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Rice Pudding

I went for a tin of rice pudding yesterday. Not for me for the food bank. It’s something. A gesture. It’s for my benefit, rather than theirs really. I need to be jolted, to be reminded how fortunate I am. And I am. And this is what I would like, in those circumstances. Some comfort, as I said. Traditional rice pudding, it read. Would that be with the skin then? Traditional rice pudding with sultanas. Will they hate the sultanas? I dither at the aisle. Take the risk. I remember school rice pudding. It was served in these enormous tin trays and there was always a skin on the top. A skin like a crust, often very brown, sometimes burnt. Many of us liked it and would vie for a piece. It was sickly sweet and the rice was cloying and heavy to digest but it was warm and comforting. Did she ever make us rice pudding at home? She made it for the dogs certainly, without sugar but dosed up with cod liver oil. They wolfed it down.

We’d sat watching a lone student practising on the tennis court beneath us. His serve is all wrong, he said, my love, my once Wimbledon junior champion. It’s his drop, it’s not high enough. Then there ensued a discussion as the rights and wrongs of interfering. Should he say something? He was itching to do so. But might he just offend him? Perhaps he is content. He’s trying at least. Yes, he said, but practising won’t help. It won’t help. I thought it was all about practice. Practice makes perfect. Such sayings spin round and round in my head. Other people’s voices, guiding, cajoling, bossing. I thought that if I wrote and wrote I would get better, that it would happen, just by the sheer repetition of taking myself to the page and writing. Isn’t this the case? I know no other way. And often it is a long and tedious way. It has always been so with me. I’m no child star, no protégé material. I’m a plodder, dogged in my desire to better myself, to get better, to become good. I felt an affinity with that student. He was practising alone. Over and over again. But he’s no good, he said. Had it been easy for him, a natural athlete? Perhaps. It was long before I knew him. Be kinder I want to say. But I don’t.

The morning begins to shine with promise. Back to my practice. My writing. I want to sleep but won’t, not yet. Work first.

Will she answer this morning?

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.