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This article is taken from PN Review 259, Volume 47 Number 5, May - June 2021.

Now... Brian Morton
The house has eight doors. It is the happy occupation of a school morning to work out the manifold permutations of ingress and egress. It is our homely equivalent of the Bridges of Königsberg – though there were only seven of them – a puzzle solved by our hero Leonhard Euler, who gazes down in benign sepia from the study wall. Actually, he doesn’t. His slightly wall eye is on the next interesting problem. Our topology has complex and ever-shifting rules. Can one use each door in one direction only? Does the front door – not the original one – have a different status? Should the second door to the oratory be disallowed, since it would have been stoutly bolted during Sr Therese’s time here as an anchoress? Does the attached sheep fank which serves as a greenhouse and can be approached from both sides count as part of the house? Given that we spend as much time in there as sitting down, it probably should. Does the tiny door above the kitchen count when only a hobbit could get through it without stooping low?

Eight doors sounds like grandeur. And oratories and anchoresses sound like the kind of bad Gothic Jane Austen was satirising in Northanger Abbey, though that impression is tempered a little by the non-detached sheep fank. The reality is simpler and more eccentric. Round a tiny seventeenth-century bothy grew a series of outhouses, byres and stone barns, which gradually became incorporated into a larger dwelling for ten generations of small farmers who battled with ...


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