Ellen Bell: Photography by Simon Cook 01736 360041


The flower beds on the Promenade are full again. There’s petunias, geraniums and marigolds. They’ve been empty, just soil for so long now. Cutbacks no doubt. I love the neat rows. ‘Neat-and-tidy-bodgers’ Dawn used to them, gardeners of my persuasion (though I am no gardener), she preferred the wild, the haphazard. I do too, but the rows, the lines calm me.

It’s been a while. I’ve been busy on this and that. Not much to show for it. It’s all in my head, as usual. Lists. I still make the lists, on scraps of newsprint and post-it notes. Pink socks, reads one – referring to a pair of child’s socks I seen one morning abandoned on a bench, the form of the infant’s foot still preserved in their form. It’s been warm these last few nights and the beach is littered with little blackened mounds of stone and wood. Barbecues. The smell of smouldering embers hangs in windless air. I love it, slightly sweet, slightly acrid. The smell of summer. As I walk a police car slowly crawls towards the harbour, turns and drives back towards town. The moon, ah the moon has been lovely.

Any sign of Donny-don? he asks as we sit in our seat looking out to sea. Sometimes it is Donny-don, sometimes it is Donny-doris. Of course there are more than one. A whole school. A pod. Are they dolphins or porpoises? Does it matter? A couple sit in the cloudy gloom close to the sea’s edge on fold-up deckchairs. He is staring through binoculars. Any sign? Look there, and there. It is a marvellous thing. I get a lurch in my tummy.

The coast-guard huts are out. Another sign of summer. And the aroma of cut-grass. I find some strands of grass on our windowsill. Blown by the zephyrs.

The year is nearly ended. Exams nearly done. And the early mornings are noisy with students. Some swim, all carouse, their voices too loud, their bodies tripping, falling, too loose, too trusting. A man lies spread-eagled on the ground under the shelter of the new bandstand’s canopy. A space-machine from a bad B-movie it has a necklace of blue lights around its rim. A girl speeds down Great Darkgate Street on a child’s bike. Weeeeeee. A boy runs alongside her. She is too fast for him. He stops running, breathless now, his body doubled-up with the strain. A couple walk down North Road arguing. You’re not listening, he is saying. You’re not listening. He repeats everything twice. He walks ahead of her, not looking, just talking, his voice is flat, monotone, unforgiving.

A vase of dying purple carnations. The perfume of the honeysuckle. The peeping of the oystercatcher. The echoes of students carolling in the castle grounds.

It’s all about telling the truth. Simple really. Just tell the story. Be yourself, he says. Yes.

Poppies. Yellow poppies. Irish poppies. Breakfast. He is reading to me from an article. Apparently, farmers used to revere the poppy, he says. They were considered mystical, magical. Now they kill them with pesticide. Sometime they only last a day.

I remember such fragility. You can’t pick them. The petals with flake, fritter away. All it takes is a little wind. Brave flowers, they come anyway. A thousand rescued. A thousand. They seek hope. They seek safety. Brave flowers. Brave flowers.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.