I dreamt that I was trying to get back all the things I’d given away. Clothes, shoes, gloves and other objects of finery that I’d bundled off to charity shops. There were a pair of long gloves, gold satin with tiny buttons that went all the way up the arm. And a pair of silk shoes emblazoned with tiny shimmering beads. They had been mine. I knew them. I had worn them. But they were dispersed all over the place. How was I to get them back? And, it slowly dawned on me, where would I get the money to buy them back? For I would have to buy them back, wouldn’t I? Somehow I began to reason this through in my dream, asking myself why I wanted them, what use were they to me? They were beautiful, exquisite things but they no longer represented what I was, had become. There was some sadness in this realisation and a struggle to let them go. Their beauty dazzled me. I’d lost something by letting them go.

I woke with the detail of them still resonant in my head. What had been lost? What did they represent? A more fantastical life? Wealth? Success? It was more about overt displays of beauty, femininity even. I don’t know. Sometimes it takes a whole day to shake off such a dream.

I still feel a little adrift. There is always much to do but I lack a definitive object. An objective. Or is just that that is how I’ve always worked, with an end in sight. Now there is no end, just an endless searching. Sometimes, just sometimes, I’d like to tread water, to rest, to let it just flow. Flow on. Without the pushing.

A tiny white feather floats down in to the kitchen sink.

Walking past Flat 1 in the dimming afternoon I look through the window. An armchair lit by the yellow bulb of a standard lamp arching overhead. Over the half-window net curtains I can see a head resting against the back of the armchair. A woman’s head. The hair is white, softly curled, with the texture of baby hair. White. I can feel it’s tenderness. Is she reading? Carers arrive through the day. Three times a day. One comes in a Land Rover and wearing high riding wellies. Do they visit between ponies?

I had the radio loud as I cleaned. Jay Rayner with a selection of cookery programmes. In one Nina Myskow was having lunch with Judith Kerr in a restaurant the authoress used to go to with her husband of fifty odd years. I love life, she says at some point in the interview. So vital. So resonant. Earlier Nina had eaten with David Sedaris. Some people’s voices just make one feel happy. His does.  It’s a kind of whiny New York-ish accent, nasal, and down-beat, and yet there is something so uplifting about his approach to life. Self-deprecating yes, but also compassionate. He tells of his father stealing, or saving food. Once he put a slice of bread in his pocket. For later. Two days later he was putting it in his suitcase. I’m telling it badly, it needs his delivery. And Judith Kerr, how can I express the quavering, potency of her voice?

I am tired, tired, tired. Sucked out. Was I ever vigorous? I can’t manage the big things any more, just those in front of my face. Something has been lost, certainly. But do I mind?

Early to the supermarket. Dropping off food waste at the bins and a robin hops in front of me. It bobbed about brazenly. What do you want? I remember the one in our Cambridge garden, bobbing about on the soil before me. What do you want little bird?

What do you want?


By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.