Love over scotland, p.1
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       Love Over Scotland, p.1
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           Alexander McCall Smith
Love Over Scotland


  Contents

  Title Page

  Dedication

  44 Scotland Street: The Story So Far

  1. Pat Distracted on a Tedious Art Course

  2. A Picture in a Magazine

  3. Co-incidence in Spottiswoode Street

  4. At Domenica’s Flat

  5. The Judgement of Neuroaesthetics

  6. Gurus as Father Substitutes

  7. Angus Goes Off Antonia, in a Big Way

  8. Money Management

  9. The Warm Embrace of the Edinburgh Establishment

  10. Does He Wear Lederhosen?

  11. The Bears of Sicily

  12. Quality Time with Irene

  13. An Average Scottish Face

  14. Distressed Oatmeal

  15. No Flowers Please

  16. How To Let Down the Opposite Sex Gently

  17. Anguish

  18. Fibs

  19. Leerie, Leerie, Licht the Lamps

  20. Truth and Truth-Telling in Gayfield Square

  21. Missing Domenica

  22. An M.A. (Cantab.)

  23. The Charms of Neo-Melanesian Pidgin

  24. Pat Gets to Know Tessie a Bit Better

  25. Matthew’s Friends

  26. Matthew Meets an Architect

  27. Leonie Talks

  28. The Boy in the Tree

  29. On the Machair

  30. Schadenfreude

  31. Bertie Makes His Statement

  32. Sirens and Shipwrecks

  33. The Ethics of Dumping Others

  34. In the Elephant House

  35. Setting Off

  36. Singapore Matters

  37. Ling’s Story

  38. At the Queen’s Hall

  39. Bertie’s Agony

  40. Bertie Plays the Blues

  41. Delta of George Street

  42. Empower Points

  43. Matthew Comforts Pat

  44. Angus Lordie Prepares to Entertain

  45. A Memory of Milanese Salami

  46. A Conversation about Angels etc

  47. Goodbye to Edward Hong M.A. (Cantab.)

  48. A View of a House

  49. The Story of Art

  50. Bad Behaviour

  51. Sun-Dried Tomatoes

  52. Casting Issues

  53. The Sybils of Edinburgh

  54. Political Truths

  55. Domenica Settles In

  56. By the Light of the Tilley Lamp

  57. A Nocturnal Visitation

  58. Moving In, Moving Out

  59. A Person from Porlock

  60. An Invitation to Dinner

  61. Beside the Canal

  62. Humiliation for Tofu

  63. Irene Spoils Things

  64. Lederhosen

  65. Reunited

  66. Bathroom Issues

  67. Bathroom Issues (Continued)

  68. The Rootsie-Tootsie Club

  69. An Unfortunate Incident

  70. Mrs Choo’s Tale

  71. A Formic Discovery

  72. Preparations for Paris

  73. At the Airport

  74. The Principles of Flight

  75. Scotland’s Woes

  76. Brunello di Montalcino

  77. Angus Impresses Antonia

  78. The Third Person

  79. Smugness Explained

  80. An Evening of Scottish Art

  81. At the Sardi

  82. Misunderstandings

  83. Mothercraft

  84. No More Nonsense, Nurse Knows Best

  85. Poor Lou

  86. A Letter to Edinburgh

  87. Stendhal Syndrome

  88. Girl Talk

  89. Irene Has a Shock

  90. Stuart Lends a Hand

  91. Pat and Matthew Talk

  92. Alone in Paris

  93. Bertie’s New Friends

  94. Deconstruction at the Sorbonne

  95. A Portrait of a Sitting

  96. Angus Reflects

  97. Domenica Makes Progress

  98. Poor Lou

  99. And Here’s the Train to Glasgow, Again

  100. Grey over Riddrie

  101. On the Doorstep

  102. Antonia Expounds

  103. Imaginary Friends

  104. Lost in the Mists Hunting Pirates

  105. At the Warehouse

  106. An Unexpected Development

  107. Wur Planets are oot o’ alignment

  108. On the Stairs

  109. In the Ossian Chair

  110. Domenica talks to Dilly

  111. Matthew Bears Gifts

  112. Giving and Receiving

  113. Domenica’s Dinner Party

  About the Author

  Also by Alexander McCall Smith

  Praise for the 44 Scotland Street Series

  Copyright

  This book is for David and Joyce Robinson

  44 Scotland Street: The Story So Far

  At the end of the second series of 44 Scotland Street we saw Domenica leaving for the Malacca Straits for the purposes of anthropological research. We saw Bruce safely departed for London. Now Pat is about to start her course in history of art at the University of Edinburgh. She moves out of Scotland Street to the South Side, but this does not mean that she breaks off all connections with the New Town.

  Poor Matthew. Even with the recent substantial gift which his father has given him, he is still restless and unfulfilled. Matthew, of course, would like to be fulfilled with Pat, but Pat does not wish to find fulfilment with Matthew.

  In the second series, Angus Lordie got nowhere. He is missing Domenica, though, and hopes that the part which she played in his life will be taken by Antonia Collie, a friend whom Domenica has allowed to move into her flat in her absence. However, Antonia proves to be a somewhat difficult character.

  We saw Bertie spending more time with his father, Stuart, who had managed to wring some concessions out of Irene, but some dawns, alas, are false. Irene does not change; to change her would be to deprive this story of the strong air of reality which has pervaded it thus far. For this is no fanciful picture of Edinburgh life, this is exactly as it is.

  1. Pat Distracted on a Tedious Art Course

  Pat let her gaze move slowly round the room, over the figures seated at the table in the seminar room. There were ten of them; eleven if one counted Dr Fantouse himself, although he was exactly the sort of person one wouldn’t count. Dr Fantouse, reader in the history of art and author of The Discerning Gaze in the Quattrocento was a mild, rather mousy man, who for some reason invariably evoked the pity of students. It was not that they disliked him–he was too kind and courteous for that–they just felt a vague, inexpressible regret that he existed, with his shabby jacket and his dull Paisley ties; no discernment there, one of them had said, with some satisfaction at the wit of the remark. And then there was the name, which sounded so like that marvellous, but under-used, Scots word which Pat’s father used to describe the overly flashy–fantoosh. Dr Fantouse was not fantoosh in any respect; but neither was…Pat’s gaze had gone all the way round the table, over all ten, skipping over Dr Fantouse quickly, as in sympathy, and now returned to the boy sitting opposite her.

  He was called Wolf, she had discovered. At the first meeting of the class they had all introduced themselves round the table, at the suggestion of Dr Fantouse himself (“I’m Geoffrey Fantouse, as you may know; I’m the Quattrocento really, but I have a strong interest in aesthetics, which, I hardly need to remind you, is what we shall be discussing in this course”). And then had come a succession of names: Ginny, Karen, Mark, Greg, Alice, and so on until, at the end, Wolf, looking down at the table in modesty, had said, “Wolf”, and Pat had seen the barely disguised appreciative glance
s of Karen and Ginny.

  Wolf. It was a very good name for a boy, thought Pat; ideal, in fact. Wolf was a name filled with promise. And this Wolf, sitting opposite her, fitted the name perfectly. He was tall, broad-shouldered, with a shock of golden hair and a broad smile. Boys like that could look–and be–vacuous–surfing types with a limited vocabulary and an off-putting empty-headedness. But not this Wolf. There was a lambent intelligence in his face, a light in the eyes that revealed the mind behind the appealing features.

  Now, at the second meeting of the seminar group, Pat struggled to follow the debate which Dr Fantouse was trying to encourage. They had been invited to consider the contention of Joseph Beuys that the distinction between what is art in the products of our human activity and what is not art, is a pernicious and pointless one. The discussion, which could have been so passionate, had never risen above the bland; there had been long silences, even after the name of Damien Hirst had been raised and Dr Fantouse, in an attempt to provoke controversy, had expressed doubts over the display of half a cow in formaldehyde. “I am not sure,” he had ventured, “whether an artist of another period, let us say Donatello, would have considered this art. Butchery, maybe, or even science, but perhaps not art.”

  This remark had been greeted with silence. Then the thin-faced girl sitting next to Pat had spoken. “Can Damien Hirst actually draw?” she asked. “I mean, if you asked him to draw a house, would he be able to do so? Would it look like a house?”

  They stared at her. “I don’t see what that…” began a young man.

  “That raises an interesting issue of representation,” interrupted Dr Fantouse. “I’m not sure that the essence of art is its ability to represent. May I suggest, perhaps, that we turn to the ideas of Benedetto Croce and see whether he can throw any light on the subject. As you know, Croce believed in the existence of an aesthetic function built into, so to speak, the human mind. This function…”

  Pat looked up at the ceiling. At the beginning of the new semester she had been filled with enthusiasm at the thought of what lay ahead. The idea of studying the history of art seemed to her to be immensely exciting–an eagerly anticipated intellectual adventure–but somehow the actual experience had failed so far to live up to her expectations. She had not foreseen these dry sessions with Dr Fantouse and the arid wastes of Croce; the long silences in the seminars; the absence of sparkle.

  Of course there had been numerous adjustments in her life. She had left the flat in Scotland Street, she had said goodbye to Bruce, who had gone to London, and she had also seen off her friend and neighbour, Domenica Macdonald, who had embarked on a train from Waverley Station on the first leg of her journey to the Straits of Malacca and her anthropological project. And she had moved, too, to the new flat in Spottiswoode Street, which she now shared with three other students, all female. Those were enough changes in any life, and the starting of the course had merely added to the stress.

  “You’ll feel better soon,” her father had said when she had phoned him to complain of the blues that seemed to have descended on her. “Blues pass.” And then he had hesitated, and she had known that he had been on the verge of saying: “Of course you could come home,” but had refrained from doing so. For he knew, as well as she did, that she could not go home to the family house in the Grange, to her room, which was there exactly as she had left it, because that would be conceding defeat in the face of life before she had even embarked on it. So nothing more had been said.

  And now, while Dr Fantouse said something more about Benedetto Croce–remarks that were met with complete silence by the group–Pat looked across the table to where Wolf was sitting and saw that he was looking at her.

  They looked at one another for a few moments, and then Wolf, for his part, slowly raised a finger to his lips, and left it there for a few seconds, looking at her as he did so. Then he mouthed something which she could not make out exactly, of course, but which seemed to her to be this: Hey there, little Red Riding Hood!

  2. A Picture in a Magazine

  At the end of the seminar, when Dr Fantouse had shuffled off in what can only have been disappointment and defeat, back to the Quattrocento, the students snapped shut their notebooks, yawned, scratched their heads, and made their way out of the seminar room and into the corridor. Pat had deliberately avoided looking at Wolf, but she was aware of the fact that he was slow in leaving the seminar room, having dropped something on the floor, and was busy searching for it. There was a notice-board directly outside the door, and she stopped at this, looking at the untidy collection of posters which had been pinned up by a variety of student clubs and societies. None of these was of real interest to her. She did not wish to take up gliding and had only a passing interest in salsa classes. Nor was she interested in teaching at an American summer camp, for which no experience was necessary, although enthusiasm was helpful. But at least these notices gave her an excuse to wait until Wolf came out, which he did a few moments later.

  She stood quite still, peering at the small print on the summer camp poster. There was something about an orientation weekend and insurance, and then a deposit would be necessary unless…

  “Not a nice way to spend the summer,” a voice behind her said. “Hundreds of brats. No time off. Real torture.”

  She turned round, affecting surprise. “Yes,” she said. “I wasn’t really thinking of doing it.”

  “I had a friend who did it once,” said Wolf. “He ran away. He actually physically ran away to New York after two weeks.” He looked at his watch and then nodded in the direction of the door at the end of the corridor. “Are you hungry?”

  Pat was not, but said that she was. “Ravenous.”

  “We could go up to the Elephant House,” Wolf said, glancing at his watch. “We could have coffee and a sandwich.”

  They walked through George Square and across the wide space in front of the McEwan Hall. In one corner, their skate-boards at their feet, a group of teenage boys huddled against the world, caps worn backwards, baggy, low-crotched trousers half-way down their flanks. Pat had wondered what these youths talked about and had concluded that they talked about nothing, because to talk was uncool. Perhaps Domenica could do field work outside the McEwan Hall–once she had finished with her Malacca Straits pirates–living with the skateboarders, in a little tent in the rhododendrons at the edge of the square, observing the socio-dynamics of the group, the leadership struggles, the badges of status. Would they accept her, she wondered? Or would she be viewed with suspicion, as an unwanted visitor from the adult world, the world of speech?

  She found out a little bit more about Wolf as they made their way to the Elephant House. As they crossed the road at Napier’s Health Food Shop, Wolf told her that his mother was an enthusiast of vitamins and homeopathic medicine. He had been fed on vitamins as a boy and had been taken to a homeopathic doctor, who gave him small doses of carefully-chosen poison. The whole family took Echinacea against colds, regularly, although they still got them.

  “It keeps her happy,” he said. “You know how mothers are. And it’s cool by me if my mother’s unstressed. You know what I mean?”

  Pat thought she did. “That’s cool,” she said.

  And then he told her that he came from Aberdeen. His father, he said, was in the oil business. He had a company which supplied valves for off-shore wells. They sold valves all over the world, and his father was often away in places like Houston and Brunei. He collected air miles which he gave to Wolf.

  “I can go anywhere I want,” he said. “I could go to South America, if I wanted. Tomorrow. All on air miles.”

  “I haven’t got any air miles,” said Pat.

  “None at all?”

  “No.”

  Wolf shrugged. “No big deal,” he said. “You don’t really need them.”

  “Do you think that Dr Fantouse has any air miles?” asked Pat suddenly.

  They both laughed. “Definitely not,” said Wolf. “Poor guy. Bus miles maybe.”

/>   Inside the Elephant House it was beginning to get busy, and they had to wait to be served. Wolf suggested that Pat should find a table while he ordered the coffee and the sandwiches.

  Pat, waiting for Wolf, paged through a glossy magazine which she found in a rack on the wall. It was one of those magazines which everyone affected to despise, but which equally everyone rather enjoyed–page after page of pictures of celebrities, lounging by the side of swimming pools, leaving expensive restaurants, arriving at parties. The locales, and the clothes, were redolent of luxury, even if luxury that was in very poor taste; and the people looked rather like waxworks–propped up, prompted into positions of movement, but made of wax. This was due to the fact that the photographers caked them with make-up, somebody had explained to her. That’s why they looked so artificial.

  She turned a page, and stopped. There had been a party, somebody’s twenty-first, at Gleneagles. Elegant girls in glittering dresses were draped about young men in formal kilt outfits, dinner jackets and florid silk bow-ties. And there was Wolf, standing beside a girl with red hair, a glass of champagne in his hand. Pat stared at the photograph. Surely it could not be him. Nobody she knew was in Hi! magazine; this was another world. But it must have been him, because there was the smile, and the hair, and that look in the eyes.

  She looked up. Wolf was standing at the table, holding a tray. He laid the tray down on the table, and glanced at the magazine.

  “Is this you, Wolf?” Pat asked. “Look. I can’t believe that I know somebody in Hi!”

  Wolf glanced at the picture and frowned. “You don’t,” he said. “That’s not me.”

  Pat looked again at the picture then transferred her gaze up to Wolf. If it was not him, then it was his double.

  Wolf took the magazine from her and tossed it to the other end of the table.

  “I can’t bear those mags,” he said. “Full of nothing. Airheads.”

  He turned to her and smiled, showing his teeth, which were very white, and even, and which for some rather disturbing reason she wanted to touch.

  3. Co-incidence in Spottiswoode Street

  “Your name,” said Pat to Wolf, as they sat drinking coffee in the Elephant House. “Your name intrigues me. I don’t think I’ve met anybody called Wolf before.” She paused. Perhaps it was a sore point with him; people could be funny about their names, and perhaps Wolf was embarrassed about his. “Of course, there’s nothing wrong with…”

 
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