Business as Usual (Arnolfini Marriage) 2002 - Nigel Cassidy

I know it’s nonsense. A sugary kind of nothingness that is easy to watch after a long day. Snuggling up on his bed. With him stroking my feet. I know. But sometimes, even in the most cloying of TV nothingness there is wisdom.

We watch them through, the box sets. They call them costume dramas. The original books are usually weighty, important even. Mrs Gaskell’s North and South, Elliot’s Middlemarch.  But they are tinkered with, adapted for contemporary taste, lightened, sugared. It’s OK. They are easy on the eye, on the mind. We are almost through with Lark Rise to Candleford. I borrowed the book from the Library. A great tome of a book. Hardback. Much-borrowed. Some pages are falling out. It couldn’t have been more different. This is social history. The adaptation, a saccharin nothingness. Though the actors do their best. Linda Bassett as Queenie Turrill. Last night she’d been to Banbury Fair to sell her lace. I’ve been at the pillow since I were a little girl, she said. No one wants hand-made lace anymore. It’s all that machine-made stuff, now. She is thrown. I always saw the purpose before, she says to Ruby Pratt of The Stores, her hands crisscrossing the bobbins, now I only see the beauty.

Is creation still creation when there is no place for it? No one to buy it or even see it? Do we, can we create just for the sheer joy of it?

He is so cheerful. A truly contented man I think. A photographer by trade. I’ve known a few. And in so many cases they’ve been bashing sort of men. Not tender. And yet, their craft is a careful one, is it not? A patient one. All that waiting, that blowing away of dust.

I saw it shimmer in the light from the lamppost. Black sequins, the large ones. A skirt. A sequinned skirt. I could make out a skirt, and stocking tops with bare thighs. It was still dark after all. Not yet five am. There were two of them. I heard their voices first. They were arguing. Standing on the corner of North Road and Loveden Avenue. The skirt was tiny, a mini skirt. As I approached I saw it was a man. A man with a beard wearing a mini skirt. A sequinned mini-skirt.

If he doesn’t die soon they will have to move him out of the hospice. They are only allowed two weeks dying time there. But he likes it there. He is safe, he is cared for. Will they move a dying man? Disrupt this period of grace. She writes that she fed him bananas and custard. Nursery food. Baby food. Everything turning full circle. They have reached a state of grace those two. How potent death makes life.

The drugs are making him hiccup. He doesn’t understand.

I am having my feet done. I love her voice. Warm treacle. Syrup. The condition makes him so honest, she tells me. We’d gone away for the weekend and my husband needed a haircut. We were at breakfast and Dad said to my husband. David, he said, can I ask, is that a wig?

Have they moved him from the second floor?

Sian’s meant to be taking care of the weather in Aberystwyth, he told me over the phone. I think there is supposed to be some flooding along the sea front.

Ulster. That’s it. That’s the answer to the crossword clue. A long overcoat, ending in r. I found it. I asked and I found it. In Lark Rise to Candleford.

A man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for. He quotes it a lot. I will try. I just want to send it out. These little pieces of something. He looks concerned. If it gives you joy, then fine, he says. Joy. There is joy in the making, certainly. One just has to learn to care less, that’s all. Care less. Careless.

I’ll try.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.