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Writings

Fire

I write in my head as I walk. I don’t want to but it is compulsive. Jenny Diski claimed that writing was a means of escaping the nothingness. Yes, I concur. I do it for that. I name things, I make stories in my head, keeping up a continual descriptive chatter. For me it is about documenting, circumnavigating my presence as watcher, observer. Never, ever as participator.

I make mental lists, chanting them to myself as a make my way home before they are not lost. Shorthand scribblings, scratched on my brain. I am immersed in her writings, and even as I write this I am aware of a new self-consciousness. In her shadow. Nonsense she would probably have said. Be yourself. It is enough. Or perhaps she wouldn’t have. Being nice wasn’t her way it seems. And good for her. That, I cannot shake off. So to the lists, or the lurid green not-so-sticky post-it notes.

Our friend on the check-out at Morrisons talking about knitting. I’d asked what she did in her spare time. Knit. Knit jumpers. I like Aran patterns, she said. She’s knitting a seamless one at the moment. With summer coming, she said. A circular needle, I asked. No, she said, just long ones. It’s really heavy. I also crochet and cross stitch. There’s no man at the moment. No Friday nights at Rummers. I’m too hot-headed, she said.

It was always him that did it. Chat to people, that is. Strangers. I hated it then, I wanted anonymity, to keep myself to myself. I do it now. Why? Curiosity? I don’t know, the reasons are complicated. To make a connection, but one that is contained. No coming knocking on our front door. Absolutely not. But sharing the time of day at the checkout. Yes. That’s OK. Howya doing Reg? he asks a short, middle-aged man pushing an electric floor polisher. He turns of the machine and starts to tell him about how they have to carry all the garden produce out onto the front of the shop each morning and back in again at night. It takes two hours each time. It’s a fucking shit-house, says Reg, a fucking shit-house.

There was a union jack flying from the National Library the other day. I’ve never seen a British flag there before. It was at half-mast.

Bits of radio chat. A promo for a late-night programme on Six Live. Jarvis Cocker’s voice whispering about the liminal time between night and morning. The grey line, they call it, he whispers.

The TV on overhead at work. I don’t want to watch it. The voice of a relative of the American killed on Westminster Bridge. They bear no ill will, no grudges. There is no bitterness, he wouldn’t of wanted it, he was a very positive guy, the man, a neat, clean-looking man is saying. Killed by a car driving at 70 miles an hour along the pavement. The dead man’s wife is still in hospital. It was their anniversary. Gone. Over. Such forgiving is humbling.

I catch at things. A magpie. A wanting to understand. To know. All the while knowing I cannot. Words stay with me. A woman writing about dyeing textiles. Using natural dyes. A whole new vocabulary. A layer of meaning, previously unknown to me. Saddening. Saddening is iron in the dye that makes everything a moss-green colour. Saddening.

We’ve spent the weekend nights watching Amy. I expected it to fiction but it was a documentary. Compelling, compulsive – we stayed up long after bedtime. A fragile being for all her mouth. What a voice. Wasting away to a nothing. Poor love. Poor baby. The flash of the paparazzi’s cameras. No peace, no hiding place. Rest in peace. Do you have it now?

There are a row of earth movers down by the harbour, giant monsters that loom in the dark. Why are they there? Two of them stood poised over the entrance to the mouth of the Ystwyth this morning. Are they clearing the river bed?

Yesterday there was a man peeing in one of the Prom shelters. I heard the noise, so distinctive, a stream of liquid hitting concrete. He had his back to me but I could see his face through the little window as he turned to face me, mid-pee.

A girl in black tights and shorts trailing behind a young lad. In one hand she carries a Kentucky Fried Chicken carton, the other is held between her thighs. I’m going to wet myself, she is saying. She moans and wails. He is irritable, striding ahead. We’re almost there, it’s just around the corner. His place? Their first date? They both seemed cross, out of sorts.

On one of the unkempt front lawns of the student houses along Llanbadarn Road there is a sprinkling of primroses.

Walking along South Marine Terrace I hear a flapping. Paper. A line of A4 sheets taped, rather haphazardly, to the glass door and windows of a ground floor flat. I thought it was a warning of Wet Paint, but coming closer I saw that on each was written just one word. Different handwriting, different pens. The script was small, awkwardly penned. Clumsy. One word, in block capitals. FIRE. FIRE. FIRE. FIRE.

 

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.