Kind. Mankind. Man kind. Are we not kind? To be kind. To find that core of rightness, of altruism. Is that not a quest?

The morning is still. I hear crows, rooks, blackbirds even though all the windows are snapped shut against the window cleaner. The water seeps through. Plastic windows, they are not my cup of tea. They feel wrong in the space, they do not fit with the stone. Ah, convenience. Yes, I understand and I remember plastic was the great thing in the 60s when I was young. Everything that could be formed in plastic was. I remember a set of plastic beakers we used to take with us on picnics. I loved them. They smelt of happy days and that a faint residue of sweat and orange squash. We did have happy days, you know. I recall their smiles and laughter. Oh, Chris, she’d say, her head thrown back. Plastic was brightly coloured, opaque or see-through. It spoke of freedom, of affordability, ease, convenience and youth. There were plastic chairs, tables, sofas, everything. And now it is the great no no. The oceans are full of it. Where else was it supposed to go? Shall we go back to glass? We all create so much waste, so much stuff. A life of it. A life of amassing it. I grow weary of it. How to be lighter? How to be lighter on this earth?

We do the best we can. I truly believe that we do. It cannot be neatened up. It cannot be contained. It is messy. It is necessarily so, I think. Kids were out in the rain this morning. One tiny girl running her jacket over her head. Yesterday I passed two lovers standing on the Prom. He was wearing a woollen hat and his hands were jammed in his pockets. They stood close to each other, their bodies almost touching. She was stroking his face. I walked round them. They didn’t move.

A woman has replied to my call for interviews. How sweet of her. But as always she is miles away. There was nothing in Wales. Never mind, he says, I like our trips. And I do too. I think it is good for us, though tiring. It takes us out there. To something new. Still dog tired. What is it, the shift from routine? My third day at the home today. Always these jittery nerves beforehand. It is still so unknown – what I am looking for, what I will see, witness and experience. I just need to let it be. Let it become what it needs to become. Shall I give it six months? And then what? What will they want from it? What will I have to show for it?

I think about her, about what I will say. I just want to sit with her, be with her, just her. Sit and wait. I know she is hurting. Can I help? Can I help any of them? Can I help myself? Perhaps it is not about helping but as I am doing in the dementia home, just being present, truly present before another being. Am I present as I sew? I pay attention. My head is bowed but I am alert. Such a layering. It is a mess this life if we seek perfection, that is. I had no idea that anorexia and perfectionism were so closely linked. See here, she told the doctor showing him her emaciated arm, there is still so much flesh to be got rid of. It is something one can do, the shrinking, the shrinking of one’s physical self. Bless them, bless them all.

He’s got two to three years, she said. I don’t know how to digest the news. It’s his blood. He is just very tired. I’m eighty-one on Saturday. A party, no, just the family and the grandchildren. We’re to have lasagne.

I’d like to go and see them. Family. They are my family.

Show me how.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.