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Hot-housing

I love the documentary programmes that come on air in the early hours on Radio 4 Extra. This morning it was about the hot-housing of children into becoming ballet or sports stars. Some begin at the age of three. It takes a massive toll on their bodies. I’ve always hankered after that kind of myopic brilliance. To be a master of something. It never happened. I am too interested in too many things. A magpie. A butterfly brain. But I can see the pitfalls too. What if you find after all those years you don’t have want it takes? Better to have many baskets eh? (The sounds of those echo-y dance rooms with the plinkety-plonk piano on the recordings were so evocative of my childhood visits to ballet classes. I had no confidence, even then, and felt awkward and clumsy and couldn’t for the life of me remember the choreography. I believe Mum sent me to gain some grace. )

Still a little moon this morning as I walked. And just now I heard the owl – with its waaah, wooooh, sound, like a rather bad impression of  a ghost. Certainly no twit, to twoo.

We’ve been tetchy with each other ever since I’ve come home, I said to him yesterday. And it’s true. We scrapped over parking, him riding the pavement, and various other silly things. His emotions are near the surface. He is better but ever aware of the anxiety lurking, or even trying to push through. It is up to me. I shouldn’t react, dampening that egotistical desire to fight back. I can be bigger than that, can’t I?

A drama on the radio called the Launch about an ex-fighter pilot writing an expose of his brother’s death from ‘friendly fire’. It was full of bile, of recrimination and bitterness. He meets the perpetrator of his brother’s death and the launch of the book in an old aerodrome outside Cambridge. His ‘enemy’ reminiscing about the ‘good’ bits of war said, ‘You had purpose – you knew who the enemy was.’

Sometimes I think about what I’ve started, the book and I am made rigid with fear. How can I take it on? Will I ever complete it? And I have to take a grip on myself. It is too early to make decisions. Just read. Make notes. Plot the structure. Take your time. It is about being in that place of indecision, of panic, of fear. Nothing is shown. There is no concrete proof that it will be done. And yet I know that,  as with any leap of faith, one has to be comfortable in that place of not knowing. For after all that is the space where as yet, any thing can happen. It is the unconstrained space, the open to anything place. Find your peace with it. Take little steps, he said all those years ago.

Sometimes we ask each other questions we don’t really want the answer to. Like last night when he asked me if I’d be happier living alone. You would wouldn’t you? Sometimes, yes. It is my natural state. And yet, look at this. Look at how close we are. And I know it isn’t about a change of place. The adjustments, the real adjustments are internal. Always. A least at first. Else we just take our problems with us, unconsciously stowed away in our suitcases.

The massage was sublime. I needed that kind warm oblivion. But I am knocked out the next day. But thank you and enjoy Amsterdam.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.