‘Remember the kid’s rhyme ‘I’m the king of the castle and you’re the dirty wee rascal.’? I can remember shouting it out from the ridge of our garage roof. You can tell I wasn’t the pretty princess type – Slaying the dragon was more my style.
But I did want to live in a castle (who hasn’t dreamt of that at some stage?)
And when I was about 10 the chance came…
A lovely castle – not really old – built in 1808, but suitably castle-shapedand situated not too far from where we lived, came up for sale.
This to me was a happy coincidence, as my parents were looking for a new house at the time. The asking price for the castle was a staggering £12,000, which was only £5,000 more, well ok, nearly double their budget, but it came with 170 acres of land. As far as I was concerned it was sorted. As far as they were concerned there were a few small problems…
1. How to heat it? (without bankrupting themselves)
2. How to carpet and furnish it?(ditto)
3. How to get to work from it? (without having to leave at the scraich of dawn)
4. How to hoover and dust it all? (and have time to do anything else)
I did try to give them a very good (in my opinion) argument to counter all their quibbles – but somehow the business acumen of a 10-year-old didn’t seem to quite cut it. For the record, I thought the accompanying land could easily have been rented out to some neighbouring farmer to cover the doubled mortgage. They thought more of the difficulties of how to convince the bank to lend them the money in the first place.
Why is it parents have forgotten how to dream? Anyway, as you’ll probably realise, they didn’t buy it and my dream remained just that.
From time to time we passed through the village where the said castle is, and I could never resist looking down the drive and feeling like a fisherman thinking of the ‘one that got away’. And as children do, couldn’t resist reminding my parents (yet again) of their lack of foresight in passing on the opportunity to live there.
One consequence of their failure became evident when I drove past one day and found that the new owners, whoever they might be, had put an (in my opinion, monstrous) glazed extension on the side of the castle that faced the road. It was a bitter blow to think that my parents could, indeed would, I’m convinced, under my tutelage, have saved the castle from that. Now anyone who knows me well, knows that architecture is one of my ‘things’, has been since I was about 5 years old, and I am particularly passionate about buildings not being scarred by inappropriate additions. I am not anti-modern architecture per se, and there are architects whose work I have loved ever since I studied History of Art and Design at ‘A’ Level – Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright, to name but two, but it irritates me even to look at additions that don’t either fit or complement an existing building. ‘The phrase ‘monstrous carbuncle’ comes to mind, though that is probably the first and last time I will ever quote Prince Charles…
A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit another rather lovely little castle, as part of my research for the Munro series of novels. It has a picture postcard, fairytale exterior, and dates from 1625, though sadly much of the interior was remodelled in Victorian times. It is also a very liveable, family-sized castle, and I do hope to use it in my novels when I reach that period.
If you have children who have watched the programme ‘Danny’s Castle’, it was filmed here, in fact, they were setting up for filming on the day I visited. (I clearly missed a trick when I was trying to badger my parents into buying a castle, for that option for essential, additional income didn’t occur to me.)
‘The person who currently owns and lives in this castle is descended from the original Plantation family and was able to pass on some legends about it, at least one of which is so delicious that it will definitely make it into my book when the time comes. (I had intended to be in 1625 by now, but some of my main characters, by going walkabout to France, have delayed me.)
And that first castle of my dreams? Well … years on my father now admits that, yes, as things turned out, it would have been a sound economic proposition to buy it, and he rather wishes he had…
Two books in the Munro series are available Turn of the Tide and A House Divided, no 3, as yet untitled (I really struggle with titles) should be out by February, having been further delayed by Katharina: Deliverance, a novel based on the life of Martin Luther’s wife, timed to coincide with the Luther 500 anniversary on 31st October.