The doorbell goes. It is a neighbour coming to complain about hearing our washing machine in the early morning. I am mortified. She’s so shy, bless her, he says afterwards. What courage it must have taken for her to come. I am so sorry. How many months have they lain there irritated by it before coming to complain? You and your body clock, my mother-in-law used to say. Yes. It is odd. I am odd. Singular. Its a question of energy. I have it in the morning and I want to get things done. Unimportant things. Clear the decks, ready to work. I am so sorry. It won’t happen again, I promise.

Singular. Yes, I believe I am. I remember a friend at Art School talking about what a visiting lecturer had said about me. Overtly bisexual, though leaning more towards being a lover of men, he’d told my friend that he fancied me because I looked like I didn’t have sex. I didn’t know what to make of such a comment then and still don’t. What does it mean? What does such a person look like? Though at the time I do remember taking it as some sort of compliment. I had been singled out. It hadn’t happened before. I had been noticed for a singularity, that only he, apparently, had seen.

Going into my studio early this morning I was transfixed by the moon casting the roofs silver outside. As I stood watching the clouds scudding across it a sharp flame of white cut through the blackness. A bursting thrust then it was gone. A falling light. A shooting star. Marvellous. Magical.

She writes to tell us she is homeless. No forwarding address, so no cards. Don’t reply, she says. Lines of communication severed. She is with friends. Family is severed.

Traversing through the Castle Park I hear voices sheltering from the rain under the eves of The Academy. It is shut. Whoever it is, they are sitting on the steps. It happened too fast. A tumbling. A rolling tumbling of limbs and clothing. I couldn’t make it out. A falling on the ground. There was no form to it, no rigidity. I walked nearer. A man, a student pulling someone up by an arm. Wrenching. The body soggy, formless, not responding. Are you alright? I ask. Come to bed, the man is saying. We need to get you to bed. An arm flails, flops and then another. The body is yanked to its feet. I turn round in time to catch a glimpse of white flesh. A lower back and black lace, a taught black lace G-string triangle denoting her sex.

He came in to the studio to talk about his book. I was a little nervous. He writes beautifully. I am awed by beauty. It has always been so. A small man. Intense. Intense with the heat of life, of creating. His skin was coated in a thin film of sweat. Or was it the rain? An articulate man. He knew his work. He was attached to it through an umbilicus. The an Irish voice coming through the speakers, lyrical and warm. Generous. A joy, I told him. Was it alright? he asked. It was a joy, I said. Good radio. Radio at its best. People talking. Intimacy. Something shared, something received.

I oscillate. I oscillate between the need to make and the need to write. To and fro. To and fro. I am so easily swayed that some days I just need to be still and do it. One or the other. Just doing it. In it intensely so that it absorbs, covers all the stops, all the gaping chasms of uncertainty. It was too small, he said, too small to publish. They quibbled, ummed and ahed. If you think it’s that good then publish it, he’d said. And they did. Such sureness. It isn’t real, I know this. Not really. Most are like me. Faith is like that, full of doubt. We are seekers, all of us. Seeking a better way, a better way of finding that peacefulness, that stillness of being right, of being ourselves within the act of creation. A rare thing. An elusive thing.

She played a version of Gaudete. It wasn’t the one. I was disappointed. I remember playing it on a journey through the mountains. I’d put it on repeat. Again and again. Maddy Prior’s voice, clear and sharp and those male voices, layer after layer of rich, sonorous depth. Gorgeous. Steeleve Span singing Gaudete. Listen.


By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.