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Hyacinth recalls happy memories of Fife mansion for Rab

Hyacinth recalls happy memories of Fife mansion for Rab

At the time of writing, my hyacinth is almost done. I apologise for that dramatic opening sentence. But it’s no less than the truth. I’ve had several weeks of bright pink flowers and a scent that I love more than any other.

One reason I love it so much is that it sparks a rather daft memory. It was about the time that I nearly bought a house, or at least a flat. The location was Fife, and the flat formed part of an old listed country mansion.

I visited it twice, causing me to hum and also to haw. Eventually, I decided against but, while I would not go so far as to regret the decision entirely, I have often wondered about what might have been.

Robert McNeil.

The house sat amidst expansive gardens surrounded by woodland. There was a long curving drive to the property and I thought that, rather like that posh chiel in Brideshead Revisited, I could stop the car (a sports car at the time) half-way there and invite a new girlfriend to take in the vista. “This is where I live,” I would say airily.

The flat was on two floors at the top of the house, which was handy. My main concern when buying a property is noise. I cannot abide it. And yet there is so much of it about. However, here, should a hullabaloo arise from below, I could always retreat upstairs.

Indeed, I could retreat further, for there was access to the roof. It was a fabulous place to relax. I lack a head for heights but, provided I remain far from the edge, I’ve always loved being on a roof. In my last house, a two-up two-down in suburbia, I’d sometimes find myself on the sloping roof fixing something.

Then I’d stop to take it all in: a grander view, a new perspective and a fine feeling of being … above it all. There’s always something peaceful about being on a roof.

Atop this Fife mansion, I lay back and watched hawks circling in a cloudless sky. Sitting up, I had a fine view over the countryside. Alas, the roof was the main reason I didn’t buy the flat. I worried that roof repairs to such a historic building would cost an arm and a leg. Looking back, I suppose insurance – a concept with which I’m never comfortable –might have taken care of it. I so often find myself getting in a tizzy with worries over nothing.

You say: “Never mind all that. What aboot the hyacinths, ken?” I’m coming to that. In the vestibule, if that is the word, a beautiful scent arose. I located the source and couldn’t bring the name to mind. “Hyacinth,” said one of the neighbours, a helpful and encouraging chap. Indeed, everyone I met in that place, which would perforce be a sort of community, was pleasant and positive about the possibility about my moving in. Usually people say: “Aw naw.”

Now, as the hyacinth in the sitting room of my current house starts to fade, I recall again that long curving drive, the grandeur of the aged pile, and the salubrious gardens. I might have stayed happily there, in that scented heaven, lying back on the roof, watching hawks circle lazily in the windless sky.

More in this series:

Forget Scandi noir and Game of Thrones – it’s Springwatch all the way for Rab

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