…highly talented Authoress, Amy Hoff brings a beautifully-timed Guest Post for Valentine’s Day… I know yeez’ll enjoy this immensely :
A Glasgow Love Story
I moved to Glasgow, Scotland, five years ago. I had spent ten years studying Scottish history, culture, and literature, including the folklore that would become my main interest and passion. I had even attended university in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in order to learn Gaelic; Scottish universities are costly for international students, but I could afford to study in Canada.
I was accepted at Master’s degree level and finally able to move to Scotland, a dream of mine for over a decade. During this time, I had presided over countless Burns Night, Hogmanay, and even St Andrew’s Day celebrations in various towns and cities where I had lived. A drifter for many years, it was the one thing that stayed mysteriously constant in my otherwise inconstant life. I still view the American road as one of the only homes I will ever have.
Glasgow was a difficult place. Since I had not experienced anything like a windfall as yet, I was barely surviving. I wanted to study in Scotland so much that I was willing to starve in order to do so, but it hadn’t made things easy. No stranger to hardship, I put up with it, and accustomed myself to a lonely existence so that I could attain the degree I had worked so hard for.
I had joined a university combat society in order to make friends, and had attended one of my first meetings. During sword practice, I was impressed by one of my opponents who focused more on blocking than any offensive move. Since everyone wore fencing masks, I wasn’t able to see his face. After the exercise, my opponent took off his helmet and shook out a cascade of long, jet-black hair. I was startled as he was one of the most beautiful young men I had ever seen.
“You’re very good at blocking,” I said, and then, because I am forward, “and you’re very handsome.”
My opponent narrowed his eyes in suspicion, did not respond, and walked away.
I discovered a while later that in the UK, winding someone up often takes the form of insincere compliment, and that there aren’t many women who express interest in such a blunt fashion, but at the time I was merely puzzled by his reaction. I encountered him later on and asked what he was reading; he said “Why?” in a suspicious voice, and I replied, “Because that’s how you make friends?”
All in all, an inauspicious meeting.
Some days later, I walked into the student union building. This was one of the days in which I was having a very difficult time in Glasgow. I was caught in the rain, and soaking wet; my leather bomber jacket was destroyed and no longer zipped up, and I had no food or money. I looked miserable.
I sat down at the café and ordered one of their huge mugs of tea. I stared into it, thinking this was the very last of my money and I wasn’t certain where I would be finding more of it. Up til this point, I’d been surviving on the tea and biscuits our professors had blessedly decided were an important part of any group lecture. Dripping water onto the floor, with my hands finally warming to the tea in the mug, I am sure I presented an interesting picture.
Eventually I noticed there was someone standing next to me. I looked up, and there was the good-looking guy from the combat society, but now in his regular clothes. I say regular in that they were the clothes he normally wore, but this was the first time I’d seen it and it was anything but normal.
Long, black curls perfectly arranged over his shoulder, there stood this young man wearing a brocade tailcoat, a waistcoat, and turned-out cuffs with cufflinks. I’d never even heard of anything like it outside of a novel. He’s a selkie, was the very first thought in my mind.
“Pardon me,” he said, “Are you all right?”
I grinned without humour.
“Not really,” I said.
“Do you need to talk to someone?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“What is a good time for you?” he asked.
“Right now’s fine,” I said.
“Well,” he said, “I already have plans this evening, but give me your number and I’ll call you when I am free.”
I wrote my number down for him and he walked off. I didn’t expect to hear from him again; after all, this was the same person that had not responded to me only days before.
I finished my tea and went to the computer lab, to talk to my best friend about how perhaps Glasgow had been a mistake. After about an hour, my mobile phone buzzed.
“I have cancelled everything I was going to do tonight,” it said, “Do you still want to talk?”
So, I went. And we talked, for about seven hours, during which I also discovered that he was from a small Hebridean island called Islay and had grown up playing the bagpipes. His name was Alasdair, and afterwards anytime I described him to my friends, they would ask: Is this a real person or a character from one of your novels?
Some weeks passed, and I was standing outside the student union after we had gone to the pub with the combat society. We were all challenging each other to fight; I asked one of the Finnish guys, but he was done for the evening.
“I’ll fight you,” said a soft voice behind me, which I recognised as Alasdair’s.
Sure, I thought, this skinny kid?
So we started to fight, and a crowd gathered, taking photographs and cheering. I’d injured one of my legs in arming sword combat practice earlier that day, and while he kept trying to trip me up, he always aimed for the bad leg – until he got the other one, and I went down. So he won the fight, which ended with us hugging and smiling for the cameras.
We went back upstairs to get more drinks, where we encountered one of his friends who I hadn’t met before.
“So,” his friend said, “Is this your wench?”
The kind of stare Alasdair is capable of us difficult to put across in words, but withering is the closest one applicable.
“No,” he said, “this is my friend.”
As I turned away from the bar, I shook my head and muttered is this your wench and various things about misogyny and other related things, I heard Alasdair behind me speak under his breath so he thought I couldn’t hear.
“I should be so lucky,” he said quietly. I grinned.
We sat down at the table and I looked directly at him.
“You should be so lucky, huh?” I said.
I’ve not seen anyone blush so quickly in my entire life.
And that is how I earned the nickname Red Sonja, how I got the inspiration for Dorian Grey in the series Caledonia, and how I met my partner of five and a half years, Alasdair, the selkie prince of Islay, who restored my faith in and love of Scotland, and of Glasgow, one of the only places this drifter has ever thought of as home.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Amy Hoff is a Scottish folklorist and monster expert. She was born in northern Minnesota, but she has never really had a home, living on the road for most of her life. She first travelled the highways of the United States, and then the world. She was a streetfighter when she was younger, and is a bellydancer, a theatre director, a screenwriter, a model, and an actress. Caledonia, her first novel, will be available soon
…way to go, m’Lady, Amy, thanks for a terrific post… and for the rest of yeez, here’s some more glimpses of the mini series :
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