Rural Notes 09

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Our practice is very fortunate in having a client list which is so pleasant, loyal and appreciative. It makes all the difference between loving one’s job, and just dong one’s job. Moving to a new area, as I did over 20 years ago, is quite daunting, with every face, name and animal initially being a stranger, and not knowing what the timbre of the practice or its customer base is going to be like. Of course, it’s the new vet who is the stranger, not the clients but from their perspective, it’s all new. Happily it’s only a matter of time before friendships and working relationships develop, but it is always nice making connections with the past and having the feeling of ‘solid ground’ beneath the feet when change is everywhere around.

As such, I was delighted to receive a call from Prestonfield House Hotel shortly after I had settled in E Lothian. The hotel is widely regarded as the jewel in Edinburgh’s hospitality crown, and I have to say it is stunning. It sits nestled unobtrusively at the base of Arthurs Seat near Duddingston Loch, surrounded by ancient parkland policies. These provide grazing for the hotel’s Highland cattle and sheep, and provide cover for the varied bird life which inhabits this area and gives a genuine country house feel to a city centre location. Mostly indigenous, the bird life is made more exotic by the hotels ostentation of peacocks. (what a great term). The whole setting is very romantic.

It turned out that a former student flatmate of my brother, Alan McGuiggan, had become the General Manager of the hotel. He was worried about one of the cows, and called us as the nearest practice to Edinburgh which looked after farm stock. It was lovely to meet up with an old acquaintance, and in the years since, we have become firm friends.

Our friendship was mildly tested this time last year however, following a call from Alan requesting I visit as soon as possible and attend a peacock which appeared to have been mauled by a fox. I had an evening surgery to finish in Musselburgh, so I suggested that they take the poor creature inside and find a warm quiet corner where the bird might be safely comforted until my arrival. By 8pm I had emptied the waiting room and was en route to the Prestonfield. Arriving soon after, I was struck by how busy the car park was. Of course, this was Feb 14th, Valentines night, and loves young dreams were out in force, hoping to impress with their choice of venue.

This was all great news for the hotel, but it did make them somewhat busy. With an apology that he’d have to leave me to it myself, the doorman showed me a stone spiral staircase which ran up to one of the towers, at the top of which was a disused office which had been deemed suitably warm and quiet to rest the patient in. I climbed up, and up, and entered a circular room with a desk, on which sat a crisp box fully secured by yards of masking tape. There was a hole at either end, one of which sported a peacock’s head, and the other, the tail. Clearly, the box would need opened in order that the peacock might be examined, and as they are quite big, and as I was alone, I thought it prudent to firmly shut the office door beforehand. The heavy brass doorknob on the far side of the door made quite a clatter on the ancient flagstones as it fell off, and I wondered whether the peacock or the vet felt the more trapped. With the first of the guests leaving by 10pm, I suppose I had less than 2 hours to wait before anyone heard my pleas for help from the tower window. Plenty of time not just to attend to the wound on the peacock, but to admire it at length. They really are beautiful. Ostentatious even. Peacocks and Prestonfield House both.

 

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Glen Watson
Partner at Links Vet Group