Author Archives: Ellen Bell

About Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.

Finding Comfort

Poor thing, he says. Who? I ask. We are at breakfast and he is reading The Times. He points at one of the articles in the middle pages. This woman, he says, she’s in eighties and was trapped in the bath for three days. Bless her, he says again. It takes me a while to digest it. She must’ve been so cold, I say. Weren’t there any neighbours? I ask inanely, while I continue to think about it, trying to put myself in her place. Well obviously, he said, but if she couldn’t get to the door. But surely someone would’ve noticed. She did shout, he said. Three days. Three days.  How can it be that one is so alone. We are surrounded by people. Why didn’t someone help her? Poor, poor thing. Has she recovered. What more can we do to look out for and care for those vulnerable beings around us.

I cannot write about what happened yesterday so I shall write about my dreams instead. I had many. I remember waking at 11.30 pm and thinking I must remember this. I was in a huge shopping emporium like Harrods. On one of the upper floors was an office dedicated to Press enquiries about Diana Princess of Wales. It shielded Press questions and promulgated her continuing good and wholesome image. There was a large TV monitor in the room showing a close-up film of her. I was shutting the door and thanking them for the opportunity to work with them. Had I been an intern? As I said goodbye I asked if they would consider me for future opportunities. Then I was going down some steep stairs. They were so deep that I didn’t feel right. An old man in a dusty suit was also descending and made some joke at how difficult they were to manage. He congratulated me on my ability to scale them. Then I was with my father watching him prepare for a game for dogs. He had rows of chocolate treats for them. He wanted to get them to do something and wished to acquire the skills with which to control them. I asked if he knew what he as doing. No, he said. I started to show him how to manage and get the best out of them.

The bleakness has returned. It is heavy on me. The weather, the dark, not having enough sleep, work and that thing yesterday. I could be any, just one, all or none of the above. I keep going, almost too rigid about routine. It helps. And for the rest of time I do work in short burst and find as much comfort as I can. Bodily comfort. As I write there is shawl around my shoulders, my little two bar fire is on, though just one bar now (got to watch those bills) and soon I will make some tea. It is still pitch outside. Just a blankness through my window. I am sorry that it has tainted their visit. It is a joy to see them. She is easy to love.

Time to make a start on the review. I have ideas and the rest will come, it always does. Trust, be patient. What will I say to her? Be kind. Just be kind. Can I say that with impunity? Have I always been so? It is certainly my intention. Do what is right? What is right? I don’t know. Just, just be kind.

Light Bulb

It is ridiculous, I know. And I know it is happening. I can almost hear the click. There it goes now –  my back tightens, my jaw stiffens and the fretting takes over. My mind is like a mouse, or a hamster on a those little wheels. Round and round it goes. Sometimes it stops, like the rodent, and the wheel rocks back and forth before starting again. Anything, just anything can set it off. What was it today? Well it is usually to do with time. Rushing to get things done yet wanting to do them well. And each new chore or job becomes a burden, a stress point.

When you’ve time can you photograph the Newsroom camera? Now? No, when you’ve time. I do it, and it takes longer than I think because I want to get it right. And then I send off the photos and I look at them and re-look at them thinking they’re too blurry. And then the fridge needs defrosting. And then family are visiting and then there are the wee baby grows I want to alter. All five because her little legs are all ready so long. She’s going to be a model, she said proudly. Very possibly. And I want to do it now, fast, but beautifully with love because it is for her. And it takes so long by hand. Shall I use my machine? I haven’t used it for ages, will it still work for me, will I be able to remember how to work it? And then there was the printer. I told you about it yesterday. It broke. They’ve given us a replacement. An upgrade so I’ve got to set it up. Aagh! I do get stressed over machines. I don’t understand them. I try my best. Honest. So not today. I will take it out of the box, place it in situ. That’s all. That’s enough today.

And then just before I was going out for my walk the bulb went in my room. He calls it the innate hostility of inanimate things, and shouts at them. They need to be told, he says. I try to see it as a blessing. A hidden blessing, perhaps. I changed the bulb with a different kind. The light in there is whiter, brighter, friendlier somehow. I like it. So, you see, it can work.

My eyes have been scratchy. She’d say, what is it you are not seeing? Not wanting to see? I’ll get you some Optrex, he says being his usual loving kind self. No, thanks, I say, still grumpy with self-pity. I don’t want to put liquid in my eyes. But I change my mind. Yes, please, if you would. He comes back with something called Golden Eyes. It’s odd putting the drops in there. I flinch. But it is soothing the irritation. The woman in the chemist said it was probably an infection from your hands. Oh, I said. She wasn’t unduly worried, he said.

The wind was strong but the rain held off. I was grateful. A group of students were chasing a plastic cup down the Prom, one of the girls, all legs and mini-skirted went tumbling, her heels caught up in her handbag. One lad sat hunched over a bench rubbing his eyes.

I got her name wrong. Ugh. I used to hate it when people did that to me. Always Helen. Helen. Helen. A Mancunian thing? The dropping of H’s.

Off to work. Then home, coffee, sewing and The Archers. Enough.

Vanity

I wanted to write about intimacy, about my ambivalence towards it. My sometime ambivalence. Sometimes I yearn for it, I find myself cleaving towards friends and family members just to belong to them, longing to be part of them, their life, their warmth, them. And at other times? Well, other times I want to run and run from it. The knowledge of them, the too intimate knowledge of them, like the smell of her sometimes. But that was so long ago. I connected the scent of her with my horror of her, they became indivisible. I wanted to write about intimacy, they way I long for her to want to know me, to show me something like specialness, but she does not, cannot, will not, who knows? And I cannot and should not ask it of her. It came to me yesterday, just let it be. It is good enough. We want more from her than she does of us. Is it so unusual? It is a fantasy, either way. And now we have this gift to share, it is a way in. It was the same with her, she was soft then, less bitter, less razor-edged. I wanted to write about intimacy but my printer has broken and I am thrown. Technology does this to me, always. I try to reign it in. To pull back from the fluster. All will be will. I’ll sort it, he says. And he will. But I will have to set it up. Can you get the same one? Am I alone in this panic. Richard Sennett writes about how we have to work with and drive machines we don’t understand, haven’t made or built. Yes, and I truly struggle with it. I want to know why they break, what am I doing wrong?

No rain when I walked. Coming back down Llanbadarn Road I saw a road sign lit up red, reflecting the back lights of lorry that had just driven past. It stayed red for minutes after the truck had gone. Blood red, it had absorbed the hue and was sharing it back. A sign warning of temporary lights for a school. Red pulsing in the darkness. The rain has now come and I have to go out to work soon. Soon.

Comfort. I crave it in this dark. The smell of bread is enough. I walk back past the bakeries. Two of them. Slater’s and Pelican. I peer into the steamed up windows and see the blue light of the fly traps hanging above the doors.

He tells me of an article by a writer in the I where she has to say which character from fiction she is most like. She chooses Dorothea Casaubon. She calls her do-goodiness vanity. I didn’t see her as vain, he says. No, me neither. But perhaps she is right. Perhaps she is. Does it matter? Really?

I’ll sort it. Don’t worry.

Trollope

A nice touch, flowers in the public toilets and not some scabby petrol station bouquet, fresh and vibrant verbenas. An exemplary motorway services, no muzak, no horrid strip lights and good, wholesome food. We will go there again, if only to remember that hour, holding her.

I love serendipity, at least that is what she calls it. You know, when you think of someone and they appear or call you. Or like yesterday when the Independent Jumbo crossword clue was for an Anthony Trollope novel that was adapted by Andrew Davies in 2004 and I said The Way We Live Now. It wasn’t the right answer but then later that morning I was sitting a sofa in Hafan y Waun doing the second day of my residency and there on the bookshelf next to me was a paperback copy of The Way We Live Now. Sceptics would say bah, its just coincidence. Surely not. It’s not a particularly popular book surely. And to find it there. Incongruous, specially as no one reads. I liked it. I felt looked after, watched out for. And my fretting, for a moment, ceased.

How I miss writing this when I cannot. And I can’t always do it. I need this half hour just to sit and think and spill onto the page.

A busy day. Racing around like a blue-arsed fly. Is that the right saying? Do they have blue arses and if so, why does that make them faster? A good day, though, rich. Work first, two lovely guests, then coffee and crosswords then the care home and then lunch and then back to work for the World Service then back home to hoover have a quick nap then upstairs to make supper. Racing around like a blue-arsed fly, exactly. But the residency was good. She worries. Did anything happen? Did anyone talk to you? No, they mostly slept. I was their watcher. Sometimes they’d wake to scratch, or yawn or to check the time. Sleeping till lunch time. A man was still in his pyjamas. Some wander in and out. One man had on a cagoule and stood hovering by the window before going out through the French windows to the garden. He looked so sad. But he watched me, as he watched the handyman who was up a ladder repairing the fire exit light.

He came in to photograph me at the end. Your private photographer, she said, I’ll let the staff know that he’s been briefed. He sat in a chair at the other end of the room next to a lady that we’d both recognised. She’s the one we used to see in Morrison’s on a Saturday morning with her son, he said, nudging my arm. You know the one with the tattoos, beard and earring. Yes, I remember now. A tiny bird of a woman, though her slippered feet were huge. She was keening, worrying about her laundry. Where are my jumpers? she kept asking. She started to cry. He patted her hand and told her that he recognised her. I’m eighty, you know, she said. I used to be in showbiz before I got ill. They call her Shirley, Shirl. Don’t fret, Shirl, the laundry is back this afternoon. I’m such a high-strung person, she tells him. I used to be a soubrette, you know singing and dancing. Mind you, I wasn’t proud, I’d do anything.

I sew and scribble, sew and scribble not knowing what I am finding but it is something. Something precious. I am so grateful. Just to sit amongst them. A minder, a watcher. They don’t notice me, even the staff, after a while don’t notice. That’s OK. That’s what I want. To be invisible. To walk invisible.

A glittery hair clip on the Prom this morning. A shiny thing. Things. Containers of story.

A man in a red rain jacket walking towards me along Mill Road. My hackles raise. He comes near. His head is hooded. I see his beard. He smiles. Hi, he says. Good morning, I say and walk past warmed by his smile. You see, it’s OK, there is nothing to fear. Nothing.

I missed the rain. I asked for it to wait, just a while so I could walk dry. And it did. Thank you.

Survey

I get so het up. It is only me. It is only my work, my writing and yet the tension gathers. My arms are heavy with it. And then I think of her, with her sling. Incapacitated. We take our two arms for granted for so many things. I wish I were nearer, that I could be more practical help. I feel her pain and am sorry for it. But I digress. I am going back to it. I am going to face it. I want to finish it. I want to form it. I need a plan. Just read it, he says, don’t do any meaningful writing today, just read it. Yes. I just want to sit with it and to make a plan. I’ve avoided doing this for so long. I just wanted it to happen, to flow out. It doesn’t work that way, some order might help. There is room in between to breathe. Are you breathing now?

No room at the inn. Try the Travelodge. Could we share a room? It would be cheaper but neither of us would sleep.

I dreamt I was walking through London it was dark and I came to what seemed the edge of the urban part and came upon a heath. A wild area. It wasn’t what I intended. Then a woman spoke to me telling me I could get a train to where I wanted to go. That platform’s closed off but if you ask the ticket seller he can sell you a fare, she said. It was one of those old fashioned stations, like the one in Greenwich where there is a kiosk that sells newspapers, confectionery etc. I ask for a ticket and reached to get the money he had given me from a cardboard travel money wallet. The ticket seller stuck his hand in for a higher note saying, that should cover it. I didn’t recognise the money at all. And the notes were enormous. A saw a man from the corner of my eye reaching down to pick up a first edition stamp pack. Anyone here interested in girly magazines? shouted the ticket seller. They’re being given quite a beating, he continued.

He laughed when I told him of it. Where does it come from? All of it, I asked. And girly magazines does mean that, doesn’t it? I asked. It’s not referring to Woman’s Own or something? Oh, no, he said, it means that alright.

The Survey ship was in the harbour again this morning, lit up in the dark, as were two fishing boats. Huge crafts with green trawling nets hanging suspended from their bows.

Walking along Llanbadarn Road at 3.10 am I crossed paths with two students, a girl and boy, both were wearing fairy wings strapped over their coats. Later, taking the Prom and winding towards the castle I heard a noise across the road. I turned and saw a tumbling girl. A flash of flesh as she fell off the wall, a boy caught her. All legs and thighs.

A frost or was it a light snowfall coated the roads and paths. I walked gingerly longing to stride.

Just sit with it. All will be well. It is for you, no one else. The important thing is to write it. Write it out.

We Love Honey!

My hands still remember the weight of her, the feel of her tiny bones. My neck remembers the gentle rocking of her head, still wobbly, and the suck of her lips. My ears remember the snuffling, and the mewling. My dress remembers her smell.

All that way. Ridiculous really. What was it? Seven, eight hours in the car? For an hour, an hour of cups of tea and that precious burden in my arms. And the other one. My other precious angel who I cannot stop touching. Both of them. One so so tired and the other so fractious. I was less scared this time. Even walked off with her in search of the bright walls of the play area and all the while feeling the eyes of her parents boring into my back. I just wanted a little time with her, alone, to whisper, to coo and know her living warmth. And Annie Lennox’s song Precious Little Angel singing in my head all the way home.

All was quiet this morning. Nobody about really. No smoking woman, just a lad spied in a basement on a black leather sofa, in a vest, watching TV. And a owl in the trees or in the sky over Llanbadarn Road. I couldn’t see it, just heard it. Not a hoot or a whoo, whoo more a waagh, waagh. Is that a screech owl? The sea was a gentle lapping thing, all threat gone. No frost either. And no moon. No Aberdovey in the distance.

We broke the routine. I fancied it. Needed a fillip, a lift up so we stopped in Rhayader. A corner café, by day a bistro by night. Men sat singly at tables, hunched over plates, elbows on tables. Workers, their hi vis jackets and bags on the floor. A large man opposite was doing The Sun crossword and waiting for his bacon sandwich. He ate it fast, great bites, murmuring the answers to the clues between chews. Alright? he said catching me watching him. Alright? he said as he left. The café stank of fried bacon but I adjusted or the smell dissipated. The coffee was weak but hot. He ate a scone. I buttered and jammed it for him, it was warm and soggy. Brilliant, he said.

More coffee later. Two cups. I was flying. A busy Starbucks full of people conducting business meetings or working on laptops. A very different demographic to the one we go to in Oswestry, no kids or teenage girls with tattoos. I was nervous. We did crosswords. And waited and waited. Then at the services we waited. Be kind, I kept saying to myself. Be kind. I walk in on an elderly lady in the loo. No, she shouts, pushing at the door. Sorry, I’m so sorry. I thought I’d locked it. I apologise again when she emerges. It’s not your fault, she says. Dignity only a little shaken. She wears dark glasses and an expensive jacket, her white hair a neat foam.

She is grown. Her texts are all about her child. I’ve got a very restless little girl here. It fills her life, his life. They are content. There is no fighting. A peace pervades. Just a lack of sleep. Her face needs sleep. They arrive all bags and paraphernalia, with a tiny person in a car seat. She is so pretty. So pretty. My love. My loves.

Flotsam

The nurses in the flat across the quad must be either asleep or at work, for there is no light from their kitchen window. There is nothing but black. Pitch black. There is only the moon, a half moon. The moon and me. It is 6.15 am. We’ve had breakfast and he has gone back to bed. I could do so also but it is not my habit and Sunday is my work day. I can get a lot done without the distraction of phone calls. I have a session to do this afternoon but that is not till four. Till then, this is mine, this time, this hour, this minute, this moment.

I saw them ahead of me ambling down South Marine towards the harbour. She was shouting and waving her arms about. A smallish girl in a fur-line parka. Her companion, a boy, was wearing black silk shorts that touched the knee, rather like the one’s boxers wear. It was cold, they’d promised two degrees. He was replying to her but his voice in keeping with the hush of the dark was low. I crossed to the other side of the road. Shit, shit, she was saying. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I wanted to walk in peace, to remain, undisturbed, in my reverie. She’d spotted me. I knew it. Ayeee, she shouted, where you goin’ hon? I let it pass. I didn’t turn around. It’s not that I wanted to rude but I just wanted my solitariness. She lost interest, I could tell. When I turned down in to the harbour, I could see them still walking towards the Perygyl.

The wild weather has thrown so much flotsam on the Prom – twigs, branches and seaweed strewn across the cobbles. On South beach there is even a tree root. Like a forest graveyard the sand is peppered with branches and large bits of tree. They lie there like beached whales, their branches in a kind of ossified agony stretching for the sky. It makes me sad to see them. In the summer months students light them for fires. It will get better, he tells me, each and every morning. It will. It will.

No smoking woman with the plastic bag this morning.

Striding past the Bandstand trying to walk with my buttocks in and stomach pulled tight, I heard a moan. Looking down onto North Beach I saw a man, curled up in sleep, lying on the seaweed covered sand. His arms were bare. A giant of man with large, fleshy upper arms. He wore a sleeveless gilet.

Then, coming up to Pier Pressure a trail of night clubbers began to file out. Seagulls circled in the sky above, messy and cawing. A gaggle of girls in sequinned dresses led the troupe, their clothes a spangling delight in the streetlight. Glorious.

I’m tired. My eyes close even as I write this. And a dream came something about someone sending me an email, someone significant in the art world. I woke and questioned its veracity. And then a voice, a woman’s voice with a trace of American, that’s right, she said, it happened. My waking dream this morning was a little more prosaic. I was in an enormous house of which I was either the cleaner, au pair or housewife. A woman and child came to the window. I opened it. She was the daughter of the householder, I want some serving tools, she said. I let her in and began opening drawers for her. She found some things eventually, though the knifes, I thought were woefully small. Earlier it had been about my younger sister, who kept getting a haircut, shorter and shorter. Funny, I’d thought in the dream, she is looking more and more like me that is until I looked closer and saw that she had a fringe of yellow-blonds curls like the actress playing Rosamund Lydgate in the BBC adaptation of Middlemarch. My accountant was there too, in the background. I told him I would be making food for his child. So many dreams about food, about making, cooking and choosing restaurants.

I made a start yesterday and immediately one sees different ways of doing things. So many decisions to make. That is an issue, I cannot trust myself at the moment. All I can do is keep on the tracks. Keep to the tracks.

Edward Casaubon is a figure of ridicule and of pathos. My key the mythologies may be the only thing I will be remembered for, he tells Dorothea. All that work. All that self-importance. All nothing. All dust. And she knows it. Oh, Lord grant me self-knowledge and humility.

I didn’t take music this morning. I wanted to pay attention, to observe, hear and sense my surroundings. I smelt wood smoke, stale beer, the kind of smell that sticks to one’s clothes in a club. A student or students had clearly just walked down North Road. I also smelt the hot breath of a gas boiler, making me slightly nauseous.

Tomorrow, I shall hold her. Nothing is as important. I am blessed. Even in this bleakness I feel it.

Waterboys

You’re a born worrier, my Nanny used to say. And I am, I still am. They come unbidden these fretful thoughts, coming on waking mostly. And then that is it, they have taken hold and my back and shoulders begin to tighten. What was it this morning? Well, it began last night. I couldn’t decide what work to focus on this morning. There is so much I want to do, to get started. You want to achieve more in one life than most people achieve in six, he said, his Siamese cat miaowing in the background. The question is, or at least was last night in bed, do I concentrate on one piece this morning or get several going? And does the latter option mean that I am somehow less focussed? A jack of all trades master of none? How that adage has haunted me. I have so many interests. I am magpie, a jackdaw, a collector, a stealer of shiny things. And I am so in a fog at the moment. There are lots of paths but which one to take? Take them all, he says. You’re experimenting. Stop fretting. When I said I had so many ideas and I don’t know which to pursue, he just said, that’s good, isn’t it? Yes. And the ideas, when they come, are lovely. I feel alive then. I’ve bought two books. Should I, shouldn’t I? I always try to get them second-hand. One about lines and the other about being a craftsman. I want to read about the process of making. Where it will lead, I don’t know.

So many uncertainties. Life is uncertain, to believe otherwise is foolish. We try to order it, to impose a regime on the chaos, merely a plaster, nothing can hold the mystery, form or control it. She hasn’t called. I didn’t expect her to. Not yet. It will happen, we are all willing it to be so. I will hold her, breathe her in. I think about ways of seeing her more often, and for a longer period, not this snatching of time. Can I let it go? Can I send out that wish?

Two lovers were embracing in the shadows as I walked from the Castle towards The Angel. I heard their murmurs, their bodies held close were reflected in the rain-soaked tarmac.

There was a moment of joy. The Waterboys came on  in my ipod singing A Man is in Love. Walking in the rain, around the curve of the Prom towards the harbour, I imagined myself dancing to  it, the jig, the diddly-i as Terry Wogan used to call it. I was being whirled round by him. We’d practiced and the dance was fantastic, fluid, hypnotic, glorious. I found myself smiling. I could see it all.

She is better, her voice was stronger, the fear had gone. She was just off for a walk with Bonnie, she told me. And I could hear her in the background, staccato barks, then keening. I’d better let you go then, I said. So glad you’re better. Thank you, she said.

I began looking at cross stitch clubs thinking there might be some contacts I could use. What a minefield. So many. There are Saturday afternoon clubs, Monday morning clubs. There are even holidays, weekends away at the Hilton sewing. Don’t forget your glasses, it says on the website. Should I go? What a mine of information that would prove. Do I want to dispel the myth I have in my head of the kind of woman who would go to such an event? Do I want safety here or challenge? Should I get in touch with the organisers? Who goes? And what do I want to data for? What am I trying to find?

The sound of the rain on my umbrella was nice this morning but the air was chill burning the tips of my fingers.

Let it be, today. Just let it be.

Walk!

I heard some shouting. I was coming down the hill from North Road. I thought it was a man’s voice but it was a woman’s. Two women, girls really, walking along the road parallel with the Prom. One of them shouting at the other. WALK! NO WALK! They were some way behind me. I turned to look. The shouting one appeared to be holding the other up. The silent one was a skinny thing and dressed in a tiny boob tube and mini skirt. WALK! the woman shouted again, seeming to drag her companion along. Was she drunk, spaced out? I walked on, striding up the hill towards Constitution Hill.

I have to say the same thing to myself. Stay at home with me, he implores. You don’t have to go. But I do. I do. It is tough though, these winter mornings. The rain spatters the windows as I prepare breakfast and my heart sinks. I wore his coat again this morning, though the rain didn’t come till later. Cocooning myself in warm things helps. I lose myself in the swaddling. I make myself invisible in black. All attempts at grace lost. It doesn’t matter. Do you like it? he asked at breakfast. Not at the moment, I reply. But I reconsider. That’s not strictly true, I say. When I get towards the harbour and there is that stretch of sea, it is magnificent, even in the wind and the rain. I am overawed by it at times. And I do for brief moments forget myself. And that is good.

What was it? he asked pointing at the brown envelope. PLANET, I replied. I explain the albeit tacit expectation that as a contributor one is expected to subscribe to such journals. He is astounded. Tell them no, he says. But I understand. If we want these magazines to continue we have to fund them. It is as simple as that. There’s never anything in it, he says. That’s not true, I say, sometimes there are some very good articles. Yes, he says, when you’re in it. This edition is good. It is good. And he is on the front.

It takes me back. How many years? I was studying Illustration at MMU. It was 1992 or 1993, I cannot be sure. I was working at the Royal Exchange as FOH staff. Ten pounds a session they paid us, and sometimes if the play was a long one it would be three to four hour shift. How I hated walking up to my bus through the Arndale. It wasn’t safe. Rough-edged, it still is. He was playing Romeo. He was so alive, so energetic. He ran onto the stage. His movements were animated, jerky, speeded-up. Such an actor, even then. I was awe-struck. Utterly, awe-struck. Sometimes he’d come behind me and put his hands over my eyes. At the end of the run he gave me a big hug. Would he remember? Probably not, he must’ve encounter so many like me. So many. He is on the front cover. His hair has been dyed a vivid blonde. She told me he wasn’t for me. She said his name, though a shortened form. He isn’t for you, she said. Did I ever think he would be? I was smitten, certainly. Touched by him. A special being, I think.

I shall spend the rest of the morning listening back to the interview. There may be something there I haven’t remembered.

Have I told you I am due to see them on Monday? My heart is glad.

First I must call her. She was so poorly last week. I hope she is better. Will she answer?

Talking in the car

I know it is ridiculous but we drive 150 miles there and back for a hair cut. We don’t have to do it but there is nowhere decent here. So we do it. Every two months. We stop for coffee on the way, take our own lunch and do crosswords. A trip, he calls it. I like our trips, he says. And we talk. We talk in the car. Sometimes I snooze. Mostly we talk. We iron out things, we mull over things, we try to order and straighten things. Sometimes there are eureka moments. The landscape is incredibly beautiful, majestic at times. Often the winding of the road continues to play through my body long after we’re home. He gets cross now and again. Fucking tractor, fucking lorry. Did you see that? Fucker. But it is never violent, it is a letting off of steam. We want to be on our way, keeping moving. It helps, it helps this sadness of mine to be moving. And to talk. To talk as we move. It helps.

In and out of semi-sleep yesterday afternoon I kept seeing a series of white doors. Close to my face is stone, wrote Rilke, or something like it. I’m not good at remembering lines. I’m trying to learn Philip Larkin’s High Windows, I have to do stanza by stanza. When I see a couple of kids and guess he’s fucking her and she’s taking pills or wearing a diaphragm, I know that this is paradise everyone old has every dreamed of, bonds and gestures pushed to one side (that’s the bit that I get stuck as I walk and chant it to myself) like an outdated combine harvester. That’s it, that’s as far as I’ve got. It is so simple and yet not. And the twist at the end is fantastic. He uses words that we speak, nothing precious, nothing sacred, just beautifully profane. Beautiful. But I digress. These doors. They were white, a shiny white like enamelled paint or vinyl. They were up close to my face, like Rilke’s stone, I couldn’t move. They surrounded me. They had little metal handles, so they must’ve been cupboards, as high as me, as high as my face. I didn’t want to do anything, I wasn’t ready, or couldn’t open them. And each time I closed my eyes there they’d be, back again. It’s symbolic, he said, when I told him. It was peaceful to encounter them again and again. The opening of them could wait. For now I could just enjoy the pure white.

Little things. Little things please. I wouldn’t say it was joy, but a brush of pleasure. Such as walking back to the car from the hairdressers up towards the market. And then needing a pee and going into the town hall. A lovely old building, heavy sculpted stone, reddish in colour. The mosaic tiled floor inside, the notice boards, a framed tapestry on the wall. The smell of polish of floor cleaner. And the toilets with their shiny magnolia paint, old ceramic sinks and floor length mirror. It all stimulated memories. Of what? School? Civic buildings. Things being in order, hushed voices, echoing corridors. Nothing rushed, nothing electronic. Old ways. He felt the same. A belonged familiarity.

Then there was the sun on the fields as we drove. Then rain. It was enough. Enough for now.

And today, the moon.