Today marks two months since Arbigland House became ours. It also marks our
breakthrough to the outside world with a BT landline and an internet of sorts. I will miss walking over to the little museum at John Paul Jones’ birthplace (JPJ being the “Father of the US Navy”) or driving down to the “Steamboat Inn” to get onto the internet.
There have been moments in these last two months when we have felt that we were
involved in our own episode of “Escape to the Chateau” on Channel 4. Though in a better state of repair than most of the Chateaux featured in that programme, Arbigland House and its 24 acres of garden have their fair share of quirks. For starters, we have a roof that looks like a scale model of the Alps and we would like to establish how water gets into the main staircase so we can stop it before winter sets in. Now the weather is Mediterranean, but the locals keep warning us “Wait till October”.
Then there is the hot water system, or should I say, systems. We have an oil-fired boiler in the lower ground floor that looks as if it could power the new “HMS Queen Elizabeth”. However, it only runs the central heating. There is a separate, but slowly dying, Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) boiler for all the baths and basins in the House, except for the top floor. That has a separate electric immersion heater, as does each of the three showers on the main bedroom floor, and then there is the LPG Aga in the kitchen. I make that seven systems in total and that is before turning to the cottages in the Stable Yard.
In the Gardens, we are out to trap the grey squirrels and, I am afraid, kill them, because red squirrels continue to play around the House – indeed we are supposed to supply them with suitable food in feeders to keep them going. However, I am not sure whether, through the careless eating habits of the red squirrels, the main beneficiaries of these feeders may not be some very plump and contented rabbits. They are the object of a defensive war of Wayne’s who has been strengthening the gates and netting to the vegetable cage. And as for the moles… but I will not upset your delicate “Wind in the Willows” sensibilities.
There are moments in the “wee small hours” when I wonder what on earth we have taken on. Then I wake to look out across the fields of cows (very Albert Cuyp) to the Solway Firth; shave to the sight of deer grazing in the pasture leading down to Southerness Lighthouse and the Irish Sea; or stand on the beach in the evening as the sun sets behind our own local mountain, Criffel, casting a pink hue over the Cumbrian Hills and turning the sky the most extraordinary shades of red, blue and turquoise. Yes, then I remember why we fell for this beautiful corner of the British Isles.