I paint the sky first, beginning with a pure white, washing in some blue, then a different blue, a bright winter aqua. I paint a darker blue into the corner, and layer a painted horizon with terracottas, ochre, plum red. I paint the hills in dark green, a muddy, thorn-hued tangle; the yellow of gorse-flower muted by the encroaching twilight.
The town is exactly like I remember. I take time with the details, with the town hall clock – reading half past six – its face a little bit cracked and mottled with age: off-white, yellow, sepia-stained. The main street flows wide across the canvas, a few weeds clinging to the gutters, a chocolate wrapper discarded near a crack in the pavement. Tallio's Pharmacy casts neon over the footpath, a line of little stitched rabbits in the window above a collection of soaps.
Figures are streaks of paint, darkened by hour and distance, their coats displayed in sudden smears of colour. No faces: too hard, too hard to get exactly right.
Home. It fills up my heart. The perfect rendition of a time and place where life was once perfect. It digs a pit inside me to think how far I've travelled, how torn up I am from those roots. This figure, sitting here, paintbrush in hand – he's not someone they'd recognise. Not now.
I sit back, drinking in the image, summoning up some courage.
Then: I release my magic.