Something Proper

The radio is the fabric of my life. It weaves in and out, leaving behind traces of words, stories and ideas that resonate deep within me. Such as the artist Ken Howard this morning on Inheritance Tracks talking about his mother not appreciating his chosen career. His father was more sanguine. I haven’t any money, he said, so you’ll have to make it, and the only way you can do that is to become a Royal Academician. Just like that. I was exhibiting with them at 15, and joined the Academy at 19, Howard said. Is it that simple? To just want something and get it? His mother was a different matter. Even after painting (or was it meeting) the Queen, she still said, I wish you’d done something proper.

I fantasise about other lives I could’ve led. A baker, a cabinet maker or a cheesemaker perhaps. Something to do with the hands, some real, something tactile, something needful. And yet, this is what I am, this is what my mind does, and my hands. I loved making H’s quilt yesterday. It was rhythmic, absorbing. I thought of other quilt projects, something to do with using old clothes, a memory quilt, but using the collars, the cuffs, the buttons, the pockets. But it is so easy to lurch towards the mawkish, the maudlin the cutsey-pie with such things. I still think about making a project for the Foundling Museum, I have something to say in there but I need to get at it.

I am too many things. Am I not? That jack-of-all-trades.

Then another radio programme – From Our Own Correspondent – wonderful radio, wonderful writing. A women writing about the female rickshaw drivers in Jaipur. Jaipur the pink city. They get a lot of abuse from the male drivers. It takes courage for them to continue. Maybe we should do something else, one of the women tells the journalist, like sewing.

Is this what I am supposed to be doing? Is this it? Is this me?

Is it enough?

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.