Crows (25)


We’d tried to escape. Just for one morning. To sit idly by on a sofa in a too hot room looking down onto the sea. But it had been shut. The hotel. The hotel had been shut. So unexpected, we were discombobulated, thrown. We saw the scaffolding as we drove up the driveway and there were virtually no cars. Unheard of, no cars. Where is everybody? he asked. The sign on the door said hotel reception open again on January 19th 2017. No other explanation. Not even a happy Christmas. Nothing. So we drove back and stopped at another favourite. That too had changed. She’d died. The proprietess had died, last February. A real shock. She’d always been there, smiling. It had all changed, though some of the pictures remained. We stayed for tea but there were no silver pots here. Or indeed tea leaves. No Lapsang. I wanted it’s smokiness. He lit the fire, though the warmth didn’t come. Everything pared-down. A taster menu. A list of single words, Duck, Swede, Lager and Lime. Incomprehensible. He was proud and talked of guests coming from Birmingham for that very special dining experience. No biscuits, but we do have toffee waffles, he said. No thanks, we said. We drove back and ate lunch in the car, sitting looking at the sea from the harbour. Outside the car the crows gathered. Perched on the Promenade rail the wind fluffing up their feathers. They strode and prowled around the cars, waiting for a window to open and a chip or a lump of bread to come hurtling out. But mostly they perched being jostled, ruffled by the wind. Their walk is a kind of lurching roll, like old women, plumpish women in big skirts. They are sanguine about the lack of food-tossing. Some sail off, gliding through the wind down onto the beach. Others stare into the distance. So what, they seem to say, I don’t care.

He read me some of his father’s poetry. The broadcast had finished, I think he was more than a little high afterwards. Shall I read some? he asked. He had big hair, a great big white bouffant, coiffed this way and that, defying all laws of gravity. Had he been a teddy boy in his youth? He wore a navy cardigan and a tight light blue shirt. Shall I read some? He was proud. You must be proud, I said. His father had been a sea captain and he’d send poetry home. Instead of letters, he said. He even had a code which he’d used with my mother, he said, to let her know where he was. Narvik, was one, he said. He’d told me, he said, you mustn’t go to sea. None of us, he said. So I became a teacher and then I went. We all write poetry, he said. Shall I read some? And it was good. A list of place names. A musicality of names, curling rich and rounded. It’s a special Welsh metre, he said. Nadolig Llawen, I said as I left. Ciao, he said. Ciao.

There is much I will miss. I find this going away a difficult-ness. A friend writes from America. She is moving for the first time in a long while. You have moved often, she writes, I not at all. She is thrown, discombobulated. Bobbing about, rootless. I know how you feel. I get it even for just these few days. I lose my centre. I miss. I miss my work, the radio, my walking, my silence. And yet, I know there will be joy. Always, always. Paul Durcan reading his Christmas Day on the radio. A recording of his voice and his marvellous poem. Gorgeously confessional, gorgeously layered. A riot of expression of thought of sexuality of religiosity of love. He and his friend Frank sharing Christmas Day.

I watched a magpie as the coffee percolated.

Let it be, they said. Let it be.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.