Rock crop

Talk to Me - why not, detail

It was the answer to a crossword clue. I’d never heard the phrase before. Rock crop. And now I see them everywhere. I saw some this morning. Straggly roots finding home between the stones of a wall. Leafy tendrils sprouting perfect, yet minute purple flowers. What tenacity. They ask so little, just a modicum of soil, a little rain and some sun. They are mostly overlooked, theirs is not a showy existence. It is enough to just exist, I think.

Crosswords. We do them all the time. Saturday night being the ‘big one’. The Times. And then Sunday, The Independent. We do crosswords over supper. Then on Wednesdays he takes the unfinished ones to Ken. Ken ‘ll know that one, he says, the bastard! Or, I’ll get Ken over that one. The virgin one is best. All that potential for thought. Keeps us alive. Keeps us alert. I’m alive. I am alive.

The light mornings are going, the dark is approaching. The realisation brings on a melancholy. The light is so transitory. The dark feels too permanent. So be it, I sigh. So be it. For there is a beauty in the dark walking. The lights. The lights of the promenade, custard-yellow lines reflected wavy in the sea. The red lights over the bridge. The squares of light from the non-sleepers, a dotted patchwork against the black. And there is always the promise of that unfolding blue. Morning.

Coming out of Morrisons the man with the tattoos, earrings and the long white beard is with a little girl. They stand slightly apart clearly waiting for a taxi. He is usually with his mother on Saturday mornings, pushing her trolley and reaching for the shelves she can’t. A tiny little woman. I smile at her. He’s so good to me, she says. I’ve got a daughter but I never see her. Where’s your Mum ? he asks him. She’s giddy today, he says.


His death shook me. I hardly knew him and yet I did. I allowed him in. He was part of my Friday, between the cleaning and the ironing. I listened. I’m shaken, discombobulated. After all, they are the same age. He was also born in 1947. It makes me want to cling.

We talk about funerals over coffee. Don’t give me one, he says. It’s a ridiculous amount of money. But people will expect it, I say. Fuck ’em, he says. This is about you and me. And you won’t have the money. Give my body to science, he says. No, I say. You wanted to be put next to your Mum and Dad. Ok, but no funeral, he says. He calls them professional mourners. He knows lots of them. Perhaps its a small town thing. They put on the suit and the black tie and turn up solemn-faced. What is it about? For most of the time it is just the death of an acquaintance. Does it make them feel important? Is it about belonging? Death is a great leveller, after all. Perhaps it is that, it grounds people, gives them a sense of something other. I remember my father’s slow passing. I had to tear myself away. I found it difficult to be there but at the same time wanted its importance. This is bigger than my little everyday life, I kept thinking, this intimacy, this opportunity to be in the presence of grace. I’ll call Harry Daniels next week and find out what it costs, he says. Yes, I say. And you must do the same for me. But you want your ashes scattered at the top of Scotland, he says. Well, I say, perhaps over the Perygyl will do. After all the wind will take me where I need to go, eventually. And it will. It will.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.