Paul StJohn Mackintosh

Writing * Poetry * Dark Fiction * Weird * Fantastic * Horror * Fantasy * Science Fiction * Literature

Category: Personal

Washing for Diana

I strip naked and wash myself to welcome my daughter into her home.

It’s a very practical ritual. When her waters first broke, Lilla did a Marie Celeste from the kitchen just after a pan of cocoa boiled over on the stove. Four days subsequently, there were floaters of mould on the surface of the chocolatey water in the pan. I had to wash everything. And until Diana has had her BCG, we have to be constantly on the alert against tuberculosis spores. So we will have clean room conditions, strip off and scrub down constantly.

Diana’s birth

Diana sings in her sleep. She’s a little enchantress. Just like her mother. We’re spending the first few precious days of her whole long life together, with each other. So many birthdays to come for my lovely little girl. Two days and two nights in the outside world, and already she has made my life so much larger.

She lies on her back in her cot, her little breaths lifting her blanket, small rippling and burbling sounds occasionally coming from her mouth as milky bubbles form and pop in passages so tiny, tuned to the clearest, sweetest, highest notes of the organ’s thinnest pipes. I would clean and wipe her constantly if I could, to keep the shit and pee and miconium from irritating her adorable pink skin, but I can’t disturb her and have to let her be.

Lilla lies in the bed beside her, catching up on sleep, head resting at the same angle as her newborn daughter, well-sucked nipples exposed to the air. The voices of staff and visitors outside in the corridor and in adjacent rooms don’t disturb them at all. My phone vibrates periodically with incoming SMSs of congratulation: it’s on silent mode and well away from mother and baby. When Diana makes a noise, it’s her inner life, the flowering of body and soul, like twin vines intertwining, that is the cause. Her hat slipped off her head, but she doesn’t mind and sleeps on. Lilla’s rest is more disturbed: Diana’s is tranquility itself.

Lilla’s right hand rests above her head beside the four-coloured toy ball she sewed for Diana, her fingers folded with the forefinger pointed skywards, in a mudra or the gesture of a saint. Her other hand, the one with the scar across its back, lies across her front, under her breasts.

Diana is already raising and turning her head, and sometimes she rolls it one side only to slip back into the same sleeping positing on her right cheek. Her mouth opens in a miniature yawn while her eyes stay shut. The whorls and coils of her left ear are as pink and delicately involuted as a conch washed up on the shore, a gift of the elements, jewel of the sea, with the rushing sound of the tides, their ebb and flow, always inside it. You hold a shell to your ear to hear the sea, and hear your own blood, the inner sea talking to the outer, whence it came.

So small, and yet her breath and every noise she makes fills the room at night, a presence that was never there before but now is everywhere, filling every space, leaving nothing empty. Tears come to my eyes as I look down at her, standing in slippers and bathrobe, Filofax and pen in hand, over her cot. The clear plastic bassinet gives a view of her from all sides as she lies in her swaddling wrap under her bright blue blanket, actually a soft towel. She yawns in her sleep, opens her mouth with a little coughing splutter, lifts and turns her head, arms twitching under the covers, then settles back with her head on the other side, tiny inhalations and exhalations whistling through her nose. The clock ticks peacefully, continuously. Under their lids, her eyes are moving.

I haven’t shaved since Friday, and the glittering golden stubble stands out millimeters from my cheeks in the bathroom mirror. Lilla didn’t have time to add my sponge bag to the luggage on the way out to the ambulance, so I’ve been without razors or clean underpants up until yesterday evening. Diana’s incredibly soft skin would be scratched if I nuzzled her now: I have to be careful just to kiss her with my lips.

There is already so much going on in there, a whole universe lying there waiting to be explored. She came in answer to my prayers and put all my fears to rest. Thank You.

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Swimming in a Force 8 typhoon

When we reached the coast road, the stormfront was already louring low over the horizon, shrouding the islets, drawing its curtains of rain across the view. Only the white wakes of the hydrofoils en route to Macau still caught the last glints of sun, streamers of swansdown trailing the SeaCats, brilliant white against the grey. And once on the beach, the dark ramparts stretched in an arc across the bay, from one headland to the other. Black cormorants skimmed the yellow boomline as it sea-serpented over the contours of the waves at the perimeter of the swimming area. Cantonese boys somersaulted into the surf. The breakers were slate grey now, a crazed ancient mirror whose silver had tarnished almost to black. Acid-yellow blooms flared against the waxen foliage of the undergrowth where it grew down to the shore.

Lilla, the world’s gutsiest swimmer, changed into her bikini and plunged straight in, taking care only to keep her contact lenses clear of the brine. I watched her head, its rich trail of brunette ringlets weaving like kelp, bobbing and dipping between the crests and troughs.

Within minutes, it had all blown over, and the few spots of rain gave way once more to patches of blue and intense sun on the golden sand.

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Witch of Portobello shoot

Took the sound and lighting gear over to Mui Wo this morning from Tong Fuk. Beautiful rose pink cloud stacks over the islands in the early dawn light around 6.30 am – the strong sunlight throws sharp dark shadows in the dips and clefts of the mountainsides, more like the hills around Rome than ever. The sea is a slightly crazed mirror reflecting it all. Standing with Emil and Sam out on the balcony drinking juice and admiring the frail triangular web this little spider has spun from the railing to the eaves. Lilla cooking toasted baguette slices, goat’s cheese, ham and crudites for everyone: so motherly even before her first shoot in years.

Later, ridiculous in a dark suit and blue striped shirt, lugging sound year boxes down to the taxi rank. Struggling with the phone reception blinking in and out along the coast road, to call a cab for Lilla, Emil and Sam. 

I feel so happy. Also feel ridiculously like Truffaut in Day for Night.  I have a Life, and a Wife, Less Ordinary

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About the picture

It sums up how I feel about Hong Kong: the vibrancy, the drama, the sparkle, the incredible allure of the place. The way the towers soar out of the harbour towards the Peak, clinging to the sheer slopes as though everything is frantically racing uphill. And with all the frenetic human activity, the stunning natural beauty of the island waterscape, the lush subtropical greenery on the mountainsides, the rocky crowns and hillcrests. Sure, it may be cramped, hothouse, lacking in amenities, and often impossibly aggravating and frustrating. But all in all, it’s still the most exciting, magical place to live on earth, and I’m proud to call it home.

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