It is only now, given that the last of the snow departed from Balintore Castle just yesterday, that I feel I can make a blog entry about the harshness of this winter without tempting providence. The last month has been particularly hard with a neighbour recording a morning temperature of -18 C. At the same time, nearby Braemar, recorded -23 C, the coldest UK temperature in 26 years. The castle is at an even greater altitude than my neighbour, so I suspect Balintore was challenging Braemar even more closely!
My builders, Greg and Gregor, were unable to get to the castle at all for around a week. Eventually, they managed to get to the end of the drive, but had to make the rest of the journey on foot carrying tools, etc, all the way up the steep and icy slope. I would like to thank them for going well beyond the call.
|the west castle drive - newly passable with a 4x4|
This has been the most extreme winter since I bought the castle. It has never been so cold and the snow has never been so deep. The winter of 2010 was more prolonged with my dishes frozen in my sink for three months solid, but it only reached -15C.
|deepest snow in my recollection|
Of course, with the big thaw the plumbing inside the castle is now leaking and the roof leaks have re-opened up. The result has been considerable water damage, and some new plasterboard walls will have to be done again from scratch. This is the most demoralising situation: things are going backwards and I have to pay again for the same work to be done again. :-(
The cold temperatures managed to burst open two separate kitchen mixer taps! Neither my builder or myself have ever seen anything like this before: normally the weak points are the pipes themselves or the joints.
A few days ago my friend Paul kindly delivered some auction items round to the castle for me. His car couldn't quite make it up the drive due to the ice, so he carried each auction item up by hand, including a stuffed stag's head mounted on a plaque and a large glass case containing a stuffed gynandromorphic pheasant. It must have been exhausting! Just as he delivered the final auction lot by hand, a mutual friend drove up to the front door of the castle in a their 4x4! Again huge thanks for going beyond the call. I was not around at the time, so could not have helped - just in case anyone wants to make me feel guilty, lazy or both. :-)
Gynandromorphic, I feel, requires a definition. This is an animal that is partly male and party female. In this instance, the head is male and the body is female. Greg suggested a "cut and shut" job, a phrase which I had to look up. :-) However, I suspect this is very much the real deal, and I like to think that Balintore embraces the gender fluid, in a way that doesn't bend to the current fashion. So if you ever visit the castle and wish to be introduced to the resident gender-fluid pheasant (Victor/Victoria as I have named them) then I would be only to happy to make the introductions.
|Victor/Victoria - the castle's only gender fluid pheasant|