Oystercatchers (16)

I rarely see them. Sometimes a few can be seen scuttling on the shore but it is too dark to make them out distinctly. But I hear them. They call out through the night. Their call is a kind of peep, a high-pitched peeping, that shatters the black, breaking it. I feel an affinity with them, I don’t really know why. They are odd creatures, a little ungainly and their cry is imploring, feeble, ghostly. I like to see them en masse in the daylight, a gathering of black and white bodies, bobbing.

I heard the clang of bottles being dropped into a bin. Two people were ahead of me. One, a long-haired man, was sliding empty wine bottles into the mouth of the wastebin and the other, a girl in a hippy-esque patterned jacket was standing by the railing with a wine glass in her hand. A third man was on the beach below them putting what was obviously the remains of their meal into a plastic bag. I couldn’t catch their speech but they sounded foreign, possibly Scandinavian. It was the wine glass that stuck out. An elegant detail. She waved it about, dancing with it.

Tuesday is bin day and all along Llanbadarn Road recycle food and bin bags have been put out, most in neat rows tied up with a crisp knot. In town it is different. The gulls have got at these bags already and food spills onto pavements. The gulls shouting out warnings to other gulls. A screeching that tears at the still air. I see half a bread roll, an unopened salad cream sachet and a white plastic fork.

But I want to do it, I tell myself on waking as I wait for the inevitable grey, heaviness to descend. But is it worthwhile enough? Does it have meaning enough? But I want to do it, to see it through, to see what it will become. Isn’t that reason enough?

I have a drawer full of such projects. All on the go but what energy, what talking-to it takes to get them continuing. What is there? A cross-stitched beginning to Proust’s Swann’s Way in English, then one in French. Then there is the piece I want to return to today, a list of drama recordings that I have listened to while I’ve sewn. A kind of written negative space. Then there are the three van Gogh’s Sunflowers cross-stitch kits. One is nearing the end, another mid-way and the other just started. And then there is the tapestry of the same painting. All on the go. Going somewhere, feeling like nowhere. And yet, to not see them through, aagh, therein lies the pain. I feel like I should concentrate on the Sunflowers because they have a distinct purpose, they are to be used for my performance next month, and yet, they are a trial to me. Intellectually I can stand back and smile at the cheek of it, the subversion of all that is creative, that they represent. But when I’m in it, doing it, I am lost in the stultifying inwardness of copying, of rendering ‘wild’ painting into ‘docile’ stitch. And yet, writing about it excites me. Yes, I think there is more to explore there.

Just accept. Remember that word. Accept. Live it. Live the frustration, the uncertainty, the indignity, the stuck-ness. It will come right, he said. It will all come right.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.