He was outraged. They’ve clearly never had anxiety, he said. It was a crossword answer. The clue was something like ‘serious anxiety’. Collywobbles. Well, I take it to mean ‘butterflies’ or a slight nervousness over an event or doing something in public. However, I do love that about language, it is so stretchy, so versatile and can mean so many different things to different people. We talked about ‘stool pigeon’ in length too. Apparently, in the 16th century it meant a decoy. A pigeon was literally tied of fixed to a ‘stool’ or in those days a ‘stoal’ or tree stump to act as bait for a hawk. Poor thing. The crossword clue was police informer. (I can’t help singing that Kid Creole and the Coconuts song in my head.) I get a bit cross when they don’t come, the crossword answers, that is. And this morning I was all over the shop with my Sudoku. Sometimes my brain is mush. As is my body. Poor love. She grows old. Battered. We all do I suppose. My legs have returned to feeling heavy after changing my medication back. At least I no longer have the headaches, though apparently the cardiac consultant will want to see me. Shouldn’t they concentrate on those with real need?  I just need to live gracefully with it. So many people are in real pain. Like the woman in Tesco’s. We saw her at the doctors. He recognised her before I did. (I wander around this town in a constant state of anonymity, never assuming that I will be known or that I will know anybody. Don’t get me wrong, I like i.) We asked her about it when we saw her this morning. She winces with it. It’s her back. It is crumbling at the base of her spine. The pain killers have little impact. She takes morphine-based ones and her whole paracetamol allowance daily. It only really starts kicking in in the afternoon, she says. She leans to one side, and hobbles as she walks. The other woman, the one with what we suspect to be Parkinson’s, also hobbles. The halt and the lame. Such nice people. I do not regret the change. And the lovely MA student on the till. So elegant and gently-spoken.  

They promised wall-to-wall sun and now there is cloud. Heigh-ho. So be it.

A programme this morning on the radio about the Saharan people living in refugee camps. Some were born there. Such strength. They were working on their music as a way of expressing their plight. That longing for a homeland. I cannot know what that is. I do not belong here. Or there. I am moved by such stories, both real and fiction. A thin veil divides them. The mother in Costello’s novel who gave her boy-child all she could and then suffers the grief of his rejection and longing for a father that he has never known. After all that she gave him. Can we blame him? Did she feel the same when her daughter went on a similar search? She came back disappointed, but even so, the implication was that what she had wasn’t enough.

We will soon slough these bodies off, but until we do there is the pain to manage. The pain of living, of being alive. It is a manifestation. How does one  live well with it? You’ve just got to get on with it, said the woman in Tesco’s.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.