Coun­try Mouse

Good neigh­bours

Country Life Every Week - - TOWN & COUNTRY -

WHICH is a more de­press­ing sight on good agri­cul­tural land: a sub­ur­ban hous­ing devel­op­ment or a tum­ble of aban­doned farm build­ings? We have both on the small Black Isle farm that my grandfather worked un­til he got too old and sold it in 1966. The con­so­la­tion for the for­mer—which pro­vides ben­e­fi­cial new hous­ing, but en­cir­cles each chim­ney­less box with yards of ugly fenc­ing amid a for­est of banal signs and flag­poles —is that the stone byre, where I re­mem­ber the cows be­ing milked by hand, has re­cently been sold for restora­tion.

Last month, driv­ing up to my par­ents’ farm­house, I found the new own­ers de­spon­dently con­tem­plat­ing their col­laps­ing wreck. They’d had se­ri­ous doubts about tak­ing it on, they con­fessed, but then they’d met my par­ents—my fa­ther, barely able to walk, be­ing armed slowly round the gar­den by my mother on their daily con­sti­tu­tional—and that clinched it: they fell for them and de­cided to buy. Tears came to their eyes when I told them my fa­ther had died ear­lier that day.

Since then, they’ve come round sev­eral times and my mother, now liv­ing alone for the first time (she mar­ried at 20), has gained some new friends— a young, Gaelic-speak­ing cou­ple who un­der­stand tra­di­tional neigh­bourly val­ues. MM

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