I’ve got cystitis. I haven’t had it for years. Not since I was in my twenties, I think. And yet I remember my mother-in-law was forever getting it, and she was well into her nineties. They all did, in the home. Bodlondeb. Or Bod. There cranberry juice was treated like fluoride and drip fed into their water. Bod. We were always there, in those last few years. It’s something to do with an acid imbalance, I believe. I used to use yoghurt. A messy business. It stings. It was a sad time for him. I thought it would break his heart. An airless, shabby place but the staff tried their best. They were kind. Are kind. An endless round of tea, biscuits and changing nappies.

We’re watching The Theory of Everything, the film about Stephen Hawking. I wasn’t sure I wanted to. It made me uncomfortable, the thought of it, squeamish. I am ashamed of this. So I move into it – move towards it. And am rewarded. It is a fiction, of course, but a gripping one. Eddie Redmayne is marvellous. His eyes glister with life. The loneliness he portrays is palpable. How has Stephen Hawking lived so long? A friend’s mother had Motor Neurone disease and was dead in six months. Devastating. Is it will? Pure will? He must be well into his seventies now and yet he was given two years, at most. Questions. Questions about the nature of life. All life is sacred, I read yesterday. Amen to that. Yes. And yet, we have free will, do we not, should we not be able to end it if it gets too unbearable? But what is bearable? I remember the programme on euthanasia that Terry Pratchet hosted with the man going to the Switzerland to die. He had Motor Neurone disease. And the other man who took the pill because of depression. One person’s bearable is another’s unbearable, I suppose. In the film a French surgeon (after Stephen contracted pneumonia) asks his wife, Jane, when he should turn off the life support system. Angrily, she replies, Never, Stephen must live. Is it enough? To be completely reliant on others, to have no physical means of movement, to not speak. I don’t know. I cannot say. But his eyes still shine.

The wind howls. I was blown about this morning.  I like it. It is alive. As indeed am I.

The piece is written.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.