In my dream last night there was a black canvas hovering in my peripheral vision. No, not hovering but fixed on the wall to the right of me. It had been punched out in the middle, exposing the white of the plaster behind.

 I’d been talking about my bleakness to him the evening before, well, trying to articulate it and struggling. Is it better to let it be or try to understand what it is about? A nameless fear, that follows me, not like Robert Bly’s black bag but a shadowy thing, like the canvas just to the right of me. Sometimes it is fixed to things, to ideas, issues that unsettle me. Today it is the letting go of my laptop, my tool, my helpmeet, my connection to this and my other writing. It is good to have a break, I know this. It’s creative, he said. Yes. But I am so fearful of not knowing ‘her’ ‘it’ when it is returned. How will she be changed? It’s like having a lobotomy, everything erased so that you must start over without the experience or knowing. But it must be done. She needs looking at, tending to. And then it is the diet thing. The becoming vegan and eschewing all things dairy. He was trying to be kind but I was thrown. I can’t bring myself to eat it. He is happy to pass it on to a friend. He’ll have it, he said. And then there is the expense of it. Buy organic, she said, and don’t use skin care products with petro-chemicals in them. Certainly, I said. I shan’t. But they cost a bomb. How do we manage the extra expense? It’s just a question of adjusting, getting used to the new regime. All will be well, soon. And then there is the writing – that takes me to a bleak place too. Dare I say it, write it? Will it hurt? Just write your 1,000 words a day, he said, and don’t think too much about it. OK.

So it’s bye for now, well for a few days. A bientot.


It was a good suggestion. Take stock, he said, read it back, perhaps make a few changes, not the words but the order of things. It was a good suggestion and I appreciated that fact that he not only read it but thought about it too. We talk about the process of writing a lot. It is the same with all creative things, doing things (he usually allies it to playing sport) that getting oneself up to doing it, to bringing something out of nothing. It is difficult and I’ve done all sorts of delaying things this morning already, like mending one of my bodies, doing my accounts, writing emails, chasing payments and buying some eye cream. I just need to get on with it, especially since my laptop will be away being serviced for several days. I ache with the idea that I cannot write and yet I want to run a mile from it. Such is the human condition, I fear.

Still windy this morning, few people about. The woman with the bag was ahead of me walking towards South Marine. And a man in white tracksuit stepped out of the Prom shelter and strode towards the Bae Guest House. He wore flip flops on his feet. (I forgot to write about the lad I saw carrying his girlfriend’s shoes the other day, they were red platforms. She walked ahead of him in her bare feet towards the bus station.)

I’m waiting. And I long for the escape from it. I dreamt of a famous actor, though when I knew him he wasn’t so. And of airports and being lost and then being found and staying in other people’s houses and thinking we’ll I could just go home. But what or where was home?

Coffee, then write, Ellen. Just do it.


I get in such a flurry over doing new things, however small. I fret that I’m not doing it right, or that it will make a mess (in my increasing dotage I do struggle with this – hardly artistic material eh?). Saturate the wool cloth, the instructions read, then wrap the heat source in a plastic bag, then sit for an hour holding it against you. I watched TV drama as I did it, though the instructions suggested meditation. One thing at a time. I thought about my innards as I sat there. Am I doing them some good, are they happy about it? Might they be smiling? What with this, and the body brushing and the diet sans dairy I shall be a new woman. I’m such a routinous person that I do get thrown, too easily when I have to change it. And things aren’t right, just yet. Does my body miss milk, yoghurt, cheese? It hasn’t had butter for years. Will I thrive as a vegan? Some would say yes, others no. We shall see. Does change do you good?

We’re on Cranford at the moment, stopping it every few minutes to go over a beautifully crafted scene. It is glorious, though we know it inside and out. How relaxing it is go over the familiar. We are the same with this, thankfully. And Mr Holbrook’s courtship of Miss Matty was so gentle, so measured. The flowers, the book of poems, the letters. So poised, so slow.

He said that it was a shame I knew nothing of sport and that I couldn’t appreciate what something like the Ashes meant to him. He is right. I do not. But I think it is good to have some elements of ourselves that we don’t share, perhaps don’t even understand. It keeps a mystery, something to surprise at times. Besides, what is, is.

I do struggle with what I am writing. All those sensations of disloyalty. Am I hurting anyone by getting it down? I put in all the caveats. This my account and I am not claiming any particular truth for it. He sees what good it is doing me. And it is. A purging. A necessary purging if only to get to the other side. Maybe I will have nothing else to say. I could rest then and plan a garden. Yes.


He came home with damsons and gooseberries. I was cock-a-hoop. I love soft fruits. I love them stewed. No sugar, just water. I love their tartness, that alive-ness on the tongue and in the back of the throat. He is a star. And just when she told him the ‘fruits were over’. See.

A rain shower. And then another just now that has leaked water into one of my pictures. Two little puddles sitting in the bottom of the acrylic casing. Will it evaporate? My fault. Leaving the skylight window open. Taken by surprise by the downpour. He’s gone out in it nevertheless. We watch two of our neighbours return from their daily walk. He always strides ahead of her. She trails behind. There is no touching, no hand-holding. She knocked on our door once to ask if we could run the washing-machine a little later in the morning, that the noise was disturbing her. I was mortified. So sorry, I had no idea you could hear it. That was when we had the old machine that rattled away during the spin cycle, sounding like a something was going to explode. The new one is quieter. Would six be OK? I asked. She looked uncertain but hasn’t knocked since. How long did it take her to pluck up the courage to come round and say something?

There were  globes of multi-coloured fairy lights still lit behind one of the houses along South Marine this morning. They have built a small roof garden that looks down onto the harbour. The lights twirl around a wooden canopy. What a cheer in the dark morning.

I never what to write. Oh, I’d rather do anything but. Nevertheless, once I am in it the story will take me in, take me over. And I am curious where it will take me today. Coffee first. A bientot.


You may not value it but you’re a good housekeeper, he said during supper last night. But, I do value it. I have accepted it as an important part of my, no our, daily life. Housekeeping calms me. I like the order that it gives our life together. It is a gift I can give to him and to myself. It is not nothing, it is something. The endless lists, the meals planned, the washing and ironing done, the mopping of floors, it is all part and parcel of a rhythm of living, of existing, it sees us through. No, I don’t bring in much money, I never have, it is not something that drives me, though the safety of it is always nice. (A line from Joni Mitchell’s Boho Dance sings in my head: ‘Jesus was a beggar he was rich in grace’.) My existence is small, and when I am gone it will be gone too like a wisp of smoke, unremembered, unimportant. And that is OK. I like this falling away. I think about the things I can begin to let go. All those images of past work, let them go. I no longer need them. And my work. It is important and it is unimportant. It is like the housekeeping, a necessary act of doing that can be forgotten as soon as it is done. A modest life. Modest. Small. And it is OK. I have done this well, this marriage, this love, this care.

She turned and smiled at me, and said goodbye. Usually a rather hard-faced girl, moody perhaps. I don’t know. But yesterday, after I’d touched him on the arm and thanked him and said he had a lovely voice, that’s when she smiled at me, acknowledging my presence. What a turn up for the books. It was nice.

He has a friend that we see walking up and down the hill. A childhood friend, a once close one. The same age as him. He is a small man with a big head. He lives alone now that his parents are dead. He walks everywhere, seeking company. He goes into town for breakfast, porridge and a latte, and reads Dickens. He had two on the go. I don’t know what his voice sounds like. I’ve only seen him, never spoken. They were great mates once. He left here for a short time but soon returned and never left again. There are many like that in this Welsh town, homebirds, homeboys unable to leave, not because of the beauty but the familiar, the safe, the mother’s milk of it.

A blowy morning. I walked under the light of the moon. I saw the woman with the bag for life though she was sans bag. Music pumped out of the Pier, kids shouted.

He didn’t get wet.

Another cup of tea and then some sewing. I’ve a quilt to get on with. My gift to him that is a long time coming.

Business as Usual

There is an estate agent’s sign on the wall of The Shoreline guest house on South Marine Terrace. It doesn’t say if it is for sale or not just that it is Business as Usual. Business as usual, everything carrying on regardless. Gwesty Cymru, as far as I know is still for sale and has been for a couple of years now. How long does it take to sell an hotel or a B&B? Are there that many people on the look out for them? I’ve only seen the No Vacancies sign in the Shoreline’s window once this year and not at all at the Yr Hafod B&B at the end of the terrace. Making a living must be tough. Isn’t it tough for most of us? I thought about abundance as I walked this morning, and how to afford a trip to London to see a friend, and how, if we didn’t go to explain that there isn’t the funds. And then I saw it on the ground. A piece of paper with brown markings and shiny metal circle. A ten pound note. It was lying on a cellar grid. Someone had clearly lost it from their pocket. I picked it up, folded it and place it in my pocket. I felt uncomfortable, someone else owned it and was probably looking forward to spending it. So I gave it to him. It can go towards my haircut, he said.

I’m back in Tess Lohan’s world. It is a beautiful book. The sentences are short, spare. Almost of list of things, of sensations, they are treated discretely, separated. Each with its own integrity.

I always have a frisson of dread before I begin writing. Do I really want to go back there, to be in that world, do I really want to struggle once more with creating something from scratch? Wouldn’t I rather tread water and do something humdrum? And yet, when I’m in it it takes me over, then it is my world, my work, it is truly.

The wind has died down and no proper rain just yet. A lovely walk if a little hot. I took my MP3 player and walked to a reading of  Mary Oliver’s The Wild Geese, and the playing of The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony, Joni Mitchell, Teach Yourself Norwegian, Boz Scaggs and James Morrison.

The moon was as full as my heart.

I need to climb into the story, to be it. To tell the truth of it as I see it, for it is mine.

Children Playing

I watch them from our upstairs window. It looks down onto their driveway and corner of their back garden. There are three of them, Elephant and her two elder siblings, two girls and a boy. They are all primary school age. Elephant can’t be more than 4 or 5. They play out on the drive or on the grass. There is often a rug laid out on the grass for them. Sometimes they are out on their bikes and when they are bored of these they just drop them on the ground where they lie undisturbed, sometimes for hours. They have a trampoline in the front garden and various cages, no doubt with rabbits and guinea pigs. There is also a family dog, a chocolate Labrador that I saw tied on a leash to the fence. It kept them company while they played, it’s head on its paws. It reminds me of my childhood, watching them. I am watching myself. We played like that. We had dens in the ditches of our fields, in the haybarn. We walked through long grass. We played for hours. The summer felt eternal. The boy will sometimes play on his own, talking to himself, hitting a stick against things. Sometimes I’ve seen him dance. They seem to have an idyllic time. They do as they choose. They are loved. They are free to express themselves. Sometimes I have seen Elephant go to school in fancy dress.

Snail and slug trails glistened on the night-dark pavements this morning. Silvery paths of shining slime. Quite beautiful.

The rigging of the boats in the harbour created a chorus of clanging in the wind. Eerie sounds whistling and wailing, clanking and clinking.

Still tense but I have moments of ease. I just need to yield, to let it be. Que sera, he said, as Doris Day said.


My back is taut with it. My worst fears realised. It is a small thing, but to me it is massive. Such are phobias I suppose. And needs. And the fixing of needs onto things. It has all be up-ended, too much change. Small things to anyone else but to me huge. I need to go through it all, make sense of it for myself and breathe. Breathe through it. It is the not understanding. It has always been so. A white sky, empty. I will come through this. This tiny thing, this huge thing and be stronger, more steady. He is kind. Always. I am shrinking.


My back was rigid with anxiety as I walked. I tried to breathe it out. It makes me tired. I am fighting what is. I am fighting change. It feels chaotic as if the world has been upturned. It is nothing and everything. My arms fizz with it as it begins to subside. I need to let it go. To let it happen and see, to watch myself come out the other side, unscathed. Surviving. It’s a false use of adrenaline. My body is being hood-winked into thinking it needs be alert, that danger is round the corner when it isn’t.

I was walking down South Road, feeling less weary, feeling the power, and indeed pleasure of my stride and thinking about Robert McFarlane’s book Old Ways, that I’ve yet to finish but which I returned to the library cause it was due. And then it happened. A true, a genuine rush of adrenaline. My body surged with it. Is that what taking heroin feels like? I’d been lost in my thoughts when a door had opened just by me, the suction of air from its opening catching me in my face and then there had been a man’s voice. I’d been so taken unawares that all I could do was keep walking, moving. The jolt of it, that split second of fear was amazing. My body came alive, alert and alive.

A gentler morning. Few were around, the clubs were shut, as was ‘Chicken Lickin”.

A nice radio doc this morning about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library where she sends disadvantaged children a free book a month to encourage better literacy. Its been taken up in Rotherham too. I’d love to get a flat there, Dolly said, to hide-out. Who’s she? asked one of her kids. One of her biographers talked about her need for attention. A bit harsh, but in the end if it does some good – who cares about the motives. We love getting them in the post, said one girl. That’s it, isn’t it? That personal touch, never mind DP’s signature and butterfly motif, it’s the present coming through the post. Real matter, something to unwrap and discover. Nothing nicer. Long live Royal Mail (though may it become a better employer).

I wake to voices, often. This morning, I think it was a woman’s voice (it sounded like ‘Trixie’ (aka Helen George from Midwife) or it could’ve been his. It said: ‘I’m letting them go, sweetie, the spiders.’

Gooseberries (2)

I don’t know why I am so unsettled. Is it just the prospect of my laptop having to have a complete overhaul and possibly loose all my precious links or is it something else? As I walk I try to talk myself into a semblance of calm for I know that none of these things matter, not really. I reach the Perygyl and look up at the stars in the sky and they, it is magnificent, so big, so utterly beyond my conception. I want to let it all go. To let go my tight hold on it all. It is fear, fear of something nameless. I write to get to the bottom of it. And yet, sitting here in my studio waiting till I can wake him and we can drive to work with Radio 3 on and a cup of licorice tea by my side and my laptop still working, at least for now, all is peaceful. Perhaps it is the onset of autumn? It smelt like autumn this morning as I walked. There was the slight damp odour of rain-soaked earth and dead leaves are beginning to gather on pavements. Would that be so bad? Autumn can be beautiful. I am alive. I am relatively well. I have work to do, and whether it is significant or important to the outside world, is neither here nor there, it is important to me. That is enough. I am trying to live as best as I can with the least damage to the planet and my fellow man. I try to be kind, to do what I can to smooth his passage through this life. It is a small life, smaller than I’d pictured for myself but my interior life is huge, boundless, beautiful. I am ready to go inward, to become quiet. I will not fight it anymore. I am happy to be small.

And I did write yesterday. I managed it. I wrote well. Tennessee Williams apparently wrote for 8 hours a day. I can manage about 3 hours, 4 if it is going well. It is enough for me. Else I end up undoing.

Work soon. Then shopping and domestic things before I can be back here and working. I dreamt I was with H. and we were in London. I love to be in London, I told her as we walked up an open staircase in a grand Metropolitan hotel. The bannisters I noticed were made out to look like railway lines and that they were moving, vibrating, shifting. I was struggling to keep my balance as I talked to her. Can I come to stay? she asked. Of course, I said, realising that I must have a flat in London, but he is here at the moment so not now. Another time. An anxiety dream. So many people I have yet to see this year. For the time being I want to be here, home, working, keeping still.