Firework for W. G. Sebald

Mum & Dad cambridge (1)

The air was chill this morning. A clear sky. The stars bright and the moon, a fat crescent, shone white. My finger tips, in black leather gloves, stung with the cold.

A girl, barefoot and coatless, stands outside the Pier Pressure nightclub. Excuse me, she calls out to me gesturing with an unlit cigarette, do you smoke? No, I say, I’m sorry I don’t. Later, as I come down Great Darkgate Street, I see her at the far end of Terrace Road. Bye, she is shouting to a friend. Byeeee!. I walk behind her as she runs, still barefoot, down Llanbadarn Road.

A loaf of bread has been spilt outside Lilley’s Coffee Shop, slices of white scattered on the pavement.

The seabirds on the shore faced landwards this morning. Was it because of the cold?

Last night in bed I heard a chit chit sound, was it a chaffinch?

The light is on in Coral bookmakers, it isn’t yet 5.30 am.


We finished watching the film. I’m sure it wasn’t the same one, he reiterated. Melancholy aids creativity, one of the talking heads claimed. Only children really feel a sense of home, another said, it is a romantic notion. The artist Jeremy Millar (I think that was his name) made a series of photographs of fireworks that he had let off on the spot where Max Sebald died. Only the smoke remained. With the last one they superimposed an image of Sebald’s face. The smoke emulated its contours exactly. A sleight of hand, a cheap┬átrick. Possibly.

I took a heavy sadness to bed with me. And slept fitfully, dreaming of Dad. I have a sketch of him that I have pinned on my studio board. It is a small pencil drawing that I made just before he died. He looks immobile, gone inward.

Penelope Wilton talking about her character in one of Alan Bennett’s Talking Head series, on Radio 4’s Reunion. She’s a timid woman, with a very large inner life that expresses itself in her garden.

I didn’t manage to write away the greyness. Not today.


By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.