Thursday, 28 June 2018

An Indyref Romance: Harmony and Dissonance






Chapter 1

In early February 2014 two friends made their way to their favourite pub just off Union Street. They went there because it was the place most likely to serve what they called proper beer. Paul from the highlands had pretty much never tasted anything other than lager until he met Mark. But his Geordie friend had weaned him away from all things yellow by first buying him a bottle of “dog” known otherwise as Newcastle Brown Ale and moving on from there.  Paul still had the odd pint of lager when he was with other friends, but he also knew by then that however pleasant the taste of a pint of Heineken, it tasted much the same as a pint of Becks. There was nothing really to be interested in, while now as he looked at what was on offer this week at the Prince of Wales, he was delighted to see there was an ale he had never tasted before.
“I’m having one of those. Do you want one, too?” he said to his friend.
“Why not?”
It was about four on a Saturday afternoon and the pub was fairly full. It was their habit every now and again to have a couple there and then go for an Indian around five. Most restaurants were pretty much empty at that point, and you got faster service  and could hear yourself think. After that an early night, and they felt better the next day ready to study some more.  They were both in their final year at Aberdeen, Mark studying English, Paul studying French and politics. They’d both done averagely well up until now and so not that much depended on the next few months. There would be some exams, but not too many. Their result was already all but decided.
“You’re still determined to turn me into a foreigner, I suppose?” said Mark.
“You know fine I’m not,” said Paul.
“I know that you’d like to convince everyone of that.”
“We’re friends, good friends now, I think.”
“None better.”
“It’s not as if I’m anti-English then?”
“No, of course not.”
“I just think it’s the best chance for the left.”
“Most people are on the left where I come from, too. You know, we’re pretty much agreed on the politics. Just I want to see my country stick together and you want to see your country become independent.”
“But I’m British, too. I want to stay British, it’s just I want Scotland to decide everything, not some parliament where we’re outnumbered.”
“I doubt we’ll convince each other now,” said Mark. “But at least we don’t fall out about it. I’m not from Scotland and so in the end, it’s not my business. I’m not even sure I should vote.”
“Well, don’t expect me to give up trying to persuade you. It’s just you always seem to have a good argument. Where do you get them?”
“Some of them I think up for myself. I’m sure you do, too. But there’s a blog I discovered that I read. I rather like the style of it.”
“What’s it called?”
“Lily of St Leonards.”
“Effie Deans?
“That’s the one!”
“Do you think she’s real?”
“I know she is. She’s an academic here.”
“But her name is not listed. I’ve checked.”
“Wasn’t that a bit creepy of you?”
“Oh, someone online asked me, because I’m a student here.”
“She uses her Russian name officially. It’s some long monstrosity that you can’t even pronounce. But she still uses her maiden name in day to day business. It’s a heck of a lot easier for colleagues and students.”
“Have you met her?”
“I’ve seen her, but never really said anything. Jenny knows her though, and likes her a lot.”
They’d both known Jenny since they’d started at Aberdeen four years earlier. She was a tall, thin, blonde girl from Glasgow with a high-pitched, rather squeaky voice that they always compared to Minnie Mouse. Jenny was one of those girls who were rather shy, devout and who they both thought had never been kissed. She was average looking, pretty enough, but not someone you’d notice. She somehow seemed to lack the ability to attract. She lived in her own, rather splendid flat with Lorna and Susan who paid her, or rather her parents, some rent, though not the going rate. Mark had been with Susan for some years now. Paul had been chasing Lorna along with a lot of other men for over four years, and had got precisely nowhere.
“Have you decided to go the medic’s ball?” asked Mark.
“With whom?”
“I’d give up on Lorna if I were you.”
“I know. It’s been a pointless exercise for as long as I can remember.”
“You’re just another of her courtiers. She enjoys it very much indeed. But the enjoyment depends on sitting on her throne.”
“Has anyone made her descend from it?”
“Have you ever heard her mention someone from home?”
“A name crops up every now and again. Michael. Do you know he is?”
“I asked Susan if she knew. Michael is some chap ten years older than us. He’s not her boyfriend, but he’s the only one who is liable to become one. Lorna talks about him in a way she doesn’t talk about any other man. It’s like he’s on a throne and she’s the courtier. Same problem though. Just the other way round.”
“No much point asking Lorna then?”
“I don’t know if she’s going to the ball with anyone. Michael might take her, though I doubt it. He’s never even been here as far as I’m aware. But no, not much point. She might say ‘yes’, but she might well say ‘yes’ to half a dozen others. No not much point at all.”
“I’m not sure I can be bothered going at all then.”
“Why don’t you take Jenny?”
“Are you kidding?”
“You know her as well as I do. We’ve both spent enough evenings at her flat. She’s nice. She’s really nice.”
“Wouldn’t it be a bit like going to a ball with your sister?”
“Look, I’m here partly because of Susan. She asked me to talk to you. Jenny’s not a little girl. She has feelings. She likes you. She fancies you. She wants you to ask her. But she’ll never ask herself. You know she’s far too shy. How long is it since you’ve gone out with someone?”
“A couple of years, more really. I’ve been unlucky.”
“No, you’ve been chasing someone who doesn’t want you, while right beside her is someone who does. Besides, Jenny is a much better person than Lorna. I maybe know her better than you. She’s kind and gentle and capable of giving.”
“I’m not sure I could take the primness, the Christian Union nonsense.”
“You’d be taking her to a ball, not a church service.”
Paul thought of Jenny and of the dozens of occasions they’d all sat in the kitchen of her flat. He’d chatted to her loads of times, but he’d never been in her kitchen because of her and had almost never been alone with her for more than a few minutes. He tried to conjure her image into his mind and fleetingly was able to do so. He noticed an attractiveness that had not registered before. The fact that she wanted him was in itself attractive, indeed very attractive. Here was possibility while in the past couple of years had been only frustration and disappointment.
“Shall we visit them after the Indian? I wouldn’t want someone else to ask her before me?
“Why not ditch the Indian and go now?”
“I think, that wouldn’t be a bad idea”.
Half an hour later Paul, rather flippantly, said: “Jenny, you shall go to the ball.”
He saw her smile and exchange a glance with Susan. The glance seemed to say something like “Thanks.”
“Why don’t you two sit down and I’ll find something for you to eat?” said Jenny. “It’s so good of you to take me Paul, I’ve never been to a ball before.”
“Rather, it’s good of you to go with me after I asked you in that way. I’m really looking forward to it. I’m sure, we’ll have a great time together.









Chapter 2

No one had mentioned the word ‘boyfriend’, but having someone take you to the ball was sort of like having a boyfriend. She’d known Paul for ages. But for the longest time he’d just been one of a series of men she’d known who turned up at the flat. She was thus part of quite a large social circle. There were people she knew from her course. But these were people she’d have the odd cup of coffee with and rarely see in the evening. There were people she knew a bit and would chat to when she saw them. Some of these people she’d likewise known for years although frequently she wasn’t quite sure of their names. But then there were the people, both men and women, who would regularly come to the flat. They were Susan’s friends or more often they were Lorna’s friends. Jenny knew that they rarely came to the flat because of her. But surely some of them were her friends, too.
How long had she known Paul before she began to hope for this moment that had just arrived? They were dancing. He looked fine in his red kilt and his prince Charlie jacket. As he spun her round, she was conscious of how he held her. It was possibly the first time he had touched her. She thought back to the first time they had met. She had an image of Lorna bringing him into their kitchen saying: ‘This is Paul’. How long ago was that? Perhaps, it had been as long ago as two or even three years ago. Or was it more like four. She couldn’t remember. He began coming rather often. But he was just another one of a long series of boys coming to see Lorna and with eyes only for her. Yet at some point Jenny had noticed him and liked him. Perhaps, it had been at some evening when he’d turned up when Lorna hadn’t been there, but they’d chatted for a while. Was it then that she’d noticed his blue, blue eyes? It came upon her slowly, like a drip, drip and even when she began to realise it herself, it took her a long time before she said anything out loud. Some time ago she’d found a time when she could talk to Susan alone. She’d mentioned Paul. She’d mentioned him shyly, without really saying what was on her mind. But Susan had picked up the hint as Jenny had known she would.
“You like him, don’t you?” Susan said.
“I don’t really know. I don’t know him very well,” said Jenny.
“How long has he been turning up at the flat?”
“But you know he comes to see Lorna.”
“I think, he also comes to see us. Besides, none of them are going to get anywhere with Lorna. You know that as well as I do.”
“Still what chance do I have?”
“Jenny, it’s not as if Paul is some sort of film star. He’s nice enough looking, but it’s not as if women are falling at his feet.”
“How do you know?”
“Mark told me. Paul’s been single for a long time.”
“And I’ve been single forever.”
“You’ve never?”
“I’ve always been very shy and I’ve had to work so hard. I’ve been scared, too. You know my beliefs; I’m very traditional, old-fashioned. And it seems all the men just want. Well, you know.”
“Many of the women, too. You’ve seen how they go around displaying the goods on offer.”
“It’s not a world I fit into.”
“But they’re not all like that. Look at Mark and me. He’s a good person and he respects me.”
“But you…”
“Yes. But we’ve been together a long time and it all happened very slowly without any pressure and whatever happened, happened because I wanted it as much as he did.”
“I like Paul, but I’m a little scared as well.”
“He seems nice to me. Why don’t I talk to Mark about it? See what he thinks. Maybe he could help.”
“Would you?”
“You do like him, don’t you?”
“Oh, terribly. It’s just I don’t know what to do with men.”
“Don’t worry, Jenny. It all comes pretty much instinctually.”
Like every other person who goes to school in Scotland, Jenny was made to go to dancing classes in the gym. The ball was a mixture of Scottish dancing with every now and again something more contemporary thrown in for variety. She wasn’t a good dancer, nor was anyone else really, but she knew what to do. 
Jenny found herself exploring the feeling of having a man she liked holding her. She found herself focusing on the parts that joined them together, his hand holding hers, his hand touching her back, moving a little up or down.  The touch was unfamiliar. She had rarely been touched by anyone since school and then each boy touched each girl with distaste and as little as is possible for people who are continuing to dance. She forgot that she was dancing as her attention lingered on his touch, but she didn’t need to concentrate as he guided her.
During a pause Paul said: “Did I tell you already that I liked you dress?”
“Loads of times, you’ve been very kind about it,” she said.
“But I mean it. Some of the dresses around here are indecent; or rather I suppose the girls in them are.”
“I know I’ve a reputation as being rather prim. I’m sure you actually like what she’s wearing,” Jenny nodded towards a girl in a low cut taffeta dress. “Don’t all men?”
“I like and I don’t like,” said Paul “Do you ever watch old films?”
“Yes, why?”
“You know who Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn are?”
“Doesn’t everybody? Monroe is the blonde, rather silly one, while Hepburn  was in ‘Roman Holiday’, you know the film about a princess and Rome, they were on a scooter.”
“I think, I’ve seen that one, too.”
“And so?”
“Well, men might say they like the Monroe type, but in the end most men much prefer the Hepburn type. I know I do. There’s something not very attractive about showing too much, while there’s something very attractive about showing just enough.”
“I doubt Audrey would wear my dress though”
“I don’t know. It’s simple, classy, modest and suits very well the person wearing it.”
They danced a few more times and Jenny found her nerves were lessening. She was getting used to the idea of being with someone and was beginning to speak and act without first planning what to do and say. She felt a pleasant feeling that was unfamiliar and yet she knew what it must be from some sort of instinct or memory. Perhaps it was from something that she’d read. She liked this moment and wanted it to continue, not only today but tomorrow also. She liked Paul.  She wondered if he was here more out of duty. She knew that Susan and Mark had helped arrange things. Did Paul really want to be with her? They stopped dancing and stood for a second wondering what to do next.
“Shall we get a drink?” said Paul. “I’ve had enough dancing for the minute. There are a couple of seats over there.”
“I’d like to be able to talk for a bit so long as the music’s not too loud,” said Jenny.
“What will you have?”
“I don’t really know, I don’t drink often.”
“Perhaps, some wine; we’ve got to celebrate a little, don’t we?”
“OK, but you’re not to get me drunk, Paul.”
A few minutes later she was sipping some white wine, while Paul was drinking his pint of beer like a marathon runner drinking water.
“I don’t think I’ve seen your tartan before,” said Jenny. “It’s a pretty colour with the reds and the greens.”
“It’s Drummond of Perth,” said Paul.
“You’re from somewhere in the West Highlands, aren’t you? I remember picking that up somewhere. I’m right, aren’t I?”
“Yes, some wee place with less than one hundred people that’s not quite on the map.”
“It must be pretty though.”
“We look out over Raasay, Skye and when it’s clear, we can even see the Hebrides, but when you’ve seen it every day, it seems rather dull in the end.”
“I thought only Mackenzies lived out that way. You’re called Grey, aren’t you?”
“Yes. I know it doesn’t sound much like a Highland chieftain.”
“So is your family from Perth? Is that why you have your kilt? Perhaps, your mother’s family?”
“No, I picked it up second hand and mainly because I liked the colour. I’m glad I did though as it’s a Jacobite tartan. One of Charlie’s advisors or some such was a Drummond of Perth.”
“Do you really like the Jacobites?”
“I’m joking mainly. I’m not trying to bring back the “King o’er the Water”, but I sympathise with what they fought for. The Scottish King had been wrongly overthrown, and they were trying to get him back and our independence, too.”
“Were they? I can’t have been paying attention in that lesson.”
“Now that you know about my kilt I have to confess I feel rather embarrassed. We’ve known each other for ages but I don’t think I’ve ever known your surname. It was always just Jenny.”
“Davidson. You know I’m from Glasgow though?”
“There’s a hint of it in your accent, but it’s very subtle. I don’t even think you roll your ‘Rs’”
“Not really, though I can if I try. In my school we were discouraged from having too much of an accent. Besides I’ve got relations all over Britain and Ireland. I’m a bit of a mongrel I suppose.”
“It’s a nice mix.”
“Thank you.”
“But you are Scottish?”
“Yes. But I’m not sure if there even is a Davidson tartan. Does it matter?”
They continued in this way for the next couple hours, dancing a while and then sitting down and chatting. Jenny was now on her third glass of wine and feeling it slightly.
“It’s getting rather hot. Do you think there’s anywhere else we could sit?” she said.
“Let’s go out and have a wander about. There might be a nook somewhere that’s a bit cooler.”
Outside the ballroom there were corridors, another bar and a large staircase descending towards the reception. The stairs were wide and lushly carpeted and a few couples were already scattered about.
“Let’s have another drink and we can find somewhere to sit that’s got a bit more air.  Quieter, too” said Paul.
“I’m not sure I ought to have another,” said Jenny.
“It’s not a sin to drink wine, is it? I remember some people who did so a long time ago.”
“No. It’s not a sin. It’s just I’m not used to it.”
“You’ll be alright, Jen. I’ll look after you. We’ll sit for a bit and then we can go home.”
“I like having someone to look after me. One more glass of wine then, but don’t blame me if you have to carry me back.”
“Sit down there. It looks about as quiet a spot as we’ll find on the stairs. I’ll be back in a minute.”
Paul came back with another pint and another quite large glass of wine for Jenny. She sat on his left in what amounted to a sort of nook on the stairs. People passed up and down, but Jenny and Paul didn’t impede anyone and indeed they were barely noticed.
“We should do something else again soon,” said Paul.
“I’d like that, I’ve enjoyed this evening more than you know,” said Jenny.
“Me, too.”
“It was good of you to take me. I know Susie and Mark had something to do with it.”
“If I hadn’t been such a fool I’d have asked you myself long ago. It’s just I’m not very good with girls.”
“I wouldn’t have known, you’ve been good with me.”
“I try to hide it but I’m rather shy. How are you supposed to know if a girl likes you?”
“She can tell you,” Jenny took his hand and squeezed it.
“I know, but beforehand. I’ve come to your flat loads of times. If I’d asked you out and you’d said ‘no’, it would been difficult to come again.”
“I hope you come every day from now on. But why did you come? Lorna?”
“We’ve all sort of fallen into being a group of friends. I suppose I did meet Lorna first. Does it matter?”
“No. Not if it doesn’t matter to you.”
“Lorna wants many men. To be honest, I’d rather have one woman.”
“She’s yours. You just have to ask her.”
Gradually he’d moved his hand around her back and she had snuggled herself closer to him. They had lowered their voices and moved their heads closer so that they might hear and be heard.
“This is all rather new for me,” said Jenny. “I’m not sure I know what to do.”
Paul made a move towards her and slightly tilted his head. She found herself knowing what to do and then they were kissing. At first just their lips met and then only for a few seconds.
“I’d hoped you’d do that,” said Jenny.
“Me too, but the first time is always a bit difficult. Not easy to know how to start.”
“Because of British reserve.”
“I think of it more as Scottish shyness.”
“You know I’ve never really had a boyfriend.”
“That seems strange, Jenny. You’re very pretty.”
“I suppose I just haven’t met the right man. Until now, I hope.”
“Don’t worry, Jen, we’re together now, sealed by a kiss. You’re my girlfriend if you’ll have me.”
“And you’re my boyfriend, my very first.”
“But, Jenny, we’re both fourth years. You must be twenty-two. Haven’t you wanted to meet someone before?”
“I’m only just twenty-one actually. I came a year early.”
“Even so?”
“Yes, of course, I wanted to meet someone. Who doesn’t? It’s just I’ve studied rather hard and, well, most of all I’ve worried about what he might expect. I’m rather old-fashioned.”
“About what?”
“Well, you see I believe people should wait until marriage. The trouble is I sometimes think that only I think that way.”
“Oh!” said Paul unable to hide his look of astonishment.
“I know it rather comes as a shock. When I tell them what I believe, most boys rapidly lose interest. You can, too if you like.”
“Don’t be silly, Jenny, we’ve just got together, don’t split us up after five minutes.”
He leaned in to kiss her again, and this he suggested with his tongue that she open her mouth further. He remembered reading something in Chretien de Troye’s ‘Perceval’:

Qui baise feme et plus n'i fait,
Des qu'il sont sol a sol andui,
Dont quit je qu'il remaint en lui.
Feme qui se bouche abandone
Le sorplus molt de legier done.

He’d rather liked the quote and so had remembered it. He went over the translation in his mind. ‘He who kisses a woman and doesn’t go further when they are alone, then it’s his own fault, I think. A woman who surrenders her mouth gives the rest quite easily’. He’d liked the idea of a woman being like a citadel, but that a kiss was the key to the drawbridge and really her final defence. He’d know what Jenny was like, but still it had been unexpected what Jenny had said. It was partly this which made him think of the quote. She was like someone from another time. He felt a sense disappointment also after their kissing had made him think of what soon might come.  But the quote reminded him that women always begin by saying ‘no’ and that ‘no’ of course didn’t mean ‘no’. Otherwise humanity would have died out long ago. He found her very attractive indeed at this moment. But above all he liked her. He hadn’t expected to have such a good time. She was definitely worth pursuing, if that was the right word now that she had, so to speak, been caught. He had his foot in the door. He could be patient.  She was worth waiting and seeing what would happen.
Soon afterwards they decided to call it a night.
“What do you think, Jenny?” said Paul “Shall we get a cab or walk it?”
“It’s nice enough outside and I’m sure you noticed I don’t have heals.”
“Thank goodness you don’t or you’d be taller than me.”
That’s her only problem really thought Paul, that and the nutty Christian business.  He much preferred short women, indeed very short woman more like 5 foot rather than five foot nine. 
“I must be only a few centimetres less than you,” said Jenny. “At least we’ll fit together nicely.”
They got their coats and started walking towards Old Aberdeen. It was one of those clear February nights: a bit cold, but no frost, no wind and no rain. It was about as good as it gets in Aberdeen in winter.
“It hits you a bit when your first get outside,” said Jenny.
“What hits you?” asked Paul “The wine? A walk will do you good.”
He reached out and took her arm, and she gratefully arranged things so that they could walk comfortably together.
“It’s strange,” she said, “how everything seems changed since a few hours ago. Even the streets look different.”
“What’s changed?”
“Well we have, haven’t we? Before there was just you and me and the possibility of something, I didn’t quite believe it.”
“That’s a little deep for me after four or five pints.”
“You’ll have to forgive my tendency to analyse.”
“Someone told me you’re one of the best students at the uni.”
“Oh, I think they exaggerate.”
“What are you going to do afterwards?”
“I’m staying on. It’s pretty much all set already. What about you?”
“I don’t really know. I’ve done alright, but nothing special. I’m busy campaigning. It takes up a lot of my time.”
“Campaigning for what?”
“Independence. After we finish in June I’m going to campaign all summer. You should see what we’re planning.”
“Well, I’m not sure I’ll be here to see. I’ll be in Russia.”
“What on earth for?! It’s going to be the most important summer of our lives and you’ll miss it!”
“I have to try to get my Russian good enough. I have a course there. It’s all arranged.”
“I don’t get it. You study religion, don’t you?”
“Theology and some philosophy, and some literature as well.”
“What’s that got to do with Russia?”
“My tutor suggested it. She’s been helping me for the past couple of years or so individually.”
“What do you mean? This is Aberdeen, not Cambridge”
“I’ve been very lucky. She’s been giving me tuition in the evenings. Completely unofficial, of course , and for no pay.”
“What do you do in these tutorials?”
“I write an essay, give it to her a couple of days beforehand and then we discuss it.”
“How many essays have you written?”
“One a week for the past two years or so.”
“Good God! And that’s on top of the ones that everyone has to write?”
“Well, I tend to recycle for those.”
“I see you’ve been busy. But you’re interested in Scotland, too. Aren’t you?”
“Yes, but I’m not sure we’ll agree on politics. Let’s not argue now.”
“What’s you tutor called?”
“Dr Shch---- “, Jenny said a long Russian word that Paul couldn’t catch. “She’s known in the department by her maiden name: Effie Deans.”
“I know of her,” said Paul.
“How? Have you met her in the department?”
“No, I’ve come across her online. She’s a No campaigner. Quite well known. She writes a blog.”
“Yes, I know.”
“People say she’s a Tory as well.”
“I think, it’s more subtle than that,” said Jenny.
“And what about you?”
“I’m not that interested in politics. I think theological and moral issues are much more interesting.”
“But you’re left wing anyway?”
“I wouldn’t describe myself as such. You see I believe in individual action rather than collective action. I’d like to see a smaller government.”
“You’re a Tory. I didn’t think they existed amongst Scottish students our age.”
“Yes, I’m a Tory. My family are and I am, too.”
“But it’s immoral.”
“I think, when you know me better you’ll find me very moral in my own way.”
“I’m sorry, Jenny. It just came as a bit of a shock. You’ll vote ‘No’, too, I suppose?”
“The UK is my country. I don’t want to see it broken up. But do let’s not argue about it. I want to find what we have in common as two human beings who’ve just found each other.”
“We can agree to differ about this and other things, but you’ll allow me the chance to persuade you.”
“But of course! I try to be open-minded and enjoy reasonable discussion.”
They were approaching Jenny’s flat.
“Please come in,” said Jenny. “I want to say goodnight to you properly.”
“I’m not sure it’s a good idea. I remember reading something about not leading me not into temptation.”
“But I feel I can trust you. You should trust yourself.”
Paul hesitated for a few seconds and various thoughts went through his mind including the lines from Perceval and the fact that she was the first woman his age who had expressed trust in him. It felt rather good for someone to say something like that that.
“OK, I could do with some coffee,” he said.
They sat down in the kitchen and spoke in low voices.
“You haven’t much experience with men, have you, Jenny?” asked Paul.
“None at all,” she answered.
“It probably isn’t a good idea to ask someone in. There’s a sort of expectation.”
“I know, but we’ve already discussed that.”
“It’s not always easy for the man. It’s a bit like being in a sweet shop, but not being able to eat any sweets.”
“I understand. Don’t you think it’s the same for me? I want to be held. I want to be caressed. I want to be loved.”
“But you said?”
“And I meant it. But we’re both intelligent. We can keep our ideals and our principles intact while finding warmth in each other’s arms. People have been loving in this way for two thousand years. You have to trust me on this, Paul. I’ll not lead you into temptation. I trust you, you must trust me also. Now come to my room and we’ll spend some minutes saying good night.”
They went into Jenny’s room and he saw the books, the crucifix on the wall and the icons in the corner. She put on a side light and sat down on the bed next to him. She put her hand around his neck and started kissing him passionately.
Half an hour or so later Paul was on his way home. No-one had taken any clothes off and yet he couldn’t remember a nicer half hour in the arms of a woman. Their kissing had soon led them to an embrace that toppled onto the bed. They each kicked their shoes off and enjoyed the fact that for the first time they could hold each other and caress. There was no need to explore further. Who could know just then when or if that would occur? He was conscious of Jenny’s shyness and wanted to prove that he was worthy of her trust. So there were no struggles. No battles with wandering hands. After a few minutes he sensed that she felt safe in his arms, which meant that she was the one taking the lead. She was the one exploring more than he was. He found it exciting to let her make the choices, but he also knew that this sort of excitement had its limits and so suggested going home after their first bout of passionate kissing had subsided into a calm embrace with whispers.
“You can stay,” said Jenny. “We can sleep just like this.”
“Let’s be content with where we are just now,” said Paul.
“I trust you.”
“I know and it’s a big compliment, but there comes a point when it’s easier, you know, not to continue.”
“Oh there’s so much I don’t know. Let’s be honest and open with each other.”
“I’ll try Jenny, I’ll really try. When shall I see you tomorrow?”
“I’ll be back from church about one.”
“You don’t fancy giving it a miss? Having a break?”
“Well, I need it. It’s the time I can relax most and forget everything else.”
“Oh, well. Why don’t I come round about two and we can go for a walk if it’s still nice out?”
“Let’s do that.”
As he wandered the short distance to his flat he reflected on what had happened. She was great; he’d loved the whole evening and especially had loved kissing her. But a couple of things still nagged. He had very little time for Christianity. He not only thought it stupid and obviously false, he thought it positively harmful. How on earth were they going to continue kissing and embracing like this? Even the shiest girl was expected nowadays to sleep with her boyfriend after a few weeks at most. It just wasn’t done to keep on as if it was the 19th century for months, even for years. He’d never seriously thought of marriage, no-one he knew did. What for? If you met a girl, you were supposed to get all of the benefits of marriage and none of the downside. Marriage under those circumstances was pointless at best, downright risky at worst.
It had been more than pleasant that last half hour or so. It had been, if anything, more exciting than any time he’d ever been alone with a girl. But there really could be too much of a good thing when there was no chance of reaching the goal of all this kissing and caressing.
Then there was her politics. She obviously was more concerned with her studies, but how could he tell his friends at the local ‘Yes’ campaign that he was going out with a ‘No’ voter, and a Tory to boot. He’d obviously have to try to persuade her not only about politics but about other things as well. There was time. He could be patient. She was definitely worth it, but she clearly needed to change in a few respects. He’d have a look at a few web sites to see if he could find some good arguments.









Chapter 3
It was still pleasant on Sunday when he arrived at Jenny’s flat. In the kitchen he met Lorna and Susan.
“So it seems you have some news, Paul,” said Lorna with a smirk.
“I think, I stumbled over a couple kissing last night,” said Susan. “It couldn’t have been, you could it?”
“I’m very happy,” said Paul. “I was stupid not to see what was in front of me before.”
“Just you be good to Jenny,” said Lorna.
“Or you’ll have us to answer to,” said Susan.
Jenny came in. She was dressed in jeans and a jumper, neither hugged her figure, but rather expressed the fact that she didn’t think that much about how she looked. She had on as little make-up as he did.
“Where shall we go?” she asked.
“I always like the beach in winter,” said Paul.
“OK. I like looking at the grey sea and the boats waiting to come into the harbour.”
They set out walking the familiar streets, but this time they were walking together for the first time in daylight. Jenny put her arm in his, and it took a while to get used to this method of walking without having the benefit of alcohol.
The beach was practically deserted, with just a few people who had the same idea as they did. There were people with dogs, there were some children, but clearly most of Aberdeen preferred to stay inside watching Sunday afternoon television.
“Have you liked it here these past four years?” Paul asked.
“Well enough, I think. I ended up here more or less because I wanted a change from Glasgow. I was offered a place at Oxford and Cambridge, too, but…”
“Why didn’t you go?”
“Money, really. My parents could have afforded it, but why spend so much when I could study here for free?”
“It was awful what they did putting so many students in debt.”
“I suppose so.”
“We can disagree you know, Jenny, we’re bound to.”
“I know. It’s just I don’t want to argue quite so soon.”
“Friendly discussion.”
“You should hear how I argue with Effie. It gets quite heated, and we’re only discussing theology and literature”
“What have theology and literature got to do with each other?”
“Well, that’s something I’m beginning to learn about. You see a couple of years ago I sort of reached the conclusion that traditional theology wasn’t much use.”
“You’re right there, you know.”
“I’d learned Hebrew, Greek and German just to analyse texts and theologians who were somehow all missing the point.”
“I never did see the point myself. It always struck me as wishful thinking and insofar as I agreed with the morality it was always obvious that it required collective action to bring about anything in the real world.”
“I see that. There are good arguments for it. I know them well. It’s just that two or three years ago I had a chat with Effie about some ideas I’d had from reading a couple of books. One was by a Danish man, and the other was by a Russian.”
“Why did she offer to tutor you, by the way? It’s like you got an Oxbridge education here in Aberdeen.”
“I think, she liked my ideas. She’s quite something, you know.”
“But didn’t it give you an unfair advantage? What did the department think?”
“Not really. It wasn’t their business anyway. She’s been teaching me Russian and Danish and discussing literature. We hardly touch on the things that are in the lectures. I’ve ceased to go to most of them anyway.”
“But, Jenny, that’s like doing two courses at once.”
“I know it’s been hard. But I’m nearly there. It looks like I’ll get the grade I need and then it will all be a good foundation for when I start my studies in September.”
“It’s as if you completely ignore the most important event in September.”
“I don’t think anything much will happen. Aren’t the SNP way behind?”
“We’re not the SNP. There are people from all sorts of parties and none in the ‘Yes’ camp”
“Oh I’m sorry, but don’t let’s discuss it. I hardly read about it. Sometimes I read something Effie writes, but that’s about all. She seems to be taking it seriously for some reason. I never watch television or even glance at the papers. I’m far too busy.”
“We’re not going to get anywhere if too much is off limits. It’s something I spend a lot of time with. I’m very active with the campaign.”
“We’re just going to have to find a way to discuss these things without it affecting how we feel about each other. It may take a little practice.”
By this time they had reached a point where they could either continue further along the beach towards Footdee or turn off towards the centre.
“What now, Jenny?” asked Paul.
“I’d quite like to go back and do a bit of study.”
“And I have a campaign meeting.”
“Can you come by later, around ten? Just for an hour or so. We can have some tea and a hug.”
“Are you leading me into temptation again?” Paul said with a laugh.
“But wasn’t it nice to hold each other yesterday? I want to again.”
“Yes, very, it’s just, you know it makes me want more.”
“I understand, don’t you think I have desire, too?”
“Well, then?”
“I might desire to eat chocolate every day, but I don’t.”
“I never really understood what Christianity had against people loving each other.”
“I don’t think it does have anything against this.”
“Isn’t that playing with words, Jenny? You know full well what I mean. Does everyone who believes act as you do? Does Susan?”
“I don’t really ask myself about what other people do. It’s not my way of thinking. Not the perspective I choose to take. I suspect very few people act as I do nowadays.”
“So, why?”
“It’s not about following rules, it’s about how I feel, where I am just now. I can’t justify what I believe, nor do I try. It’s just faith. That’s all there is.”
“And so I’m left with desire and frustration.”
“Trust me, Paul, we’ll find a way so that you have no frustration ,but only love, just be patient, please. We’ve only been together one day. We’re going to need to spend a of time together learning about each other in all sorts of ways. Will you be patient with me?”
“I’ll certainly try. Yes, Jenny, I’ll be patient.”
“So around ten then?”
“I’ll be there.”
When she got home, Jenny picked up her mobile and dialled one of the few numbers stored in the memory. She listened as it rang for a while and eventually obtained the single word answer.
“Da?”
“It’s me, Effie” said Jenny.
“Oh. I’m sorry Jenny, I was expecting Petr. He’s going to take me home in a while.”
“Where are you?”
“I’m in my office. Is something wrong?”
“No, but I would like to talk to you.”
“About work?”
“No, not exactly.”
“Well, why don’t you come over. I’ll make us some tea. I could do with a break from marking anyway.”
“Thanks, Effie. I’ll be along in a few minutes.”
As sometimes happens, Jenny had gradually developed a close friendship with her tutor over the past couple of years. It wasn’t at all one-sided. Effie was as likely to call up Jenny for advice about something or just to go out for some coffee. They had to guard a little against talk of favouritism, but everyone in the department knew that Effie was honest. They also knew that Jenny didn’t need any favouritism, but rather was one of the best students anyone could remember.
Over time Jenny had found out quite a bit about Effie. She was a little over fifty, short, with dark hair. She’d met her husband Petr sometime a little while before the Soviet Union collapsed and had gone with him to live there. They’d stayed for a while, but eventually had made their way back to Britain and Aberdeenshire in particular because that was where Effie was from.
Jenny knocked on the door, opened it and saw her friend with a pile of papers and a red pen.
“Hello, Jen! Do come in,” said Effie.
“Hi! Thanks for letting me come for a visit.”
“No ‘thank you’! This marking is dull and at times very stupid.”
“Who’s stupid?”
“Well, I’d better not say. But there are one or two of your colleagues who would be better off working as hairdressers. They’d do more good than writing essays about Karl Barth.”
“Oh, dear!”
“Sit down, my dear. But what is it? You look happy and yet there’s something else.”
“I’ll tell you in a minute. I think I need a sip of tea first.”
“Right away.”
A few minutes later they were drinking black tea without milk as Effie always did. You either drank tea that way with Effie or not at all.
“I met someone,” said Jenny.
“How nice! Do I know him?”
“I doubt it. He’s called Paul. He does French and Politics.”
“Well, it’s closer to what we do than if he did Engineering or Medicine. How did you meet?”
“I’ve known him a long time as part of a group of friends who come round to the flat.”
“So what changed?”
“Well, I went to a ball last night.”
“I don’t think I’ve been to a ball since Cambridge. What was it like?”
“Well, I was a bit nervous. I’d sort of got a friend to help things along and Paul had asked me to go, but I didn’t really know if he was keen or not.”
“These things are often a bit mysterious.”
“Well, anyway. I’m not very used to wine and I had, I think, four glasses.”
“And why not once in a while? It can help these things along. Did it?”
“We chatted and danced and then we sat on the stairs and he kissed me.”
“You kissed him back, I suppose?”
“Oh, yes!”
“So what are you worried about?”
“There’s lot’s we don’t agree on.”
“Like what?”
“He’s a nationalist.”
“And you’re a Conservative?”
“They hate Tories,” said Jenny.
“They say they do, but it’s just a myth they hate.”
“I’ve got so much to think about, so many interesting ideas to explore. It just seems so uninteresting.”
“It is uninteresting, but we have a fight on our hands.”
“But surely we’re way ahead?”
“At the moment. But why do you think I’ve been writing so much about independence?”
“I don’t really know, Effie.”
“Because it’s necessary. They will put up one heck of a fight this summer. They dominate online and they’re much more dedicated than most of our side. It’s like insurance. It may not be necessary to fight as hard as I do, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. I’d rather do all I can.”
“You think I should do more?”
“Perhaps. Let’s wait and see. For the moment your priority should be to develop your thought about important matters, gain the skills necessary to read what you need to read. Besides you’re going to have to be careful about how you discuss these sorts of things with Paul.”
“It’s not just on this that we differ. I don’t think he has any faith, but he’s not just indifferent. He’s hostile.”
“This is something we’ve all had to face for centuries, Jenny. I think, you know how to respond.”
“With argument?”
“Come now. We’ve discussed this long enough. Do you know any effective arguments for what we believe?”
“No. Except some parts of Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky, but they’re not really arguments are they?”
“Not in the traditional sense, and they only really work if someone is open to them. It’s like grace, I think. An adult has to be open to faith to receive it or at least that is often the case, though sometimes it can strike even the unwilling. A bit like that other Paul. Infants, on the other hand, are open to grace and so baptism is always a help. That’s where the Baptists go wrong. I’ve always thought.”
“So, I shouldn’t argue with him.”
“No, Jenny, you should avoid argument with someone you want to love. You especially.”
“Why me?”
“I don’t know this Paul at all. But I doubt very much that he is even close to your level.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I know people in his department, and I would have heard if they had a student at your level”
“But he seems very bright to me.”
“I’m sure he is. But there’s a difference. If you attack his arguments, you have the power to make him feel foolish. You know how to attack from within and make it all come tumbling down. It’s not something you should use lightly with someone who is not at your level. I did that once to someone and have regretted it for thirty years.”
“It would hardly make him love me if I did that, would it?”
“No, of course not.”
“So what do I do?” said Jenny looking a little as if there were no options left.
“You argue by example. You stick to your beliefs and show gently why you think he is wrong.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You believe in Christianity. So show by how you live that being a Christian is a good place to be. You’re a Conservative, well show by example that Tories are not monsters. You can’t do more anyway.”
“There’s something in particular that he’s not going to like very much about Christianity. You know I’ve never really had a boyfriend before and I’m very old-fashioned. I want to live like the people I admire from the past. I like the style and don’t like the modern style at all.”
“You must continue to be who you are. If he loves you, he’ll respect that individuality, but if he doesn’t, he’ll soon go”.
“But how am I to find anyone, if everyone expects, you know, after a few days?”
“Don’t be embarrassed about it, Jenny. This is all part of human nature. We can’t change human nature, but we can bend it.”
“But what do I do? We went back to mine last night and I wanted to kiss him and hold him, but we both get excited.”
“Of course you do. Why not? Explore what is possible and what is not possible. Be imaginative. You can find joy in your embrace now and still remain the person you want to be.”
“I don’t really understand.”
“Sure you do. Listen to yourself and listen to him. Adapt, adjust, don’t be dogmatic, but stick to your principles above everything else. Be patient. You’ve only known him a little while. Find out whether he’s worthy of your love. There’s lots that you can give him physically that breaks none of your Christian ideals.”
“I’m scared that if I go any further it all becomes inevitable.”
“Sure it’s inevitable eventually. We are human beings and our desire tends towards making love. But because we are human beings, we can moderate our desire. For you at the moment, and I love and agree with this ideal, making love should be something that happens in marriage. But remember, marriage is not primarily about going to a church and signing a book. Marriage is simply the promise two people make to each other before God that they will love each other always. When you sincerely receive that promise you are free to love in any way you want. It’s just important to be absolutely sure that the promise is sincere and genuine.”
“Where does that leave me now?”
“You must be patient, Jenny. Kiss him. Hold him. See how it all feels. Show him what you want and also what you don’t want. Talk to him. Explain how you feel. If, he’s worthy of you, he’ll listen. If he’s not, drop him like a stone. Never let a man take advantage; never let him do one thing that you don’t want. But be fair also. Understand that he has needs and desires, and do what you can to answer them. That’s what love is.”
The phone rang and Effie started speaking in Russian, she talked very fast and without a trace of a Scottish accent. After she finished she asked:
“How much of that did you get?”
“Almost none. I pick up about one word in four.”
“Well, it was Petr ready to take me home and you need to practice your Russian, or you’re going to struggle when you start your course.”
“It all sounds completely different than it look on the page.”
“It will take time. Don’t be discouraged.”
“The same with relationships, I suppose.”
“You’re learning about them, too. How much Russian did you know after one day? Not even the alphabet. Be patient, Jenny.”









Chapter 4

The following Saturday Jenny and Paul were sitting in the Prince of Wales. He’d had to persuade her not to order a pint of real ale, and so she sat with her glass of white wine and he had his pint.
“Let me try,” she said.
“If you must, but I don’t want the whole world making glances.”
“I could care less what the whole world thinks.”
“I thought you were supposed to love your neighbour.”
“Of course, but that’s a matter of how I act, not how he or she thinks.”
“Alright. Have a sip.”
Jenny took a sip, and then another.
“I’ve never really drunk beer before and certainly not like this. It’s a lot more interesting than white wine. I’m going to order one myself.”
“And the wine?”
“I’ll give it back and say I don’t want it.”
“I can’t really win with you. You do what you please. You will anyway. Do you want some money?”
“I have my own money. It’s silly for you to try to pay for everything. It’s me that has my own flat and a good allowance from my parents. I’m the one who’s pretty sure to get the decent scholarship for next year.”
She came back a few minutes later with a pint of dark beer. She grimaced occasionally at the taste as she sipped it.
“You really don’t like it, do you?”
“Did you like beer when you first tried it? Like everything else, it takes practice. Have you ever read a novel and found it tough going, but persevered and loved it in the end?”
“I don’t read that many novels, Jenny.”
“What do you read?”
“Well, after I’ve read the books for my course, I read the occasional classic for fun, but not often.  I read a bit of biography or history, mainly rubbish. If I’m on holiday, I might read a thriller or a horror book. ”
“Well, I’m sure some of those need a bit of practice, too.”
“At the moment most of my spare time is taken up with the campaign. There are blogs I follow every day to keep up with the argument, newspapers I read and comment sections I comment on.”
“Is it fun?”
“The campaign group is great. I enjoy the meetings.”
“What happens?”
“I’m not really sure I should tell you.”
“Why? Because I might disagree?”
“No, but some of what we do is sort of secret.”
“And you think I’d tell people on the ‘No’ side? Well, I promise you that anything you tell me I will not use to harm the cause you are fighting for.”
He looked at her and could instantly see that she was completely serious. There was a flash in her eyes that said: ‘I’m telling the truth.’
“You are rather moral, aren’t you, Jenny?”
“What else is there?”
“What do you want to know about the meetings?”
“Who goes to them?”
“Well, my group is mainly students. People from the SNP society and the Greens, and some left wingers”
“The SNP is pretty left wing isn’t it?”
“I’d say so, though not everyone. There are even a few people on the right. We’re all united by wanting independence”
“I can see how people on the right might want independence; it would eventually give their views a chance.”
“That’s a strange thing to say. We’re doing this to keep the Tories out of Scotland.”
“I know, but what if there were a few left wing governments in Scotland either SNP or Labour, and things weren’t going so well, who would we turn to for a change?”
“But at least it would be our choice.”
“Oh, I quite agree. Anyway what do you do at these meetings?”
“Well, we’re sort of assigned tasks. Someone might be assigned to monitor the comment section of the Telegraph, someone else the Scotsman. Another group will share responsibility for twitter. Still others will comment on one of the ‘Yes’ blogs. We’re all encouraged to find someone who might become a ‘Yes’ voter and to gradually convince them.”
“How do you do that?”
“Well, we have lots of information, summaries of the arguments. At the moment we’re campaigning through personal networks, friends and families. The idea is to build momentum. Even someone who is opposed to independence, can be gradually convinced.”
“People like me?”
“Why not?”
“But do you have a good time at these meetings?”
“Well, a lot of these people I’ve known for years. I know guys who have met most of their friends in the SNP society or the Greens or socialists.”
“I suppose, there are couples, too?”
“Yes, a lot of couples. It can be a bit awkward; sometimes people break up and find someone else in the group.”
“And you?”
“A girl I used to know is still in the group. She’s called Roisin. We still get on well enough though her boyfriend doesn’t much like me. These things happen and you move on. We’re all working together.”
“Is she Irish?”
“Roisin? No, she’s from Glasgow.”
“I bet she’s not a Rangers supporter though.”
“No. I suppose, her family came from Ireland some time ago.”
“So did part of mine. My grandfather came from somewhere near Dublin.”
“Where do you go to Church, Jenny?”
“I mix and match. Sometimes I go to the Church of Scotland, sometimes to the Catholic Church, sometimes to the Episcopalians. I’m not that interested in denominations. It doesn’t seem important to me. At the moment I’m reading about the Russian Orthodox Church.”
“Why ever would you do that?”
“I think parts of it are rather deep and I want to understand Dostoevsky better.”
“I heard he’s tough going.”
“He can be, but the ideas and the stories, the characters are unforgettable.”
“It sounds good. You’re going to study him?”
“Not only him. But he’ll be a part. Do you want me to give you one of his books?”
“I don’t know if I’ll have the time, but I can try.”
“Please do. I’ll buy you a copy of the translation I think best and you can have a go.”
After another pint, Jenny was beginning to feel the effects of the beer, but she liked the feeling and it gave her the nerve to raise the topic that was most on her mind.
“Paul, we’re getting on pretty well, I think.”
“Yes. I think so, too.  What’s on your mind?”
“We’re sort of practicing, too. I know you find it a little difficult and a little unusual. We meet up every day at my flat and we end up lying on my bed kissing. I have an idea that you don’t know what to do. What’s OK and what’s not.”
“Jenny, you’ll have to keep your voice down. It’s embarrassing.”
She saw his face redden and the sense of mild horror in his eyes. She was used to committing these sort of social errors, which was one of the reasons she was rather shy. But she was also determined.
“No-one is looking at us,” she said. “No-one is listening to us. It’s important. We have to get through our British, or if you like, our Scottish reserve.”
“All right. If you think so. It’s just I don’t think there should be a problem at all. It all seems so silly.”
“My beliefs aren’t silly, my dear, they are me. They are all that I am.”
“I’m sorry, Jenny. It’s just we kiss and kiss, and never get anywhere.”
“It’s a process. We’re getting to know each other, not only by talking but also by holding each other and kissing.”
“It’s just not what I’m used to.”
“I know, I expect the last time you started going out with someone, by now you would already have slept with her.”
“That’s how everyone is these days.”
“I know, but let me put forward to you a way that we can love each other, which will be nice for you and nice for me. Maybe it will even be more beautiful and more loving than what you have in mind at the moment. It could even be a sort of ideal to tend towards.”
“Go on.”
“There’s no reason at all why in a few months from now, you and I shouldn’t be in a bed together completely naked. We can wake up together. I can give you pleasure and you can give me pleasure. We can find out about each other and about our bodies, what works and what doesn’t work. We can reach a level of closeness that few people reach. It’s not something that happens in a day or week, but gradually and with patience.”
“That sounds good. But how does that differ from what everyone does?”
“Well, let’s just say, we use only our caresses.  If I agree to not put anything in you, you agree to not put anything in me. Doesn’t that seem fair?”
“I suppose so. It seems a bit silly having rules about what should come naturally.”
“It’s not a matter of rules. It’s a matter of how I feel about myself. I want to take a journey with a man, which involves gradually getting to know him, both in terms of his personality and in terms of his body. I don’t want to hurry, because I only want to have one such relationship. When he promises to love me for ever, we will be married and then with all this practice loving will come easily and naturally and beautifully.”
“Marriage is not something that’s very much on my mind, Jenny.”
“It doesn’t have to be now, because we’re only practicing.”
“So how does that change things? I mean, practically, when we’re back at your place?”
“It doesn’t change anything. We’re not going to be a few months ahead now at this moment, but I’m not going to reject your caress and nor are you going to reject mine. We’re going to spend some time learning about each other and discovering how to love each other. It needs time and trust. That’s the most important thing. I’m trusting you not to hurt me.”
“I’ve never met anyone like you, Jenny.”
“I’m pretty pleased with you, too, Paul. I’ve been waiting for someone with your understanding. Most men would either laugh or run a mile. Anyway, let’s go back to mine. We should begin practicing.”









Chapter 5

A couple of weeks later Jenny got on a bus that would take her into the country. She’d told Paul that she was going to see Effie and Petr. It wasn’t as if Paul minded, of course, but he did think it strange that she would stay the night at a lecturer’s house. Most of his lecturers he scarcely knew, and certainly not personally.
She liked the journey into the countryside. Somehow the land seemed expansive in a way that she wasn’t used to. It wasn’t dramatic like the parts of the Highlands she had seen. There was just farmland and rolling hills. The sea looked a bit rougher today and the wind bit, but soon she arrived and made the familiar short walk to Effie’s house. She reflected that there was more to this corner of Scotland than she had thought of previously. There was something she discovered every time she left Aberdeen, every time a little more. She couldn’t quite articulate what it was, but she could recognise it and did every time she sat on that bus in daylight.
“Come in, my dear,” said Effie “How are things?”
“Not bad.”
“That doesn’t sound so great.”
“No, things are fine. It’s just I’m a bit tired.”
“Too many late nights with Paul maybe?”
“I do go to bed later than I’m used to.”
“But it’s good for you, Jenny, to have someone. You were too intense before. You need to relax. We all do. Love is the best way to relax. It can keep you sane.”
“Or drive you mad.”
“We’ll talk some more about that later. How are your studies going?”
“I don’t think the lecturers like it that I don’t go.”
“I’ve heard the odd muttering about the Brodie set.”
“It’s not really a set when there’s only me. But I do think you’re in your prime.” Jenny laughed as did Effie.
“Don’t worry about them. Even if they were minded to take revenge, they couldn’t. Your level of Greek and Hebrew was First class Honours level already two years ago. It’s just they’d like it if you were more interested in what they’re interested in.”
“So you think I’m pretty much guaranteed the result I need?”
“I don’t think it, I know it. Why else would I be moving you onto other things?”
“I’m finding one of those other things tough-going.”
“Which?”
“Well, I’m making reasonable progress with Danish.”
“The main thing is to get to the stage where you can read with a dictionary.”
“It’s like easy German.”
“Agreed, but the pronunciation is horrible. At some point you may need to go there and learn to speak, but just now I don’t expect you to read much Danish. Just read the texts in English and check the crucial passages in the original. If you can do that, it will be enough for the time being.”
“It’s Russian I’m finding tough.”
“Did you bring the exercises and your essay?”
“What do you think?”
“Ever reliable Jenny. Well, let’s have some coffee and we’ll have a look.”
Effie had given Jenny one of her old books of exercises, endless grammatical drills where there was a blank space that had to be filled in with the correct form of the word.
“Well, it’s all correct as far as I can tell,” said Effie “What’s the problem?”
“I can only do the exercises by checking back at the explanations and the examples. It’s like doing a maths problem. Every sentence takes me a couple of minutes to work out or more.”
“That’s how it was for me, too, at the beginning. The key is to drill yourself like learning scales on the piano.”
“It seems much harder than Greek or Hebrew.”
“The problem with Hebrew is the alphabet where letters look alike and the vowels when they are absent. Greek is closer to Russian than English or at least quite a bit of Russian vocabulary is guessable if you know Greek.”
“I don’t see how I’ll ever be able to read Dostoevsky?”
“You can’t yet, so don’t try. The problem with Russian is not grammar. In the end it’s your friend, because it’s hard, but regular. The problem is learning vocabulary, as it’s nearly all unfamiliar. The key is in roots, but we’ll not get to them for some time yet.”
“When?”
“We’ll see, after you get back from Russia maybe. Now read your essay.”
Jenny began reading, struggling over the pronunciation, being corrected every now and again.
“Excellent!” said Effie.
“Do you really think so?” asked Jenny.
“You’re learning a lot quicker than I did, I can tell you that much for sure.”
“You were on your own though, weren’t you?”
“I learned at a strange time and in a strange way. I had help from the start, but I also did a lot of study on my own.”
“Who helped? Petr?”
“Eventually. That’s the best way to learn, you know.”
“Why am I’m finding it much harder than any other language I’ve learned?”
“Most of them you only have to read.”
“That’s true even with German. I only really read.”
“Greek will help you though.”
“I know the grammar’s similar.”
“It’s more that a lot of Russian words are derived from Church Slavonic and that was heavily influenced by Greek.”
“Is there anything more I can do?”
“Not really. You must try to immerse yourself in Russian culture, you know, books and films and such like.”
“I’ve watched a few of the films you’ve lent me and I’m ploughing my way through thick novels, even if they are only translations right now.”
“When you get to Russia, the most important thing will be for you to avoid speaking English.”
“That shouldn’t be hard.”
“Actually it will be very hard. There’ll be a bunch of foreign students who’ll make friends and spend all day talking English.”
“What should I do?”
“Be polite, but make it clear you’re not interested. I’ve organised things so that you’re going to have some Russians to look after you who won’t speak any English, it’ll just be up to you to avoid the temptation to speak English.”
“But, Effie, I hardly understand anything in Russian.”
“I know. It’s the only way to learn.”
“When does Petr get home?”
“Oh, usually around half past five. You’ll help me make something, won’t you?”
“Of course.”
“We’ll have a nice evening with a few drinks and some Russian conversation.”
“With some English translation sometimes, too, I hope.”
“Naturally, though I want you to try your best to understand. When we’re feeling relaxed, I’ll send Petr up to his computer and we can have a little chat about how things are going with you and Paul.”
Jenny smiled at her friend and looked shyly at her. Some unspoken words had already passed between them. Jenny had said ‘I need you’ with her eyes and Effie had answered ‘I’m here’.
“I’d like that,” said Jenny, “but you’re right, it’s sometimes easier without a man being there.”
“And also after a few drinks. There’s something I want to ask you now though.”
Effie looked worried and Jenny was a little startled at the glance she received.
“What is it?”
“I need your help.”
“What can I do?”
“Look, Jenny, I know you’re busy, but you needn’t worry about the theology any more. You’re going to get one of the best grades in years. I shouldn’t really say that of course, but everybody knows it. So it’s hardly a secret.”
“Still I want to do all I can to make sure.”
“It is sure, but I need you to start a new subject.”
“I don’t see how I can.”
“No, not academic work. I need you to help with the referendum.”
“But why? Aren’t we winning easily?”
“I think, we’ll win, but I’m worried we might not.”
“But I read somewhere that ‘No’ was far ahead.”
“We have been, but something strange is happening.”
“What?”
“The ‘Yes’ supporters are not using rational argument.”
“What worries you about that?”
“Take the announcement on the pound. No-one rationally can support independence after that.”
“But they just deny it. They say the government is bluffing.”
“They play the wicked Tory card and they bypass the brain circuits of the average voter.”
“What do you think, would there be a currency union if there were independence?”
“I honestly don’t know. I’m sure, these politicians mean it when they say there wouldn’t be, but it would depend on how bad things got if Scotland voted ‘Yes’.”
“How bad do you think it could get?”
“I honestly don’t know. But you’re mucking around with something that could have unforeseen consequences. It could get very bad indeed.”
“How do you know all this, Effie?”
“Until 2008 I never looked at the financial pages. It didn’t seem to be a subject worth studying. Then it did suddenly. So I read about economics every day.”
“But you haven’t had any training?”
“No, but so what? I’ve had an education that enables me to think. I can learn. You can, too. We never cared very much about each other’s subjects in college. In the end, everything becomes one subject, the same subject.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“For a start I want you to read some more of my blog.”
“OK. I can do that easily enough.”
“I then want you to read some nationalist blogs. I’ll give you the links.”
“That’s already a fair amount of reading, but I’ll try to fit it in.”
“I then want you to write a few essays both in favour of independence and against.”
“I’m not sure, I’ll be very good at that. It’s not as if I’ve been following the debate closely.”
“There’s no need to follow the debate. It’s best not to get into ‘he said, she said’ type arguments.”
“What’s this for Effie?”
“Well, it’s going to help your Russian for a start.”
“You want me to write them in Russian?”
“If you can. I know it’s above your level, but thinking in another language is very creative in terms of new ideas.”
“I can only try. But I wouldn’t expect much if I were you.”
“You’ll be a big help. What we’ll do next is discuss these essays and, hopefully, I can use them in my blog and on twitter.”
“How do you find twitter?”
“I didn’t really understand it for a long time. I just used it to promote the blog. Now I’m getting a bit better, getting more followers. It’s just…”
“It’s just you’re busy. You want help. Just ask. Is there anything more I can do?”
“Perhaps, later. If I needs must, I may need you to tweet for me. But not now.”
“You think it might be as close as that?”
“As I said I’m finding it hard to reach them.”
“Does it matter so much?”
“It does to me. I’m not sure I could continue living here.”
“And that would obviously affect me, too.”
“It’s not that easy to get a new academic post, nor one for Petr, too, and in the same town.”
“Well, you’ve succeed in motivating me.”
“But don’t say anything to Paul.”
Effie saw Jenny’s look of dismay.
“I don’t want to keep secrets from him,” said Jenny.
“I know, my dear. We must all try to be as honest as possible. It’s just we have to be able to discuss tactics without the other side finding out. I don’t want them to know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.”
“What are you doing?”
“I’m attacking from within. I’m accepting their assumptions and undermining them.”
“But if reason doesn’t work, what’s the point?”
“This is our problem, but what other weapons have we? I can only argue against their case, point out the flaws. But I can see it doesn’t really work. It’s just I haven’t found an alternative.”
“Maybe it’s this that we really need to work on.”
“Maybe. Anyway enough for the moment. Let’s go for a walk. There’s a couple of things I need from the shop.”
They went out and walked together through the suburban housing estate.
“What are we going to have?” asked Jenny.
“Oh, just something simple. Petr only really likes simple things. I’m going to make shepherd’s pie, but I need some beers for him and some wine for us.”
Petr got in at just after 5:30. He knew Jenny quite well by now and said hello to her before starting to speak very quickly in Russian with Effie. A minute or two later he sat down with Jenny in the lounge.
“I’ve been told to keep you company,” he said in very good English.
“How was your day?” asked Jenny.
“Frustrating and stupid. My students either don’t want to learn or can’t.”
“You work at the college?”
“I teach English to foreigners like me.”
“And your wife teaches Russian to foreigners like me.”
“Just you. She tells me you learn quickly,” said Petr in very slow Russian.
“Thank you. I can understand you, but I can’t really speak yet.”
“But I hear you’re going to Russia in a few months. It’s time you learned.”
“I can work out sentences on paper well enough, but when I try to speak, I just don’t have time.”
“Let me tell you a secret. The key to speaking Russian, at the beginning anyway, is to speak very badly.”
“How?”
Just think of what you want to say and string words together.”
“But it will be nonsense?”
“How about ‘Go pub you like’? Did you understand?” asked Petr.
“Yes, of course.”
“How about ‘You speak name me Jenny’? Is that hard to understand?”
“No.”
“You see then it’s not that difficult to have a conversation even when you speak badly. This is how everyone begins. It’s how babies begin, too. More or less”
“So I just speak Russian gibberish, is that it?”
“No. Try to speak correctly, try to get the verb right and the endings right, but don’t worry if you get it wrong.”
“Won’t people laugh?”
“Why should we? We know how hard Russian is.”
“The trouble is I understand so little.”
“You must pretend you understand everything.”
“How?”
“Use whatever clues you get from words and gestures, but keep speaking no matter what. That’s how you learn. Fool the Russian that you understand him, and he’ll keep speaking and in time you’ll pick up more and more up. You can go a long way with ‘Da’ and ‘Nyet’.”
Jenny looked at him dubiously.
“You haven’t even tried it yet, Jenny, and you look at me as if it’s impossible. If you think something is impossible, it already is, but if you think it’s possible, you’ve already made a good start.”
“I’ll try. I see the point of what you’re saying.”
“We’ll try it at dinner. Try to follow what you can and join in a bit. You’ll find a couple of drinks really help with the endings and the pronunciation.”
Everyone tried to speak Russian at dinner with some translation for Jenny. She understood very little, but she said a few sentences of very bad Russian. Still they got the correct response and she persevered. She felt herself making just a little bit of progress, but after an hour or so was completely exhausted with the effort to converse and understand. But for the first time she could see a way forward.
“I’m going to play on the computer and then go to bed,” said Petr. “I’ll see you in the morning, Jenny. It was a really good effort today. Well done!”
“Thank you, Petr,” said Jenny. “You really helped.”
Jenny helped tidy up a bit and when that was more or less done, she paused for a second. She saw that Effie, too, had finished with this inconsequential bustling about.
“Now let’s sit by the fire,” said Effie. “I’ll get you some more wine.”
“Let’s,” said Jenny.
Still they chatted about unimportant things for a while then Effie said:
“We usually have a way of getting to the essence of a thing.”
“I know. Neither of us do small talk.”
“How’s it going with Paul?”
“It’s all very new to me.”
“How long have you been with him? Three weeks?”
“About that.”
“It may take a while yet before you get the hang of things. Like a few years. What do you talk about?”
“That’s something that worries me a bit. There’s a lot that’s off limits.”
“His politics?”
“I hardly agree with anything he says, not about independence, not about economics, not about politics.”
“He’s pretty much on the left.”
“He’s quite far left if truth be told.  I just think all that stuff is a mistake.”
“So why are you with him if you disagree?”
“I could care less about his politics. I think, he’s a good man. A kind man.”
“What makes you think so?”
“He’s gentle. He knows I’m unsure, but he never pushes things. He waits for me. He sort of asks sometimes when he caresses me. He waits for me to say ‘that’s OK’ and that makes me want to say ‘go ahead’ all the more.”
“That sounds very nice, so what’s the problem? I could see when you first arrived today that there was some sort of problem.”
“We’re both very inhibited. I tried to talk with him about it, but it came out rather awkwardly. I’m not sure I expressed myself well. Anyway, it didn’t make any difference. When we’re alone together we still don’t know what to do. We don’t really talk about what we want. I sense he’s frustrated. I sense he’s a little bored with kissing and a few caresses. I’m scared he won’t want to stay with me.”
“You can never prevent someone leaving if that’s what he wants. He can find any number of girls who’ll sleep with him. You can’t compete if he wants that more than he wants you.”
“But I don’t want him to go. Why do I feel about these things the way I do? I wish I didn’t. I wish I was like all the other girls.”
“It’s not really a choice. Your faith is what you are. Without it you’re just not Jenny.”
“That’s something else I can’t talk about, or else he talks, but I don’t really answer. He comes out with all the standard arguments against Christianity, it’s just  I can’t explain that I know them all already, but that I’ve gone beyond them, that they’ve become something irrelevant to me.”
“You can’t explain that to anyone. They have to find out for themselves. Same with politics. No argument convinced me. It was living in the USSR that did the trick. Don’t argue with him, Jenny.”
“What do I do then?”
“Let him see your example, especially how you love.”
“In what way?”
“Be kind, Jenny. You are kind: be caring, be loving. That’s all any of us can do. Politics is trivial and transient.”









Chapter 6

That same evening Mark and Paul were in the Prince of Wales once again. Paul had just been at another ‘Yes” campaign meeting while Mark had been studying Chaucer.
“What will you have?” asked Mark.
“Let’s have a look. I think, I’ll try the porter. What about you?”
“I’ve not had that new IPA, so I’ll have that. But I’ll have sip of yours, too, if I may”
It wasn’t especially busy as it was a week night, and they found a quiet enough spot.
“What have you been doing this evening?” asked Paul.
“Just the usual study. I’ve been reading over some bits of the ‘Canterbury Tales’.”
“I’m amazed you bother with that stuff. There are easier options in English, aren’t there?”
“I rather like the language, besides must everything be easy? I don’t think your campaign is easy for instance.”
“You don’t fancy joining us?”
“I’m from Newcastle as you well know.”
“We have English people with us.”
“Those that live in Scotland. Seems odd, but I can just about understand it if they agree with your policies.”
“We have a few supporters who are English and have lived all their lives in England.”
“Don’t get that. I’m afraid, it looks awfully like self-hatred.”
“No, it’s people who see independence in Scotland as the best chance for the left, both in Scotland and in England.”
“More likely I’d have thought to leave us with a permanent Tory government.”
“There are quite a few people on the left in England who hope we’ll win.”
“I know. Most of them are from the old style left. Regretting the last thirty years. That’s not where I am.”
“You want to get rid of austerity though, you want to get rid of the bedroom tax, do something for the poor?”
“I think, we need economic recovery for all these things.”
“You sound like a Tory.”
“Oh, come on! I think, if Labour had got in last time, we’d have had some sort of austerity, too. Maybe a bit different, but not much.”
“I think, we need a bit more optimism about the future: an alternative to austerity.”
“I’m afraid, you’re not going to get rid of poverty by putting a tick in a box.”
“But our oil?”
“It’s volatile: the price goes up wildly and falls wildly, and, anyway, Scotland gets the revenue from it already. You can’t very well spend it twice.”
Paul was looking still more frustrated as the conversation went on.
“Always the negative from you, Mark!” he said.
“Well, let’s move on to other things. I’m just a neutral about independence.”
“I was feeling so positive after our meeting.”
“Why was that in particular?”
“Well, partly because I had a nice chat afterwards with Roisin.”
“I’d watch that one if I were you.”
“No, she was nice. She complimented me on what I’d said during the meeting about street campaigning. She had some good ideas, too. Maybe we’ll work together.”
“I thought it was awkward between you two.”
“It is. Her boyfriend used to get jealous, but it seems they’ve split up.”
“How many is that in the last couple of years?”
“I don’t know.  I was away for one of them. Does it matter?”
“Does she know about Jenny?”
“Well, I’ve not said anything.”
“I guarantee she does know. Women always know these things.”
“You don’t think?”
“I do think. She probably still thinks she has a claim on you.”
“No. She was just being nice and, anyway, I’m not interested.”
“Be good to Jenny, Paul, she’s the real deal and worth a heck of a lot more than Roisin. That one’s really poisonous.”
“Why do you think that?”
“I don’t care for all the Celtic, Irish Republican nonsense. She hates Brits as if she were a Catholic in Northern Ireland in the seventies. She’s sectarian.”
“But so are the unionists: sectarian.”
“I have no time for them either. Silly men in bowler hats. But it’s only a Glasgow thing. I can’t abide that stuff. Very glad I came here where it doesn’t much exist.”
“Jenny’s great, Mark. I know what you’re saying, but it was easier going out with Roisin. I knew what to do. We went out, we went to bed.”
“Then when you went to France, she got bored and went to bed with someone else.”
“Still at least we went to bed.”
“I don’t think you should turn it into such a big deal,” said Mark.
Paul smiled and looked at his friend.
“That’s easy for you to say. Am I right?”
“Susie and I have been together for three years. For the first six months I didn’t even go into her room. For the next six months we only kissed.”
“So it’s a matter of time and patience?”
“No, it’s a matter of trust and commitment, and love.”
“How long did you have to wait?”
“It doesn’t really matter, does it?”
“No. I’m not prying, I hope?”
“It all happened very gradually and with no sense of hurry. In the end it was her suggestion. I was happy to wait forever.”
“But what a waste of time, Mark, if you’re going to get there in the end!”
“Who knows where you get in the end when you’re beginning. It’s not about that anyway. It’s a relationship between two people. You learn to love more and more and when you feel you’ll be together forever, it all happens quite naturally at the right moment.”
“You don’t believe, do you?”
“In what? In religion? In Christianity? No. I don’t think so. I believe in moderately left wing politics and I try to be a decent, kind person. But, no, I don’t believe what Susie does.”
“Do you discuss it?”
“Sometimes.”
“Do you try to persuade her?”
“But why? Who knows, maybe I’m the one who’s wrong?”
“But it’s all such nonsense, Mark.”
“Perhaps, but Susie and Jenny are still two of the best people I know.”
“There’s a sort of barrier between me and Jenny.”
“You’ve been together less than a month. Be patient.”
“I’m being more patient than I thought possible.”
“About sex? Good Lord, Paul! It’s not that big a deal surely? You need to stop thinking of yourself so much and also stop thinking of a woman as some sort of device that satisfies an urge. Long term, that sort of stuff isn’t the key. It’s the person that matters. It’s the person you’re with that counts. Nothing else.”
“I can get that, at least in theory, but it’s not just that kind of barrier. She clams up when we discuss things.”
“Like what things?”
“Well, when I argue about politics or religion she doesn’t even try to put up a fight. She just says something disarming.”
“I’ve spent quite a bit of time with Susie and Jenny, and I’ve heard Jenny a few times during a formal debate. I can assure you she knows how to argue.”
“Then why not with me?”
“Maybe she thinks it would cause you to fall out, if she gave you her best shot.”
“That’s a bit disrespectful, don’t you think? I can hold my own, too.”
“Paul, Jenny is one of the brightest people I’ve ever met. She’s on a different level to me. She just doesn’t want to argue with someone she’s going out with. You’re her first proper boyfriend. She really, really likes you and doesn’t want to make a wrong step. Just show her that you can discuss things without falling out and she’ll gradually discuss more. But there’s no future in looking for arguments with your girlfriend. I never argue with Susie. Or very rarely. What’s the point?”
“It’s just I want to persuade her.”
“About what, Paul? Independence or Christianity?”
“Both.”
“Because you want to get her into bed in an independent Scotland if not before?”
“That’s not entirely fair.”
“I don’t think what you’re trying is entirely fair either. Has she tried to persuade you of anything?”
“No.”
“She could, you know. She could put up one hell of an argument.”
“How do you know?”
“I was in the same position a couple of years back, trying to persuade Susie into bed, trying to undermine her beliefs. I feel pretty guilty about it now. You should have heard Jenny defend her friend and herself. They’re not stupid. They have good arguments, too.”
“I’ve never heard any.”
“You’re not open to them yet. Until you are, it’s easy to dismiss.”
“I don’t much like her politics either.”
“I imagine, she doesn’t much like yours. Jenny’s one of the few Scots I’ve met who’ll openly admit to being a Tory.”
“There’s something immoral about it.”
“I disagree with her politics, too, but Jenny is not immoral, nor is she selfish. She’s more moral than anyone I know. She’s much more moral than me or you for that matter. It’s the person that’s important, not the politics.”
“It’s just hard when we disagree on so much.”
“Then find something to agree on, and do it quick.”









Chapter 7

Jenny went home to Glasgow during the Easter holidays. Paul went home to his village in the West Highlands for a few days. His parents were glad to see him, but disappointed that he didn’t intend to stay longer. He told them that he had a lot of study to do and it was easier in Aberdeen. In reality he wanted to continue campaigning. Jenny had wanted his parents’ number, but he had come up with an excuse. She wondered if he’d even told them about her. Most of all she just wondered why he hadn’t wanted her to phone him at home. Paul, too, felt the awkwardness, but he brushed it off by pointing out that she could contact him by e-mail and facebook, and mobile phone. She reminded him that mobiles frequently didn’t work where there were mountains all around. In the end he came up with another implausible excuse and she decided not to push it. He had a reason and he didn’t want to tell her what it was. It shouldn’t have niggled her, but it did and throughout her time in Glasgow this small thing stayed at the back of her mind.
She spent her time doing the small amount of work she needed to do for her course. Effie had told her about how finals had been thirty years or so before, where everything depended on seven or eight three hour exams and the only aspect of continuous assessment was perhaps a dissertation. All that had changed. Perhaps, it was for the better, perhaps not, but Jenny knew that little actually depended on what she had to do now in the next couple of months. Her First class degree was all but assured, not least because the department expected it and had marked her accordingly for the past few years. Still she went over what might crop up in the couple of short exams she would sit, and she put the finishing touches to the last essay that she would have to write.
She continued her Russian studies by watching some of the films that Petr and Effie had lent her. She wondered if perhaps Paul might like to watch one or two with her. She drilled herself on grammar continually doing endless exercises. The subject interested her because she found it so difficult. She’d had a glance, despite being told not to, at a page of Dostoevsky in Russian. It had been much, much harder than she had thought it would be. With other languages she had got the basics of the grammar and then learned by reading literature, looking up words in a dictionary. This worked well enough with Danish, but had proved impossible with Russian. They seemed to use a different grammar in literature, and you couldn’t even find the words in the dictionary as the forms the words took were often unfamiliar as if they were trying to hide themselves; and even if you could find them it was frequently unclear quite what they meant. Sentences went on and on, and you just got lost half way through. There were hordes of tiny little words which were used to join the sentence together, but no dictionary could tell you what they meant. This was a challenge, thought Jenny. This was a subject worth studying.
When she got back to Aberdeen, there were signs of spring. Paul had suggested they go to Duthie Park, and on the first nice Sunday they did. They decided to get their by walking along the river Dee.
“I’ve never even been this way,” said Jenny.
“What? Along the river?”
“I’ve never been here at all. Nor to Duthie Park.”
“Don’t you like plants?”
“I like them well enough. I just had no reason to go.”
“But you do now?”
“You asked me. That’s reason enough, don’t you think?”
The route didn’t start of promisingly, passing some factories and small businesses, but soon they reached the river. There were some boathouses for rowing and one or two teams of rowers on the river.
“Did you ever try that?” asked Jenny.
“I’m not that sporty,” said Paul. “It strikes me that they’re pretending they got into Cambridge.”
“I haven’t done any sport since school.”
“What did you do then?”
“Oh, you know, hockey, netball.”
“You went to a private school, didn’t you?”
“Well, sort of. It wasn’t that expensive and I lived at home.”
“While I boarded, but it was a comprehensive.”
“You could hardly have travelled there every day. It would have taken half of the day.”
“How do you remain so slim then?”
“I exercise in my room.”
“Doing what?”
“Well, I have a small step that I use for my legs, and I have a small weight with a handle that I use for my arms. You swing it. It’s pretty good.”
“Well, it certainly works, Jenny.”
She pressed his arm and smiled at him very pleased with his complement.
“It also means I can learn a bit about music.”
“What music ,Jenny? I didn’t think you liked music. You never want to go to clubs.”
“I don’t really understand that sort of music. It’s probably my lack, but I just can’t really get into it.”
“What sort do you like?”
“I like two sorts. I like songs with words that have some sort of meaning, you know, folk songs or songs from shows and then I like modern classical music.”
“So, who in particular?”
“I’m listening to Bob Dylan at the moment and Messiaen.”
“You were born in 1993, weren’t you?”
“Yes?”
“So you’re listening to a guy who was first popular thirty years before you were born. I’ve never even heard of the second one.”
“Have you listened to Dylan?”
“One or two things. Strange voice. And very, very old-fashioned.”
“I’m old-fashioned.”
“I know. It’s one of your best qualities. What does modern classical music sound like?”
“I’ll play you something later if you like. But you need to practice.”
“What sort of practice?”
“You need to practice how to listen to it. What classical music do you like?”
“I don’t really know. I don’t have very much. Some Mozart maybe or Beethoven.”
“You need to build up to the modern stuff, you sort of need to start at the beginning and take it in stages. Messiaen is where I’ve reached just now, but there’s more.”
“It sounds like hard work, Jenny.”
“I know, but it’s worth it.”
“Well, I’m willing to give it a go. It would be nice to share something.”
“It would.”
The Park itself was looking splendid in the sunshine with spring flowers having finally arrived in the northern part of Scotland so much later than in the southern parts of the UK, anyone would have thought it was a different country.
“I wish I’d come here before, years ago. I wish you’d taken me then, Paul.”
“I do, too. I know we don’t agree on everything, but we agree on wanting to be together. I wish we’d been together for years.”
“We will be. I very much hope we will be,” said Jenny.
“Let’s go into the Winter Gardens.”
“But it’s not winter?”
“I know, but it’s the best bit of the park. The rest is like any other nice park in Aberdeen.”
They went in and passed slowly through the various parts of the Winter Gardens. There were rooms with hot house flowers that were humid and very warm. There were rooms with cactuses and rooms with all sorts of other plants that had no business growing in the north of Scotland.
“Do you know anything about plants, Jenny?” asked Paul.
“Not a thing really. I’m not very scientific. What about you?”
“Not that much, but we used to go to Inverewe gardens when I was a kid.”
“That’s somewhere over on the west coast right?”
“It took forever to drive there, but it was worth it. I remember there was what looked like giant rhubarb and palm trees. Stuff like that.”
“How on earth does it grow?”
“There must be some sort of warmer spot. Something to do with the Gulf stream. My mum is into plants. She loves gardening and so I picked up a bit here and there.”
“What does she do? You never talk about your parents.”
“She teaches in a little school. She taught me, in fact.”
“My! I don’t think I’d fancy that. Was she strict?”
“Not especially. But you couldn’t really leave school behind at the end of the day.”
“What about your dad?”
“He teaches, too, only he teaches climbing and sailing. Things like that.”
“They sound like fairly unusual highlanders.”
“I suppose so.”
“Did they meet there?”
“I wasn’t around,” joked Paul.
“But did they move to where you live now? From where?”
“We’ve been there as long as I can remember.”
Jenny knew not to push the conversation further. It was strange, but there was something that Paul was reluctant to discuss. She wondered what it was and why he obviously didn’t trust her enough to talk about it. She felt slightly hurt, but then reflected that there were all sorts of reasons why someone might not want to talk about his family. Perhaps, his mother had remarried, perhaps, he’d been adopted, perhaps who knew what. It was probably something mundane. More likely still he just didn’t like talking about a place he was glad to have escaped, though he clearly thought the world of his parents. She brushed it off, but thought she’d continue to probe just a little as they got to know each other better. After all, at some point she hoped to meet his parents.
They found a bench in a quiet spot surrounded by some of the most colourful plants.
“It’s a lovely spot to sit,” said Jenny.
“I’m really glad you like it. I’ve only been a couple of times myself.”
“You bring all your girls here?”
“Actually, come to think of it, I’ve been here hundreds of times with hundreds of girls. I’m in the process of building a harem.”
Jenny laughed, but she wondered who he had brought before. It wasn’t the sort of place you went on your own. It was a good way of fencing to exaggerate in the way that Paul had.
“Do you think the man who has the harem is happy?”
“I don’t know. I suppose so. Most men would think it’s a pretty ideal situation.”
“You mean you’re surrounded by the most beautiful young women and you can choose a different one every night.”
“What’s not to like?”
“Do you think there were ever harems that worked the other way round? Where there was one woman and dozens of handsome young men?”
“I’ve no idea. Are you planning to set one up?”
“It just intrigues me. It’s such an unlikely idea, because I don’t think any woman would want it. Yet the reverse probably appeals at some level to every man.”
“It appeals to something instinctual, something superficial. But in the end it’s not what men want either. Not if they’ve got any sense. It’s a temptation for men. Something we think we want. But it’s not really what we want. Does that make sense?”
“I think so, though it all sometimes seems mysterious to me.”
“I’ve been reading the book you gave me.”
“The Brothers Karamazov?”
“Yes.”
“What do you think?”
“Oh, I’m not even a quarter of the way through it. I like it on the whole, but it’s pretty tough going.”
“Which brother do you like?”
“I’m not sure I like any.”
“But if you had to choose?”
“Maybe Ivan. He seems very clever. What about you?”
“Oh, Alyosha!”
“You’re going to study this book?”
“Not only that one, but some of the others, too.”
“Can I ask why?”
“Well, I think they have more to say about faith than any other books I’ve read, apart from a Danish writer also from the 19th century.”
“Who’s that?”
“Kierkegaard.”
“And you’re studying Danish to read him?”
“I can read him already well enough, though I can’t really speak the language.”
“Why not just read it all in English?”
“I don’t think that’s really possible, if you want to understand properly. You can go so far, but you’re far too dependent on the translator.”
“Surely the translators are good enough?”
“They are. But Russian is a long way away from English. The tendency is either to be too literal or just to paraphrase. Either way you sometimes miss something vital.”
“But I don’t see what good it will do in the end, Jenny. You’re not going to be able to prove anything about faith, are you?”
“Oh, no! I’m certainly not trying to do that.”
“Then what are you trying to do?”
“Perhaps, I’m showing a path that people may want to explore if they are interested in finding faith, or more accurately in being given it. It is a gift, you know. You can’t get there on your own.”
“I like the kindness of Christianity; I like the morality, the ideas about sharing. I can see why you like Alyosha. Wouldn’t he approve of socialism? Wouldn’t that bring Christianity to the world in the only way that’s really possible?”
“During the Soviet Union Dostoevsky was rather frowned upon. It wasn’t so much that he was banned as discouraged. There’s a reason for that.”
“But the Soviet Union was a distortion of socialism.”
“Agreed. But the point of Dostoevsky is not that we achieve Christian ideals politically. Rather we achieve them individually.”
“I don’t understand.”
“If you make me love my neighbour by means of law, it ceases to be a matter of morality at all.”
“Do you think it’s moral that we have food banks in Scotland?”
“I’d rather we didn’t.”
“We’re campaigning to get rid of them.”
“I know you are. You’re doing what you think is right. And that’s as it should be.”
“So how would you get rid of them?”
“Through kindness and generosity, and good management of the economy.”
“You think the Tories are running the economy well. You must have seen the poverty in Glasgow?”
“Don’t let’s argue, Paul. We’re not going to agree especially if we attack each other. But we can find a common ground that can be discussed.”
“I’m sorry, Jenny. I’m not attacking you.”
“I know you’re not, you feel passionately about what you’re campaigning for. Who am I to say you’re wrong? We just disagree. Time will tell who is right.”
Paul felt once more her reluctance to argue with him. It was just slightly humiliating. She never got worked up like he did and when they got to a point when he was sufficiently worked up, she just ducked the argument. He knew she was trying to prevent them falling out, but sometimes he wished she would just give him both barrels and tell him what she really felt. At least that would have shown she respected him as an opponent. Then again he also knew she was right. If they became opponents what would be left of their love?









Chapter 8

A few days later Paul rang the bell at Jenny’s flat. He was earlier than usual, but hoped that he’d catch her in. Susan answered the door.
“Is Jenny in?” asked Paul.
“No, but come in anyway. I’m rather bored and could do with some company.”
“Are you on your own then?”
“Mark’s studying at the library, Lorna’s off with one of her devoted servants.”
“You all laugh at Lorna.”
“We’re a bit jealous of her. She’s so much prettier than us and never had a problem attracting men.”
They sat at the kitchen table. A CD was playing quite quietly, something very peculiar. Susan made some coffee and sat down with Paul.
“You don’t really envy Lorna, do you?” asked Paul.
“No,” said Susan. “I envy me and Jenny for that matter. I feel rather sad about Lorna.”
“But she’s happy enough. She can pick up the phone and someone will be here in five minutes flat to take her out somewhere.”
“Someone. Anyone. I think that’s the problem.”
“You like where you are with Mark, I mean, you’re …”
“Mark’s your friend, you know him pretty well. I’d say I’m pretty lucky wouldn’t you?”
“But you’re also very different.”
“None of that matters much anymore after we’ve been together so long. You don’t have to agree about everything, just about being together.”
“But you must sometimes wish he thought as you do.”
“Not really. I love Mark. I love who he is. To wish him different is to wish to love someone else. Don’t you think?”
“I suppose.”
“What are you going to do afterwards?”
“After Uni?”
“I suppose…”
She said it in a way that obviously imitated him, but with the hint of a smile that meant ‘don’t get in a huff’.
“For the first few months,” he said, “I’ll be campaigning full, after that I haven’t really thought. Nothing matters more than the campaign right now, I don’t look beyond it. What about you? Have you got plans?”
“I’ll look for a job. Most of us have to.  I’ll go where Mark goes, or I hope he’ll go where I go.”
“Marriage?”
“Oh, I do hope so! We sort of dodge around the subject as neither of us is in a position to make an offer, but we both talk of what we’ll be doing in a few years’ time.”
“And you talk of doing it together. I hope it works out, Susie”
“Me, too. I think it will. I have hope. I have faith.”
“What’s the music? It’s rather odd, don’t you think?”
“Very. But I’ve sort of got used to it. It’s something Jenny sometimes puts on.”
“Where’s the box?”
“You’ll find it on the shelf. It’s the one with the picture of the birds on it.”
“Messiaen, Catalogue d'Oiseaux. I thought it might be something like that. She played me something the other night by him. It wasn’t quite as odd as this, but nearly as much.”
“What was it?”
“Something on the piano about Jesus.”
“Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus?”
“I suppose so.”
“I know that one. I like it now.”
“You didn’t before?”
“No, not very.”
“What changed your mind?
“Oh, patience. We’ve lived with Jenny for 3 years now. Everyone likes to share what they care about. I’ve lent her books. We’ve watched films together. We’ve played CDs.”
“Does she like the things you like?”
“Sometimes, and I’ve grown to like some of the things that she likes. Jenny’s changed me and for the better.”
“Because you like listening to this rather odd music about birds?”
“No, Paul, because I give it a chance now. I don’t always get it, but sometimes I think, the lack may be in me.”
“I hardly know anything about classical music.”
“I didn’t either. But I’m glad I know someone who does.”
“She didn’t study it, did she?”
“I don’t think so, though she might have learned an instrument at school. No, she just listens.”
“I think, I could listen to this birdsong for 10 years and it would still be just plinkety plonk, random notes joined together.”
“I was just the same as you a couple of years back.”
“So you just listen long enough and like it, is that it?”
“No. Jenny began playing stuff that I’d never heard before. Bits of Beethoven and other stuff from the 19th century.”
“How did that help?”
“Well, she sort of showed how it all fitted together and developed.”
“Wasn’t it all a bit like continually studying?”
“No, she’d just have a CD playing at breakfast. Eventually, I became familiar with it and grew to like it. Then we’d play something else. It all just happened over the course of years.”
“Isn’t it a bit like having a teacher in the flat?”
“Do you find that Jenny lectures you?”
“No. Quite the reverse. It’s more likely that I lecture her.”
“That’s my experience, too. She just wants to share some things. With you, too. With you especially.”
“You think, I should be open to this?”
“I don’t think, it would be a bad idea. Don’t be dogmatic about what you think or what you like. I’ve found some wonderful things that Jenny showed me. Foreign films I’d never heard of and never would have unless she’d suggested that we watch.”
“I hate subtitles.”
“So did I. You should have heard the groans when it was her choice to choose the film we’d watch. Lorna and I just wanted to see something that had been made recently in English and in colour.”
“I didn’t know she knew quite so much about films. I had the impression she knew a bit but I didn’t know that it was that much.”
“Jenny is rather scared of appearing to know things.”
“Why’s that?”
“She’s not always had the best of experiences. Some people don’t like it when a woman knows a lot. It scares them off.”
“So you think she hides her knowledge?”
“No, she wants desperately to share it, but only with people who don’t hold it against her.”
“I’m glad I found her, but it’s not always easy.”
“I know. We talk. She’s my best friend. We share. Mark tells me things, too.”
“Oh, I hope.”
“Don’t worry. No one is being indiscreet. We all just want to help Jenny and you, Paul. We care about you. You’re our friend. One of our dearest friends.”
“It’s funny how we’ve all got to know each other. Funny how I never saw Jenny in that way until it was almost too late.”
“You were in Lorna’s clutches. Poor, poor Lorna. It’s like she attracts ships to be shipwrecked. She’s not happy and the poor men are not happy either.”
“I still like Lorna.”
“Don’t get me wrong, so do I. She needs someone, but she won’t find him here. I’m not sure she’ll find him anywhere.”
“Where is Jenny? Do you know?”
Susan looked a little unsure of what to say. She hesitated for a few seconds.
“She’s helping someone.”
“Effie?”
“No. She helps some people with literacy sometimes.”
“She never mentioned it to me.”
“Do you know the phrase “Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth?”
“I don’t think so. Something from the Bible, I suppose, given the archaic language.”
“I just like that way of putting it. But it could equally well be “don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.”
“I don’t think, I really understand. It’s a sort of riddle, isn’t it?”
“It just means when you help people, don’t make a song and dance about it.”
“What does she do? I’d like to know.”
“Don’t you think you could ask her?”
“Please, Susie. I feel rather embarrassed about a couple of things I’ve said.”
“About selfish, immoral Tories?”
“Something like that.”
“Jenny helps with people who can’t read or write. She goes when she can. We’re all busy of course, but she goes pretty regularly. She has been going there since she began here.”
“I didn’t know.”
“Nor did I. Some of the places are quite rough.”
“I’m sure they are.”
“It’s hard for someone to find work if they can’t read, so she does what she can to help.”
“It’s a lot more than I do. At least individually. I think, I do most by campaigning for a better Scotland.”
“I don’t really agree with Jenny’s politics either. We discuss it from time to time, but we just let it go. I understand where she’s coming from. It’s all rather well thought out too.”
“But you don’t agree?”
“No, we’re made differently. I believe in collective action and I think, politics is the best chance of making a better Scotland. Jenny doesn’t believe this. She believes only in what she can do as an individual. She’s fundamentally uninterested in politics.”
“So you’re sympathetic to independence, Susie?”
“On the whole, no. But I’m not completely opposed either. I may not even be here to vote. If Mark goes back to England, I’ll go with him.”
Paul paused for a few seconds and a question appeared in his mind that he really wanted to know the answer to. The conversation was going well with a flow that he could see they were both enjoying. He asked:
“What’s it like knowing that the man you love doesn’t believe what you believe?”
“You mean faith, don’t you? We are getting serious today, aren’t we, Paul?”
“Sorry, if I’m prying. Just tell me it’s none of my business.”
“No. I can see why you want to know these sorts of things.”
“At the beginning, when you first started going out, didn’t you ever want him to believe in what you believe? Wouldn’t it have been easier?”
“Relationships aren’t easy. We’ve been together for three years now because we’ve each been willing to adapt, to give and to receive, and to change also. I don’t think, it would have been easier if he had more faith than he does. It might have been harder.”
“I don’t see why?”
“I know a lot of couples in the Christian Union. It’s not as if all of those relationships work out. Everyone faces the same challenge. I’ve heard about some odd mental contortions that Christian couples go through to try to justify themselves to themselves.”
“But still if they both believe, it must be easier in at least that respect. I find it difficult that on something fundamental to Jenny we disagree. I just think, she’s mistaken.”
“She thinks, she might be mistaken, too, Paul. So do I.”
“And yet?”
“There isn’t such a big gap between Mark and me. I have doubts, he has doubts. It’s not as if I have some sort of knowledge that he lacks. In his own way he agrees with me. We just call it something different.”
“You talk like Jenny.”
“Of course, I talk like Jenny. Without her I might not have found the path that took me to where I am today with Mark. We had tough times, me and Mark. We split up a couple of times. I thought I’d lost him forever. I wouldn’t bend, and so we broke up.”
“I remember how upset Mark was. What did Jenny do?”
“She went to Mark. She brought him back. She showed me how we could be together. She’s not at all dogmatic. She hates dogma of any sort, not least theological dogma. She explained how we must be kind to each other. She’ll do the same for you if you’re kind, too, and if you have patience.”
“I just don’t see why it should all be so difficult. It isn’t for most of the people we know.”
“Sure it is. It’s just difficult in a different way. They flit about and find nothing that means very much. They have a relationship, but it’s little more than instinct, little more than inclination. It’s not something to envy, Paul. You have the chance of something much better.”
“So does Scotland, by the way.”
“That’s your article of faith, isn’t it?” said Susan.









Chapter 9

In the weeks that followed Paul and Jenny continued their embraces to the accompaniment of Jenny’s music. He said that he found some of it rather difficult, but would like to hear more and would like to understand better. She started with Glen Gould playing the Goldberg Variations, and then skipped everything until some late Beethoven. They kissed to the Diabeli Variations, and they explored a little further with their hands while some late piano concertos were playing. It was all very new to Paul, but then again it was all very new to Jenny. They became closer. They found something that they could share. He described what touched him, or tried to describe it. But each of them found words inadequate.  He was reduced to phrases like ‘the one we played yesterday with the fast bit and then the rather moving bit that sounded like…’ She’d play a bit of it again. Sometimes she found the part he meant and there was a moment of recognition. 
She moved on with some Schubert quartets. He found himself listening to Death and the Maiden for the first time, and he liked it. He really, really liked it. He regretted he’d not known about it before.
“How did you find out about these things?” he asked.
“My parents always played this sort of music.”
“Mine did as well. But only the stuff everybody knows.”
“I like to explore. I like to find new things that I don’t know, that no-one told me about.”
“What will we listen to next?”
“I just thought we might work our way through the 19th century. Just lose ourselves in the music.”
“It sounds good to me.”
“I’m finding it all terribly romantic, holding you while listening to the peaks of romanticism in music. You’ll make me swoon if you’re not careful.”
“I never know quite when you’re being serious and when you’re taking the Mickey.”
“I’m afraid, I don’t always know myself.”
They continued with Schumann’s Kinderszenen, and Paul thought, perhaps, he might have recognised one of the scenes.
“That would be Träumerei,” said Jenny. “It’s the scene where the child is dreaming.”
“But do you really think anyone could guess that the music represented that?”
“No. I don’t think music represents anything and when it tries, it’s bad music.”
“But it was so beautiful, Jenny.”
“I’m not criticising Schumann’s music. I love it, too. It may have been his inspiration. He may have been thinking of children when he wrote it. But this music is not limited by what the composer thought it was about. It’s what we think it’s about.”
“You mean our kisses, the way you hold me while we listen, while we share our experience together?”
“Something like that.”
They began watching films as well. It turned out that Jenny had quite a collection of DVDs of films that Paul had never heard of.
“I’ve mostly watched things that have just come out at the cinema,” he said. “I’ve watched some old stuff on TV and I’ve seen the odd foreign classic. I know the basics, but you just seem to reach onto your shelf and find all sorts of things that I suspect not one person in Aberdeen has seen.”
“Oh, I don’t know. These films aren’t that obscure. I’m lucky. My dad has been collecting films since he was a student. He had hundreds of videos and now he’s got hundreds of DVDs. He gets them from all over the world.”
“So these are his films?”
“Mostly. I just ask him for a selection that might be interesting. Some I keep with me because I like to watch them regularly.”
“There not all foreign, are they? Sometimes I can’t be bothered reading sub-titles.”
“Me, too. No I have lots of old British and American films. I wanted us to watch a film about Brahms and Schumann, and Clara Wieck. I don’t suppose it’s very accurate, but it’s a nice story.”
“What’s it called?”
“Song of Love.”
“I suppose it’s in black and white?”
“All the best films are.”
Paul recognised the other man from Casablanca who played Schumann and he knew Katherine Hepburn who played his wife Clara. Brahms he vaguely knew, but couldn’t place. The film was gushing and far too romantic, but somehow when Jenny played him some Brahms it helped him to picture the man who was composing.
“You really like Mr Brahms, don’t you, Jenny?” he said after yet another CD appeared .
“Yes and no. I think, he’s very important. But I find him rather difficult.”
“I must admit I’m getting a little sick of him. Shall we move on?”
“Can I play just one more piece? If you don’t get Brahms, you can’t really get what comes later.”
“Sure, go ahead. What did you have in mind?”
“His requiem.”
“I’m not sure I’m going to make much of religious stuff, Jenny. You know that.”
“There’s a part which really helped me when I was struggling with Brahms. Don’t think of it in terms of religion. Think of it in terms of life.”
They listened and she pointed out the part she liked where the text was about all flesh being as grass. He didn’t understand the German words, but he felt her tremble and he noticed that his cheek was wet with her tears. He felt something, too. The words didn’t matter, and pure emotion welled in him. It was emotion for her and it was emotion for him. Somehow he was touched in a way that he had never expected to be touched by a requiem. He held her tightly and gently caressed her, and they melted into each other finding a closeness in each other’s arms. She saw that there was emotion in his eyes, too, that they were moist.
“Now we can move on,” said Jenny when the CD had finished.
They gradually began talking about what was most important to them. Paul tried to explain why he was so desperate that Scotland should become independent. He told her some of the arguments he had read and the sorts of the ideas that were discussed at the Yes campaign meetings. But he wasn’t trying to persuade her. He was just trying to explain. She asked pertinent questions. She tried to put herself into the position of someone who wanted independence. She tried to understand this man who she was coming to love more and more each day. Where they couldn’t agree, they agreed to differ, but without rancour.  She no longer just moved on with the conversation, ducking away from an argument. She made points against his argument, but more in a spirit of cooperation as if trying to reach the truth. Each of them had no wish to attack the point of view of the other. Jenny began to understand the desire for independence better. She heard arguments that she didn’t know, that she hadn’t heard. She began to write a series of essays for Effie. 
Firstly, she thought of her own point of view. What arguments from a Conservative perspective could be made for independence? Well, obviously it might help the Conservatives in England if all those Scottish Labour MPs were no longer at Westminster. But what about Conservatives in Scotland? Well, they had precious little chance now while Scotland remained in the UK. What would happen afterwards? It could hardly be expected that Scotland would have permanent left wing government. So would there eventually be a chance for the Right after independence? No doubt, there would. What else from a right wing perspective might be an argument for independence? Well, imagine someone who was concerned about immigration levels. Might not such a person reflect that splitting off from the UK would put a barrier between a place that has high levels of immigration, England, and a place with low levels, Scotland? It wasn’t that she was opposed to immigration, quite the reverse: she favoured a free market in immigration, too. However, this sort of argument could be used to attack those who favoured independence. Not all arguments that contain a degree of truth are politically helpful.
Suddenly, Jenny found that she had inspiration. She took what Paul had said the other day about UK supporters being British nationalists and she wrote a deconstruction of it. Writing in Russian was slow and difficult. She continually had to look in the dictionary. But Effie was right: it was liberating. She was using a part of her brain that felt somehow freer. She thought about what Paul had said about nationalism and how it was civic and liberal, and not at all like the ugly forms of nationalism in the world. She attacked these arguments, but she attacked them from within. She put the case for independence in the most positive light, and then one by one attempted to undermine each assumption. Meanwhile, they continued with their music and their films.









Chapter 10

She met some resistance with Parceval. They listened to it one night and Paul accepted it as a chore, but one night wasn’t enough. One night was just the first act.
“It’s turgid. It just goes on and on,” said Paul.
“I thought you liked the Grail story?”
“I do, sort of.  We had to read the version by Chretien de Troyes. Tough going, but at least it’s relatively short. Even as a kid I rather liked Arthurian tales.”
“And you liked Sir Perceval?”
“I don’t know why, but yes, I did. He seems more human than the others.”
“But this is the same story, only you get to finish it.”
“To be honest, I was focussing so much on the old French that much of the story passed me by. I remember most a few ideas and a few quotes.”
“What do you remember?”
“About him being told not to speak and the king, and he’s in a castle somewhere and there’s a procession with a bleeding lance and finally the grail. It keeps passing back and forth during the meal. But Perceval keeps silent.”
“Qui trop parole, il se mesfait,” said Jenny.
“How did you know that?”
“It’s the proverb from ‘Pauline at the Beach’. It means ‘He who speaks too much damages himself.’ That’s about right, isn’t it?”
“Yes. But you lost me there Jenny. Who’s Pauline?”
“It’s a French film from the 80s I rather like. The quote is from Chretien, but they get the moral wrong.”
“Why?”
“It’s because Perceval doesn’t speak that he wakes up and the castle is gone, and the grail, too, and he has no idea where to look because where it was is now a bare hillside.”
“So he should have spoken.”
“He should have asked the fisher king about the lance and about the grail. Instead he has a quest which is endless.”
“You should have been writing my essays, Jenny. So you think the moral is always to speak your mind?”
“No, the moral is to know when to speak and when to stay silent. But how can you know. How can any of us know what question we must ask and when?”
“It’s a pity he didn’t finish the story.”
“For me the greatness is that he didn’t. He leaves us wondering how to reach the grail. We’re sitting on that hillside with no idea how to find it.”
“Does that mean we can stop listening to Parceval?”
“Let’s try something else.”
“What did you have in mind?”
“It’s only seven minutes long. It’s called Libestod.”
“Still Wagner?”
“Yes. We need to get past this impasse.”
“You’re obsessed, Jenny,” Paul laughed. “Go on then, I’m willing to try anything for seven minutes.”
They kissed as Isolde sang over the dead body of her Tristan, and Paul felt himself again enjoying the strangeness of their encounter. He couldn’t imagine any other girl kissing him while trying to make him understand the music that she loved. Why was she doing it? What goal did she have in mind? The same issue arose with the films, why were they watching films about ghosts? Going home later he reflected on the strange collection of old black and white films they’d been watching recently. There was “The Uninvited”, which had a really beautiful young actress and a haunted house. Then they’d watched “The Ghost and Mrs Muir” which was just a fantasy about a woman writer loving the ghost of a ship’s captain. Then there was that rather creepy Japanese film, Ugetsu something or other. He was beginning to quite like these films. They took a bit of getting used to. It had all seemed rather dull to begin with. Often nothing much happened. There was lots of talk. He found with the foreign films it wasn’t always easy to keep up. You had to read and watch at the same time. But he was getting better at it. He could sort of take in the whole sentence while still watching.
Over the next days, Jenny persevered with bits of Wagner, and Paul began to enjoy some of it.
“It’s very different from what we’ve had before?” he said.
“It’s a totally different sound, I think.”
“Just waves and waves that wash over you and in the end cover you. It seems like some sort of huge whole, not parts anymore.”
“Almost not tune anymore.”
“So we can move on?”
“Yes, we’re moving on.”
“And what film will we have next?”
“I want us to watch the Song of Bernadette.”
“What’s it about?”
“It’s with the same actress who was in Portrait of Jenny.”
“That’s the one about the little girl who’s a sort of ghost and grows up to love the artist fellow?”
“That’s right.”
“Well, what’s this one going to be about? More ghosts? They seemed to be obsessed with them in the forties.”
“That’s because there was a war.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Many people in the audience would have lost people, or would have feared losing someone dear. These films were comforting.”
“So what about this Bernadette?”
“It’s about a girl who sees visions.”
“Religious? Are you trying to convert me?”
“No more than you are with your politics and your atheism.”
“I rather liked the Dylan song you played me, Gotta Serve Somebody. I didn’t agree, but the lyrics were fun and I liked the tune.”
“You’re already beyond most Dylan fans who can’t stand his Christian albums.”
Paul laughed. He sometimes felt like a bit of dunce next to Jenny. She kept surprising him with the things she knew even about his own subject. But she wasn’t being arrogant, he could see that. It’s just the things that she knew kept bubbling up and spilling out, wanting to get out into the world, wanting to be heard.
“It’s good that we’ve been able to chat about these things without falling out.”
“It’s marvellous, Paul. I so enjoy it. You see, I’m sort of chatting with my films. They’re things that are important to me, that I want you to share. Same with the music. It’s not that we have to like the same things. I love how you’re open to what I like, how you try to understand and how you listen even when you hate what you’re listening to.”
“We’ll watch your Bernadette then.”
“It’s rather long, so it may take a couple of nights. There’s a rather nice story about the novel on which it is based.”
“What’s that?”
“Well, it was written by a Jewish man who was fleeing the Germans with his wife. He found refuge in Lourdes and the people there helped him, so he vowed to write the story that they told him about Bernadette.”
Paul thought the film was a fantasy just like the films about ghosts. Bernadette naturally didn’t see anyone. He found himself siding with the sceptical priest and the sceptical authorities in the town. But there was something very beautiful about the actress. He’d never even heard of her before. Anyway, you didn’t need to believe anything to be caught up in the story. He saw how Jenny was entranced, how she loved the film and he wanted to love it, too, if for no other reason than that she did. It didn’t change what he thought one little bit. But it was a rather beautiful fantasy.
As they kissed and held each other each evening Paul began to enjoy the fact that they had time and that there was no hurry. He remembered the previous relationships he’d had at university. There’d been a few flings that sometimes ended up in bed, and there’d been Roisin which had lasted a few months until he’d had to go to France and she’d found someone else. He thought back on how it had been with Roisin. It had been pleasant, of course, but it had all been rather trivial compared to what he was feeling now. It wasn’t easy though, this lying down with a woman he loved, but not really being able to touch her as he wanted and yet they had become closer physically in the past weeks. Even fully clothed and without much in the way of hands exploring they still were able to sense each other and explore each other’s bodies. It’s just they did so with their whole body rather than their hands. Their embrace would find sometimes their legs entwined. Sometimes Jenny would find herself embracing Paul from above and she would move in a way that excited him and he felt her excitement also. There was something very intense about it as they lost themselves in the music, especially now, when the music continued to be such that he felt yourself drowning in it.
“Who is it now, Jenny?” he asked.
“It’s Bruckner.”
“I rather like it.”
“You wouldn’t have liked it if we hadn’t listened to Wagner.”
“It’s a bit like him and yet…”
“It’s hard to find the words, isn’t it?”
“There are no words. Just waves of emotion. Where are we now?”
“We’ve nearly reached the twentieth century.”
“We’ve come a long way.”
“Together.”
“What next?”
“About what? Music?”
“Not only music.”
“About us?”
“Yes.”
“We continue together. That’s all I want. You’re my grail and I’m going to ask every question. I don’t want you to disappear. Where would I look to find you if you did?”









Chapter 11

Jenny’s main subjects in her final term at university became Scottish independence and Russian language. She did both together. Effie was delighted with the results. The arguments were subtle, imaginative and at times devastating if only the person reading them could understand them. They talked regularly usually at Effie’s office, but sometimes Jenny made the trip out to the country. Only now she was eager to get back each evening so that she could continue her dance with Paul.
“How’s the blog doing?” said Jenny.
“Not bad,” said Effie. “It depends. Sometimes we get a lot of people having a look, sometimes not so many.”
“You’re still worried though.”
“We’re consistently ahead, but we should be much further.”
“But it’s just not possible. I simply can’t believe that half the population of Scotland could be nationalists.”
“Many of them don’t even accept that they are nationalists, or they muddy the waters by calling us nationalists.”
“I think I disproved that one.”
“You did. But it hardly matters. They don’t notice. And if they do, they don’t care.”
“But there’s hardly a good argument?”
“No, Jenny, there are many good arguments. They start by subtly changing the meaning of words. They complain if we use words like ‘secession’ or ‘separation’. They even don’t want to emphasise the word independence, rather Scotland will become independent almost without having independence.”
“But that’s nonsense.”
“Of course, it is, but it’s very hard to fight against people who want to change how ordinary words are used.”
“Like that speech Salmond made about England not being foreign.”
“Or how we’d still be British as the island of Great Britain would still include Scotland, even that the United Kingdom would continue as the Queen would still be the monarch just like when there was only the union of the crowns.”
“They’re trying to pretend that everything would be the same.”
“That’s what it amounts to. It’s a very clever campaign. Anything we say against them is being negative about Scotland. Our campaign is negative, because we’re forced to campaign for No. Imagine if the question had been such that independence required the No answer?”
“It would have been easier for us.”
“But the biggest problem is the mentality of all of us. We’re not just fighting against the nationalists; we’re fighting against how most of us have been brought up.”
“In what way?” asked Jenny.
“There’s going to be a world cup soon.”
“I know. I don’t really like football. Do you?”
“No, of course not. But I read about it a bit. There will be thirty two countries taking part one of which is not a nation state. Do you know which?”
“I don’t know. Scotland?”
“No. Scotland aren’t very good. England will be taking part in an international competition.”
“Why isn’t there a British team?”
“Something to do with the history of football and the fact that it began here. But you see the problem?”
“Yes. It makes it seem as if England and Scotland already have an international relationship.”
“It makes it seem as if Scotland is already independent. Most Scots, even No voters, think of Scotland as a country in the same way that France or Spain are countries. That’s the essence of our problem.”
“In what way?”
“Once you accept that Scotland is a country like France, it’s natural to suppose that Scotland ought to be an independent country like France. That’s the essence of their argument. We’re a country, therefore we ought to be independent. The vast majority of Scots believe that Scotland is a country or a nation, which makes the vast majority susceptible to the argument.”
“But don’t you think Scotland is a country?”
“Yes and we certainly must always argue that Scotland is a country or we’ll never get anywhere. But it’s just a linguistic quirk. For some reason, due to our history we ended up describing Scotland and England as countries even as nations. I don’t really know why. But there it is. Other countries that merged together like Bavaria and Saxony, or Burgundy and Aquitaine ceased to be described as if they were still independent.”
“So Scotland is a country, but really we’re the same as somewhere like Bavaria?”
“Quite so. But Bavaria, of course, does not play international football.”
“No, that would be rather silly. And I suppose we’d end up with rather a lot of teams if everyone did that.”
“But you see the difficulty? I have to be very careful about pointing out the truth that Scotland is a country only in a rather odd sense of the word. The nationalists portray this as me being unpatriotic about Scotland, but worse, so does my own side.”
“So you think No voters are part of the problem?”
“Indeed. Far too many No voters are lukewarm at best about Britain. They’ll complain about England during the World Cup.”
“Didn’t they win some time ago and they always go on about it?”
“We go on about them going on about it. Everybody gets angry and our country divides.”
“But Paul’s best friend is English. I don’t think Paul is anti-English.”
“I’m sure, he’s not and, anyway, it’s mainly low level stuff. The nationalists are quite well disciplined. But the root of all of this is that far too few Scots feel at all British, and to feel Scottish, above all else, is to feel not English. It’s just the same with Canadians. Five minutes after meeting a Canadian he’ll always say he’s not an American.”
“What can we do?”
“Very little. Playing the British card is very difficult, precisely because so few on our side have any real feeling about Britain.”
“While playing the Scottish patriot card works best for Yes?”
“Of course, it does. They have terrible arguments, but in the end, unless you accept that Scotland is in essence a region of the UK, you ought to vote for independence.”
“But no one thinks Scotland is a region.”
“Precisely. That’s why we have a problem. That’s why it’s difficult to argue our case with any passion. It’s just economics, the pound, the EU, technocrat stuff.”
“But still the majority are with us.”
“They are, but it’s with their minds, their hearts are with the nationalists, even if they’re not conscious of this fact. Every time you hear someone you know to be a No voter emphasise the differences between England and Scotland; every time you hear someone emphasise that they are Scottish as opposed to British. Each time this happens you’re hearing an argument for independence.”
“But we’re still going to win?”
“I expect so. But I’m not sure. Their blog sites get thousands if not hundreds of thousands of visitors. Have you ever seen their comment sections? Hundreds of comments. How many do we get? One or two if we’re lucky. There are more of us online now than when I first started, but it usually still feels as if we’re outnumbered.”
“Paul goes to his campaign group all the time. We have nothing like that sort of mass participation.”
“They’re going to spend all summer on the streets, and most of us will think it’s in the bag and we’ll do nothing. We’ll deserve independence if it happens.”
“Because of our laziness?”
“No, because too many of us in our hearts are nationalists. We think about Scotland in a way that makes independence possible, even logical. There’s not a thing we can do about this either. It will take decades to change this mentality.”
“You seem very pessimistic.”
“No. I still think we’ll win. It’s just I’m tired. I have my own academic work. I have this on top. I’m really grateful for your help.”
“It won’t be long before I go to Russia.”
“You’re looking forward to it?”
“I’ll miss Paul.”
“Things are going better?”
“Oh, yes! We’ve found some things we share. We’re growing closer.”
“What things?”
“I play him classical music. Things I like. Things that helped me understand how it all developed.”
“Does he like it?”
“Not always. Sometimes he hates it.”
“What have you been playing lately?”
“I started with some early twentieth century stuff. Erik Satie and Debussy, then some Stravinsky. We’ve just begun listening to Mahler.”
“Which?”
“Kintertotenlieder.”
“Bit heavy going I would have thought.”
“I like music with words and it has such emotion. I want to open him up to different emotions.”
“You want him to feel the sadness of losing children?”
“No, of course not.”
“Then what, Jenny?”
“We’ve been watching films which deal with the soul in some way. Either a soul that’s no longer connected to a body, or a film that emphasises choice or unpredictability in action.”
“Like what?”
“Like Red River.”
“The western?”
“At the end we think that John Wayne is going to kill his adopted son, but he doesn’t; he chooses to forgive instead.”
“Why do you think choice is vital?”
“For me crossing the road proves the immortality of the soul. Because the freedom I feel is not a matter of physical causation.”
“There needs to be more than that, of course, but I can see where you’re coming from. It’s a foundation.”
“It’s building faith on the foundation of every day experience.”
“Are you trying to convert him?”
“No. How could I? I just want him to be open. Then who knows.”
“What are you going to watch next?”
“We just watched a Danish film. I wanted to practice a little trying to understand some of the words without reading the subtitles. It was called Day of Wrath.”
“I know about it, but I’ve never seen it. It’s by Dreyer, isn’t it?”
“To be honest it’s not only about practicing my Danish. I want him to get used to Dreyer so that I can show him Ordet.”
“Good Lord, Jenny! Are you sure?”
“You’ve seen it?”
“Yes. I think it’s the greatest film about faith I’ve ever seen. The first time I saw it I found the whole experience emotionally overwhelming. It was like taking part in a miracle.”
“I thought so, too. I didn’t have a clue what was going to happen. The Word is not exactly an informative title. Just my Dad said I should watch it and I did. I cried my eyes out for the joy of it.”
“But he doesn’t believe at all. He’s hostile. Isn’t that what you said?”
“He’s less hostile now.”
“You know him better than me. And what next with the music?”
“If he likes Ordet, if he even remotely gets it, I’m going to play him Das Lied von der Erde.”
“That’s Mahler’s Chinese Songs as a sort of symphony, isn’t it?”
“The last part I find terribly emotional and I hope it might be a special moment for us.”
“I hope so, too, Jenny, but don’t plan too much. Also don’t try to teach too much. He’s not clay to be moulded. Let him mould and change you, too.”









Chapter 12

It had been a strange film. For the first hour or so he’d just found it dull. He knew that Jenny wanted to practice her Danish, but he didn’t quite see why he should have to sit through stuff like this. Ordet… There had certainly been enough words spoken. He’d quite liked the Danish film about witchcraft. The girl was stunning. But they did have a funny way of speaking, all mumbles and odd sounds. He recognised one of the stars of the previous film in this one. Only he was ten or fifteen years older. What an odd way he had of speaking, even stranger than the others. It was like he was some sort of nutcase. Jenny had asked Paul about half way through what he thought. He hadn’t been completely honest. But he did like pleasing her. It was obvious that it was important to her to share these films and her music. He didn’t like all of them by any means. He didn’t understand much of it. But he liked some and he liked her. He liked her more every day.
It became clearer as the film progressed that it was another of her religious films. It was pretty futile, he thought, her attempts at conversion. Was that what she was trying to do? Yet she didn’t argue and when he came up with his reasons for not believing, she didn’t try to prove him wrong. It all just seemed so unlikely and he found the topic rather dull. Rather like the film, he didn’t really know anyone of his own age group apart from Jenny and Susan who went to church. You might as well have tried to believe in the Greek myths.
He’d looked across at Jenny on the sofa they shared watching the DVD. She loved the film that was clear. But why? It was like a stage play. But somehow almost involuntarily he found himself finding a certain beauty in the austerity of the scenes and the sets. He hadn’t wanted to like the film and for the first half would have stopped it if only he’d been watching it on his own. He’d felt duty bound to watch out of affection for Jenny, and also because he wanted to understand her and know why she loved this film so much.
A woman died. Another grim Scandinavian film would end soon with some message about the futility of life and how we should all be pessimists. The crazy man was rambling. It was like some sort of satire on prophets or false prophets or something. Suddenly, something quite unexpected happened. He hadn’t seen that coming. He’d never seen anything like it in a film. He looked across at Jenny. She was crying her eyes out. It was impossible, but he was crying, too. Not that he believed, of course, but in the context of the film he was able to suspend his disbelief and so the miracle made sense.  Of course, it was all nonsense like hyperspace in Star Wars or all sorts of other impossibilities. Yet he had been touched. He’d found himself thinking about what it would have been like to lose a wife and a mother. He’d felt the sadness, and then this crazy man who took everything literally. What did he do? Or was it the little girl who did it. He couldn’t get it out of his mind, the expression on the woman’s face, the reunion with the husband, their kisses, their joy. He didn’t believe a word of it, of course, he kept telling himself, almost pleading with himself that he didn’t believe a word of it. Yet he couldn’t get the image of the woman rising up out of his head, her surprise at the unexpectedness of it all.
Jenny saw that the tears were flowing down his cheeks. She pulled him towards her.
“It’s OK, my darling. There’s no need to be upset.”
“I’m not really,” said Paul. “It’s just rather powerful. I didn’t expect anything like it.”
“Nor did I when I first saw it.”
“When was that?”

“Oh, I don’t remember. A couple of years ago. I’ve seen it a few times since.”
He kept thinking of the film all that night. He still thought the same way. He certainly didn’t think such miracles were possible. You had to respect science, what else was there really to rely on. And science told us such things were impossible. He looked forward to discussing it all once more with Jenny later on. He’d be a bit later than he’d hoped as there was another campaign meeting. But he’d get there.
When he arrived at the flat, he found all three of the girls sitting drinking tea in the kitchen. They were also all in their nightwear and dressing gowns.
“Why the dressing gowns?” asked Paul.
“It’s a girly thing,” said Lorna. “I’m never more comfortable than in my pyjamas.”
“If I could spend my life only wearing pyjamas, I would,” said Susan.
“I thought you weren’t coming,” said Jenny with a laugh, “and so I got ready for bed.”
“Oh ye of little faith,” said Paul.
A few minutes later when everyone had gone off to their own room, Paul said:
“I really enjoyed the film yesterday. It took a while to get into, but I can’t stop thinking about it.”
“Me, too. It was a nice moment for us to share.”
“What did we share? You believe and I still don’t.”
“But we watched the same film and felt the same emotion. That’s the truth also.”
“How am I doing as your pupil?”
“You’re not my pupil, you’re my boyfriend. You think, it’s a bit one way traffic sometimes, is that it?”
“I don’t know the things you know, Jenny. I can’t teach you anything.”
“You’re teaching me how to love. I never knew how before. Without your patience I might never have learned. Few men I think would be as patient as you.”
“So what are we listening to tonight?”
“It’s more Mahler. It’s a sort of symphony of Chinese songs sung in German.”
“Where on earth do you find these things? But I’ve scoffed before and ended up liking the oddities you play.”
Jenny put on the CD, took off her dressing gown revealing red tartan pyjamas and got into bed.
“Where do I go?” said Paul, “I can’t very well get into bed with you like this.”
“What do you normally wear to bed?”
“Just shorts.”
“Well, why don’t you wear them now?”
Paul wondered what was going on. But sat down on her bed and undressed, and slipped in beside her. He held her and felt how her fingers moved through the hair on this chest. There was very little in the way of barrier between them now only the thinnest of cloth of her pyjamas and his boxer shorts. They continued their dance as they had for the past few days. Their embrace varied so that at times he lay on her and at other times she lay on him. She caressed him with her body rather than with her hands. She sat astride his leg and moved so that he sensed her and felt her warmth and her excitement. Then she adjusted herself once more and sat across his lap.
“I’m not squashing you, am I?”
“No, I’m fine.”
“You don’t mind me rocking a little back and forth. It’s such a nice feeling. I love the closeness we’re finding.”
Her duvet was already on the floor. But neither of them noticed. She pressed herself against him. She could feel him and he could feel her. She moved a little faster. He saw that her excitement was increasing. Her eyes closed and it was as if she’d forgotten him. Her breathing came faster and her mouth sort of grimaced. Then, she sort of fell or rather gently collapsed on him as if tired out.
“Jenny, I can’t carry on much like that. I get excited, too.”
“I know, it doesn’t seem fair.”
“It becomes a little uncomfortable.”
“Why don’t you let me help you with that?”
“That’s OK,” he looked terribly embarrassed.
“No, really, Paul. Would you let me?”
“I don’t want to make a mess.”
“You’ll not make a mess.”
She reached under the bed and found the tissues she’d left earlier.
“I’ve never done this before.”
“I haven’t either.”
She touched him for the first time through the thin fabric of his shorts and then reached inside and eased them down. In a few minutes they’d had another special moment and felt still closer to each other.
“There are all sorts of ways to make love. You remember I said something about this earlier. Everyone can stick to their beliefs, but find fulfilment and contentment in each other’s arms.”
“It doesn’t seem very fair that you’ve seen me naked but I’ve not seen you.”
“No, it doesn’t, does it?” Jenny took off her pyjama top and bottoms. “Touch me, Paul, but gently.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll touch you as you want to be touched and nothing more. I’ll ask every time I touch and wait for your response.”
“You’ve been so patient with me, Paul.”
“And you with me.”
Sometime later they lay quietly naked under the covers whispering to each other.
“You’re not remotely like other women. You don’t follow their rules,” said Paul.
“I have my own rules,” said Jenny.
“I’ve never had a nicer time.”
“We’ve only just started. Now we’ll have all sorts of other possibilities.”
“You don’t feel we’re doing anything wrong?”
“I can think of no reason why I shouldn’t be naked in bed with someone who I love and trust. Why should you not touch me and why should I not touch you?”
“But you don’t want anything more?”
“Of course, I do, you’ve just seen how a woman has desire, just the same as a man does. But no. This is enough for now. We have to take our time, we have to be patient. We have to continue learning and trusting. We’ll know when the right moment arrives.”
“A wedding night?”
“Something like that. But in in the meantime we can still be lovers. You can see that, can’t you?”
“Yes, I see that and I feel that.”









Chapter 13

Their final term ended, but they barely noticed. It hardly seemed to matter beside what they had found with each other and what they were learning about music and about themselves. They danced to the music of Rachmaninov’s Vespers, only their dance didn’t involve any use of feet or at least hardly any. They caressed as Bartok’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta seemed to bring something new into their world.
“That one’s strange,” said Paul.
“But you like its strangeness?”
“I like your strangeness, Jenny.”
“Oh, I’m strange now?”
“I didn’t know that it could be like this. I didn’t even imagine.”
“What didn’t you imagine?”
“Well, I had an idea of what it should be like to be with a girl, to love and be loved, but it didn’t involve watching old films I’d never heard of and music that frequently has no tune.”
“This has a tune. Just a different sort of tune.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Think of it like when you were learning French.”
“Sitting in a dull classroom learning irregular verbs?”
“No, of course, not. You went beyond that.”
“Sure I did, eventually, but what’s that got to do with Bartok?”
“Mozart and things before Mozart is a language, a beautiful language, but we’ve been learning another language that plays a different tune. When we’ve learnt it, we can begin understanding what comes later.”
“What comes next?”
“There’ll be some Shostakovich.”
“Grim Russian stuff.”
“I don’t think you’ve actually heard any, have you?”
“No. I’ve just heard about him.”
“The hardest thing sometimes is someone’s reputation. It scares people off.”
“Like Dostoevsky.”
“You enjoyed it in the end.”
“Yes, but I didn’t understand all of it.”
“Who does?”
“Who do you like best?” asked Paul.
“I like different people in different ways.”
“You like Alyosha best, surely, and the Father Zosima. Isn’t that what you’re going to study?”
“I like them, of course, but I think I like even better the characters who are weaker. I like Ivan’s mind. I like Katya’s jealousy and her way of loving in the end. Most of all I like Grushenka for her onion.”
“I don’t think I remember that bit”
“There was a wicked old lady who only did one good deed in her life. She gave a poor person an onion. When she died, she was in hell but an angel gave her that onion and used it to pull her out. All the other sinners held on to her legs and were being pulled out, too, but the old lady tried to kick them off and at that moment the onion broke.”
“Do you think that’s true?”
“Yes. But I’ve no more knowledge of these things than you do. But I like the idea that only one tiny good deed may be enough. It gives me hope.”
“Hope about me? Aren’t you a bit like Alyosha or rather like good Donald Duck sitting on my shoulder, while bad Donald Duck tempts me?”
Jenny saw his smile and the way he was mildly mocking her.
“Have you found me especially pious in the last couple of weeks?”
“I wouldn’t describe it as piety, but what we’ve found is something more beautiful than I could imagine before.”
“Why is that?”
“Must we always analyse?”
“No. Sometimes we just have to dance to the music and find out what’s nice. I love learning about you. I love our new found freedom.”
“Clothes do have a way of constraining. We should be nudists and never wear them.”
“You’d have to learn German,” said Jenny.
“I only ever thought of myself before.”
“When?”
“When I imagined being with a girl, I imagined what it would be like for me I thought only of what I would do.”
“Now you think about me and what’s nice for me. You forget yourself and you think how can I do what Jenny wants? Everything you do has me in mind. Do you  think, I don’t notice?”
“I never even thought that way before.”
“Because you never had a relationship before.”
“But I did.”
“I know, but you didn’t really. You just had two people who were acting on their own for their own ends.”
“I suppose that’s true.”
Soon the results came through and Jenny got her expected first while Paul got an upper second.
“I don’t deserve it,” he said. “I hardly did any work. Nothing compared to you and yet I’m only one grade below.”
“I didn’t do much work on theology in the past few months.”
“You did Russian.”
“Yes, and some other things.”
“When are you going?”
“Not long now.”
“Must you go?”
“It’s only for two months.”
“I’ll miss you, Paul, of course, but I’ll be glad to get away from Scotland.”
“We’ll have to disagree on that one.”
“I know.”
“I wish we could keep up with our music.”
“We’ll not be able to keep up with all of it.”
“What part can we not keep up with?”
“The dancing.”
“You mean the horizontal dancing?”
“That’s quite a nice way of putting it.”
“But I can leave you some CDs and point out the order in which you should listen to them.”
“That would be nice, only I’m not sure I’d understand anything without you.”
“You’re going to spend all summer campaigning?”
“Yes.”
“But how will you live?”
 “I’ll claim benefits and I expect my parents will chip in.”
“You’re not going to look for a job?”
“Not until after the referendum.”
“But you plan to stay here?”
“I’m not going anywhere, Jenny. Whatever the result, we’ll be together. I’ll find something then.”
“Don’t you think it a bit strange campaigning for independence when you depend on the British government for your money?”
“That’s a bit below the belt.”
“I’m sorry. It’s all so pointless. I don’t see anything changing. You’ll spend all summer campaigning for something you really can’t win.”
“Oh, we’ll win all right!”
“How can you be so sure?”
“I’m out nearly every day campaigning talking to people; we’re gaining momentum.”
“Lorna said she’d seen you with Roisin.”
“She’s my campaign partner. We work together. Lorna’s stirring Jenny. She resents that I’m no longer one of her courtiers.”
“She said that you had your arm in hers.”
“Maybe I did. We were close once, Roisin and I. We’re good friends now.”
“What does she think of your Unionist, Tory girlfriend?”
“I could hardly mention that.”
“What? The bit about the girlfriend or the bit about the Tory?”
“My friends in the campaign wouldn’t understand.”
“You’re ashamed of me.”
“No, Jenny. But don’t let’s fight about it.”
“You see, now while I’ll be glad to get away from Scotland.”









Chapter 14

It was the beginning of July and Jenny was due to fly the next day. She went to Effie’s house with her last collection of essays all written long hand in Russian and all about Scottish independence.
“You’ve learned more than one new subject, Jenny, you know that,” said Effie.
“What have I learned?”
“You’ve become an expert in economics, in constitutional law, in history and in logic.”
“You think these essays I’ve been giving you are good?”
“They’re as good as anything I’ve written. Sometimes you have a completely new slant that I’ve never thought of.”
“What about the Russian side of things?”
“It’s difficult writing from a dictionary. It’s hard to know sometimes if the word is appropriate. At times you sound unnatural. But the grammar is mainly correct. You write like a second year student at a good university studying Russian.”
“But I still speak very poorly.”
“That’s why two months in Russia is what you need right now.”
“I’m actually very glad to get away.”
“Are things not going so well with Paul?”
“We’ve been squabbling a bit. He’s out campaigning every day, and he’s with his ex-girlfriend going round estates persuading people to break up our country.”
“Don’t be jealous, Jenny. There’s no point. He believes he’s doing the right thing, but I agree it’s not a bad time for you to be away. It will be hard for loved ones who disagree about such a matter just now.”
“Lorna said she’d seen Paul and this Roisin together and they looked pretty close.”
“You’re worried.”
“I’ve been playing Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen hoping the message will get through.”
“Who’s the vixen though, Jenny, Lorna or Roisin?”
“Both, perhaps.”
“You can’t control people. You just have to let them do what they want to do.”
“But she can give him what he wants.”
“Can she, indeed? So can every woman in the world. Are you going to be jealous of everyone?”
“It’s just we’ve come so far. We’ve found something very special. I love him, Effie. I know we don’t agree about lots of things. But it doesn’t matter.”
“Do you think he loves you?”
“Yes, he does. We couldn’t have reached the point where we are if he hadn’t loved me. He does love me, I can feel it. Only we needed more time. We needed to listen to more music, watch more films.”
“You and your music, and your films. You just have to be patient. There may be bumps along the way.”
“Was that how you were with Petr?”
“We met when the Soviet Union was still going strong. He lived in a closed city where you’re going tomorrow. There were bumps along the way, Jenny. It wasn’t easy. We also needed to forgive each other more than once.”
“You never told me the whole story.”
“I intend to write it all down sometime, but from the opposite perspective. I’ve been working on it for a while.”
“I’d love to read it.”
“You will, when it’s ready. Now I’ve arranged everything for you in Kaliningrad. You’re going to be staying with one Petr’s sister who lives quite near the school, and there should always be people who’ll take you out and show you things and only talk Russian to you.”
“Thanks, Effie. You’ve been awfully kind.”
“No, my dear, you’ve helped me more. We’re a good team and we’ll continue to be one next term. I think you’re going to write something extraordinary once we’ve got rid of this independence nonsense.”
“It’s a subject not worth studying really, isn’t it?” said Jenny.
“It’s not worth studying at all. But we do what we must.”
“And Paul?”
“Have faith in Paul in the same way we must have faith in Scotland.”
“I don’t understand.”
“None of us know what the next two months or so will bring, but I hope when it’s over, you’ll find a way to be together. If you can’t, there’s not much hope for any of us.”

Chapter 14
A small group of Yes campaigners sat around a table. It was mid-July.
“I’ve received a message from the campaign,” said James Bisset who was the unofficial leader of their group.
“What is it, James?” asked Roisin.
“They’ve asked us if any of us know Effie Deans.”
“I’ve seen her twitter account and read a couple of her blogs,” said Iain Mackay. “She’s clever enough.”
“That’s part of the problem,” said James.
“But these Brit Nat blogs can’t compete with ours,” said Roisin.
“What do you think, Paul?” asked James.
“I’m not a big fan of social media. But I’ve heard of her.”
“Someone told me she’s your girlfriend’s lecturer,” said Roisin.
“I’ve never met her,” said Paul.
“But she is?” said James.
“Yes, as far as I’m aware. We haven’t talked about it much.”
“Are you sure? asked Iain.
“What do you, mean?” said Paul.
“Well, some of the articles seem to have a bit of inside information.”
He presented some print outs of some of the recent articles that had appeared on the Effie Deans site Lily of St. Leonards.
Paul read through the articles and began seeing phrases that he had mentioned, examples that he had cited. He saw the arguments he had been making for the past few months taken apart piece by piece. He saw the assumptions that he had made contradicted with care, and with reason. He heard Jenny’s voice as he read through the articles. He found his anger rising. She’d deceived him. She’d used their relationship to attack what he held most dear. Of course, it was all spurious. The arguments were clever, but it was all just word play. You could argue anything if you were trained to do so like Jenny was. She was like some sort of Jesuit, using her mind to deceive and persuade. How could he have been so stupid as to be taken in? It had probably all been set up right since February. He continued reading and felt guilt. He had helped the No cause, he’d helped the Brit Nats with his stupid loose tongue. Why did he have to always talk so much? And she just kept silent, listening, learning, writing. She’d betrayed him. That much was clear. He kept reading.
“How many articles are there?” he asked.
“There’s usually one a week,” said James.
“Do you recognise anything?” asked Roisin.
“Yes. I’m sorry. I didn’t know she was writing this stuff.”
“So she’s Effie Deans. Your girlfriend is Effie Deans,” said Iain.
“No. There is an Effie Deans.”
“Who? We’ve looked at the list of staff at Aberdeen University. There’s no Effie Deans.”
“But there must be.”
“There’s not.”
“But I know Jenny goes to visit her. She learns Russian from her.”
“But you recognise what you’ve been reading.”
“Yes, some of it. But I don’t see how Jenny could have produced all of this. She didn’t even seem that interested. She’s not even in Scotland just now.”
“Where is she?”
“She’s in Russia.”
“You’re going to have to break it off with her, you know,” said James.
“We can’t have someone in the group who’s unreliable,” said Iain. “We need to keep our discipline. We can’t allow such leaks.”
“But I just don’t understand,” said Paul. “It can’t have only been Jenny. She was far too busy. When did she have the time to write all this?”
“We don’t know. Maybe there are others involved,” said James. “But anyway it’s clear that she’s made a mug of you.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it was some sort of Honey trap,” said Roisin.
“I hardly think,” said Paul. “I think you’re all taking this too seriously.”
“These are very good arguments,” said James. “You know that, don’t you?”
“We’ve got people, some of our best people, trying to come up with counterarguments,” said Iain.
“And on Twitter,” said Roisin. “But it’s difficult. She’s very polite and very careful about what she says. She implies without saying and the implication is sometimes dangerous for us. She writes these little aphorisms, and they’re effective.”
“I don’t know how I can help,” said Paul “I can’t write any sort of response to this kind of stuff. I’m just not good enough.”
“None of us are,” said Roisin.
“I’m so sorry,” said Paul.
“That’s OK, my friend,” said James. “You made a mistake, but we don’t depend so much on argument. It helps, of course, to sway some people, but we depend more on emotion.”
They could all see that Paul was desperately downcast.
“Cheer up!” said Iain. “We’re getting great results from our surveys. People who were only 2 out of 10 in favour of independence a month ago, are now sometimes 3 or 4 out of 10 now. We just have to keep returning and get them another notch up and we’re there.”
“I just feel that I’ve let the side down,” said Paul. “I didn’t know. I’ve been working so hard and look at how I’ve damaged us!”
“Take it easy! You’re making a great contribution. You’ve really helped us today with what you’ve told us. Roisin, take Paul for a couple of drinks. You’ve both been working hard. Relax for a bit.”
A couple of hours later Paul was feeling a little drunk.
“You mustn’t feel guilty that Proddy bitch played you,” said Roisin.
“How do you know she’s a Prod?”
“Well, if she wasn’t she’d be with us.”
“But I wasn’t brought up a Catholic.”
“You’re not from Glasgow.”
“I don’t know what it has to do with religion, Roisin.”
“It doesn’t, but we’re going to get our own back on the Brits for what they’ve done to Ireland for centuries.”
“I feel like getting my own back as well. It’s been quite a day. It’s a bit tough to take,” said Paul.
“I really like working with you, you know that.”
“I do, too.”
“I’ve missed you. I’ve been jealous.”
“I think about you, too, sometimes.”
“About when we were together?”
“Yes. I always liked red hair.”
“I’ve thought about you, too. I was stupid. I didn’t realise what I had. I miss what we had, Paul. I want it again.”
“Are you saying?”
“Of course, I’m saying. I want you. We just have to get a taxi and we’ll be back at mine in twenty minutes.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, just so long as you write to that Jenny and tell her it’s over. You can do it from my flat. I’d rather like to see what you write.”
“It will be a pleasure,” said Paul.









Chapter 15

Paul didn’t receive a reply from Jenny. When he got home the next morning, he checked his e-mail account, but there was nothing from her. Too early, probably, or else she hadn’t had the chance to read or reply. But later that evening when he checked again, there was still nothing. He checked what he had written and found it on the whole fairly kind, given the circumstances. He’d written three or four sentences in a bit of a hurry. He’d said nothing cruel. He’d just explained his disappointment at finding his words and ideas used in a No blog. He’d said they were too different in all sorts of ways, and that he had got back together with someone who had the same ideas about how to live as he did. He’d shown what he’d written to Roisin, who had thought it more than Jenny deserved. He’d pressed send and for the next twenty minutes or so reflected on what a good decision he’d made.
He looked at the pile of CDs on his shelf and wondered how he could give them back to Jenny. He could take them round to her flat, but he wasn’t sure if Susan and Lorna would still be there. There’d been some talk of a sublet. Anyway, they would just sit there in a pile. He thought about the music. He’d begun to like some of it. That song symphony by Mahler towards the end sent shivers through him. It was hard to believe that a woman could sing that way. It all meant something, too, even if he knew none of the words. What had Jenny intended he listen to next? There were a couple more Shostakovich CDs, one called Twenty-Four Preludes and Fugues, and one he couldn’t pronounce called Cheryomushki.
Over the next few days he listened to them from time to time. Why had she picked those, he wondered? They were so different. The piano preludes and fugues were serious if not a little daunting. It was like some sort of study or intellectual exercise. Beautiful in places, but you needed to concentrate. There were tunes, even if at times it all became a bit discordant. But Cheryomushki was like some sort of American musical only set in Moscow and about a new housing development. It seemed absurd that he could like it, but the songs were catchy and he found himself whistling one or two while he was going round the Tillydrone housing estate with Roisin.
 “What are you whistling?” asked Roisin.
“Oh just a song from a CD I was listening to earlier,” said Paul.
“One from that pile that’s sitting next to your CD player?”
“Yes.”
“I can’t believe you like that sort of classical stuff. It’s so heavy and dull.”
“Oh, I don’t know. It’s OK if you give it a chance. Why don’t we listen to something later on?”
“I’m willing to try anything once, I guess, but if it’s dull it goes straight off.”
Paul and Roisin spent most nights together either at his flat or at hers. He sometimes tried her with something that he was listening to. After Shostakovich the path seemed to go backwards and was by far the most difficult music he’d ever listened to. There were some CDs marked difficult with a post-it note. There was Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, and some selections including Three Pieces for Orchestra. There was Anton Webern’s Concerto for Nine Instruments and Variations for Piano.  Finally, there was Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire.
Paul listened to each in turn, but got little from the experience. Roisin was horrified and just laughed.
“What on earth is that stuff? You didn’t buy it, did you?”
“No, someone lent me it.”
“Who do we know who likes this sort of noise?”
“It’s not noise, Roisin, it’s just difficult. You need to practice.”
“Why ever would I want to practice to listen to music? The music I like, I like straightaway.”
“I can’t really explain. It’s just I’ve been finding out about this sort of music and some of it I rather like.”
“Who lent them to you, Paul?”
“It’s no big secret. Jenny did.”
“Why do you still want to listen to it then? It’s like you regret breaking up with her. Do you?”
“No, of course, not. It was an impossible situation. We disagreed about everything.”
“So why listen to the music she lent you?”
“I like it. I still want to learn. It’s not her music. It’s everybody’s. I don’t regret that she showed me some of these things. I don’t have to regret everything about the time I spent with her even though I’m with you now.”
“Well, I’d still rather you didn’t spend quite so much time with stuff she lent you. And let’s not watch any more of those terrible old black and white films.”
Over the next few weeks whenever he was alone, he’d periodically check his e-mail to see if Jenny had written him. Surely, she wouldn’t just leave things in silence. But she never did write. He wondered what she was doing just then, who she had met in Russia. Perhaps, she’d met some Russian man. He thought of all the ways in which his life was better now. Roisin was much prettier than Jenny. Her red hair, her figure, her face made other men turn around and look especially when she wore those ultra-thin leggings with a shirt that came just to the top of her thighs. They agreed on politics, they were working together for a goal that was dear them. The campaigning was going exceptionally well. It wasn’t reflected in the polls yet, but they could both feel the mood on the streets. It was so much easier to just take a girl home and go to bed with her. Roisin was straightforward. She knew what she wanted and took it. He wondered from time to time about the night when he’d broken up with Jenny. How much of that had been orchestrated by Roisin. Jenny had been wrong to use their conversations. But then again there was nothing in what she had written that she couldn’t have found out from somewhere else. It was just general stuff, the sort of ideas he had that he’d got from the group meetings. There was nothing secret that he’d divulged. Had it just been that he’d been angry that she’d argued so well? Had he been angry that she hadn’t told him? Did he even know for sure that she had written those articles? But he knew she talked with that Effie Deans, so it seemed reasonable to assume that some of what had been written was due to Jenny. Anyway, if she hadn’t been responsible, why didn’t she write back and say so. But then he’d already been with Roisin by then. She must have known that even by the time she read the e-mail. He thought again of how lucky he was to be sleeping with such a beautiful woman as Roisin. So many people he knew would be jealous of a girlfriend like that. She wasn’t inhibited in any way. He remembered all the nonsense with Jenny. Goodness, he’d gone further with Roisin in 20 minutes than with Jenny in five months. But somehow he couldn’t help dwelling on those months. He could remember moments of tenderness with Jenny that were just rushed past with Roisin. After a few weeks it had all become rather dull and mechanical. They’d arrive back at either his flat or hers and spent a very nice twenty minutes together. But each twenty minutes was more or less the same as every other. He got used to seeing her naked. He enjoyed sleeping with her. He continued to want her each time. But afterwards it seemed a rather foolish thing and not of great value. There was no music to accompany their dancing, and so they didn’t really dance at all. But Roisin was so much better than Jenny he kept telling himself. Roisin thought like he did, she had the same goals and they worked so well together. What else was there? Moreover, they were going to win.









Chapter 16

After a brief exchange of e-mails in early July, at Effie’s suggestion, Jenny didn’t write again until late August. When she did she wrote in much improved Russian.
Dear Effie,
I’ll be coming back to Aberdeen soon and I’m already thinking of my studies and how good it will be to get back to thinking about things that are important. I’m so glad I’ve had the chance to spend some time here. As you suggested I’ve kept myself to myself. I’ve had individual lessons with two of the teachers. We’ve focussed on grammar and reading and ways in which I can speak more naturally. I listen to the other students talking in English at the coffee breaks, but I don’t take part. I talk to them as if I were Russian. I’m sure they know it’s not true, but I don’t mind.  I’ve hardly spoken any English since I arrived here. It’s liberating in a way I never really knew before. Beyond a few tourists I would hardly have the chance to speak English anyway. Russian only here. In the shops they don’t speak English. On the streets they don’t speak English. It’s another world and I love it.
I know you feel guilty about what happened. But you mustn’t. Of course, I was upset and it all came completely unexpectedly. Everything was going so well. We were making plans and then suddenly… Well, I hope he’s happy. Maybe it’s best for people to be with their own kind. If he has what he wants now, then it’s for the best. Only I know him better than he knows himself. I don’t think he will be happy. I think he can do better. He is better. But that’s already old news. As always your advice was sound. I cried for a little while, I accepted that it was over for ever and I moved on. As you suggested, I didn’t write. What’s the point of arguing over such a matter? Does it ever change anyone’s mind? If someone says they no longer want to be with you, that they’ve found someone else, how are you supposed to persuade them otherwise? It’s demeaning to even try. So I’m glad I didn’t.  In the end, I’m not sure if any of these kind of arguments have any point. I mean arguments about things that are fundamental to us. I can’t argue about my faith or, indeed, my morality or any of the other ways I think. The way I think about politics is just the same way I think about anything else. I start from the individual and work outwards. It’s possible, perhaps, to show this way of thinking in how I live, but that’s the only form of persuasion I know.
I’ve been hearing all sorts of stories from Petr’s sister and her husband about how you came here just before the Soviet Union fell apart. How it was a closed city then, but somehow they were able to find a way for you to come and be with Petr. They say that’s how you learned to speak so well, because you had to. But that at times you had to pretend you couldn’t speak for some reason so as not to give yourself away. Oh, Effie, it sounds so romantic that you made such a trip to be with Petr. I long to hear about it. I ask Olga and Andrei every now and again when I have the chance, but they only want to tell little bits. They say things like “that was all a very long time ago.” You must tell me what happened, every little bit when I get back.
I’ve learned a new way of living here being part of a Russian family. People think that Russians are cold and unfriendly, that they never smile, and that they’re brusque, but it’s not true. Of course, in shops they don’t smile and that takes some getting used to. And sometimes the waitresses are impossible when they ignore you. But when you get to know them, these people are much more friendly than we are. You just have to be introduced and they treat you like they’ve known you forever. Thank you so much, Effie, that you organised it so that I would stay with the Lavrovs. Nearly every afternoon and evening there’s been someone to take me somewhere or introduce me to other people.
I’ve become special friends with Svetlana and Ivan, your niece and nephew. Sveta, as you know, is very beautiful in that Russian way, blonde and slim. It’s a little funny talking to a girl of eighteen who is so much more worldly than I am. She expects me to know all sorts of things that I don’t. She asked about my boyfriends, but I told her I’d only had one and that we’d recently broken up. She said she’d help me find one here, but that I’d have to wear different clothes and change my hair and shave my legs and arms and such like. We all went swimming at the beach at Svetlagorsk. Sveta whispered to me about my funny old costume, all baggy. I told her that I didn’t care that much how I looked and that I wasn’t going to waste my time plucking my eyebrows or changing the way I was intended to look. If a man liked how I looked, that was nice, but if he didn’t, I wasn’t that bothered. She didn’t believe me and she’s right, of course. I do care how men look at me. I do want to be attractive. It was a nice feeling to be loved. But I’m not going to spend my life trying to be something that I’m not. I’m not going to look like Sveta no matter how hard I try and even if she didn’t shave her legs and her arms, men would still want to be with her. I see how they walk past on the beach and they take her in. They take all of her in. She sees it, too. She loves it. But I’m not sure there’s any happiness to be found there. We’ve become very close, and she talks of what she hopes for. She wants to meet someone successful who can give her a better life. It’s true that this is probably her most obvious route to a better lifestyle. But I try to tell her that it won’t necessarily be a better life. They are poorer, the Lavrovs, than almost everyone in Britain. They struggle and have to think about what they buy. Going to a restaurant is a rare occurrence. What they earn is much less than the average person in Scotland who receives unemployment benefit and it’s not as if things are much cheaper here.  But they’re happier, I think. They have something more real. It’s all rather like Britain in the fifties. Or what I imagine Britain was like. Men are expected to bring flowers when they take a girl out. People have attitudes that would be considered very old-fashioned in the UK. It’s like the sixties never happened. Sveta and Ivan admire Britain. They see what life is like on the television and they rather idealise it. But I try to tell them that there’s something rather special here, too.
Sveta has tried to set me up with a few men. She asked me if I liked Ivan. I do. I like him very much, but it would hardly do to have a romance with someone who lives in the same house. He is very nice and we’ve spend a lot of time together. He’s just a little older than me and very charming. When I first came here, I didn’t understand what anyone said. But on these afternoons and evenings I found myself so wanting to discuss things that I just kept trying. I remember going to a gallery with Ivan. It can only have been a couple of weeks after I arrived and we started talking about films. I just didn’t know the words for things so I started trying to describe them to him. He guessed pretty well and did his best to help me. Sometimes I knew the Russian word for something, but not it’s opposite so I’d ask him what the opposite was. Sometimes I used my hands and did a sort of charades with him. He found it all very amusing, but he enjoyed the experience, too. It’s amazing we actually had some fairly deep discussions of literature and art even if I only spoke broken Russian then.
I think Ivan might actually rather like me. Sveta thinks so. For me it’s all too early. I haven’t really been even thinking about men this summer. I notice someone who’s handsome, and it’s been very flattering having Sveta organise some very nice meetings with people she knows. They’ve started to become very flattering about my Russian, but I think in the end when I sit down with someone new who Sveta’s brought to meet me, it’s Sveta they want to be with, not me. I see men look at her. I see the desire in their eyes. They love her beauty. They want her beauty. But do they want her? I know I’m just average looking, but I don’t regret it. Who wants to be loved for something transient that will fade? Who wants to be loved for something on the surface? I try to tell her that, but I can see that she thinks her beauty is her ticket to a better life. She thinks she can trade it for someone who will bring her what she wants. I see this everywhere in the way the women walk down the street. The way they dress is to attract. Not in the way that girls do in Scotland by displaying themselves, but rather by what they think is the stylish way to dress in the West. Of course they often make a hash of it. They just don’t get the idea of a little going a long way. It’s a bit like a girl playing with her mother’s make up. It’s often all too much. The men seem to care less about their appearance and on the whole they seem less attractive than their sisters. How can that be? But they’re also more natural. They’re not trying to sell anything. I prefer that.
So I’ve not met anyone here in that way. Perhaps, something might have happened if I had allowed it. There were a couple of moments with Ivan when I wondered if he wanted to say something. There have been a few hints. I think about him, too, occasionally. He’s bright, he’s kind, and we believe much the same sort of things. We talk about literature and he’s shown me the simplicity of Russian faith. We sometimes pass a church and just go in. He lights a candle as do I, and we stand there for a minute looking at the icons. Then we go. There’s no need to talk about it. But I feel something in these places. Perhaps, something I’ve never felt in Scotland. We’re going to write, Ivan and me, and who knows maybe I will soon return to my friends in Russia.
I haven’t been following the news from home at all. I’ve just wanted to forget about the whole thing. I can’t quite forgive those who started this process of dividing our country. They have done me harm. If it wasn’t for their stupid referendum, I would still be with the man I loved. The first man I loved. Perhaps, I was wrong to write those essays. But it wasn’t an attack on him. I understand why he resented what I did. I can also understand why he wanted to go back to his former girlfriend. They were spending a lot of time together. I knew that already. Doubtless, she offered herself, and as he said to me once it’s difficult for a man who’s in a sweet shop not to take the sweets. I think he lost something rather more precious, as did I. For that, if nothing else, I can’t forgive the SNP. That no doubt is a sin. I should always forgive. I will try if they lose. But sometimes I think of the words: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. But it seems there’s nothing much to worry about. Even if I don’t follow the news, the Russians sometimes mention something about the referendum. It seems that we’re a long way in the lead. They’re pleased even if there’s a bit of tension between Russia and Britain. They just can’t understand why anyone would want to break up a great country. Nor can I.
I’ll be back at the beginning of September and will come and visit you almost immediately. Until then:
With love,
Jenny.









Chapter 17

A few days after the first debate between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling, the de-facto leadership of the Aberdeen Yes group sat around James’s kitchen table.
“We’ve lost,” said Iain. “We may as well give up.”
“I don’t think it’s as bad as that,” said James.
“We’re twenty points behind,” said Ian. “We’ve got a little more than a month to go.”
“I thought Alex did pretty well,” said Roisin.
“He did well for people like us,” said Paul, “but he didn’t convince the undecided, let alone the No voters.”
“That bloody pound,” said James. “How do we counter it?”
“We ignore it,” said Paul. “We don’t have a good answer. We don’t know. But Westminster isn’t going to let the pound go down the toilet.”
“You think they’ll let us keep it?” asked Roisin.
“An arrangement will have to be made. They might not like it, but they won’t have any choice,” said Paul.
“But it’s still not a good position for us,” said Iain. “They might have to let us keep the pound or there would be chaos.”
“Who want’s chaos?” said James.
“We just have to try to keep convincing people that things would work out,” said Paul.
“But it would take years of struggle,” said Iain.
“We know that, but we also know it would be worth it,” said Paul.
“But we don’t tell anyone that,” said Iain.
They all laughed.
“But how can we win when we’re twenty points behind?” said Iain.
“We beat them with turnout,” said Paul.
“I’ve been online a bit lately,” said Roisin, “they are so cocky at their twenty point lead. They think it’s over. But we’ve been canvassing and it’s very close. Actually, I think we’re leading.”
“I think we’re winning, too. These polls don’t mean much. We’re reaching people who’ve never voted before,” said Paul.
“Do you think it will be enough?” asked James.
“I don’t know,” said Paul. “I think it will be awfully close. The key for us is to get everyone to vote. If the Brit Nats are complacent, we can still win. Let’s say turnout is 70 percent, but we get out more like 90 percent of our supporters, we win even if the majority is against us.”
“You really think that can work?” said Iain. “Won’t they be working hard to get out their vote?”
“But they think they’re winning,” said Roisin. “Me and Paul have chatted about this a lot. We need them to continually think they’re going to win easily.”
“And so we sneak in right at the wire,” said Iain. “I’d like to believe it, but I’m finding it rather hard at the minute.”
“We’ve worked so hard,” said Paul. “It’s just another few weeks. There’s another debate and there’s our grassroots. We’re going to have posters up everywhere.”
“And we’ve organised a team to take down theirs,” said Roisin.
“Do you think that’s wise?” asked James.
“We need to give the impression of strength,” said Paul. “Make people believe that their neighbours are voting Yes and they might, too.”
“It’s like in that old film Beau Geste,” said Iain. “You put the dead bodies in the battlements to make the enemy think you’re stronger than you are.”
“What else needs doing, Paul?” said James.
“I think we need more volunteers for social media,” said Paul.
“I’ve set up a Facebook group,” said Roisin “to direct people to where they’re needed.”
“In what way?” asked Iain.
“Well, you know how some Brit Nat accounts are a pest,” said Roisin. “Well, I send people to make friends with them.”
“How does that help us?” said Iain.
“Well, take that Effie,” said Roisin “She’s actually quite polite usually. So I send people to make friends with her. It distracts her. If she’s being friendly to one of us, she can’t be dreaming up any of her clever aphorisms. We get her bogged down in endless little quibbles.”
“That’s rather good,” said James.
“But we need to do more,” said Paul. “That’s why we’re on the hunt for more volunteers. Again the more of us there are online, the more we can make it appear that we’re dominating.”
“You really think we’ve a chance, don’t you?” said Iain.
“Oh, I can feel it!” said Paul. “We both can Roisin and me, I mean. We’ve been out every day and there’s something in the air. You just wait and see.”









Chapter 18

On a Sunday morning early in September Jenny made the familiar journey to Effie’s house. She’d arrived back on a flight to Glasgow a few days earlier, spent some time with her parents and then took the train to Aberdeen. Her flat was empty. Susan and Mark were in Newcastle. Mark was going to do a teacher training course and it would be cheaper if he could live with his parents. Susan was going to find any sort of job she could, just to help. They were going to stay together. A wedding was going to happen as soon as it could sensibly be arranged, but they both considered that it had already happened. Lorna had gone to be with the mysterious older man whom no-one had ever met. He worked in finance in Edinburgh and was in his thirties. She’d written to Jenny that she’d known Steven all her life. He’d been a friend of the family just like an older brother. She’d loved him in her own way ever since she could remember even when she didn’t understand what the word meant. She loved him because he didn’t put her on a pedestal and didn’t seem to care very much what she looked like. She didn’t know if she could get him to love her back in the way that she wanted, but she was going to Edinburgh to find out. At the moment Steven just saw her as the little girl he’d always known. They were friends and he treated her like a little sister. Perhaps, he always would. But she hoped he wouldn’t.  He was single and they were already close, so they had a chance.
It was strange being in the flat. Jenny had a sense of Paul’s presence. He was vivid to her in a way that he hadn’t been for weeks. She remembered the music that had been played in her room. She wondered where he was at that moment, what he was doing. She was glad to get out of the house and was glad that she would have the chance to speak Russian today. In Russia there had been no Paul, nothing to remind her of him and so she had forgotten, and she had moved on. She remembered Kaliningrad and the times she’d had and she began to wish that she was still there. Perhaps, she should have shown more how much she liked Ivan. She did like him. There were definite possibilities there. It was a pity he was so far away. There was no stupid referendum there either. It had been good to miss all that nonsense. Her parents had told her about another debate. It hadn’t gone as well they said. But neither of them had been following the referendum closely. They had their work and they had each other, and all the shouting in the end was so uninteresting.
Petr opened the door.
“It’s good to see you after so long,” said Jenny, “and it’s good to have a chance to talk some Russian again. I’m already sick of English.”
“What happened, Jenny?” asked Petr. “It’s not possible you can speak Russian so well.”
“Hi!” said Effie. “Surely, you need a rest from all that Russian?”
“No,” said “Jenny, “let’s continue. I really need the practice and it helps me think, and also I feel rather in need of my Russian at the moment.”
“Alright, let’s have some breakfast and then we need to talk.”
“I imagine you want to chat about your Scottish politics,” said Petr. “Best to leave me out of it. I neither understand it, nor am I very interested, though, of course, I hope that this country doesn’t break up. We’ve been through that once and it wasn’t much fun.”
“Why the pessimism?” said Jenny “I heard there was one debate that didn’t go so well. Surely, that’s not going to make such a difference?”
“Let’s sit down,” said Effie. “I’ll make some breakfast.”
Effie and Jenny sat at the table while Petr went upstairs and got on with some work.
“You’ve not been following the debate much in Russia, have you?”
“Hardly at all. You know I became thoroughly sick of it. You know what it did to me.”
“How are you feeling about that?”
“I don’t know. I’ve moved on. I’m beginning to think of the possibility of someone else.”
“Ivan? I heard there was something in the air.”
“There isn’t really. But there could be, perhaps, if we spent some more time together. At least there might be. I’m not sure. I don’t really want anyone at the moment. Just it felt strange being back in the flat. Sleeping there last night I remembered. I felt rather sad in a way I hadn’t for weeks. I thought of all that had happened.”
Effie could see that there were a couple of tears in Jenny’s eyes.
“You can’t expect to get over something immediately. I’m sorry for the part I played. It was rather selfish.”
“What I wrote was what I believed. It was things I had kept hidden from him because I didn’t want us to fall out. He’d been allowed to put his arguments, but I’d been scared to put mine. That was no foundation for a relationship. He couldn’t handle my honesty.”
“But it must have been a bit tough to find his own words used against him.”
“Yes, I know that. But it’s been so much better to be with people who want to talk about ordinary things. I’ve chatted about things that are so much more important than stupid politics.”
“You’ve made extraordinary progress too. I’ve never met someone who has learned as quickly. But we need to talk a little about stupid politics, Jenny.”
“Why?”
“We might lose.”
“Surely, not.”
“There was a poll this morning. They’re in the lead.”
“One poll.”
“I know, but the momentum has been building. If it continues as it has been, they will win.”
“No. It’s not possible.”
“It is possible, something very odd and rather scary is happening in Scotland.”
“But there’s no way most people are going to vote for nationalism, it’s impossibly stupid.”
“I agree, but I can’t reach them. I’m online all the time now. They just come back with stock phrases. I try to reason with people but it’s pointless. All our arguments are scaremongering, or lies or negative or some such phrase.”
“If they win, I’m going straight back to Russia. I could study there.”
“I wouldn’t do that, Jenny. I love Russia and it’s great to visit, but it’s not an easy place to live, nor to study. Your Russian is very good, indeed, but how quickly can you read a Russian novel now?”
“I can’t read easily. I still need to look up too many words.”
“Do you think you could write essays in Russian?”
“Not easily. But I could learn.”
“Yes, you could learn. At the moment you write very well, but it reads like a foreigner writing Russian, which is what you are. They’re taught style for years in school. It’s not something that we can easily pick up.”
“You want me to stay and study with you?”
“I think it would be the best thing for you and for me. In the end the roles reverse and the teacher needs the student just as much. The teacher becomes the student. I need you, Jenny.”
“I’m not sure I could bear to live here if Yes wins.”
“I’m not sure I could either. So we need to make sure they don’t.”
“What do we do?”
“Jenny, I desperately need your help.”
“Not again! I haven’t even been following things.”
“So you’re less tired. I’m getting really tired, tired in a way that begins to worry me.”
“What have you been doing?”
“I’ve been writing the blog, spending hours debating on twitter. I’ve been doing my own academic work, too. I don’t know how long I can keep it up. I know it’s a big ask, but will you help.”
“I can see you’re worn out, you’ve been doing far too much. Of course, I’ll help. Term doesn’t start for a couple of weeks anyway. Until then I’ve got nothing much planned.”
“We need to work out a change in strategy, too.”
“It all sounds rather military.”
“There’s quite a lot to be learned from military history.”
“Like what?”
“The moral is to physical as three to one.”
“Who said that”?
“Napoleon. He was a dreadful tyrant, but one of the best generals in history. We need a flanking movement. Sometimes it seems that one army is winning. All the momentum is with them and just as it seems they’re going to reach victory they’re attacked from an unexpected place.”
“Sounds good. But how do we attack?”
“We remind people of Britain. We go positive about Britain. We keep up morale. We keep repeating that we’re going to win. We remind people of all the times that Britain has been in peril and how we all stood together to defeat a common enemy. We beat them with turnout.”
“But everyone’s indifferent. My parents hardly follow the referendum. They say it’s just a bunch of shouty men.”
“I don’t think our side will be indifferent after today. We just have to tell everyone that if they don’t vote No, we might wake up in a couple of weeks in a UK that’s about to fall apart.”
“So you think this poll might be good news?”
“No, it’s bad news. I’d rather we were still twenty points ahead. But we can, perhaps, turn it into good news.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to write. You can choose whichever language works best for you. I need two or three essays. And I need you to take turns on twitter so that I can write also and have time to think. Can you stay here?”
“I’d love to. There’s no-one in the flat. Just so I won’t be in the way.”
“Quite the reverse, my dear.”
“You keep having debates with the nationalists on twitter. Why?”
“That’s how it works.”
“But we’re not trying to persuade them, are we? They’re not going to change their minds.”
“No. I suppose not,” said Effie.
“Then why do it? Why not ignore them and if they don’t go away, mute them or block them”
“I’ve become quite friendly with some.”
“I know it’s a shame, but you’re exhausting yourself talking to people who won’t change their minds. From now on we block mercilessly. We’re talking only to our supporters and the undecided.”
“Why don’t you start, Jenny?”
“With pleasure.”










Chapter 19

Paul woke up with Roisin on that same Sunday morning. He looked across at her still sleeping. They’d had quite a night of it celebrating the poll. His mind drifted briefly back to the memory of how he’d held her. She really was very beautiful. She knew it, too. She’d probably want to again when she woke up, but that might not be for some time. She didn’t seem to know any limits. She drank almost as much as he did. She was willing to say and do anything to win the referendum. He’d distributed leaflets with her and seen how she took the Better Together leaflets out of the letterboxes and then put them in a plastic bag. He’d asked if this was quite fair and she’d laughed.
“All’s fair in love and war,” she’d said. “We’ve got to beat these Brits, we’ve got to do anything it takes.”
For him there’d never really been any hatred. He just thought Scotland could do better on its own. But he knew that for Roisin and for some others it was more personal. They had a grudge. You saw it sometimes. People were mainly quite careful to say the right thing but once in a while when someone had a couple too many there would be talk about the bloody English. He didn’t join in. Anyway, he’d seen nutters on both sides.  Look at some of the Rangers fans. They were no better than the worst on his side. But if only there was less aggression, especially online. Some of the language he’d seen on twitter had been completely unnecessary. It really hurt the cause of whichever side used it.
He got up and made himself some coffee and got back into bed to drink it. He was careful not to disturb Roisin. It was still early and they’d have a busy day ahead. He reached up to his shelf and brought down his book. He’d already read a hundred pages or so of Crime and Punishment. He’d tried talking to Roisin about it, but she wasn’t interested.
“Why read that stuff? We’ve got important work to do,” she’d said.
“I need to relax and switch off from the referendum occasionally.”
“Don’t I give you something else to think about? Don’t I help you relax?”
She did, of course, but they didn’t have much to talk about except the referendum. She’d laughed when he’d played any of his music and then simply refused to listen to it. But he’d continued. Whenever there had been some spare time, whenever she had been off somewhere else, he’d slipped on one of Jenny’s CDs. He started learning and he wanted to continue. There was a goal. He was still tending towards somewhere with this music. He didn’t know quite where, but he knew that he liked it and wanted to get there. Where was it that he’d begun to understand? Jenny had sent him on a strange path, backwards and forwards. Then there was that CD by Charles Ives “American Journey”. What an odd bunch of tunes. But he kept playing it. He kept playing all of the CDs after that, until he wondered if he might try something else himself. He looked around the shops in Aberdeen, but they only had the most famous classical music and so he had a look online. What was that piece by Messiaen that Jenny had played him that he’d hated. He went on Amazon and bought Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus.
Roisin had seen the box.
“You’re not becoming religious, are you?”
“No. I just wanted to try this.”
“You still think about her, don’t you?”
“Who?”
“Jenny.”
“Not especially. Anyway she’s in Russia.”
“I see her on twitter all the time.”
“Perhaps, that’s her. I don’t know any more. I’d have thought she’s too busy there.”
“Well, that Effie Deans is on twitter morning noon and night. I do my best to annoy her though. She even follows me, can’t think why. But it makes it easier to troll her.”
“Why do you bother, Roisin?”
“Well, whatever hinders her helps us. You should have a go as well.”
“Perhaps, I will.”
“I just can’t understand why you continue to listen to your ex’s music if you’re with me?”
“I don’t think of it as her music. I like it. I can’t help that. We’re just going to have to agree to differ on this sort of thing.”
“And you keep reading her books, too. You read one, now another. It’s like you regret that you’re with me.”
“Does it seem to you that I regret it when we’re together?”
“Just so long as you don’t get any religious nonsense into your head. I can’t stand that stuff.”
“I thought you were a Catholic?”
“I am, but that doesn’t mean I have to believe that rubbish.”
“The music’s beautiful. It’s just notes. It’s not as if it’s really about anything. The composer just called it something about Jesus Christ.”
Looking across at Roisin, he remembered some of the notes from Messiaen. He reflected on the strangeness of the sounds that came out of the piano, but how somehow they seemed to work in new way. He wished he could talk to Jenny about it. He certainly didn’t regret being with Roisin when he was in bed with her, but he did at other times. He wondered how long they would stay together. She was planning to go back to Glasgow, but he wasn’t sure if he wanted to go with her, not that she’d asked. They were both just focussing on the present, how to get as many people as possible to vote Yes. After that there would be lots of work to do. Perhaps, there would be opportunities for those who’d put in as much work as they had. There’d been some talk of rewards. 
Paul’s parents had been asking him about when he might be coming home. It was costing them rather a lot to keep him in Aberdeen. They couldn’t really understand what he was doing there. He’d told them that he was looking for a job, but they couldn’t understand why he’d had no success. After all, Aberdeen was one of the easier places to get a job. He could hardly tell them that he’d been spending all day every day campaigning. But he’d been able to put them off with excuses thus far. He felt a little guilty about their money funding his personal Yes campaign, but then there was more chance of prosperity coming to the Highlands in an independent Scotland. He was quite sure of that.
He remembered how word had begun leaking out yesterday about the poll. They had a lead. It was an incredible turnaround from a few days earlier. He was quite sure Yes was going to win now. My goodness, they were twenty points behind only a couple of weeks ago. Now they were ahead. That momentum wasn’t suddenly going to stop. It was going to be just like the Holyrood elections in 2011. Roisin was equally sure. They’d been ecstatic last night and it had transferred itself into their lovemaking.
“We’re going to beat the bastards,” she had kept saying.
That morning Paul sat and read his book, but he couldn’t really concentrate on it. He kept thinking of what it was going to be like to win. He began to think ahead to the days of celebration. He’d hoped before and told others that he was sure of winning, but he hadn’t been really. Only now did he really feel sure. Their canvassing had been incredible and he’d been told of some secret SNP private polls that were looking pretty good, too. It was all coming together.
He wondered where Jenny was now. Was she still in Russia? She’d have to come back soon or term would already have started. He thought of the CDs and how he could return them. It might be a bit awkward at least until the referendum was over. When it was, he could at least commiserate with her and say the sort of things you do to the defeated. There’d need to be reconciliation in Scotland. The unionists would have to accept the result and start helping rather than hindering Scotland. He hoped they would. Wouldn’t it be great if former opponents could come together and work out how to make a new Scotland? Who knows, maybe Jenny would even help. That was for the future right now they had to work out how to increase their support still further.









Chapter 20

The tactics evolved over those last few days. Effie would discuss an idea with Jenny and they’d try it out. Having been away for two months Jenny brought a fresh, less tired perspective. She’d also just had first-hand experience of a place that was doing a lot worse than Britain, where people were a lot poorer, but where there were no food-banks. The Russians she had met admired Britain though they were often critical. They simply could not believe that “England” as they called it was about to split up.
“Did you explain to them that you were actually from Scotland?” asked Effie.
“I did in the beginning, but it seemed a bit pointless after the first ten times.”
“Their word for Britain is England, just as our word for the Soviet Union used to be Russia. This is quite common the world over. Who are we to correct their language?”
“I remember saying I was from Scotland and people being not quite clear where it was. Someone thought we were an island near the Faeroes. “
“There are cities with a million and more people in Russia that not one person in a hundred knows the name of here. You ask even educated people how many Russian cities they can name. You rarely get more than three.”
“They knew more of our history than I knew of theirs,” said Jenny.
“They also know their own, or at least parts of it, especially the part about splitting up a country. It was chaos. We sometimes didn’t know who was going to rule us the next day. We didn’t know what was going to be in the shops. We had food aid sent from America.”
“Let’s write about that. Let’s somehow try to get that point across. How fortunate we are.”
“But we must do it above all in a positive way, we must be relentlessly positive.”
“I know,” said Jenny. “We need something people are going to feel good about, we need morale to increase, we need a myth.”
“1940.”
“I’m only twenty-one I don’t go quite that far back.”
“But you know the essence. I have a couple of films we can watch.”
They tweeted about how Britain had been threatened with destruction before and how the people had not been afraid but had stood united. They tweeted about how Britain had withstood worse than this and come through. They mocked the pettiness of the cause that was threatening their country. They told how the Scots who had defended Britain would be horrified that what they had defended would be threatened by their grandchildren. They talked about the greatness of Britain, of what had been achieved historically, what was being achieved now and what would be achieved in the future. They reminded everyone of what they were in danger of losing. They pointed out the dangers of nationalism. They did this over and over again for the next few days.
The nationalists reacted with fury. They kept sending people to get Effie involved in long discussions. But whichever of them was now manning the account they simply muted or blocked those who were a hindrance.
“We must have a simple rule,” said Jenny, “or we’ll go nuts. Don’t get involved in long conversations with people we’re not going to convince. Just don’t answer anymore after one or two replies.”
“I always find that a bit difficult. I don’t like to give them the last word.”
“Ignoring is the last word.”
“I wish we could get the message across to more people. I’ve got a piece prepared for Saturday, but I want to find readers. We need to get the message across to people who are not on twitter and who don’t know what a blog is.”
“From now on we follow everyone who retweets or makes a positive comment. We follow and follow. They will tell other people. They will tell their friends and their family.”
Effie wrote a summation of everything she thought about Britain. It wasn’t an attack on independence; it barely mentioned Scotland or Scottish nationalism. She put her whole heart into the piece.
“What do you think?” she asked Jenny.
“Perhaps, people can quibble about details.”
“You mean, I generalise overly? I do it deliberately.”
“Why is that?”
“There is a truth that’s not in the details. In history I think you can say something that is true in general, that is even a little false in the details.”
“I was thinking of your bit about the Picts and the Iceni being the same people. Is that true?”
“I don’t know. I doubt anyone does. I believe it is true in general. People may quibble with details. But it’s an ignorant quibble. They’re just trying to show off particular knowledge while missing the general point which is sound.”
“And the British civil war that lasts a hundred years. I’ve never heard about that.”
“Again people may dispute the details. I’m not interested in the details, I’m trying to show how we on this island are all the same, and if you strip away the details, we are. It’s the nationalists who want to dispute the details, who want to find difference where it does not exist.”
Effie’s piece became one of the most read that she’d ever written. Dozens of people retweeted her including a famous historian, which made her feel rather vindicated and proud. They were gaining followers, too. Every morning they woke up to find loads of people had followed. They followed each and every one back. They went through the timeline and followed everyone who had tweeted them. In the last week they doubled their followers.
There was an extraordinary effort from people all over Britain. Some of the best writers in the country were producing extraordinarily good articles. The best economists from around the world were absolutely devastating about the nationalist cause. Major international companies were saying that independence would wreck the UK economy and possibly the world economy.
“Can you write something summarising all this?” asked Effie.
“I can try. Economics is not really my strong suit, though I understand the basics.”
“I just don’t feel I have another essay in me.”
“You gave your all in the last one and what a response!”
“We need more, Jenny. The polls are still very close.”
“I think the polls are all over the place. Some of the guys talking about betting seem to be more sure that we’re winning.”
“Betting always struck me as a stupid activity. Long term you’re bound to lose.”
“But I think these guys know what they’re talking about. One of them showed me an article that demonstated that betting usually predicts accurately the result of elections, much better than polls. It has been doing so since before polling began”
“I’m not going to believe anything until the result is in.”
“I thought with the sort of things business and economists were saying one or two nationalists would realise the folly of what they are doing.”
“You mean when a Nobel prize winning left wing economist says your plan will bring national disaster, one or two might listen?”
“Not just him. But all those banks, all those economists. I don’t understand all of it, but it scares me stiff.”
“Between you and me, Scotland will not become independent whatever the result of the referendum.”
“Then what’s the point of all this?”
“The point is to save us from the chaos and the grief of trying to split up our country. We would have to try to implement the decision of the Scottish people and, no doubt, we’d end up with something called an independent Scotland. But in reality you can no more split up the Poundzone without economic chaos than you can split up the Eurozone.”
“You think that Scotland would keep the pound?”
“Yes, of course, in the end for the alternative would be default, but then we’d still be ruled by London, only we wouldn’t have any MPs there and in the meantime, a lot of people around the world would lose a lot of jobs and a lot of money, just so some fools could say we’re free.”
Jenny wrote the last blog before the referendum. It summarised everything that they had seen in the press from the previous week and made clear that the finest minds in Britain and the world were united against independence, not only from the perspective of economics, but also from the perspective of how it set a dangerous example to the people of Europe having the potential to reawaken conflicts and border disputes that were settled. This time the response was even greater. Their tweets were sometimes retweeted by huge numbers of supporters.
“We’re building something. Something is definitely happening,” said Effie two days before the vote.
“What do you feel?”
“I feel we’re winning. The mood has changed.”
“I can’t say I’ve noticed. There are still a lot of very negative UK supporters. There’s one who keeps going on about how we’re going to lose.”
“Tell him to buck up, or block him, too. Defeatism is just as dangerous as the nats.”
“Why do you think the mood has changed then?”
“Call it feminine intuition, but I feel the nats are getting scared. They’re attacking even more vigorously. They’re attacking me personally.”
“Me, too.”
“It’s amusing when someone with a silly name tries to make fun of your name.”
“They don’t believe you’re real Effie.”
“I know, even some on our side think I’m a fictional character.”
“I find it incredibly creepy how some of them dig around trying to find out where you work or where you live.”
“Can’t we use that?”
“What?”
“Their creepiness.”
“We can and we will.”
With a day to go, Jenny received a private message on twitter. “Why do you keep telling lies, Jenny? You see we know who Effie really is. She’s you.  Best wishes, Paul.”
It upset her quite a bit.
“What do I do?” she asked Effie.
“Don’t respond. Just block him.”
“I can’t believe Paul would do that? It doesn’t seem like him. Then again he was angry with me. But still. What do you think, Effie?”
“I’ve no idea. It was probably Paul, but then again it could have been someone else. We can’t tell. And it’s not worth thinking about. It’s no secret that you study with me.”
“But he thinks there is no Effie, that I am you.”
“Well, you are like a part of me. You’ve been helping me. You’ve been writing as if you were me and sometimes you’ve been writing better than me.”
Each night Petr would make them a large drink so that they could sleep. He didn’t get involved much in the discussions, but he distracted them by talking of other things. They became like a family.
“Don’t worry, Jenny” said Petr. “Nothing bad is going to happen and if it does, we’ll still find a way to continue. I’ve been through much worse than this. My parents went through things you can’t even imagine. This is all trivia.”
“Effie is very lucky to have you.”
“We’ve been through a lot together. It’s getting on for twenty-five years that we’ve been together.”
“It’s what I want most in the world, to be with someone forever.”
“You have a lot of time, my dear, you’re only twenty-one. I hear that Ivan still thinks of you.”
“He was very kind and he’s a dear friend.”
“Perhaps, he could be a little more.”
“Are you matchmaking?”
“He’s my nephew, I don’t see him that often, but we talk sometimes. I think he’s a decent boy.”
“At the moment I’m not really thinking about boys.”
“But you’ve moved on. You can begin to think a little.”
“I do, but I still need some more time. I try not to think about the past too much.”
“Better to find someone who thinks like you do.”
“But you don’t agree with Effie about all sorts of things. I’ve heard you argue.”
“We agree about the fundamentals.”
“I’m not sure I know what they are.”
“We think in a similar way, we believe similar things, at root we think of people individually and think of ourselves as individuals most of all. You can’t really define it, but there are some people who are your kind of person and there are some who will forever remain strangers. In the last few days while I’ve had a chance to get to know you a little better I can see that you’re like Effie and me.”
“A kindred spirit.”
“I remember that from somewhere or something like it from somewhere long ago.”
“It’s from Anne of Green Gables.”
“Yes, Jenny, we are that way. Without it love rapidly becomes very dull, even meaningless. Find someone like that. Perhaps, you already have.”
“Perhaps,” said Jenny and flashing briefly through her mind she saw the faces of first Paul, which she rapidly shook away and then Ivan.
On the day of the referendum Effie and Jenny no longer argued. It was too late for that. They just tweeted about getting the vote out and they tweeted about how they were winning. As the day wore on, Effie became more and more confident.
“Can’t you feel it, Jenny?”
“Not really. I’m still scared stiff.”
“Something extraordinary is happening.”
“You must have some sort of special insight as I can’t feel anything.”
“I know we’re winning. We’re winning much better than the polls suggest.”
“They all seem to be saying a one percent victory.”
“No, they’re wrong, very wrong. It’s going to be much more than that.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Faith.”
As evening fell, Effie received a message that the odds of a Yes victory were falling further and further. Someone sent a private message that suggested that No would achieve a much bigger victory than expected. Jenny was still nervous, but Effie was more and more confident.
At ten Petr came in with two large drinks.
“You two have worked round the clock for the past ten days. You couldn’t have done more. I’m getting a little worried about both my girls. You need sleep and lots of it.”
“But we have to stay up for the results,” said Jenny.
“No. You have to sleep. The result will be what it will be whether you stay up late or not.”
“He’s right, Jenny” said Effie. “Don’t worry. We’re all going to wake up in the morning and see that we’ve won. Just you wait and see.”
And so they all went to bed with a sleeping draught made from an old Russian recipe. The whole housed dreamt in Russian.









Chapter 21

Roisin and Paul got in the car that was going to take them down to Edinburgh. It was ten in the evening on the day of the referendum.
“You two ready for the best party ever?” said the driver.
“I can barely keep awake,” said Paul.
He noticed that Roisin was putting quite a few bags in the boot of the car. He’d only taken a small rucksack as he expected to be away only for a night or so.
“What’s with all the bags?” he asked her.
“I’m not coming back. I never really felt at home here in Aberdeen.”
“And me?”
“Nothing’s stopping you coming to Glasgow. We make a good team. If only you’d get over your scruples.”
“Let’s not spoil things, Roisin. We’re going to win. Couldn’t you feel it today?”
“We’re going to win quite easily. But we could have won by even more.”
“I’m sorry. I just couldn’t face attacking Jenny. I’m not even sure it was her.”
“Of course, it was her, you said yourself that you recognised her style.”
“But I still don’t understand.  Effie Deans was tweeting nearly all day. How could Jenny have been doing that on her own?”
“She has energy, I’ll give her that much.”
“Don’t you think it best to just leave them alone?”
“No, I don’t. I got a whole group to troll them. It would have really helped if you’d exposed her.”
“How could I do that? We were together for quite a long time. You don’t do that to people you’ve loved.”
“You still love her, don’t you?”
“No, Roisin, I think I’ve shown you all summer how I feel about you.”
“And yet you wouldn’t even do what I asked.”
“I just didn’t think it fair to send her a private message to try to find out who was tweeting. I wouldn’t like it if someone had done that to me.”
“It would have really helped us in the past couple of days. We could have said that Effie was a Tory, prim proper little girl with rich parents. It would have demolished her.”
“But she’s a person, Roisin, a rather nice person. A kind person.”
“It didn’t work anyway.”
“What didn’t work?”
“I sent her a message as you.”
“You did what?”
“Well, you weren’t willing to do it, so someone had to.”
“What happened?”
“I was blocked.”
“But she still thinks that I tried to spy on her?”
“What does that matter? You don’t love her.”
“I wish you hadn’t,” said Paul. “I really wish you hadn’t.”
“Anyway, you’ll be a long way away from her. Or perhaps you’d rather stay in Aberdeen to see if you can get her back.”
“Perhaps, I would.”
“You’re welcome.”
“Don’t let’s fight. We’ve done so much together and we’re going to win by 7 points. That’s one of the greatest turnarounds in political history.”
“I’m sorry. It’s been good having you around all summer. I really needed someone to sleep with. It helps with tension and relaxation, you know.”
“Yes, I do, but it’s been more than just that.”
“What else is there in the end?”
“It’s been good campaigning together.”
“It has.”
“And other things. We’ve shared other things.”
“Like your strange music and your long old books?”
She laughed, but somehow it didn’t seem very funny to either of them.
They drove on through the night and lapsed into silence. Somehow there didn’t seem much to talk about now that the referendum was finished. Paul nodded off for a bit. It was going to be a long night and he hadn’t slept very much for days. The whole day they had been organising the effort to get the vote out. They had so many people helping, they had so many cars ready to take people from the housing estates to the polls. And then, in the late afternoon, the best news of all had been sent to them from the party headquarters. They were going to win well. A poll had been specially commissioned and it said that they were going to win by 7 points. To think all that effort was going to pay off. He’d never met Alex Salmond, but he would tonight. They were among the special guests coming from all over Scotland to the party. They’d get there just before the first results started coming in.
Paul woke up and thought about what the next days would bring. Perhaps, there would be some sort of job offered. Where would he go? Perhaps, going to Glasgow wouldn’t be such a bad idea. He wondered about Roisin. She was very beautiful and very sexy, indeed. But he’d only really enjoyed her and it seemed now that she’d only ever really enjoyed him. They had little to talk about beyond the referendum. Well, he’d stay with her for a bit. Why give up a good thing? They’d no doubt eventually reach a hotel room bed in Edinburgh and that was something to look forward to. But the result... He could hardly wait for the result. He’d seen some of the No voters on twitter. They were confident. What little did they know? What about Jenny? He wondered if she were staying up all night. He felt rather sorry for. She’d be hugely disappointed. But then she’d just have to accept the will of the majority. She would, he felt sure she’d do that. She’d always been fair and she was certainly a democrat. Perhaps, in time he’d try to contact her again. He had to give back her CDs at any rate. He might give her the new one that he’d bought. It was Ligeti’s Etudes. He’d bought it pretty much on a whim to hear what really contemporary classical music sounded like. It was amazing stuff. Why was he thinking about Ligeti on a night like this? Yet he couldn’t get the strange sounds out of his head.
As the car crossed the Forth road bridge it was getting on for one in the morning. He looked across at Roisin who was also sleeping. Yes, she was very beautiful, indeed, but he couldn’t help wondering about what she had tried to do to Jenny. He shook his head. Jenny had been wrong. He still resented how she’d written those articles using what he’d told her. It had made him feel foolish as he had been trying to persuade her and had thought he’d been succeeding. She was wrong in other ways too or at least mistaken. The things she’d been saying for the past few days were just convincing lies. With a Yes vote there would be time enough to show how these people were in error. Scotland was going to be a great new independent country. But everyone would have to be on board. Something must be done to bring the No voters round. He’d have to think of ways in which reconciliation could be achieved.
They were nearing the party venue. It would all be decked out, no expense would be spared. There would be everything that would be needed for a celebration none of them would forget. The first results would be due at two and the news would go round the world as it gradually became clear that Scotland was voting Yes. Alex would address the whole Scottish people in a few hours and tell them all to work together, to unite for the sake of the new country they had just voted to create. They’d have to be careful not to gloat too much, reconciliation was vital.  It would be funny to see the look on the faces of people like Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling and, above all, David Cameron. Paul felt a sudden wave of joy. Whatever the future held, he’d celebrate tonight with Roisin and their lovemaking would be quite something after this triumph they had helped to create.
“We’re nearly there,” he said nudging her.









Chapter 22

A month later, Jenny sat waiting in the Prince of Wales. She sat with a pint of 80 shilling and ignored the amused glances cast in her direction. She didn’t have long to wait and soon she saw Paul approaching.
“It’s been a long time,” he said.
“I know. I wanted to say sorry to you for using your ideas.”
“It’s a long time ago. Shall we forget it?”
“But I upset you. I hurt you.”
“I imagine I did the same. I’ve wanted to return the CDs you lent me for a while. But it’s been hard to track you down.”
“I know. I moved. The flat’s let to some people through an agency.”
“They didn’t even know who you were.”
“I’ve never met them.”
“Where are you now?”
“I live in the country. About fifteen miles from here.”
“You live with Effie?”
“Yes, and her husband Petr. We’ve become close, almost like family and this way I get to talk Russian every day.”
“How are you doing with that?”
“Oh, pretty well. I still read fairly slowly, but I can chat away. What are you doing yourself?”
“I’ve got a job in a supermarket. It’s not ideal, but it’s paying the bills.”
“You moved, too.”
“How did you know?”
“I tried giving you a call a few days after the referendum. I wanted to offer my commiserations.”
“Thanks, Jenny. That’s kind of you. How did you find out where I was?”
“I called your parents.”
“Oh!”
“Why the big secret? Because they’re from England?”
“You could hear that, of course. It’s not something I’ve tended to advertise.”
“When did they move here?”
“I was about five. I hardly even remember living in England. I remember I was given a bit of a hard time as a child about my accent. The thing that everyone thought was the greatest thing on earth I didn’t have.”
“What was that?”
“Being Scottish.”
“But you are Scottish. You fought for Scottish independence. Who can say you’re not?”
“I know that. But a lot of people don’t think it quite the same if you were not born here or if your parents don’t come from here.”
“That’s silly.”
“I know. We don’t choose our politics. They choose us. I understand things a bit better I think. I believe what I believe because of a set of circumstances, you because of a different set of circumstances.”
“Oh, I think there’s a place for thought as well. Why did you choose to stay in Aberdeen?”
“That chose me as well.”
“How so?”
“Well, I ended up on the morning of the 19th with nowhere much else to go. There was a bit of row when the celebration party turned out rather differently than hoped.”
“Please, tell, so long as it’s not anything secret.”
“I don’t see how there could be any secret now. Roisin started blaming me.”
“For what?”
“Well, she’d wanted me to attack the Effie Deans twitter account, she’d wanted me to find out if it was you who was behind it.”
“I remember someone did send a message”
“It was Roisin.”
“We just blocked it. No big deal.”
“Well, Roisin thought my scruples had damaged us.”
“But I don’t think we made that much of a difference. There were thousands of others.”
“Maybe she just wanted to pick a fight. Anyway, she went off with someone else and they went to the hotel room booked for us. I got the first train back to Aberdeen.”
“I’m sorry.”
“I was stupid, Jenny. She even called me an English bastard when I tried to discuss things with her. The sentence involved a word beginning with F, too.”
“Did you listen to the CDs?”
“Yes, I did and I grew to like them all. I’ve also been reading some more Dostoevsky.”
“Which one?”
“Crime and Punishment.”
“What do you think?”
“It’s tough going but I like it. It’s a challenge, but worth it.”
“Which CD did you like best?
“I’m beginning to appreciate all of them in their own way. Perhaps, the Charles Ives helped me the most”
“And Messiaen?”
“There is something there that I glimpse. I need to listen to some more. I’ve already bought a couple more of his CDs. He’s difficult and it is like a new language. I’m still learning.”
“We’re all still learning.”
“I bought you something to say ‘thank you’ for lending me them.”
“That’s very kind of you, but it wasn’t necessary.”
He gave her a little bag with CD in it. It was Ligeti’s Etudes.
“Do you know them?”
“No, but I’ve heard they’re extraordinary.”
She reached across in a way that had been automatic and gently hugged him and kissed him on the cheek.
“Jenny, can you forgive me?” he said.
“I forgave you as soon as I received your e-mail, or almost as soon as that. Perhaps, a couple of days later.”
“I thought you might have replied.”
“There isn’t much point arguing about these things.”
“I’d like to try again.”
“It’s too early for me to tell.”
“Why? What’s happened?”
“Well, I met someone in Russia.”
“You’re going out with him?”
“No. We’re friends. Perhaps, a little more than that, but nothing has been said. I’ve never kissed him or anything like that.”
“Russia’s a long way away. I’m right here.”
“He’s coming here for a visit.”
“To see you?”
“No, to see his uncle and aunt and also to see me.”
“Do you want to be with him?”
“I don’t know yet. I’m going to need to find out. We’re similar.”
“And me? You remember what it was like when we were together. I miss you, Jenny. I miss the times we had.”
“I do, too. Those times will always be special to me.”
“Then let’s bring them back. You only need to say the word.”
“I’m very tired, Paul. That last two weeks I gave everything I had. I don’t want to continually fight old battles. There was too much that we didn’t dare talk about. There was too much about which we had to keep silent.”
“I don’t want to fight old battles either. I thought we’d won. I knew we’d won. I got the shock of my life when it turned out we’d lost. I just want to move on with my life now.”
“That’s good to know. I can’t make any promises. I was hurt very deeply by what happened in July. I was thinking of our wedding night and hoping it would be soon. I thought it would be forever and then I wake up one morning to find it all gone.”
“I’d marry you tomorrow, Jenny.”
“We’re going to need a little bit more patience than that, Paul.”
“Nothing’s really changed since when you left.”
“Everything has changed. You went through it. Our country needs to heal. So do we. Why don’t you come out to Effie’s one day next week?”
“Will your Russian friend be there?”
“Yes, but there’ll be enough of us who can translate. You’ll like him.”
“I’m not sure I will if he has designs on you.”
“We’re all just going to be friends for a while and see what happens.  But remember, I’m someone who loves only once.”
“It will be nice to meet Effie Deans. I tried to find her in the department but nobody knew who she was. I’d hoped to find you through her.”
“I heard that. Hardly anyone does know her by that name. She uses a Russian first name and she has Petr’s surname or the female form of it. I sometimes use a Russian first name, too.”
“Why do that?”
“Well it’s easier for them to say Zhenya than Jenny and it’s near enough the same.”
“That’s rather nice.”
“It’s short for Evgenya.”
“Now just remember, Jenny, you’re not Russian. You’re Scottish.”
“We shall see,” said Jenny smiling at her friend enigmatically.

1 comment:

  1. Obviously not a rattling good yarn, but, again, would have benefited from some rigorous editing. Would it, we ask ourselves, have come across better in the original Russian?

    ReplyDelete