Christmas 2013 has been spent at Harburn House in West Lothian, a Georgian mansion set in 3000 acres of glorious Scottish countryside. It enabled twenty-one of us, from three generations of family, to all spend Christmas together in luxurious surroundings. All the young cousins could romp around together, and the adults could too, for that matter.
Sitting at my dressing table each morning with the four poster bed reflecting in the mirror made me feel like a character in a Jane Austen novel. Walking Kempy in such beautiful, tranquil countryside, with hills rising majestically in the distance, was dreamy.
So, before I get too carried away with the romance of the whole thing and decide that my real life is inadequate by comparison, I've decided to focus on all the reasons why I really, really wouldn't want to live in a glorious castle.
1. It is a very, very long walk to the nearest pub.
2. You get achy legs from having to keep going up and down colossal flights of stairs. Longer than four days here and I would end up with calves the size of large pheasants.
3. Hanging Christmas decorations becomes a life-threatening mission given the height of the ceilings.
4. There are so many bathrooms that choosing where to have a bath or shower becomes a major decision.
5. The drapes on one's four-poster-bed block out the light from one's bedside lamp, making night-time reading difficult.
6. There's no mobile phone signal, and fairly intermittent wifi, so it's difficult to boast about being here without constant access to social media.
7. Whatever you want is inevitably an awfully long way away from where you happen to be. On occasion I found myself three floors away from my slippers.
8. And, linked with number seven on the list, you have to shout very loudly indeed to be heard whenever you do want something.
But aside from those little niggles, it really has been a magical Christmas. Father Christmas managed to find his way here, alleviating the fears of the children. And though it didn't settle, we even had snow flurries throughout the day on Christmas Eve. I'll just try not to think too much about the journey home.