Wednesday, 7 September 2022

Beware the Marsupial Screams


a Sugar Glider doing its thang

I hadn't seen my good friend Damian for ages due to Covid, and when I received a dinner party invitation at Bardmony House, I asked if I could bring him along. The hosts Britt and Chris were fine with this, and now we were a party of two hosts and two guests which is a good mix for conviviality.

We had an amazing evening. One indicator is that we only managed to drag ourselves away at 1AM. :-) I then drove Damian back to his house in Dundee,  and it had been pre-arranged that I would sleep on his sofa rather than drive all the way back to the castle.

During the dinner party, we got to taking pets, and Damian said he didn't have any. I begged to differ and pointed out that he had 4 Sugar Gliders. These are small uber-cute, flying marsupials. Strictly speaking they glide rather than fly using their patagia, or gliding membranes, which extend from foreleg to hindleg.

"Oh yes." said Damian, "There is something I should tell you. The Sugar Gliders are temporarily in a large mesh cage in the living room, instead of their usual glass vivarium, which means that, er, there may be a bit of a smell while sleeping on the sofa.". Sure enough, as I headed to bed there was a bit of a smell, but it quickly disappeared as I got used to it and the odour was not going to disturb my night's sleep.

However, I had an incredibly disturbed night and I "thought" I could hear the Sugar Gliders squeaking at high volume at intervals. As I came to in the morning, I reached the conclusion that the squeaking was in my head, because this is not the sound Sugar Gliders make and somehow my imagination had conjured up the squeaking because my brain knew I was sleeping beside four cute marsupials. Sugar Gliders make a sort of quiet electronic chirrup called "crabbing" when they don't want to be handled, which I was familiar with.

Anyhow, Damian told me that his wife had reported that all four of the Sugar Gliders were squeaking loudly all night, and that she sent her apologies. This had never happened before. Occasionally, a single Sugar Glider would scream/squeak (which is their alarm signal). This would cause the remaining three Sugar Gliders to freeze and face in the direction of the alarm call.

Anyhow, Sugar Gliders are nocturnal. Imagine waking up and finding that a strange man was sleeping next to you - it would make me scream too! :-) I am a very deep sleeper, so I suspect I did not fully wake-up, but moved to that in-between realm, where thoughts and dreams mingle indistinguishably

Sunday, 31 July 2022

Book Review: Downton Shabby

With my ear to the ground for other infeasibly overambitious restoration projects, the case of the imperilled Hopwood Hall outside Rochdale and its eponymous saviour Hopwood DePree cannot have failed to make it onto my radar. As soon as it did, I immediately sent a message of support. This was in 2017.

The story behind Hopwood's involvement in saving the building, as an Hollywood producer resident in LA, is a remarkable one. So remarkable in fact, that as the plot of a Hollywood movie, it would stretch credibility. Growing up in the U.S., Hopwood's grandfather told him tales of a family castle in England. Hopwood, took these just as stories, but later in life after his grandfather, and indeed father had passed away, some late-night wine-fuelled web-surfing revealed the reality of the rapidly disintegrating Hopwood Hall. This was the long lost family castle, dating from 1420.

On Hopwood's first visit, he realised he would be changed by the building and made a commitment to do what he could to save it. Hopwood's account of the story "Downton Shabby" has just been published, and I realised it was a "must read" for me. I finished the book last night.

Downton Shabby - The Book

This blog article is purely a book review, in the context of my own restoration project. Previous blog book reviews may be found here.

There are endless resources on the Web if you want to find out more about Hopwood and "his" Hall. Naturally, Hopwood is not publicity shy: there is a vlog; a comedy stand-up tour (not joking!); a website and now this book, which has in turn caused a minor media storm. Here's a good starting place for web-surfing, wine-fueled or otherwise:

"Downton Shabby" is written with a light touch, and is very much an "entertainment". There is not a great amount of self-reveal, but enough to ground the book in reality. Hopwood starts to look into surrogacy as a way of having children as he gets older, but then withdraws for the present as the hall demands his full attention. He is drawn back into the Hollywood-life every now and again, and clearly still wants to have relevancy there amongst his crazy circle of friends, but ultimately realises where his soul is more nourished, despite the damp and cold of Salford. It is a compelling tale of self-discovery.

The best and funniest parts of the book are the accounts of his clashes with British culture. You can't help but fall in love with his builder Bob, who is forever making jokes at Hopwood's expense - and Hopwood comes to realise that this "culture of insult" is very much the British way and even learns to love it himself.  Hopwood is embraced by the British aristocracy and British establishment, themselves encumbered by crumbling stately piles. They generously provide help, advice and friendship. While Hopwood often feels out of place and not worthy in their company, it is a tribute to the quality of the man that he is open and non-prejudicial, in a way that perhaps only a foreigner can be.

There were many resonances with Balintore Castle: the cold, the discomfort, the despair, the scale of works required. I found reading anything on dry-rot intensely uncomfortable, and had to speed read these passages. I related to Hopwood's heartache when vandals destroyed historic fabric: during my tenure at Balintore historic fabric has been destroyed too, and I also cried.

In particular, I related to the life-changing journey. His total involvement with the building has spanned almost 10 years now. This ramped up in 2017 when he took responsibility for the building from Rochdale Council. Continuing with a restoration in the longer term can be more difficult than starting off, particularly when light cannot be seen at the end of the tunnel. It took 12 years before there was a single habitable room at Balintore Castle. This was not the way I had planned things to go at all, but there were Council prohibitions, and the despair this caused was huge.

Anyhow, it looks like Hopwood really is in it for the long term, and his persistence has turned around many of the doubters that appear in the book. Hopwood insists throughout that the restoration is not an individual effort, and even guiltily confesses to claiming the use of the word "we" even though the only thing he is "hands on" with, a lot of the time, is the keyboard. Anyhow, I wish him and his team the best of luck.

And if it is in any doubt, "Downton Shabby" is heartily recommended. It is far better than it has any right to be. :-)

Hopwood Hall as first spotted by Hopwood on the Internet

a current Hopwood Hall interior

Tuesday, 12 July 2022

Hitting The Wall

Four times in my life I have had to clear out a freezer that has been switched off. On each of these occasions, the power had been off for such a long time that the process was traumatising. And, as if this wasn't bad enough, on each of these occasions I was not the one had switched the freezer off in the first place.

Three years ago, my builders switched off my freezer at the castle, while I was away at my house in Oxfordshire. I returned and was extremely upset because this was the third time they had done the freezer switch-off while I was away. On each previous occasion the contents were ruined and the appliance was a write-off.

I told my builders that this time they would have to empty the fridge, because it was not my fault i.e. whoever switches the fridge off must take the responsibility of emptying it. However, the builders did not empty the freezer, instead they simply taped it shut with duck-tape.

Roll 3 years forward to May of this year. When I returned to the Balintore after attending a funeral, the fridge was standing in front of the castle. Some American students were helping out with the restoration, and clearly my builders had instructed them to take the freezer out of the building.

There it stayed like a grey Neolithic monolith from your worst nightmares, until two days before the Open Day in June. I felt obliged to comment to Gregor: "This is not a good look for the Open Day". When I next passed the front of the castle, the fridge was on its back lying on the flat bed of my pick-up truck, and Gregor commented "You can just take it to the tip like that". "You cannot possibly do that to another human being, Gregor, you have to empty it", I replied. Gregor said he was not able to do it and left the scene. It is true that he has an overpowering gag reflex in response to smell. We have cleared blocked drains together in the past, and Gregor was retching throughout.

There was no alternative. I mounted the truck and removed the duck tape. The smell was indescribable. I started removing the slimy contents item by item and placing them in either  a plastic bag or a food bin (if biodegradable).  I have an exceptionally strong stomach, but even I was retching. In fact it was so appalling I went to fetch Gregor to help me, but he refused. I had started by climbing up to the fridge, removing an item, and the climbing down again to bin it. However, I realised that I had to somehow speed up the process otherwise I would not last the course. I placed a large sheet of polythene on the ground, which allowed me to throw the contents from the back of the truck.

There were the remains of around 12 brown trout, sections of the rear end of a Roe Deer, a chicken, some kind of game bird, a joint of beef and mince. Many of the items were simply unidentifiable. Oddly, I realised that a surprising number of the items were not as decomposed as you might think after three years, because the fridge had been sealed and this had stopped quite a lot of micro-organisms and larvae from doing their work. So the fish were still intact and strangely firm but had a revolting slimy surface. So there was structure, but the smell of death and decay was overpowering.

I would have rinsed the fridge out, left to my own devices, but as it was flat on its back, water would have just stayed in the appliance, so I guiltily realised I has no strength physically or mentally to move the freezer to the upright position again and rinse it out. Emptying the fridge and disposing of the remains in the forest had taken a long time and it was getting late in the day.

Gregor drove me to Forfar tip so he could man-handle the freezer off my pick-up for me. This was much appreciated, given my bad back.

As Gregor was doing this, an employee of the tip came rushing up and challenged "Is there anything in that freezer?". Gregor was able to say, in all honesty "No there isn't". The employee was not convinced, "Tape is generally a warning sign that there is food still in there". He started approaching the unit. I was in the passenger seat muttering over and over again under my breath: "Don't open the door! Don't open the door!", but of course I could not say anything out loud and admit our guilt.

The employee opened the door. The wall of putrefaction hit instantly, he recoiled backwards six feet, and from the depth of his soul exclaiming loudly "Oh, my God!". He had just enough composure to slam the door closed again, but was obviously in too much of a state of shock to do or say anything else, and Gregor and I drove off taking this window of opportunity to leave the scene of the crime.

If there had been any food in the unit, then it clearly would not have been accepted, so I was right to go against Gregor's exhortations of just dumping it contents and all from a practical point of view, let alone the moral one of course.

So my apologies go out to the Forfar employee, I did the best I could. The morale of this story, kiddies, is that if you switch a freezer off, then you have to empty and clean it yourself. I can assure you that if you had to go through what I went through, then you will never, ever do it again.

I have some graphic images of the fridge contents, but I will spare you with this single photograph taken at the least traumatising angle.


disposing of the bodies

Sunday, 19 June 2022

Jubilee Bake Off

One of the fun "Open Day" events was a "Platinum Jubilee Bake Off", suggested by friend of Balintore Emma. For my sins, I have never watched a single episode of "The Great British Bake-Off" on TV, and was nervous about the amount of organisation that might be required given how much else was happening on the Open Day. However, I rationalised it was all about sampling cakes and pontificating - what's not to like? :-)

one of the entries - yums !

The judging was at 12:00 on the Open Day, and I invited Sara, the housekeeper, to be my co-judge, We were very impressed by the standard of the 6 entries during the tasting. Eventually, we retired to a private room to adjudicate. Sara and I had come to completely different verdicts in the 3 categories: best flavour, best presentation and the overall winner. This was a valuable education for me, for those times in life when you feel unfairly judged. Anyhow, during our discussions it became obvious that Sara and I had picked up the same strengths and weaknesses in the entries, and we were able to come to a joint decision perfectly amicably.

Best Flavour: strawberry meringues

A meringue is a common item, but these were in a different league - nothing short of perfection. Crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. 

strawberry meringues

Best Presentation: hedgehog macaroons

And yes we did feel guilty eating these as they looked so good and, er, cute!

hedgehog macaroons

Overall Winner: passion fruit gin and tonic cupcakes

I swore I would not be swayed by presentation and I am sceptical of the current lady-vogue for cupcakes, but the icing on these magnificent looking mini-sponges tasted amazing - beautifully balanced between sweet and sharp. Caitlin, our worthy winner, and is now booked in for a free night's stay at the castle's AirBnB!

passion fruit and gin and tonic cupcakes

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

Plantinum Jubilee Preparations

Thanks to Emma, Simon, Gregor and Liam for decorating the castle today! This is in preparation for the Balintore Castle Platinum Jubilee Open Day this Saturday. Bunting has been strung-up, flags are now fluttering in the breeze and balloons have been inflated. 

If you are looking for a free fun day out over the long Jubilee Weekend, then come along to the Balintore Castle Jubilee Open Day 10:00-20:00 on Saturday the 4th June. There is car-parking, food and drink, castle tours, family and kiddie-friendly activities.

The event is free, but admission is strictly and only by timed ticket, here.

Here are some of the special activities:

The Great Jubilee Bake-Off

Bring your home baking to the castle Servants' Hall by 12:00 on Saturday, when judging will occur. Marks will be awarded for presentation and taste. The overall winner's prize is a free night's stay in the castle's lovingly restored AirBnB accommodation.

Find the Queen's Crown Jewels

Thieves have hidden the Queen's Crown Jewels in the grounds of Balintore Castle. If you can find 5 of the 10 jewels, then the Queen (or loyal stand-in) will give you a personal reward.

Design Your Own Crown

All the materials are provided for you to make and decorate your own crown. And you get to wear the crown and take it home too. :-)

Queen's Canopy

Come and plant a tree in the grounds of Balintore Castle as part of the Jubilee Queen's Canopy Scheme. All necessary equipment and tree are provided. Why not dedicate the tree to a loved one?

the entrance tower

the servants' hall

the principal dressing room

the open day reception

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Gregor's Unwitting Bolection

I directed Gregor to install my smallest reclaimed marble fireplaces into the smallest bedroom at the castle. This is the attic room (RA17 in the plans) that we are currently working on. Gregor came back with a "It won't fit.", and sure enough the fireplace opening is in a very short diagonal stretch of wall, so there is no room for manoeuvre. I have around 8 reclaimed fireplaces and 8 reclaimed cast iron inserts and yet none of them would fit. I was in despair but had to rush off to attend to some other business.

When I came back, Gregor said "I have an idea". He showed me a reclaimed length of moulding (an architrave), and said "I could make you a fireplace out of this.". "The moulding would work as the legs, and I could put a slate shelf on the top.", he continued. 

I was astonished because Gregor had almost described what is known as a "Bolection Fireplace": a style of which I am very enamoured. Here, there is no shelf but the top and sides are made from the same deep moulding. It can provide a very elegant simple look, especially when executed in a rich marble.  

After catching my breath, I managed "Do you know what a bolection fireplace is?". Gregor admitted he didn't, and I explained that he had unwittingly invented it, and that I would be very happy for him to build me one. :-)

the fireplace opening needing a fireplace
a bona fide bolection fireplace - only £4500 on eBay

Gregor's DIY bolection fireplace

now with feet, coordinating green marble fender and stove

bolection with surrounding wall patched with plasterboard.

I had planned to use the small reclaimed green marble fender in this location, because it probably wouldn't fit anywhere else. However, now that the fireplace was bolection, there is a visual resonance as the fender is itself of a bolection design. And given the plain nature of the fireplace, the richness of the fender provides much needed class. We will be painting the fireplace to coordinate, but the colours are as yet un-sublimated.

Ironically, the marble of the eBay bolection fireplace is identical to that of the fender. The legs of the fender were not long enough, so Gregor made the bolection fireplace feet into which the fender could slot. We had one reclaimed narrow wood burner which would just fit onto the limited hearth area so this is what we used. It's funny how things come together.

The molding came from Brechin Castle's carpenter's workshop. Brechin Castle has been on the market for around 3 years, and keen-eyed auction watchers will have seen items from the castle for sale over this period as the Dalhousie Estate clears out the accumulation of centuries.

It's somehow fitting that Gregor has turned a door frame from Brechin Castle into a fireplace at Balintore Castle.

Saturday, 30 April 2022

Ann's Second Anniversary

The 20th of April this year marked the second anniversary of Ann's passing. She was a relative I discovered through the restoration of Balintore, and it is one of the joys of my life that we bonded instantly and became great friends.

Last Sunday (24th April) around 10 of her relatives drove over from Glasgow to put flowers on her memorial bench at the castle, which I had installed near the site where she had her ashes scattered.

In the typical Balintore farce fashion, the relatives were hammering on the castle's front door for around 30 minutes, but I did not hear them for such is the size of the building, so they headed off to a memorial lunch at the Airlie Arms in Kirriemuir without me.

I had been off social media for most of the day, but read their message just in time, so I did manage to join them for lunch - phew! And they bought my lunch for me - many thanks! :-)

My own family never marked anniversaries or left flowers, so this is all rather new to me. However, it is a lovely thing to to do.  With her family visiting and her flowers installed, it is like Ann is lingering about the castle with a stronger presence than usual, which feels comforting. And indeed before her daughter-in-law contacted me about the visit, I had been thinking of Ann with no notion that the second anniversary was imminent.

Sometimes, it takes time and healing to realise how important people have been to us, and my recent thoughts were very much along these lines.

I took this photograph today, and the flowers are still looking good after a week. At some stage I will bring the flowers indoors to consolidate the display as some flowers will inevitably wither before the others. This is very much a metaphor for consolidating the joys that departed people have brought us, back into our own souls.

Ann's second anniversary flowers

Friday, 29 April 2022

New Soft Furnishings

Thanks to friend of Balintore Violet for supplying the latest soft-furnishings to the castle! The basement kitchen which I have been using as a home office faces directly east, and over last winter the morning sun would shine directly into my eyes making working on my computer very difficult. My solution was to move a sheet of plywood around the window opening over the course of the morning. I realised that curtains would be a better as well as the more conventional solution. :-)

Violet delivered her home-made curtains this week after a final fitting for length last week which she wanted to do in situ, being very much the perfectionist. The fabric was going spare, so we were aiming for something functional and neutral in a kitchen space rather than a design statement. They may well have been re-fashioned from an older set of curtains (I forget) but Violet has done an excellent job in any case.

Below are photographs taken before and after the hanging. I was so eager to get the curtains up, I didn't remember to take a "before" until after the right-hand curtain had been hung.

before (ish)  curtain hanging

after curtain hanging

Now with the curtains closed at night the room is warmer and cosier looking. I don't think the human condition likes a big black void that is an un-curtained window at night.

Restoring the castle has made me appreciate soft furnishings for the first time in my life. Rich fabrics can transform an interior: from sterile and pedestrian to welcoming and sumptuous. Even plainer fabrics can soften an interior to good effect. Below is Violet's window seat cushion cover, also delivered very recently on the final curtain-fitting visit.

new window seat upholstery

For the first time, I have been resting my bottom here just for moments of comfortable contemplation. Normal houses take for granted things like curtains and window seat upholstery. However, when you are restoring a building as large as a castle, it is easy to overlook these niceties, but once installed you realise what you have been missing.

Friday, 22 April 2022

Painting Posse

As I had a quick run round the castle today to inspect the troops, I found Glen and Gregor on painting duty in one of the attic bedrooms. This room, which we have systematically though rather boringly called RA13 in the restoration plans, has been coming together quickly and I realised that there was a lack of "before" and "in progress" photos so I took this snap quickly to redress the balance.

the painting posse in room RA13 (click twice for VR panorama)

One of the biggest visual transitions is that first coat of paint, and a formerly derelict room starts to look habitable. In this photo the new plasterwork has been painted, and the remaining unpainted plasterwork is all of the original variety. You can see where the cracks have been filled. As time goes on, less and less wall in the castle retains that original beige colour.

We actually don't have an individual name for this bedroom, but today Greg came up with the "Lintrathen Suite" as the room overlooks the Loch of Lintrathen. Who knows if it will stick.

Sunday, 17 April 2022

The Bigger Bong

On Holy Saturday (yesterday), as I was driving friends to the castle from Dundee Station, I had a spontaneous idea to visit "Reekie Lynn" as this scenic attraction is on route. 

Reekie Linn waterfall

With the lighter evenings I had been planning a walk in the vicinity of castle anyhow, but passing "Reekie Lynn" was too good an opportunity to miss, as my friends had never been to this spectacular waterfall before.

In the picnic area between the car-part and the river, some New Age people (for want of a better term) had set up the biggest gong I had ever seen in my life, along with a brazier and other ritualistic paraphernalia.

Reekie Linn picnic area

I was filled with an overwhelming urge to bong the gong, and discussed with my friend the etiquette of asking. It was going to be a tricky call. "I'll ask on the return journey", I declared to postpone facing the music.

Reekie Lynn worked its customary magic: roaring cataracts are good for the soul. 

On returning from the precipitous walk to the falls, I wondered how I was going to broach the subject, and fortunately one of the party walked right past me, so I could throw in my opening gambit "Is this some kind of ritual?" before going in with my bong request.

Part of the lure is my gong at the castle, upon which I feel I have achieved a basic level of proficiency. Some guests stole my gong mallet, so I have ordered a modest replacement one on Amazon, which has still not arrived. It did not go past me that the large and fluffy mallets of the party were high end items, to which my budget did not stretch.

Anyhow, the group members were very friendly and welcoming, and my wish was granted. The sound was phenomenal, you could feel the vibrations passing through you. My own gong was well and truly out-bonged.

the bigger bong (OK, so not quite this big!)

The group was there for a full-moon ritual - yesterday was the date of the full moon - and I was able to throw in that I myself throw dinner parties on the full moon. My group bonding was complete.

I am not sure what my friends thought, but they did remark that it was not the normal sort of incidental sight-seeing. :-)

Friday, 15 April 2022

The Fife Arms on a Good Friday

Ever since Prince Charles officially re-opened the restored Fife Arms Hotel in Braemar on January 11th 2019, I have been wanting to visit. I bemoaned this shortfall to a friend at Balintore yesterday, and she said "Why don't we just visit tomorrow?". As today is Good Friday, there was no excuse and we set off on an expedition northwards via Glen Isla; then via Glenshee and snow-topped mountains, to the beautiful Highland village of Braemar.

entrance lobby with Freud

What is so special about the Fife Arms is that that the word "restoration" doesn't begin to address what has been achieved there. The owners, Iwan and Manuela Wirth, have given a sumptuous Scottish Baronial re-interpretation to this 1856 coaching inn, which was originally build for people who wanted to holiday in the same part of the country as Queen Victoria. So while parts of make-over could be called historically authentic; other parts would not look out of place in a fantasy film; and yet other parts could be called Scandi-Scot - a decorative style which is one of my bêtes-noirs. 

reclaim fireplace from house in Fife

The initial photographs I saw were astonishing, because the look was incredibly close to my vision for Balintore. It is rare to see a restoration of a building that tries to capture the mood of the past, all too often commercial concerns and associated Philistinism, result in inappropriate replacement with modern interiors. The only difference between the Fife Arms and Balintore Castle projects is budget :-). My understanding is that £40m was spent at the Fife Arms. Iwan and Manuela are incredibly successful and rich art dealers, and the walls of the hotel are covered with museum quality works of art. The Lucien Freud in the entrance lobby jumped out at me immediately.

taxidermy Capercaillie in restaurant

I have long wondered how I would respond to seeing the Fife Arms "in the flesh": modern art in historic interiors can jar, and as for Scandi-Scot, well, it can make me feel quite ill. :-) 

taxidermy Haggis in restaurant

However, I need not have worried. The interior of the Fife Arms is pitch perfect. It's eclectic but seamlessly blended, and the atmosphere is welcoming, warm, relaxing and there is a sense of joy created by the adventurous yet tasteful décor which you can immediately pick up from the other guests.

fireplace in restaurant

The front of house staff are universally friendly and efficient, and I realised that a high end establishment (the best suites are £2500/night in high season - other rooms are available) does not have to be intimidating, and indeed most are probably the very opposite of intimidating. It was a learning visit.

bedroom corridor with art

It helped that I had already danced with some of the staff at a Ceilidh in Dalwhinnie and indeed had cooked for them, but that's a whole other story! :-)

Victorian toilet porn

The use of bespoke fabrics for upholstery and as wall coverings; the use of richly patterned reproduction Victorian wallpapers and high end Victorian artworks and taxidermy made me somewhat envious. I would love to do this at Balintore, but budget precludes. I have to improvise instead with bargain auction items, and I have wondered if there might be a second decorative pass at Balintore if it ever could justify the extra expenditure.

bedroom interior

But all establishments are of themselves reflecting the story of their lineage of owners. Balintore is a remote private shooting lodge that hosted a small number of guests in some style and comfort. The Braemar Arms is a large commercial  coaching inn in the middle of town that would have seen a much greater foot-fall and turnaround.

taxidermy wall

taxidermy wall and sofa

hunting trophy ceiling and staircase


From the lunch menu, I chose Haggis, Neeps and Tatties for mains and Scottish Goats Cheese Curd Mousse for dessert: the latter as I am a promoter of dessert diversify and I had not seen this pudding before. The combination of flavours: ginger, fennel pollen and rhubarb, was novel and delicious. The secret to the most delicious neeps I had ever tasted, was that the Braemar roasts it in the oven first. My friend nobbled a staff member to tell all.

lunch menu

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Heimkino and Malted Mint Update

A image-rich but rather text-poor blog entry. I said I would provide some updates on the restoration of the Gentleman's Dressing Room and Aunt Nellie's Bedroom, and pictures are the best way of doing this.

In the Gentleman's Dressing Room, red velvet curtains and a pelmet have been installed over the home cinema screen in best picture palace tradition.  This was a last minute idea, so the pictures and mirrors that were planned for either side of the screen no longer had a place to go.

The two displaced mirrors have red velvet surrounds so was there any way they could still be included in this red velvet heavy room? As a pair on the only remaining available wall (the interior wall with the door), they were far too close together, but separating them with a stag's head and a smaller picture with a gold frame allowed them to achieve a symmetric balance by way of a central axis.

The stag, unimaginatively called "Big Fella", was picked up from a Yorkshire auction house and is a feature piece which makes the best of the high ceiling.

There is still some final placing of units to be done, but the chairs and sofas are now in fairly stable resting positions.

The grand opening of the home cinema is this Friday 1st April 2022, and my friend Andrew will be bringing along his newly acquired vintage 16mm projector with some films that were in the same auction lot. We may also do a rather more conventional MP4!

In fact, some friends turned up spontaneously last Saturday, so we had a dry run of the home cinema. We hastily wired up the surround sound system, and with wires trailing everywhere and the front right speaker still only firing on one cylinder, we watched the 1961 Disney "Greyfriars' Bobby". It is less well-known nowadays, but deserves a place in the canon of Scottish film classics featuring as it does the cream of Scottish acting talent of the time.

Gentleman's Dressing Room in near final configuration

home cinema screen replete with red velvet curtains and pelmet

Big Fella finally mounted on the wall

In Aunt Nellie's Bedroom, the first coat of "Malted Mint" has been completed, but it will need another to achieve full solidarity. I asked some visitors what they would call the colour, and they said "Mint" so I was greatly impressed. Gregor was less keen on the colour initially, but he says it has grown on him. Trying to stand well back metaphorically whist viewing the colour, I realised it was the perfect blend of the hill and sky colours outside the window.

first coat of Malted Mint: looking towards windows

first coat of Malted Mint: looking towards door