I’ve been in the doldrums since my return. What I thought was hay fever has become a cold, I’ve spent the last few days wading through admin and yesterday the rain was constant. But I need to stop this self pity. Alongside the moaning voice there is the calmer, grateful adult one. See what you have been given, pay attention to the detail if the whole is too much, it whispers. Notice. Keep your eyes trained on the road ahead and be at peace. Yes. I acknowledge that I have a sensible self alongside the child who still wants to be in escape mode. I know this. And I am grateful for it.

My mind is a tyrant. It has learnt to harangue me. Is it for the best? Did it begin so? It carps, finds fault and is forever dig dig digging. I should’ve checked, I know this. It was too knee-jerk, it never works that. But it doesn’t matter, not really. They, she will have forgotten it by now. Let it lie. Learn from it and move on. Will it let me? No. So stop listening. Wouldn’t that be something? My mind is a tyrant and I have made it so. There is little congratulation, little affirmation of goodness, of skill, of achievement, just a continual fretting over little things, little misdemeanours. I forgot to take away the shampoo from the shower. I didn’t check to see if that exhibition had already been covered. Detail. The great forgetting. Rushing. So slow down. Relax. Breathe and forgive yourself. Nothing matters. No thing. Think of your death, he says. It’s a great leveller. I think of mine but I also think of theirs, of hers, mainly. Someone so large in my life is now nothing. Not a thing. Nothing. I can still smell the smoke from her cigarettes in her house. But her presence, that is gone. I thought about the two sparrows. The ones who came into J and J’s house the nights following her death. Never happened before, J said. They came flying into the room I was staying in. One perched on the shower, the other on the light fitting. Neither wanted to be chased out. Was it her? That lover of tiny creatures, holding them in her hand as if porcelain. Was she looking out for me? She never trusted them, J and J. Get them out of my house, she shouted. I didn’t understand. I am sorry for that, for many, many things. I wanted to hold her. To show her she was loved. It is too late.

The town is overrun. The freshers have taken over the town. They have replaced the seagulls. There is vomit everywhere. They go too far. Is it nerves? Such excess. The police presence was more subdued this morning. Perhaps they are all running out of steam. Still noise around the clock tower. Two of them on bikes. Each singing. A kind of answering. One sang a line and the other replied. A Kanye West song, perhaps? I got the money….They sang in deep voices, Satchmo style. Funny. A boy sat dazed on the pavement outside Pizza Lush, unable to move. Down by the harbour a car raced up to where I was walking, beeping its horn. A window was rolled down. Four kids in the car. A saloon with a girl driving. Excuse me, called a voice. A boy, thin and slurring. Are you the person I was supposed to meet down here? It took me a while to work out what he was trying to say. No, I said. My apologies, he said, my apologies. And the car took off at great speed. Drugs? Perhaps? Small town naughtiness, small town daring. Who cares?

It attacks my sense of self. It often comes when I’ve been away. Away from me, the working me, the out there me. It comes like a hard wall, all that haranguing stuff that has been waiting to assail me. I don’t have to listen. I don’t have to let it floor me. It isn’t real. I’m doing the best I can. That is all. I am nervous about next week, not sure how it will work out. Let the expectations go. Let it be what it will be. So many possibilities. They will come, they will open to me. I know this. I know it.

I miss the sun.

She loves Christmas. She is delighted by it. I could see it in her face as she spoke. The decks go up right after Remembrance Day she says. Even the tree? Yes, I’ve a fake one. I love it, she says and laughs a lovely trill kind of laugh. I can see the girl in her. Nice.

I still miss the sun.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.