My whole life has been dominated by four simple, yet very powerful words, I Can’t Afford It.
What would I do if I suddenly became rich? Quit my job, pay off everything, sort my kids out, sit back and chill for the rest of my life.
Is that all I’d do? Of course not. If I somehow got hold of a few hundred quid I’d catch up with a few bills, pay back some or all that I owe to various people and put the rest in the bank and hopefully leave it there. I haven’t had any savings for the past few years as this country is being run by a bunch of mindless, heartless vampires doing everything they can to commit biblical crimes against their own people and get away with it.
Every penny I put away for whatever reason is quickly taken out again and used on everyday things, reducing the amount of wealth I have to my name to the same level of nothingness as there is in a politician’s promise with nothing but darkness, dust and sheets of ancient cobwebs fluttering about in a virtual breeze. But this post isn’t about politics.
If I somehow got hold of a few thousand quid, I’d be stuck as to pay off my loans or spend it on the house, or maybe treat us to a much needed holiday, only to come back to the daily grind of the relentless rat race moving no further than that all to familiar square one.
A hundred thousand would pay off the mortgage, loan, car, with the possibility of having something left over to update the house or get the garden sorted.
Two hundred thousand and everything is paid up in full, the house extended and decorated to perfection and the garden turned from a jungle to a paradise, but I’d still have to work for a living. Three hundred thousand and I can do the above and cut down employment to only part time for a couple of years or so before having to go back full time eventually.
Five hundred thousand and I could just about retire but live on a controlled budget to make it last the rest of my life. One million, retired, dream home, regular holidays, bliss, but it would still be on a strictly budgeted lifestyle. A million quit in this day and age isn’t as much in value as it was, say, ten years ago.
Five pounds when I was a boy went a long way. As a teenager a fiver would get me pissed at the pub for several days and I’d still have change for fish n chips. Today five quid would just about cover one pint and I’d need the best part of a tenner to cover a chippie. A million quid still sounds like a lot of money but in reality the sad thing is, it isn’t. Should I win the lottery for a cool one million, yes I’d be ecstatic with joy, yes I’d go a little bit nuts with a spending spree I could only dream of doing before, but, I’d watch every penny like I do now with no wealth to my name, being just as careful to stick within a monthly limit so as not to touch the million it self.
Life would be good, but I still couldn’t do what I’ve always wanted to do, as I still wouldn’t have the money to do it. That’s the problem with dreams; they tend to come with a hefty price tag. I’ve had many dreams in my life so far, some of them still rattle about in the dusty warehouse of my mind, but one dream refuses to be confined and stored away in the “It’ll never happen” department, a dream that filled my childhood with adventure and wonder and will continue to do so for the rest of my life, for part of me still believes that against the unimaginable odds, it still might one day become a reality.
“What, pray tell, is this dream of which thy speaketh?” I hear you demand.
“T’is simply this,” I reply, “to own my very own medieval castle.”
“Is this all?” sayeth my audience, “T’was this that hath kept me in the clutches of unholy suspense as one would upon the cusp of a long and bloody battle?”
“Frankly, yes,” is my reply.
“Then be gone foolish peasant, trouble me not with thy outlandish dreams of grandeur of which thy hath no hope to bestow with the blessings of reality!”
“But hark!” I protest, “be not in haste to dismiss my vision my good lord, for the castle itself be only the beginning of the wavering vision that haunts my troubled soul.”
“Very well,” sayeth you, “then sit. Have my servants bring thee wine as you tell me of this vision that haunts you so dearly.”
“As you wish.”
Lets say, that for a multitude of reasons, I suddenly find myself in possession of enough wealth to live my dream. I could if I wanted to, simply go out and buy a castle. This is all well and good but, chances are, even though I’ll be the rightful owner, it’ll already be protected by a charity like the National Trust or English Heritage; who’s job it is to preserve historical sights so that future generations can continue to enjoy them. This would mean that although I get to live in it, I wont’ be able to do anything with it.
To achieve my dream, I’d need to get my hands on a plot of land so I can build my own castle from scratch.
What would it look like?
How big would it be?
What on earth would I do with it?
To answer the second question, it would be enormous. To answer the first question, it would look like a cross between Hogwarts, and the kind of castle fortresses you’d see in fantasy and horror films. The sort of place Count Dracula would love to reside, and the Addams Family would feel quite at home. As to what I’d do with it, I’ll get to that later. First let me take you on a brief guided tour.
Castle Stabdagger will sit on high ground in the middle of an area of open countryside somewhere in my home county of Lincolnshire. I know that the city of Lincoln already has a castle that’s been stood there for hundreds of years, but the castle I’ll build would make Lincoln castle look more like a garden shed by comparison. It’ll have a deep moat and a long road leading up to the main entrance. Either side of this road will be woodland where the trees will reach their branches over creating a dark ominous tunnel obscuring the light of day; and by night would cause anyone to stop, turn on their heels and move hurriedly in the other direction. Cowing crows will accompany the journey down this road during the day, and hooting owls by night. Twigs will snap and the bushes will rustle creating a sense of unease as you venture further down the winding road, deeper into the shadowy passage.
Eventually you’ll come to a clearing as the woodland ends and the moat comes into view. Beyond the moat will be the castle wall where the drawbridge will be raised and held in place against the entrance, and watchful eyes peer from the darkness behind the arrow slits. The road will end in the middle of two short towers on either side. Atop of these towers will be my bowmen who will ask of your business here, with arrows, swords and daggers at the ready just in case. (In reality there’ll be a receptionist and a security officer, but they’ll be dressed in authentic looking medieval gear to give a good impression.)
You will state that you have an audience with his lordship at his personal invitation. My men will confer then give the signal to lower their weapons; well most of them, and begin to lower the drawbridge.
The air will be filled with the loud clanking of enormous chains as the bridge slowly lowers, before landing with a clang beside the watchtowers, causing the birds in the woods to scatter with fright, chirping and squawking as they flutter about.
As you slowly venture your carriage onto the bridge you may feel it isn’t safe, and the deep green water seems ready to take you away in a heartbeat, but hath no fear, the bridge is strong and sturdy. Now you are faced with the enormous iron portcullis, where the cross bars and beams are designed to give the resemblance of a giant grinning skull. A call is heard and more chains clatter as it is slowly risen to allow you access. Your carriage dares to move forward beneath the sharp points of the cullis that could come crashing down upon you at any moment.
Beyond the cullis is a dark stone passage. Above you the crisscross stone work is decorated with hideous faces of gargoyles and goblins that seem to be laughing as the cullis is lowered down behind you. The sharp points slide into their holes with a thump that echoes in your ears; and the drawbridge is raised until the light of day is slowly eliminated.
Alone in the dark, daring to remove your hands away from your ears, when a shard of light appears before you, as two giant wooden doors are slowly opened. The iron hinges creak like a bunch of ghostly tortured souls begging you to turn back. Beyond the doors is the enormous courtyard, and beyond that is the residence of his lordship. A giant Gothic structure that sends chills down the spines of all who look upon it. Welcome to Castle Stabdagger.
The courtyard is huge. The wall that surrounds it is at least thirty feet tall with battlement towers every hundred meters. Each tower on the inside of the wall will be a two story building with a set of stone steps running up to the top on the left of each tower. The ground floor room will be filled with weapons and armaments, the first floor will be for lower level defence and the top will be for my soldiers to aim their arrows high to form a shower of death to all who would dare to threaten my beloved kingdom. (Though of course in reality, one or two of them will be set up like this for visual and educational reasons, using either people dressed accordingly or mannequins in medieval attire. All the other wall towers will be for refreshments and information for my visitors throughout the year. )
The view you’ll see when standing at the entrance beyond the portcullis will no doubt take your breath away. The courtyard itself is large enough to stand over ten thousand people. The castle itself is something straight out of a fantasy horror film with its towers and spires, arched windows and Gothic hand carved masonry. It’ll give you the impression that perhaps you’ve stepped back in time to an age when knights in gleaming blood stained armour were fighting for honour and valour, pretty maidens and damsels in distress were being hounded by ogres, monsters and evil wizards.( Nowadays of course its corrupt politicians and local riff-raff causing all the bother. )
To the left of the castle is an ornately designed mini cathedral that functions as a real church, but is mainly used as part of the business end of my kingdom, where people can hire it for weddings, christenings and other such things that churches are used for. It’ll be occupied and run by real monks who reside in their own dwellings behind it between the church and outer wall. The monks function as they do in their daily lives as well as greeting visitors who wish to learn and see life in that environment.
Your attention will then be drawn back to the castle where a rumbling sound will be followed by a large plume of smoke rising into the air from the highest point of the structure. Fear not my weary visitor, thou art quite safe, for now. We shall return to this oddity a little later.
To the right of my castle the courtyard opens out into a large field big enough to house a full size football pitch. And up towards the outer wall you’ll see three wooden structures being constructed that look like stages. They are indeed stages that will soon be filled with orchestras and musicians for the first of a series of music festivals that I will be hosting on an annual basis through the summer and autumn seasons. The music will range from classical, pop, rock and metal, and each will last for four days. The first for this year will be in collaboration with Classic FM, but more about this later.
Right now you’re probably eager to get inside the castle and have a good nose around, but first you’ll need to be taken to your room as you’ll be staying with me for a little while. You see, my castle isn’t just my family home, it’s also a hotel with an indoor pool, cinema, games room, ball room, and my own fully licensed bar.
Once settled in you’ll be free to wonder and explore at your leisure. Only the family quarters are off limits to the general public but you as my guests will have pass to explore everywhere. To begin with, let me take you back to the grand entrance at the castle front.
We’ve all seen those movies that have weary travellers out on a stormy night, they end up in some kind of trouble and need to find help or shelter from the only place nearby. The place in question is far from inviting, but out of need they force themselves to venture forward in the hope that they’ll be safe as the thunder crashes above them, and the wind howls like ghostly wolves hiding in the shadows. Everything about the place seems to be telling them to turn back while they still can, but the icy cold rain pushes them closer until they stand by the front doors. A bright flash of lightening illuminates the scene and they huddle together, wondering which of them is brave enough to reach out and pull the door bell handle.
Fortunately for you it’s a rather splendid morning and your presence at my castle is of a personal invitation. But still, the grand entrance is designed to be un-nerving. You’ll see intricate carvings blended in with the stone work of twisted faces that seem to watch you from every angle. The wooden doors are also carved to show Gothic scenes and Celtic patterns. The stone work around the arched doors resemble a large gaping mouth ready to snap shut on my unsuspecting visitors, mainly religious callers and sales people.
On either side of the doors are statues of the ghostly grim reaper reaching their scythes over the top of the door arch in mirror image to each other; the tip of the scythes touch beneath a stone shield depicting the Stabdagger family crest. Further out from the doors will be depictions of skeletons, ghosts, ghouls and other such monsters of folklore and legend.
To the right of the door will be what looks like a severed arm hanging from a chain. Take hold of the cold, clammy hand and pull. You’ll hear a bell ring accompanied by a whaling blood curdling scream of an unfortunate wench echoing through the hallways that lie beyond the doors. After a few moments of ominous silence you’ll hear footsteps, a thud, a scrape; then the doors will slowly open inward to reveal a tall, gaunt looking man with wild piercing eyes and an aura of gloom about him. This is Greegore, my butler. He may look like death warmed over but he’s actually a pleasant enough chap, (most of the time).
With a deep gravelly voice he’ll bid you welcome while pretty maids dressed in black will take your luggage into the hallway to be collected by the porters. Greegore will then stand aside and await for you to find the courage to step over the threshold, reminding you of all those old Vampire movies where to do so means sealing your fate. The hallway before you will be an ornately Gothic affair with dark mahogany covering almost everything. Giant oil paintings depicting people and scenes that would be right at home in a haunting nightmare, life sized suits of armour, fake animal heads from a variety of species with eyes that seem to look deep into your soul. Displays of weapons and instruments of torture cover the walls; the sealing is painted with yet more dark visions and creepy characters. Taking centre stage is the lavish staircase that divides at the top. The hand rails look like snakes which curl up on either side of the bottom step forming two dragon heads with gaping mouths, and at the top you’ll find the pointed tails. The middle of the stairs is a blood red carpet. At the top where they divide is a large oil portrait of Vlad Tepes. The whole area will cause you to stop and observe, your imagination will have you see a vision of Countess Dracula descend the stairs with her long flowing dress trailing behind her, and her sweet yet deadly smile sending chills down your spine. The whole of the interior of the family quarters of my castle is decorated the same way throughout. The rest of the castle open to the public is more authentic to how a castle would have look back in the days when they were lived in by the various people who lived there, except without all the unhygienic stuff.
Greegore will bring you to a reception desk where a giant book awaits your signature of registration. The book itself looks like it could have once belonged to a Witch to list her spells, potions and darkest confessions. Beside it is a long black feather quill resting in a pot of red inc. Scratch your name across the line with the time and date, then Greegore will take you up the stairs to your room, where you face the daunting prospect of spending the night in a place that’s surely as haunted as it appears.
Your rooms are as Gothic as you’d expect yet stylishly decorated for comfort and privacy. An enormous four poster bed awaits to escort you to a place where dreams are haunted by a shadow of darkness. The bookshelf contains all the horror classics both old and new with ample books on gruesome history, ghosts, Witch’s and medieval methods of extracting things from people, like teeth, entrails and confessions. An open fire with fresh logs beneath a painting of a moonlit scene with a castle looming over a valley by a lake, housed in a frame that twists and curls. Either side of the fire is a miniature suit of armour standing around three feet tall. The mantelpiece is hand carved with ghoulish faces and various creatures of the night.
Other paintings are dotted around the room of people with peering eyes that follow you everywhere. On the floor by the fire is a fake animal skin of a tiger with open eyes and gaping mouth. Don’t worry; all the animals decorating my Castle are fake as I’m a big believer in wildlife preservation. Why have the real thing when an accurate recreation is much kinder allowing the animals to roam in the wild where they belong.
Every room is on suite and even the bathroom is Gothic and old fashioned in design. There’s a small kitchen area to one side of the door with small fridge to contain milk and a selection of alcoholic beverages, a kettle and microwave, although their not immediately recognisable as they’re custom designed to look like objects you’d find in a room from centuries past. Dominating the room is a chandelier with crystals shaped like skulls and others that look like ghosts. The ceiling is again painted with a scene that would normally be of a religious theme; instead it shows death in place of god, and a Styr in place of man reaching out to touch each other’s fingers. Instead of cherubs are little devils and in place of Angels are Demons. The windows are tall in arched stone frames that look like they were stolen from a monastery with painted glass showing similar anti religious characters. To the far end of the room are glass doors leading to a balcony large enough to keep a coffin, with a view of the whole of the courtyard and the stages. Perfect seating for my music festivals without having to mingle with the crowds. As you stand to take in the view which also covers the picturesque scene of the Lincolnshire countryside, you once again hear an ominous sound from somewhere above accompanied with a rumble that sends mild vibrations through the castle.
Now unpacked it’s time to look around and you’ll see that my family chambers are as atmospheric as the house in the remake of The Haunting 1999 remake and designed in a very similar fashion. There is also a strong influence of Hogwarts with holographic pictures that move as you walk by them. Bronze torches instead of lights, chandeliers every few meters, paintings of horror legends like Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Lon Chaney, etc. The halls are decorated with Victorian style displays of wildlife and flora, again the wildlife is fake as I wouldn’t have real stuffed animals in my home. There’ll be more armour displays and statues of people and things that are meant to unnerve. Among the many rooms in this part of my castle is the Royal Chambers, just in case her Majesty decides to pay me a visit. These rooms are of course off limits as they are specially created for maximum security.
Finally you reach my personal living area where me and the wife reside. Beyond the heavy dark oak doors is the living quarters, a large room with multimedia centre to one side, an enormous open fire place on the far wall, a bar to the other wall and a pool table. The middle of the room is lowered into a circular section where the most luxurious multi seater couch awaits your weary arse to recline. Sit back with a drink and relax. There’s time to see the rest of my place in the days to come. Later we can go down to the private cinema and watch a few horror classics
My Castle will have it all. Everything I ever dreamed off since I was a weird little boy. The Cathedral won’t be as big as a real one, but will be just as elaborate. Inside it’ll be designed to give the impression of being much larger than it is with the use of mirrors and clever architectural illusions. Like I said before it’ll be a real functioning church ran and maintained by real monks. I personally don’t have any religious beliefs what so ever, yet I wanted it as no castle would be complete without one. The Cathedral forms part of the business side to my Castle as it can be hired out for weddings and so forth, even funerals.
The business end of my Gothic fantasy kingdom will have many areas to play with. The whole place is open to film and TV companies wishing to use it for location filming of any kind. There will be seasonal and annual attractions and events to lure the visitors in and keep them thoroughly entertained the year round. My mini Cathedral can be hired for weddings and so forth catering to as many faiths as care to use it. The castle will be open to various parties ranging from children’s birthday celebrations to high class business meetings. My home is also a hotel where my guests can stay for as long as they can afford to, I mean, as long as they wish. If I’m fully booked I’ll have my own static caravan park close by in collaboration with holiday companies to provide the usual entertainment. There’ll be plenty to keep the kids amused and educated with interactive features and events. Of course I’ll also welcome school parties during term time.
Much of the events and attractions will be in aid of various charities and fundraisers. Every other Sunday my courtyard will host an outdoor market, but best of all, every year I’ll host my own festivals, not just music, but all sorts of things. In regards to the music, the stages are nearly complete, the members of the orchestras will soon be arriving for rehearsals in a weekend dedicated to the celebration of late spring, early summer with the most beloved classical music. In midsummer there’ll be a weekend of rock music featuring bands from all over the world. I’ll even host pop music, etc, etc. Between the festivals will be a series of concerts by whoever cares to perform here.
Between spring and late autumn there’ll be a series of murder weekends if my guests are brave enough to take part. All the occult festivals will be honoured including the solstices, eclipses when they happen, and the greatest time of year will become infamous as my Halloween and Bonfire Night parties will become legend. Christmas at Stabdagger Castle will also be open occasions if people want to spend it at my humble abode. If so then crimbo dinner will be held in the great hall where my guests will dine with me and the family. New years will also be a good excuse for a jolly good party with music and fireworks.
Once a season, so four times a year, I’ll hold another celebration in honour of my servant staff who work hard through the year to help me keep the castle up and running. These events will be in tribute to them as a way of saying thanks.
There’s that rumbling sound again. Your probably wondering what the hell it could be. If you feel it sounds like a giant monster lurking somewhere at the top of the castle then you’d be right. There is a monster up there and it’s getting restless. My music festivals will be held over a four day weekend. The final act will have the pleasure of ending the show with a terrifying spectacle. To bring the festival to a close there’ll be a mighty roar. The crowd will turn to face the castle to see an enormous animatronic dragon sitting on top of the castle roof. She’ll spread her wings, take a deep breath then spit a plume of fire into the sky accompanied with a display of fireworks. This is Ashley our pet Dragon, for no castle is complete without one. She won’t just pester the music lovers, she’ll pop her head up at various times to keep the guests on their toes and the kids thrilled to bits.
For the kids birthday parties, the birthday boy or girl will get to sit upon a throne and be the host of their own medieval style banquet. If they’ve been very good, I might take them for a secret visit to the top of the castle to meet the Dragon, if of course she’s in a good enough mood not to toast them to death.
Oh my castle will be a wonderful centre of mirth and merriment. It won’t just be a home and a business, it’ll be whatever I can make it out to be during my lifetime. Who knows, I might even purchase an area of land next to it and build my own Gothic themed fairground. I’ll be sure to build it next to an area of woodland so I can construct life sized replicas of dinosaurs, aliens and monsters. Just for the hell of it I’ll have a set of ruins constructed and lurking among them will be creepy statues of horror film favourites, such as Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man, Witch’s, Demons, and Aliens. From the castle, the view of something silver hiding among the trees will draw the guests to venture out to see what it could be. They’ll find a Martian Tripod standing menacingly yet motionless above them, (from the 80’s TV series.) Behind it will be another Martian war ship from the 1952 classic War of the Worlds. There’s also a police box hidden in the woods.
There’s so much more I could say about my fantasy castle, yet by now I feel you get the general idea. There is nothing wrong with dreaming, yet reality continues to keep my pockets empty and my bank accounts gaining interest in the form of dust and cobwebs. I’m 43 now, and still dream of one day opening up Stabdagger Castle to the world. Who knows, one day, against all odds, it still might just come true.