He reminds me of a sloth, not in demeanour or action, he is not lazy or somnolent, far from it, it’s more something around the eyes. His eyes are heavy, doleful, sad. We were in the kitchen eating lunch. He was sitting with me, for company and as a shield against all the goings on. And he had just dashed up the stairs in his stocking feet to tell us of the latest in the catalogue of boiler disasters. It’s still not fixed. More parts have to be found. He’d spent the whole morning drilling into the wall. It rent through the walls, like a super-sonic dentist’s machine. A sound that seers one’s bones. It’s still not fixed. Another night, another day of warm-air blowing machines, thimble-full baths and making-do, we thought, catching each other’s eye. Can you make us a priority? I asked him. Then he got his camera out and scrolled to video, all the while listing the other jobs he’s got on the go. Burst pipes, kaput boilers, on and on, then he began describing a house he went to yesterday and handed him the camera. See, he said. All the ceilings have caved in. They’re living in a swimming pool. And he laughs bitterly, his eyes sadder than ever. I could hardly bear to look. The plaster hung from the ceiling, the wooden floor was a lake of water, sofa and chairs floating. A home. Someone’s home, utterly devastated. We were suitably chastened. I do feel for you, he said, in his hang-dog world-weary way. We’ve still got no water. The pipes have burst somewhere under the field. That will be my job over the weekend.

So we have to wait. Till whenever. Wait for parts to come in. Parts that he cannot yet identify. Meanwhile he has stuffed the hole with roof insulator. I cannot bear to clean. No, what would be the point? Whenever the pity comes in I think of that family. Such devastation. I didn’t want to see it. But I must. I must.

Am I too picky? My piece has been posted. A word changed and there’s a blaring typo. It hurts. The balance has been affected. Should I care less? Perhaps. But I was happy with it. It was OK.

He calls it a small life. I love our small life, he says. Is it small? Sometimes, terribly so. I felt it this morning. I feel closed in by the chaos of this coming and going of heavy-footed strangers. One of the boys kept letting the front door slam. Bang, bang, bang over and over. Can I say something? Where is the peace? Is there peace in the chaos? Is that the key? Find that and all will be well. I walked to my appointment yesterday. I was a little early so I sat on a bench in the sun for ten minutes and closed my eyes. Lovely. A gentle time. I shut my eyes and listened to the noise of the street, taking myself away from it. Away. And then this morning standing on the end of the Perygyl and listening to the sea. It is enough, sometimes. I try to take my consciousness down to my belly, my solar plexus away from the ranting, fretting chatter of my head. Out of it. Care but care less. Fancy free. What is that exactly?

If you had a proper job, he says. A throw away line that eats at me. I know he doesn’t mean it. Why do I let it eat me? Play after play of hardship, pain, loss and loneliness. They enter me, take me over. The woman with MS taking herself off to Switzerland, the stalker and the voyeur who films his wife, his child. They were my company yesterday as I worked, colouring the work, deepening that yellow.

I will sew. Sewing grounds me, settles me. A chance of work and I can’t do it. Will more come? I need to work, lots of work so that I can replenish my savings. A bit put by each month. What am I doing? Why do I feel so small? I have taken such journeys to expand my life, and there is another booked, and yet the smallness still dogs me. And yet, when I am out, when my eyes are closed in the sun, then, anything seems possible. For I am gone, I am out. Out of fear. Cancelled. Out.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.