Brian (2)

I didn’t go to the sea. The wind was too strong. I began to feel its force along North Road so took the path along the edge of the tennis courts. At the bottom of North Road, down the hill, there is often a tunnel of wind blasting off the Prom. I wanted to avoid this. My body cannot withstand it. I do not feel strong these days. So I cut through the back streets. Students peppered the roads. One was mock-playing an electric guitar in the middle of the road. They seemed unconcerned by the fierce wind. They are fearless, I am not. I walked up to Laura Place, thinking  I might at least see the sea from there. But the wind had found its way there too, rattling at the scaffolding surrounding one of the Nash properties. I tried to make it to the wall but was beaten back. Enough. I surrender. By the time I got home I knew that I needed to walk some more so continued down Llanbadarn Road. I’ll walk to the church. Yes. It was quiet. A few taxis racing past, that was all. The church was dark, unlit. A solid edifice, rooted, strong. I touched its stone. Immovable.

I thought about her. Was she scared? She told me on the phone she was worried that the wind would take the aerial. Bedroom lights were on all around town. The storm was making people jittery, edgy. And the air smelt different. I noticed it as soon as I left the flat. It smelt metallic. There is a bank of yew trees along the path to the tennis club they were swaying and creaking. A moaning kind of creaking. Would they survive?

I felt calmer yesterday. More at peace with what is. When the peace comes I feel a little empty, missing the tumult. It fills me. It fills my body. But with peace comes detachment. Or is it the other way round? It is all an illusion. Who is to say what is really important? Is it what we do with ourselves, our careers, our achievements, our possessions, or is it more about how we are, what we are, how we behave towards ourselves and others? I know the truth of it and when the detachment comes all is clear. This is what I’ve been given, this, this whole life is my work, not the bits of it that I show the outside world. I am a good wife. Though I rarely refer to myself as one. I don’t like the label. It seems to me it is a diminishing word rather that a expanding one. I take care. I take of us. I like to do it and I do it as well as I may. She taught me that, though with her it was often a bitter endeavour. Save me from such bitterness.

I met a man from Belgrade, he said walking up the stairs still wearing his coat and smelling of the outdoors. He was begging on the street. What brought him to Aber? I should’ve asked him, he said. I will next time. We talked about places I’d been, Split, Dubrovnik, he said. Afterwards I gave him a pound and we shook hands.

I just got on with it yesterday. Now remember, he said just now, tell that voice that it isn’t the thing that’s important. Its just the means, its what you will do with it later that matters. OK. You just tell it. Stupid voice, he said before turning out the light.

Stupid voice that is trying to protect me from failing. The shame of it. Failure. So what? It’s still a life, lived.I shall just do it again today. It is all illusory. In the repeat of Down Your Way with Pam Ayres this morning on Radio 4 Extra she interviewed a woman who’d gone on a course to learn how to make a basket coffin. Were some of the people on the course making their own coffins? Pam asked her. Oh, yes, she said, several. Preparing. Taking charge of the end. The inevitable. That, death and birth are the only two non-illusions. And it is coming. And I am grateful.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.