Thursday, June 22, 2006


GAIRN PARK (Part 1) June 21

From the back of the house you can see very far, twenty five miles or so of rolling hills and meadows. Closer to home several cows raised their heads and stared at us. But my eyes were drawn to a large patch of land scorched by weedkiller to prepare for a gardening project. Rows of potatoes, cabbages, leeks, carrots and whatever would grow there – room for just about everything. And with the open skies, and ten hours of daylight during the summer, several crops could grow in succession. Also – so much sky. On a clear winter night a close view of stars, a busy telescope, and the occasional blaze of Aurora Borealis. Then there was the network of nearby forest trails. To cure cabin fever you could step outside and lose yourself among the trees.

Lady Amber was looking at the house, a large modern-looking stucco structure. On the web she’d been scanning sandstone cottages at least 200 years old and converted steadings, so this house didn’t fit the mold. While we waited for the owner to arrive, she walked over to a complex of sheds lower down, that turned out to be horse stables. One stall was converted to a workshop, the others stored what looked like Mardi Gras memorabilia.

Roy appeared, a man with a reddish complexion. friendly, but cautious as he observed us. Pat, our realtor companion, told us earlier he was a “loon” – in Aberdonian a country kid – not necessarily crazy. Only after we entered the house did we see that whoever designed the place had an artist’s eye, so that the interior blended perfectly with the exterior. In the living room only a wall of glass separated you from the hills and yes – it had a fireplace for real wood and coal, a flame your heart would long for in the middle of Winter. As I stood looking at it, I heard Amber shriek next door, and found her in the dining room, pointing at a bar surmounted with bottles. A metallic Texas star stared at us from the front, and the bumper sticker, “Texas is bigger than France.” Och aye, the present tenants were as Texan as they come.

Walking through each room we saw how the outside connected with the inside through windows and skylights. Amber was smiling. Memories of sandstone houses must have faded as she walked enchanted by the extensive kitchen, guest rooms, places to work, write or entertain. Aberdeen was only a fifteen minute drive away, and a walk across the land would take you to a bus stop or shops. The closest pub was a little father, a two mile walk to Bieldside.

We had seen many beautiful houses earlier that day. One in Cults close to the Dee River also appealed to us, though I found the garden small and shady. I would have to carve the vegetable patch out of the lawn, and even so it might not work. Another one, Huntly House was halfway to Banchory and had acres of well manicured garden that would give you delusions of being a Scottish Lord, until you started to weed it after work, or hired a gardening crew to do the job. A stupendous place, but I’d have to spoil the landscaping by carving out a vegetable patch. It’s a drive from anywhere, the closest town being Drumoak – a town of cookie cutter houses, so new that it’s not on published maps.
Coming from Texas, we hoped to leave behind the car culture where you have to drive bumper to bumper for endless miles to get anywhere.

After walking through the Gairn Park house we stopped outside with Roy, and looked around us, at the small burn flowing past, and a filled-in pond that could become a water garden. We were all smiling.

Link to Gairn Park

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