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.”


Dad wakes me with a whisper and a touch. The house is still dark and silent. I feel for my clothes on the floor, and pull them twistedly on. Down the stairs without avoiding the habitual creaks of talkative ash steps.

“Are you ready?” he whispers.

I’m lacing shoes, but nod. His keys rattle and the door thuds open.

The roads from Peebles to Moffat are laced with rivers wraithed with mist in the half-light. The waking world sings silently. As the car slowly warms, I’m in a dream, in wonder. I hardly knew this half of the day exists.

It’s a long and winding road.

We pull off onto a track that extends, unwaveringly straight, out onto the moors. Dad slows the pace, easing over ruts and potholes. At the white caravan, his student’s girlfriend offers hot coffee and divine tablet.

Starstruck statue

Dew gleaming on cold, lichen-encrusted stone, beading on grey-green strands. The white, almost crooked mass of Traquair House frames the view beyond a wine-glass lawn populated only by nocturnal moles, mounding.

As I look skywards, neck craning, a sense of spinning, imbalance, as if I too am rotating around the North Star. Whirling like a dervish wearing a white nightie. Or Wee Willie Winkie freezing his bollocks off in the frost.

Breathing in the smell of frozen, fresh earth, silage and the friendly, misting breath of pensive cattle.

The taste of a hip-flask mouthful of whisky to keep the cylinders firing throughout this midnight walk, and the touch of your hand, cramped, gloveless into my coat pocket, while the outsiders fend for themselves.

Sometimes when we touch, wondering if both have the same sense of energetic presence, or does that exist only in my flesh or mind, or experienced entirely separately and differently? In the teen years, how much of that experience was actually hyperventilation, or even cramp?

And yet, states of relaxation flow and perhaps exchange and synchronise.

The road occasionally hums, as headlights veer side to side, illuminating valley slopes and woodlands, dipping as cars approach head to head.