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       Sunshine on Scotland Street, p.1
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           Alexander McCall Smith
Sunshine on Scotland Street

  Praise for Alexander McCall Smith’s


  “Devilishly clever.… Often droll, often touching, the Scotland Street stories are always delightful to read.”

  —Booklist (starred review)

  “Written with abundant wit … [and] equally large dollops of wisdom too.”

  —Scotland on Sunday

  “Sweet.… Graceful.… Wonderful.… Gentle but powerfully addicting fiction.”

  —Entertainment Weekly

  “McCall Smith’s assessments of fellow humans are piercing and profound.… [His] depictions of Edinburgh are vivid and seamless.”

  —San Francisco Chronicle

  “Irresistible.… Packed with the charming characters, piercing perceptions and shrewd yet generous humor that have become McCall Smith’s cachet.”

  —Chicago Sun-Times

  “McCall Smith’s plots offer wit, charm and intrigue in equal doses.”

  —Richmond Times-Dispatch

  “The most genial of writers and the most gentle of satirists.… [The] characters are great fun … [and] McCall Smith treats all of them with affection.”

  —Rocky Mountain News

  Alexander McCall Smith


  Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, the 44 Scotland Street series, and the Corduroy Mansions series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served with many national and international organizations concerned with bioethics.




  44 Scotland Street

  Espresso Tales

  Love over Scotland

  The World According to Bertie

  The Unbearable Lightness of Scones

  The Importance of Being Seven

  Bertie Plays the Blues

  Sunshine on Scotland Street


  The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

  Tears of the Giraffe

  Morality for Beautiful Girls

  The Kalahari Typing School for Men

  The Full Cupboard of Life

  In the Company of Cheerful Ladies

  Blue Shoes and Happiness

  The Good Husband of Zebra Drive

  The Miracle at Speedy Motors

  Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

  The Double Comfort Safari Club

  The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party

  The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection

  The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon

  The Handsome Man’s Deluxe Cafe


  The Great Cake Mystery

  The Mystery of Meerkat Hill

  The Mystery of the Missing Lion


  The Sunday Philosophy Club

  Friends, Lovers, Chocolate

  The Right Attitude to Rain

  The Careful Use of Compliments

  The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday

  The Lost Art of Gratitude

  The Charming Quirks of Others

  The Forgotten Affairs of Youth

  The Perils of Morning Coffee (eBook only)

  The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds


  Corduroy Mansions

  The Dog Who Came in from the Cold

  A Conspiracy of Friends


  Portuguese Irregular Verbs

  The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs

  At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances

  Unusual Uses for Olive Oil


  La’s Orchestra Saves the World

  The Girl Who Married a Lion and Other Tales from Africa

  Trains and Lovers

  The Forever Girl


  Copyright © 2012 by Alexander McCall Smith

  Illustrations copyright © 2012 by Iain McIntosh

  All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Anchor Books, a division of Random House LLC, New York, a Penguin Random House company. Originally published in hardcover in Great Britain by Polygon, an imprint of Birlinn Ltd., Edinburgh, in 2012.

  Anchor Books and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  This book is excerpted from a series that originally appeared in The Scotsman newspaper.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  McCall Smith, Alexander, 1948–Sunshine on Scotland Street : a 44 Scotland Street novel / by Alexander McCall Smith ; illustrations by Iain McIntosh.

  pages cm.—(44 Scotland Street ; book 8)

  1. Families—Scotland—Fiction. 2. Edinburgh (Scotland)—Fiction. 3. Humorous fiction. I. McIntosh, Iain, illustrator. II. Title.

  PR6063.C326S88 2014

  823′.914—dc23 2014009673

  Anchor Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-0-345-80440-2

  eBook ISBN: 978-0-345-80441-9

  Author illustration © Iain McIntosh

  Cover illustration © Iain McIntosh


  This book is for Barbara Fleischman



  About the Author

  Other Books by This Author

  Title Page



  1. Omertà, and Fascinators

  2. Late Climbers

  3. Buildings, Bridges, Whisky

  4. How We See the World, and Scotland

  5. The Misunderstanding of Glencoe

  6. Subjects and Symbols in Art

  7. Matthew Is Sorely Tested

  8. Au Contraire

  9. A Room at the Gritti Palace

  10. Irregular Marriages in Scots Law

  11. The Campbell Kilt Is Repaired

  12. Dearly Beloved

  13. Bruce Visits Crieff

  14. Bruce Meets Two Sporting Girls

  15. Bruce Meets Mike Snazz at Watsonians Rugby Club

  16. At Prestonfield House Hotel

  17. Lament for a Bird

  18. Cyril in Exile

  19. Cyril in Disgrace

  20. Dog Therapy

  21. Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen

  22. The Reel of the 51st

  23. A Danish Proposal

  24. The Man from Mains of Mochle

  25. The Cuddliness of Thistles

  26. On Psychotherapy and Freedom

  27. The Benefits of Self-Government

  28. At the Home of Ranald Braveheart Macpherson

  29. Malt Does More

  30. Navy Envy etc.

  31. The Doppelganger

  32. Rugby Types

  33. The Red Hot Chili Peppers et al.

  34. Out of the Mouths of Pre-Teens and the Non-Formula-Fed …

  35. Ranald Braveheart Macpherson’s Mother Receives a Telephone Call

  36. A Memory of Foxes

  37. Student Life

  38. T. Eliot Top Bard …

  39. The Caravaggio Within

  40. Ethics of Filming Giraffes … and People

  41. Observation

  42. Jonathan Makes a Proposition to B

  43. You Have My Life, I’ll Have Yours

  44. Shuggie McGrath and Other Memories

  45. A Visit to St. Bennet’s

  46. Pleasant Semi-Somnolence

  47. Cold Showers and Other Reactionary Preoccupations

  48. Tablet Is Full of Sugar

  49. The Wolf Man Again

  50. A Fiscally Responsible Boy

  51. Like Tiny Carrot-Lepers

  52. The Tragedy of the Carrot-Men

  53. A Tiny Carrot Icarus

  54. Svengali, EH3

  55. Young Spartans and a Moleskine Notebook

  56. The Hazards of Industrial Espionage

  57. The Tricks of the Documentary Trade

  58. Big Lou Remembers MacDiarmid

  59. Bursting a Boil Just Like Vesuvius

  60. The Life of Bacteria

  61. Jonathan’s Doubts

  62. Encounter in Dundas Street

  63. Economic Statistics, and Other Creative Activities

  64. One Out of Three

  65. Consultation Over

  66. The Turner Prize!

  67. News for Bruce

  68. Millions of Pounds

  69. Big Lou Goes Viral

  70. The Wisdom of Solomon

  71. Matthew’s Decision

  72. On the Importance of the Local

  73. A Reunion and a Vision

  74. The Good Fortune of Others

  75. Of Cheese Straws and Charity

  1. Omertà, and Fascinators

  Even if she had not been an anthropologist, Domenica Macdonald would have understood the very particular significance of weddings. Anthropologists – and sociologists too, perhaps even more so – often tell us what we already know, or what we expect to hear, or perhaps what we are not surprised to learn. And so we all know, as did Domenica, that weddings are far more than marriage ceremonies; we know that they are occasions for family stock-taking and catharsis; that they furnish opportunities for naked displays of emotion and unscheduled tears; that they are a stage for sartorial and social ostentation; that they are far from the simple public exchange of vows they appear to be.

  These insights had been impressed upon Domenica decades earlier by a visiting professor, one Salvatore Santaluca of the Istituto-Antropologico-Sociologico-Culturale of the University of Palermo. Santaluca’s study of the traditional marriage practices of the hill villages of Sicily was something of an anthropological classic, considered by some to be the equal of Margaret Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa, exposing the labyrinthine negotiations and discussions that preceded such weddings. Unfortunately, the publication of these details was viewed in some circles in Sicily as a breach of omertà, and the professor had some months later been shot in a restaurant in Messina, a crime that had yet to be solved, largely because those who were charged with investigating it were precisely the people who had committed it. Things had changed since then, of course, and the Italian state had tackled the criminal culture that had for so long blighted its southern regions; too late, though, for Santaluca and the various courageous Italian magistrates and policemen who had taken on the secretive bullies holding an entire state to ransom.

  It rather surprised Domenica that she should suddenly think of poor Professor Santaluca after all these years. But it was quite understandable, really, that she should be contemplating the institution of marriage and its customs, given that she was herself about to get married – to Angus Lordie – and was now sitting in her flat in Scotland Street, attended by her friend, Big Lou, preparing for the moment – only three hours away – when she would walk through the door of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Palmerston Place. Her entry would be to the accompaniment of “Sheep May Safely Graze” by Johann Sebastian Bach, this piece having been selected by Angus, who had a soft spot for Bach. Domenica had acceded to this provided that it would be her choice of music to be played as they left. That was Charles Marie Widor’s Toccata, from his Symphony No. 5, a triumphant piece of music if ever there was one.

  “People will love it,” she said. “It’s such a statement.”

  “Of what?” Angus had asked.

  “Of the fact that the marriage has definitely taken place,” said Domenica. “It’s not a piece of music that admits of any … how should I put it?… uncertainty.”

  “Maybe,” said Angus. “It’s the opposite of peelie-wersh, I suppose.”

  Domenica was interested. As with many Scots expressions, the meaning of peelie-wersh was obvious, even to those who had never encountered the term before. “And which composers would be peelie-wersh?”

  “Some of the minimalists. The ones who use two or three notes. The ones you have to strain to hear. Thin music. Widor is thickly textured.”

  They had moved on to discuss the hymns. Domenica felt vaguely uncomfortable when it came to hymns. She understood why people sang them – they performed a vital bonding function and undoubtedly buoyed the spirits – but she felt that the words rarely bore close examination, mostly being rather sentimental and somewhat repetitive. There were exceptions, of course: the words of “For Those in Peril on the Sea” were cogent and to the point. It was entirely reasonable, she felt, particularly in an age of global warming and rising sea levels, to express the desire that “the mighty ocean deep / Its own appointed limits keep.” But could one sing that at a wedding? One might at a mariner’s nuptials, perhaps, but neither she nor Angus were sailors. And then there was “Fight the Good Fight” which again had a perfectly clear message, but was clearly inappropriate for a wedding service, unless, of course, it was that of a pugilist, in which case the words would be taken as referring to professional rather than marital conflicts. “Jerusalem” was inspirational but referred to England, rather than to Scotland, and would seem quite out of place in a Scottish wedding. “Jerusalem” was inappropriate, too, Domenica felt, because right at its opening it asked a question to which the answer was almost certainly no. Its first line, stirring and dramatic though it may be, “And did those feet in ancient times …” invited the firm answer No, they certainly did not, words which could perhaps be set to music to be sung as a descant by the choir.

  Angus had not been particularly helpful in his suggestions. He had himself composed the words of a hymn some time ago when he had offered to the hymn revision committee of the Church of Scotland a composition called “God Looks Down on Belgium.” The opening words of this hymn, however, proved to be not quite what the committee wanted: “God’s never heard of Belgium / But loves it just the same / For God is kind and doesn’t mind / He’s not impressed with fame.” The second verse was even more unsuitable, making reference to Captain Haddock and Tintin, both of whom, it was felt, had no place in a modern, or any, hymn book.

  “You do remember that I wrote a hymn called ‘God Looks Down on Belgium’?” said Angus.

  Domenica gave him a warning glance. “I do indeed, Angus, and we are certainly not having that.”

  “Pity. I always rather liked it.”

  Now, sitting at her dressing table, while Big Lou attempted to fix on the fascinator she had acquired at great expense from a milliner in Fife – “One hundred and eighty pounds for four feathers!” Big Lou had exclaimed – Domenica remembered her first wedding. That had been so different. It had taken place in India, in Kerala, where she had married the eldest son of a Cochin mercantile family and had become for a brief time Mrs. Varghese.

  That wedding, like many Indian weddings, had lasted for days, with legions of relatives and friends coming from all over India and beyond. It had not been a particularly happy marriage and was very brief, her husband being electrocuted in the small electricity factory owned by his family. She regretted him, but, if she was honest with herself, she did not miss him unduly; nor did she miss her former mother-in-law. Angus came with no family baggage of that sort – except for his dog Cyril.

  Domenica knew that she was taking on Cyril, but felt that given a choice – between an impossible mother-in-law or a dog – many might choose th
e latter … discreetly, of course.

  2. Late Climbers

  “Does it really matter what I wear?” asked Domenica. “This obsession with the bride’s outfit is understandable when the bride is twenty-something, but in my case …”

  “Everybody will be just as interested,” said Big Lou, still struggling with the fascinator she was attempting to pin into Domenica’s hair. “It doesn’t matter how old the bride is … not that you’re all that old, Domenica.”

  She was not quite sure how old Domenica was. Forty-five? A bit more? Or less, perhaps? And Angus was difficult to date too: in some lights he looked as if he was barely into his forties; in others, he looked considerably older. He was one of those people who could have been anything.

  “I suppose age adds character,” said Domenica. “Or so we can console ourselves.” She looked in the mirror. It would have been ridiculous to wear a conventional bridal dress. It would have been mutton dressed up as lamb, she thought – a metaphor that would mean less and less as people forgot about the distinction. Where could one buy mutton these days? It seemed more or less to have disappeared; everything, it seemed, was lamb because lambs presumably did not have the chance to reach muttonhood. So the expression would go, and the language would be further impoverished. Tell that not in Gath. That had gone completely by now, as had the habit of piling Pelion upon Ossa. Or making it to the altar. To the what? a contemporary teenager might be expected to ask. Down the aisle. Down the what?

  “Yes,” said Big Lou through lips pursed to hold two hairpins. “I can’t be doing with those smooth faces that you see on film stars. You know the sort? All smooth – no lines. Nothing that shows us where the face has been.”

  “A few lines,” agreed Domenica. “But one would hardly like to look too much like a prune.” She paused. The fascinator was not going to hold; she was sure of it. “Or like W. H. Auden.”

  “The loon with the wrinkly face?”

  “Yes. His face was described as looking like a wedding cake left out in the rain.”

  Big Lou laughed. “It was a good face.”

  “Yes. He referred to it as a geological catastrophe. And of course he smoked, which must have made it worse. The kippering effect.” She paused again. “You know something, Lou? I feel slightly embarrassed about all this.”

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