Third Angel

Renaissance Peace Angel. (Image Source: The Green Life)
Lin Evola-Smidt

I am writing I think primarily  for myself, a last attempt to put everything in order and to tell honestly the story of Julia Booten. I feel the need to put everything down as clearly as I can, without any of the manipulation of the facts that others have used over the years in order to satisfy their intended audiences. I still have some time before my retirement, and access to both the Broadmoor and Mountain View case files will fill in some of the gaps in my memory. That matter of simple convenience and the need to work while my mind is still relatively capable makes this the right time to begin.

But her presence is always with me, and so perhaps this endeavor is for us both. Even as I begin with these first paragraphs I look up and see her sitting terrified on the side of her bed, her bare feet tracing circles on the floor, exactly as I first met her when I was a young and enthusiastic occupational therapist at Mountain View. I catch myself dreaming of her with increasing frequency, or it may be that my ageing mind is playing tricks with me.

How to organise this account then? It would seem appropriate to be professional and logical, to present the facts as I know them in sequence and in a detached and considered manner. But ultimately I am for the first time being honest about our emotional involvement, and such things are not well described in a clinical fashion, they only make sense when seen in the context of the chaotic backdrop against which they took place.

Julia herself was clearly a very troubled woman, even towards the end when we seemed to be making such outstanding progress. Much of what she told me was either exaggerated or clearly unbelievable – her preoccupation with the Angels, her unshakeable belief that they existed and her long periods of silence during which she had minimal awareness of what was happening around her all make her a difficult subject for detached analysis. And as I have said I wish to face the raw realities of our emotional involvement.

I will begin with our first meeting soon after she was admitted as a new patient at Mountain View, a meeting that was to change my life profoundly. From there I intend to complete her story in the manner that it was revealed to me, sharing our journey as it took place, although to make this account coherent I will summarize and perhaps interpret for her where I feel this is helpful.

I have taken the liberty of changing some names of staff here at the centre and other people who are mentioned in the narrative – they bear no responsibility at all for the events that consumed us, but for decency I feel that masking their identity is an appropriate step. At those moments in our story  where I now feel  responsible for so much I will be absolutely honest and look only for the readers consideration of my professional situation before they come to judge me.

The decisions I made in the grip of untamed passions will stay with me forever. My plea is ultimately one of guilty, but perhaps with mitigating circumstances.


My new creative writing course at the Evolution centre in Brighton, with Gary Mepsted, lasts 10 weeks and the main task is to create a 5.000 word short story in the first person, on the theme of unrequited love.

This is the first 500 words : which was the task for week one.

Beat the Rain

Marcel was 83 this morning. He knew that from the small calendar pinned to the wall by his bed. Every day he would mark a small dot next to the number, and every month he would turn the page because he enjoyed the sense of marking the time, but to him the rhythm of the seasons was already ingrained in his soul. Today was one of the only three dates that was circled in red – his birthday. Beside it he had written in small spidery letters his age, as there was no-one now to remind him.

He washed his face in the cold water, and got dressed by the soft yellow lanterns of the farmhouse, opened the bedroom door and greeted Cesar.

Gently he caressed the small dog, rubbing it’s ears and sharing a small piece of rabbit left over from the stew the night before. He talked to him about the day ahead, and about his thoughts of the night. Since the funeral his head kept getting full of things, and explaining these to Cesar helped to calm his mind. He told him that today was his birthday, and that he was 75 years older than Cesar, but not in dog years. In dog years Cesar would soon catch him up and then he too would ache and worry. He told him he understood that this seemed impossible to him now, but that time would pass quickly. But most of all he talked about the rain, and whether it would come this week. They had to beat the rain.

The gas ring on the old stove hissed as he boiled a small jug of water for the coffee. He loved the smell, Jules in the village provided the beans in return for a few bottles a year of his wine. 

With the gas ring on and the old log stove still glowing from the night before the kitchen was warm and comforting. It was early September but already the air was chilled. The stone walls were cool in the hot summer but bone cold in the winter, the shutters were layered with his patient repairs over the decades and the small cottage was full of drafts.

He had no need of a watch, nor of an alarm clock. The time that mattered to him was not absolute, he was driven by the rising and setting of the sun, and by the waxing and waning of the moon. He knew without thinking that he had exactly the right amount of time to walk to the top of the valley before the sun started to rise.

He opened the door for Cesar, picked up the small rucksack that he had as always packed the night before, put out the oil lamp, shut the door behind him and turned on the torch. It swung from the chest strap on his pack, the small beam swaying from side to side across the path with the rhythm of his walk. After fifteen minutes he turned it off and with the lightening sky he could make out the familiar path that he had climbed every morning since her funeral. As the track steepened he leant his weight on the stick, but his pace hardly slowed. As always Cesar would dart in and out of the vines, following the fresh scents of the rabbits, but he was always near. He did not need to look for him, or to call him. He would never really leave his side.

The track leveled off and the dawn was almost upon them. He breathed in the fresh chilled morning air. Every day he came here to watch the sun rise, to study the mists and the clouds. To get a head start on the days work. To think, to cling to things that mattered, to still the questioning voices. He climbed the last few yards above the highest part of the vineyards, turned to look back down the valley into the coming dawn and settled himself on the familiar rocks.

This time of year was so precious, so full of expectation. The fruit was nearly perfect. But it had been grey and cool for the last few critical weeks, the moon was waxing but still weak and he had chosen to delay the harvest to allow the small grapes to fully ripen. He was playing the rising moon and it’s pull on the waters of the vines against the increasing cold as the sun retreated. He was worried – his decision was full of risk. He had painstakingly pruned back the canopy by hand for the last 4 weeks, stripping back the protective leaves to let in as much of the precious sunlight as possible. That left the grapes exposed, one hail shower could ruin everything he had worked for.

He looked at the clouds in the valley, at the brightening sky, feeling the air above him. He would know perhaps with two days notice if the rains were coming, no more. But the pickers were booked now for next week, and there was no possibility of changing this. He knew that two other growers had made the same decision to delay, but most were already harvesting and no one could be brought on at such short notice should the rains come.

His lined face turned towards the sun, feeling the first touches of its magical light. He questioned the skies, watched the mists and the low clouds along the sides of the  valley. His cheeks felt the gentle breeze from the south. Slowly he relaxed, he was safe for one more day, it would not rain today nor tomorrow. He smiled, and explained this to Cesar. And then, as he always did, he filled a small cup from the coffee flask in his rucksack, took the old locket from his shirt pocket, opened it and then slowly and patiently described everything for her. He rocked gently backwards and forwards, and as the sun rose the dew slowly left the vines, the dog settled to the reassuring rhythm of his voice and his mind stilled for another day.


Notes from the Word Hoard

The way the exercise works is explained here.


uber trendy architecture
the ramshackle old station
just stuck on
doing relaxing things
the day he died
beat the rain
the wind was cold
at least it was a job
everything started Monday
he now died

beat the rain * Selected


This short story is quite a leap from the image of someone leaving Clapham station on a cold Sunday afternoon –  but that happens.

I selected the phrase ‘beat the rain’ and from that for some reason I thought of wine producers and the decisions they have to make on the timing of their harvest, especially in poorer years. I like Marcel, and I would like to write more about him.

This was the first post from the inaugural meeting of the “3 jolly butchers writing group” this evening which thanks to the company of Richard was productive and fun!

Street shots from London

Spent a great couple of hours today looking to get some street shots in London.

I am quite pleased with the result, but have so much to learn. I think my biggest takeaway from today was just not to trust the small screen preview. Although on my Nikon D5100 it’s an excellent screen, you still can’t see enough details like the focusing and several times I thought I had captured exactly the image I wanted, only to be disappointed when reviewing them later in Lightroom.

I look forward to the next visit.

Some other shots from today –

More resolution options available on my Flickr.

I also learned that in winter standing around for ages on the streets is a mind numbingly cold experience, especially by the river!

Great fun!

Keep singing forever

So let’s sing a song about us.
Let’s sing a song about us.
They’ve sung about a bird
They’ve sung about a bee
But never sung a single note to you and me

Let me sing with you.

All that we need is a chorus,
So let’s start kicking up a fuss

Please keep guiding me, be there for me.

We’ll never, never, never get the chance again,
So let’s sing a song about us!

I so hate hospitals, please keep singing forever.

Notes from the Word Hoard

The way the exercise works is explained here.


Across the generations
Keep singing forever
The years become generations
Am I me?

Keep singing forever * Selected


A short post inspired by a great friend singing for his daughter. Nothing lasts forever, but some things should.


So many questions

I lean on my side and I watch you. There is a distance where our mouths are so close that our  breath is intermingled and yet I can still see the details of your eyes. Gorgeous. Too close and everything I see is blurred, but the breath slowly turns into soft engagement. Beautiful. What am I searching for? What do I need from you? Some kind of confirmation. Thrilled I watch you enter your private world. Your open mouth and sparkling eyes, the way you look at me – everything about you says yes.

The night that is now behind us answered so many questions and yet left so much unasked.

Notes from the Word Hoard

The way the exercise works is explained here.


We walk into our future
The night that is now behind us
My camera stays in the bag
Walking freely.

The night that is now behind us * Selected


I took this on a recent walk in he South Downs. Friends have commented that my recent posts are a bit depressing – this one is about that dislocation between a night of intimacy and the fresh world under the sunlight.