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Reflecting on St Andrews

Reflections on life in St Andrews, provided by local resident Nicola Carslaw ….

The house where we live used to be occupied by Sir David Brewster, who invented the kaleidoscope in the early 19th century. There’s a blue plaque about him on the wall by our front door. It means that when you leave the house to pop to the shops you bump into historians or physicists or just tourists on your doorstep; they are reading the blurb and wondering whether the building is open to the public. It isn’t – at least not in theory.

We have three children – so they and their friends are constantly rushing in and out; we are a few paces from the medieval university chapel of St Leonards, so now and then visiting priests and the prayerful knock at the door having lost their way; and, of course, we are in the quad of St Leonards School, so prospective parents appear on the doorstep, looking for the school reception.

I don’t want to stretch the kaleidoscope analogy needlessly, but it is apt in St Andrews.  Whether rose-quartz morning skies over ruby sands and sapphire seas; a topaz light over the town viewed from the coastal road from Crail; an amber sun on the pebble pavements and grey stone buildings at dawn, you see colours shift as if reflected in multiple mirrors.

It’s a shame we can’t patent the kaleidoscopic palette of St Andrews. It’s like poor David Brewster, I guess. He invented the kaleidoscope as a science tool and it was later copied as a toy. He believed he would make money from his popular invention, but a fault in his patent application allowed others to copy it.

Still, no-where else can replicate the light – the atmosphere – of St Andrews, although everyone can, should, experience it.