He Carlo

The main street of our town has been gutted. Shop after shop is empty and either To Let or For Sale. It’s a sad thing. A few betting shops remain, as do a couple of haberdasheries, and there are some coffee shops and cafes that continue to trade but the rest have gone. And taking the bustle with them. The business quango Advancing Aberystwyth that used to drive him to distraction (even prompting him to write a letter to the local paper), with their ice rink, huge deckchairs on the Prom, closing of roads to make walk streets, the paddling pool made into a sandpit and the proposed trip wire have been sacked. No one, including him, wanted them. They didn’t advance the town, merely irritated people. We need a bigger vision. Anyone? It all looks so shabby, unloved and deserted. Even his friend’s upstairs cafĂ© The Carlton (the ex-chef of Corners, a restaurant that used to be on the corner of Chalybeate Street, that he’d go to with his mum, where infamous family sayings were born and much repeated, such as ‘she’s the trout’) has lost some of its letters and is now, He Carlo. And she who is so fastidious and forever popping out from the kitchen to clean the windows of children’s finger smears. It makes me sad. Or perhaps it is just Easter with all those memories of the violent retellings of what was done to him. He was crucified an hour ago, he said to me yesterday. Poor love. Poor love.

I want to be like a tree, straight and solid. Not thick like an oak but slender and flexible, a birch, not a willow that’s too bendy and who wants to be continually weeping, no a birch, a silver one. I want to know my strength and not wobble like I did again yesterday. I can do it. I want to know this and take strength from it.

I woke from a dream in which I was lighting a candle. It had come through the post as a present for someone else. It was a large one with several wicks (just like my mother used to have) in a glass container. As I woke to the alarm the sentence ‘what were you thinking of, galosh?’ came into my head.

Give me the grace to work well today without complaint, to allow the words to come, and to be kind. Always to be kind.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.