Tuesday, January 09, 2007

New Year, New Book, New Home

Well not quite, but my explanation for my long silence - more than a month - is that we are still involved in major renovations to our very own 'Scottish Home', then Christmas happened, and now I am in the middle of revising an old novel, and writing a new one, as well as formulating an idea for a brand new (and related) non fiction project. When you add to that the fact that we are also working on a relaunch of the whole 'Scottish Home' business, of which more soon, you can see that our feet have barely touched the ground although we did manage to celebrate a traditional family Christmas, with a real tree, holly and ivy, home made Christmas cake, mulled wine and all, in the midst of the upheaval.
To facilitate this, we moved heaven and earth to restore order to our poor house in time for the holidays. The new conservatory is finished, and our conservatory company have moved on to inflict their own particular brand of misery on some other householder. The building itself (more accurately called an 'orangerie' I'm told, because of its construction, though so far I haven't managed to acquire an orange tree) is beautiful. We had no quarrel with the tradesmen; just with the way in which the project was managed, or not managed to be more precise. It was worth it though, just to see it in all its glory with a traditional Christmas tree, big jugs of holly and ivy, fir boughs, candles, pine cones and all the trappings of a rural Scottish Christmas.
The candles came in really handy on Christmas day and again on New Year's Eve, when we had massive power cuts. On New Year's Eve, it was understandable, because it was blowing a gale right across Scotland. Christmas day, calm and fine, was far less explicable. There were several power fluctuations on Christmas Eve. Then we woke up on Christmas Morning to find all the power off. It came back on at 8.30 and went off again at 10.30.
There is no piped gas in our village, only the bottled variety. A few Agas. People were rushing about with turkeys and other joints of meat, like in Dickens' day. My sister in law, who was doing the family Christmas Dinner was one of them. Her daughter has a gas oven, but it's hard to light them without ... well yes, without electricity. Power was restored at 1.30pm in good time for the sprouts and the bread sauce. Still no explanations forthcoming from Scottish Power.
Our old house looks lovely by candlelight, as though this is the way it was meant to be seen. The four hundred year old oak press, with its rich and varied colouring, and wonderful patina looks even better. We set small candles carefully along the 'candle shelf' for Christmas Eve. I remember sitting chatting to the last few guests, watching it out of the corner of my eye, and thinking how very alive it looked at this time, and in this mellow, magical light. When first we bought this piece of furniture, I said that it felt like having an elephant in the kitchen; it was so huge and so strange. There was something very disturbing about it. Now it has settled in, and I find it not just beautiful but inexplicably comforting. There's a tactile, human quality to it. You can lean against it, breathing in the scent of ancient oak and beeswax, and feel in tune with its intricate past, with the hands that made it and polished it. Time has no meaning, and there is something infinitely reassuring about such a presence in a domestic setting.

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