Pavement Flowers

Poodle parlour

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. I love the radio. I love listening to its voices while I work, clean, cook or just think. Ideas, phrases, words and music permeate through, touching everything I do. Last week, a programme was on, I was half-listening. Suggs was presenting it. It was about Soho, the old Soho, the seedy Soho. He was interviewing Paul Raymond. They were talking about the prostitutes that used to walk up and down the streets or lean against walls, one foot hitched up. ‘Pavement flowers’, Raymond called them.

Then there was one about the salt mines of Cheshire. They are disused now and act as storage space for the Civil Service. I had no idea. The presenter was told about the foals of pit ponies who were taken down there to pull the wagons. They kept them down there, never to return to the surface, never to see daylight again. They grew too big to get them out and had to be shot. Poor things. Poor things. Perpetual darkness. An underground life. I am made still by the thought of such cruelty and by such noble acquiescence.

My leg recovers so slowly. Am I still doing too much? We go to the prom for just fifteen minutes or so – to sit and breathe in the air. The sea is wild today, as high as a mountain. I notice other hobblers – on sticks, using walkers (just like his mother’s, her ‘pram’ he used to call it) – and the runners. They flash by, free spirits, pain-free. And yet, it is good this being made slow. It makes me think, weigh up and be grateful. It is good. I will be patient. I will acquiesce.

There is a new boy at the Indian restaurant. His name is Schubert. We ask glibly if he is a musician. Ah, yes, says Wellington (the new stand-in boss since Ronaldo has gone) he plays for weddings sometimes. Schubert, Wellington, Melvyn, Cruz and Mohammed (also known as John). They are a joy. Wellington particularly, he smiles like a new-born. You are family, Melvyn said.

They planted snowdrops for him. It was cold up there, she said. Yes. I cried for him yesterday. Just a year, seems like a decade. What do I miss? Just him being there, somewhere. Blood of my blood. He did his best. He always came, except once. Was that the beginning of the end? I found one of his postcards, yesterday. Funny that. They were visiting Vienna and I’d asked for a Klimt. He sent one. His writing is scribbled, some in capital letters. It hadn’t been a good holiday. They visited us shortly afterwards. He was distant. Had it begun then, that insidious creature eating its way through his brain? Probably. He wasn’t himself. And yet at the end there was such grace. I miss you. I miss the you that you had the possibility to be and just briefly, became. Rest in peace.



By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.