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.”


Soon it will be her day, this unfamiliar Goddess I only know from fleeting glimpses. Red ribbons set out on the boughs at dusk, retrieved with blessing against drowning after morning’s dew. Candles of pale blue lit at times of crisis and illness throughout the turning year.

They say she’s Goddess of smithcraft. Does she wield a ringing hammer in some smokey, charcoal-fired building? Does the water hiss as illumined red snarls into blackness? Does she coax great curves of copper into voluptuous vessels?

I wrote a poem once for her day, about loss and disintegration, followed by resolution, resurrection. Perhaps these snowdrop days have that sense, of slight shy signs of persistence and hope among the harsh snows and leafless trees. Do they have a scent? I think they might, and yet I barely wake up enough from churlishness of the dark half to bother to breathe it in.

Stir fry

The chopped peppers use up the remaining space on the board, and I’m stuck. I clatter, stooping, in the cupboard for some kind of bowl and scrape them all off with blade of knife, vaguely wondering whether to separate them by cooking time or just bung them in anyhow.

Eyes sting as the blunt knife cuts into onion skin, spraying aerosolled juice towards my face. Slicing the onions in the specific way Alice taught me in her commercial cooking days – cut off top and bottom, half lengthways, pull off skin, slice each half lengthways. I’ve pretty rigidly stuck with that for nearly thirty years.

Olive oil pools in the bottom of the wok as purple gas flames gently hiss below. The heat sends squalls across the tensely heating golden pool. I throw in the carrots first, and they’re overcome in a tide of bubbling oil.

Back in Garden House days, Brian with the macrobiotic dog taught me his spiral cut method for carrots. Again, that’s survived nearly thirty years. Angle the knife, cut one piece, spin the carrot slightly, cut the next. Apparently the Chi will be very happy.

The succession of various veggies follows quickly, in order of increasing tenderness.


It earned me a cross in my primary school homework. Apparently, “yakayod” does not belong in a list of 4-wheeled vehicles.

I’d hand-sawn the wheels out of inch-thick plywood and attached them with thick metal bolts. The sawdust smelling of ancient trees and glue, piling up in yellow patches on the rough concrete floor.

As I attempted the back-road journey to Peebles under the sun’s heat, the wooden wheels creaked and the single dowel hand-pedal blistered my hand. In retrospect, this was a terrible design. I ate up the road inches uncomfortably.

I’m not sure my mother actually complained to the teacher about the incorrectly marked homework, but at least she consoled me that even teachers weren’t always right. I drifted on to future failing projects, like the black and silver DJ stall (with no music collection or electrical components) and the hang-glider built of bamboo poles and agricultural plastic sheeting.