Seven times you are perfect

When you’re cracking your knuckles, not by bending your fingers back or crunching them forward, but by pulling and twisting at the joints. It makes my skin crawl and I shoot you that look, a sideways glare with a raised eyebrow. You say sorry, then crack one more knuckle before you stop. When I’m preparing …

Now I go for walks and find castles

Colour photograph of Craigmillar Castle in Edinburgh on a sunny day

When athletes talk about breaking through the wall, they're usually referring to the wall you hit twenty miles into a marathon or the wall you hit when you're straining to lift more than you've ever lifted before, not the wall you hit when you've been walking for less than a minute. But that's where my …

How much does it hurt?

Colour photograph of lower legs and bare feet standing on tip toes on a rough wooden floor

I have never developed the ability to quantify pain. I get lost in a maze of perspective where subjectivity battles with analysis and words fail me. I have never been able to choose a number from one to ten to describe what this is because a lower number is only wishful thinking and a higher …

Medical records and memories as a winter landscape

Colour photograph of bare branches against a grey winter sky

Seeing your own medical records feels surprisingly impersonal. Maybe it’s because some details fell off the edge when you moved from one part of town to another and had to register with a different doctor because you were no longer in the right catchment area for your previous one. Maybe it’s because there was a …

To someone you eat pizza with

Close-up colour photo of a person's torso wrapped in rusted chains

Like when someone you haven't seen in months doesn't notice how much weight you've lost and emptiness tastes so much better than food for a few days after. When shoulders that can hold up the world seem somehow less than delicate wrists with a child's watch, hanging loose on bones that still bear the never-quite-healed …

Tears are not wrapped in flags and slogans

Colour photograph of a grey office building with warm light showing through the windows

When the windows shake in their frames and you try to figure out how close the explosion was, how likely it is that your friends or your family might have been near there or actually there. When you hear shots being fired and the echoes are deafening and you can’t help but think of the …

Winter will always be my home

Photograph of a black and white shooting target with bullet holes near the bullseye

Last night (or at least last night when this piece was originally written) my Facebook feed erupted in exclamations of "Snow!". I live in Scotland, where it is entirely possible to experience four seasons' weather in one day, so snow in March isn't particularly unusual or shocking. But it is exciting. It is interesting. It …

This is why I take pictures

Colour photograph of docks and the sea viewed through the window of a boat at sunset

I was a professional photographer. I struggle with the use of the word ‘was’ because it denotes a relegation to the past, as if no longer doing something as a job somehow negates the education, training and experience that went into being able to do it as a job in the first place. Perhaps it …

Anything less than gunfire or explosions

Close-up colour photograph of a person's face with a hand covering one eye

“...and if the soldiers want to use the bathroom, that’s fine. Just make sure they leave their guns outside so they don’t scare the students”. Those were my manager’s parting words as she walked out the door, leaving me to supervise the adult learning centre for the evening. The soldiers who sometimes used our bathroom …

Rain not falling and three times everything changed

Close-up photograph of goldfish in a tank on a windowsill with buildings in the street visible through the tank

This morning I awoke to a chill in the air, rain not falling but suspended in the tension of August, the cobbles on the street outside slick and glistening. With the window open, I settled back against my pillows allowing the dull ache in the base of my spine to fade into a rolling mist …

Acceptance of need and the art of scrambling eggs

Colour photo of two eggs and a silver fork against a plain background

This is for someone who might be precious and particular about the manner in which scrambled eggs should be prepared. Here, there is no harsh cracking of shells, no thoughtless tipping into a bowl, no adding milk, no brutal whisking before an assault of temperature. The process of making scrambled eggs should not be rushed. …

I missed you until I didn’t

Close-up colour photograph of a broken rusted chain in front of broken glass on a dark green background

Content warning for intimate partner violence and generally really dark shit. This is not a love story nor a cautionary tale. It is not a story of weakness nor strength nor survival nor what might have been. I remember the beginning and I remember the end, but all the parts in between spin and collide …

There will be times when you tell yourself

Colour photo of a silver razor blade in a pool of blue liquid

There will be times when you tell yourself that your tears belong to a film, that a talented director reached behind your eyes and pulled sadness through them. You are only sad because people on a screen are sad and a script writer has enticed you into their world and you have lived as part …

Ever the optimistic enabler

Colour photograph of an empty beach and calm sea at sunset

At this time of year I always think of you and I'm reminded of the trips we took, like when we camped on the beach and we talked about your father's nervous breakdown and how much of himself he sees in you. He always gave you warnings and you always heard them as something else, …

Darlington, breathless

Colour photograph of a blue sky and bare tree branches seen through a wet window

Everything here is red brick and I half expect to notice you standing on the platform as I turn my head and try not to think about it being over a decade since I saw you last. This time, again, I'm just passing through and the man next to me mutters under his breath through …