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Monday, January 26, 2009


This is the second installment of The Badger Diary . . . my never before published personal account of a month spent in a Scottish castle, writing 13 Little Blue Envelopes. You can read the first installment here.

February 12, con't

5:55 PM

Minor adventure.

I had been fighting off the overwhelming desire to go to sleep through most of the above. It just got worse. Since I normally don’t nap, I took this as a sign that I really needed to go to sleep for an hour, for whatever reason. Not that I had much choice—I was going to fall asleep whether I wanted to or not.

I napped for a short while, then got up and took some tea from the tray in the hall. Then went back down to the library for another look. I was getting something down, when I heard someone trying to get the door. They worked at it for a while, and then gave up. I went over to help them, only to discover that no one had been trying to get in—I had, in fact, been locked in.

I did mention that there was no heat in there, right? And that there is a dungeon below, and all that is above it is a crumbling ruin? Yeah. That’s what I was locked inside of.

I knocked, and kind of hoped that whoever it was would come back and let me out. She did. It was another housekeeper—a younger girl. (She may have even been the girl I passed on the path outside earlier. Don’t know if I mentioned that I saw someone.) She just said, “Oh! Sorry. Didn’t think there was anyone in there.”

I think maybe I would have checked. You know. Since it only locks from the outside, and it’s kind of dungeon-like, and it’s February. Could you see that door clearly from the photo? That is a real DUNGEON DOOR from the 1600s or something. Here’s a closer look:

Anyway, I’m glad she was still out there. Otherwise, there would have been some serious castle hilarity going on. I guess I would have just spent the night in there.

I’ve been here for 21 hours now without catching one glimpse of another writer. Dinner is in 45 minutes, and I’ll have to see them then. Except I feel like somehow they’ll evade that as well. Maybe the “accidental” locking in the library was part of a plot to keep me from meeting one of these people.

I have a mission for tomorrow: I must get to a town, to a post office. I am going to put all of this on a disk and send it off, and I am going to get a phone card. I might even be able to get online. Oh, the bliss. The neverending cascade of bliss that would be.

I think what happens here is that your brain has to go through a period of adjustment and acceptance. You have to deal with the lack of connection.

Oh. I’ve just checked my notes. I’m supposed to go for the famous sherry at 6:30. That’s in six minutes. While I seriously doubt anyone is going to show up but me (given the track record so far), I should go. Hubert isn’t even here tonight, so it could just be me, killing 40p worth of sherry by my lonesome.

The room where we have "the sherry."


I was right. But I saw the others. Agatha was on the phone, and she is in Evelyn. I just bumped into Petunia in the hallway. They are both about 50 or so. I’m supposed to go down now and have the sherry, because I just told Petunia I was.

Why do I now feel pretty sure that in a few days I’m going to go insane and go running back to Trevor and Grace? Why am I thinking that I may attempt to do this tomorrow? Maybe I will have a complete mental crisis every night and want to flee this place. That’s something to look forward to!

I don’t have much hope for the two others that are coming tomorrow. I am without hope. I should have let them lock me in the library.


I’m sitting in the drawing room by the (electric) fire. I just watched The French Connection. It provided some relief. I now have six more movies left. That isn’t going to last very long. Petunia and Agatha are very nice—if older. Agatha is very animated—a poet. Petunia is a non-fiction writer who is thinking of starting a novel. I understand now why I avoid writers. Writers are boring. I am enrolling in nursing or astronaut school as soon as I get home, which will be tomorrow, hopefully.

I don’t mean to sound so down on all of this. We have the castle to ourselves tonight, which is kind of a weird feeling. I have plenty to read, and it’s nice in here. But there is a strange oppressiveness that comes with the place right now. The gunfire and car chases in the movie helped a little, but unfortunately The French Connection is only two hours long, not the two weeks it should be.

I did talk to Daphne, which was exciting.

It’s not that the place is spooky or anything. It’s not. I just feel like I’m in some sort of detox program.

Petunia knows one of the men coming tomorrow. I’m sure he’s very nice, and I am equally sure that he will be exactly like Petunia and Agatha. There’s someone else named Ron that we know nothing about, but I assume the worst.

I guess I could call home, but I don’t feel like explaining that it’s weird, and then feeling even weirder when I get off the phone.

Oh, whatever. I am going to persevere. Or go insane. I joked about The Shining. Is now not so funny, this joke.

Number of badgers spotted: 0
Number of writers spotted: 2
Number of days left: 22

13 February 2004

I was kind of down on the place last night, and things didn’t get much better after I finished writing. It was kind of a long night. But I should explain, and it gets better, anyway.

Agatha is small, and kind of birdlike, and she carries her purse around and shows you where everything is. I had been shown all of the things she was showing me, but there was no point in saying so, since we really didn’t have anything else to discuss. So I let her get me a sherry (that I honestly didn’t want) and make a little hash mark in the book by my name. Then Petunia came in with a box of wine she’d brought back from London, and there followed a five minute negotiation on how we would all share this wine, which she said repeatedly was the equivalent of four bottles. And Agatha was determined that we would all help pay for the wine. And I don’t mind contributing to anything, but the truth is I didn’t want wine. And I already had a sherry and was kind of tired, but I didn’t seem to have any say in the matter—or I didn’t make my feelings known fast enough, because within about three seconds I owed Petunia a bottle of wine, and had been poured a glass, which I had to carry along with my other glass of unwanted alcohol, because at that second Rose the cook (the one who had accidentally locked me in the library) came to tell us that dinner was ready. All the way to the dinner room the conversation went on about exactly how many bottles we were going to owe, because Petunia was insistent that she was probably going to drink more than us anyway, since she didn’t like sherry. And Agatha explained that she thought the sherry was all right, but that she normally had two glasses of wine with dinner, no more. And then there I was—feeling all American, because I don’t drink with dinner. And Agatha had already said something like, “You must be very cold. We always think of Americans as having very warm houses.” Which is most certainly true, but there was something about it that seemed to imply (in a very benign way), “You Americans certainly use a lot of energy!” And I was already the vegetarian, and because of me everyone had to have vegetarian food for dinner (something I didn’t know until that moment), since there were only three of us and they weren’t going to make multiple meals until the other two arrived. Petunia and Agatha assured me for ten minutes straight that they didn’t mind this at all, and that their eating habits had changed so much from the meat and two veg days of their youth.

Dinner conversation was sort of as follows (not exact, but pretty close):

Petunia: Have you thought of doing interactive poetry?
Agatha: Have I whot?
Petunia: Interactive poetry. On the internet. I’ve written a book on the internet.
Agatha: Oh, I say!
Petunia: Yes.

Thoughtful silence.

Me: What is interactive poetry?
Petunia: Well, poetry you’d put online, so your readers could interact with it. On the internet you can use forms and shapes. Though, I suppose it’s nicer to be paid for your work.
Agatha: I don’t know if I’d like that. Interaction.
Petunia: Yes.

Petunia pours herself third glass of wine from box. Thoughtful silence.

Petunia: I’m thinking of starting a novel here. But it’s very daunting, isn’t it?
Agatha: Oh, rather. Yes.
Petunia: Blank slate, as it were.
Agatha: Oh, yes. I’m starting a new volume of poetry, and it’s quite terrifying. I did the Lady’s Walk trying to get some inspiration, but I’ve yet to come up with anything.
Petunia: Yes.

Thoughtful silence.

Petunia: I do have that other project . . .
Agatha: Oh yes. Your nonfiction book.
Petunia: Yes. And I thought that I might do both. But that’s very hard, you know. Going back and forth.
Agatha: I say, it is hard, isn’t it? Fiction is so very different. I can’t handle prose, myself.
Petunia: It’s quite different, yes.

Petunia pours herself another glass of wine.

Petunia: But I do think you should have a go at the interactive poetry, Agatha. You can do so much with the text and the words.
Agatha: I’m not very internet-savvy, I’m afraid.
Petunia: It’s quite easy. And I think it could do so much for your poetry.

You get the idea. Imagine two or three hours of that. A night.

Petunia is a little more matronly and artsy. She has kind of a heavy pear shape, and she wears big, dramatic outfits. Yesterday she had on a matching shirt and pants made of a lovely fabric—but one that looked a lot more like something you’d cover a sofa in, and not so much something you’d wear. Kind of a maroon with a raised pattern of curlycues in black velvet, all done up at the neck with a big broach. She has big, blonde curls, and heavy eyes and lips—and when she goes into a silence she kind of puts her chin down and stares down her belly, which is kind of like looking over a hill. Agatha is a glass-turner.

Anyway, we had dinner and dessert, then we were sent up to the drawing room, which had been warmed for us. A tray of coffee and tea was set out. I had coffee to try to counteract the sherry and the wine. Agatha and Petunia were even more soporific after their multiple wines and sherry and dinner, and the pauses were stretching to unbelievable lengths. They went to bed around nine, and I was hit with a combination headache, stomachache, and caffeine rush. This is why I went and got a movie. I needed something to distract me from being here, and also a little bit because I felt like I shouldn’t be sitting around in the drawing room watching The French Connection. I should have been composing interactive poetry or painting miniatures or something.

I couldn’t sleep when I went upstairs, because I’d napped and had coffee. So I was awake until 2 or 3, listening to the radio.

But—I was determined that today I would turn things around. It was raining this morning when I got up. I hurried up and got dressed and went down and had a little breakfast. I then decided that I would tackle the problem of the shower attachment. I realized that I wasn’t the problem—it was. It would be pretty much impossible to attach it to the spigots in our bathroom, because of their shape. So, solution—I took them into the men’s bath, which has the perfect shape spigots. It doesn’t really matter what bath we use, and the men weren’t here yet anyway.

(I took a bath last night in the men’s bath, for two reasons. One, the cold water tap somehow got broken on ours, and two, Petunia wears this really heavy musky-rose perfume, and she must have been in there getting ready for bed, because the musky-roseness of the place almost caused me to pass out. So I knew the taps and had started formulating this plan the night before.)

I set up shop in the drawing room and worked for the morning. The rain stopped. So I decided to try to get into Bonnyrigg. I decided to walk it. It was about two miles, and it only takes about twenty minutes to get into Bonnyrigg, but then it takes another twenty to get to where the stuff is. It’s not an exciting town, but it has some stores and a library. I got some envelopes, and a bottle of water, and a phone card, and this was all pretty exciting. I wasted a lot of time trying to find the post office, which is hidden inside a store called Scotschemist or something. I never did find it. I’d been gone for a while, and probably ended up walking for an hour or hour and a half total up and down and around, so I decided to take the bus back. The bus was very easy, but if you’ve ever seen Father Ted, my driver was Father Jack. Not looked like Father Jack—was Father Jack. He even screamed “What?” the first three times I asked for the castle (it’s a request stop). He got really cheerful after that and whistled the whole trip, which took about three minutes.

The last two people have come. I haven’t spoken to them much, but they are a lot different from Petunia and Agatha. I saw Ron earlier. He looks mid 20s or maybe 30, and more a Nirvana shirt and seemed really nice. I just met Nigel a minute ago. Nigel is maybe 45 or so and is married to someone who was here before, and who I am told is somewhat famous. I’ve never heard of her, but that is meaningless.

Number of badgers spotted: 0 (Although Petunia says she saw one, and it was no big deal. Just minding its own business.)
Number of writers spotted: 4 (all)
Number of days left: 21

In the next installment: I start singing songs to cake, the residents start getting weird, I get annoyed.

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Blogger Travis said...

But Maureen... the cake is a lie!

Sorry. I had to. :)

3:43 AM  
Blogger Brittany Ann said...

I'm still not sure if you have fun on this trip or not....I suppose at some point you also get to work on 13LBE...lol

3:50 AM  
Blogger Emily said...

Oh my, I would be so scared to have Father Jack driving the bus I was riding!

4:00 AM  
Anonymous noel said...

You are (were?) vegetarian! That made me really happy.

Sometimes I feel like writers are boring, too. So I always pretend I am not one and dance around the question.

I really like reading these badger entries! I wish I were in Scotland...! (But maybe not with Petunia's perfume.)

4:22 AM  
Blogger appletrain said...

I love these entires :) I really want to take a trip with you one day. I imagine it would be delightful.

4:31 AM  
Blogger Khy said...

This entry was even better than the last one, if possible. Can't wait for the next. :D

4:50 AM  
Anonymous Raelyn said...

ahaha. These are so entertaining. ^.^

5:03 AM  
Blogger Elliot said...

Singing to cake? o dear! maybe you should have come home!

can't wait for the next installment!


5:40 AM  
Anonymous Lysh said...

I love these! It makes me sort of want to do it, except I'm not a good conversationalist with old people. Nor do I like sherry either.
I'm looking forward to the next one! =D

6:55 AM  
Blogger sarah said...

You seem to find yourself in a most intriguing/head banging situation...funny how those two always come in pairs.

7:32 AM  
Blogger Marvelous Maggie said...

You sing to your cake too? And here I thought I was the only one...

8:02 AM  
Blogger Hollishillis said...

Oh my god MJ how did you survive this? This is so entertaining to read but so NOT entertaining to do. I can't wait to hear more!

8:59 AM  
Blogger Colt said...

I have never sang to cake before...there was this brownie one time but that's another story. I think Petunia and Agatha would be a lot more exciting with a bit more wine, they definitely need to let their hair down.

8:39 PM  
Anonymous Rachy said...

You know, in theory this sounds amazingly awesome. But I'm pretty sure I would go crazy too. xD I look forward to seeing the rest of the entries. ^_^

10:29 PM  
Blogger angela said...

Don't fuss. I always sing into/to inanimate objects.

The only badgers I have ever seen were either. -sniffsniff- dead =[ or not real. *cough*chronicles of narnia*cough*

The residents are currently weird?
Who was your inspiration for Keith? Was it Ron? I have a feeling it's going to be Ron.

The annoyance level runs high in the Scottish Castle...next week on..."WTIASC.*" <------**


**Classic Soap Opera Format=Initials.

2:54 AM  

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