The charmingly imperishable regulars of 44 Scotland St. and environs have reason to wonder: “Was that what life entailed: not doing very much, and doing it every day, in the same place…?”
After announcing her intention of departing from Edinburgh to pursue graduate studies (and a barely concealed affair) with Dr. Hugo Fairbairn (A Time of Love and Tartan, 2018, etc.), Irene Pollock has finally decamped, leaving her spineless husband, Stuart, and her children, 7-year-old Bertie and baby Ulysses, weak-kneed with relief. Stuart takes the opportunity of his wife’s absence to pursue a chaste affair. But Bertie’s malevolent schoolmate, Olive, remains as actively present as ever, and her threat to expose a secret Bertie shares with his friend Ranald Braveheart Macpherson seriously complicates both boys’ lives. Finlay, another 7-year-old whom coffee bar owner Big Lou is fostering, turns out to be a ballet prodigy—which would be great news if Lou could only afford the expensive boarding school program his teacher recommends to her. Gallery owner Matthew Harmony is so determined to find a suitable man for his assistant, Pat Macgregor, that he fails to notice how trapped his wife, Elspeth, feels in Nine Mile Burn with the couple’s triplet sons. Bruce Anderson, the blandly self-absorbed twit who dumped Pat ages ago, deigns to accept the companionship of Jenny, a looker whose wealthy father owns a distillery. Anthropologist Domenica Macdonald, who once filched a Spode teacup from Antonia Collie, continues to run into her former neighbor, embarrassing moments that are only heightened by Antonia’s new flatmate, Sister Maria-Fiore dei Fiori di Montagna, who never met a situation she couldn’t dampen with a flat aphorism. Domenica’s husband, portrait painter Angus Lordie, descends into a frighteningly believable bureaucratic morass when he seeks to bury the dead cat he’s found. Spoiler alert: Most of these complications work out fine, and as for the ones that don’t, there’s always next year.
Fragrant, refreshing, and soothing as a cup of—well, you know what.