The Linnet's Wings :Take All My Loves, My Love - Page 70

The Linnet´s Wings tivity on my part attributing thoughts to him which he didn’t have, but his taciturn and sometimes even snappy attitudes towards me made my interpretation credible enough. There was also a visible difference in his atti- tudes towards me and my brother that he didn’t appear to make any attempt to conceal. James would usually get something along the lines of ‘now then, young man’ and the expression which passed as a smile for Uncle Stuart; at least that’s what I took it to be, as I’d had precious lit- tle sight of it myself. As my eighteenth birthday passed, I deliberately dropped the ‘uncle’ and started calling him ‘Stuart’. The first couple of times produced angry glares, but then he settled to it with a kind of ‘well, what can you expect?’ attitude, and James became ever more the blue-eyed boy. James didn’t confess himself exactly ex- hiliarated. He already had a dry, laconic humour all of his own. ‘Well, aren’t I just the lucky one’, he said, and rolled his eyes. James had and has the ability to make me laugh out loud, and I think he enjoys doing so. One of my final runs, in early September short- ly before I was to set off for what looked like a whole new life at Durham University, became a revelation in both good and bad ways. The great advantage of run- ning compared with climbing is that it allowed me to think, rather than having to concentrate my entire being on controlling my terror. Watching my feet pounding as best they could through a particularly wet and rocky patch, it suddenly dawned on me very forcefully that I was my mother’s son much more than my father’s. My mother made her living as a journalist; I aspired to be a writer, as did so many millions of others, and my moth- er was one of the tiny percentage of us who did actually make a living out of it. It was on one of my father’s climbs that they’d met, in the hotel where they were both stay- ing, my mother working on one of her travel pieces and finding herself intrigued by this mountaineering man that everyone seemed to know, though the mountain- eering man was all of twenty-two years old at that time, the same age as she was. In one of his rare but gratifying 70 expansive moments, my father described his first sight of her. ‘She was in the bay window of the hotel bar, looking out over the view, as spectacular as Scotland can do. There was a sunset, Duncan, and part of the light of it was catching the side of her face, such an unblem- ished, wonderful face, and her long hair, oh that long free hair of hers, sweeping down to her shoulders. She was entranced by Scotland, and I was entranced by her. Her head turned towards me, and I know people call it a cliché, an apocryphal thing which never really happens, but it did. It really did. We knew’. From an early age, I noticed heads, usually mostly male, turn to look whenever she made an entrance, the one and only Mary Murray nee Sutherland, and it made James and I proud to see them together, especially when Dad was in his dinner suit, suave, tanned, sparkling-eyed, acting as a suitable consort to this stunning woman, whose sense of dress was as superb as her natural beauty. As for my natural beauty, I can’t say I’d noticed, al- though more than once, people, usually Sutherland rel- atives, had commented that I looked more like her that I did my father. In the way of Scottish boys of the time, I suppose, my first inclination was to take offence, or at least adopt the dour neutrality of indifference to adult remarks of this kind which tends to characterise boy- hood. ‘Mummy’s boy’ was still used widely as an insult at the time. It took me until I was eighteen, sitting not very comfortably on a rock in the Scottish countryside half way through my daily run, to realise that, regard- less of physical appearance, my writing ability, such as it was, came from my mother. Dad did write occasionally, for course material, reports, etc., but while I aspired to write creatively, she did exactly that, and while my larg- est audience to date was the few hundred who read the school magazine, her constant and loyal following ran into thousands and thousands. Her family might have kindly donated their Meniere’s Disease to me, but she had given me a precious gift way beyond that, and if