Scan of Luka's drawing

Writing is such an intense experience when I’m in it that when a piece is complete I feel a little lost. Like now. I need to work. I realise that. I am searching for something in my work, some kind of affirmation that I am good enough. It won’t come, I know that, for it’s not real. It’s an illusion. A throwback to childhood possibly. A sign of discontent. A sign of fear. Of not being up to the mark. But what is the mark?

We walked in the sunshine yesterday. The promenade benches were full. People sitting, faces upturned to the sun. On one particular bench there were an elderly couple. Crepe-paper faces, big-knuckled hands. He was reading a large hard-backed book that he held perched on his knee. She was staring straight ahead, not looking but smiling. Just smiling. Sitting doing nothing. Not nothing. Being. I felt a pang, a longing to be like her. When I’m older, I said to him, I’ll do that. Just sit. Just be. Why not now? he asked. Why not now?

I have a bunch of scribbled notes, torn pieces of newspaper, post-it squares, yellow and pink. I need to remember, you see. All those thoughts that are so easily lost. Emulsion. Magnolia to patch up the marks on the kitchen wall. Was it me? Spit-spots of beetroot and pomegranate. Then there are the journal reminders. Victoria Wood, RIP, one reads. Yes. What a shock. Like Terry Wogan, she is/was entrenched. Here for keeps. Now she’s gone. Where to? I thought last night as I lay in bed listening to the birds. Where to? And why now? We used to watch Dinnerladies over and over again. I ask if we can watch them again. Course, he says, though I know them by heart. We’d quote from them all the time. Dolly with her ‘it was in the Daily Mail‘ and Stan with his ‘it’s these new-fangled condoms they’re not up to the job’ or ‘you need two types of women, one to the do the heavy lifting’. It always makes him laugh. The familiar, the cosy. Just like her. VW was such a warm writer. You will be missed.

Next on the list is ‘full moon’. It was a gorgeous one, flooding my studio this morning with that eerie white light. My dreams have been exhausting, so much detail. Trying to solve something. What, I cannot remember. Walking yesterday morning, early as usual, I bumped into a couple just leaving a house on North Road. A party. I caught her face as I strode by. She’d made it up to look like a cat with a blacked nose and whiskers. And I think she was crying. The boy she was with looked safe, kind, as he led her away by the hand. Later, we were in Newtown visiting an exhibition I was to review. A man and his wife got out of a car ahead of us. He’d clearly had a stroke. Through his jeans his legs were atrophied, and he carried one lifting it high, unable to place his weight upon it. He sported a thick white beard. He looked tired, world-weary. She left him to walk on ahead, busying herself with the car.

Lip-Lickin’ Fried Chicken is still open at 4.30 am, it’s lights a harsh yellow against the night. I can smell the salty-fatness that hangs in the air. People traipse outside, greasy cartons in hand, to sit on benches or in the promenade shelters, eating in silence, too tired to talk.

I listen to my Ipod when I walk, at least I have the last few days. Sometimes it is my attempt to counteract the dark. Other times I choose not too, preferring to hear the birds, the sea, to feel the environment through sound as I walk. I put it on shuffle. Poetry, stories, music, and teach yourself Norwegian meld together as I listen. I never know what is coming. Yesterday it was the story of Winken, Blinken and Nod. I remember the tale as a child. There were beautiful grey-toned illustrations of the three in their wooden shoe boat.

John Moore’s daughter talking about him in the radio. In the evenings my parents would retire to the TV room, she said, to watch comedy programmes. At the age of ninety-seven, she said, my father would sit in the studio listening to the radio and draw.

One morning walking along Terrace Road there were a pile of broken egg-shells on the ground. I stopped walking. A door had been splattered with eggy-goo. A whole box-full. A dozen, two dozen maybe. Why? A practical joke? There was a nastiness to it somehow. Sales of flour and eggs to under sixteens are forbidden, reads a notice in Morrisons.

I think about work, not writing but making work. It’s not there yet. Perhaps it will never be. Work v domestic chores. An ongoing preoccupation. What is work? What is valued? Women working. I think of those I know doing their nine-to-fives. And me here, trying to find my way. Always thinking, always writing, always making. Is it work? Do I work hard enough? Is there value in what I do? I try to find answers in other people’s lives. Past lives. They just did it. The Brontes – baking bread between the writing. And John Moore’s daughter saying home-work was the same as making. All part and parcel of the same thing. Yet, I remember Jeanette Winterson saying, ‘I need a wife’ to do those things. And Freud, just painting, the rest, the everyday stuff done by others. Uglow too. Does it make one less of a creative to want to have domestic order too?

The labels have come. It seems strange to read their names. I need to ponder it. To think about it. To think upon, as she used to say. Will you guide me, whisper in my ear?

Enough for now. I am done. Adieu.


By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.