This week, well, a week it was. I had already been a bit stalled out for the first few days, but screeched to a halt when the boiler stopped working. Could it be fixed? Eventually, perhaps. Could it be replaced? Not any time soon. Could we survive in the castle without heat, since most of the fireplaces have been stopped? Initially no one was sure, so we Fellows all packed bags and were sent off to what appeared to be the last hotel in Edinburgh with five rooms: a place very much on the European plan, which means no armchair and only the stingiest sort of flat space that might be used as a desk–if your back and eyes were good and you were not at all picky. I was already having trouble getting work done, and this put the cap on it. For the next day and a half, as we waited to find out whether we could return to the castle, I walked endlessly in Edinburgh, too restless to visit museums and not hale enough to climb to King Arthur’s Seat, which would have very effectively killed a few hours. I spent some time here in 2018, and it was a pleasure to revisit some restaurants and bookstores, but concentration was there none.
We were allowed back, but I have been completely unable to focus since then. For one thing, they started doing work around the castle in preparation for a year of renovations that (technically) start as soon as we are gone. For another, there’s still no central heat, so we rely heavily on space heaters and hot water bottles — though since the weather warmed up a bit, this hasn’t been terrible. For a third, I burned my hand (see: hot water bottles, above), which won’t be serious in the long run, but in the moment is inconvenient and painful.
My concentration is gone, utterly. I have been going for long walks and reading a book or two a day; I have been napping and watching birds; I have been eating fantastic food from an exceptional cook and attending Advent services in a Scottish chapel. This is all pleasant, but I am annoyed with myself. I know what a privilege this all is. I should not be wasting this once-in-a-lifetime experience. But as it happens, you cannot just clench your way through self-acceptance. So we’ll see what this week looks like.