The Guynd: A Scottish Journal by Belinda Rathbone
How romantic does it sound to have a whirlwind love affair with a handsome man who is the laird of the manor - for real? This might be the stuff of the paperback romance but for Belinda Rathbone, an American writer, it became real life. When she met and fell in love with John Ouchterlony, the 26th Laird of the Guynd, she would live both a fairy tale and a nightmare.
Before she knows it she is off to his ancestral home in north-east Scotland, to the Guynd, and her life is never the same again.
Guynd is a Gaelic word for a high, marshy place - in this case a much neglected one. It is also the title of a very entertaining autobiographical book about the decade that Belinda Rathbone spent trying to restore the Guynd, and to make it a family home for her husband and son.
Set on 400 acres of countryside, the Guynd is a 26 room house. When first seen by Belinda Rathbone, it is a decaying house, full of the possessions of past generations of Ouchterlonys.
There are overgrown gardens, and difficult tenants in the out buildings and in the house itself.
The Guynd had been neglected for so many years that it was literally crumbling - even basic maintenance seemed an overwhelming task.
And, John Ouchterlony - a frugal Scot - was not overly happy about spending the money necessary to make the Guynd once again the gracious family home it was before the First World War.
While researching the history of the house Belinda read the family letters and journals.
She tells us of the man who built the house, but never moved in; the uncles killed in World War II and the depression of her husband's father who had been a prisoner of war in Germany. It is a fascinating story and as Belinda learns about his family, she comes to understand her husband and his eccentricities. Understanding however, does not make it any easier to live with a man who will not allow her to change anything in the house without a great deal of marital stress - or discard anything from the rubble of past generations of Ouchterlonys.
Belinda, however, throws herself into the challenge of her new life. She has tremendous energy and is initially committed to making her marriage work and to making this great house a home for her husband and herself. She paints, and papers, re-upholsters and when she finds herself unexpectedly, but happily, pregnant, Belinda creates a whirlwind of activity in an effort to have some of the main rooms in the house ready to welcome her baby, and the family members who come from around the world to celebrate both a wedding and a christening at the Guynd.
There are many happy times at the Guynd. Belinda finds a garden historian to assist her in restoring the magnificent and unique garden. In spite of missing her American friends and relatives, Belinda does make friends as she fulfills her social expectations as the wife of the 26th Laird of the Guynd. The British class system still operates in this part of the world, and the responsibilities of the wife of the laird are not to be taken lightly.
But, it also a very difficult life for Belinda Rathbone, and a difficult marriage. They are very different people, from very different backgrounds. John is an eccentric and exacting man and he cannot let himself go and have fun with Belinda - it is all a serious matter to him. He cannot find pleasure in the restoration of his home - he sees it simply as an expense - and to make it once again a place of beauty does not, for him, justify the expense necessary. Eventually, there is a separation, and Belinda and their son, Elliott, the heir to the Guynd, return to the United States. The fairy tale was simply a fairy tale - but the resulting book is well worth reading, as a reflection on marriage, and a fascinating look at a marvelous place and the reality of the life of a laird.