0052 | seeing sounds

The sound of firewood being chopped drums its way through the wall. Late last night, I heard the same short rap of noise from next door and even though I couldn’t recall ever having noticed the burner for which the wood was intended, nor regarded the hearth against which the wood was being struck, nor seen the axe which was embedding and splitting each log, this narrative of pictures travelled through brick and sandstone with each dull thud. When the sound comes tonight, I hear it further away, from the small office at the back of the house. This time, the noise travels more slowly, reaching the room where my daughters sleep before it reaches me. This time, the story…

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0051 | christmas cards

Charlotte’s handbag sits open on the counter and there, inside, is a card from my brother. There is a teddy bear embossed onto the front along with the words, ‘To my darling niece’. He chooses cards and words with care. For a few seconds my eyes are fixed on the sign-off at the foot of his message – ‘Lots of love’ – and I’m dizzied by the wonder of that word ‘love’, that someone else might feel that for her; that she is loved. There is an identical card for his other niece, her sister, opened by her while in her uncle’s company some twelve or so hours ago, then deposited into the huge felt stocking, into which she herself could fit, but which…

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0050 | despite and because

‘Despite’ is often used when it is ‘because’ that is required. It’s so frequently misrepresented as that shade of because that seeks to sympathetically qualify a hardship or anomaly, or to sentimentally soften the bluntness with which because can appear. Despite can be intended as something that has not affected someone, but which conscious part of my life could I claim to not have been affected by? And despite can mean ‘to spite’, but I am no more charged with malice towards a thing or event from the past than I am today standing here untouched by it. One might say, ‘he grew up to be this despite having no money’, when it might be a more true representation to…

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0049 | fireworks

We push the chair up to the window, pull and lock the blinds as high as they will go and we sit there together, behind the glass, and watch; just her and me and the lights. We look for minuscule eruptions to appear out of the black, searching a sky which became absence itself several hours ago and which will remain black and absent for several hours yet. Only a few flares rise and wail before us. She sits on my lap, deadly still and in mock-pretend terror. I hold her close and tight and we sit there and make time stretch for longer than has seemed possible for a time which seems too long to recall. Maybe it was…

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0048 | the gift

My mum; her nanny. Today, Bessie and I travelled together to arrive at her door, push the bell and surprise the woman I learned to love before I knew that any other existed. Her happiness today was the most wonderful gift. All that I know about humility and love and generosity and compassion I know because of her. And a little of pain and suffering, too. But love can’t be love without those two things to help stab and shape; to give shade where too much light would blind. For the past few years, I’ve crafted words to create pictures of her more vivid than seemed possible even to myself. Especially, to myself. But today I took this picture, because…

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0047 | between crying and tears

On the train, a few seats in front of me, I hear a girl ask her father, ‘How much do you love me, Daddy?’ I didn’t hear his reply, but I couldn’t help but break into a smile. I then heard her ask, ‘Mummy, how far do you love me?’, and the reply to that question was hidden from me too, but, again, it was impossible not to smile. As the train stopped, I stared at the window, where the view to the nighttime landscape, pin-pricked with tiny orange squares, had been hijacked by the reflected noise and glare from inside the carriage. In the abducted form of this glass pane turned mirror, I watched the child and her parents…

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0046 | the most beautiful thing

The most beautiful thing is to watch your children fall asleep. Early on, the relief that they are finally at rest too often outweighs an appreciation of the grace of their descent towards it. Later, there comes an awareness – and it is a hammer-blow of knowledge – that they will wake one day more old. There is nothing that can be lived again, nothing which can be clawed back. Tonight, they whisper their last words, which are precise echoes of the ones I have spoken to them; smiles, which mirror the ones they receive from me. I crane to place a kiss on Tilly’s head. I stoop to find Bessie’s bunk and I roll in beside her, and I…

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0045 | contortions

There is a well-known series of paintings by Robert Longo called ‘Men In The Cities’. Twenty years ago, at art college, they fascinated me. They helped also to confirm that my own highly graphic style of painting was as legitimate a form of artistic expression as any other. The Longo paintings are photorealistic images of suited men and women set against plain white backgrounds. Each figure is contorted into a strange pose; some look like they are falling, some as though they have been struck by unseen projectiles. Many years after first seeing those paintings, I would come to recall them while watching footage of people falling from the Twin Towers – grasping an image familiar and understood while trying…

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