After lunch we were all very lively from the swimming and the concentrated exercises earlier and everyone was chatting and laughing. Looking around at the lively good humoured faces I had a feeling that this holiday was going to turn out ok, in fact it could be one of the best ever. Which is ironic considering the way it turned out.  Back in the studio Aubrey gave us a demonstration of various oil painting techniques. He had samples of paintings at different stages and showed us how to block in the main shapes first and then how to build up the surface in layers. I was worried as I only had acrylics but he said I could use the same techniques.

‘They just dry very quickly,’ he said, ‘which can be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on the circumstances and how you work.’

He showed us how to use the computer to print digital photos of the area we were going to focus on and said we had three choices- we could either work from one of the sketches we had made earlier if we were going for just an impression or an abstract approach, we could use a photograph with the sketches to give us the detail or as the weather was so nice we could actually go back on site- ‘pleine air’ painting like the impressionists- and work from direct observation. I was practising the phrases in my mind as he said them, imagining impressing my friends with gems like ‘abstract approach’, ‘pleine air painting’, ‘experimental work’, ‘direct observation’. I’ve always loved words. I love turning them over in my mind which is probably unusual because I’m dyslexic or maybe it’s because of that. ‘I decided to take an abstract approach there’, I’d say to my friends, casually showing them a drawing.

As I came back to reality I realised Aubrey had stopped talking and people were getting organised.  Well you know which option I was going to go for right away. Sun and fresh air and a possible suntan versus staying inside in a studio? No contest. Mike gave me the nod towards the door and I said yeah and we packed up. I could see Martha was between two minds, she probably wanted to go where Mike was but she was looking longingly at the computer and printer and that was stronger in the end because she shrugged and said she really wanted to get the photographs printed so she would have stuff to work on later. Round one to me I thought and then felt a bit guilty because she was really nice and I liked her. Still….!

Christina of course chose to come and Julie and Don and Daniel. Daniel was miffed when William said he wanted to stay and packed his stuff in a bit of a sulk. God he’s worse than a teenager I thought. It was one of those beautiful still sunny days that we’d be delighted to get in Ireland in high summer.

‘Imagine it’s September and it’s so hot,’ Julie said, ‘it’s raining at home. Those poor ol’ slobs back in the office…my boss is right horrible when it’s raining. It seems to bring out the worst in him.’

So Mike and I set up side by side at the woodshack and Christina set up in front of a tree and Daniel picked a spot with a view across the slopes and the grove of olive trees. Don disappeared round by the trees on the slope and Julie sat down on the ground under a tree.

‘She looks as if she’s planning to go to sleep,’ I said to Mike and he said ‘Good! Then we won’t have to listen to her’ and I got a fit of giggles. It was nice working beside him. He was just calm and he probably didn’t know much more than me but he never went into a panic about it and I felt secure beside him. I know what you’re thinking — aah gee! But if I really fancied him I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate working beside him. I sort of did but mostly I felt comfortable with him as if he was just a friend that I really got on with.

Then I was so busy trying to get something decent onto the canvas before Aubrey arrived that I forgot completely about the time and actually started to enjoy myself. The one great thing about the acrylics is that they dried almost straight away and you could just paint over what you did before so you could correct your mistakes immediately and keep at it until you thought you had got it right. I drew the angle of the gable roof but I could not get it to look right- it looked like the building was flat and as if the side was on the same level as the front and I was swearing at it in frustration when Mike looked over my shoulder and said ‘look!’ and showed me how to draw the angle on his sketchpad.

‘Wow thanks!’

‘You can thank me later!’ he said and grinned and I cocked an eyebrow and smiled and I could feel my heart beating a bit faster. Was he just messing or was he flirting with me? I couldn’t decide. I looked at his canvas and couldn’t make it out. He seemed to just be putting in blocks of colour so I just went hmmm as if I was considering it very seriously and retreated back to my own. Oh God please don’t let him ask me what I think of it! I saw my romantic notions go up in smoke before they even got off the ground – (another mixed metaphor?)- and my chances of a good snog fading, – unless I lied of course. God knows the opportunity of a good snog didn’t present itself very often these days.