Red Ribbons

Scan of Nerja card september 2014

Red ribbons for her hair. A song. A song from childhood. A folk song. Sinead O’Connor sings it with breathy weightiness. The red ribbons are still tied to the prom railing down near the Pier. The wind has bunched them together. A straggly glut of red made ragged by the weather. Last year they were pink. Pink for a little girl that was taken. This year they are red for the other girls, stolen from school. Where are they? No longer in the news. Have they been forgotten? Their eyes in newspaper photographs hollowed out by fear, by the why of it all. Like that journalist and the taxi driver. Innocents, taken, caught up in something they are not responsible for. A wife makes a desperate appeal, one human being to another. Will she be heard? Listened to? Let it be so.

I wanted to find a winking Jesus. A hologram. I’ve seen them. He smiles benignly and then winks as you twist the card back and forth. Tricks. Cheap tricks – even better in the name of religion. An icon made accessible, tacky. And yet, miraculous to my still childlike eye. Still the child. Still charmed by gaudy flamenco dresses. Spanish dolls and cards with sewn bits. It will always be so. Just like the small, the miniature, the dolls’ houses. I am captivated by what I can hold in my palm.

Watch the 4 Lions, he told us from the front seat of his people carrier. David, a Spanish taxi driver from Catalonia, who spoke English with a German accent. He told us he sometimes goes to the cinema in the afternoons. Sometimes I have a long wait at the airport for a client, he said. I didn’t feel like talking but felt obliged. We talked of films, of Pedro Almodovar and 4 Lions. I rented it when we got home. He was right. A marvellous film. Marvellous. Full of marvels. The actor playing Omar. The crow fitted up as a suicide bomber being directed by Faisal to fly over and blow up a plastic toy house he’d placed on a bird table. Pretend it’s a sex shop, says Faisal. Faisal is the first to be blown up, tripping over a sheep. They all go like that. A shock. I wanted it to be just play, silly and for them to go home safe. Not so. Not even in fantasy land. Tell me what to do, begs Waj down the phone to Omar. I don’t know what to do. The police are as clueless as the terrorists. They are told to shoot a ‘bear’ during the London Marathon. You just shot a Wookie, says a voice from the remote control. No I didn’t, the police marksman replied, I shot a bear. Is a Wookie a bear? asks his companion. And Omar commanding his colleague to tell them he was smiling, before walking into a chemist’s shop to detonate his bomb. The end. And what was it for? I am still reeling. No questions answered.

The Turner Prize. I scan the reviews. Jonathon Jones in The Guardian. He is charmed by Tris Vonna Michell. His voice. He calls him a performer, a poet. I watch a clip. Words repeated, fast, urgently. There is something, certainly. The aesthetic is tired. A space with a trestle table. Unfinished. A screen behind showing slides. But the voice. Yes, there is something. ‘He seems to have found a highly imaginative way of being in the world’, writes Jones. ‘You feel he is an artist when he’s on the loo, as much as he is when he gets up to perform……he even thanks the audience for listening – what a charmer’, he writes.

An imaginative way of being in the world. Yes. I like that. A rare thing. A rare thing.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.