I don’t dream of you, he said as he tried to explain the dream he’d just woken from. This time he had and I’d been flirting with Ralph McTell and various other folk singers. He’d been jealous. It had unsettled him, somehow but he couldn’t articulate why.

It is a kind of apprenticeship, this reading of mine. I don’t need to justify it to him. He accepts, appreciates the weight of it, the importance of it, to me and to my training as a writer. They all say it. They all say that good writing comes from reading. When I have leisure for it, wrote Anne Bronte in ‘Agnes Grey’. I have time, I don’t see it as leisure, it is a serious business. Don’t feel guilty if it gives you pleasure, he says. And it does and I’m trying not to. Work can be many things, for me it is always, has always been, about learning. In the past I rushed to give what I did credence by affixing myself to a course, an academic course of study. Why do it? I am disciplined enough to guide myself and I want to be the pilot, not some faceless officiousness that forces me into some square hole.  But oh, what a joy the reading is. I’m re-reading some novels that focus on mother-daughter relationships and the process is a wonder. I didn’t get it then but I’m beginning to get it now. I read differently, they said that we would, after the MA. I listen as much as I read. Rachel Joyce’s ‘Pilgrim’ was on the radio yesterday, I caught the tail end of it. Anna Massey was Maureen, Anton Rogers was Fry. He is crying, having reached the hospital where Queenie is lying dying, her tongue cut out. Maureen talks about cleaning the house from top to bottom when he left. But you can’t clean it, wipe it all away, much of life is ‘elbows’, she said. Why do I have an issue with Joyce? I loved that book. Is it that she is everywhere, translating Bronte? Like Nick Warburton? And yet, he is equally marvellous. Is it just jealousy? I hope not. I wish them well, truly. Nick is a good, kind self-effacing man. He knew him to say hello to in Cambridge.

I remembered the end of my dream when I woke. I’d been wanting to attend some sort of political rally but I’d been voyaging on a ship and it would’ve been complicated to turn back. But somehow I got there. It was up North. I’d made the effort though my presence had not made a great deal of difference. I was leaving and walked through a white, empty room surrounded by windows. The door will be locked I thought but then I remembered that it was a church and that they would perhaps leave it open as access to their flock. I tried it, it was locked but I pushed it gently and it opened. I walked out into sunshine and fields, a soft rolling landscape. I thought I wouldn’t find my way to where I was going but I did and it was near. Everything felt easy, meant and flowing, no stress and no strain.

‘The thought of Marianne rendered dull and distracted by motherhood….’ I scribbled it down as I heard it and missed the end of the sentence. Tightrope, the book is called. I must search it out.

I took my recorder to capture the sounds of the birdsong under this particular tree on Llanbadarn Road. I don’t know whether it has worked. There was a blackbird, briefly, a chaffinch and then a robin turned up. Delightful. I found myself exclaiming out loud with pleasure.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.