In The Secret Places of the Stairs

December 5, 2021

We can ask and ask but we can’t have again what once seemed ours for ever – the way things looked, that church alone in the fields, a bed on a belfry floor, a remembered voice, a loved face. They’ve gone and you can only wait for the pain to pass.

— J. L. Carr: A Month in the Country


What if you get the chance to visit your first love after thirty years?

Malcolm Tippett meets his soulmate Peter Soulsby at Edinburgh University in the early 1980’s. After graduation, they escape to a Greek island for one glorious month together, but the sexual politics of the time prevent them from staying together in the long term. Peter becomes a Church of Scotland minister and Malcolm a church organ restorer in Cornwall. The two men see each other only once: a night in an Edinburgh hotel the week before Peter marries Clare. After thirty years of longing, Malcolm is invited by Clare to spend a month in their village in the north of Scotland to mend their church organ. Driven to find out whether Peter still feels the same as he does, Malcolm gets on the train north, with no idea about the world he is heading into. He finds himself living in a caravan in Peter and Clare’s garden, trying to break through Peter’s reticence under the watchful eyes of their daughter Daisy and Peter’s parishioners. In The Secret Places of the Stairs investigates what happens when Malcolm must confront the true secret of his longing.