Trinity College, Dublin (and me, then)

Small World Book Story. One evening before my Body Pump class at the Y, on the shelves of freebie books donated by members (always a source of surprises), I saw a slim hardcover: The Guynd: A Scottish Journal, by Belinda Rathbone. The author, an American, marries a Scottish laird and tackles the renovation of his large 18th century estate. The world it purported to describe is or was familiar. And who could resist the Rebecca-like echoes of the new wife facing a new life in a big, very old British -- Scottish, in this case -- house? 

So, I started reading, snuggled down in bed at night before sleep. When, early in the book, Rathbone mentions driving by Fife in Scotland, en route to The Guynd (the name of the estate, pronounced like "wind"), I thought, "I bet she knows Keith Adam." That is "Adam," as in Keith's ancestor, Robert Adam, one of the great British/Scottish architects of the 18th century. The ancestral home -- Blair Adam -- is near Fife. Rathbone was clearly moving into the same Scottish social sphere as Keith's of old families living in big old houses north of Edinburgh. The chance of their coming across each other was pretty high.

I had dated Keith when I landed at Trinity College, Dublin. He was a gentle, charming man and he and I had had a great time at TCD back in the day when this university in the middle of Dublin was still largely British and Anglo-Irish and everybody was warming up for London. Formal balls, dances (with dance cards; Rathbone goes to those, too), and lavish parties with formal rsvps written on blue writing paper and only with a fountain pen: "Katey Lee accepts with pleasure the kind invitation..." It was an education for this Californian. I thanked my parents, every time I picked up a fork, for teaching me proper table manners.

Keith later inherited Blair Adam, originally built in 1736 by Robert's father, William, also an architect. The last I'd heard from Keith, decades ago, he had married the young widow of another mutual TCD friend, moved into Blair Adam, and was valiantly facing the daunting work of fixing it up -- just as Rathbone does in this book with her husband's crumbling estate. 

A few chapters later Rathbone told of going to lunch at Blair Adam. She -- rather, her husband, initially -- did indeed know Keith and his family. She became friends with Keith's twin and describes what Keith had been doing to the estate for the last 40-odd years.

It was a deeply happy surprise to read in this little book of him, his wife, children -- and that house, about which he'd talked so much, so many years ago, with a wry resignation to his fate. Rathbone goes on in the book to recount what appears to have been an amazing transformation of The Guynd. Keith, it also appears, has done the same with Blair Adam.

The life of this old boyfriend turned out happy and well. And don't we wonder what happened to (some) boyfriends?

If you're into Old House stories, this is a delightful and moving book. I'm not returning it to the Y, but keeping it. Keith is running a couple of guest rooms at Blair Adam as a mini-B&B. You should visit. So should I.

Instant Gratification: "I knew when I married the man that I married the mansion."

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