He calls me singular. She used to call me rigourous. I suppose I am both those things. I am certainly an ascetic. Or at least I lean towards asceticism. A Puritan, like the American in one of Oscar Wilde’s plays, though I cannot now remember the title. Something about a woman (played by Diana Rigg in the radio adaptation and Martin Jarvis was her ex-lover and he was the one who kept calling the young American girl the Puritan). The birdsong this morning is delightful. They command the morning time. (A collared dove has just landed on the television aerial outside my studio window. And I can hear its mate calling to it. Off it goes.) The rooks sit on the pan tiles of the roof opposite. They preen and stare, preen and stare and then fly off. The sky is clear, a beautiful day is promised. Why am I singular? I set such tasks for myself, they are tight, uncompromising. A test of strength, perhaps, usually to do with food. My head is full of ideas. Help me to see them through, to let them waste away through a lack of air is painful to me. We finished Wives and Daughters last night. It was moving and funny at the same time. Francesca Annis is splendid as Mrs Gibson, verging on the grotesque but strangely pathetic too. As is her daughter, the lovely Cynthia. And Michael Gambon as Squire Hamley is spell-binding. I loved it. Tonight we begin our revisiting of Cranford. The sun is such a joy shining through into the corners of my darkness. I miss her. I had such a longing to be held and to hold her this morning as I walked. Eight years dead. I wish she could have had a happier end. I know she is safe now. All sadness, grief and bitterness gone. I cannot ask for more. Help me to be all that I can be. Help me to overcome my fear of failure, of not being good enough. It was your hand-me-down that. I understand why. Let me be free of it. As much as I can. He’s left for his walk. And I have work to begin. Much. How I long for tea. How many days is it? The Gaskell bio continues to engross me, with Meta Gaskell, the eclipsed daughter, the artist with her portfolio of unfinished drawings, asking her friend, What shall I do?

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.