Deer at the Castle is the prompt for this week’s #writephoto flash fiction from KL Caley at New2writing.com. The Christmas lights are going up all around me, and although some are tasteful, and possibly LED on rechargeable batteries, most are just so much tat. I got an email from my garden centre featuring all the plastic rubbish you can buy to enchant your darlings. It’s enough to send me into a rant.
Instead, I saw the lovely photo of deer at the castle that KL had saved for this event, and spotted the start of an opportunity. I suppose it might have turned into a rant, but a practical one, I hope. The story is around 950 words.
If you’d like to know more about rewilding, check out the Knepp Estate story. I’d like to thank BTO for the presentation by the Knepp project manager [links to YouTube] at their annual conference last week.
Christmas Deer at the Castle
“Well,” the Duke said. “It’s the best we can do, m’dear.”
The Duchess sighed. “I suppose we could suggest it’s the new normal. We’re leading the way on low carbon Christmas decorations.”
“Indeed. Perfect soundbite. And the floodlights are now LED, so that’s all to the good.”
“Surprisingly good, in fact. I doubt anyone can tell the difference.”
“They don’t illuminate the turrets, but that’s a good excuse. Light pollution and all that.”
“What will the guests say, though?”
“We’ll just emphasise the eco-aspects of the whole estate. Low carbon this, recycled that. Rewilding the lower paddocks, the ones great-grandfather ploughed up in the war. In fact, is there anyone who could put an information board together before they arrive?”
“I dare say Matthew could do something amazing for a flyer, or some leaflets in the bedrooms.”
“Perfect.” The Duke started up the stairs to his son’s suite, most of whose rooms were devoted to computers, flying saucers, or something called ‘heavy metal’. That room was soundproofed.
The guests started arriving on Christmas Eve afternoon, in the tail end of Storm Fergus, which had at least been less damaging than its predecessors. Storm Arwen had merely been the hors-d’oeuvres for the next four.
“Come in, come in!” The Duke welcomed everyone at the door, once they’d had their soaked coats and hats removed by the bevy of maids and butlers. Most of the villagers relied on earning a little extra at Christmas time by keeping up the pretence of the Estate’s huge staff.
Some of those staying this festive season were genuinely rich, others, fourth generation inheritors of punitive death duties like the Duke, enjoyed his hospitality because their own would have been so meagre. The genuinely rich admired everything, the others looked for tell-tale signs that the Duke’s hardships matched their own. Sadly, they couldn’t find any that were not explained by the lavish leaflets in their rooms.
‘Climate change action at ____shire Estate’ the headline went, and continued outlining all the main features of the Duke’s climate change policy and practice. The pictures of work in progress were carefully cropped by Matthew, who was expert on the newest image-editing software, among many other mysterious talents.
Even the Duke was impressed. “Have we done all that?” he whispered to the Duchess.
“Ask Matthew,” she suggested.
There was no time for that, as the Reception beckoned, to be followed by dinner, then a stroll to the church for midnight mass, then a nightcap, then bed.
The Duke knocked on his son’s door before turning in.
“Hi Dad. All okay?”
“Yes, er, may I come inside?”
“Sure.” Matthew swept away something that looked like the skeleton of a walrus, and invited his father to sit on the easy chair. “All the guests settled?”
“Indeed. I just wanted to thank you for the leaflets. Truly impressive. Are we actually doing all that?”
“Yes, although some things are more obvious than others. And you can work on those for next year’s events if you like.”
“Well, do some more rewilding, like the meadowland down by the river that stretches all the way to Folders Wood, and then you should have habitat suitable for a red deer herd. That will complement the fallow deer at the castle already, in the park. And monitor the bird, butterfly and insect population. ___shire Wildlife Trust will probably help with that. And there may be grants. National Trust or Government ones. And invest in some more LED lights around the place, saves a fortune in electricity. And if we can work out where to put a solar array, some of that will be free.”
“Red deer, eh? Don’t want any poaching, though.”
“No. In time you’ll need to do some culling if it’s successful, but then you’ll have some sustainable organic meat for sale.”
“I say, Matthew. You do know a lot about this, don’t you?”
“Well, you did let me sort out my own education dad, estate management and environmental technology go well together.”
“Well, I tell you what, could you sit with the sheik’s son, Asif at dinner tomorrow, and with the retail millionaire, what’s his name…”
“Yes, that’s the chappie… they both want to get into this stuff and advertise their climate change credentials. Might even take you on as a consultant.”
“Will do. Oh, by the way, have a look out of the west window on your way back. The lights for the Christmas deer should be perfect now.”
“It’s two in the morning,” the duke protested.
“Never too early to show the world what well designed Christmas lights should look like, father.”
The Duke left, and did as he was told, as always.
Out in the grounds, not far from the curve in the road, was the glow of a red stag and a white doe, lit by some magic. More impressive than any of the gaudy twinkly lights they’d had in the past.
Shame his guests wouldn’t see them…
But their windows mostly faced west, so maybe they would.
The deer were the talking point of the Christmas dinner, laid so lavishly in the huge dining room, kept warm by a roaring log fire (trees grown and dried on site) and subtle hot waterpipes on the other three sides. The heatpump made it all very cosy.
The Duke basked in the praise of his guests for all the changes he had made, while Matthew worked hard pointing out the details, then turning it to discussions of how the other rich guests could reduce their carbon footprints.
Starting by measuring them.
Maybe it would be a happy new year after all.
Watch out for more Flash Fiction this week. Check Rhonda Parrish’s website on Tuesday 7th December for the start of a blog hop serial for her Giftmas appeal. My turn comes on Saturday – no book review this week!