A shot rang out across the glen

It has happened again: the vertiginous certainty of having for a moment ceased to inhabit reality and having moved instead into a fiction by a specific writer. Memorious readers will recall the visit to the public school of the Man from Maryport and the epiphanic certainty there that the Vicar was an impostor and that we were in fact in the first chapter of a Michael Innes. It’s happened again. Michael Innes again too, for that matter.
The Professor was entertaining a publisher this weekend, a jovial and agreeable man to whom he is already in hock for one dear little book not precisely written yet. For one reason and another (most of them to do with Brutish Airways) business spilled over into Saturday and so Publisher and Professor alike found themselves lunching with the dynamic and long-suffering Vice-Principal who is the Professor’s Boss. It ended up being easiest to meet at a hotel in Strathdon, well up into the hills.
Snowy Saturday and hard frost. Victorian sub-castle with a real ruined castle on the other side of the gorge. Blazing fires and no other guests. Snow piling up on the stone balustrades of the empty terraced gardens. Imported and rather camp Glaswegian waiting staff. Salmon, creme brulee: the usual and very nice too. The dynamic and long-suffering Boss informing us that he was a Sheriff as well as a jurist and so could issue warrants and carry out all manner of legal manoevers legally.
And over it all the aching sense not of unreality but of hyper-reality. A hallucinating sense that the proverbial shot was going to ring out over the snowy terraces at any second and that then the Boss would do something dynamic and legal and it would prove that the whole remote hotel was a front and that the real staff were being kept prisoner in the cellars. Then the chase, with obbliggato labradors. (The things of darkness were in the car waiting not especially patiently for their nice walk after lunch.)
None of it happened of course. Handshakes and civilities and a good deal of business done and then the Publisher and I wandered up a snowy and steep hill to look at a Pictish fort and then like the Duke of York (or his most sacred majesty King James the seventh, if you prefer) we wandered down again. In the sunset and the snow.

One Response to “A shot rang out across the glen”

  1. The Man From Maryport Says:

    I recently went out on a highly enjoyable date with an elegant violinist . . who turned out to be a near neighbour of the Vicar-Imposter. She was highly amused by my account of our having quite separately arrived at the certainty of his being an imposter, the real vicar being bound and gagged in a cloakroom of the vicarage . . . I rather think we might be seeing more of each other in the future.

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