Sorry No Vacancies

The Shoreline Guest House on South Marine Terrace has reversed their sign in the window. It now reads Sorry No Vacancies. I always get a frisson of something like pleasure when the B&Bs of this town are full. It means business is booming, all is well, there is a heaven and so on. It doesn’t of course. It probably means that the owners themselves are on holiday, en vacances. (I’ve never made the link before between the French for holidays and vacancy. We have no vacancy because we are en vacances. I wondered whether to write vacance or vacances and it seems, so Google informs me, that the jury on that one is still out.) Anyway back to Shoreline, they can’t be possibly be full at this time of the year, not with this weather and surely there hasn’t been a run on travelling salesmen and all the students are back so no parents bringing them back. So it must be that they are away. I hope it is somewhere nice. Lanzarote perhaps?

The answer came while I walked this morning. I was thinking of seaboard. The American, so he claimed last night, for sea line or sea shore. He was pleased, we virtually finished The Times jumbo. You’re on a roll, he said, very good, Poppy. I like to please him. There is never any competition between us. He is delighted when I succeed. And I feel the same way, though sometimes I sink when my mind isn’t sharp. I want to delight him, too much some times. I talk about wanting a father like Dr Gibson in Wives & Daughters. Their relationship (his and Molly’s)  is kind, respectful, fun and warm. He and I had none of that, until the end perhaps. There there was compassion, at least. I’m you’re Daddy, he says. I know, I say, but it isn’t the same. But there shouldn’t be regrets. He brought me what I needed. I chose him for that. Let it be. Love comes and has come from other quarters. I have not been in need, not for a long while.

You won’t have to stress and strain, he’d said. It hadn’t made sense then. When was it? I was coming up to twenty-eight. Oh, a Saturn Return, he’d said, groaning. What? I asked, what? Nineteen ninety, twenty seven years, twenty eight years ago. And yet I remember it so well. His cat, the sound of the traffic outside his window. His terrible teeth and his admiration of my wide-legged red silk trousers. He’s dead now, long gone. You won’t have to stress and strain, he’d said. There is a plan. You won’t be disappointed. All will come right. All will come right, he said. I don’t have to but I do. I do stress. I stress myself. Is it the menopause? I ask. No, he says, I think it is the weather. We rowed the other day about an article he’d mentioned written by a SAD sufferer. She swears by those lights, he said. I wasn’t responsive. I didn’t show the requisite interest and he got shirty. Fair enough. He was being kind and I was being narky.

I can live with it like this. Under par. That is what I am, a little lacking in get up and go. Every hill is a mountain. But it is OK. I’ve been listening to Martin Sixsmith’s radio programme about psychology. There is no such thing as madness, said one of his late contributors. He uses audios from the past, it is fascinating to hear Freud and Jung in particular. There are only varying degrees of sanity, he continues. Another talks about anti-depressants and how they suppress all feeling. They are not discrimatory. I want to feel. And to do so one has to take the good with the bad. Or alternatively not judge either. This is how it is. Grey today, a little lighter tomorrow. It is all experience. All colours through which to encounter the world.

Best to learn poems by heart, come to know them, he says. I’ve begun. Well my first reading. Philip Larkin’s High Windows. I will print it out today and begin to learn. I know so few. Learning by rote had gone out of fashion when I was at school. I want to teach myself. Begin at the beginning, always. I can quote a little of Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese, and I do frequently as I walk, but not much else.

I am prepared for Monday. Am I nervous? Yes, it is beyond my control. I don’t know what will happen or whether I will bring anything at all. Just myself. Just bring yourself. My new tapestry came today. This is what I’d imagined. Much simpler than cross stitch. It came in an enormous box. It’s getting closer to what I’d thought. I’m looking forward to starting. So many things on the go. I have a lifetime though, don’t I?

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.