A Kinrowan Estate story: Carols and Other Matters (A Letter to Ekaterina)

G’Day My Dear,

We don’t do Thanksgiving here except in those years when one of the Several Annies, Iain’s Library apprentices, is from America and that’s an interesting circumstance as we don’t raise turkeys here so we barter for one from the Evenmere Estate in exchange for something they want, usually a few kegs of one of our October German-style beers. All in all, though I prefer a slowly roasted roast goose to a turkey cooked in the same manner as I find the latter too dry.

So we slide into our usual extended season of celebrating the Winter Holidays starting in November as a way of adjusting to rapidly colder weather in this part of Scotland. We start off trimming the evergreens to use in decorating the Estate Building with spruce branches and cones, along with gathering holly and mistletoe. It makes for good excuse to be out and generally one of the musos even comes along to play a bit of fiddle music which is magical. Not Jack though — he’s at the age now where the cold bothers his bones so he stays where it’s warm when he can.

The Several Annies this year have added a series of Carol Slams to our usual activities. What is a carol slam, you ask? It’s like a round robin telling of stories, but for carols. Each participant will either offer up a traditional carol or will write a new one for the Estate choir to sing. Everyone one in the Pub gets to decide who wins each round. Eventually the two best carols will be performed and the audience decides what the best carol is. Iain has noted to me that the carol writers are discovering how hard it is to write a new carol that ‘feels’ right!

Other annual occurrence is the production of seasonal plays. ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’, ‘A Christmas Carol’, and ‘A Lion in The Winter’ are all popular but the selection group’s looking for something new so they’ve been asking for suggestions. I suggested ‘The Snow Queen’ and, if they’re feeling adventurous,’The Boar’s Head Madrigal Dinner’ which is a play as feast. They decided on dramatizing Jane Yolen’s The Wild Hunt, which should be interesting as it’s definitely a story that could be done in that manner.

We have reading groups here year-round but the Winter brings out the best in them. A favourite reading is Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series, as it appeals to both the Arthurian fans and those deep into the Welsh mythos; Tolkien’s The Hobbit is one that gets read aloud in the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room every year in the evenings with just a roaring fire for light. I hear that one of The Several Annies is pushing for a reading of Charles de Lint’s The Cats of Tanglewood Forest as she likes the way it depicts both cats and the Appalachian folklore it’s riffing off of.

And much to my delight, there are outdoor activities when the weather’s not too bad — curling, of course, and skiing in groups across this vast Estate, but also work parties which I’m very grateful for as there’s always something needing doing. As you may know, we expect all the Estate residents to help with the work here but expecting and getting are two different things. Admittedly those who don’t understand why we expect them to help aren’t going to be here very long as the social compact is strong here!

I must run now as there’s a pig to be slaughtered and I’m teaching a new lad how to do it properly. If I’m lucky, he won’t vomit, but most do when encountering Death this way for the first time. They’re fine with chickens and even rabbits, but they’re first pig is ‘nother matter!

Until next time, Gus

Gus the Estate Head Gardener

I'm the person responsible for both the grounds and the livestock which are raised here. I live with Bree (my wife) in one of the cottages that has been here for centuries. I actually enjoy Winters here as my work load is considerably reduced as I let the younger staff members handle the needed work which leaves me time for reading, ice skating and skiing, not to mention just being with my wife. Bliss!

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