Comfort of Wild Birds

A screenplay written for the BFI
Processed with VSCO with c1 preset


The day is still and light mellow.

A serious of shots: the bare feet of a girl, stumbling; the heavy boots of a man; the girl falls, her white dress stained and hair wild; the old man’s (ALECK) face, rolling wrinkles.

ALECK finds the fallen girl. He scoops her into his arms. He carries her across the land. A solitary cottage comes into view.

He struggles to open the door with the girl in his arms. Heavy breath as he pushes through with his shoulder into a small corridor.

Carries her through to a dark sitting room. The mud off his boots drops to the floor.

He lowers her onto a sofa. Pulls her dress back down so it covers her knees and retrieves a red tartan blanket. Her feet are dirty and grazed.

Through the kitchen window see him walk back out across the land pushing a wheelbarrow.

GIRL wakes and rises from the sofa. She surveys the room: picking up objects and running her finger across surfaces and fabrics.

Continue reading “Comfort of Wild Birds”


Summer, San Francisco, 1960

What struck her was the sunlight. She’d never noticed it that way before. Dappling, copper coloured. She’d wanted to sink into the pool of light – spilt on the kitchen table – and never return. But a police siren caught her attention in the outside street, and the moment for eternity slipped. Instead, she was back staring at the glass rim of her Cola, the bubbles now flat. 

They sat across from her.

His hand was within his, and their knees touched lightly below the table. He wore a mustard yellow jumper, and he wore a blue button down shirt. There was something about them that coordinated, an aesthetic sensibility. She could see it, and it made her uncomfortable in a space as yet unknown to her. 

The siren came back round. Their silence ticked over. The heat of the afternoon cracked at the windows and her potted plants gasped.

He took a sip of Cola, placed the bottle back on the coaster, they all watched it. 


Her name sounded to her like a sound out of tune.

‘Clarissa?’ It was her husband who spoke to her. He was being patient, as he always was. ‘You understand how it can’t be helped, don’t you darling?’

She did not understand, she did not understand anything at all.

‘Ben and I… we wouldn’t have come to you if it wasn’t… I can’t breathe. And you can’t live with a man who can’t breathe.’

‘No, I suppose I can’t.’ She was unaware which part of her spoke. 

‘I’ve tried so hard to resist it. I care for you so very much darling. I still love you.’

‘No. You do not. Because I am not a man. That is right isn’t it?’

Both men shifted, and their knees touched firmer. 

‘It just means I do not love you in the same way I love Ben.’ 

She felt as though her fingernails would bleed, or bones would break. Something would give and be lost. Tears came, she hiccuped, brought her head to the table. 

Her husband was beside her, his large palm on her spine. The weight of it, the warmth of it.

Charging from her chair she told them to leave. She told them they disgusted her. She told him she couldn’t believe she had let him touch her. She threw Jesus at them and the sacrilege of marriage. She cried harder and shouted louder. Nothing in his efforts could calm her, and the men left with pieces of broken bottle about their feet. 

the art of being your own romance

Once in a while, take yourself to the ocean.

Don’t worry if the day is grey, a scarf will always do, and a takeaway hot chocolate – a little too watery – in a small cardboard cup. Walk long and slow along the beach. Find the smoothest pebble to skim on the water, then another, try once more. Talk to yourself, shout and laugh and sing. Wear wellies so that if a wave catches you you can splash and run back at it. Look about the rock pools where crabs and tiny fish swim in salt. If it starts to rain, dash to a cafe and order yourself a large plate of chips – ketchup and vinegar. Don’t bother yourself with doing anything but licking your fingers and watching the day belly up in the clouds. On the bus ride home make up stories for the passengers around you. Perhaps the man with the fantastically large nose is a Russian spy, perhaps he spent the afternoon with a forbidden lover.

When you arrive home, tell no one where you’ve been.

Be sure they don’t smell the ocean on you.

Wear silk to bed. Shave your legs because it’s not summer and you have no where to go. On Thursdays date yourself. A movie with popcorn, sweet and salt. Roller-blading in the park, followed by sneaking onto a rooftop to watch the sun fall behind the city. Play Billie Holiday, curl your hair, apply a smokey eye, wear that little black dress you found in the second hand shop on the corner, and take yourself to a play. Cook a stew with apricots and saffron, light candles, drink wine. Lie in the bath and read Shakespeare aloud. Laugh because you don’t understand anything, holding your breath under the bubbles. Spray perfume, wear silk to bed.

Try on all your dresses. Pull out every useless, pointless object you have ever bought and arrange them on the carpet. Start making bread. Forget you’ve started making bread. Go on a walk and pick wildflowers for your bedroom. Buy yourself lace underwear to wear with a cardigan and fluffy socks. Lying by the fire listening to the playlist of your thirteen year old self. Cry about something insignificant and ignore the phone as it rings. Remember you’re making bread. Stand in front of the mirror undressing yourself with the eyes of a lover: delight in your freckles,frizzy hair, sparkling eyes, soft stomach and peachy bottom.

Think yourself a marvel. A miracle.

The accidental finding of the end of a rainbow.

Twinkle and giggle, twirl through your sunlit speckled home. Get down on one knee an declare yourself to be the best and only lover you shall ever need.

And see, just see, what happens to the world when you walk back down the street your hand in your hand.

How the trees bend for you to wonder the forest.

Of course, if someone asks the secret, you wink,

and buy them a bus ticket to the ocean.

Correspondence from Delhi

A small boy holds two bottles of water. Kicks a third onto the train tracks. This could be the beginning of something. But he walks off. The bottle rolls. Train moves. Maybe it was the beginning, but the middle was missed, the end couldn’t quite find itself.

You would tell me not to think like this. The boy, the bottle mean nothing. This is what you would say. I suppose there’s that chance to see nothing and everything in something.

I miss you. Do I say? Best not to these days. It’s hard when you have to pretend against things.

Continue reading “Correspondence from Delhi”

Best Society

I shiver, sitting clothed and staring. A silence tuned into waves and sky. The salt holds me still. I am cold, smiling. I have been swimming. November. Scotland, and I have been swimming – point to point – the thought of this makes me wild.

Crushed cardamom and honey: the only way to eat porridge. I toast the seeds counting out five. I like to hold them in my palm when they’re warm. Rub the shells off between thumb and finger. I used to only have time for toast, but now I have time for warm cardamom. And Chopin, I have all the pauses in a day for Chopin. I eat my breakfast on the windowsill wrapped in a towel and blanket. My hair patterns the glass if I pull away, and my toes twitch on the flagstone.

As I lie here, in the bath, I think of you. Continue reading “Best Society”

the poem

Window seat: reading poetry.
Taxis are passing, people with sandwiches and a girl in velvet.
Recently I’ve only had mind for poetry.
Novels are too much, as is the underground
and the look in the eye
as they hand back the change
or have known you in many ways

Maybe it’s
the overloading
of it
and something
crawling from under the distractions of
asking for just enough
of the right words
to cup in the palm
to swallow

You don’t pull Luther out the back of the cupboard for one principle to hide him behind the Holocaust for another. History is a tow truck that’s skidded on the M5 and his heading straight for you.