I don’t know how they can stand it. All that noise and clamour. Machines clicking, clunking and banging. And the flashing lights, on and off, on and off. And that grim overhead strip lighting. Are they getting something from it that I don’t see? Or no longer recognise? My six year old nephew loved it, kept badgering to go back in there, to change new money for old so that he might play the coin game. I remember those in an arcade in Blackpool. I remember the smell of money on my hands. It was brass then and copper and the smell, along with that of sticky sweets and toffees, clung to ones hands. Rather sickly but heady too. I knew it was trashy, all of it, and yet I, like my nephew was drawn to it. Martin Sixsmith in his excellent radio programme on psychology was talking today about the lure of advertising and all the subliminal tricks they use to get us to buy. Are arcades like the one on the Pier doing something similar? It was busy with kids, older kids playing the slot machines, shooting at ducks, throwing balls into a basket ball machine and riding static cars. It felt like a free for all, no ne seemed to be overseeing it. No parents hovered. Were they allowed to just run riot, their¬† money slipping from their hands? A cacophony.

I came upon a marvellous programme on the radio on Sunday, a kind of spoken diary written by someone coming to terms with having early onset dementia. She was amazing in her willingness to turn her affliction into something positive. I say yes to everything, she said, committees, trials, lecture tours, teaching, everything. But the poignancy was the way she dealt with loss, loss of memory, job, status and feeling of usefulness. She also talked about how she could no longer bear noise. Even at Christmas she couldn’t sit at the table with the rest of the family, it had become too much. She had become hypersensitive to sound. But she had also noticed that now she took time to sit, to watch, to listen and pay attention. There is always good but sometimes you have to look really hard for it.

It has been a trying few days but there have been shining bits. I love to be around their lightness, not all day but for a while. I forget myself in their pure pleasure in being alive. We did a murder mystery hunt in the wind. Or at least we began it. It blew right through my bones. But the sun shone. The day before there’d been a rainbow. They looked better for their visit, revived. And I have forgiven myself for only giving what I could.

I made the pancakes. I found the resolution and the energy. And we finished Middlemarch, re-winding the end quote several times for George Eliot’s words and Judi Dench’s honey-ed tones.

I wasn’t happy with what I wrote yesterday. I need to return to it today. Three hours, I should be able to turn it around in three hours. Shouldn’t I?¬†Trust. All will be well.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.