Bakewell Tart

Smell is my strongest sense, I think. They take me over sometimes. Sometimes with joy, other times with distaste. The stink from downstairs is still there. I will have to burn some sage when I sweep the hallway tomorrow. They are containers of memory. I’ve been trying to buy more eco-friendly and bodily-friendly cleaning products and have just used the new wood polish (twice the price of the poisonous stuff – why?) and was overtaken by the smell of it. What was it? Something familiar. I smelt and thought. Smelt and thought. And then it came. Bakewell tarts, Mr Kipling’s individual bakewell tarts. Almond essence. Gorgeous. I remember them as a child. We were living on the farm then, in Lancashire. The six little Kipling’s cakes came in a box with their picture on the front. Each one utterly perfect and neat in their silver foil cases, with their white icing feathered with a pattern of brown lines. The icing, then the jam and then the almond middle, slightly sticky, fudgy. And there was always a glace cherry on the top. Half a cherry, if I remember correctly. When did we used to eat them? My mother was never one for cakes in those days. Was it when we entertained? Had people round? Never for tea. A Sunday? There was those little fancies too, in the pastel shades of yellow and pink, wrapped in marzipan. Girly cakes. The bakewells felt more refined. And I’ve always loved the taste of nuts.

I woke from a dream about my mother’s things. Someone was with me, a Radio Cymru presenter (AH) and he wanted a whisky. I rooted through her cupboards. The house looked like it was being packed up. Where was it England, Spain? There were bottles but no whisky. I explained about having to pour so many away. The cupboards kept changing every time I looked. And I was expecting her to turn up, at any moment. I was edgy. I found a bottle of Haig, eventually, a huge thing. Now I had to find a glass. I searched through the cupboards again – there were lots of white and painted porcelain dishes, knick-knacks, all of no usefulness. No glass. I found a cup, I think, but woke before I could pour it.

We watch box sets. Silly things. Escapism. In the one last night one of the characters had hurt his back and he was lying in bed feeling useless, unable to work. What use am I, he said to his wife, when I can’t work? I’m left here alone all day, with just my thoughts. I’ve been low over the last few days. I know it. And he has noticed. I’m stuck, blocked, stagnant. He has agreed to a seminar tomorrow, if work allows. I need to talk it out. Whatever this ennui is. Uselessness. A not knowing what to do, what work is anymore? All the above and more. They’ve put a new camera in at work. No one told us. She talked about big organisations as being like drains. Beware, she said, long before I ever worked there. Beware.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.