Well Dave, you’ve done it again. I read the poem and think yes, I must go back and try again. And moreover try harder. There’s so much more here to examine. Lucas is right. Mahler, I can see that, though at the time I was listening to Cunning Little Vixen, swooning in the orchestral evocations of the forest. But when reading your poem in an instant I’m back in my old cellar-studio going head to head with the painting, trying to dredge it up from the muddy depths of imagination and into the light. It was the first and hardest of the series. The surface of the paint is like a scab, so many wrong turnings are beneath it. My friends who own The Man Who Lived in a Tree came to visit me while I was painting it. I was lagged like a sherpa against the cold, working at the easel in fingerless gloves and deaf to everything save what came through my headsets. Nicolas said he was so shocked to find me set up in such a bitter, windowless space, that he stood with Frances unwilling to disturb me until the tears stinging his eyes had been bitten down. But me, I was happy. In Paradise. I loved that cellar, crouched beneath a classical music shop in central Cardiff, love the friend who gave it to me for the duration, and the shop staff who ventured down with gifts of coffee and cake. Occasionally they stayed to model for me. Semra, a pianist with the group Piano Circus, can be found on my website in the guise of the Virgin in an Annunciation. Huw, a conductor, loaned his hands to another painting in the Temptations series. I had rich pickings in that cold cellar.