House Wife (2) 2008 med

When I am distrait I clean. A need to establish order, I suppose. Returning from a long morning at work, I do the same. Kitchen tops are wiped, bed covers are smoothed, cushions plumped and pictures straightened. I am distrait, as is he. We manage. Welcome it in, I say. It is there, this anxiety, we must live with it. No, he says, I cannot, will not. Fighting it is useless. It is age. It is life. It is uncertainty. Test after test. He acquiesces, more than I would. He trusts. He gives himself over then comes home and consults Google. Anything to make him feel better, to take away the uncertainty.

It has been a while since I wrote. Have you noticed? Have you missed me? I remember a farmer brought in to talk about the anniversary of Foot and Mouth. There was an inhaler beside him when I went in to check he was OK. An asthmatic, clearly. I heard him coughing through the office speaker. Afterwards, he looked sheepish. Did I do OK? he asked, my brain froze.

Passing the studio at home, on my way to bed, there was a light outside. A strange light. Greenish, eerie.

I thought the word was garrotted, or was it carrotted? No, he said, it’s carotid. What will I do without him? But this must not be about me. Give me the strength to carry him, to carry his fear. I read about Charlotte Bronte losing her last sister, Anne. Four days in Scarborough. They travelled to the seaside. The air might help. It did not. Four days and she was dead.

We watched Jane Eyre with Michael Fassbinder as Rochester and Mia as Jane. A beautiful film. Her waterlogged skirts dragging through the bracken and heather of the moors was so powerful. The sisters would walk the moors daily in their petticoat-ed skirts and tiny fragile boots. I have some, Victorian boots. They are minute, tender, with soles of kid. His beauty unsettled me. It is rare these days. Last night I dreamt of fish.

The radio continues to nourish me. Charlotte Bronte found similar solace in the books that her publishers would send her. Neil Ansell’s account of his five years in a remote Welsh cottage. He arrives with just a small bag of clothes, ‘I wanted to know how lightly I could tread on the Earth’. It is the simplicity that appeals. I yearn for it. A Spartan life. A life of paying attention, of being still, of observing. A life of no self. Listen, it is good. And then yesterday, a book about Paris read by Simon Russell Beale. The author wrote about the Bohemians. A man from Guadeloupe, I think he was called Privat. Privat walked and walked the streets of Paris, writing in cafes and bars. ‘He wrote his books with his legs’, wrote the author.

I think about writing all the time. Possibly it is because, at the moment I cannot do it. Not yet, I am too busy with the commissions. There is so much I want to do. To reach out with, to communicate. Though, in truth, I write for myself. Of course.

My favourite bowl finally broke. It had had a crack for over two years now. It was green. A pea-green.  I loved it. I ate everything out of it. I let out a cry as it fell from my hand. It was a childish cry. A petulant one. I know when I do this now. I cannot get away with it. But it is OK. To be a child, to mourn the loss of something familiar. I bought another. Two in fact. White ones. Heavy, solid with the wood ‘food’ impressed into the clay. I like them. I grow used to them. The maker, Keith Bryner-Jones, makes cups, plates and jugs. I have a hankering for a jug. For daffodils. When the money comes. When it comes, perhaps I will treat myself. Something in, and something out. Give and then receive. A good balance.

I find a note. I write them on scraps of paper. Sometimes I forget what they refer to. Stitching families together, it says. Stitching families together.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.