Sherborne House - sign

The lights in a¬†building along the seafront are ablaze. It is 3.45 am. It is a large four-storey building, a hall of residence for undergraduates. The windows are curtain-less, the rooms empty. Hopper-esque. The yellow light against the blue-black sky of still-night is Hopper-esque. That same kind of haunted vacancy, that stark loneliness of being awake at such an hour just before the comfort of morning. All the lights left on. They have been so for weeks now. The harsh electric light emphasise the building’s abandonment. Bleak. Across the Quad there are a couple of vacant flats. The upper one has odd pieces of furniture draped in white dust sheets. (I think of that scene from Orlando with its room after room of ghosted forms and then later outside in the garden bushes and grass covered in floating white and the girl-child running, squealing with delight. And in Persuasion as Anne Elliot waits to vacate her home. Everything covered, awaiting the leave taking.) Yesterday a man in a yellow t-shirt¬†stood at the window.

I notice the details. A bright triangle of negative space. A butterfly touching the outside of my studio window attracted to the light.

Roger Ackling died. I remember him. A gentle man, intelligent, at times cryptic. I responded to his work. The small, the detailed. Sun burnt lines into wooden ice-cream spoons. Rest in peace.

They were dark shadows against the custard-yellow of the streetlight. Moving in a hushed huddle through the Castle park. One had a white guitar strapped across his back. I strode behind them. Hi, one of them said. Hello, I said. They stepped aside, clumsily. Sorry, one said. That’s OK, I said. Polite, gentle beings. There is nothing to fear, ever, never.

Morning begins to open.

Details. A young girl in sparkling tights and pink sequin shoes, her feet not able to touch the ground, colouring. This morning a boy on a bench, hood over his head against the night chill. Keeping his father company while he fished. Let me come, can I come? Please Dad, please. And now, so tired, his eyes made red with tiredness. Staring at me empty-eyed.

The violence of the last few days is beyond my comprehension. The priest’s face staring back at me from the newspaper. A wise face, I think. There is no comfort, not here. But there is there. For him. They are in a world of light. May it always be so. Rest in peace.


By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.