Songs of Bliss
Ken McCoist sends the Lexus barrelling down a narrow lane, spraying loose
chippings into the hedgerows. This spindle thin thoroughfare is the main route into the
ancient market town of Hartland, now nothing more than a large village. Lundy can usually
be seen from this road during the day if the mists and the rain keep away, but it's pitch
Full beam on the headlights announces their arrival even though there's still half a
mile to go. The farm sits on a gentle down slope that has been scoured by Atlantic squalls
for centuries. The trees are twisted, pushing their branches out towards the south-west in
the direction of the prevailing wind. The rain, when it falls, which it does more often than
not, is almost horizontal.
The farm. The old Sillick place. Built in the late nineteenth century by a fanatical
gentleman farmer as a model of classical Victorian modernity, adorned with brick arches
and eagle topped buttresses, the farm is a wreck. Jock bought the place six years ago, one of
his first ventures in the property market, but the sheer cost and scale of the renovation work
means it will stay derelict. It keeps the tourists away. Jock has other plans for the place
The site consists of a large, seven bed farmhouse, part of which has been made
habitable again, and a range of huge, stone built barns, each one of which has walls three
feet thick. The Sillicks raised pigs and the remains of sties decay in the winter gales.
Abandoned machinery, seized solid with rust, litters the courtyard around which the barns
are arranged. The house is in darkness. Doctor Jasari prefers to sleep where he works.
"I hate this place", says Jock as the car bumps down an unmade track, passes the old
farm house and pulls into the courtyard. "Fucking albatross. A licence to burn money. Did I
tell you about the Sillicks. Mad as hatters. The old man lost an arm in a combine. Could
still knock seven shades of shit out of his boys and the wife, though. She, so they say, ran
off with another woman. Can?t say I blame her. When the old man died the brothers took to
drink. I bought the place for a hundred and forty grand, lock stock and barrel. Reminds me
of Glasgow after the ships went to Korea. Fucked."
The walls, which should be rendered, show salt leeched brickwork in huge, naked
patches. Window frames rot. Doors hang loose. To the left of the car is the old dairy, a two
storey stone megalith just like the barns. At first glance it too looks like a shell, like a
skeletal memory, but the car headlights reveal solid metal doors and steel shutters on the
windows. From the upper floor a thin sliver of electric light can be seen where one of the
shutters has warped slightly. Doctor Albania is at home.
Ken McCoist gets out of the car and opens the rear door for his employer. Davie
stays put like he always does, on duty, watching. Simple Davie. All grunt and gristle.
Doors slam. Footsteps echo off barn walls. To reach the upper level of the dairy
Jock and Ken go down a narrow passage at one end of the building. As they enter the
passageway a motion sensor triggers a mesh encased light. The passageway leads to a
staircase. Ken takes point, climbing two steps at a time and knocks on the door at the top,
while Jock waits at the foot of the stairwell.
There is a closed circuit television camera mounted on the wall above the door. A