By Alastair Reid
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Additional info for An Alastair Reid Reader: Selected Poetry and Prose
Andrews (or would have, if we had ever thought of it) more like an invention Page 27 of ours, a place we had once dreamed up, a place where nothing happened, as different from Chile as was imaginable. After that long wander, we came to rest in London. It seemed to me imperative that, with such patchwork schooling, Jasper should finish up within one school system, with a semblance of order to it. So he went to school in Highgate and came to terms with England. Apart from irregular sallies to Spain, we stayed put for four years.
Andrews. I cannot quite remember how or when the thought occurred to us, but then, all at once, on whim, we decided to spend the year there. I had some long, slow work to do, and St. Andrews boasted, besides its antiquated university, a venerable Georgian-fronted school called Madras College. On Market Street, I went into a solicitor's office peopled by gnomes and crones, and found that a house I had long known by sight was for renta house called Pilmour Cottage, not a cottage at all but an expansive country house, standing all by itself, about a mile from the center of town, in a conspicuous clump of elm, oak, and sycamore trees, screened by an umbrella of resident crows, and facing the sea, some five hundred yards across the golf courses.
It appeared to me, in that regard, somewhat unreal. In its human dimension, St. Andrews embodied the Scotland I chose to leave behind me. The spirit of Calvin, far from dead, stalked the countryside, ever present in a pinched wariness, a wringing of the hands. We were taught to expect the worstmiserable sinners, we could not expect more. A rueful doom ruffles the Scottish spirit. It takes various spoken forms. That summer, a man in Edinburgh said to me, "See you tomorrow, if we're spared," bringing me to a horrified standstill.
An Alastair Reid Reader: Selected Poetry and Prose by Alastair Reid