Breath

When I crept out into the darkness of pre-dawn the other morning it was so chilly I had to rub my front paws together. Indeed, there was a whiff of Antarctica on my snout. Puffs of condensation clouded the air in front of me each time I exhaled. I was reminded of an oil painting of cows I once saw in a Swiss art gallery, and each one had a delicately brushed puff coming out of its nostrils. In German this breath is called ‘Hauch’, the last ‘ch’ is just the sound of the air as it passes through the back of the palate, and so the word ends just before the Hauch becomes visible to the eye. It was astonishing to me that some two hundred years after their demise, I could still see the Hauch of these cows, still see the evidence of their breathing selves.

I was still musing this eternal breath when I reached the end of Poet’s Road. The last street lamps before the forest path are in a slight dip and I saw under their light that the windscreens of the cars were patterned with frost. I can’t tell you how tempted I was to scratch Good Morning across each one. Not a little Good Morning but a bold lovely, looped script capital G to start it all off, and an equally lovely looped small g to finish, reaching from one side right to the other. My whole body quivered with excitement. Was it to do with size? To write so enormously would require great sweeps of the shoulder, stretches from my hind legs to high above my shoulder. My paws so twitched with desire, it was only that killjoy Consequences who stopped me. He hectored in his hissy voice about the mayhem that would ensue when I triggered all the new-fangled alarms. I let out a long disappointed puff of Hauch.

But then the deliciousness of the Hauch grabbed me again. I blew it out in short bursts, and long ones and then a veritable morse code of Hauchs, and I was suddenly transported to Great Uncle Mole’s hearthside and our regular sit-downs to listen to the thrilling adventures of Paul Temple, the wireless detective. In Paul Temple and the Alex Affair, the serial begins with a body in a railway carriage – and the word ‘Alex’ is discovered scrawled into the condensation on the window. It all felt doubly wicked because as small moles we were told scrawling in condensation on windows whether on trains or elsewhere was absolutely not allowed because it made extra work for the window cleaners.

But oh how I wanted to – and sometimes did, when no one was looking, and haven’t for years and years. And when was the last time my paws twitched to write something as much they did the other morning in the frost, when stopping myself from writing was almost too much for my body to bear?

And I’m NOT going to stop myself next time, am I?

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