Patience (2)

2010-02-02 10.45.18

I write a list of food. It is awkward. It is such a private thing. And yet, food is a site of love. We cook for others, for ourselves, with love. But it is the ingesting. We have so much while others have so little. It has become complicated, we have lost our ease with it all. I buy rhubarb, great long fat sticks of it. I love its tartness. What will you have with it, he asks, custard? No, no custard. I just like it cooked as it is. No sugar. The taste of metal in my mouth, furring my teeth. And there were broad beans, too. So many, all for a pound. I am sorry for the farmer. I shall shell the rest and freeze them. Such abundance. I am thankful. Look at all the colours. What a joy.

Will they understand? I was brought up to be thankful, to finish my plate. To eat what I was given and be grateful. A site of love and site of power, of control. The turkey fricassee and my sister pretending to gag. For what we are about to eat may the Lord make us…. At every meal time at school. We said it off-pat. Who will say grace? Grace, anybody?

I see them on these dark mornings, massing on the sea shore. A mass of sea birds. Gulls and terns and oystercatchers. They stand on the sand facing the sea, in silence, waiting. My thrown shadow can stir them, one will screech, maybe shift a little. Mostly, they stay still, waiting. Each on their own piece of ground, close to one another but separate. In communion. Safety in numbers.

Excuse me, a man driving a white jeep called out to me. Sorry to bother you, but is there somewhere I can get petrol near here? I was almost home. He took me by surprise. I was looking inward, cocooned. It took ages to find my voice, to pierce through that membrane of inwardness. The words stumbled out. Was it left or right? Thanks, he said, and drove off.
We’re watching it again, that film about Max Sebald. I don’t think its the same one, he said, there was definitely a motorbike, though I do remember the picture with the bodies, though not the one with the fish. It’s called Patience. Jonathon Pryce is the narrator. I remember him at Stratford-upon-Avon, years ago, on stage astride a motorbike. Taming of the Shrew. His voice is like syrup. In Britain we walk to recover, one of the contributors says, whereas in America they walk to discover. What about my walking? What am I doing? A little bit of both. I walk things out and yet, I also walk inwardly, finding, looking for something inside. Feeling the warmth within and the cold without.

I went to sleep with the cold air on my face. I was woken by a gust of wind.

The wind was strong this morning. No one was about. I enjoyed the solitude. Too windy for a brolly. So be it, though I don’t usually like rain on my face. So be it. The wind blew me dry. Blow dry.

They offered him refuge in Canada. He doesn’t want to go. Not now. He wants to remain in Syria, to be beside the grave of his wife and children. Was that him crying on the front of the paper? Won’t you try? Is all lost? I cannot imagine such grief. Is there anything we can do? Is there anything to be done?

I want to do something about it now, he said. I will offer my homes to four refugee families NOW, he said. He has two spare, in London and in Kent. Now. He is angry again. He acts. He inspires action. The Independent had a montage of people holding handwritten placards – welcome refugees, welcome. They cried when they got to the border. We are welcomed here. We are welcome. You are welcome. Come. Find refuge. And you, my love, and you.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.