Precious Ramotswe had learned about good and evil at Sunday School. The cousin had taken her there when she was six, and she had gone there every Sunday without fail until she was eleven. That was enough time for her to learn all about right and wrong, although she had been puzzled - and remained so - when it came to certain other aspects of religion. She could not believe that the Lord had walked on water - you just couldn't do that - nor had she believed the story about the feeding of the five thousand, which was equally impossible. These were lies, she was sure of it, and the biggest lie of all was that the Lord had no Daddy on this earth. That was untrue because even children knew that you needed a father to make a child, and that rule applied to cattle and chickens and people, all the same. But right and wrong - that was another matter, and she had experienced no difficulty in understanding that it was wrong to lie, and steal, and kill other people.
[Chapter 3, Lessons about Boys and Goats, p. 33-34]
"Perhaps he is seeing another woman," ventured Mma Ramotswe.
The woman had looked at her aghast.
"Do you think he would do that? My husband?"
They had discussed the situation and it was agreed that the woman would tackle her husband on the subject.
"It's possible there is another explanation," said Mma Ramotswe reassuringly."
"Many men wear perfume these days," offered Mma Makutsi. "They think it makes them smell good. You know how men smell."
The client turned in her chair and stared at Mma Makutsi.
"My husband does not smell," she said, "He is a very clean man."
Mma Ramotswe had thrown Mma Makutsi a warning look. She would have to have a work with her about keeping out of the way when clients were there.
[Chapter 7, Mma Makutsi Deals with the Mail, p. 82-83]
She stopped. It was time to take the pumpkin out of the pot and eat it. In the final analysis, that was what solved these big problems of life. You could think and think and get nowhere, but you still had to eat your pumpkin. That brought you down to earth. That gave you a reason for going out. Pumpkin.
[Chapter 7, Mma Makutsi Deals with the Mail, p. 84]
[Chapter 20, Medical Matters, p. 193]
From Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith (Abacus [imprint of Time Warner] 2003):
"But water is the most important thing of all," said Mr J. L. B. Matekoni. "If you can't water your vegetables, then what are the children going to eat?"
"God will provide," said Mma Potokwani calmly. "He will send us a new engine one day."
"Maybe," said Mr J. L. B. Matekoni. "But then maybe not. God is sometimes not very interested in engines. I fix cars for quite a few ministers of religion, and they all have trouble. God's servants are not very good drivers."
[Chapter 4, At the Orphan Farm, p. 42-43]
"And you shouldn't marry a trumpeter," added Mma Ramotswe. "I made that mistake. I married a bad man called Note Mokoti. He played the trumpet."
"I'm sure that they are not good people to marry," said Mma Tsbago. "I shall add them to my list."
[Chapter 6, A Dry Place, p. 65-66]
From Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith (Anchor Books [imprint of Random House] 2002):
Mma Ramotswe had listened to a World Service broadcast on her radio one day which had simply taken her breath away. It was about philosophers who called themselves existentialists and who, as far as Mma Ramotswe could ascertain, lived in France. These French people said that you should live in a way which made you feel real, and that the real thing to do was the right thing too. Mma Ramotswe had listened in astonishment. You did not have to go to France to meet existentialists, she reflected; there were many existentialists right here in Botswana. [...] It was very existentialist, perhaps, to go out to bars every night while your pregnant wife stayed at home, and even more existentialist to go off with girls -- young existentialist girls -- you met in bars. It was a good life being an existentialist, although not too good for all the other, nonexistentialist people around one.
[Chapter 7, The Girl with Three Lives, p. 77-78]
The students moved back. One of them now looked at the apprentice reproachfully.
"But that is not true," protested the young man. "I am not married."
"That's what all you men say," said one of the students, angry now. [...]
The apprentice started the car, tight-lipped, and drove off.
"You should not have said that, Mma. You made me look foolish."
Mma Makutsi snorted. "You made yourself look foolish. Why are you always running after girls? Why are you always trying to impress them?"
"Because that's how I enjoy myself," said the apprentice defensively. "I like talking to girls. We have all these beautiful girls in this country and there is nobody to talk to them. I am doing a service to the country."
[Chapter 15, What Do You Want to Do with Your Life?, p. 188-189]
From The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith (Abacus [imprint of Time Warner] 2004):
"It's nothing to do with ninety seven per cent," said Mr J. L. B. Matekoni. "You could get one hundred per cent for typing and still not know how to talk to men. Getting married is different from being able to type. Quite different."
[Chapter 1, How to Find a Man, p. 8]
Mma Makutsi smiled. "Only hard ideas make your head hurt. My ideas are always simple."
"I have simple ideas too," said the older apprentice. "I have ideas of girls. Those are my ideas. Simple. Girls, and then more girls."
Mma Makutsi ignored this, addressing her next remark to the younger apprentice. "There are many people wanting to learn how to drive, are there not?"
The younger apprentice shrugged. "They can learn. There are lots of bush roads for them to practice on."
"But that won't help them drive in town," said Mma Makutsi quickly. "There are too many things happening in town. There are cars going this way and that. There are people crossing the road."
"And a lot of girls," interjected the older apprentice. "Lots of girls walking about. All the time."
The younger apprentice turned to look at his friend. "What is wrong with you? You are always thinking of girls."
"So are you," snapped the other. "Anyone who says he does not think of girls is a liar. All men think of girls. That is what men like to do."
"Not all the time," said the younger one. "There are other things to think about."
"That is not true," the older one retorted. "If you didn't think about girls, then it is a sign that you are about to die. That is a well-known fact."
[...] The younger apprentice [...] turned to Mma Makutsi. "What will you call this driving school, Mma?"
"I have not thought about it," she said. "I will think of something. The name you give to a business is very important [...] The name says everything you need to know about the business."
The younger apprentice looked up at her hopefully. "I have a good idea for the name," he said. "We could call it Learn to Drive with Jesus."
There was silence. The older apprentice cast a glance in the direction of his friend, and then turned away.
"I am not sure about that," said Mma Makutsi. "I will think about it, but I am not sure."
"It is a very good name," said the younger apprentice. "It will attract a careful class of driver and it will mean that we have no accidents. The Lord will look after us."
"I hope so," said Mma Makutsi. [...]
[Chapter 2, Learn to Drive with Jesus, p. 24-26]
From The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith (Polygon [imprint of Birlinn Ltd] 2003):
"I've made you a cake," said Mma Potokwani brightly.
"You are a very generous person, Mma," said Mr J. L. B. Matekoni flatly. "You always remember that I like raisins."
"I have many more packets of raisins," said Mma Potokwani, making a generous gesture; as might one with an unlimited supply of raisins. She reached over to the plate and cut a large portion for her guest. Mr J. L. B. Matekoni watched her, and he thought: once I eat this cake I will have to say yes. But then he went on to think: I always say yes anyway, cake or no cake. What difference is there?
"Now," said Mma Potokwani, as she placed another, particularly generous, slice of cake on Mr J. L. B. Matekoni's plate. "Now, we can talk. Now I know you are a brave man, which I always suspected anyway."
"You must stop calling me that," he said. "I am no braver than any other man."
Mma Potokwani seemed not to hear. "A brave man," she went on. "And I have been looking for a brave man now for over a week. At last I have found him."
Mr J. L. B. Matekoni look down at his plate. He felt a strong sense of foreboding but he would eat the cake nonetheless while Mma Potokwani revealed whatever it was that she had in store for him. He would be strong this time, he thought. He had stood up to her not all that long ago on the question of the pump, and the need to replace it; now he would stand up to her again. He picked up the piece of cake and bit off a large piece. The raisins tasted even better now, in the presence of danger.
[Chapter 2, How to Run an Orphan Farm, p. 18-19, 23-24]
Mma Ramotswe nodded. "I do not think that it is a good idea. But I am not sure that I can forbid him. He is not a child."
"But you are his wife," said Mma Makutsi. "Or you are almost his wife. You have the right to stop him doing something dangerous."
Mma Ramotswe frowned. "No, I do not have that right. I can talk to him about it, but if you try to stop people from doing things they can resent it. I do not want Mr J. L. B. Matekoni to think that I am telling him what to do all the time. That is not a good start to a marriage."
"But it hasn't started yet," protested Mma Makutsi. "You are just an engaged lady. And you've been an engaged lady a long time now. There is no sign of a wedding." She stopped, realising that perhaps she had gone too far. What she said was quite true, but it did not help to draw attention to their long engagement and to the conspicuous absence of any wedding plans.
Mma Ramotswe was not offended. "You are right," she said. "I am a very engaged lady. I have been waiting for a long time. But you cannot push men around. They do not like it. They like to feel that they are making their own decisions."
"Even when they are not?" interjected Mma Makutsi.
"Yes," said Mma Ramotswe. "We all know that it is women who take the decisions, but we have to let men think that the decisions are theirs. It is an act of kindness on the part of women."
"So we should say nothing at the moment?" she said. "And then ..."
"And then we find a chance to say something very small," said Mma Ramotswe. "We shall find some way to get Mr J. L. B. Matekoni out of this. But it will be done carefully, and he will think he has changed his mind."
Mma Makutsi smiled. "You are very clever with men, Mma. You know how their minds work."
Mma Ramotswe shrugged. "When I was a girl I used to watch little boys playing and I saw what they did. Now that I am a lady, I know that there is not much difference. Boys and men are the same people, in different clothes. Boys wear short trousers and men wear long trousers. But they are just the same if you take their trousers off."
Mma Makutsi stared at Mma Ramotswe who, suddenly flustered, added quickly, "That is not what I meant to say. What I meant to say is that trousers mean nothing. Men think like boys, and if you understand boys, then you understand men. That is what I meant to say."
"I thought so," said Mma Makutsi. "I did not think that you meant anything else."
"Good," said Mma Ramotswe briskly. "Then let us have a cup of tea and think about how we are going to deal with this problem which Mma Holonga brought us the other day. We cannot sit here all day talking about men. We must get down to work. There is much to do."
Mma Makutsi made the bush tea and they sipped on the dark red liquid as they discussed the best approach to the issue of Mma Holonga's suitors. Tea, of course, made the problem seem smaller, as it always does, and by the time they reached the bottom of their cups, and Mma Makutsi had reached for the slightly chipped teapot to pour a refill, it had become clear what they would have to do.
[Chapter 8, Tea is Always the Solution, p. 91-93]
Mma Makutsi, of course, had another language tucked away in her background. Her mother had been a speaker of Ikalanga, because she had come from Marapong, where they spoke a dialect of Ikalanga called Lilima. That made life very complicated, thought Mma Ramotswe, because that meant that she spoke a minor version of a minor language. Mma Makutsi had been brought up speaking both Setswana, her father's language, and this strange version of Ikalanga, and then had learned English at school, because that was how one got on in life. You could never even get to the Botswana Secretarial College if you spoke no English, and you would certainly never get anywhere near ninety-seven per cent unless your English was almost faultless, like the English that schoolteachers used to speak.
Mma Ramotswe had almost forgotten that Mma Makutsi spoke Ikalanga until one day she had used an Ikalanga word in the middle of a sentence, and it had stuck out.
"I have hurt my gumbo," Mma Makutsi had said.
Mma Ramotswe had looked at her in surprise. "Your gumbo?"
"Yes," said Mma Makutsi. "When I was walking to work today, I stepped into a pothole and hurt my gumbo." She paused, noticing the look of puzzlement on Mma Ramotswe's face. Then she realised. "I'm sorry," she said. "Gumbo is foot in Ikalanga. If you speak Ikalanga, your foot is your gumbo."
"I see," said Mma Ramotswe. "That is a very strange word. Gumbo."
"It is not strange," said Mma Makutsi, slightly defensively. "There are many different words for foot. It is foot in English. In Setswana it is lonao, and in Ikalanga it is gumbo, which is what it really is."
Mma Ramotswe laughed. "There is no real word for foot. You cannot say it is really gumbo, because that is only true for Ikalanga-speaking feet. Each foot has its own name, depending on the language which the foot's mother spoke. That is the way it works, Mma Makutsi."
That had ended the conversation, and no more was said of gumbos.
[Chapter 15, Bad Men are Just Little Boys, Underneath, p. 157-158]
From In the Company of Cheerful Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith (Polygon [imprint of Birlinn Ltd] 2004):
"And what do men think about?" asked Mma Makutsi. "If they cannot think about shoes, what can they think about?"
Mma Ramotswe raised an eyebrow. "Men think about ladies a great deal of the time," she said. "They think about ladies in a disrespectful way. That is because men are made that way, and there is nothing that can be done to change them. Then if they are not thinking about ladies, they are thinking about cattle and cars. And some men think about football too. These are all things that men like to think about."
[Chapter 17, Mma Ramotswe, Mr J. L. B. Matekoni, and Mr Polopetsi Get an Unpleasant Surprise, p. 184-185]
From Portuguese Irregular Verbs by Alexander McCall Smith (Polygon [imprint of Birlinn Ltd] 2003):
"You can certainly call on old Sean," said the hotel proprietor. "But I can't guarantee your reception. He may speak interesting Irish, but he's an extremely unpleasant, smelly old man. Not even the priest dares go up there, and that's saying something in these parts."
Undaunted, Vogelsang led the way up the narrow, unused track that lead to Sean's cottage. At last they reached it and, carefully negotiating the ramble of surrounding pig-sties, they approached the front door.
Vogelsang knocked loudly, and then called out (in Old Irish): "We are here, Sean. I am Professor Vogelsang from Germany. And this young man is my assistant."
There was silence from within the cottage. Vogelsang knocked again, louder now, and this time elicited a response. A frowning, weather-beaten face, caked with dirt, appeared at the window and gesticulated in an unfriendly fashion. Vogelsang bent down and put his face close to the window so that his nose was barely a few inches from Sean, but separated by a pane of glass.
"Good morning, Sean," said Vogelsang, "We have come to talk to you."
Sean appeared enraged. Shouting now, he hurled words out at the visiting philiologists, shaking both fists at Vogelsang's face.
"Quick," said Vogelsang, momentarily turning to von Ingelfeld. "Transcribe everything he says. Do it phonetically."
As Sean continued to hurl abuse at Vogelsang, von Ingelfeld's pencil moved swiftly over the paper, noting everything that the cantankerous and malodorous farmer said. Vogelsang nodded all the while, hoping to encourage the Irishman to open the door, but only succeeding in further annoying him. At last, after almost three quarters of an hour, Vogelsang observed that the visit might come to an end, and with the echoing shouts of Sean following them down the hill, they returned to the hotel.
A further attempt to visit Sean was made the next day, and the day after that, but the visitors were never admitted. They did, however, collect a full volume of transcribed notes on what he shouted at them through the door, and this was analysed each evening by a delighted Vogelsang.
"There is some very rare material here," he said, poring over von Ingelfeld's phonetic notations. "Look, that verb over there, which is used only when addressing a pig, was thought to have disappeared centuries ago."
"And he used it in addressing us?" said von Ingelfeld wryly.
"Of course," snapped Vogelsang. "Everything he says to us is, in fact, obscene. Everything you have recorded here is a swear word of the most vulgar nature. But very old. Very, very old!"
[Chapter 3, Early Irish Pornography, p. 37-39]
From The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs by Alexander McCall Smith (Polygon [imprint of Birlinn Ltd] 2003):
Unterholzer had an immediate answer.
I should contact the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst," he said. I should tell them who I was and I should ask them to arrange a lecture somewhere in America. That is what they are paid to do."
"I see," said von Igelfeld. "That would no doubt save embarrassment."
"Of course," said Unterholzer. "They are experts in finding places for more German academics to go and lecture to other people, whether or not they want to hear them. They are very persuasive people. That is how I went to Buenos Aires and gave my lecture there. It really works."
[Chapter 1, The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, p. 10-11]
[Chapter 2, A Leg to Stand On, p. 23]
"What I mean," went on Unterholzer, "is that it takes a toll to be looking after a handicapped dog. There are so many things to worry about. Such a dog might become stuck in the mud, for example, if one's dog happens to have wheels, that is. Only yesterday I had to oil him. One does not usually have to oil a dog, I think."
[Chapter 3, On the Couch, p. 23]
From At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances by Alexander McCall Smith (Polygon [imprint of Birlinn Ltd] 2003):
Von Igelfeld looked at the manager, who nodded his agreement with Cinco Fermentaciones and made a quick, but eloquent, throat-slitting gesture.
"Outside is extremely dangerous," the manager said quietly. "The whole country is extremely dangerous."
"Surely not in the middle of the city," protested von Igelfeld. "Look, there are plenty of people outside in the streets."
"Yes," said Cinco Fermentaciones. "And most of them are extremely dangerous. Believe me, I know my own country. [...]"
"But who are these dangerous people?" asked von Igelfeld.
"Brigands, desperadoes, narcotraficantes, guerillas," began Cinco Fermentaciones. "Extortionists, murderers, anti-Government factions, pro-government factions, disaffected soldiers, corrupt policemen, revolutionary students, conservative students, students in general, cocaine producers, hostile small farmers, dispossessed peasants ... And there are others."
"Disaffected waiters as well," interjected the hotel manager. "We regularly receive bomb threats from a movement of disaffected waiters who attack hotels. It is very troublesome."
[At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances, p. 85-86]
From The Girl Who Married a Lion by Alexander McCall Smith (Canongate, 2005):
"We must leave somebody on guard," said Elephant. "Then that animal will be able to stop the water from being dirtied while we are off hunting."
It was agreed that Hyena would take on this task on the first day, and he was duly left there, while all the others went off in search of food. He sat in the shade of the tree and thought about things that hyenas like to think about, which are not things that you and I would understand.
[Tremendously Clever Tricks are Played, but to Limited Effect, p. 171]
From The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith (Pantheon [imprint of Random House], 2004):
"But might one not equally say that the emotions have a role in developing our higher capacities?" Isabel had countered. "Our emotions allow us to empathise with others. If I love another, then I know what it is to be that other person. If I feel pity -- which is an important emotion, isn't it? -- then this helps me to understand the suffering of others. So our emotions make us grow morally. We develop a moral imagination."
"Perhaps," Cat had said, but she had been looking away then, at a jar of pickled onions -- this conversation had taken place in the delicatessen -- and her attention had clearly wandered. Pickled onions had nothing to do with moral imagination, but were important in their own quiet, vinegary way, Isabel supposed.
[Chapter 4, p. 46]
[Chapter 14, p. 140]
"I suppose," said the barman. "But you never know."
Isabel had returned to her table. You never know. Of course you never know. Anything could happen in this life. Here she was, the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics, about to go off in search of ... of a murderer is what it amounted to. And in this task she was to be assisted, although somewhat reluctantly, by a beautiful young man with whom she was half in love but who was himself in love with her niece, who in turn appeared besotted with somebody else, who was having a simultaneous affair with his sister's flatmate. No, the barman certainly did not know, and if she told him he would scarcely believe it.
[Chapter 15, p. 142]
Isabel smiled. "Unmoved," she said. "They feel unmoved. Look at a cat when it does something wrong. It looks quite unmoved. Cats are sociopaths, you see. It's their natural state."
"And is it their fault? Are they to blame?"
"Cats are not to blame for being cats," said Isabel, "and therefore they cannot be blamed for doing the things that cats do, such as eating garden birds or playing with their prey. Cats can't help any of that."
"And what about people like that? Can they help it?" asked Jamie.
"It's very problematic whether they are to be blamed for their actions," said Isabel. "There's an interesting literature on it. They might argue that their acts are the result of their psychopathology. They act the way they do because of their personality being what it is, but then they never chose to have a personality disorder. So how can they be responsible for that which they did not choose?"
[Chapter 16, p. 158-159]
"Which people often aren't," said Isabel.
Peter smiled. "You can work round that. Most people can become reasonable even if they aren't in the beginning."
"Except for some," Isabel had persisted. "The profoundly unreasonable. And there are quite a few of those, quick and dead. Idi Amin and Pol Pot, to name two."
Peter reflected on her turn of phrase. Who still spoke of the quick and the dead? Most people had lost that understanding of "quick" and would look blank if they heard it. How typical of Isabel to keep a word alive, like a gardener tending to a feeble plant. Good for Isabel.
"The irretrievably unreasonable tend not to run businesses," he said, "even if they try to run countries. Politicians are different from businessmen or company people. Politics attracts quite the wrong sort of person."
Isabel agreed. "Absolutely. All those overgrown egos. It's why they go into politics in the first place. They want to dominate others. They enjoy power and its trappings. Few of them go into politics because they want to improve the world. Some might, I suppose, but not many."
[Chapter 19, p. 177-178]
From Friends, Lovers, Chocolate by Alexander McCall Smith (Little Brown [imprint of Time Warner], 2005):
[Chapter 5, p. 44-45]
[Chapter 6, p. 52]
[Chapter 14, p. 146-147]
Isabel looked out of the window. It was mid-morning and they were sitting in her study, the tang of freshly brewed coffee in the air. Outside, on the corners of her lawn, the weeds had begun to make their presence increasingly obvious. She needed several hours, she thought, several hours which she would never find, for digging and raking. One must cultivate one's garden, said Voltaire; and there, he said, is happiness to be found rather than in philosophising. She thought for a moment of the juxtaposition of philosophy and the everyday: zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance had been an inspired combination for its moment, but there might be others, as novel and surprising. "Voltaire and the control of weeds," she muttered.
"Voltaire and ... ?" asked Ian.
"Just musing," said Isabel. "But in answer to your question: It's much the same as being anything else. You carry your profession with you, I suppose, in much the same way as a doctor or, I should imagine, a psychologist does. You see the world in a particular way, don't you? As a psychologist?"
Ian followed her gaze out into the garden. "To an extent," he said, but sounded doubtful. "Being a philosopher, though, must be rather different from being anything else. You must think about everything. You must spend your time pondering over what things mean. A somewhat higher realm than the rest of us inhabit." [...]
"It's much more mundane and everyday than you would imagine," she began. [...]
Ian nodded. "I see. Well, that's a little bit disappointing. I imagined that you spent all your time pacing about trying to work out the nature of reality - wondering whether the world outside is real enough to take a walk in. That sort of thing."
Isabel laughed. "Sorry to disabuse you of such amusing notions. No. But I must admit that my calling - if I can call it that - sometimes makes life a little difficult for me."
This interested him. "In what way?"
"Well, it's mostly a question of duty," Isabel said. She sighed, thinking of her demons; moral obligation was the real problem. This was the cross she bore, the rack on which she was obliged to lie - even the metaphors were uncomfortable.
"I find myself thinking very carefully about what I should do in any given situation," she went on. "And it can get a little bit burdensome for me. In fact, sometimes I feel rather like those unfortunate people with OCD - you know, obsessive compulsive disorder; of course you know that, you're a clinical psychologist - but I sometimes think I'm like those people who have to check ten times that they've turned the oven off or who have to wash their hands again and again to get rid of germs. I think I can understand how they feel."
[Chapter 15, p. 157-159]
[Chapter 18, p. 219]
[Chapter 21, p. 254-255]
From The Right Attitude to Rain by Alexander McCall Smith (Little Brown [imprint of Time Warner], 2005):
[Chapter 1, p. 7]
[Chapter 1, p. 11]
He was right, she thought. It was easy to be moral when that was the way you felt anyway. The hard bit about morality was making yourself feel the opposite of what you really felt. That was where credit was deserved.
[Chapter 2, p. 24]
[Chapter 3, p. 31]
"Does it matter?" she asked Jamie. "Does it matter if one loves somebody who doesn't love one back? Do you think that it makes a difference?"
He looked up at her. "Of course it does. It's sad!"
"Sad?" she mused.
"Yes," he said. "It's like ..."
She raised an eyebrow. "Like what?"
"Like talking to somebody who isn't listening," Jamie said. "Yes, that's what it's like."
Isabel thought about that for a moment. "Is it because one can't share the feeling of love? Is it like having dinner all by oneself?"
[Chapter 3, p. 33-34]
[Chapter 4, p. 53]
[The only reference I can find to 'Open then our hearts' comes from an old hymn, "Being of Beings", No. 654 in the Methodist Hymnal - 1889 Edition -- Fred]
"And it's true," said Isabel. But then she remembered a conversation with a German friend, Michael von Poser, on one of his visits. He was a prominent German conservationist who believed that old buildings should be left to age gracefully. "And if your ceiling should fall down," he had said to Isabel, a twinkle in his eye, "then you have lost a room, but gained a courtyard. Think of it that way."
[Chapter 10, p. 97]
[Chapter 11, p. 108]
Of course that was a long way from looking through the plate-glass window of a rug shop, but salesmen knew full well that once you engaged your customer in that personal bond, then the chances of their feeling obliged to buy were all the greater. Rug salesmen in Istanbul in particular understood that; their little cups of coffee, half liquid, half sludge, offered on a brass tray, were intended not only as gestures of traditional hospitality, but also as the constituents of a bond between vendor and client. So, as Isabel retreated from the window and looked fixedly down the street, she felt the tentative bonds snapping like overstretched rubber bands. And then she was free,
[Chapter 11, p. 110]
Isabel thought. Were there not atheists who were just as capable of giving love and support as others? And might not it be better to die in doubt, if that had been one's condition in life? "I know some very sympathetic non-believers," she said. "I don't think we should discount them."
"Maybe," said Florence. "But there's nothing in the atheist's creed that says that he must love others, is there?"
Isabel could not let this pass. "But he may have every reason! Even if you do not believe in God you may still think it very important to act towards others with generosity and consideration. That's what morality is all about."
Florence's eyes lit up. "Yes," she said, "morality - the ordinary variety - says that you shouldn't do anything to hurt others. But I'm not so sure that it tells you to go further, to love them." She thought for a moment. "And surely most people are not going to make the effort to love others on the basis of some theory, are they? I know that I wouldn't. We have to learn these things. We have to have them drummed into us."
"The moral habits of the heart," mused Isabel.
"Yes," said Florence. "And religion is rather good at doing that, don't you think?" She turned round and began to pour the hot water into the cafetière. "Anyway, I don't know how we got into that! You didn't come here to discuss theology with me, did you?"
[Chapter 11, p. 113-114]
[Chapter 11, p. 119-120]
[Chapter 14, p. 150-151]
Mimi laughed at this. "Isn't that the same as country and western?" she asked. "All those songs about unfaithful women and faithful dogs."
[Chapter 16, p. 117]
From The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith (Polygon [imprint of Birlinn Ltd] 2007):
It was the same with his trousers. Mma Ramotswe kept a general watch on the generously cut khaki trousers that her husband wore underneath his work overalls, and eventually, when the trouser legs became scuffed at the bottom, she would discreetly remove them from the washing machine after a final wash and pass them on to the woman at the Anglican Cathedral who would find a good home for them. Mr J.L.B. Matekoni often did not notice that he was putting on a new pair of trousers, particularly if Mma Ramotswe distracted him with some item of news or gossip while he was in the process of getting dressed. This was necessary, she felt, as he had always been unwilling to get rid of his old clothes to which, like many men, he became excessively attached. If men were left to their own devices, Mma Ramotswe believed, they would go about in rags. Her own father had refused to abandon his hat, even when it became so old that the brim was barely attached to the crown. She remembered itching to replace it with one of those smart new hats that she had seen on the top shelf of the Small Upright General Dealer in Mochudi, but had realised that her father would never give up the old one, which had become a talisman, a totem. And they had buried that hat with him, placing it lovingly in the rough board coffin [...]
[Chapter 1, A Very Rude Person, p. 5]
[Chapter 9, The Understanding of Shoes, p. 107]
"These are very fine beds," she observed, reaching out to feel the texture of the velvet headboard. "A person would sleep very well in a bed like that. And there is a lot of room, too."
It was a potentially indelicate reference, at least in its last part, to the fact that these beds would accommodate both husband and wife in comfort; the sort of reference which, if made by an engaged woman to her fiancé, might be interpreted as a hint. Phuti Radiphuti and Mma Makutsi did not live together, and both had their own bed. This was Phuti's doing, and indeed Mma Makutsi had been slightly concerned that he had not been more passionate, so far. But that would come, she thought, in the fullness of time, and in the meantime there were plenty of matters to attend to without worrying about such things. As Mma Ramotswe had once delicately pointed out to Mma Makutsi, far too many people were permanently miserable because they allowed love affairs and everything that went with such things to dominate their lives. It is only one thing, she said, that business between men and women, and there are many other more important things, including food.
[Chapter 4, An Uncle with an Unsophisticated, Broken Nose, p. 44-45]
They drove down the road through the welcome deluge, travelling slowly for the puddles and sheets of water that were forming so quickly. The tiny white van, valiant in every sort of condition, ploughed through the water like an albino hippo, while its windscreen wipers swept backwards and forwards, making it possible, just, to see a few yards ahead through the downpour. But then, as if overcome by the sheer effort of pushing aside so much water, the wipers collided with one another and became stuck. Immediately Mma Ramotswe and Mr Polopetsi were as if shrouded in a completely impenetrable mist.
[Chapter 6, A Chair in a Tree, p. 87-88]
Mma Mapoi seemed relieved. "It would be better that way," she said. "My friend never wanted her daughter to know. I am sure of that."
"Then we can respect her wishes," said Mma Ramotswe. "It is always better to respect the wishes of somebody who is late."
"Oh, yes," said Mma Mapoi. "That is much better. Otherwise they might punish us from up there."
Mma Ramotswe sipped at her tea. "Possibly," she said. But there was disbelief in her voice; she did not think that those who were late, or the ancestors themselves, would wish punishment upon us, no matter what our transgressions. It was far more likely that there would be love, falling like rain from above, changing the hearts of the wicked; transforming them.
[Chapter 11, A Conversation about the Past, p. 151-152]
From The Careful Use of Compliments by Alexander McCall Smith (Little Brown [imprint of Time Warner], 2007):
Isabel studied the painting intently. It was the expression on the man's face that interested her. This was a man who knew hardship, but was not bowed by it. And there was a kindness too, a gentleness that was sometimes squeezed out of those who wrested their living from a hard place - the sea or a windswept island.
[Chapter 1, p. 13]
"Something seemed to be bothering him this morning," said Grace. "He was all niggly and he wouldn't settle. Girned a lot. Then he became a bit better. I gave him some gripewater."
Isabel stayed where she was, bent over the pram, her face just above Charlie, but she looked sharply at Grace. "You gave him gripe-water," she said evenly. "And?"
"And it did the trick," said Grace. "No more girning. Well, no more after about ten, fifteen minutes."
Grace used the Scots word girn, which Isabel always thought so accurately described the sound of a child's crying. But it was the gripe-water that concerned her. "I didn't know we had any gripe-water," she said. And then, straightening up, she continued, "We don't, do we? We don't have it."
"I bought some," said Grace. "A few weeks ago."
Isabel walked round the side of the pram. "And he's had it before?" she asked.
"Yes," said Grace. "Quite a few times. It really is effective."
Isabel took a breath. She rarely felt angry, but now she did, aware of the emotion welling up within her - a hot, raw feeling. "But gripe-water contains gin, doesn't it? For God's sake. Gin!"
Grace looked at her in astonishment. "Not any more! It used to, I believe. I had it when I was a child, my mother told me. She said that she would take a swig or two herself as well. But that's years ago. You know how fussy people are these days."
[Chapter 5, p. 62-63]
"But he could --"
"Yes, he could," said Isabel. "He could stop us in our tracks. That poem about the island funeral makes the hairs on the back of one's neck stand up." She paused and remembered. "I went to one once, you know. An island funeral. An aged cousin of my father's who had married into a family on South Uist. They were Free Presbyterians and there were no prayers. All those dark-suited men standing in a huddle, and the coffin left outside. They sang psalms, those strange Gaelic psalms, and then they went and buried her in silence with rain coming in from the Atlantic, nothing heavy, just soft rain. And that light. The same light that's in that painting over there."
[Chapter 6, p. 74-75]
[Chapter 12, p. 152]
[The movement and noise of the ferry reminded Charlie of the womb? Ah yes, of course, those old-fashioned diesel-motor wombs. We shall never see their like again. -Fred]
"I'll try not to." She meant it, but somehow she knew at the same time that she did not. Can one want to do something and yet not want to do it? Of course you can, she told herself. Of course.
[Chapter 12, p. 161]
[Chapter 13, p. 164-165]
Jamie had looked at her and said, "That's a very strange remark, Isabel. You talk complete nonsense sometimes. Flights of fancy."
She had not minded. "I like to think about things," she said airily. "I like to let my mind wander. Our minds can come up with the most entertaining possibilities, if we let them. But most of the time, we keep them under far too close a check."
Jamie thought about this for a moment. He was trying to recall something rather funny that Isabel had started to say a few days earlier but had been cut off midstream by some protest from Charlie. [...]
Isabel frowned. "Drivers? Oh yes, somebody had mentioned a driver of ninety-three, which I thought was a little bit late to be in control of a car. I'm sure that one must be very wise at the age of ninety-three, but I'm not so sure about one's reactions at that stage. I think I suggested that one's car should become more and more grey as one gets older, which would warn people that one's reactions might be a little slow. They would be like learner plates when one's learning to drive - those are a warning too. So cars would be seen to turn grey, perhaps a little bit slowly, just as people's hair greys."
"And young men would be required to drive red cars?"
Isabel nodded her agreement. "Yes. Red cars would be a warning of the presence of testosterone. We need warning, you see."
"And at intersections the red cars would yield to the grey ones?"
"Of course," said Isabel. "Or that would be the rule in a wellordered society. Do you know that in Japan, young drivers have to give way to older ones? It can get quite complicated if one can't see the other driver too well and one can't work out whether he's older than you. I believe a certain number of accidents result from this confusion."
Jamie laughed. "Absurd. And completely untrue."
"Perhaps," said Isabel. "Absurd. But fun nonetheless."
[Chapter 15, p. 181-183]
"Whatever you call it. Yes, there. He's dug a great big hole and put the soil all over the lawn."
Isabel peered out of the window. The grass near the summerhouse certainly looked darker. "He must be thinking of a new burrow," she said. "Even foxes must have their plans for the future. Presumably they face the same sort of dilemmas that we do: renovate, or dig a new burrow."
Grace stared at Isabel with a look that was half disbelief, half scorn. "They don't think that way," she said after a while.
Isabel returned the stare, but did not say anything. The trouble with Grace, she thought, is that she is so literal. But that was the trouble with most people, when it came down to it; there were very few who enjoyed flights of fantasy, and to have that sort of mind - one which appreciated dry wit and understood the absurd - left one in a shrinking minority. Isabel remembered being at a conference at Christ Church in Oxford and sitting next to a Japanese woman over breakfast in the Great Hall. The Japanese woman, who was accompanying her husband, a philosopher, to the conference -- Kant for Our Times -- had suddenly turned to her and said, "I am so old-fashioned. I am a dodo."
The heartfelt comment had been triggered by the hall and its table lights, by its paintings of past masters and benefactors of the college, by the presence of what seemed like a quieter past, and Isabel had felt a surge of sympathy for the other woman.
"I am sure that there must be a club for dodos," she said. "The dodos' club. And it would meet in places like this."
The woman's eyes had widened, and then she had burst out laughing. "The dodos' club! That's so clever."
It was not very clever, thought Isabel, but for a moment there had been a sense of contact across cultures, of kindred spirits reaching out to one another. And that happened from time to time, when she met somebody who could look at the world in the same way, and see the joke. But not now, in this conversation with Grace about Brother Fox and the mess that he had made of the small rose bed.
[Chapter 17, p. 209-211]
[Chapter 19, p. 235]
From 44 Scotland St by Alexander McCall Smith (Abacus, 2005):
[Chapter 11, The Origins of Love and Hate, p. 31]
[Chapter 18, The Works of Melanie Klein, p. 48-49]
[Chapter 31, The Lothian and Borders Police Art Squad, p. 80-81]
[Chapter 34, On the Way to the Floatarium, p. 89]
[Chapter 49, Tombola Gifts, p. 127]
"I had set up a large canvas, you'll understand - I normally paint on a generous scale. But now, as I looked at this tiny crabbit man, sitting there in his clerical black suit and staring at me with a sort of threatening disapproval, I found that I sketched in a tiny portrait, three inches square, right in the middle of the big canvas. This just seemed to be the right thing to do. He was a small-minded man, in my view, and it seemed utterly appropriate to do a small portrait of him.
"We had several sittings. I didn't let him see what I was doing, you'll understand, and so he had no idea of the picture which was emerging in the middle of the canvas - a picture which set out to express all the sheer malice and narrowness of the man. I thought it was very accurate. I had boiled down his spirit and it came to a tiny half-teaspoon of brimstone. [...]
"It was during the third sitting [...] I went out of the studio to answer the telephone, and while I was out MacNicol took it upon himself to get up and have a peek at progress so far. [...]
"But as he left, he turned to face me and said: 'You will be sorry, Mr Lordie! You will find out what it is to incur the wrath of the Discontinued Brethren!' [...]
"What had happened, I was later told, was that he had pronounced some sort of Free Presbyterian fatwa on me. [...]"
[...] Pat was silent. Many people find it hard to know what to say to one who has just had a fatwa pronounced on him, and Pat was one of these. Words somehow seem inadequate in such circumstances, and any further enquiry tactless. It might help to ask: "Is it a temporary fatwa or a permanent one?" But Pat just shook her head in disbelief - not at the story, of course - but at the mentality of those who would pronounce a fatwa on another.
Angus Lordie sighed. "Still," he said. "One must not complain. Portraiture has its risks, and I suppose a dissident Free Presbyterian fatwa is one of them. [...]"
[Chapter 72,73, p. 202-204]
[Chapter 90, Poetry of the Tang Dynasty, p. 258]
From Espresso Tales by Alexander McCall Smith (Polygon, 2005):
"Perhaps socks dissolve," Bertie had suggested. "Or go down the plug hole."
"Possibly," said Irene. "But we must be rational, Bertie. These socks cannot disappear in the washing machine - they must get lost at some other stage in proceedings."
"But then they'd turn up," said Bertie. "And they don't, do they?"
"We shall have to leave the issue for the time being," Irene said firmly. "There is a rational explanation for everything, as you well know."
"Except missing socks," muttered Bertie.
[Chapter 26, Bertie's Idea, p. 84]
Matthew nodded. He wondered about her tone. Had she sounded a little bit dismissive? He was determined that he would not be condescended to by this woman, whatever her relationship with his misguided father was.
"Yes," he said, his tone becoming noticeably colder. "This is where I work."
"I hope you don't mind my dropping in like this," said Janis.
Matthew shrugged. "You're very welcome," he said, adding: "I might drop into your flower shop some time."
"Oh, please do," said Janis. "Any time at all." She cast an eye around her. "Not that we have much to interest you up there. Unless you're particularly keen on flowers."
"I don't mind flowers," he said. "In their place." It was an enigmatic remark, capable of interpretation at many different levels. In one reading, it suggested that one should not concern oneself too much with flowers; that there were better things to think and talk about. In another sense, it could be taken to mean that flowers should remain where they grew, and should not be picked. And in another sense altogether, it could be taken as implying that people who dealt in flowers should not take up with the fathers of those who dealt in pictures, especially when the father was considerably older than the florist.
[Chapter 79, At the Gallery, p. 260-261]
"No, I don't," said Angus.
Domenica saw that he meant it. "You should have told me," she said.
"But I didn't want to offend you. And I can't stand apple pie either."
Domenica frowned. "But why not tell me? You would just have wasted them. I would have gone away thinking that you would be enjoying my little offerings and all the time you'd be putting them out in the bin."
Angus shook his head. "I would not," he said defensively. "I would have given the sausages to Cyril, and I would have put the apple pie out in the garden for the squirrels."
"I will not have you giving my Crombie sausages to that dog of yours," said Domenica. "You presume on my friendship, Angus!"
"I didn't ask you to bring me sausages," said Angus peevishly.
"And I certainly shall not bring you any sausages in the future," said Domenica stoutly.
"Good," said Angus. "So, no sausages then."
They looked at one another reproachfully. Then Angus shrugged. "What are we to do about these sausages?" he said, gesturing to the package on the table. "I suppose you'd better take them back and eat them in Scotland Street."
"But I don't like sausages myself," said Domenica. "I can't stand them, in fact."
For a few moments they stared mutely at the package of sausages.
"Do you know anybody who would like them?" asked Domenica. "Any of your neighbours?"
"My neighbours would find it very strange if I started offering them sausages," said Angus. "We don't have that sort of relationship."
"I wasn't aware that there was any sort of relationship which permitted the giving and taking of sausages," said Domenica.
"Well, there is," said Angus. "You have to know people quite well before you start giving them sausages."
[Chapter 87, Domenica Takes Food to Angus, p. 287-288]
[Chapter 101, In the Bookshop, p. 331]
[...] "Yes," she said. "There was somebody like that [...] We wanted to prick him with a pin. [...]"
"Not surprising," said her father. "But it really doesn't help, you know. These people are impervious to that sort of deflation. They're psychologically tubeless, if I may extend the metaphor."
[Chapter 103, All Goes Well for Bruce, p. 336-337]
"Life was hard," said Pat, slitting open the packet of mushrooms.
"Yes," said Domenica. "And now here we are, descendants of those very people, opening packets of imported mushrooms." [...]
[Chapter 104, Preparing Dinner, p. 340]
From Love Over Scotland by Alexander McCall Smith (Polygon, 2006):
[Chapter 1, Pat Distraced on a Tedious Art Course, p. 1]
[Chapter 5, The Judgement of Neuroaesthetics, p. 16]
[Chapter 11, The Bears of Sicily, p. 33]
[Chapter 11, The Bears of Sicily, p. 35]
[Chapter 99, And Here's the Train to Glasgow, Again, p. 312]
From The World According to Bertie by Alexander McCall Smith (Polygon, 2007):
"Chennai," supplied James. "For some people it may be, and that's fine, but we're talking English, aren't we? And we have English words for certain places. Those words exist irrespective of what the poeple who live in the place in question may call it. So why change the name?"
He paused. "Take Florence," he said. "Would you ever say I'm off to Firenze? You would not, unless you were extremely pretentious, which you aren't. Or Milan. Who goes to Milano? And the French have Edimbourg and Londres. Would you insist on their using Edinburgh and London? No, you wouldn't. In fact, one can't insist that the French do anything -- everybody knows that.
"So I go to Bombay," he continued, "rather than to Mumbai, and I must say that when I'm there I find that most people I talk to say Bombay rather than Mumbai."
Domenica thought for a moment. There was a scrap of a poem coming back to her. What was it? Yes, that was it.
"Under Mr de Valera," she ventured inconsequentially, "Ireland changed herself to Eire / England didn't change her name / And is still called England just the same."
"What odd things one remembers," said James.
"But don't you think that it's a question of respect?" asked Domenica. "We went round the world giving names to places that already had their own names. This is a gesture - a sign that we respect the real identity of the places we named incorrectly."
James Holloway shook his head. "I don't think it reveals any lack of respect to call Naples Naples rather than Napoli."
Domenica looked up at the ceiling. There was a difference, she thought, but what exactly was it? "But we didn't impose Naples on the Italians. The name Naples was for our use, not theirs. We imposed Bombay on India. Now we are saying: we'll call you what you want us to call you. That's a rather different attitude, I think."
James picked up his coffee cup. "Of course, the names of whole peoples have been changed too. Remember the Hottentots? They've become the Khoi now, which means that the Germans will have to retire that wonderful word of theirs, Hottentotenpotentatenstantenattentäter, which means, as you know, one who attacks the aunt of a Hottentot potentate." He paused. "But I'm uncomfortable with the deliberate manipulation of the language. I think that we have to be careful about that. It's rather like rewriting history. We can't go back and sanitise things."
The subject now had to be changed. [...]
[Chapter 54-55, p. 183-184]
From The Unbearable Lightness of Scones by Alexander McCall Smith (Abacus, 2008):
Matthew showed his surprise. "I would have thought that she would have been married in a sleep little English village somewhere," he said. "In one of those places with an extraordinarily high murder rate."
Charlie laughed. "I see what you mean," he said. "But no. She got married here in Edinburgh. To her archaeologist husband. She said that an archaeologist was an ideal husband as the older the wife became the more interested he would be in her."
[Chapter 2, By the Side of the Bridal Path, p. 7]
[Chapter 20, Be Prepared for a Little White Lie, p. 65]
[...] "There, Bertie dear. Two spoons of sugar. And now I'll cook your mince and tatties. Look, there it is. That's your plate and that's mine. What shall we talk about while we're having dinner? Or should we just sit there, like real married people?"
[Chapter 37, Life Lines, p. 118-119]
"You have such sound judgement, my boy," Angus observed as he waited for the dog to finish. Then, both nature and artistic opinion satisfied, they crossed to the welcoming doorway of Glass and Thompson, where Cyril took up his position under Angus's table while his master ordered lunch.
[Chapter 50, Portrait of the Artist as a Surprised Man, p. 160-161]
From Bertie Plays the Blues by Alexander McCall Smith (Polygon Books, 2011, ISBN 9781846971884):
[Chapter 18, Measuring Up, p. 67]
The house in which this aunt lived was filled with chairs of varying degrees of discomfort, none of them designed to let the human form, in any of its known configurations, relax. Had the chairs been more accommodating, Stuart felt, then it is possible that his late uncle might have been able to concentrate sufficiently to solve the mathematical problem with which he wrestled; as it was, having something digging into one, he thought, above or below - some prominence or protuberance - was inimical to focused thought.
[Chapter 35, The Benefits of Brotherhood, p. 133]
[Chapter 49, On Being in the Right Place, p. 187]
From The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday by Alexander McCall Smith (ISBN 978-0-307-38707-3, Anchor Books, July 2009):
[Chapter 2, p. 14]
They both burst out laughing. "I can understand the view that Wagner's inherently ridiculous," Isabel said. "Even when the swans run on time."
[Chapter 3, p. 31]
From The Charming Quirks of Others by Alexander McCall Smith (Little Brown, 2010, ISBN 9781408702567):
[Chapter 2, p. 15]
Isabel doubted that. "There will always be another one, and another one after that. There'll be no shortage of wars, I'm afraid. Has there ever been?"
At least these wars seemed increasingly to be fought by volunteers, she reflected, which was some consolation, even if not very great; and it was not a consolation that stood examination, being based on the assumption that they were real volunteers. Poverty and limited options were powerful recruiting sergeants, and neither of those burdens was exactly voluntary.
[Chapter 13, p. 196]
"But if you serve them so quickly," Cat said, "then they won't buy anything else. Their eyes will have no time to linger on chocolate and other essentials."
"We could ask them whether they wanted any chocolate," suggested Eddie. "That's what they do in that place round the corner. They say: ‘Do you want a muffin this morning?' And you shake your head and they look all disappointed."
"I hate that," said Isabel. "I hate people asking me if I want something else. If I wanted it, I would have asked. And quite frankly, I think it's wrong in principle to implant muffin ideas in the minds of the public. For one thing, it undoes all the anti-muffin work of the government. They spend all that money on persuading us to eat healthy food and then along comes somebody asking whether we wouldn't like a muffin."
"What has the government got against muffins?" asked Eddie.
The discussion had proved inconclusive; Cat was aware of the fact that Isabel was unpaid for her help in the delicatessen, and you could hardly instruct somebody who was working for nothing, and who was, anyway, your aunt. So Isabel was left to serve coffee at the pace that she determined, and did so.
[Chapter 13, p. 196-197]
From The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds by Alexander McCall Smith, (Little Brown, 2012, ISBN 9781408704158):
[Chapter 7, p. 88-89]
[Chapter 8, p. 97-98]
[Chapter 8, p. 98]
[...] She returned to her earlier thoughts on the shocking attitude of the criminal towards his victim - it was the moral primal scene, to borrow the language of the Freudians: the realisation that people could treat others exactly like that - all the time, and with conviction. Whole nations said it to other whole nations. You do not matter. You do not count.
[Chapter 9, p. 108, 117]
"I don't like that boy," he said as he came into Isabel's study. Charlie was having a nap and Isabel was in the middle of a rare tidying session. There was so much paper, so many piles of books, that had she thought about it she too might well have decided to indulge herself in a bad mood. But in general, in the average marriage there is room for only one bad mood at a time and on that afternoon Jamie was there first.
[Chapter 16, p. 227]
From The Saturday Big Tent Wedding by Alexander McCall Smith (Little Brown, 2011, ISBN 9781408702598):
[Chapter 5, You Know a Girl Called Prudence?, p. 61-62]
From The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon by Alexander McCall Smith (Little Brown, 2013, ISBN 9781408704318):
[Chapter 8, He Was the Light of Our Lives, p. 125]
From Sunshine on Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith (Polygon Books, 2012, ISBN 9781846972324):
"People will love it," she said, It's such a statement."
"Of what?" Angus had asked.
"Of the fact that the marriage has definitely taken place," said Domenica. "It's not a piece of music that admits of any ... how should I put it? ... uncertainty."
"Maybe," said Angus. "It's the opposite of peelie-wersh, I suppose."
Domenica was interested. As with many Scots expressions, the meaning of peelie-wersh was obvious, even to those who had never encountered the term before. "And which composers would be peelie-wersh?"
"Some of the minimalists. The ones who use two or three notes. The ones you have to strain to hear. Thin music. Widor is richly textured."
[Chapter 1, Omert´, and Fascinators, p. 2]
[Chapter 1, Omert´, and Fascinators, p. 3-4]
[Chapter 2, Late Climbers, p. 5-6]
Stuart shrugged again. "If that's what they want ..."
"Oh, they can have whatever sort of invitation they want," said Irene, generously. "Embossed livers, if one has to be anatomical. It's just that there's this awful, cloying sentimentality about weddings."
[Chapter 8, Au Contraire, p. 30]
Bertie had reached a similar conclusion about dogs. By observing Cyril he had decided that there were certain things that dogs would do well to accept rather than to rail against. There was, for instance, the question of sticks: most dogs seemed to believe that sticks were in the wrong place in this world, and simply could not resist the temptation to pick them up in their mouths and deposit them elsewhere. Or, curiously enough, if one threw a stick, a dog would normally rush after it, pick it up, and bring it back to where it had been before. That, of course, rather disproved the theory, unless one took the view that the dog was not content to leave the stick in its new setting, and wanted to put it elsewhere, that elsewhere just happening to be the place where the stick had started from in the first place.
[Chapter 50, A Fiscally Responsible Boy, p. 193]
[...] "Mind you, he was all over the place, you know. What did Norman MacCaig say at his funeral? That on the anniversary of Macdiarmid's death each year Scotland should declare three minutes of pandemonium. What do you think of that?"
[Chapter 58, Big Lou Remembers MacDiarmid, p. 227-228]
From Bertie's Guide to Life and Mothers by Alexander McCall Smith (Polygon Books, 2013, ISBN 9781846972539):
Matthew looked at him sideways. What was Angus doing talking about wives in that way, when he had been married for months rather than years? And should one ever say the wife? It was such an old-fashioned expression, redolent of every cliché of the married state: the shrew of a wife, the wife who kept her husband on a short leash, the husband who is sair hodden-doon. Matthew thought of a friend of his father's, a man in his early fifties who, having always referred to the wife, after his divorce started referring to the girlfriend. Definite articles could be complimentary, as in the Chairman, or the Earl of Auchtermuchty, or the Pope, but they could also be sarcastic or derogatory, as in "There he is with the friend", there being no doubt but that the friend is not a good influence or had no right to be there.
[Chapter 10, The Definite Articles et cetera, p. 35-36]
And then it would arrive, and the man delivering it would get off his motorbike and take your dinner out of the insulated hot-box on the back of the bike and carry it into the house just as those armed guards deliver boxes of money to the bank. He would put it down on your table, and you would open the box and there would be your dinner. Not the healthy fare you were normally enjoined to eat, but a great, vivid pizza, oozing oil, a burst of colour, carrying with it a whiff of everything that you could not have but wanted so desperately. And the delivery man would get back on his motorbike and start it noisily; and the roar of the engine would be the sound of freedom, and the smell of the melted cheese would be the odour of happiness.
[Chapter 46, The Dear Green Place, p. 180]