Ellen Bell Call Me © Stephen Lynch Photography 030

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Since I wrote that is. I’ve moved. I think I told you. Not far, just up the road, actually. Our postcode is almost the same, just one letter different. A Q exchanged for an E. That’s all. I like it here. It is an airy space. We are up high. In a nest. And we can see the sea. The upstairs room makes we want to be a dancer.

Nevertheless, I am still a little discombobulated. Shaken up like the contents of one of those little snow scenes, where the flakes buzz about in the liquid before slowly sinking to the base. As a child I thought they were magical. And have not made anything meaningful. Not yet. The space is ready. My studio. My writing room. A capital E hangs on a nail on the door. Ready. Ready for what. I don’t know.

It is uncomfortable to not know but it doesn’t have to be. I needed the space first. Then I need to sit in it and wait. Look at the sky and wait. What harm? I have done work, you know, pot-boiling work. It’s OK – I like doing it but eventually the nagging voice always comes in. You know, why aren’t you doing something more…..more meaningful, more important, more emotive, more, more……what? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

We went to London to see the archives at LMU. I wanted to find authentic voices. Mothers’ voices. I was unsettled by all the procedures. Wall after wall of protocol. I felt out of control, under surveillance, unable to access what it was I was looking for. The documents I read were all dictated. Of course, how stupid, I should have known. Most of them would have been illiterate. They all began the same way, right through the 200-300 years of recording. ‘The first time I encountered the father…’ And then there followed tale after tale of seduction, forced sex and pleas for marriage and financial help. Moving though they were, there was little mention of the children. I was looking in the wrong place. You need to go back to the Foundling Hospital, she told me, begin again. The only personal thing I found was a Christmas card, stuck at the back of an envelope of legal papers. A card from a mother to her daughter. Poignant in its formality, its stiffness, it was addressed to a Miss ______ and signed Mrs ___________ wishing her a pleasant Christmastide. I remember such awkwardness, that uncertainty as to how to respond to the rituals of life, where to put myself. It was a frustrating expedition. London compensated. It always does.

Walking in the early morning, there was a dead badger on the side of the road. His carcass was virtually untouched. Was he just sleeping?

I think about collecting voices. Beginning with what excites me. Voices. The things people say. The things people say when they are trying to say something else. Or not.

I look for a little cabinet. A little wooden one with tiny shelves. I used to have one. I want to put my little treasures out. To look at them and wait for the burst of something like inspiration that they excite. Like my pictures, they are what has been and the road to what will be. Wait and see. Wait and see.



By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.