We are beginning to wind our Inshriach days down. Unfortunately some of us find our own personal mechanisms are waning too – a cold/virus which has been hanging around me during the week smites me down on Friday night and I keep to my bed on Saturday and much of Sunday. Charlotte too is feeling rough; this is hard as the Perrymans must pack up and head for Aberdeen airport to catch their flight early Saturday afternoon. Over the weekend all the adults start sneezing and feeling below par.
The Easter Egg hunt takes place on Good Friday. It is a short-lived frenzy during which many eggs are retrieved from hiding places in the house. They are piled onto a platter and then divvied up, together with three large chocolate rabbits. Each family has its carrier bag stash to take home. That evening Charlotte cooks a delicious three-course dinner, the last meal for the assembled before we begin to disperse.
Another last minute enterprise is trout-fishing. Dan is delighted to indulge in a past pleasure and takes enough fish from the small lake below the house to provide Saturday night’s dinner. Lucy and Walter are invited and I am so sorry to feel below par, and unable to join everyone at the long table in the hall. Lanquishing in the four poster bed above them all, I hear the sounds of clacking cutlery and happy chatter. The children all rise to the occasion.
On Sunday evening Dan, Barney, Lukie and the children join the ‘sleeping train’ at Aviemore. On Easter Monday Nick and I slip away early for the long journey home. Neither of us feels at all well, but we drive our way north to south and fall in our front door. It will be a good few days before we both feel we have shaken ourselves free of the virus.
Inshriach is a rattling big house but the kitchen is where it is at. The children target this room in the morning, hoping to find, at no matter how early an hour, at least one adult in residence. Breakfasts are a protracted affair, cereals followed by hot dishes cooked to order. The breakfast session may last three hours.
The long table allows children to spread paper and pencils and jigsaws at one end whilst food preparation goes on at the other end. Despite earlier intentions, adults tap into their keyboards intermittently. Dan downloads footage as he goes. The children tinker competently with iPhones and iPads.
The arrival of Billy, school-friend of Dan, was an excuse to go Spanish. He taught Sam how to make tortillas and he made us a heavenly Paella for supper. A spontaneous jam session with some kitchen pans and lids produced some percussive accompaniment to spotified music. The children learnt to dance YMCA and Radio Gaga.
Essentially, if you need to know what is happening, or where, or what’s next you just need to check in with the powers that be propping up the Aga.
Imagine our amazement when we awoke to an Arctic landscape on Tuesday morning. Stealthily through the night that lovely white stuff that gives kids and grown-up kids so much pleasure cloaked our immediate environs and the mountains beyond. Having slept in bedrooms with drawn curtains, the children’s jaws dropped when they trickled down into the kitchen and looked out of the windows.
This snow might mean some rescheduling for the movie short we will be filming this week. However Dan is ever known for his ability to work with the conditions he finds, and the mercurial moods of children who may, or may not, feel like donning costumes to do his bidding. It seems that Haribo is an ever ready encouragement to pull out the best performances!
Charlotte is pressed into service as make-up mistress by putting her cosmetics to a rather unconventional use. With the addition of some talcum powder she transforms two of her nephews and one of her nieces into pallid lost souls! Then it is off to the woods for a bit of shooting…………
………… in this Big Rambling House and the housemates have agreed that all electronic devices should be banned from the kitchen table! Accordingly the dining room which has hitherto never been used by us in previous years – the long refectory table in the galleried hall is much preferred for our big meals – is pressed into service. You might think this would affect a skeleton subset of inmates (the adults) but every young member of the clan is well versed in the possibilities of iPhones, iPads and notebooks of various kinds to provide games, stories and drawing Apps. Unfortunately we find that the flaky wireless signal does not work well across on the other side of the house. We will work around this.
On Day 2 the Perrymans tipped up having flown from London to Aberdeen. Charlie could hardly wait for Ted to arrive and since then they have been inseparable. They share a bed with a pillow down the middle since one of them is a restless sleeper. It works well. The children all get along very well too, breaking down into smaller groups who devise their own games. Sometimes they just race around the house, which fortunately is built to sustain it. As we sit in the kitchen we hear their joyous voices in the far reaches of the house and every now and then their brouhaha reaches a crescendo as they race past the kitchen door. The house is also brilliant for hide and seek.
A quick rummage in my games cupboard at home before we left revealed an ancient set of Spillikins which is a great hit. We are also playing Newmarket, noughts and crosses with Thomas the Tank Engine tokens and Dan teaches me and Sam how to play Texax Hold ‘Em Poker;)
As usual the ‘swede’ we expected to produce has been changed. Despite the opportunities afforded by a journey north on the overnight sleeper, and Platform 9 and 3/4 at King’s Cross Station, for a Harry Potter production…………. the boys decide that the promised sequel to last year’s Zombie production must be delivered. As I sit at the kitchen table blogging up our doings Dan sits opposite working on the script and somehow we must weave the owl that Elisabeth specially made for us into the plot! The embargo on electronic devices in the kitchen has been abandoned!
It’s the Easter Holidays which means one thing for the Lights. Inshriach awaits an invasion. This year subsets of our group employ all means of travel. Most of the children accompany three adults who travel on the sleeper from Euston to Aviemore. The Perrymans opt to fly and hire a car. The old-timers drive themselves, provisions and family luggage the 550 miles needed to traverse this British Isle south to north to reach the Cairngorm National Park.
Nick and I have planned to leave early on the Saturday. Turning in at 10 p.m., we wake at 3 a.m. and are under way by 4.30. This means we cover the Dorset, Wiltshire roads before traffic has begun to clutter our route. We arrive at 2 o’clock in the afternoon just in time for the first activity.
There is an Open Day for wood carving on the estate, featuring WoodenTom. In a sheltered knoll of a small woodland across the fields an informal demonstration of wood carving delights the children and adults for an hour or so. All the larger work benches (vice, shave horse) have been constructed on the spot, as has the structure which forms a shelter for the tea-room.
There in the slightly chilly sunshine and under supervision, the children are shown how to, and are allowed to use the tools. On the way back to the house we swing by the hen-house to top up our egg supply, Joel feeds the hens. Meanwhile Barns has got three chickens roasting and a tray of vegetables. Whilst he preps the meal, games of my ancient set of Spillikins are played. I found the card tube of wooden sticks whilst tidying the toy cupboard at WK.
Dinner is eaten round the table in the dining room by hungry people. Baths, stories, bed…………. the routine is pretty familiar by now and once the children are abed Dan gets a chance to teach me how to play Texas Hold’em Poker. Nick and I sleep like logs.
As the vehicles disappear down the drive, we go back into the house and then take ourselves off for a walk.
Maddy and Andrew have yet to see the farthest reaches of the estate. Reaching the point where a kink in the Spey widens the river, and causes small eddies to form, we pass through the gate and follow the river bank along. We pass through a tract of conifer forest, the floor of which is uncharacteristically soft and lushly green with long grasses and mossy mounds. Passing a small cluster of houses we turn east and regain the road and walk back to Inshriach. At the point where the house becomes visible through the trees we cut into the grounds and seek out the knoll and rounded ‘bowl’ which forms the core of The Insider festival which takes place in June.
Back at the house we take some time out in our rooms. Surfacing from a light sleep, I hear voices outside and later Andrew tells us he heard children’s voices in the house. After a simple supper cooked by Maddy, we watch a film then retire.
All packed up and ready to roll, Nick seeks out Lucy and Walter. Goodbyes are lengthy and we eventually drag ourselves away. Such a happy week, full of fun and good memories.
After a week of intermittent fun, frolic, filming and feasting it is time to break the Inshriach fellowship for another year. Most of us will be dispersing on Sunday so we plan the Easter Egg Hunt for Saturday. By happy coincidence, to complement the Lindt chocolate bunnies that I have bought for the children, Maddy and Andrew have gifted a large Thorntons rabbit. We concoct a hunt which involves the children finding the named children bunnies which the mother rabbit has lost. As it is raining the lost bunnies are hidden around the house, together with some small foil-wrapped eggs. Once all are found we ceremoniously break the large mother rabbit and a chocolate fest ensues.
After a sustaining brunch before the young leave on their departure day, there is another ceremony: ‘Balloon-Bursting’. These balloons have seen good service as Zombie heads, characters in Dan’s cast for his movie short ‘The Rise of the Dead’. Once Charlie and Ruby see what is afoot they are having none of it. Their balloons are hastily taken back into the house for later despatch.
With much hugging and kisses our children and grandchildren say goodbye to each other, to us and to Lucy and Walter. And then there were four. Maddy, Andrew, Nick and I take ourselves out for a walk………
Our trips to Inshriach involve several set pieces. One involves a dinner cooked for us by Allan Heaney at the house, and to which the two eldest grandchildren are invited. It will probably be a year or two before the next in line are old enough to join us. Sam and Joel enter into the spirit of the evening, wheeling out their best manners on all fronts. Sam gamely tried not just one, but two of Dan’s oyster chasers.
The previous evening we fetched Fish and Chips from Aviemore and were able to eat it outside, on the upper slopes beside the small lake in the grounds at Inshriach. After, we lit a fire in the hearth and burnt our waste paper and cardboard. A lovely interlude and no washing up 🙂
Once a year Walter puts on a festival at Inshriach known as The Insider. Perhaps it was during one of these events that a rather high swing came into being. It is simple enough, consisting of a long rope with a loop at the end for the foot and some knots at hand height to grasp. It is two-stranded and is suspended from branches on two very tall Silver Birch trees. There is a launch-pad at the top of the steep slope from which you swing out into the blue, to the margin of your comfort zone, or possibly beyond!
Nick and Andrew gave it the strength test……… but not together! During the course of the week, the children all had several goes. Indeed there were requests daily to be taken to the swing, which activity was closely supervised. It must have been an exhilarating feeling as you swung out with the ground falling steeply below. One of our number took to it like a bird to flight, and looked just as graceful as she soared away, appearing, in one of my photos, to skip along hilltops.
Will it be there next year??