It was rather a long week, what with one thing and another, and we had hatched plans to lie in & not do anything very much. But the best laid plans are apt to gang agley, and agley is where this one ganged, since we had an early visit from the Laird of the Pink Castle and his missus who had most kindly dropped by for a summit meeting on Box Blight — not tottering piles of surplus cardboard, but a malevolent fungus afflicting box — and since we have spent ten years and a lot of money creating a box parterre, symptoms of the aforementioned fungus need a careful seeing-to. Strategies were duly discussed, and we have a plan, which might work. Hope it does. So there we were, having waved our visitors off, up, dressed and talking in sentences rather earlier than we had intended. And it was a lovely sunny day. And in the general overhaul of just about everything, having contemplated the stunning beauty of the front spare room as redesigned by the Tropical Godparents, we considered, in the light of that, the erstwhile domain of Dr Biswell, and realised that it had a version of the same problem — a bulky and not in itself attractive chest of drawers making the room look small and cramped. So we decided to go to Auldearn and look at furniture, which is to say, a fairly long way, but up Speyside, O the hardship on a golden autumn morning. It’s precisely the week of the year when the larch needles fall off, and so somewhere like Speyside, you get a brilliant, glittering ribbon of gold on either side of the road. All the woods were looking glorious, in their rusty autumn plumage, and there were long, long views in clear air to purple-blue distant hills. Auldearn did us proud: the room doesn’t really need a chest of drawers if it isn’t someone’s home, so we have found a slender D-shaped mahogany console table which will do all that’s required, and lighten things up considerably. There are in fact two of them, and the other will live on the back landing. Our friends at Auldearn will take the two surplus chests of drawers (there is also currently one on the back landing) and swop them for flagstones for my garden. We also found one of the wackiest items of furniture that has come our way for quite some time. We have, as regular readers of this blog will know only too well, a penchant for interesting chairs. The latest acquisition is a Victorian hall chair, ca. 1870, which came out of a castle, and is black oak (made to look like bog-oak but isn’t half heavy enough for the real thing). It has front legs like Salomonic columns and the back is a very coarse, stuggy, countrified double headed eagle, with twin absolutely mad expressions: it is going in the guest bathroom, along with the rocaille mirror and all that. Some of our guests will shudder, and others will laugh. It is a long way to Auldearn. By half-way home, it was getting dark, and this is the fifth of November. We managed to be beetling about on a fifth of November a few years ago, and I was amused and unsurprised to discover that exactly the same thing was happening this year as it did them — all over the highlands, illicit piles of tyres and so forth were merrily ablaze, masquerading as festive bonfires, and contravening the stern injunctions of the Safety Elf. I suppose that if I was a nicer person I would disapprove more than I, in fact, do. On the topic of highland solutions: in the course of the week, I spent a happy evening with our friends who divide their time between Old Aberdeen and a profoundly Jacobite upland glen, so I was discussing the Mouse Problem, common to all country dwellers this year (Honey the Hamster Loving Hippie was, to my faint surprise, cogent on this topic the other day, she pointed out that due to the extraordinarily mild weather, the mouse community embarked on at least one more round of offspring than they usually attempt, so no wonder we’re awash). Anyway, she of the house up the glen observed that she had relatively little grief on this front since a colony of stoats had taken up residence in the attic. Stoats! The answer! Unlike Miss Kit, they can pursue mice intramurally! Miss Kit is doing her best, there were two mice laid out for inspection yesterday, but she is simply the wrong shape. I had thought, rather desperately, of snakes, but I had ENTIRELY forgotten the smaller mustelids. So the next question I lay before the assembled community of old and valued clients is: how do you attract stoats?