Raspberry fool – the colour – and picked up in some Edinburgh hippy clothing store – collarless granddad shirt. It suits me so well, and in my teenage mirror vanity, I’m satisfied.
Lenora and Pete are visiting, and then, Lenora just on her own, as Pete’s back at Uni. The sun’s hot outside, the green world baking, and scents of golden river water, reeds, and newly-shorn lanolin sheep.
Like the sheep, I’m sweating – but in my case, with awakened desire.
Somehow – a word, a hand touched, she moves to me. It’s way beyond my own know-how or self-esteem, and yet in these hot days, it’s soon done.
We camp up North, north of Applecross – a shambolic bus journey of poorly packed gear – arriving in rain followed by a midge-storm.
In the morning, the confined tent smells of blood and sex, warming in sunrise light. Occasional cars dodge sheep on the road beyond the dyke.
Hand in hand, boot after boot, we climb the rocky, rugged mountain above, pausing by pools.
When the company was yet small – perhaps just fifteen amiable geeks – we hired a receptionist. Was it just me, or was it more a collective thing? I suspect the latter. Suddenly, from being an essentially sexless technology shop, we were galvanised. The scent of her perfume commingled with male pheromones, outfits with attitude emerged from the dusty recesses of wardrobes, and the (ultimately, I fear, fruitless) game was on.
With a degree in fine art, you could tell her presence was a necessary stop-gap rather than a life’s dream, but she bore it with grace – which, incidentally, I seem to recall was her name. Low-key friendliness at the front desk followed, and I guess the guys with better credentials (under 30? unmarried?) filtered to the top.
It’s a thing, perfume. Like a deliberate aura she consciously chooses to leave in her wake. The woman passes, and I’m looking up, nosing up, scenting her trail. There’s something lingering there. Heads up, like an alerted animal.
My gloves are far from watertight, and rapidly soak through with molten handfuls of snow. Kneeling in mounds of it, rolling lumpy, cylindrical balls of it, stripping the ground bare to reveal tracks of surprised-looking grass. Long stains on the trouser knees.
The cold and the wind ice my red ears, haunting possibilities of earache, neglect of scarf or hat. I will assemble a tentative figure of snow, structurally unsound, repeatedly re-built, but eventually upstanding. A couple of sticks and a handful of stones.
Gathering a tin bowlful of snow, mixing with hot chocolate powder in the kitchen, tastes disappointingly watery, and yet repeated year on year in some kind of denial.
The smudge, oily, of coal on my hands, pressing in a row of jacket buttons. It smells faintly of tar and petrol.
The saccharin Christmas carols on an American LP – imagining choirs in artificially snowy shopping malls of neon-lit cityscapes. At the end of Side A, the needle rhythmically hisses against the track end until a grown-up goes through to lift it, gingerly, with the delicate lever. Next up: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Of course, Narnia. Feeling garments change to branches change to snow. Hearing icy winds blow, and that abrupt disorientation on stumbling out into another, parallel, slow-time-moving world. The taste of Turkish Delight, the witch’s bribe. The warming liquid that’s not quite hot chocolate, and that satisfies so deeply yet so profoundly incompletely as to become an insatiable addiction. The desire felt in the pit of the stomach, and the absolutely unspoken underlying sex of it all.
Girls riding a lion, faun’s kidnapping, sinister queens tempting young boys with sweets and drink. Power and death.
But now… rickety self-assemble hanging rails from Argos lift a few pounds from an undiscerning pocket and begin their short span of life between assembly and skip. A brief and non-illustrious life.
Or, acres of laminated chipboard pass through the great Ikea machine, plastering the walls of fine houses who should know better with birch veneer and blandness. Guilty.
The moths. The holes in my new sweater, or not so new, since lying unwashed in the wash basket for a year due to my inertia around hand washing. Nature will overcome.
The nightmares Luke had around monsters emerging from wardrobes. The buzzing in my ears waking me from dreams as if messengers from another world are urging me to hear.