I catch the tail end of the programme while doing some yoga before preparing lunch. A guest speaker from the TED lectures. I don’t know his name. He sounds English, Northern. He is talking about beauty and tells a story that his father told him as a child about an eighteenth-century watchmaker. One of his clients brought a watch of his back to be repaired and watched as the horologist took the time-piece apart. Picking up one of the tiny cogs the client noticed that there was engraving on it. Why have you done this, he asked the maker, no one can see it? God can, said the watchmaker. The speaker talks about the visceral effect of this story upon him, how he felt it in his body. Beauty does that, he says.

He wasn’t at the till when we wheeled up with our loaded trolley but he did turn up five minutes later looking a little stressed. His manager, a woman with thin, red hair who had served us, told him she’d texted him to ask if he could come in early. He checked his phone. Oh, yeh, he said, sorry about that. Nice weekend? I asked. And then it all came out, how the council had taken £400 out of his bank account, without warning. It’s nearly a month’s wages, he said. Don’t they know I’m a single parent? He looked so beaten-down by it, his usual cheerfulness lost. We all joined in trying to reassure him. It’ll be their mistake, go in, talk to someone, it’s just a machine. I touched his arm as I left. It’ll be alright. We’ve all been there, he said as a we glided down the travellator. Yeh, but for him it must be constant, I said.

Susan in The Archers talking about managing the village shop: half the time you’re a therapist in a tabard.

The other day I saw a man keel over. It was by Stars on Terrace Road. A big man, he was making his way towards the sea. Then he just crumbled, down, landing on his knees. A moment elapsed. I stood for a moment rapt. Then he got up again and continue to walk. Alcohol felling a man. And another today. I was walking along one of the side paths towards the harbour when I saw a form on the ground. A dark mass, a mound on the path. Oh, God don’t let it be a body. It was. I inched towards it and stopped. Was it alive? Breathing? Then a hand moved. It sort of waved. Are you alright? I asked. A thumb went up. Then a voice, muffled, talking into the ground.  I’m just sleeping it off, it said. Ok, then, I said, starting to walk away.

I wrote something. I tried to keep it clear, uncluttered. I will re-work it today. Might they take it? It doesn’t matter. I have begun it.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.