Serendipity, it happens all the time. A book I’m reading, then the writer is on Desert Island Discs that very same day. Reading the book and I’m thinking about how I absorb it all, all the nuances, the difficulties, all the emotions. It becomes a tension in me. I am a sponge to fiction, to story, to other people’s lives real or unreal. I’m porous. Porous. Two minutes into her interview with Kirsty Young and she says it, that very same word, the word I’d thought of only a hour before. Porous. We must be porous to books, to story, she says. I liked the sound of her. We’re born in the same year. The book, her book is difficult to read. It is not linear. There is sometimes no punctuation. A stream of consciousness, a reflection of inner chatter. Yet, now and again there is something really beautiful. I see it through, I usually do. I honour their craft. I want to learn, to open myself to other ways of thinking of expressing. But I shall be glad when I’ve finished it. It has created a tension in me.

Books. They are talking about books and reading on the radio. Daily essays. Today it was the founder of Virago. An Australian woman, from Melbourne. Articulate with a flat voice. She believes books will always be here. So there to you nay-sayers. I’ve been buying them again. Usually second-hand, I don’t mind. I always try to give one away to make room for the new one. I do the same with clothes. My fetish about stuff. I don’t want too much. I start to feel claustrophobic and I’m preparing, always preparing for my demise. I don’t want to leave too much behind for others to sort out. Often I am too precipitate. I give away something I find I need later on. I’ve replaced three books recently. I keep it to myself, a little shamed. And yet, the re-visiting is good. The re-ownership is good. Let it be. Let such idiosyncrasies be.  They are minor follies.

Where do I start? Six hundred miles. Six hundred miles to see her, and her. Six hundred miles to escape work. Six hundred miles to encounter my grief, my shame. She came and so did she. One brought flowers, a book and a headiness of expensive perfume. The other left behind a pair of fingerless gloves and a residue of cheap, sticky scent. So much love. For both. I was full to the brim and then another encounter the next day. I wanted more. I ask questions, firing them at her, wanting to know, wanting, wanting….. Her skin is familiar. Familiar to me. This time she left behind a hair. A single strand, golden. I have it. I have it in my purse. I have your book, she said, the one you gave me. I thought you’d been given it years ago. No. Just recently. He’s going to blow up some of the pictures and hang them on the wall. I’m glad she has it. I made it for her. So that she knew. She knew about the early days. She thinks that she hasn’t been there, but she has. She has.

Till March, my love.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.