Bonfires (5)

I love the smell. The smell of bonfires. The smell of the embers of bonfires on the beach. It’s the sunny weather, students stay up all night on the beach huddled around fires. There were two this morning, the smoke wafting softly across South Marine Terrace. I hear their voices, muted by cold. A rite of passage, I suppose. It’s a warm smell, smoky and rich.

I rush in writing this, I’ve work to do. As always, and too much admin. It sucks up my working time. But I feel better when it is done. An emptying process. I make lists, I fill post-it notes, in an endeavour to do the same, emptying myself, my head of minutiae. What am I emptying myself for? Space. Silence. Non-thinking, non-being? Nothingness. How glorious. Free of concern, free of burden, free of trying too hard to be good. Just being. Like cats, like birds, like trees. Precious unconcern.

He keeps coming into the coffee shop and disturbing his newspaper reading. The butcher. The green-van-owning butcher. He made him laugh yesterday. They were talking about the Welsh predilection for giving people nick names. The butcher told him about a friend of a friend who had gone to prison for murder. He’d shot his wife’s lover. However, he’d applied for a re-trial on the grounds that he’d not intended to pull the trigger but just frighten him by wielding the gun. He got off. And now he is known as Bryn Bang Bang. Others I can recall him telling me about are Dai Top Shop (he and his brother used to run a garage at the ‘top’ of town) and Dai Coat Hanger (his shoulders are permanently up close to his ears). As affectionate as Under Milkwood. Thick-voiced cosy.

My lovely, the courier called me yesterday. Young enough to be my son, I suspect. My lovely. Sign here, my lovely. Miss or Mrs. Ms.

She poured it all out yesterday on the phone. The first time she has mentioned her husband. Now ex. I strain to hear her. Her voice, dulcet is often muffled by wind and dog barks (she is often out walking when I call, and the neighbour’s dog, Bonnie goes with her). (Bonnie had a stroke a couple of weeks back. Her eyes went all funny, she told me. I ask how she is. She’s keeping going. She wants to live, she says.) I didn’t ask too many questions, I just let her talk. Her daughter won’t see him. I got frightened of him, she said. I felt such warmth towards her. She uses my name often. I like it. I feel connected to her. We talked of cremation, of taking flowers to her parents grave. Some daffodils.

Grahame Greene was kind, the writer said. The writer’s book has been serialised on Radio 4 extra, I’ve been listening to it before I walk in the mornings. Graham Greene as mentor, as lodger in his head. He followed in his wake, to Cuba, to America. Kindness. Greene used to send Muriel Spark money so that she could continue to write.

The fish lorry was down by the harbour this morning. No one was about. No fishing boats. The driver must have been asleep in the cab or cosied up in a B&B. There was no fridge noise. No whirring. Silence. I walked the Perygyl. Stars flickered on and off. A seagull traversed the sky, a gliding line of white. Past the Castle then into the wall of noise. Outside The Angel the kids gathered, reeking of stale beer and cigarettes. Swaggering youth. Shouting. Down the hill and crossing the road at Boots Opticians a group of three lads in hoods. Still dark. They come too close, talking gruffly to each other. Do they sell ciggies in garage? one asks his friend. Hackles down, they turn the corner towards the station. No threat, ever.

I am safe. Safe in my nothingness. They do not see me. I like that. I watch, listen and wait.

I pass the Pelican Bakery, open at 6.30 am just like in France and Spain. The early morning flurry of buying breakfast sticks, brioche and croissants. And the buzz of hotel vans collecting their sacks of bread. One-day bread, too dry for the next. Can I have butter, mantequilla por favor, avez-vous du beurre? Daily bread. Our daily bread.

To work. Off. Now. A bientot.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.