By Alastair Reid
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Extra resources for An Alastair Reid Reader: Selected Poetry and Prose
The green woods and the sea surrounded us, the library, and an ocean of time. When I left St. Andrews to go into the Navy in the Second World War, the place, over my shoulder, took on a never-never auranot simply the never-neverness of college years but as contrast to the troubled state of the times. 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.
Jasper walked to a Chelsea school along the Embankment, and would report sightings from the murky Thamesonce a dead pig, floating trotters up. We took the Page 18 train to Scotland sometimesthat northward transition in which the towns gradually shed decoration and grow starker, stonier, the landscape less peopled. The boat felt to us like a good compromisewe could in theory cast off, though our boat, an eighty-foot Thames barge, would, once out of its mud bed, have gone wallowing down in midriver.
The end of spring was crowned by school sports day, the departure of students; my own work was almost finished. When Jeff left, the suspension in which we had lived all year was broken, Page 26 and we found ourselves back in time. Our lease on Pilmour Cottage would soon be up, and I made plans to go to Spain on the way to Mexico, and once more assembled our worldly goods, dividing what to abandon from what to keep. There were rituals of passage, leave-takings, last walks, backward looks. We had arrived in and gone from places so often, and seen so many people leave, that we were familiar with all the facets of departing.