Watching me watching them watching you

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  • Published 20040302
  • ISBN: 9780733313868
  • Extent: 268 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

I SPENT THE first of my teenage years living in the grounds of an approved school, a place that faced onto a ruined castle said to have given a night’s shelter to Mary Queen of Scots. The fleeing queen was never there at all but people preferred to think she had never left: every castle in Scotland seeks to have its part in Mary’s story and her eyes were felt to burn through the night from a high window. Looking at the ruins, I always hoped that Mary would just speak some of her great last words from the darkness; I believed she was there and that something of us all was there in those eyes of hers that seemed to make a ritual of watching.

The school was full of delinquent boys from Glasgow and what I remember most about them is the sheer depth of their wish to be remembered, not to fade into the shadows of a system they couldn’t properly see or understand. Sometimes I would meet them when I parked my bike at the edge of the playing fields; the boys were pale, nervous, often tearful, and they looked into the orange blur of the housing estate behind the castle as if contemplating one of the world’s grand promises. “They can’t forget me,” one of them said, the red-ash pitch blazing under our sandshoes.

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About the author

Andrew O’Hagan

The ebullient Scottish writer Andrew O'Hagan is best known for his fiction. He has written three novels: Our Fathers, Personality and Be Near Me which have all won...

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