Let me take you back in time to Christmas time 2011. I’ve had this blog post sitting here patiently waiting to show off its beauty but just never got around to publishing it. So here goes…
This is my Christmas stay at Douneside House in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. It is a manor under the McRoberts Trust and reserved for British (and commonwealth) Military families to stay in. The house was that of Lady McRoberts who donated it as a tribute to her three pilot sons whom she’d lost before and during WWII. It was one grand house, but still warm, inviting and homely. There was a music room, a library, the sun room and a conservatory, the dark wooded bar and a red carpeted formal staircase. Meals were served with polished silver cutlery, tea was always served in the conservatory at the strike of 4 o’clock sharp. Food was constantly being served up on silver platters making you watch your manners and bring out the ones reserved for those proper occasions. Our hosts pottered and fussed in the English way, being both efficient and personable. Knowing each of our names, even mine, the nanny they were both ever present and ever invisible. We were free to do as we pleased, exploring the Highlands of Scotland, walking the expansive grounds, discovering each and every room inside the manor.
If I could describe each and every day in Scotland I would, but it would be too hard to fill in every detail. A few of the moments were discovering snow and driving through a snow storm up through the highlands. Walking the grounds in solitude and winds to watch the sun set. Visiting Balmoral (the Queen’s summer residence), well its gates anyway. Realising that Scottish castles are from fairytales. They can be pink and have miniature windows and steeple-top towers. Walking through Tarland’s graveyard and burnt down church. Dancing the Ceilidh with the manor’s guests and stumbling through the steps with my eager but jumbled feet.
It was also to be my first Christmas away from home, and it was sure made memorable. Christmas Day I woke up to winter. No snow, but winter just the same with strong winds and brewing skies. I watched as two little boys opened their presents and pondered how Santa had found them all up North far away from their London home. I watched how English families gathered on the day, with all-smiles and a closeness and felt a bit far from home. It was Christmas morning, but in Australia it was nearly over. It’s really the same, no matter the place, no matter the weather, but the family you’ve got makes it was it is, to you. At 10am I gathered with my family-away-from-family into the pews of a Scottish church. The community were spotted throughout the pews few and far in-between. The Vicar was friendly, the people were welcoming and I sat with my hot cup of tea and spoke to some old dears about their Christmas Day following the service. Knowing the personal, made a Scottish Christmas personal. I walked the highlands, I ate a huge lunch, I reflected on what the day really means, I even saw santa with a long-suit on (not the classic Australian shorts and t-shirt getup) and I didn’t feel half as sad as what I thought I would being away from family.
One day I’ll be back in Scotland.