15 May 2009

Get it on, Bang a Gong (or not)

We will begin with an excerpt of Mick Jackson's glorious novel, The Underground Man, which highlights the life of a reclusive and eccentric Victorian Duke. While the book has nothing to do with Lauriston Castle, one item in the home filled me with such delight that Lauriston shall for me be forever linked to the character of the Duke, who I adore.

In the novel the Duke's diary reveals the old man's belief that jumping between hot and cold baths will invigorate his health. However the baths are in separate rooms, connected by a long hallway:

"From one bathroom to another is a good fifty- or sixty-yard trot and it has become necessary to seal off the whole landing by hanging up blankets at both ends. This follows an unfortunate incident when a housemaid happened to come round the corner with a pile of towels as I was going down the corridor at full-pelt. The poor girl almost leapt down the stairs in fright and had to be carted to my study by Clement and given a brandy to bring her round. Indeed, the sight of a naked old man must be very alarming to one of such tender years. Especially when he is haring towards you for all he is worth.

So, as I say, we now take the precaution of hanging up blankets. And, in order to clear the area, Clement strikes a small gong just before I go."

Ta-da! A long hallway, complete with GONG! No, I didn't strike it, and I am sorry if that disappoints anyone. Not only was I on a tour with 15 other people, but striking a gong in a house that has lain empty for 80 years could...wake something.

For a moment let us ignore the ghostly footsteps and visit the prettiest room, Mrs. Reid's drawing room. Apparently Mr. Reid intended the room to have a French tone, adding panels of red silk damask and a rock crystal chandelier. Is it just me, or do all the chairs look terribly uncomfortable?
The hallway walls are covered with the framed prints that the Reids adored. At the end of the hall there is a little nook of stained glass windows, full of stories I didn't know, so I just made things up.

"What are you doing here, kneeling and looking so sad?"

"That guy, over there - stole my cow."

"Then I shall buy you a new one."



(*a little aside. Since I first posted this, a friend has emailed me the most hilarious alternate caption for this picture. I am curious to hear more. Please leave any ideas in the comments)

Which brings us to the library. The bookshelves had apparently gone from floor to ceiling, but Mr. Reid had the top half covered so he could hang even more prints. In one corner a false bookshelf becomes a door, which creaks open to reveal a hidden staircase. Just one more thing I have always desired in a home.

My favourite thing in the room, other than the alcove with the wooden ceiling and a view of the garden, was a chair that was "for men only."

This reading chair requires the user to straddle it in order to lean over the little desk. Considered unsuitable for women, I of course was consumed with treacherous thoughts.

Since recent flooding and water damage restricted access to the dining and sitting rooms, we have but two rooms to go. Below is the oak room, one of the older rooms in the house, and home to another hidden set of steps that leads to secret chamber. Before the new ceiling was fitted in 1827, it was possible to hide in the chamber and spy on the people in the room.
And finally Mrs. Reid's Bedroom. Even though they both slept there, this was still considered her room. It is eerie to see all the small items like a brush and a small collection of perfume bottles, all adding to the atmosphere of pristine abandonment.
Thanks for reading. Linger as long as you like and show yourselves out:

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