Home Language

They are shadows. A boy and a girl. I see them at the entrance to the Castle grounds. The light is still too dim to make out their faces. I see their forms. He is stocky, big-shouldered, she is small, with long hair. Are they fighting, wrestling with each other? They move together. Are they dancing? She is talking. But I did, she says, her voice a whine. But I can hear the smile, the teasing, the testing. This time, she says, I said hello. More kids sprawl along the mini walk street by The Angel and leading up to the town clock opposite the Why Not? club. Two girls sit on the steps of The Academy. One of them is talking, her voice a screechy one with a South American twang. My problem ees….

I didn’t want to see the blackbird again. The dead one that lies on North Road decomposing. Someone had moved it onto the road on Monday. Is it still there? Had a cat got it? Or had it flown into the telegraph wires? There was a seagull chick on the sill outside the bathroom of the beauty salon. I told her. I know, she said, there’s two. They come back every year. It seemed perfectly content, fluffing out its downy plummage. They’d better watch out, he said when I told him later, the parents will dive bomb them. She told me they were friendly, I said. Hmm, he said.

They all greet him when he arrives. All hail fellow. One calls him by his Christian name but with a Mr at the front. His name is a shortened. Like Great Expectations, one of the women said, adding, Oh, I love that film. Poor Dickens, he said to me.

I let her talk. I don’t usually but I just let it happen. It was nice actually. I like her. She is strong, such calves. And her manner is just a little cool, that’s all. A cultural thing. We talked of families, work and Sweden. My cousin is an artist too, she said. Though it turns out she is more like an architect. An urban designer she called her. How I love the way Scandinavians do things. She told me of a mining town that the State is planning to move further up North, lock stock and barrel so that the community , after the closure of the original mine, can keep going. Wonderful, eh? Then she told me about what she called ‘Home Language’. Children from ethnic communities are taught their mother tongue by a special teacher at school. I wanted one, she said. I wanted to be taken out of normal class and given my own teacher. They will do whatever they need, Hungarian, Dutch, Serbian, whatever, she said. They want these children to know and keep their culture, she said. I am so impressed. She is good. My body feels battered, pumelled. I am so tight. Tight as a drum. She is non-plussed, just gets on with it. One day I did seventeen massages, she said, I was knackered. She is a doer, so capable. Last night I was putting up a greenhouse, she said.

A milky sky. The birds tra-la-la. Much to do. A rook caws from the roof opposite before taking flight. Time to work. Adieu.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.