Invisible roots, negated to fit in. Differences under the skin, accommodated and accommodating. Temporary people, sitting on the surface, hankering for somewhere else. Rubbing away at the edges, sharpening their senses, confronting complacency. A margin lying as a strip, teetering near the brink. Replicating it now myself, a contemporary dilemma, tied to Scotland by work and family. Decide who you are.

Flakes of skin fall faster than particles of dust, both slow-motioned, decelerated by the voices pricking the air supply. Blown, bumped, displaced by breath, paths interrupted.

The clock in the pitch black hall ticking on. Holding back, watching, tracing Nonna’s olivegreenandcream silk skirt against the cracked red leather of the couch. The same cracks that erode the Mull mountains, I slide off the glossy leather into the Atlantic.

The lines I made in the first place came from drawing with my fingers around the messages I wrote each winter in the condensation on the window pane, the transparency of the pale grey Atlantic ocean filling up the glass rectangle. My messages appeared and disappeared depending on the temperature inside and the external weather conditions. Sometimes one would be noticed months after it was written, sliding into view behind a head, instantly suspending conversation. It was at this point that I would slowly trace the snail-trail lines in between the letters and the words, marking out a giant invisible cobweb.


Secrets are safe with us


Secrets are safe with us


Secrets are safe with us


Secrets are safe with us


Secrets are safe with us


Secrets are safe with us


Secrets are safe with us


Secrets are safe with us

The letters varied greatly in size within a word, since when I wrote I focused on the sea behind and not on the window pane.

In the winter the white house was battered by storms spraying sea water, and seaweed clung in tatters to the harled outer walls, drying to a crisp as the weather turned slowly for the better. That part of the sea that came into contact with the bottom of the garden was in fact an open-ended channel, closed off at the front by the island of Kerrera. As we walked from room to room our movements were mimicked by those of the boats and ships that passed from left to right, or right to left, depending on whether they entered from the Sound of Mull or from the Sound of Kerrera. I saw either their arrival or their departure. Never both points on their journey.

Listening is mixed up with identity. A small presence in a room, absorbing a language sellotaped together. Visibly eavesdropping, Italian clippings thrashing about in the musty air, colliding with tattered English, accumulating on the ground. The sounds are brown, the colour seeping across surfaces, suffusing the airwaves, language as dark as the house itself. Nonno the radio-controller is sitting, watching. Hair black, teeth broken, pipe smoking.

Continual soakage, rivulets dribbling off the Mull mountains in Spring, the house built on a raised beach from the melting of a glacier. Wetness everywhere. Sloping down from the cliffs, draining back into the sea. I would stare for hours at the sea, standing in the pouring rain, silently silting over with salt, willing the waves’ knife-edges to turn solid, slowly becoming cross-eyed. My love of salt comes from this gradual accumulation as it seeped into my clothes and hair and skin, and the salt soaked taste was reason enough to woo innocent boyfriends down to the rocks, just to be able to lick that taste from them.

An SNP badge on my mossy green jumper. Worn for dad with a tinge of shame.

Messages carried from country to country, by word of mouth. Laboriously scrawled, lead streaking the single lined page. Long periods of time away from home, unable on your return to tell your story. Language Limbo Land. Mono-cultural Scotland harbouring mono-cultural Italians. Insisting on my language with Erasmus, not allowing what was done to mum and to me to be done to him in turn. Erasmus’ words come staggering out, the city formed the first of them, car auto car auto.

Filignano - Glasgow - Oban - Glasgow - Filignano - Glasgow - Oban - Glasgow - Filignano

Food wrapped in newspaper brought by bus by Nonna to Oban. Fried chicken flattened in the pan, syrupy meat, pepperonata in sweet vinegar, frittata at Easter, shoosh from the leftover pizza dough. The same house 40 years on. Meals at mum’s. Different food, corrupted cooking. Slowness of preparation, speed of consumption. Erasmus balancing on my shoulder, yelling at the wall, his back to the gathering.

Window hanging, watching the world from his 50’s turret. Eye level with the birds and their failing nest, the closest he gets to animals. Watching, from inside. The urge to be out has him clawing at the door, writhing on the doormat, desperate for nature where the woods are freedom and he knows no rules. The flat restricts him, searching for something he cannot find. In town, his trees are dog toilets that he mustn’t go near.

I am claimed by the Collemacchiese and the Gaels. Amalia’s granddaughter, revealed by my looks. In Ireland I am also a daughter of the Spanish West Coast, in Romania, a gypsy, in Buenos Aires, an Italian. I can’t hide.

From the cliff above, looking down on The Lodge, yolk-yellow spores growing circular on the white harling, the sea’s virus. Lying undetected in a home-made nest of bracken. Clouds passing, rain melting, wind whistling. Ant-like below, my beloved family, wholly unaware.

I am a lover of Nature. Seeping through my pores, influencing my choices, I rejected then returned. Elevating, relieving, breath-giving-oxygenating, safe, silent and constant.

(Or just a Victorian fantasy.) The garden is an extension of the house, ours a world with children’s codes. Outside is thinking space. Peasant Molise in urban Glasgow.

Two tiny explorers in Collemacchia, staking our mother’s claim in a makeshift tent on our grandmother’s loggia. A protest at bread and tomatoes. Nonna’s favourite figs on the loggia she no longer used, eaten alone with Ronald, tasted for the first time without mum and dad, eaten until we puked. Wine with a wee bit of water, enough to make us weird, different from our friends. Nonno’s peaches, fur in my hands in a steaming Glasgow greenhouse, the house itself icing over from the inside. Water sliding over gloss paint kitchen walls. Lying in bed, mouth and nostrils steaming, afraid to move for fear of losing heat.

Watching tourists watching sunsets, sucking Scotland in, silenced by nature. Basking in the heat of the settling sun filtered by their cardboard-cut-out-bodies. The lapping sea an unstable ground, the sunset the ceiling over their heads. Tilt your head backwards and look at the sky.

Red wellies in the lemon meringue pie.