Dog Walking in the Dark

The Gift, 2002 - Nigel Cassidy

We wake early, at three, study, do our work and then retire at eight, the Dutch monk from Caldey Island, is telling the interviewer on the radio.

Mostly I walk in silence. It is what I walk for. In the early morning. There is a young girl walking a small wire-haired terrier. The girl’s hair is a white mass in the dark. It is not yet 5 am.

I am walking along the Prom towards the Pier Pressure nightclub. It’s lights are still on. The silence of North Road and the north end of the promenade has been broken. Walk away, Mike, a woman is shouting. There are a cluster of people at the entrance to the club. Two of OW’s taxis, their engines running, wait at the roadside. There is a smell of heat, cigarettes and beer. Walk away, Mike, she shouts. Now, Mike, walk away. A large, stout man is pushing his chest against a giant security man in a yellow high-vis jacket. Walk away, says the security man. Walk away or I’ll put you on the ground. He is static. A rock, a boulder of a man. He looks down at the man, who is Irish, unflustered, unshaken. The Irishman pushes forward, his head waving, reeling, his fists raised. Walk away, Mike, the woman continues to wail, walk a-fucking way, she shouts. WALK A-FUCKING WAY! I am now by the castle. Walk away, Mike, she keens, dragging him away up Pier Street. Walk away.

Coming past the castle playground and along the walk-street to The Angel, a young man turns into the street by the Clock Tower, singing a Charlie Rich song. Hey, did you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world? He is smiling. And was she crying, crying. Hey. I remember a holiday spent in Menorca and playing Dad’s cassette tape of country love songs. And Mum, so tense, so on edge.


A white feather is momentarily suspended in the black, night air.

To aim for perfection would make life too serious, intones the Dutch monk. Earlier on the radio, the writer A. N. Wilson talked about Iris Murdoch. He hated the film. It made her look like a derelict, he says. She became just a Alzheimer’s sufferer, nothing else. He thinks that the fact that she knew she could only be a mediocre philosopher brought it on.

I want to write about the film that Terry Pratchett hosted about assisted death. I’d put off watching it. There is something so private about dying, it felt voyeuristic. And yet, to have denied myself the vision of such grace would’ve have been a sadness. The man died with such acquiescence – drinking the poison. You must drink it like this, said the doctor, straight down, if you sip it you will only sleep. His wife had brought some chocolates to help take away the taste. Which one shall you have, she asked, the praline? He had such manners. Thank you, he said to everyone. It has been an honour. He died snoring. He has gone to sleep, the Dignitas helper said to his wife. You can cry now. You’ve been holding it all, let it out now, it will do you good.

If I have to go that way, may I have white sheets?

The other night I dreamt I was interviewing David Cameron. Oh, no, he was saying, we set that picture up. Later there was a swan, its wings beating through the sky towards me.

Sometimes phrases play out in my head. Life is a profound act of forgiveness, it is saying.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.