The names of his various pills often come into my head as I am walking. They become like a mantra, a chant, a casting of spells. Latin-esque names that generally end in ‘in’ with a cryptic or prosaic intimation of the ills that they are to cure. I don’t know why I think of them. They are important to him. He fusses around them – all those dosset boxes and storage containers with their rubber bands and plastic clips. He believes in their efficacy. They are his lifeline. And now there is the morning aspirin too that has to be dissolved in water and drunk. How much water? He wants to do it right. It is symbolic. Do this, exactly as directed and all will be well. I also take my pills. I didn’t want to. Was told by the doctor that I’d have to take them for life. When I began to feel stronger I suggested that I might try to wean myself off them. She wasn’t keen. I tried it but after a couple of days my heart was pounding.  I take vitamin pills too, all those supplements that I believe allow me to continue with my rather idiosyncratic diet. And probiotics for my gut. And magnesium for the night sweats. Do they help? Do they make any difference? Who knows?

Freya is not wholly with us yet. I could walk the Prom this morning. But the wind is growing yet more wild. Tomorrow it will be impossible, I think. The two rough sleepers had gone from the shelter. I don’t blame them, he said at breakfast. Where do they go? Does someone offer them a bed? I resist going out when it is cold and windy. But I am always glad when I do. The air is glorious, it makes me feel alive, shocked into wakefulness. Our neighbour is back from his holiday in Marrakesh. Is he tanned? he asked when I went in to wake him. No, I said, but his hair is long. He clearly likes to travel, has taught abroad, in Vienna, and in China, I think.  And when he does go various members of the family take it in turns to look after his mother. We notice the different cars, and the bedroom window is never opened. She is, after all, a hundred now though still fit enough to walk into town each morning, go to church and we’ve even seen her taking the rubbish to the bins. She is very deaf and her sight isn’t good, having to look at the world with her head slightly tilted, one eye staring. A remarkable woman. Last year the town museum had an exhibition of the her illustrations.

I talked of my longing, trying to articulate the nebulous. Listening again to Julia Darling’s play Appointments about an elderly woman diagnosed with brain cancer, I grew wistful, melancholic, not because of her impending death but because of her ability to live so richly, so openly, so bravely. A beautiful piece of writing. The radio is such a joy to me. I have how many? One, two, three, four, no five counting the TV one. How lucky is that? All those stories…..

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.