Claire had ended up in Glasgow through an emergency national recruitment of doctors, an unprecedented snowy winter hitting the Scottish National Health Service’s staff and resources hard. She had accepted the job offer willingly, pushed towards Scotland with the promise of hillwalking and a slower pace of life, driven out of London by exorbitant rents and fast-paced city living. That was what she told her new colleagues. She did not mention that man and their so-called relationship that had soured her love of red buses and the peculiar, unique smell of the Tube.
She had fallen in love with Glasgow easily. She adored her red sandstone tenement flat, with its broad bay windows and elegantly tiled hallway. She loved the way the sun set slowly at night (so much earlier than it had done in London), turning the broad expanse of sky from grey to tones of pinks and yellows. She had even developed a soft spot for Glaswegians, whose razor sharp wit, nosiness and impenetrable accent had initially baffled her.
She worked with a rotation of doctors and nurses who prized hard work, home-made soup, putting out their washing to air dry and charming the elderly patients in their care. They endlessly took the piss out of her English accent, teased her for being posh and easily included her in nights out and morning breakfasts, teaching her tidbits of Scots as they went.
One morning, Rupert’s description of a returning colleague intrigued her. ‘T-yoo-tch-er?’ she repeated after him, baffled.
‘He means anyone who lives more than ten miles away from Glasgow,’ explained Hamish, who had the misfortune of coming from Edinburgh and was thus subjected to the same teasing as Claire, only with slightly less friendliness.
‘Aye, ye ken, a big teuchter,’ put in Angus, adopting the most ridiculously over-the-top Scottish accent. ‘From away up in the Highlands, with the haggis and the sheep.’
‘You’re just jealous,’ said Geilis, lifting her eyebrows over the top of her dark-rimmed glasses to make a face at Claire.
‘Why would I be jealous of a teuchter?’ he said innocently. ‘He’s no very braw, is he?’
Dr Graham gave a most unladylike snort. ‘I don’t think there’s a nurse in here not in love with him.’
‘And more than a few doctors,’ added Geilis. ‘Beautiful,’ she mouthed at Claire, waving her hands for emphasis.
‘Oh aye. He’s just a six foot tall ginger,’ Rupert said dismissively. ‘Nothing to look at all.’
Geilis laughed as she grabbed a file and left the staffroom with a beeping pager.