The young woman on my screen smiles and tells me to hold my passport up to the camera. A bit to the left, she says, so we can see your face, and yes, that’s all done now. She’s taking screenshots, and this is my HR interview. After all these years and all my hesitations and prevarications, St Andrews has me in the end, just when I can’t be there. For a month, though, I’m on the books.
She’s very nice, this young woman who’s sitting in her back room. She says she lives in Leuchars, and I think of the taxis that line up there in the station car park, and then of the trainline that used to run onwards from Leuchars to St Andrews and that closed in 1969. When the young woman tells me that the line runs right past her house, I realise she means the train to Edinburgh, or from Aberdeen. She says that from her back room she watches the trains go by, only now the carriages are empty.
As she speaks I remember a train journey I made to St Andrews some twenty-five years ago. A friend had died, suddenly, shockingly. She had been a GP. Several hundred people came to her funeral in the centre of St Andrews. Afterwards we stood crowded on Leuchars platform, and when the train arrived we filled it. I couldn’t get a seat, so for the long journey south I walked up and down the train, listening as people in every carriage spoke Lizzie’s name.