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 of those sounds plays out more dramatically. I don’t see the woodburner, nor the hearth, nor the axe. Tonight, I see those things that my daughters might have decided to hear and wonder if they might find a way to leave a mark on their unconscious minds which will disturb and wake them later: four hefty thumps from an oversized fist behind the huge wooden door of their room; or perhaps two colossal feet pounding heavily upon the dark mossy ground of the bedroom floor. But neither of them stir.
It’s 11.38pm and now quiet again. The office is cold. The monitor bathes everything in a little of its light; Post-It notes fluorescent by day now hang in autumnal hues from the wall to my right.
On the screen in front of me there is a picture of a blackbird’s egg. I remember several such finds as a child – sometimes the egg, sometimes just the shell, once a whole nest, fallen or perhaps carried and dropped. This delicately painted blue egg with its countless speckles of black and grey and its tempera glaze – and my childhood. Sounds and images can abduct you so absolutely, with such force. And often how happy we are to let them; how sweet that present which we colour and mix with the past.
Earlier today, I pulled a pin hammer from the tool box and could almost instantly taste the treacle that my father used to make – metal baking sheets with smashed glossy shards of the stuff stored on the paint-blistered shelf of the pantry. A few nights previously, I watched the jolting shadows thrown by the flickering flame of a candle and vividly relived sitting fireside one Christmas Eve with my brothers. On that night, the flames had almost died and the heat was about to follow and I played with a cheap plastic toy car, a present opened early.
11.53pm. Quiet, still. Darker now, too. Only the screensaver to illuminate, but a countering tiredness that dims.