The Linnet's Wings :Take All My Loves, My Love - Page 71

The Linnet´s Wings she’d given me good looks as well, why should there be anything wrong with that? Thoughts chased themselves around in my head as I sat on that rock. The rain started pattering down and I got up and re-started; I knew just how far and how fast the rain came down in these parts, and while I’d been soaked often enough before, my train of thought was taking me to interesting places which the climate was not going to deprive me of if I could avoid it. The effort of running while getting progressively wetter darkened my mood, and as usual when this hap- pened, my thoughts moved reluctantly in the direction of my uncle Stuart. One of the main sources of my re- sentment towards him, I realised, was the way he pup- py-dogged around – there was no other way of putting it – my mother. Rumours abounded that one of the rea- sons why he’d broken with my ex-aunt Anne, who’d al- ways seemed a pleasant and attractive enough woman to me, was because of his ‘way with the ladies’, people said quietly, in their euphemistic Scottish way. His way with my mother, fawning, praising, fetching and carrying when she wanted, and sometimes even when she didn’t, seemed to largely amuse my father, but it didn’t me, and perhaps it was this tendency of mine which had turned him against me. Boys always think they’re being clever enough not to show their real agenda, but it’s rarely true. And I had to confess, while the rain slowly turned me into a sort of mobile rag, that her sort of reciprocation at times didn’t please me very much either, this beauti- ful woman who must have become well accustomed to choking off unwanted attentions from men, smiling un- necessarily broadly at him, sharing his little jokes, even the more risque ones, and sometimes even in my father’s presence, amused as he claimed he was. Alright, Stuart had something of a mountaineering reputation himself – ‘the redoubtable Murray brothers’, I remember one headline calling them – but he was not to be compared to my father; he was smaller, uglier – to me, at least – and with a good deal less charm. Eventually, I approached the house, looking forward to getting out of my dripping clothes and into a hot bath, but even the rain could not stop me from be- ing arrested in my tracks by the sight I saw in our main living room at the front of the house as I approached it. The light was fading, and perhaps because they wouldn’t have been able to see much from the window anyway, my mother and Stuart were apparently engrossed in each other. She was at her writing bureau, as she called it, and he was leaning over her on her right; one hand was on her back, and the other was almost holding her hand. She had turned her face towards him; their heads were much too close together. His head went back and he laughed heartily, something I had never seen him do in my presence, and as he left her, moving towards the curtains, his hand again touched her back. As he moved towards the window, I began running again, and he was closing the last curtain as I clattered up to the front door. My eyes daggered at him, emphatically enough for him to pause and step back, but then he smiled his more usual contemptuous little grimace and the curtain came rapidly across to shut me away. Three years on, and the day forever seared into my consciousness like a branding. Wednesday Novem- ber 18th 1981, not long after the start of my third and final university year, and on my way to a reputable Eng- lish degree, according to my tutors, anyway. University halls were well behind me, and I was in a house share with three other students in Church Street, Durham. My room upstairs had an impressive view of the Cathe- dral. All of my trepidations about giving myself over vol- untarily into the clutches of the English had proved un- founded. There were other Scots at Durham, of course; it took students from all over the country, but my three house mates included two Englishmen and a Canadian. It was a decent-sized house, for a terrace, and we all had rooms of our own. Sometimes I missed the wide open spaces of the Highlands, but I went back there during 71