Monday 23 December 2019

Merry Christmas 2019

Spending Christmas Present in a historic building, as this year at Balintore Castle, naturally puts one in mind of Christmases Past. What kind of celebrations went on at the castle, and who took part in them? The cynic in me says that winter was out of season for a shooting lodge, and that the building would have been closed down save for a small skeleton staff. The romantic in me, says that the lure of an isolated castle, in a wintry and snowy landscape is irresistible for the festive season. And certainly, my friends have been drawn here in the last month or so as we bravely try to party our way out of the depths of winter. I love having them around.

You know it's the Winter Solstice when your solar powered watch stops, and this has happened a couple of times in the last week. The situation can be remedied easily by propping the watch in front of a window for a few hours, but the cessation of horological time has given me a wrong steer on the perceived efficiency of my housework. :-)

As an adult, Christmas particularly holds echos of Christmases past when one was a child, and brings back memories of loved ones no longer with us. This march of mortality is captured perfectly by Dickens' "A Christmas Carol".  The author also captures better than anyone I know, the bleakness of that bone chilling cold that I have myself experienced at the castle. Thankfully things have moved forward at Balintore, and I am writing this blog entry in a toasty enclosed room heated by a large wood-burner. I can recall the very same room with no windows and the bitter wind whipping through. Snow, blown in from the outside, lay on the floor and I clutched for warmth by holding tightly onto my cup of tea.

I thought it would be fun to play with Past and Present, by turning a modern photo of Balintore taken earlier in the month into sepia (via Google Picassa) and by colourising my favourite old photo of Balintore staff (via the website). The colouriser is advertised as deep learning but as far as I can tell most clothing is painted navy blue if at all. The result is fun, but a pale imitation of what a human artist could do, so beware the technological hype. I passed monochrome versions of the hand-tinted postcards depicted in this blog entry here through the same algorithm. It failed miserably - the building stayed resolutely monochrome and the only injected colour was the blue of the sky.

Christmas 2019 in Victorian Sepia

Victorian Servants in 2019 Colour

This winter has thankfully been largely snow free with just 3 days of lying snow earlier in the month. Even without snow, the low sun and mist of winter can produce wonderful lighting conditions. The panorama below was taken last week by an early morning visitor to the castle. 

early morning December light at the castle

2019 has seen much restoration activity at the castle, with an Open Day at Easter to show the public the progress being made. Such was the success of this event, that another Open Day is planned for around Easter time in 2020, and I will announce the date on this blog in due course. I was concerned that the Open Day was a lot of effort for no return, but I was very wrong. A price cannot be put on the new contacts and wonderful new friends made.

An exciting plan for 2020 is to hold some pop-up restaurant events in the Servants' Hall in the basement. This space, after all, was where the male and female servants dined together so the pop-up plan is good building karma. Of course, the restoration work for the Servants' Hall lies in the future, but knowing that the space will be re-used and enjoyed is the biggest motivator.

I would like to thank all "friends of Balintore" for their support during the last year. If you are reading this blog entry, then you are already a friend of Balintore by definition. I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and all the best for 2020.


  1. Happy Christmas David, and a visit to Balintore is definitely on my bucket list ! ����������������

  2. Merry Christmas David from Me, Frank, mum and dad xx

  3. Looking forward to open day in 2020, loved the last one, fascinating.

  4. Hi David, thanks for your message. Merry Christmas and happy New year to you and yours.
    I have a plan to head north in my camper in July, how north will depend on other commitments. The barge didn't work out and I disposed of it a year ago. Are you still in Sutton courtenay? I get up to london from my home in Hemel Hempstead quite frequently so maybe there's a chance of a catch up. Best wishes Tony

    1. I loved your Dutch barge, and a life of freedom on the waterways definitely appealed. However, a camper van is undoubtedly more practical and I understand moorings are trickier than parking spots. I still have my place in Sutton Courtenay. Hope you can get as far north as Angus! Cheers, David

  5. Merry Christmas David. The whole restoration project sounds very exciting and fulfilling. Enjoy your log burner ..they are such a boost and feel good factor in the winter. All the best for your coming ventures in 2020.

    1. Thanks Wendy! Season's greetings to you too.