Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Big Houses

My chum Ellie is married to a lovely man who has a nice old house in the Scottish Borders - rather like Westerton for those of you that know it, and in a similar area - it's wonderfully eccentric inside, but virtually devoid of furniture at the moment. So Ellie filled it with actors from The Actor's Temple, doing Chekhov. Abigail and her sister Alex and I drove up in a sick pimp electric blue convertible car - was it a peugeot of some sort?? It was ghastly, yet hilarious. And we watched the show. I love The Three Sisters, so it was no chore to zoom so far to see it, and the three of us had a fantastic time, and camped in a walled garden in the grounds of the house.

After the show we drove around and got tangled up with a load of bikers on a memorial ride. Once upon a time there was a biker called Steve Hislop. He was someone I was very aware of growing up on the Isle of Man, and he died in a helicopter crash in The Scottish Borders at 41 after winning the TT something like 11 times. So the roads were completely blocked with fans from all over the place, all in their leathers and stinking and drinking, and occasionally exploding. Which was a problem as two of them chose to explode close to where we were heading so we had to change our plans. We were going to go and see a waterfall called The Horse's Arse colloquially, and The Mare's Tail in the guide books. All the roads were closed as they picked up the pieces. So instead we went for a drive and found a fucking huge great tibetan buddhist temple. In the middle of the gloom of the Scottish borders. Complete with big gates and a wishing tree and Buddhas galore and prayer wheels and peacocks. So I went and sat cross legged for a while with Abi and Alex and emptied my mind of bad thoughts as far as I could manage in the time I had.

The next day took us to Alnwick House and Gardens in Northumberland. This is testament to marriage being important for the aristocracy. The Duke of Northumberland is known as "the reluctant duke." He didn't want to be duke, we are told by a volunteer helper-person. He just had greatness thrust upon him. "Dammit," thought he. "It is my desire to sit in my pants and watch daytime television. It is my will to shoot small birds. I need not this house and grounds to maintain." Thankfully, the Duke had married the great goddess Gaia. She squeezed people until all their money fell out and then used it to build an incredible garden - and she's still at it. There's a poison garden where she has managed to wrangle permission to grow hemlock and weed and various opiates for educational purposes. There's a water garden where she has persuaded a water artist to come and show off his structures. The structures are great, but the explanations are disappointingly pretentious and uninformative. There's a huge great big landscaped fountain which jets off blasts of water every half an hour. There is a great deal to see, and much more planned. All said it was a great stopover and if you're around Northumbria pop by. There's even a big treehouse where you can eat in a lovely looking restaurant with a fire in the middle and a chef that ought to be hanged drawn and quartered for serving such horrendously mediocre food in such a wonderful location.

Weekends rock.

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