Safety Net

I often see it when I walk in the morning parked up along North Road. A white van with ‘Safety Net Services’ emblazoned on its side. Safety nets. I remember the ones I’d see at the circuses we used to attend as children. Huge, slightly sagging, web-like structures that stretched across the whole circumference of the ring, but high above it. I used to imagine someone falling into it. What would it be like? Would it bounce them up again? Later, when I was much older, and used to go to the circus in Cambridge to draw (by then circuses were a much contracted affair – no lions, in fact no animals at all, not even those horses with their top knots) I saw some of the trapeze artists use the net as their descent. And they would bounce,  bound even, using it as a kind of buoyant trampoline.  Are you braver when you know there is a safety net? I’m not sure. Falling into it, those aerial ballerinas lost their grace. It was clumsy, cack-handed.

They are airing one of Maya Angelou’s later memoirs on Radio 4 extra. I was listening to it this morning. She is forty and has just been commissioned to produce a TV show, and then she keeps getting phone calls from Random House asking her to write an autobiography. She succumbs in the end and starts to write I know Why a Caged Bird Sings. How would it feel to be commissioned to write my book? Would it feel more worthy? Would I be more focussed, would I finally accept that I knew where I was going? She picks up her pencil and begins to write. Is it really like that for most writers? ‘I was always frightened’, said Jane, a character who grew up in a children’s home in Call the Midwife.

The wind was getting up as I walked. But the storm is yet to arrive. Nightclubbers wandered along the Prom, some lurching. Back on North Road making my way home I saw a group of students ahead spilling out into the road. One of them was kneeling on the pavement seemingly helping a girl put her shoe back on. Several of his friends strode over to him and began to fake ‘whipping’ him on the back.

I spied one of the singing thrushes in a tree on Llanbadarn Road. And heard the screech owl as I climbed the Buarth.

Does any of it really matter? I yearn for a detached wisdom. Oh, to let go the hold my ego persists in having over me.

‘Let be me weak, and dream of sleep’.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.