Aberfedly Manse sat on the edge of a long thin headland thrust out into the blue-grey sea. A walker or hiker gazing up at the imposing edifice from a nearby bay might’ve worried about the great mansion’s chances of survival. Indeed, some 20 feet beneath, the sea seemed to lick with such savage silver-frothed vigour, that one could easily imagine the peninsula being undermined one stormy night, and the house having to bid farewell to one of its numerous wings as it dropped off a sheer cliff edge like a stone. But Aberfeldy Manse had stood there years, and the cliff hadn’t budged an inch except for a few crumbling boulders that littered the coves beneath.
At its outermost edge, the cliff dropped like a flatiron, definitely holding back the force of the North Sea like a railway buffer stop. A fisherman passing may well have looked up longingly at the imposing villa that sat on top the cliff with the view that one day he might live out his days there, turn one of the many wings into a snooker room, and drape the fishing nets that constituted his many years of maritime service over the crumbling brick walls of the several outhouses.
All this was beside the point, however. Because the residents of Aberfeldy Manse were not moving anywhere. Lady Kirkpatrick was a forbidding sight. On some mornings she could be seen on the nearby B456 to Edinburgh, edging curiously alongside the barbed wire fence that separate the sheep pasture from the hubcap-besmattered verge. Her white-grey hair would flow like a sage’s beard and cling lankly about her waist as she bent down to pluck pieces of wool from the barbed prongs, before burying it with a sanctimonious flourish in a hessian bag, covered in stickers and death-berry-coloured gems that jingled on the breeze.