‘There are bells in every room to summons the servants...’

With land work at a complete stand still for us, the herd safely ensconced inside a warm dry fold-yard and the sheep hopefully up to unmentionable goings on with the tups, it was time for yet another foray north to Scotland.

Daily check-ins to John’s brother Geoff reassures him that the stock are all OK. Regular emails from our house and dog sitters roller coaster between a disaster when a fox has dined on three chickens who had strayed too far from the hen run and praise for the freezer meals I had slaved to produce for them.

Leaving a farm and farm house to go away for a few days is not a simple matter of closing the door and driving off.

It has been a holiday of two parts, partridge shooting and stalking. Deer not women.

On the partridge shoot in Moray, my friend Rosie and I were part of the beating team sharing the back of the Land Rover with Jude, the most ancient, moth eaten, foul smelling, border collie, springer, cocker spaniel you have ever seen. Her looks belied her talent. Although thirteen years old, she was still a goer.

Whilst Rosie and I reeled out of the Land Rover still recovering from doggy fumes, Jude was off, nose down, tail wagging, job in hand. Rosie and I were convinced from her appearance that she carried some virulent , contagious canine disease, but so far neither our hair, or fur, has dropped out.

Moving south to Perthshire for the stalking we have been blessed with the weather and the Arts and Crafts house that friend Dave has booked for the group of us. Perched high above Loch Earn the house boasts fantastic views.

A book lined summer house speaks of gracious living and a slower pace of life a century ago.

Less- than-knowledgeable-me was searching for the osprey fishing on the loch that I had read about; only to be informed by my far more knowledgeable husband that the osprey was by now very sensibly fishing in North Africa.

Pictures that the men have brought back of their successful stalks show snow-covered hill tops bare of the blaze of autumn colours that the trees on the lower slopes display.

The house we are in is equipped with bells in every room to call up servants. Even by the baths and the toilets. It does not bear thinking about the consequences or reasons for those summons.

It led to nostalgic reminisces about the number of live-in farm workers, laundry, house and kitchen maids that were employed on the very farms all of our group live in.

Long gone grandmothers supervised the production of massive meals and allowances for the farm workers whose numbers were swelled when seasonal work such as harvest required extra hands. “What an easy life it was,” intimated the men compared with that of current farmer’s wives.

They may yet suffer the same fate as the deer and partridge if there are any more comments like that.

Mrs Downs Diary