Monday, 19 April 2010

Staying longer than to breakfast (2)



There was never any lack of house-guests at Cruachan, mostly fellow students and fellow members of the Southampton amateur dramatic society I belonged to, enjoying for a few days here and there what Deepest Nairnshire had to offer. To my great regret the delectably-bosomed Alison, who graced this blog several weeks ago, never made it so far north. In place of a visitors' book, which I still feel is an thoughtless imposition on anyone's regard for truth, the stair wall was turned into a place for any visitor to write whatever he or she wanted, lines of verse, observations on the neighbours, intimate and I suspect mostly invented confessions, lists of people the writer had come to escape from, horoscopes, cartoons, paradoxes, acrostics, arithmetical problems, or maybe just their signatures.

Later, when I was married and the flow of such guests stopped, this autograph wall was covered over with then-fashionable purple hessian. This pre-marital period was consigned to archaeology; the inscriptions are probably still there. By that time, too, many other things had changed. The old Laird died, and with him my £4 yearly rent. The new Laird, his son, said he was sorry, but times were hard and he found himself obliged to double the rent. My grandfather died, leaving me some money which I put towards installing 'the electric', water and sanitation. The Elsan was emptied for the last time, at dead of night, accompanied by appropriate verses from the Penitential Psalms. We put dormer windows in upstairs. We acquired the use of some overgrown waste land opposite to make a garden. The back garden was laid to vegetables and soft fruit. Every improvement, however welcome materially, was a step towards a dull respectability I occasionally had strong urges to burst out of. One stormy night the white-and-yellow porch, now sporting a set of antlers, blew down. Maybe this was a metaphor for this tendency to break out.

When these improvements were complete and Cruachan had become a family home instead of a part-time retreat for musicians, alpinists, Thespian sleepers by day and devotees of loud military music, the Laird sent his man of business round. I feared another doubling of the rent, but there was no such problem: for obscure tax reasons it was better for the Laird to offset the cost of the improvements against the rent. We lived in that house for a further ten years rent-free.

In due course she who was to become Mrs Blue Cat and mother of the Blue Kitten arrived. What had been the Elsan parlour became her bedroom. She's in the photo below, in the garden we made. The cottages pictured above were numbered, bizarrely, No. ½ (from extreme left to the door), No.2 (from the door to the right-hand drainpipe, where Cruachan started). Ours was officially No.3. So was next door the other side.

All this saga is leading up to the extraordinary story of the person who lived in No.½.

12 comments:

Dave said...

Is it still available, at that level of rent, do you suppose?

Christopher said...

I'm afraid it was sold after we left, Dave. Hard luck. Although we drove past it while we were in that part of the world the other day, I don't know who lives there now. It's possible that they may have experienced certain phenomena which the story that I'm going to unfold in the next few posts may help to explain.

Rog said...

Ten years rent free! What a charmed life you've led Christopher.

A "half and a half" used to involve my Uncle Jock downing dangerous quantities of alcohol I seem to remember.

Sarah said...

The suspense is killing me

Christopher said...

'A wee hauf an' a heavy' or 'a hauf an' a hauf' was very often a quick way to fighting oblivion: a pint or half-pint of heavy (i.e. bitter) with a Scots measure of whisky either poured into the beer or drunk separately as a chaser. I never tried it - did you, Rog? Did your Uncle Jock ever take you out for a bevvy in one of the local howffs?

Sarah: I'll do my best to oblige. Mind you, you look pretty relaxed in that hammock.

Rog said...

No but my Uncle Jimmy took me to a Rangers match and I was wearing my Grammar School Uniform.


I don't want to talk about it....

Christopher said...

Goodness, how gruesome. That sort of thing marks a lad for life. You seem to have a wealth of Scottish uncles - Jock, Jimmy, an' aiblins we'll be aye hearin aboot yer Uncle Tam and Uncle Dod, baith o' them Rangers supporters, it's just Uncle Walt disnae.

Spadoman said...

I'll be anxiously awaiting the tale of the 1/2 tennant as well?!?!
I've lived in many unique places, some we owned, (or were buying and paying a mortgage), and some we rented. The last great place was the cabin on the shore of the Great Lake Superior, (We dubbed this place The Cabinette), two rooms, a wood stove and a fabulous outhouse, all literally asteps from the water's edge.
Now here where I live, the chaser is the beer and the shot is the main course. You'd order a shot of, say, J. Bavet Brandy and a "snit". The snit, usually a small lowball or juice glass size serving of beer along with the shot of brandy. The beer is also referred to as a "beer back", (back up for your brandy?).
I don't drink per se, but I'd love to share wine or a few hoisted at a local pub with you and all the cohorts that visit here.

Peace.

Christopher said...

Hi, Spadoman. Despite immense pressures I don't think any of us have yet been driven to drink, but what would I know? I've only met one regular cohorticulturist in the flesh, but I expect we shall all meet up one day on that far shore, maybe not too far from The Cabinette, when everyone will talk at once, the wine and the jokes and the laughter will flow late into the heavenly night in the knowledge that there are no more headaches and you always feel fine in the morning.

Pax vobiscum

I, Like The View said...

purple hessian! how exciting. . .

am very intrigued to discover what happens next

ziGGi said...

Nice windows - it was what was missing defo. Now do please up and hurry with the low down about 1/2 - I can barely cope with the suspense.

Christopher said...

I was waiting till everyone was sitting comfortably and Rog's uncles had stopped singing those Proddy songs.