Niamh Cusack is reading an abridged version of Mary Costello’s Academy Street on the radio each morning this week. I am lapping it up, like a cat with cream. Costello writes so beautifully, though what I mean by that I am not so sure. The language is lyrical without being showy, it washes over me. Tess is a gentle being, so sensitive, so aware of emotions that go unstated by those around her. The way she feels about her father, her fellow nurses. And then the descriptions of the farmhouse, the radio not being turned on again after her mother’s death. And Cusack’s voice is sublime. Pure honey. I don’t think I can relinquish these twilight hours, for all my need for sleep. And walking at that time brings such a mix of fear and bliss. No, not bliss but a sense of peace. The world is holding its breath at that time. Yes, there are the drunks, the loutish shouting but there is also the bread being baked, the cry of the birds, the rush of the waves, fishing boats leaving the harbour and the approach of morning. And I am mostly alone. In Costello’s book she had Tess admitting to herself that she always chooses to do the night shift in the Dublin hospital for it is the only time she can be alone. I understand that. The woman with the bag was walking towards me today and she took a detour into the ‘ship’ to avoid crossing my path. I smiled to myself. It was clumsily done but I do understand. Catriona played Robert Schumann’s Songs of Dawn this morning on Radio 3 as I did my stretching. He called them Songs without Words, or was that Clara? Songs of Dawn are about the approach and awakening of morning. It was coming up as I listened. A beautiful morning today. There is sun, full sun already.

I know that I need to trust. I want to. She sounded a little brusque on the phone. How do they make a living? Will it be clean? Is it authentic? Will she be intuitive? Am I doing the right thing? I want to give it a try. And besides, who cares, I no longer give blood anymore, too many false starts.

The nurse again today. More pricking and prodding. I’d like to get beyond my body. Sail above it, floating.

I cannot eat coconut, it lies in my gut unwanted and undigested. And yet, I love it. I can picture so clearly those street-sellers in Spain with their barrows of it, the little jets of waters keeping them moist. So I buy products that smell of it, lotions and body washes. It’s the same with chocolate. And now there is to be no more onions. What is that smell? he kept asking, wrinkling his nose in disgust. I gave up garlic for him and now I must do the same with onions. So be it. He forgoes cooked meat for me. Fairs fair.

Not much time before I have to go. Half an hours writing. Better than nothing. Let’s not be precious about it. Workaday. Shall I buy a copy of Academy Street or perhaps they will have it in the library? Work now, sweetie.  

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.