100 things

List one hundred things, she writes, one hundred things that you love. Gosh, where do you start? It’s not that easy, I’m hard-wired as a worrier, as scaredy-cat, thinking lovely things is new one for me. Make a start. Hyacinths, to be specific the scent of hyacinths, when the blooms have just begun to open. And Night-Scented Stocks. I love that smell too. And Sweet Peas. The colour of cornflowers. Fields of cornflowers and poppies. Porridge, not with milk but just with water, no salt but a sprinkling of nuts and seeds. Hot water bottles on my tummy as I write. My darling boy, my man, my love. My girl. The sun. The light in Italy, in Spain. See it isn’t so difficult. Stewed gooseberries, no sugar, still hot. Stewed blackcurrants. Clean, white cotton sheets. Grapefruit, big fat ones. Oranges, ditto. The smell of freshly cooked bread. The smell of freshly ground coffee beans – the ones in the Monmouth Coffee House most of all. Having my feet stroked by him. Deep tissue massage with the Brute. Sunshine on my face. Drinking Lapsang Souchong at that hotel, feet curled up on the sofa. Doing crosswords with him. Walnuts. Wasabi Kale crisps crumbled over my salad. Christmas carols. Brass bands. Walking on the Perygyl in the early morning lit by a full moon. Breakfast. Enough for now. I’m spent. There is more. It is interesting to see what seems like one’s priorities. Smells and tastes first. Smells first. I live by my nose. What did that reader say this morning on the radio about dogs’ noses? Did he say they had more than one? That doesn’t make sense – I was listening with half an ear. He did say they love all smells, putrid, fetid, rotten smell delight them. Walking past The Pelican Bakery this morning at 3.50 am they had their doors wide open. I tried to describe the smell to myself as I walked.

It doesn’t grab you first off. There is a delay. Then you are in it. A cloud, a thick cloud of yeasty warmth. Today there was an undertone of buttery-ness. There is salt, a moist scent of slightly off-milk. Sweetness. A sweetness like breast-milk. I am filled up by it. It is my compensation. I don’t eat it but I can ingest it via my nose, my pores.

Three boys in the morning dark sitting on a wall. Geeky sorts. One quite large, his flesh rolling over his trousers, the other two small in height and thin. They are silent when I pass by, then the large one begins talking as if there had been merely a pause in their conversation. I’ve literally had my time, he says. The others do not reply.

Tired from our journey yesterday. So many homeless on the street of that city. They sit dull-eyed their hand outstretched holding a polystyrene cup aloft. What can we do? One man was fast asleep on the pavement, wedged between a wall and a fuse-box.

A rainbow family. Two women with their brood. A shared one? I couldn’t tell. A girl and boy of mixed race, a white girl and white baby boy. One of the women had a shaved head with a peppermint tuft of hair at the front. She wore pink Doc Marten boots and a heavy leather jacket. She held the baby boy with such tenderness. Outside the café window I watched a Chinese woman and her white male partner and their child. More rainbows. It heartens me to see. We drove round and round entering bus lanes by mistake. Will they fine us? It’s happened before. Alarming. There seemed like there were no exits. The city would not let us go. We ate lunch in the hotel I worked in over twenty years ago. That same drudge-ness, service was slow, uninterested. They’re eyes only lighting up when it is time to pay the bill. Three floors up, I sat and watched people at the bus stop below.  Glad to return home. Weary. But what a joy to see her. The warmth of her friendship lifts me, nourishes me.

Chores done. Amen to that.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.