OF THE ROAD is a fictional book about Scotland. Twelve months of the calendar.
The book takes Cal through different pivotal and symbolic situations and relationships. Cal is forced to face up to himself and his own alcoholism.
This is set against the sheer diversity of Scotland where the margins are forced to eke out a living in the face of alienation. This is the status quo of Scotland but is perversely not where we come from. This creates a dichotymy in the Scots character where we are left with a puzzle. Not only, where do we come from, but also how we have chosen to communicate ourselves.
Statistically Scotland holds the dubious distinction of being the most violent culture of any developed nation in the western world. Also the most almost loving.
It is shameful that we all to some extent play a part in this. The novel examines this in the character of Cal and the strands of the relationships that he forms.
The book is not without humour and this a part of the Scots character that is bleakly explored.
The central theme that vividly repeats itself in this book is the motif of hope. We are standing at the crossroads. Scotland Politically is in catharsis and in the characters of OF THE ROAD the actions of the characters have a strong political meaning. It suggests a fairer benign alternative to the mistake that some Scots make when metaphorically they grasp the thistle.
Cal discovers that in Sotland it is hard to be a man. Where you have to earn the repect of other men. Some of these men of course are wise but others are numbed into the acceptance of a limited potential which is merely passed on. Opaquely at that.
Suddenly I could hear the circulatory roar of the immersion heater. Jacqui had turned it on so I could wash and shave. Rapid transference of heat in exchange for cold. Like the rapid rise of dawn upon the fragile shoulders of quiet dark. For what we all crave is the eternal promise of the light. Lady realised it also and slinked out of the bathroom to get chicken from Jacques. Lady would then skipper out of the open back sash and case window, and drop onto the garden to have her secret poop and piddle before sitting like a hen on the parapet of the perpendicular outhouses. Her frosted silent face like a scone, her slit eyes almost shut. An enigmatic smile turned to the heat. Old rheumatic bones warming in the spring sun.
The equinox when your glass is neither half full neither half empty. The shuttered certainty of some kind of physical and spiritual balance that Jacques and I now encountered in one another's youth. I had shaven and washed. I could smell the combination of ground coffee and warm rowies. Delicious flat rolls made with butter that are specific to this city Aberdeen. Like specifically the highest female soprano song of Mary Garden, who dottled and old, shawled and almost forgotten died peacefully in Royal Cornhill Hospital in 1967. She came back to the North East too. But why? Christ what is the pull of this communion?
Calum Cumming was born in, Forfar, Scotland in 1962. His first novel COMMONS was published in 2003.He trained as a Construction Engineer after leaving Aberdeen Grammar School in 1979.
Calum spent a year at Newbattle Abbey College 1987-88 and subsequently graduated MA from The University of Glasgow in 1992.
Currently he lives and works in Scotland.