Aground (5)

They are digging up Llanbadarn Road, just before the junction with Penglais Hill. They’ve sprayed all sorts of pink and yellow hieroglyphics onto the tarmac. It looks like a hopscotch game. Do you remember hopscotch? I still get a frisson of fear when I think of it. Such a long time ago but those years lived out on school playgrounds still haunt me. I didn’t get on at all. Not with the girls or with their games. Hopscotch, skipping and that elastic game. I didn’t want to do them, to participate but to not do so separated you from the crowd and that was unthinkable. I just wasn’t athletic. I was uncoordinated, or at least that was what I’d been told and believed it to be so. I wanted to be alone. It was a strain having to fit in, to talk, to take part. Go and play, adults would say. Go and play with the others. But I want to be by myself. Stop moping, go and make friends. Such a long time ago. But is it? I want you to work in twos, she said. Find someone you want to work with, make eye contact. If there is someone you don’t want to work with don’t make eye contact. There were only six of us. What could I do? The first time I acquiesced, the second time I said I didn’t want to do it. Didn’t want to play. I knew it messed things up. One would be left partner-less. She stepped in. It was fine. I just lay there and cried.

I saw its lights as I came round the corner. I thought it was making its way out to sea and expected to walk along side it as I approached the Perygyl. But it wasn’t moving. It had run aground. Or was just waiting. Waiting for the tide to come in. All its lights were on. It was so near I could see a man in a grey hoodie on the deck talking on a mobile. There was a car parked up at the end of the harbour. It’s radio boomed through the door. At some point the driver must have got out, switching the headlights off as he did so. I saw him as I walked back down the Perygyl looking out to sea at the same boat. Was he waiting for him? The boat was lit up like Oxford Street at Christmas.

Waiting. Aground. We were supposed to be in the National Gallery today, performing in front of the painting. I am grieving a little. Yesterday was productive, domestically. And I felt better for making all clean. Today, I plan to do more, to spring clean my studio. To discard old work and make room for new. But anxiety has taken hold. It started almost on waking. It’s the space, the gap of none work. I want to root through, to root out what I no longer use, to make room but I fight it too. I know how important these empty spaces of time are. Busy-ness is the ultimate distraction. It crowds in, not allowing us to see anything else but the deadline and what is being asked of us. There is nothing to do, she says. There is nothing to achieve. No there isn’t, not really.

I seek peace. I know this. And a simpler life. To be able to notice all things. To have time. To breathe. Maybe I will never achieve it, or at least not for long. Is that OK? To aim for small chunks of peace. This clearing out is part of it. So much clutter in my head, my body and my home. Or so it feels. Actually we have very little. Neither of us are acquisitive, except perhaps for him and his jeans. He has his fads, but then so do I. I just smother them better.

Enough, now. I’ve my monthly accounts to do then begin. There is power in beginning. I paraphrase Goethe. Make a start.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.