wallpaper - nightingale room june 2014

Walking. Walking along the road up close to the hedgerows. A microcosm of life. Bursting. Seething. So happy to be alone, walking. Walking in the sun. In and out of the shadows. The smell of warm earth. Alive to the darting of sparrows, the flicker of butterflies and the hum of bees. Just walking, following the road. In no particular hurry. Is this the right road for Ambleside? I asked her. Yes, but it’s a five mile walk. There’s a number 555 on its way, she said. That’s OK, I said, I like to walk. And I do.

It’s about keeping moving – through the sun, out of the shadows. Wearing the wrong shoes and doing too much. What did I tell you? he said. Always bull at a gate. Yes, I am aren’t I? I just wanted to keep moving. To be alone in that sunshine. That beauty. Then back to my room. Alone. Free. Tired. Nicely tired. Hot bath and pyjamas tired. It is good. It was good.

What was good? Remember. Earl Grey Tea in Baldrys. There you go, sweetheart, said the man with the tattoos. The early morning visit to Wordsworth’s grave and the rabbits. The birdsong outside of my window. The heron coming to land on the edge of the lake. The white rabbit. The philosophical newsagent. The Mediterranean Salad in Zefferelli’s and the Albanian waiter sharing his love for Sudoku. Philip Roth’s Patrimony. The open top bus. The Japanese gentleman fondling a toy Peter Rabbit at The Old England Hotel. The council worker saving the lamb on the road. The White Moss walks. Marinated tofu salad. Toasted pumpkin seeds. Eating tiny vine tomatoes and cottage cheese in my room. The Charley Harper puzzle. The pale green wallpaper of the Nightingale Room. Going down to a too late breakfast feeling famished. Cold orange juice. Feeling alive. Feeling open. Feeling space. Feeling empty. Feeling grief. Feeling alive.

Walking along the hedgerow, fingers trailing its complexity. So full of life.

Thank  you for it all. The grace of it all. Each moment, each day. So full.



Longest Day

On Reading installation - photo by Andy Chittock (right)

Today began beautifully, though cold. I went out without gloves, the first time this year. My fingers were so numb I couldn’t turn the key to get back in. There are clouds now, white shadows over the sun. Never mind. Let it be.

The longest day. The lightest day. I’ve loved the light. Out at 5.30 am and the day bright. Seeing all. Lovely. Just lovely.

We walk in the afternoons. Together. Slower than when I am alone but I don’t mind. I like the gentle strolling. I like our talks. We see the same people. The woman with the goitre. Do you think she will think me patronising, he asked after greeting her, for talking to her, do you think she’ll think I feel sorry for her? Does it matter? I ask. Isn’t it enough to acknowledge, make a connection with each other, whatever the reason? To be kind. Is it kindness? And the other woman on her mobility scooter, sitting on the jetty watching for dolphins. I saw three today, she says. In between her staring she writes postcards. A nice hand. Then there is Howie and his wife, striding along the prom, his big strides outstepping her little ones. And all those visitors in their camper vans that make him so cross. Spoiling the view for everyone else, he says. I don’t mind. I like passing them in the morning thinking about them being nice and cosy inside, some with their little dogs. Where do they pee? Or poo even?

Yesterday he placed some more of her ashes, on a rockery just up from the prom. I don’t know the name of the flowers, they are like sea anemones, like stars – spiky even. It was one of her favourite spots. He’d switch off the engine and she’d stare out to sea, her head barely over the dashboard. Can you see Aberdovey? Yes, lovely. Do you want a Marie biscuit? No, not now, love. I’m fine. Just fine. There is still more of her in the boot. He doesn’t want to let go of it all, just yet. Not just yet.

We took white gerberas to her grave on the anniversary of her death. Two years. Two mothers. Mine died June 28th 2012. So much has passed since then. Not on the outside but the inside. I am not the same. A transforming.


The other morning there was a cobweb, clinging in all its exquisite frailty and strength, to the jetty railing being blown by the wind.



Inchoate installation 2004 - Artist Ellen Bell

Inchoate. Just begun. Go back. Back to the beginning.

The town is full of fledglings. Sparrows, chaffinches, learning to fly. They skulk in corners, in the shadows only to flutter up in an effort to flap away from harm, from danger. Not ready yet. Not fully fledged. Gauche and awkward. A clumsy flight.

The town is full of poppies. The wild ones. Bright red with the black centre. Their petals like tissue, too fragile for the wind. Wind blown petals, scattered.

I have seen the dolphins. Early mornings. They are close to the shore. What a fillip. What a joy to see them. How many? 1,2,3 or more? It doesn’t matter. I stand on the ‘Perygyl’ and look out to sea. That gorgeous nothingness and suddenly the flat blue is broken by a black rolling, a circle of black with that definitive fin. Wonder. I wonder upon such wonder.

We always sent cards, he liked that. A kind of duty but also a demonstration, a public one, of a role. Father. Fathering. Being fathered. You did the best you could. Monopoly games, pocket money, ice creams, walks in the car, theatre, attending PVs, family parties – you were always present, if not sleeping. Always smiling. Hail-fellow-well-met – even at the end when all you could manage was a wobbly-fingered wave. Beyond speech. Rest in peace. I think of you.

In my dream you told me off for being like a ‘departure lounge’. I was disturbing your peace. I am sorry. I will try to be more peaceful, more acquiescent. Like you. In your wisdom. Like you.



Bedroom Fragments (2) (detail 2)

I love the radio. It’s my companion when I work. It lends form and structure to my day. I love the voices and the way it connects me with a larger world. And I love the stories it tells me. Sentences, phrases, words hang in the air around me. They fix themselves to the walls, some fly out of the windows. Stories. Mary Coughlan, the folk singer, sharing one of her favourite songs – ‘I’d rather go blind’ by Etta James. Another. This one fiction about a character called Rosie and the people who come into her beauty parlour. A sentence resonated. My name was used. My ears pricked up.

‘She was always a little scared of living was, Ellen.’

Yes. I think she is right. Ellen, it turns out is her mother. Nothing is said. They share the same red hair.

Radio. It weaves its richness into my life. When I write I must have silence. I need that concentration. So then, I have to switch it off. And I wait patiently, working to find the words, until I can break the silence once more with the luscious words of another. Yes. Other peoples’ stories. Stories that resonate with mine. Sometimes I think I am just a sponge. Or a cave, a womb, waiting to be filled with another’s beauty. I think that this can be enough. Radio. Yes. Thank you.