Chicken and Chips

There is a scene in Victoria Wood’s Dinnerladies where one of the customers at the counter asks whether the tuna n’ sweetcorn in the baked potato is separate. Is it tuna and sweetcorn? she asks. No, Bren (played by Victoria Wood) replies, it’s tuna n’ sweetcorn. What does the n’ mean? the woman asks again. It means it’s all mashed up, says another of the girls. When she asks to have them separated, Wood’s character goes into a long rigmarole about there being wars and starvation and that this is what’s on offer, so basically take it or leave it. It’s a classic scene. A satire on faddishness, obviously a favourite issue of hers. Vegans, says Dolly, another of the ladies, all those faddy attitudes. Why don’t they just stay at home with a banana? Chicken and chips. Chicken n’ chips. There was a box of Kentucky Fried Chicken on a bench on the Prom this morning. Its lid was slightly open. It was full. The food left untouched. Had they changed their mind? Lost their appetite? Will the gulls find it?

I heard the starlings under the pier for the first time. A kind of keening, screechy kind of chattering. Thousands of tiny voices, a hushing, whooshing sort of noise. Are they just waking? No smell as yet. It gets to reek. All that guano. They will begin their murmuration soon. A magical sight. A great swooping of black, forming and re-forming.

I’ve gone back to the Book of Silence by Sara Maitland. I love having books I can return to, that I know I can fall into, be taken up by, held. I love where it takes me. Those lonely isles. It is a fantasy of mine, I know. The loneliness is at once so attractive and so frightening. How does one reconcile such opposites?

Too much to do this morning. Not much time to be still or write. This will have to do. It isn’t enough. Yoga then back to work. I want to be still. Soon. Soon.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.