Plumber’s Block

It was from a podcast produced by two songwriters who interviewed other songwriters about writing songs. They were ordinary blokes. I can’t remember their names. Nice voices. Down to earth. They were talking to the presenter of Radio 4 Extra’s Podcast Hour about what they learnt from talking to the great and the good of the music world. That you’ve just got to keep on doing it. Get something down, one of them said, and not wait for the muse to strike. It’s a job. You never hear about ‘Plumber’s Block’ do you? he said. Fair point, well made.

It came. It fits. Finally my bed is made whole after all these years. I didn’t think I could manage it. I’d resigned myself to its denuded state. It came all the way from Virginia, USA. Marvellous. A little swirl ball. Tiny. Brass. And it fitted. I am cock-a-hoop. No more rattling.

We went into Boots. The pharmacist looked at it over his counter. A small man, pale skin, a little officious. I’m not sure, he said, it could be one of two things. You look like you like the sun, he said. Was he passing judgement? I felt a little defensive. Yes, I said, a little. Both of the possibilities are self-limiting, he said, they will go eventually. It could be a couple of weeks, months or years. Fine. I shall live with it. It is good for me this quiescence.

Still not sleeping well. I woke five times last night. I pee for England. I know it’s counterintuitive but you have to drink lots of water, she said.

The scene keeps playing over in my mind. Have I told you of my fascination with nuns? One of my soothsayers said I was one, once. I believe so. It’s from the Midwife, the last series. They are all at the Mother House. And its  the nun’s dormitory. It is winter, nearing Christmas but there is a breeze from an open window. Each nun has her own bed partitioned off by white muslin curtains. Everything is white. They all sleep in long white cotton nighties buttoned up at the neck. A nun comes in ringing a bell, they all rise behind their curtains which are opened at the front. Each nun, a figure in white with a white skull cap on her head, kneels at their bed. They chant their prayers in unison. It is stunning. The white curtains move in the breeze. My heart aches for such simplicity, and cool, silent acquiescence. And yet there are internal battles, always. Therein lies the dark. It’s about the ‘quarrel’, the soon to be new Mother Superior played by Miriam Margolyes (she is marvellous, marvellous, I saw her on stage acting out most of Dicken’s women, though he can’t stand her) says. The internal quarrel between what the body and mind want and what we are called upon to do. I’m a sucker for it all. Schmaltz and all. (Sorry, Brenda.)

Must be off. Drawers to tidy. Order to impose. And tea.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the radio play about Gertrude Stein. I can’t remember the playwriter, but it was stupendous. A solo performance by Angela Pleasance. She is talking about all the artists and writers she had known in Paris, and all the while making a cake. A Liberation Fruit Cake. I ate it up.

Now off with you.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.