visits to long remembered places, c


This picture shows my Aunt MAIRI getting into a taxi outside our housem DUNVEGAN, in the village of Kingsmuir, Angus afer a visit to us, waved off by my mother and me.   I AM about 6 years old.   Picture courtesy of Eugene Windsor.


I was born in Scotland in 1949 in the town of Forfar, Angus and I lived there for a few years until my parents bought a house in a nearby village called Kingsmuir, and we moved there. We left there when I was 8, and in the sixty years that have followed I have spent at most half an hour in Forfar, and never returned to Kingsmuir. But this year, staying in Edinburgh and tiring of the over-crowded city, the idea of finding that village, using Sat Nav appealed to me. So we set off North and were soon whizzing smartly through Fife, across the Tay Bridge and up into Angus. Just short of Forfar we got a road off saying Kingsmuir.

I was surprised at how flat and wide the fields were. The land was rich and prosperous. It is odd how your memory correctly remembers the scale and size of some of the buildings but does not have an accurate picture of others. Our house in Kingsmuir was a single story house built of stone and called Dunvegan by some previous owner. We had an enormous garden where my father kept bees, and chickens and a turkey cock which was vicious and used to attack my brother. I had planted a sycamore tree in the garden, but this was no longer there as the land had been sold off and houses built on it, The spectacular view down the valley was undisturbed though and the farmhouse where the farmer’s son lived who contracted to marry me when we grew up was still standing, likewise the wood with the wild cherries where the pigs lived. I had remembered all this in the correct scale, as was the length of the walk I took to school which was about ten minutes in length.

To my great surprise the school was still standing, (a ruin now) though I remembered it as being about twice the size it actually was. It had only two rooms, and they still had the fireplaces that held the stoves that kept us warm. Our teacher, a Miss Sorley (I thought at first she was Miss Sorry) was a pretty young woman. She used to send me into the big girls’ (and boys’) room to choose a reading book from their selection. I noticed that when she took us out on a nature walk, she looked very tired after she had lifted each child up to see into a bird’s nest with baby birds in it. When she left, the class gave her a tea set, in which (this was in the fifties) each cup was a different colour. I thought this was extremely stylish and there was born a love of ceramics which is still with me.

I also had my first encounter with The Bully and with a cooperative group while here. The bully was a fat, ugly girl with a squint, unflattering glasses, freckles and lank reddish hair who terrorised everyone. Although I had been born in the town only a few miles away, I was a stranger in the village and therefore a target. I looked at this unprepossessing specimen of girlhood and thought there was no way I was going to put up with meddling from her. I concealed my resentment however and waited my opportunity. The bully was tough and strong – I would come off the worst in any fight, so cunning was called for. One day we were throwing bean bags to one another. I waited until it was my turn to throw to the bully and then I flung the bean bag with all my might, straight in her face. She doubled over, bellowing. Immediately I called out to the teacher, Oh miss, I’ve made a mistake in throwing the beanbag and it’s hit poor Muriel in the face and she’s hurt. I am so sorry! The teacher accepted my story, but the bully knew that I had hit her deliberately. I apologised profusely to her, but she knew I would keep up attacks on her if she did not desist. I had given her a face saving exit; so she graciously accepted my apology. She continued to be the bully, (I in no way challenged her) so long as she left me well alone, which she did. In the many schools I subsequently went to. The bully would come and have a look at me, think, Nah, and leave me unmolested.

Looking at our toilet block, I remembered something I had forgotten. It was a low building with a sloping roof. The school wall butted on to it. Children used to climb up on the school wall, scramble up the roof, and sit astride the apex, legs dangling. (Can you imagine reactions to this activity today?) Boys and tough girls could negotiate this unaided, but I needed to be pulled up to the highest point of the roof, and helped down. It was great fun sitting up high on the roof, (in reality it was not high at all) with the wind in one’s hair and a delicious sense of adventure and wrong doing. But I needed help from others – which was always forthcoming – and it taught me that although I believed as a tenet of faith that ultimately you had to walk alone, much could be accomplished by team work.

When it came the time to go, I left there without a backward glance, and I barely thought about that place again. From when I left there, I belonged to no place. But I can see, looking back on it, that Kingsmuir was a lovely village, and a good place to set out from on the long journey of one’s life.

About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

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