Since moving into one corner of a medieval castle in the north of England three years ago, I’ve been living the dream. Apparently, the dream is really, really cold and occasionally in a foreign language. Who knew? But I’ve had a few requests to tell about my life as an American expat, so I’ll try to start posting these updates on Tuesdays.
The main thing to remember about living in a 1000+ year old pile of stone is that the builders were a lot more concerned with discouraging visits from Vikings and Scots than with heat and er… sanitation.
But thanks to the sympathetic current owners of the castle, a new kitchen and bathroom took us past the original builders’ idea of facilities. And I got used to sleeping under three down duvets with a British hottie. On cold nights, I sleep with two of them.
In case you’re planning to visit me, you might want an idea of what to wear for a trip to a country castle. This is what the Wall St. Journal thinks. They are so wrong.
This is what I suggest.
When you’re visiting, here is how we’ll start a typical day:
0’dark:30—the dog leaps straight from her bed to mine (or yours if the castle ghost, the White Lady, has popped in to open your door. Yes, the same door you carefully closed, locked, and probably secured with a chair under the knob. Ghosts don’t get out much, so their sense of humor is somewhat stunted…) The dog shares the breaking news. “It’s time. I hafta. Go NOW! Up, up, up. What part of pee-now do you people not get? And by the way, as long as you’re up, I wouldn’t turn down a bowl of kibble.” One of the good things about sleeping with so many clothes on is that you just have to grab the keys, leash, and wellies. (One of these Tuesday updates will be a paean to the glory that is the British Wellie.) Although there is no actual network signal around the castle, you should bring your phone so you can use its flashlight app to find the steaming pile the dog refuses to produce until she’s sniffed every single damn blade of grass in the meadow and churchyard surrounding the castle because, of course, this is the north of England which won’t see actual dawn for about four more hours. (Hey, I don’t want to hear your opinion of run-on sentences. It’s friggin early and we haven’t even had coffee.) Where was I? Oh, yeah. We stagger back to the flat and the exhausted dog collapses in one of the beds she keeps in every room. Tough morning; she needs a nap.
- We make coffee. Industrial-strength.
When the coffee is ready, I realize that we went blindly past the milk that Mr. Milkman left at the portcullis, and we have a stare-down to see who will cave and go back down for the milk: the polite guest (you) or the polite hostess (ha, ha, ha, you’re funny, you are). BTW, I’ve never met him, and I really hope Mrs. Milkman doesn’t mind, but I’m in love with Mr. Milkman. He slips in even before the dog gets up, leaving adorable little bottles of organic milk, plus eggs, and rolls of butter wrapped in brown paper. We communicate via notes twisted up and poked into empty bottles I leave for him at the gate. It’s one of my all-time purest, most satisfying relationships.
Coffee in hand, it’s time for you to witness the other significant relationship in my castle life. I’m not going to say who is dom and who is sub, but I spend a disturbing amount of my time on my knees in front of my sophisticated, elegant French partner, blowing until he’s burning hot (yes, I did write that…) and then returning every few hours to fulfill his needs again. Sometimes, even though I think I’m doing everything right, he knows I need to be punished and he’ll vent his wrath in black oily smoke pouring back into the flat. This sets off the castle fire alarm system, which means I have only minutes to (grab keys/wellies) race down the circular stairs, through the basement, up the other stairs, down the main hall, and over to the fire system in time to call off the emergency vehicles about to be dispatched. That system is clearly in cahoots with the angry Frenchie up in my living room, so I have to stand there for a few hours repeatedly pressing the “clear” button until they reluctantly agree to shut the f-up.
So, that’s our castle morning. Next Tuesday? Please join me for Village Coffee.