My unedited house

It starts where I sit at the kitchen table looking at people across the road. There’s a small group of them, and they move the afternoon light because the light is loaded with flakes of heat, gum leaf, and dust, and every outline is livid with it.

The people are leaning over a car, bonnet up.

There are dishes and cups here, and one yellow pot at the window, level with the heads over the car outside. Inside, there is also a coffee mug, a tea towel, a phone charging.

There are books on the floor, and a wooden train set with some missing. A bottle of perfume, a set of weights, clean washing (some of it folded).

A bowl of nashi pears, heavy with yellow.

Everybody’s things.

And bookshelves.

I have a low table with a glass roof. Under the sliding panel of glass there are square cavities, each one containing something really good. Polished stone in silky chunks, fossils, a giant leaf that’s not actually that big, carved wooden spoons, pieces of shell, clay, a feather, all those things that have no value but have great value. The glass is scratched now. On top, a wooden petrol station put together and painted by hand, and inside this a plastic elephant and giraffe from a game that strayed into another game. On the top of the petrol station, copies of Hairy McClary and Asterix and the Golden Sickle.


The nashi pears are heavy with yellow. Someone should eat them.

Tea Time With a Hummingbird

Tea Time With a Hummingbird 2 by Jai Johnson

“I have often wondered whether especially those days when we are forced to remain idle are not precisely the days spend in the most profound activity. Whether our actions themselves, even if they do not take place until later, are nothing more than the last reverberations of a vast movement that occurs within us during idle days.

In any case, it is very important to be idle with confidence, with devotion, possibly even with joy. The days when even our hands do not stir are so exceptionally quiet that it is hardly possible to raise them without hearing a whole lot.”

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters on Life (1875-1926)
Painting: Tea time with a Hummingbird 2 by Jai Johnson

The Quiet Person


This person came in without me hearing, came in and looked first at the doorways quietly, ran his thumb over the wood and the grooves and then examined the room from the doorway with his hands in his pockets and on tiptoes, without going in. He nodded at me, I thought he was going to ask a question, but he didn’t. He wore all black with purple boots and he walked with the bent neck necessary in bookshops, leaning in and over the covers, quietly moving all around the shop until he arrived back at the counter and said: thank you so much. This was all he said, but he still stood there, turning in every direction to see the books leaning about on high shelves, looked at them all one by one and then he laughed and pointed to a copy of The Worst Band in the Universe by Graeme Base and he said: That Is One Great Book, That One There. So glad you have that book…and then he said to me to have a great day, and left quietly and still smiling with it.

Just looking out of the window.


There is nobody here today, just me looking out of the shop window. I am side by side with Judi Dench, Clarissa Dickson Wright and The Boys of Everest, all looking out of the window at the rain and a crowd of people coming off the train, rugged up and treading through the water, angling for the bakery.

Outside two women are arguing over a small boy who looks up at both of them happily. They open my door, one wants to come in but the other argues the need for a toilet, they become exasperated, one heads crossly back across the road alone and the boy and the other woman look at each other steadily. They do not come in.

It is dark, the rain continues to fall, everybody outside is leaning forward as they walk. One man says that there is no law against the weather.

Many people run grimly through the rain and return to sit in their cars and eat lunch looking out of their windows. As they eat, they look happier.

Inside I have put on the coloured lights, the winter likes them. I need to sort Art and tidy up the Young Readers again. The steam train sounds good, the whistle causes passers-by to pause and believe the sound. They ask each other if they heard it.

The bakery is crowded and the windows are steaming up.

Inkspell, Pig Plantagenet and The Hitchhiker’s Guide are glowing under the lights, the three of them keeping the day upright.

There are two men peering through the glass, they are arguing over something. But in they come and tell me that things are slightly damp even though on the plane this morning they saw the actual sun. But never mind. They are both dressed completely in black but one is wearing the brightest red scarf I ever saw. He is immensely cheerful. As they leave, he says to me: very good!

Photography by Michael Podger