Sunday, 23 December 2012

Happy Christmas 2012

I would like to take this opportunity for wishing my blog readers, whether occasional or regular, a Happy Christmas for 2012, and a Happy New Year for 2013.

So how would I review the year that is almost past? For me, 2012 has seemed like a year on steroids, by which I mean events have powered me through the year without first asking if I wanted to get involved. For if asked, I would assuredly have given the answer "no". 

Most of my time away from work, has been spent embroiled in legal disputes. This is never a good thing. Past experience has told me to stay well away, yet I find myself currently and unwillingly with around 12 different cases on my hands. Most of these are connected with protecting the interests of the castle, when I would much prefer to devote my energies to the restoration. As legal matters emerge from subjudacy, I will be able to talk about them on the blog.

The most public matter was fighting the proposal to put a wind farm adjacent to the castle. Even after 5 years, the matter has stressfully not been settled one way or the other. This year Angus Council said "yes" to the development; the councillors overturned this decision and said "no"; and most recently the developers have submitted an appeal to the Scottish Government. My neighbours and I have rallied several times throughout the year, when our efforts were required. The Dundee Courier called my speech at the councillor's meeting an "impassioned plea": even this was an understatement. Such is the importance of the matter, that I almost burst into tears at this public meeting.

On the positive side, I was delighted to host a visit of my Canadian relatives to Scotland in the summer. This side of the pond, my family has largely died off, so you have no idea how important this visit was. They last visited Scotland when I was 11, er, quite some time ago, but I remember it so well. This time there was a new generation in tow, and the joys of laughing and joking in a family unit again cannot be underestimated.

It was a good opportunity to visit Balmoral Castle for the first time. Even though this is close to Balintore Castle, I have held off as the public only get to see one room inside the palace, and I would have felt short-changed on my own. As it turned out, we visited on a wonderfully sunny day, and the castle and grounds looked amazing. My Canadian relatives are market gardeners, and were entranced by the Queen's vast and immaculately tended flower and vegetable gardens. As a non-gardener, even I was impressed!  Despite looking large in films and TV, the Balmoral ballroom is tiny, and is barely much larger than the great hall at Balintore Castle which is just a shooting lodge rather than a palace. Did I gloat ? I should say so. :-)

What you can only experience by visiting Balmoral, is the way the stress of the outside world drops away as you walk through the entrance gates and up the long drive. It is unexpectedly magical. For the first time, I got a real sense of why the Royal family love Balmoral. And of course, Queen Victoria purposefully would have not wanted a large ballroom, as she escaped from and eschewed the formality of the court.

Other good news over the last year was landing contract work with a company, Schlumberger, that I had worked for before. It is strange rejoining a workplace after an absence of 5 years. There is an argument that one should never go back. I do not subscribe to this, as I was happy working there 5 years ago and if anything even happier working there today. Fortunately, I have a good memory and names came back to me, though often at the very, very last moment.  :-)

I will get back to full hands-on restoration in the spring, but for now funding has to be earned by a day job. Fortunately, my hardy builder keeps things ticking over at the castle in all weathers and seasons.

For my Christmas picture this year, I thought I'd finally stitch together a winter panorama taken in the grand saloon of the castle, during my original photographic survey of the building. While you may be wishing for a White Christmas; there should thankfully be no more White Christmases indoors for Balintore castle, as below.

Happy Christmas!


A White Christmas Past -  Indoors at Balintore Castle !