A Thing of Beauty

I thought I was calm, peaceful and enjoying my solitude. But the raging clearly only skin deep, bursts out, unwarranted when he calls. What is the matter with me? Is it fear, grief, depression? And always there this sense of shame, for want of better word, that all this is mere indulgence. What did she call it ‘a first world problem’? We have so much. I have so much. And so much freedom, autonomy. There is no going down no pit for me, no chain gang, no abuse, no slavery. I am free to do what I choose. I have to work, of course, but even that is choice, really. So why this unravelling?

He called to say that they are not going to operate on him this week. He is furious. And understandably so. It sounds chaotic. An endless Groundhog Day. So I may have to cancel the film-making. That is what made me cry. Not out of disappointment but grief that it is all falling away. And yet, I also wept over my ambivalence. I am so uncertain. Indecision dogs my every move – whether to buy apples or not, what to wear in the morning, which way to walk to work. I am stopped still, quibbling with myself and feeling utterly stupid. And now it may all stop. My one last attempt at something uplifting, a chance to work with M., to be brave, to be bold.  To find something I think I have lost. But at the same time there is this other voice telling me it is an indulgence, it makes no sense, I haven’t thought it through, it is ridiculous and will leave me out of pocket. I sobbed because I had a clear purpose for this week to get the tapestry ready for the performance and now? Well, I am flummoxed. I feel like I’ve wasted my time, I say to him. No you haven’t, he replies, you’ve created a thing of beauty. He is being generous. I haven’t. It is clumsy and riddled with mistakes.  It was only intended as a prop, a means to an end. As an object in itself the irony is lost. I’ll call you after I’ve talked to the consultant, he said. Will you be around at half-nine?

It’s like an airport, he said. And I can picture it. People milling about in that airless no man’s land, that liminal space where nothing is ever resolved. He has to walk down long corridors to get a signal to call me. He hasn’t even been assigned a proper bed yet, just one of those examining couches. Operations are cancelled willy nilly, it seems. His ‘mate’ has had his gall bladder removal halted and his wife is in a real state trying to juggle work and being there for him.

I try to listen. I try to listen to wisdom. There was a radio programme about Betty Marsden and Bill Pertwee was being interviewed and talking about a showbiz mentor of his saying to him when he began working on ‘Round the Horne’, “Watch! If you’re not in it, WATCH!”

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.