Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The Earl and Countess of Haddington

Mellerstain House is the only large country mansion built solely by Robert Adam. His father, William, built the east and west wings in the early 1700s but the main house is by his more famous son Robert.

Robert Adam built a large place in London called The Adelphi Terrace but this was largely demolished some 80 years ago. Robert Adam's main works were extensions and alterations to existing houses therefore Mellerstain House is unique. It is also most beautifully designed inside. Exquisite plaster-work, especially on the ceilings, needs to be seen to be believed.

I still can't believe that this place became our home for a few years. I think the word serendipity applies. Life just happens, does it not? No matter how clever we think we are we have no control over the way life treats us.

OK, we all end up in the same way, sooner or later, but what happens along life's highway is, more often than not, luck. Well, that's my story - and I'm sticking to it!

It was pure luck that my wife and I ended up here in the Scottish Borders, living in part of Mellerstain House, the family home of the Earl and Countess of Haddington. Two of the nicest people on God's earth. Two of the best people I've ever known.

Above is a recent snapshot of them, taken from part of their website. The Earl is holding one of his chickens. He is extremely fond of birds and has an aviary in his courtyard with various and colourful examples. Elsewhere there are the free-range chickens and cockerels and on the lake there are two resident swans.

The swans produce up to eight or so cygnets each year. Swans are said to be lifelong mates but this year it seems that there are two female swans now residing on the lake. Ménage à trois mayhap?

One of the great pleasures when living here is meeting people from all over the world who come to the UK and discover Mellerstain House. The vast majority fall in love with the place. Some of them have become friends of ours. None of this would have happened without Lady Luck holding my hand for all of my life.

I don't know if there are ghosts. Or if there is a God. Or if there are leprechauns, fairies and angels.

But I do know Lady Luck exists - for all of us.


Land of shimp said...

They both look so very happy. You know how occasionally in a picture the smiles of those represented are oddly strained? You can just imagine that they'd had an incredible fight in the car on the way to the photographer's or something of that nature.

Their expressions are the opposite of that. Effortlessly happy, and genuine. The Chicken looks to be somewhat doubtful about the proceedings though!

I'm so glad that fortune/fate/happenstance or whatever it may be helped you find your way there.

I once read that in the course of a lifetime a person should try to fall in love with a person, a place, and at least one interest at separate times.

Sounds like you found the place.

ivan@c said...

Ah, the good steward.
Myself, not so much.

I think it was Joyce Carey who said, Your plan-no good. God's plan is the best...When will you ever learn?
Wish I had that intimation early in life...Thirty years as a groundhog who kept hitting rocks.
God might have said, "Go around!"

PhilipH said...

Shimp: That's a really nice comment and my thanks to you for making it.

Ivan: You're spot on there dear chap. It's summat like Robbie Burns' take on it all:

'The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men
Gang aft agley,
An'lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Best wishes to you both; Phil.

the walking man said...

Call fortune what you will Philip but your gratitude for the way it has shown on you is apparent. May it stay with yoou and the Missus right to the end.

PhilipH said...

Mark, Thank you for your most welcome comment.
Cheers, Phil

DUTA said...

I agree with you on the 'luck' issue, and about us people having no much control over what happens to us.

Argent said...

I'm not sure if I believe in luck a such. I think those we call lucky are those who allow themselves to embrace an opportunity - like you did moving up to Scotland. The Haddingtons do look a fine couple though, don't they.

ivan said...

Me and that famous churchman Rabbi Burns in the same sentence?

...Flattered. And thanks, Phil.

PhilipH said...

Hi Argent. Luck, either good or bad, seems to be the same as Fate. Whatever one might call it we all experience it, don't you think? Take, for example, the lottery; it happens to millions every week. Most do not win anything: bad luck. Some win more than most: good luck. May the force be with you, whatever you call it.
Kind regards, Phil.

PhilipH said...

Ivan (the terrible?): Rabbi Burns! I like it!

Cheers, Phil.

Barbara's Spot on the Blog said...

It's true that the rain falls on the just and the unjust.... I just feel better when it falls more on the unjust ;)

PhilipH said...

Brenda: It sure does.

Jo said...

I just Googled an image of Mellerstain House, and it is magnificent! Gosh, how lucky were you! It reminds me a bit of the house where both versions of "Brideshead Revised" were filmed -- Castle Howard.

And yes, I believe in luck, and sometimes my luck has not always been -- shall we say -- the best. But I have also had some incredibly good luck, so it all balances out in the end, doesn't it?

Evening Light Writer said...

You have a wonderful blog! I will definitley be coming back. Thank you for leaving the comment at my blog today. I read "Dill Pickle" and it truly saved me and has given me the courage to do what I need to do.

Much appreciation.

Land of shimp said...

Following Jo's example I Googled Mellerstain. My goodness, that is an absolutely gorgeous place!

Now I'm going to go look Light's blog, because I must discover how someone was saved by a Dill Pickle!

Land of shimp said...

Philip, I read Katherine Mansfield's [i]A Dill Pickle[/i] because of your recommendation elsewhere. I'd never heard of it before, although I have read some of Katherine Mansfield's stories. I thought it was wonderful.

Throughout the story I kept wondering if it meant anything that the beauty of life in Russia was mentioned by her former lover, since Russia would have been on the cusp of the Red Revolution.

The story was published in 1920, so I assume it did mean something...?

Isn't it odd to have your heart break a little for someone who lived almost one hundred years ago? She did die very young.

PhilipH said...

Shimp: My thoughts on Dill Pickle simply focussed on the woman's feelings. It struck me that she was still carrying some sort of torch for this self-centred chap but had now given up on him,(quite rightly too!).

Katherine Mansfield was a seriously unhappy girl from what I have read about her. Seems to me that she never found the real love that she desperately yearned for.

Her 'on/off' relationship with John Middleton Murry (they split up within about 2 weeks of getting married - after her divorce from Bowden - and then rejoining JMM some months later) was hard for her. JMM, in my view, took advantage of KM in so many ways.

I could almost imagine that she was the woman in Dill Pickle and John Middleton Murry was the selfish ex-lover.

We all have differing 'takes' on the theme of any story. It's a very personal thing; it's what makes her work so enchanting.


Land of shimp said...

I agree, that's the main theme of the story, Phil. She let's go of a perception of this man that she is holding onto mainly out of hope born out of loneliness, more than anything having to do with him.

She conveys a tremendous amount in a very short format. A lot of things are striking about the story, including that she remembers the name of the dog from his childhood story, and he does not. It's really masterfully done. His veneer of interest and sincerity is worn off completely in just a few pages.

I did find it striking that he admired as perfect a way of life so glaringly unfair that it was just inches away from toppling completely. Just another indication that this guy has the emotional depth of a puddle.

I remember reading some Mansfield back in college. She was a sexually voracious woman, having lovers of both genders. Sometimes that's an expression of a feeling of freedom, but in Mansfield's case it seems more to be that she searched throughout her short life for a kindred spirit, and never truly found one. I can absolutely see why you would be drawn to believing that the narrator of the piece is Mansfield. I think there's actual reason to believe that. I think Mansfield found herself often disillusioned by her lovers, and her husband. Yet she had a history of going back to them. Perhaps clinging to a hope, rather than recognizing it as false.

I wondered if Mansfield wasn't hoping to be the main character of this story. Hoping to be able to walk away from what she did recognize.

Or not :-)

PhilipH said...

Shimp: I cannot give you more than 10 out of 10 for your opinion of KM and her Dill Pickle short story.

Oh, go on then: 11. Can't say fairer than that.

I agree whole-heartedly with your comments and I am grateful to you for taking the time to send them.

Thank you, Phil

A Brit in Tennessee said...

How lucky can you be ?
A truly stunning residence, I can only imagine waking up everyday and delighting in being surrounded by such beauty.
Fairies, Leprechauns, Fate, I believe in the lot it seems to have worked for you...
Great blog, i'm off to read more !

PhilipH said...

Dear ex-Pat in Tennessee.

Thanks for your comment. Your photos on your blog are superb. It must have taken quite a while to set them all up. Nice place to live too!


hance said...

For me they look so royalty yet simple, I'm actually always curious about how was it to be a royal blood.LOL But kidding aside I'm really interested in their history since the beginning of Haddington era, especially to the 9th Earl of Haddington.

Kellyiors said...

Shimp: I cannot give you more than 10 out of 10 for your opinion of KM and her Dill Pickle short story. Oh, go on then: 11. Can't say fairer than that. I agree whole-heartedly with your comments and I am grateful to you for taking the time to send them. Thank you, Phil