I took an afternoon off and went to Rosslyn Chapel, which is about an hour’s walk down the River Esk from us. I have no good photos of it, alas; they’re not allowed inside the chapel, and the outside is completely covered in scaffolding. They’re doing a major renovation, thanks largely to Dan Brown, whose use of Rosslyn in The Da Vinci Code increased their annual visitors from 7,000 to 117,000, at seven and a half quid a pop. The chapel was begun in 1446 by the St. Clair family (who still own it) and took thirty years to finish. The inside is completely covered in carvings, and they’re some of the finest and most fascinating I’ve ever seen. There are over a hundred “green men,” pagan nature spirits with ugly little fat faces. There are mysterious carvings of corn — a crop unknown to Europe until after Columbus, indicating that the Knights Templar (who are associated with Rosslyn, as are the Freemasons) may have “discovered” America before he did. The crypt beneath the chapel, which holds the remains of 14 Earls of Rosslyn, is also rumored to be the secret hiding place of King Solomon’s treasure, which includes the Holy Grail. No one knows for sure because the crypt hasn’t been opened in 300+ years — the current Earl St. Clair won’t allow his ancestors’ rest to be disturbed. A few years ago, one of the guides pried a stone up in an attempt to peek in, and the Earl fired the entire staff. I got the distinct feeling that there are many historians and other interested parties impatiently awaiting the poor man's demise. The keep of Hawthornden was built during the same era as Rosslyn, the castle in the 1600s. Beneath it are dank, gloomy caves that I couldn’t wait to escape from and that date to the Picts in 1st Century B.C. Rumor has it Robert the Bruce once hid in them — better him than me. This whole area is riddled with caves, sandstone being relatively soft and carvable. There’s also a dungeon, which I haven’t seen. Martin, the director, says that’s where they put the bad writers.
I’m working verra verra hard, and the pages are accumulating slowly but steadily. A typical day: I get up at 9:00 and bathe in “the sarcophagus,” a boxed-in bathtub so enormous that I can lie in it fully supine and never touch either end. Usually I miss breakfast, so I have a piece of fruit at my desk. Lunch — soup, a sandwich, and carrot sticks — is delivered to my door in a wicker basket at 12:30. I write from 10:00 until 5:00 or so, then get out for some much-needed exercise, assuming it’s not pouring rain. (The freakishly mild weather has departed, and we’re now experiencing the usual Scottish autumn: cold, cloudy, rainy & windy. Good writing weather, if nothing else.) At 6:30 the residents meet for a sherry. Supper’s at 7:00, after which we have chamomile tea and conversation in the living room.
One of the Brits told us that Scotland has the highest incidence of obesity in the world, and after two weeks here, I understand why. Breakfast is toast, cereal, or parritch. For supper, we have ______ and potatoes: bangers & mash, beans & roast potatoes, shepherds’ pie (ground beef stew with a layer of mashed potatoes on top). Occasionally the potatoes are supplemented by macaroni & cheese. Then there’s dessert (see week one blog). Oh, and did I mention the homemade shortbread and lemon cake they put out for 4:00 tea? Och!
Pictured below: the view from my window, Rosslyn Village, and my fellow inmates, Jacqueline, Sarah, Sharon & Shaun