Given the current weather and the end of the "Game of Thrones" TV series, I think one can with some justification say "Winter has come.". For the last few weeks there has been a distinct sharpness in the air, and my builder Greg and I have been feeling pain in our fingers due to the cold. Gregor, Greg's father, has been altogether more stoic, while Greg and myself have been having a good daily moan on the topic. I currently have an electric fan heater blowing warm air over my fingers to enable me to type. Without this my fingers would seize up and be in considerable pain.
A friend has bought me a lovely pair of tough and warm gloves which are great for manual work. However, it is sad how many jobs require exposed flesh. Typing with finger-less gloves was a failed experiment - part of the problem is that I am not a touch typist and that any gloves obscure my view of the keyboard.
This blog entry is planned as a snapshot in time of life at Balintore Castle now that we are entering the coldest season. As of today, there is now snow in the high hills surrounding Balintore, and it is only a matter of time before snow comes to the castle. A severe winter is one where the snow stays at castle level; a mild winter is one where the snow falls but has melted by the end of the day. I am hoping for a mild winter.
The glens of Angus are a complete contrast to where I grew up on the west coast of Scotland, which thanks to the Gulf Stream, had snow very occasionally. In fact, summer only arrives in Angus for me, with the melting of the snow in the high hills, and this can hang on well past Easter.
Greg snapped some Red Deer grazing in Glen Quharity a couple of days ago on his drive to work. It is rare to see Red Deer this low down and is a sure sign of the turn in the weather. The much smaller Roe Deer are generally what one sees around Balintore. Although it looks like snow in the photo, it is just a very hard frost.
|marauding deer in Glen Quharity|
The local gamekeeper once explained to me that Red Deer this low down are known as "marauding deer", and that you can shoot them with the landowner's permission, due to the threat to agricultural crops, etc. I do not know the full legal ins-and-outs, except to say that normal rules do not apply, and of course in certain, venison loving, circles marauding deer are looked upon as providing a culinary opportunity. I love the term "marauding" in this context as it turns the deer into ungulate pirates whereas I have yet to see a deer that is other than timid!
Gregor has been repairing the Grand Saloon doors so we can basically close off this area of devastation from more restored parts of the castle. The photo below shows the current door bring worked on today. Gregor has replaced a missing section of the bottom rail (bottom left) and also the missing section of molding in this area. So we definitely have that good conservation "make do and mend" ethos. The whole door was falling apart so this has been extensively glued and cramped - pretty much a miracle as I only have one cramp!
|repairing a Grand Saloon door|
Things do not only move forward. There is a leak in the new roof above the new entrance stairs we are building. We have not put any hardwood cladding on the lower stairs due to this leak. But now the leak has got so much worse so it has irreversibly damaged plasterboard (now removed) and soaked the existing hardwood cladding. The leak has been fixed about 5 times already, so I cannot tell you how demoralizing this problem is, spending money over and over again with things going backwards instead of forwards. :-( Note that staple of all leaks, the expectant and overflowing bucket!
|demoralising leak in entrance hall|
A friend brought some lovely lilies with an astonishing combination of red and blue flowers on the same stem, so this has been lifting the ambiance of the kitchen wing: much needed when the shorter days drop the mood. Indeed, I was complemented on my Christmas display, but a seasonal statement was not my intention at all. The red candles, no doubt, were the red herring. The blue flowers have opened first. so will the red flowers open second or first turn blue? What excitement!
|gift of chromatically astonishing lilies in kitchen wing|
Such are the demands of castle restoration, that I have only just watched the last episode of the last season of "Game of Thrones" roughly 6 months after it first aired. I wasn't able to duck one major spoiler that flew through the air towards me during that time, despite my best efforts, but thankfully the ending as such was still a surprise. Naturally, as a castle restorer, how could I be anything but a fangirl? I joined "Game of Thrones" in Season 3 or Season 4, and my friend Andrew created the rather witty artwork below in 2013: look very carefully. :-)
|Balintore Castle vs. Game of Thrones|
"Game of Thrones" is, I believe, the most popular TV series of all time and this popularity says something about the Zeitgeist. In part it is technological, the series has global reach due to the Internet and with High Definition we now have immersive drama, which is particularly powerful in the fantasy genre. However, the strength of "Game of Thrones" was not the fantasy but the elemental and Shakespearean quality drama. Having struggled with the books (genre fiction rather than literature) I suspect it was the synergy of acting, casting and production which really lifted the property into the stratosphere. In the same way, I infinitely preferred the "Lord of the Rings" films to the books, which were an exercise in longeurs and geeky philological self-indulgence. This is not to run down Martin or Tolkein as authors - the best works originate as literary sources - but life is simply too short to read everything.
My life and "Game of Thrones" have entwined somewhat over the years, with their respective polarisations of north and south. "Winterfell" in the north, is clearly Balintore Castle in the chilly winter as at present, and the "King's Road" leading to the south is clearly the M6 leading to my humble semi-detached abode in Oxfordshire.