Sunday, 14 July 2019

Mischief Motif

When I discovered that two of today's vistors to Balintore Castle were professional musicians (a violinist and a composer), I couldn't resist insisting that instead of signing the visitors' book, that they pen an original composition. Naturally, when said musicians become world famous, the vistors' book will itself become extremely valuable.

It is a credit to their musicianship and good-natured tolerance of a laird's eccentric nay mischievous whim, that they both obliged in fine form. The "Balintore Castle Motif" was personally premiered for me on a smart phone app, and it sounded suitably moody and mysterious. 

Given the monumental nature of the restoration task at Balintore, then I fear the "Jig" may yet remain unfinished, but thanks to Haydn, there is a good provenance here. How much does an original Haydn manuscript go for?

today's page from the Balintore visitors' book

Friday, 12 July 2019

Summer Flowers

I had only intended dressing the kitchen wing with flowers for the open day earlier in the year. However, fresh flowers are so transformative and joy-bringing that I have kept up the tradition when visitors are expected and of course the arrangements will survive for a week or so.

This year has been amazing for Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) with some banks in the vicinity of the castle being completely carpeted. When I was looking for something from mother nature's discount flower shop to shove in a vase, there was no debate. It is impossible not to put the fallen bells on the ends of one's fingers, and Wikipedia informed me today that accordingly the name Digitalis comes from the Latin word for finger. Duh! I had never put the pieces of this jigsaw puzzle together until today.

The display below is something Greg created, which I then augmented by shoving in more spikes (including the rarer white and pink flowers) to augment the common purple on the principle that nothing succeeds like excess.

foxgloves from the castle grounds

A friend from Oxford brought me some lovely yellow roses on a recent visit. This was so appropriate given my recent predilection for fresh flowers, and I placed them strategically on the dining table.

the gift of yellow roses

Monday, 8 July 2019

Barn Find Bedside Cabinets

One item which holds its value as an antique is the humble bedside cabinet. The reason is that these pieces of furniture are eternally useful and even smaller modern interiors can accommodate them. It is normally paired items that come at a premium, but even a single well-made bedside cabinet can fetch a good price.

While rummaging round a dark outbuilding that was being cleared, I stumbled across two identical units: apparently these were base sections for an upper level gun cabinet.  However, they jumped out immediately as suitable for bedside cabinets. My quest for bedside cabinets has lasted many, many years so I got very excited and quickly asked if they could be for sale. They were - hurrah!

Once I got them in the light, I realised they were very faded. They are rough provincial pieces made by a local carpenter, but having said that, little details such as chamfered edges show they have been put together with a great deal of care. They are solid pitch pine, with just the teeniest bit of dry rot in one. Both have an oak back rail. 

I stained the cabinets to a more consistent dark colour. For comparison purposes, the photo below has one cabinet before staining on the left, and the other cabinet after staining on the right. In the photo the stain looks a little too dark, but this is just an artifact of the camera's auto-exposure. In fact, I spend a deal of time and effort to get the tone right by eye. 

barn find cabinets before and after staining

After staining, I sealed the units using a clear furniture wax. The final result can be seen below with the cabinets installed in one of the castle's kitchen wing bedrooms.

cabinets installed in a Balintore Castle bedroom