Author Archives: Ellen Bell

About Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.

Sleeping in the Car

We did it alot as children, mostly coming home from being away in Ireland or Wales or Scotland. We’d be put in our nighties and tucked in sleeping bags in the back, then carried, when we got home, straight to our beds. How I loved that, that being taken care of, transported from one warm place to another. I also relished being tucked up in the car and yielding to its motion. I adore being driven (if the driver is steady and careful) – that succumbing to going forward, somewhere, anywhere. As a young child I’d look at the streetlights, the motorway lights and watch the line of them flickering as we sped past. But this was a dream. And I wasn’t asleep, no I was very much awake, overhearing plots of assassination. He was asleep, comatose in the car, oblivious to all my fears and concerns. It made me tetchy with him. Is it the moon?

I wake from dreams into the still dark and the shadows of them stay with me as I bathe, get dressed and walk. They linger. The two worlds becoming one. He wants to shake his off as soon as he wakes. Mine trouble me and yet I still want to understand.

I finished it in a day. He was pleased, impressed even. And then there was another email offering more work. I’m glad. I’m pleased and even the fear of failure is so far manageable. Hello, I say to it. You still here? So be it. We will work together you and I. Won’t we? A gentler day today, experimenting with alphabets. Let me make these ideas manifest. Let me open to the possibilities of myself. It is all there. All of it. Within. I need nothing more. Except him. How I shall miss him when he decides to go. It will happen. I will be alone. But not yet. Not yet.

Moving

I’d heard the programme before. Radio 4 Extra my favourite station keeps repeating things (perhaps no new material is being commissioned during this time). I don’t mind. To re-hear is often illuminating. Anyway, this one featured Lemn Sissay talking about finding and meeting his birth-mother, I think it was in the Gambia. He writes well, from the heart, it is almost visceral. It’s a moving story, he says. Not moving in the emotional sense but ever changing, in flux. I want it to be that way, he says, I never want it to solidify. He is fearful of self-pity, of telling the tale so off-pat that it ceases to have authenticity. I get that. It is apposite for me. For how does one tell such things, how do they remain as elusive as they are? I want to learn from such luminaries but not be so awe that they make me frozen with fear.

I hear from her. She tells me of the children. The eldest is learning so fast. Lots of words. Her favourite, she tells me is ‘investigate’. How I love them.

The details of last night’s dreams are lost, all I remember is being angry with him. He’d let me down in some way and I was seething. Sorry, love.

Wedding

I fell to sleep quite quickly, breaking the habit that had set in of my lying there unable to drop off. Then I was woken around 9ish by some voices beneath my window. I heard the name David and tried in my now wakefulness to ascertain who was speaking. One of the voices was American, or Canadian. This must be one of our near neighbours I thought as I lay there, he and his wife are living here, we don’t know why, perhaps one of them is studying at the University. They are both quite round and small, he has a rolling walk and breathes quite heavily. She always dresses very well, lots of flowing linens. I think he has some health condition. Who was he talking to? Perhaps it was the Chinese man from the flat on the corner. They’d woken me from a dream about deadly deeds concerning the securing of a role in an important role. At least that is the interpretation of the dream that I wrote down when I went for a pee. I think the play was a Shakespeare one. How I was involved, or where the phrase ‘deadly deeds’ came from I do not know. I did return to sleep when the voices ceased. And then didn’t wake until the alarm. I’d been dreaming about my forthcoming marriage. I was sitting on top of a vast moor, in Victorian dress, waiting and crying. I could see the wedding guests advancing towards me across the heather and scrub. It was very cinematic, I was high high above them. One couple had a dog that bounded ahead towards me. Then my sister came. She was looking very beautiful in an Empire Line Dress, dark blue with a ruched midriff. I was in grey. She tried to cheer me (without success), hugging me and saying ‘Do you remember when…’ I continued to cry thinking to myself, surely I am not supposed to be alone on my wedding day. Then I woke.

The blackcurrants arrived in one piece. What a pleasure, though I fear I have eaten to much for breakfast.

I’ve an interview to do today. I always get a little nervous. I know she will be lovely. But I want to hide under a stone. This is the problem with staying in and seeing no one, one gets a little scared of encounters. Though I long for escape too. Just to sit somewhere in a hotel or cafe and empty myself of all thought. That would be good. Wouldn’t it?

I wrote out the brief ideas for the short stories and let him read them in the sun in the afternoon. He was kind and encouraging. I’ve made a start. It’s such a leap. Can I do it? I want to know them, to grow into them and to find my voice. Can I do it? How about if you try?

Moon and Blackcurrants

The cleaning is done, though I wish I could learn to approach it with more joy. I love a clean house. I love the smell of it and the order. You don’t look very happy about doing it, he said this morning. No, I suppose I don’t. There is so much I’d rather be doing. But that is neither here nor there, is it? Keeping order for both of us is important, just as important as more high-falutin’ earning money sort of work. So let it be and instead be grateful that you have a home to clean, many don’t. Like the man I see sleeping rough in the shelter on the Prom. Was it the same man? His sleeping bag was red today. How can he sleep with the howling of the wind surrounding him? He is sheltered from the cold of it but not the sound. Do you become immune to it? The sound makes my very bones feel cold.

I rushed my walk this morning so that I could get back to mop the floors downstairs. Our neighbour was at his window when I went out. At least it’s not raining yet, he said. No, I said. He was smoking, coughing and reading a book at the same time. It looked liked a sci fi or fantasy novel. It was a paperback with a plastic cover, a library book perhaps? I tried to read it’s title. He interests me, a singular man, I think but seemingly most content. I think it was something like ‘Monstrous Revolutions’. I should’ve asked him but didn’t like to.

The moon took me by surprise this morning. I turned the corner onto the Prom, trying to avoid being toppled by the wind, and there it was big and almost full, shining a white-yellow in the sky. There were clouds that scudded in front of it but when they didn’t I could make out a star nearby to it, or a satellite maybe.

I’m glad I went.

She emailed me to say that she’s sent me some blackcurrants. What a treat. And she is so busy and yet she found the time. Well, her husband posted them while she had her hair cut. She says that the PO removed the string she’d tied around them so they may not arrive in one piece. I hold my breath longing for the smell of them, the taste of them. Will they come?


How nice it would be to sit with her, with them, in their garden.

Garden Talk

It was all about her slugs and snails yesterday. They are ravaging their vegetables. She doesn’t want to use anything chemical (to protect the chickens) and we discussed a variety of ways of discouraging them from garlic salt to egg shells. Nothing, as yet, seems to work, they munch away regardless. Another friend talked of the impact of the wind and rain on their garden, the vegetables in particular. The cauliflower has bolted and the gooseberries haven’t come.

I didn’t catch hold of my dreams last night, just a residue of the first one before I went for a wee at 10. Something to do with an inheritance and a long cotton nightdress ‘this much wide by this much’. The second one I lost. Gone.

The lifeguard hut has been erected on South Beach. A portent of summer. Wales is open to visitors from this weekend, he said at breakfast. I suppose it has to start sometime. Will it ever be the same again? A broken umbrella had been shoved into a bin along the Prom, just below the castle. Several of its metal spokes lay like spillikins on the ground, the rest of the structure, blue, draped from the mouth of the bin.

Rain and more rain. A grey morning. I don’t think he will walk.

Banging Gate

The wind was stronger this morning as I walked. Things clattered about me. Seagulls flew about haphazardly, tossed by the gusts. Signs creaked and a gate leading to the backyard of house on Llanbadarn Road flapped open and shut as I walked past. The latch hadn’t been put down and the wind caught at it, rattling it then thumping it closed, only for it to open again. A jangling sound. A bit like my temper yesterday. Was it the tea?

Things went wrong yesterday, or perhaps it was my approach to them. Both of the main irksome wrongs have been put right, well as much as they can be. The kettle has been replaced for free though we were given a rather bland colour. Can I have a red one this time? I’d asked him before he left for town. There was only one left, apparently. So we are stuck with taupe. We’re calling her Jane, plain Jane. Like it or lump it, eh? And the tap top has been stuck back on, though it wobbles, rather like a tooth soon to be dislodged. Ah, how I hate bodging things.

A good day otherwise. I loved doing the research though I’ve lots to do before I get to the meat of it. Oranges this morning for breakfast. The rice fast has been broken after 10 days. I was good to have something light. And the tea was a joy, even if it made me cross. I shall try harder to be nice today. Onward. Admin to be done, then quilt and phone call, then letters to journals, then baking. Enough, I think.

Pallop

It was a dream anagram word. I woke with it in my head and lay there trying to work out what word I could make from it. Nothing came. I made him laugh when I told him of it at breakfast. Two dreams. Paul Weller sang of having 22. Is that possible? The first I had to write down at 12 ish when I got up for a wee. Something to do with letters to be carved in stone but couldn’t be made permanent. And then I was in a public loo and I couldn’t turn on the lights. They wouldn’t come on and then I found the central switch and hey presto they worked. The second dream was more comprehensive and it involved a community of artists in Manchester, somewhere like Whalley Range. They lived above their studios but were threatened with eviction. I sat in the downstairs cafe with one of them as she bemoaned her fate. Then the word Pallop came into my mind and I woke trying to solve it.

My nerves are jangly this morning. Two bad things. First a minor one. The taps in this flat are very frustrating, old seventies designs. The kitchen ones keep losing the metal caps that hide the workings. Today the cold one came off yet again. I’ve glued it back several times but it won’t stay. Shall I just leave it? It looks so shabby and shoddy. Then the kettle went. We both like it. Love it sometimes. A retro one, a copy of course but a beautiful shape and hue nonetheless. It’s the element, certainly, for the light still comes on. I get so discombobulated. And then people don’t respond to emails just when I want, no need things to be in place. So we must buy a new kettle and a new dehumidifier which still comes on but bemusingly doesn’t collect any water. Just when things get tight. It’s always the way. Let the abundance come and to cover it. I am happy to work hard for it.

I begin my research today. I’ve no idea how to do it best. Just start. Remember Goethe. Just begin.

Warm Water

I struggled to get off last night. And then when I did the dreams came in luscious detail. I’m getting better at remembering them. They speak to me, certainly. In the one I recall I went off on a walk before a meal I was to have with a group of people. When I left them it was gloomy but when I was out walking it was a clear sunny day. I must have been abroad for the walls that encased the path were whitewashed and glaring in the sun. It was warm. The path took a fork and a woman on a horse was coming towards me from one side, she was bare-back and hatless. We spoke and she asked me the way to somewhere without waiting for my answer, then she laughed and said that she was going to wrong way and took the other turning. I took the other fork and came to a gully that was full of clear water. A man who soon became a woman was squatting by the water, I followed suit. We both touched the water, it was warm and quite shallow. I suddenly noticed that a complex of houses and flats had been built around the water. I spoke to the now woman about what it was like to live there. It was communal but the flats were discreet and private. She was thinking of retiring out there. Then I was watching her performing at an event held at the complex. It was evening and she was on stage with two other colleagues. They were using large cards to cover their faces and singing. The cards were beautifully illustrated with old Punch and Judy imagery and they flowed seamlessly between reality and hyper-reality. I was spellbound and saw the woman in an entirely different light. Such inventiveness. The symbolism speaks to me. There is much there for me to decipher. I write to remember. I hope it doesn’t bore you. Welcome to the inside of my head.

I sent him what I wrote and slept while he read it. What did you think? I asked him when I woke. I’m not sure about the Norway bit, he said. You don’t know enough to write about it. He is right, and it smarts a little to hear it said. But I need to write it regardless, if only to blue pencil it afterwards. I’m on a path and I need to get to the other side. I am writing to understand not to explain. But you can write, he said. It’s a clear as a bell. How lovely to hear that. It felt good. And he wouldn’t soft soap me, not ever. See how blessed I am. I have to put it aside for the moment. I’ve a mountain of things to put in place now and I’ve another small writing commission just come in. But at least I know what to continue with, even if I am still in that fog. I will come through it. I will.

Book

He’d stuck a tiny post-it note to his bedside lamp – ‘bulb gone, light kaput’. They are fiddly to change. You have to manoeuvre them out. I tut a little. But what beautiful little things they are. The glory of such inventions. Edison and his 1,000 goes.

Mrs Gaskell is dead. I missed her this morning at breakfast. She died suddenly without warning, falling into Meta’s arms. A heart attack. Instant death. She was only 55. She was happy, life was full, the serialised editions of Wives and Daughters had been well-received and her secret house, The Lawns in Hampshire, had just welcomed them for the first time. (Though she had yet to introduce her husband to it. The first time he sees it will be after her death and he never lived there.) She is long gone. Perhaps she has returned. Either way may she be at peace. What pleasure she has given me.

Harriet Vane and eventually Lord Peter Wimsey are to replace her. I’ve yet to warm to the book. Give it time. Uglow’s biography after all was put down for over five years before you picked it up again and persevered.

I tell him of my dreams and he marvels at what he calls their coherence. Are they coherent? Last night I was looking for a book. Well not looking. I was rummaging through a huge retail outlet full of antiques and ancient things. It was dark, no natural light and I came to an antiquarian bookshop and reached up to shelf to bring down a set of encyclopedias. I often try to read in my dreams. It is a difficult thing to do, at least it is for me. The letters move about or I just can’t recognise them. I was trying to read its title, thinking I could memorise it and try and find another edition slightly cheaper. After all, I told myself I don’t need it in such good condition. I also tried to read the price. It was in pencil and looked like it was in the thousands. It was perfect. Just was I was looking for, full of black and white illustrations, some with huge mouths. Then I was outside and rifling through another book stall where cheaper versions of similar books were stacked. Then I was in a cafe and my friend A was there with her grandchildren. (These are a fiction for now, as she has none.) I had meant to tell her that that cafe had the necessaries for sterilising bottles and warming up baby food. I was glad that she’d found it. Babies and feeding mothers dotted about the place. I was still obsessing about the book when I woke to my alarm.

He told me that ‘one can over think’. Can one? I want to understand. That’s all.

I began it. And there is power in the beginning of something, according to Goethe. And I shall do more today. It’s my world, I can write it as I choose. I get tense at the thought of it and long for tea to lift me. Not yet. Not till Monday. Be strong. To work. Herb tea will have to suffice.

Butterfly House

I walked a different way home, up and up through the Buarth. One of the house’s lights were on, in their living room and the curtains were open. I stole a peek. It was a small front room with two two-seater sofas both draped in mushroom-coloured blankets. The imitation gas fire was on in the fireplace and on the wall facing the window was an array of butterflies, mostly single butterflies, framed individually. I stood for a moment, enchanted. Were they real? There were white paper ones too, stuck directly to the wall, flying in-between the frames.

Another heavily symbolic dream, lived through whilst the wind battered my open window. I was catching a train. It was a London one for there were those heavy, clunking doors. I went to the front of the train. Loads of people were trying to board. I was at the back of the queue. I let them all get on ahead of me, including 5 naked young men sans their sexual organs (they were either airbrushed out or they were wearing posing pouches). Then the lights went out and I couldn’t see my way on. I clutched at one of the handles to haul myself aboard as it began to roll out of the station. My friend J was behind me. I got on and she didn’t. I felt bad, should I have helped her? The doorway was packed full of luggage and I had to struggle over it. The front of the train, (that now looked more like a bus with the driver exposed and facing to the right rather than ahead), was full of children of all ages. The driver paid me no attention but talked away to a little boy near her (yes she was a she) handing him an Ipad to explain her point more easily. I searched around for a seat but the children had taken up all the room. I woke then and lay there listening to the wind.

I’m to return to my, for want of a better word, book. It’s been a while. Just re read it, he says. It’ll be better than you think. Read it. Immerse yourself in it. Then write. Good advice. How I long for tea.

Listened to Helen McCrory on DID yesterday. An interesting woman, unusual, I think but very engaging. I’m not an original, she said, I’m an interpreter. Hmm.