Battleship

It stands by the forest trail, quite near the shore, porous to all sides. Incongruous red clay pipes line its perforations – modern additions to the grey whinstone and white mortar of the walls. On either side of the door, and occasionally on the other walls, tall, narrow arrowslit windows. I can only imagine this ruin bristling with guns. Were the locals holed up in here, awaiting the Vikings or the Germans? Doesn’t feel right. There’s not even a view of the shore – a ridge of land obscures the sea. And how even to reach those vents high up in the gables?

Vents. OK – perhaps ventilation – but for what? Did they dry or smoke fish here? Was this the storehouse supplying the fort high above on the hill? Perhaps grain from Kilmartin farms was landed below and stored here, guarded from every angle by musketeers.

On return, we scour the internet and find a few photos of this very one, and some similar. A threshing barn. The grain harvest piled up here and stored until winter. Arrowslit windows to allow air circulation and deter mould. Often, a larger, high window to admit owls, to control vermin – and sometimes a lower entrance for cats. At threshing time, the grain flailed and thrown into the air, where the strong through-draft winnowed away the chaff, and goodness fell centrally to the floor, piling up, and held in place by a couple of boards across the door opening – the threshold.

Paintbrush

Keep breathing, keep my eyes on her unclothed body, and keep the hand moving. No thought. Just breathe her in and stay with the movement. No real concern for what begins to emerge on the paper.

It’s like a swaying back and forth, and a circling. The brush lifts and washes itself in the muddying water, and dips in colours, spontaneous as a hummingbird, then lands again on some unexplored, shimmering skin.

How is it for her? Does she feel the fluttering wings, a downdraught of attention adding to the draughts of this spartan yet sunlit space? There’s a moment when our eyes meet – I’m just breathing, allowing the process, and her almost impassive, holding the pose. And yet, in that moment we could both drop it, I the brush and her the pose, and move together… Her hair on my neck, my hands moving, grasping, snaking down her back, onto her bum…

She can see it in me. Her eyes flicker downwards briefly to my crotch, a spark of knowing. I’m pulsing there.

On the paper, a surprise. So many strokes, and such colours, and yet a dance of breath that’s animated, that captures some of her loveliness and a measure of my lust. It is a work of art, albeit a work in progress.

I breathe again more steadily, deeply.

“Is it enough for today, maybe? I’ll get your gown.”

Kestrel

“Look! You can see how it just flickers its wings for a brief moment, and then hovers. It’s a kestrel!”

As the car continues, I twist and crane my neck to keep it in view.

“They’re slightly reddish in colour, though against the light perhaps you can’t see. There it goes!”

Closing its wings, it plummets to the ground. Moments later, it flaps heavily off to a location more distant from the road.

“I think it’s got something! Look how much slower it is now.”

The car rounds the bend, and the kestrel and its prey vanish behind a heather-clad cutting.

Sparrowhawk is something else. Sitting in the living room, face steaming with the healing vapours of thick cocoa, I gaze out at the snow. On the multi-headed bird feeder – more like a tree – they’re busy. Great tits, blue tits, chaffinches. Blackbirds and dunnets on the ground, gathering up the crumbs from under thy table.

Suddenly, a great scatter. They explode in all directions, like a silent, feathery firework.

Bang! Something hits the window glass.

Looking out, I see a pitiful small corpse. A chaffinch, so dusty-grey pink in its fine breast feathers, lies in the snow.

We pull on wellies and go round to the now deserted terrace. Picking up her frail warm form, cradling it in my hands.

“She may be OK still. Bring her inside in the warm.”

Inside, in a shoebox, sentinels warding off the cat, the fragile bird gradually comes round.

Sea Buckthorn stains on my trousers

They’re like gentle sweeping watercolour brushstrokes in teddy-bear orange. Looking so soft in the landscape – but close up, a thicket of thorns. The dusty, muted orange berries cling on even into late winter, slowly decaying in place.

The crows are kings and queens here. A whole coterie of nobles flap and caw and pose gingerly on the prickly battlements. Scraps of black languidly blown across the sky, then returning purposefully to sway top-heavily on the slender branches.

If I pick them now and try for a taste, it’s like taking a mouthful of frog spawn. The frosted fruit is jelly-like at best, else, a shrivelled empty skin. I’m like a vat of grapes ready for treading – bare feet stamping the fruit, juices oozing out through the drain holes, running luxuriously into waiting vessel.

The putrid orange juice drips eagerly down my chin, and drops not quite silently: split… split…  onto my lap.

Licking my fingers clean, I emerge from the bushes with a sticky orange crotch.