Tuesday, 16 February 2010


The castle sat on a small rise in the middle of the valley floor. It was quite noticeable, and if you’d asked any of the locals for directions they’d say, “Aye!” in a rather deep and booming voice if they were male, “the castle’s first right a’ter McGregor’s farm.” But it didn’t seem to figure at all in terms of Avysmere’s attractions. You’d probably get told about the ghost in the church (in reality a white cloth with an electric fan blowing it about), the fine Edwardian cobbled streets (quite why anyone would use cobbles after tarmac was invented wasn’t really discussed), and Jimmy McGregor’s five eyed fish (three of the eyes were fake, apparently he’d just sown them on for the extra tourist trade) he supposedly caught down in the local loch. Everything but the castle would be mentioned, it’d ruin the quaint Scottish village look.
Thus it wasn’t too difficult for Hans to find the castle. In fact it really shouldn’t have been a problem, but Daniel, the estate agent who’d originally looked at the property, had forgotten the way back. Hence the journey had been filled with several interesting detours, such as nearly driving off the end of the loch’s single pier, driving the wrong way through the village’s one way system and Daniel’s constant belief that driving through a herd of sheep meant you were taking a shortcut.
Hans was, of course, sat in passenger seat throughout this, fearing for his life. He’d observed that the car was one of those typical businessmen cars; a grossly oversized saloon in a murky maroon/brown colour that any sane person would vomit at the sight of and that was without the muddy splatter on the car after their earlier escapades. He’d also hung one of those pathetic supposedly pine–scented trees on his rear view mirror, in which Hans could see the ‘My Other Car Is a Ferrari Too’ sticker. Presumably Daniel hadn’t realised that you were meant to put that sticker in a Ferrari. ‘Oh well,’ supposed Hans, ‘just because the guy has taste in buildings doesn’t necessarily means it extends to anything else.’
Hans was so engrossed in his thoughts that he didn’t realise they’d arrived at the castle until the car came to a halt in the centre of the gravel courtyard. The castle was more of a keep than the traditional motte and bailey design. The outer wall formed a square with all the buildings on the inside. The gatehouse on one side, a large building extending out of the opposite one with two smaller buildings protruded out of the other walls.
Both men clambered out of the car, stood up, and began taking in the immensity of it all. “Welcome, welcome, welcome, to your new home, Hans,” said Daniel, in his camp Canadian accent. Hans wasn’t listening though, he was scanning the courtyard. The medium built man, with the crew cut standing at the other side of the car knew what he was looking for, though, as Hans had spent several hours stressing the importance of it not being damaged in transit. “Your bike’s in the garage in that building there,” he said pointing behind Hans. He personally preferred his car, it was more spacious and comfortable, but he didn’t like the colour. However, all the other estate agents in the country had that colour, so he guessed it must be a sign of the trade. He had considered getting a nicer colour to symbolise his status as more of a relocation expert than just an average estate agent, but he had his motto for foreign lands. ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.’
Hans knew where his priorities lay, his bike, his pride and joy. As soon as he heard where it was, he began heading in the direction Daniel had indicated, wanting to be re-united with it. He was unfortunately curtailed by shouting from the opposite side of the courtyard. Hans turned around and began walking back towards the car, spotting a thin man of medium height, wearing a mud stained tartan over-shirt and brown corduroy.
Hans walked back towards the man. They met; the man stroked his ginger-grey beard carefully, and then offered his hand. “Hans, this is Mervin, the groundskeeper,” said Daniel. “Well, look at the time, I’d better dash,” Daniel said as he hurriedly went to get in the car.
The vehicle spend of backwards as Mervin scowled and shouted, “An’ about time too! Aye, I’m glad to be making your acquaintance, sonny. This way, I’ll show yeh around then,” he said, pointing to a doorway in the large building opposite the gatehouse. “Yeh don’t mind me asking just one question though.”
“You just did, didn’t you?” replied Hans following Mervin to the door.
“Well I just wanna know why yeh sent me a crate of lard?”
“I don’t know, Daniel mentioned you seemed pretty keen on lard, you kept dropping it in conversation quite a bit, he even said you blessed it! I just thought it would be a nice gift!”
Mervin was furious. “Pretentious git!” he said spitefully as he clenched his fist, “All his bloody yeh canne speak yeh own accent, yeh’ve gotta speak proper English and all thaa twaddle. Poking and probing round the place, picking faults with every little last thing. He should talk, he canne tell the difference between Lord and lard, grr!”
Hans decided it would be best to remain silent for a little while.