書名:44 SCOTLAND STREET(ISBN=9781400079445)
''It is hard to think of a contemporary writer more genuinelyengaging...(his) novels are also extremely funny: I find itimpossible to think about them without smiling'' Craig Brown, on Sunday ''A treasure of a writer whose books deserve immediatedevouring'' Marcel Berlins, Guardian
Welcome to 44 Scotland Street, home to some of Edinburgh''smost colorful characters. There''s Pat, a twenty-year-old who hasrecently moved into a flat with Bruce, an athletic young man with akeen awareness of his own appearance. Their neighbor, Domenica, isan eccentric and insightful widow. In the flat below are Irene andher appealing son Bertie, who is the victim of his mother''s desirefor him to learn the saxophone and italian-all at the tender age offive. Love triangles, a lost painting, intriguing new friends, andan encounter with a famous Scottish crime writer are just a few ofthe ingredients that add to this delightful and witty portrait ofEdinburgh society, which was first published as a serial in" TheScotsman" newspaper.
McCall Smith is a Professor of Medical Law as well as anauthor who has written over 50 books on a wide range of subjects:from Forensic Aspects of Sleep to The Criminal Law o , ThePerfect Hamburger (children''s fiction) to The 2 1/2 Pillars of
1. Stuff Happens Pat stood before the door at the bottom of the stair, reading thenames underneath the buttons. Syme, Macdonald, Pollock, and thenthe name she was looking for: Anderson. That would be BruceAnderson, the surveyor, the person to whom she had spoken on thetelephone. He was the one who collected the rent, he said, and paidthe bills. He was the one who had said that she could come and takea look at the place and see whether she wanted to live there. "And we''ll take a look at you," he had added. "If you don''tmind." So now, she thought, she would be under inspection, assessed forsuitability for a shared flat, weighed up to see whether she waslikely to play music too loudly or have friends who would damagethe furniture. Or, she supposed, whether she would jar on anybody''snerves. She pressed the bell and waited. After a few moments somethingbuzzed and she pushed open the large black door with its numerals,44, its lion''s head knocker, and its tarnished brass plate abovethe handle. The door was somewhat shabby, needing a coat of paintto cover the places where the paintwork had been scratched orchipped away. Well, this was Scotland Street, not Moray Place orDoune Terrace; not even Drummond Place, the handsome square fromwhich Scotland Street descended in a steep slope. This street wason the edge of the Bohemian part of the Edinburgh New Town, thepart where lawyers and accountants were outnumbered - just - byothers. She climbed up four flights of stairs to reach the top landing.Two flats led off this, one with a dark green door and no nameplatein sight, and another, painted blue, with a piece of paper on whichthree names had been written in large lettering. As she steppedonto the landing, the blue door was opened and she found herselfface-to-face with a tall young man, probably three or four yearsolder than herself, his dark hair en brosse and wearing a rugbyjersey. Triple Crown, she read. Next year. And after that, inparenthesis, the word: Maybe. "I''m Bruce," he said. "And I take it you''re Pat." He smiled at her, and gestured for her to come into theflat. "I like the street," she said. "I like this part of town." He nodded. "So do I. I lived up in Marchmont until a year ago andnow I''m over here. It''s central. It''s quiet. Marchmont got a bittoo studenty." She followed him into a living room, a large room with a blackmarble fireplace on one side and a rickety bookcase against thefacing wall. "This is the sitting room," he said. "It''s nothing great, but itgets the sun." She glanced at the sofa, which was covered with a faded chintzymaterial stained in one or two places with spills of tea or coffee.It was typical of the sofas which one found in shared flats as astudent; sofas that had been battered and humiliated, slept on bydrunken and sober friends alike, and which would, on cleaning,disgorge copious sums in change, and ballpoint pens, and other bitsand pieces dropped from generations of pockets. She looked at Bruce. He was good-looking in a way which one mightdescribe as . . . well, how might one describe it? Fresh-faced? Open? Of course, the rugby shirt gave it away: hewas the sort that one saw by the hundred, by the thousand,streaming out of Murrayfield after a rugby international. Wholesomewas the word which her mother would have used, and which Pat wouldhave derided. But it was a useful word when it came to describeBruce. Wholesome. Bruce was returning her gaze. Twenty, he thought. Quiteexpensively dressed. Tanned in a way which suggested outsidepursuits. Average height. Attractive enough, in a rather willowyway. Not my type (this last conclusion, with a slight tinge ofregret). "What do you do?" he asked. Occasions like this, he thought, weretimes for bluntness. One might as well find out as much as onecould before deciding to take her, and it was he who would have tomake the decision because Ian and Sarah were of /> travelling for a few months and they were relying on him to findsomeone. Pat looked up at the cornice. "I''m on a gap year," she said, andadded, because truth required it after all: "It''s my second gapyear, actually." Bruce stared at her, and then burst out laughing. "Your secondgap year?" Pat nodded. She felt miserable. Everybody said that. Everybodysaid that because they had no idea of what had happened. "My first one was a disaster," she said. "So I startedagain." Bruce picked up a matchbox and rattled it absent-mindedly. "What went wrong?" he asked. "Do you mind if I don''t tell you? Or just not yet." He shrugged. "Stuff happens," he said. "It really does." After her meeting with Bruce, Pat returned to her parents'' houseon the south side of Edinburgh. She found her father in his study,a disorganised room stacked with back copies of the Journal of theRoyal College of Psychiatrists. She told him of the meeting withBruce. "It didn''t last long," she said. "I had expected a whole lot ofthem. But there was only him. The others were away somewhere orother." Her father raised an eyebrow. In his day, young people had sharedflats with others of the same sex. There were some mixed flats, ofcourse, but these were regarded as being a bit - how should one putit? - adventurous. He had shared a flat in Argyle Place, in theshadow of the Sick Kids'' Hospital, with three other male medicalstudents. They had lived there for years, right up to the time ofgraduation, and even after that one of them had kept it on while hewas doing his houseman''s year. Girlfriends had come for weekendsnow and then, but that had been the exception. Now, men and womenlived together in total innocence (sometimes) as if in Eden. "It''s not just him?" he asked. "There are others?" "Yes," she said. "Or at least I think so. There were four rooms.Don''t worry." "I''m not worrying." "You are." He pursed his lips. "You could always stay at home, you know. Wewouldn''t interfere." She looked at him, and he shook his head. "No," he went on. "Iunderstand. You have to lead your own life. We know that. That''swhat gap years are for." "Exactly," said Pat. "A gap year is . . ." She faltered. She was not at all sure what a gap year was reallyfor, and this was her second. Was it a time in which to grow up?Was it an expensive indulgence, a rite de passage for the offspringof wealthy parents? In many cases, she thought, it was an expensiveholiday: a spell in South America imposing yourself on a puzzledcommunity somewhere, teaching them English and painting the localschool. There were all sorts of organisations that arranged thesethings. There might even be one called Paint Aid, for all she knew- an organisation which went out and painted places that looked inneed of a coat of paint. She herself had painted half a school inEcuador before somebody stole the remaining supplies of paint andthey had been obliged to stop. Her father waited for her to finish the sentence, but she didnot. So he changed the subject and asked her when she was going tomove in. He would transport everything, as he always did; thebundles of clothing, the bedside lamp, the suitcases, the kettle.And he would not complain. "And work?" he asked. "When do you start at the gallery?" "Tuesday," said Pat. "They''re closed on Mondays. Tuesday''s myfirst day." "You must be pleased about that," said her father. "Working in agallery. Isn''t that what most of you people want to do?" "Not in particular," said Pat, somewhat irritated. Her fatherused the expression you people indiscriminately to encompass Pat,her age group, and her circle of friends. Some people wanted towork in a gallery, and perhaps there were a lot of those, but itwas hardly a universal desire. There were presumably some peoplewho wanted to work in bars, to work with beer, so to speak; andthere were people, plenty of people, who would find themselvesquite uncomfortable in a gallery. Bruce, for instance, with hisrugby shirt and his en brosse haircut. He was not gallerymaterial. That had been another interview altogether. She had seen thediscreet, hand-written notice in the window of the gallery a fewstreets away. A bit of help wanted. Reception. Answering the phone- that sort of thing. The wording had been diffident, as if it wasalmost indecent to suggest that anybody who read it might actuallybe looking for something to do. But when she had gone in and foundthe tall, slightly lost-looking young man sitting at his desk - thewording had seemed perfect. "It''s not much of a job," he had said. "You won''t have to sellany paintings, I expect. You''ll just be providing cover for me. Andyou''ll have to do the occasional other thing. This and that. Youknow." She did not know, but did not ask. It looked as if he might havefound it tedious to give the details of the job. And he certainlyasked her nothing about herself, not even her name, before he satback in his chair, folded his arms, and said: "The job''s yours ifyou want it. Want it?" 2. A Room with a Smell Bruce had shown Pat the vacant room in the flat and this hadbrought home to him what a complete slut Anna had been. He hadasked her to clean the room before she left - he had asked her atleast t...