There’s a spot of blood on your duvet cover, I said to him at breakfast, is it from your shin?. Yeh, I know, he said, I saw it last night but I can’t work out where it is from. It’s the pills he takes, they thin the blood, so if he cuts or scratches himself he just bleeds and bleeds. Mind you, he always has, ever since I’ve known him. We’re not big bleeders, he says, mimicking one of his mother’s saws. It always makes us laugh. It’s such a preposterous thing to say. As if a family bleeds alike. Perhaps they do. We’re not big bleeders could also be referring to size, to stature, of course. I never heard her say it. Did she do it tongue in cheek? That little person, that definitely not ‘big bleeder’. Shall I wash the duvet again? I ask. No, just leave it, he says. It doesn’t matter to him, these things don’t. To me it does, but perhaps it is a good thing to let loose a little. Sponge it off, they use to say. Come here and I’ll sponge it off. Just like the face being wiped by a bit of your mother’s spittle. Come here, let me see. Rough love.

I woke to the smell of curry coming through my bedroom window. It was so strong, the cooking process have just begun. Was it from our neighbour below? Like me, he is often up in the early hours, though unlike me he then sleeps through most of the morning. I temper my irritation. He means no harm, the fact that I feel assaulted by such strong smells is not his fault.

My waking dream stayed with me for the first time in days. I’d asked that I remember it but was less rigid about it and it seemed to have worked. I was in a small chapel or church. It was of domestic proportions, a busy, rather cluttered environment. I was trying to reach for something and climbed up onto two tables, straddling them, one foot on each. It was precarious. They each had a table cloth on top of them. Beneath me women were starting to come in sorting out hymnbooks, flowers possibly for the service. Jenny Agutter as Sister Julienne from Midwife was there officiating. I thought I would be told to get down, or at least asked what I was doing. But no one troubled me. The women were active, engaged in their tasks, their faces looked strained, stressed, cross even. I felt high above them, separate and now steady.

The morning light was smoky with mist. A fine rain dusted my face though there was no real evidence of wetness. There were more people about than I expected. Down by Alexandra Hall the air smelt sweet, like new mown-grass and ice lollies. Towards South Marine it smelt of last night’s barbecues. On Northgate Terrace a seagull ripped at a dustbin bag.

Another neighbour, Betty the cat’s owner, has planted some herbs in the planter that she hooks on the railing opposite her window. There is thyme, basil, oregano and parsley. It’s the nearest I can get to a garden, she’d said to me last year. Perhaps I can branch out too. There’s a little shelf on the roof below us. I’d love to grow sweet peas. Would they climb the fence? Perhaps it is too late to plant them now. Maybe next year. The geraniums give at least three people joy. Myself, him and our neighbour’s ninety-nine year old mother. I can’t see them very well, she says, but they give me such pleasure as I come out of my door. It is worth it for that. I think of her as I water them. We don’t really own anything out right. It is shared. A shared ownership, a shared joy.

To work. I keep thinking about emptying myself. There are no shoulds, he says, over and over again. I’ve allowed work to define me, working hard makes me believe that I am a good person, worthwhile. I need to be in the spaces in-between. What am I then? Am I more myself then? I think of being abroad, on holiday sitting in the sun. I let it the space come in then. I let it become blank. Wait and see. Make the space and an answer will come.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.