I can’t remember his exact words. We were getting ready for bed. For instance, with that journalist, the one who is in prison in Iran, he said, I saw that you wrote about her in your journal. You don’t have to feel for them so strongly, he said. But I do, I wanted to say. I want to stand by them, to sit with them, to be with them in their pain, their fear, their desperation. It is all I can do. You empathise too much, you give away your light, Steven Speed the medium-extraordinaire said to me, all those years ago (may he rest in peace). I don’t know how to temper it, I tell him. How does one live with the knowledge of so much inequity, so much darkness and yet be light? I have tried to empty myself each night. To make myself white, cleaned out. To be an empty vessel, open. I don’t want the darkness but nor do I want to forget. I listened to a radio documentary yesterday morning, its premise being that the brother of an abused and then murdered boy in 1945 was being taken (now a grown man) to see Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, a play that was based on his, their story. In the interval he told his story. He and his brother had been evacuated to a remote farm to be fostered by a farmer and his wife. They were beaten daily and practically starved. It was a harrowing account. His elder brother took the brunt of the abuse and died. The farmer was tried for manslaughter and the wife, neglect. They were both imprisoned. The story horrified the public and prompted huge changes in Child Protection Law.  I carry it with me. As I do with the fictional abuse of Jim ‘The Prof’ Lloyd in The Archers. It is a truth for some, for many. I weep for them. I have read their stories, such as Don’t by Ellie Danica. I want to understand from where the cruelty stems. Are we all not born with the potential to be kind?  

I dreamt I was pregnant. Pregnant at 56. Well what a thing, I thought. I may miscarry. He was sanguine. And I dreamt that an ex-lover was planning to tear out my vagina. He was sweet-talking me, but I knew his plans. What is to be made of that? I suspect the pregnancy refers to my writing. It may miscarry. I tightens my back. It is so clumsy, so awkward. Yes, I must just write it out. Keep going. No one need know. I can just do it for myself. Can’t I?

Has it made any difference? Her hunger strike, has it made any difference? Will they set her free? Now? She had some porridge and fruit, her husband said on the news. So prosaic. Did it taste good? We haven’t forgotten.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.