By Alastair Reid
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Extra info for An Alastair Reid Reader: Selected Poetry and Prose
Virtue had to be achieved at the expense of the flesh and the physical world, in which we were always being judged and found wantingthe world, it seemed, had a vast, invisible scoreboard that gave no marks for virtue but buzzed mercilessly at miscreants. It buzzed for me. It buzzed for me and for Kathleen, one of my sisters, so regularly that we became renegades, outwitting the system when we could. In St. Andrews, that dreich outlook regularly took the form of an audible sniff of disapproval. I was born in rural Scotland, in Galloway, in the warm southwest, a gentle, kindly beginning, for we were bound by the rhythms of the soil, always outdoors, helping at neighboring farms, haunting small harbors, looking after animals, or romping in the oat and barley fields that lay between our house and the sea.
Of all the houses we rented, borrowed, occupied, Pilmour Cottage remains, in both Jasper's memory and mine, the warmest, the most ample. It had six bedrooms, a cavernous dining room with a long oak table fit for banquets, and a huge, encompassing kitchen, with a great stove like an altar, where we gathered to keep warm, and where we practiced the breadmaking skills we had acquired at Antioch. The kitchen window looked northeast to sea across the golf courses, and had a window seat where we spent a lot of time gazing.
Yet the allure still hung over it, and I felt it stillfelt the place to be, especially in the wake of the war years, something of an oasis. I have come and gone countless times since, returning, perhaps, because its citizens can be relied on to maintain it in as much the same order as is humanly possible. (In every town in Scotland, you will find houses occupied by near-invisible people whose sole function seems to be to maintain the house and garden in immaculate condition, as unobtrusively as they can.
An Alastair Reid Reader: Selected Poetry and Prose by Alastair Reid