Towards the harbour end of the promenade there are a series of covered benches. They are set, at road level, into the old castle wall. I think there are three in all. Mosaics from the 1950s decorate the wall behind each one – folksy-style narratives of Aberystwyth’s history. The benches are crudely made, their bottle-green paint curling in the sun. I like to sit there with him and look at the sea, protected from the wind. No matter that the cars draw up too close. No matter. We sit there in the afternoons. Just until I can walk again. Not long. Not long now. How’s your leg? he asks. It’s mending. It’s mending. Soon be on the mend.
A small life. A protracted life, certainly at the moment. I nearly cried in the gym on Tuesday for the loss of my strength. At least I think that’s what it was. I couldn’t do what she expected me to do. It was too hard. I couldn’t muster the might. A small life. This isn’t small, he said, as we sat looking at the sea. No, I said, it isn’t, is it?
We saw our neighbour a few days ago doing her second job. She is a nanny. From Slovakia. A live-in nanny, she looks after the child downstairs. She is probably my age. Her name is Elizabeth. I can hear her outside my window now and again, on the phone to her husband and smoking. He visits sometimes. Her English is improving. We nod and smile and he tells her off for smoking. She laughs and waves her arms about. Sometimes you can see her sadness. The thought of going home makes her beam. We saw her on North Road lugging too great bags of laundry out into the street. We waved. It took her a while to place who we were. Then she waved. She works hard. I understand. I did it too. Where does she go to, in her head?
Dickens used to walk, she was telling me, through the streets of London at night, for hours and hours. Somerset Maugham admitted to being ‘restless’. I miss the movement. I miss the journey, the adventure, the wildness of my morning walks. I stay in instead. I stretch and listen. Restless. Yes, I am restless. I seek change. No, not freely but I need it, to feel. To feel alive.
The Archers was good last week. I was rapt, particularly with David and Ruth’s dilemma. How can it be resolved? There is no question of right of wrong, just a different outlook. I understand. He wants to stay, she wants to go. It is his home and not hers. Its like the shrimp and the anemone in L P Hartley’s novel. Do you pull the shrimp free to save it and risk killing the anemone (and indeed the shrimp) or do you let be and sacrifice the shrimp for the sake of the anemone? I want to try somewhere else but for him this is home. I want to find ‘home’ but don’t, as yet, know where that might be.
I saw a magpie and then a rook, each with twigs in their beaks. They are nesting. Preparing. How clever. How adroit they are. Piece by piece. Twig by twig. They chatter and chirp on the trees across the road – the blue tits are the loudest. Small things with a metallic call.
Watching the women. There was one man, but the rest where women. I sat on the floor. The woman next to me had mud on her shoes. She flushed as she spoke – staring into the middle distance. Nervous, I think. Most were confident. All scribbling away furiously. Words tumbling out. They spoke about water, fish and love affairs. I felt apart. I made myself apart by sitting on the floor. No matter. I wanted to watch rather than participate. Sometimes it is all too much. I thought about my bowl. Pea green with the cracked line in the glaze. When we got home I made porridge.