A Scotsman’s home is (very nearly) his castle

October 17, 2011

It is a basic rule of mine, that when more than 3 people email me asking if I am ‘still alive?’, it’s probably a good time to write a blog. Especially when one of those people is my agent. I wish I had some incredible news for you, like, I’ve just finished a novel, or starred in a movie? But, the nearest I got was doing a charity voiceover for a giant porcelain animal in the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. And, you are all welcome to guess what animal that might have been? The only other exciting news is that I very nearly bought a castle a few weeks ago. It’s funny how a simple search online can get out of hand. You are probably wondering why anyone without a title and his own private army would want a castle? Well, the answer is, I saw it online and I just thought ‘wouldn’t it be great to have my own castle?’ My generals swiftly concurred. Obviously, I wasn’t looking for a castle at the time, I was searching online for a private island…No, not really. In fact, the whole sequence of events began with me looking to order a French language course online. I had a sudden, and inexplicable, desire to learn the language I have spent several years mocking on stage. While searching I came across a forum that stated that ‘there was no better way to learn a language than to actually go and live in that country.’ At first, I thought, ‘thank god I’m not learning Libyan?’ Then I thought ‘Hey, why don’t I go and live in France for a bit? Pourquoi the hell not?‘ From there, I started looking up ‘properties to buy in France?‘ I couldn’t believe how affordable French property was compared with that of the UK? I clicked on one striking-looking chateau in the Loire Valley region which was advertised for the same price as my flat in Edinburgh? I was gobsmacked!…how did they know I lived in Edinburgh? It was settled then. I was going to sell my flat in Edinburgh and buy a chateau in France. I would immerse myself fully into French culture. I would wear a stripy top with onions around my neck, a beret on my head and grow a pencil moustache…and within a year I would be completely fluent in.. mime? Then, I thought ‘hang on? I live in Scotland. The land of castles. I wonder if there are any castles for sale in Scotland?’ By this point I began to lose sight of the initial point of the search. Further browsing revealed there are indeed many castles for sale in Scotland. And then I saw it… A magnificent 8-bedroom castle in a remote part of the highlands going for a song. It had been on the market for several months, but because of the location and condition, it had attracted less interest than a game of ‘spin the bottle’ at Amanda Knox’s slumber party. It needed work. A lot of work. But, can you imagine how cool it would be? I would be able to host hunting weekends, even though I am fiercely against the practice, (so maybe just ‘hide and seek‘ weekends?) I could build my own moat with a drawbridge, which, in the wake of the riots in London, moved right up the ‘list of things to be done on my castle.‘ I could walk around the rooms carrying a giant fire torch and pretend I am looking for heretics?.. Too soon? The locals would be suspicious of me at first, but would gradually warm to me. I would spend my evenings reading rare books in my library. Yes, I would have a library! This was all coming together nicely. Also, can you imagine how cool it would be to invite someone round and not tell them you lived in a castle? ‘Oh, did I forget to mention it was a castle? Is it still £20 to clean the lot?’ Or just to see a visitor’s face as you lower a drawbridge for them to walk across while you stand on the other side wearing only suspenders and a smoking jacket… there’s one group of trick-or-treaters you won’t see again in a hurry! Anyway, all this initial enthusiasm started to wane when the practical side of owning one’s own castle started to unravel. For starters, I am constantly forgetting where I put things. It is a problem in a one-bedroom flat in Edinburgh, but trying to remember where I left my car keys in a 8-bedroom castle? Secondly, I reckon in the dead of the night in a remote castle, with the wind howling outside, I would probably be more than a little scared? That’s 7 additional bedrooms for me to check under the bed for monsters. And thirdly, I worry that my life at the moment is too reclusive, I don’t know if the answer is to completely detach myself from the outside world? It’s a curious thought, that 400 years ago, if you lived in a castle, you got visitors (or invaders) all the time, but nowadays if you live in a castle, people are far more likely to think you are mentally unstable. And, that’s probably a bad thing. In the end, my decision was made for me, when someone else put in an offer for the castle. A ‘mystery buyer from overseas’ I am told. Hmmm. He wasn’t a colonel by any chance was he?…Hello? Hell-ooo? I haven’t totally discounted the idea of owning a castle, but maybe I should give the whole ‘society’ thing a few more years? I have a feeling committing to living in castle on my own would start the slow march to insanity, which would end up with me just stumbling around muttering incomprehensibly to myself. All of which reminds me… I am hoping to announce very soon some tours for next year. I have been told that they are not 100% confirmed yet, so best not to announce them, but lets just say there is a better than good chance I will be touring a large cold country to the North of America in Spring next year (don’t get excited Greenland!) And I will probably have some dates in the US tagged on to the end (which is the exact opposite of how most people do things.) There are plans for another UK tour next autumn, but I don’t think that it will go on sale for a little while yet? As ever, I will make a proper announcement when I have everything confirmed, or you can check my website? Many of you have asked about a DVD of my show from this year? I am hoping to record the show as a one-off in Edinburgh early next year, for a release soon after. It’s not certain yet, but if it happens I will post details of the recording date for those of you in Edinburgh interested in coming along? That’s really all there is to report at the moment. I am spending the next few months writing new material, which I will start trying out in the clubs and pubs, and hopefully have a good chunk of the new show ready by the end of the year. If I find myself on a good bill somewhere in London, or Edinburgh, I will send out a tweet, so you can come along and see how I am getting along? Or, if you never hear from me again, I bought a castle.