Sam Wilding's Blog
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The Big Hoose

After a refreshing swim, I settle down to some lunch and then walk the gardens of the place I once worked and played. Cameron House, formerly the home of Sir Patrick Telford Smollett, it is now a full-blown De Vere Hotel. It was, however, a stately home when I first ran along the grassy lawn by the family jetty. I was, well, 6 when I first stepped off the launch and joined in the Sunday school games. Mmm… 1967. It was a sunny day, like today, and the gardens were made all the more mysterious by the wailing of peacocks and the bleating of exotic geese. I got to know the Smollett’s through the church, St Mungo’s, and always found the local gentry personable and kind. Patrick would hail me in the supermarket, even though he did call me by my last name, whereas Mrs Smollett was more of a mystery. She was, in my opinion, like Grace Kelly in looks and seemed more distant, in a movie-star kind of way. I still see her from time to time, and she still looks beautiful. After a childhood of once a year visits, I eventually sang at their daughter’s wedding. I think the song was ‘By Blue Galilee’, and I think the daughter’s name was Gabrielle. After a few more years I became an employee of the Smollett’s, working as a game-warden, shop-keeper, fairground attendant and ticket collector in the Loch Lomond Bear Park. I wandered, blinded by hay fever, through an assortment of fully-grown Himalayan, European Brown and Canadian Bears, protected only by luck and the odd clump of dirt. They were great days and I still keep in touch with the various survivors. Patrick would, from time to time, yell at me from a high turret as I lay sunbathing in the bay, bobbing in the gentle roll of Loch Lomond. “Murdoch! I don’t pay you to float!” Time moved on and, after the sale of the estate, the Smolletts moved up the hill to a smaller pad. I visited the new house once, where, after several huge whiskies, I was introduced to the black piano where Irvin Berlin wrote White Christmas and where David Niven, perched on his boney elbows, recounted many an anecdote. I now swim and exercise in the building that has managed to form such a constant part of my life. And, I might add, have the odd wonderful meal. Cameron House – I salute you!

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