That evening we went for dinner to a friend’s house. I had met Andy; in fact he and his ex wife and their three sons had visited Minnesota years earlier—to shop at the Mall of America. They stayed at a hotel near the mall and had done nothing but shop.
It had been a bad trip, with several of them getting sick. Once they were all well, I picked up Andy and his wife and one son in my Mini and drove them around the Twin Cities.
“Oh my!” exclaimed the wife as we drove along Summit Avenue. Her Scottish accent made it difficult for me to understand her. “I had no idea there were houses like this here!” Andy is English so at one point I tactfully rephrased a question and asked it of him to get a clear answer.
These are typical houses in Bloomington, the burb where the Mall of America is located:
These are typical house on Summit Avenue, which runs six miles from the Mississippi River to downtown St. Paul.
I’m just sayin’. There’s more to America than the Mall of America. Mall of Gomorrah, as my mother calls it. At the Cathedral, I swung around and drove back along Grand Avenue, which is lined with non-chain stores an restaurants. I took them to the Walker Art Center sculpture garden and drove around the chain of lakes—Harriet, Calhoun, and Lake of the Isles—in Minneapolis.
Andy had been through seven-years of divorce hell and had come out the other side. He was now with June, a lovely Scottish lady, and she had just moved in with him. The house was called Bogairdy, and it’s a traditional but completely updated farm house. Bogairdy was 15 minutes from Dunrovin. The driveway seemed like it was half a mile long, and it was extremely narrow, rutted, and dark—I half expected a lion to run across our path, it felt so remote and of another place.
“We’re still trying to decide where to put all of our things,” Andy seemed to apologize. The place was spotless and neat as a pin. Whatever that means.
“It can’t be easy, combining two households when you’re in your 50s,” I replied.
“June brought all her plants,” Andy gestured to the front garden, which looked like an outdoor conservatory. I loved it.
“We’re trying to sell the place, but it could be a while,” June said. “It’s a special property.” If you’re in the market for a 5,158 square foot (479 square meters) farmhouse in the Scottish Highlands, here you go. It is beautiful.
We had olives and wine in front of the fire in the sitting room, then sat down to a feast. There must have been five courses, including a woodcock pie.
“Woodcock isn’t for everyone,” Andy said apologetically just as I began to chew. “It’s a bit gamey.” UGH. That was an understatement. It tasted a like liver to me, and that’s not good. I forced it down, smiled wanly, and quickly asked him to pass the wine.
I don’t recall what we discussed over dinner but it was lively. None of us talked about work, as would be standard in the US. And it’s not like we don’t have interesting jobs. Andy is an explosives expert and works in the oil industry. June does something in banking but what, exactly, never came up.
After we had done our best to demolish the cheese plate, which is the standard dinner-ender in the UK as opposed to dessert in the US, June and Andy cleared the dishes.
“Quick, come here!” we heard June calling in a hushed voice from the entryway.
Lynn and Richard and I hurried over and looked to where she was pointing. There was a young red fox prancing around the potted plants. The moon was shedding a shimmery light on the scene. “He comes every night,” June said. “We think he’s hunting moths drawn by the porch light.” We stood entranced for 15 minutes, watching him. Then the fox ran off, the spell was broken, and we said our good-byes and went home. It had been a very long but good day.