a Carson. My husband sometimes calls for Hopkins to do some job or other; but alas, Hopkins our butler is, like Carson, a figment of the imagination. 🙂

  3. Caroline permalink
    November 13, 2013 10:16 am

    You are, of course, wearing the English national costume with your pinny!. Once when I was at an international folk dance event, participants came in various national costumes for the evening party, Greek, Macedonian,etc. Suddenly in through the door walked three Mrs Mops, complete with bucket and mop, short socks, wrap around pinnies, head in scarves. Through lack of anything else, they had decided that this attire was most representive of the English national costume!
    Though it is rather far away, how about a Bath school, then you will have lots of opportunities to hear the echo of your clap in the middle of the Circus! Happy hunting.

    • November 13, 2013 1:15 pm

      How funny, I had never thought of that! It does suit rather well as English costume. Of course I really should have been head-to-toe tartan, to impress our overseas visitors!

  4. November 13, 2013 5:39 pm

    Laughed at the paddling comparison – it’s a perfect choice.
    The folk concert sounds lovely. Your guest encountered today’s reality as opposed to the dream. (Modern life in the castle would all make such a fun tv series script…in your vast amount of spare time – HA!)
    The best part about your life’s choice (other than seeing the children raised right) is the freedom and flexibility to choose as you wish. Hooray for you ( And we need t-shirts: “I don’t care.” with a pix of the real “English costume.”)
    Great fun. Enjoy it all. Thanks for sharing

    • November 15, 2013 1:05 pm

      Lots of good ideas there, thank you! As for the TV script, I don’t know if you ever saw the British TV series ‘Monarch of the Glen’. It went completely loopy as the series progressed but, at the beginning, we did feel that a lot of it could have been about us.

  5. November 13, 2013 7:17 pm

    Downtown has a lot to answer for, DB. 🙂 I can well imagine that the paddling must become frenetic at times, but it also sounds to have been very productive. Congratulations on the press article and the wonderful concert, very different activities, but both so worthwhile. I now have the most wonderful mental image of a be-pinnied Mrs Beastie – Scotland’s answer to Mrs Mop. 🙂

  6. November 15, 2013 9:12 am

    Life is vastly preferable to a career, I would say. And I think I can safely say it, since I have a career and would like a life! The thing I’m finding tricky at the moment, as the mother of a daughter, is not to let my jaundiced view influence her as she starts to explore directions in life, some of them potentially pretty high-flying.

    Good luck with the school search. Before you know it, it will be time for the university search! And after that – well I spent last night on the phone to daughter at a university known to you, talking through whether or not to take a study abroad year. On it goes!

    Fantastic news about your article. I have been thinking of you and hoping that your recovery is continuing.

    • November 15, 2013 1:12 pm

      The great thing is to have a choice, isn’t it. I suppose that is what Feminism tried to give us: even if the (unfashionable) choice might be to stay at home raising children. Certainly, when I was your daughter’s age, it was exhilarating (and a bit terrifying) to have infinite opportunities: I wish her all the best wherever her choices take her.

      Thanks for the good wishes. I am still learning about motherhood, and glad to have done the article (it gave me a headache, ironically) – so, as you say, on it goes!

  7. Erika W. permalink
    November 15, 2013 3:12 pm

    Bath? Why not Prior Park? It is Roman Catholic and my stepfather was a pupil there many, many years ago and had a rather good time although he said he was a very pokey, awkward child and a loner. I believe it is both boys and girls now also which would certainly appeal to me.

    • November 19, 2013 11:37 pm

      If we lived nearer that part of the world I would certainly consider it. There is such a wide choice of good schools in the south of England. I don’t think we are going to look quite so far away, though: I’m not sure that it would be best for our boy to be so far from home. (His mum would quite like him a bit closer too!)

  8. November 18, 2013 4:31 pm

    What a fabulous scene you paint – I really enjoyed this blog!


  1. Our foggy Perthshire woods are where it’s at this autumn. | Dancing Beastie

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