Nick and I have been given one of the bedrooms that contains a four-poster bed. It’s very high and we find it easiest to clamber up using the wooden storage chest at the bottom of the bed.
In the morning Nick and I are broached, bit by bit, in our bed in the sky. At some point Nick voyages to the kitchen below to fetch a mug of tea and I am left with 4 children and some story books. This is a cherishable moment.
We variously have cereal breakfasts and when all are set for a walk round the estate and down to the river, I am left with the house to myself. I hug the Aga, watch the red squirrels eating peanuts from the birdfeeder by the window and think I had better get on and trim the sprouts. But I have to judge when it is time to put sausages in the Aga to cook and get all the other brunch ingredients ready to cook for hungry walkers. Everyone tucks in and Lucy’s hens’ eggs are wonderfully yellow and tasty. Amelie says ‘This is egg is so nice, I’m going to die!’
There is rugby on in the afternoon, and assorted activities take place whilst the pork is readied for roasting and Lukie and Barney prep a root vegetable mountain. Somewhere around six o’clock we sit down to dinner, making sure to save plenty for the Sunburys. They eventually arrive about 7.45. It has been a long drive from Sheffield, longer in distance and time than they had reckoned. I am sitting on the sofa reading bedtime stories when Ted slides into place, on my lap, cocooned by cousins.
The following morning we get more stories in bed then it’s cereal breakfasts all round. Nick is away to Inverness airport to meet the Hackneys whose arrival has been delayed by snowstorms in New York, and the consequent cancellation of many flights. Dan was due back on Thursday but finally got his flight out on Saturday. When they arrive all fifteen of us sit down to jacket potatoes with various toppings, Nick’s bread, pates and pickles.
In the afternoon there is a walk round Loch an Eilein for most of our party. Ems and Charlotte go shopping in Aviemore and I opt to stay with the two girls. After a spell of colouring Lola and Amelie accompany me on a walk. We cross the lawn and walk up through the lightly wooded area and down the slopes to the river. We eventually reach a bend in the river where there are eddies and rapids. We ‘pooh’ a few sticks, then lob in a largish branch and watch it travel – crocodile-like – close to the bank, round the tight bend, pick up a drift of spume on its ‘head’ then spiral into one of the eddies. On the way back we chant ‘We’re following the leader’, scramble back up slopes and clamber over barbed stiles, with the promise of chocolate biscuits at the house to spur tired young legs on.
The others are ferried back from their loch-side walk and already the family Swede is at an early formative stage. We all came up here on the premise that we would be sweding The Sound of Music. But it’s clear that some of the potential cast think it would be much more fun to swede Star Wars. There is already thought about costume and props: I have some earmuffs which will provide Princess Leia with her distinctive hairstyle. A certain amount of brainstorming and internet surfing is set in motion.
We’ve made three fish pies with the fillet of Norwegian cod Nick brought back from his fishing holiday. After the children are fed from one, and then bedded, we eat ours. Weary ones (Ems and I) troop off to bed but the others burn some midnight oil on a Great Debate over the impact of the likes of Google, the i-Phone and just how far technology of this kind has gone, and might yet go.
But one thing had been decided. We are going to swede Star Wars.