The Archbishop’s Kitchen

I’d been meaning to listen to it for a while now and I tuned in briefly yesterday via YouTube. It was strange, if not a little bizarre. There he was in all his robes and regalia standing in front of his computer screen in his kitchen. I found it hard not to be distracted by the objects in there. There was a small, plug-in transistor radio on one of the surfaces to the right, and rather sweetly a paper calendar, the kind bought for a pound in a local church fete, or the local sub-post office, hanging rather askew from the glass-fronted dresser behind him. I like him, or at least I like what I know of him. His vulnerability and doubt is made open, which takes courage and he seems to be a kind, compassionate man just doing his best. It can’t be easy. What a crew to guide, eh? He lit a candle, and we could hear his wife in the background saying the responses. The candle took a while to take, but he kept calm, steady. I miss the mystery of the Abbey, so much. I miss the Sunday morning service, early, in those lovely ancient pews right up by the altar with no choir or pomp, just a small congregation, the lessons, the Eucharist and my thoughts, and then walking home up the hill with the taste of the Communion wine in my mouth, heady and sweet.

I understand it now. That’s why she lays things out on the patio area outside their flat to let the sunshine rid them of the virus. The children’s books, the vegetables, all laid out in a row against the wall. They are a sweet family. Just the two of them and one child, a little boy whom they clearly dote on, her especially. We watch them from our vantage point in the wasteland-cum-building site-cum-dump pretending to be planes and running across the playing fields their arms outstretched. They are Chinese, I think or they could be Korean. The little boy knows a little English, as do the parents. I think the father must be an academic at the University. I like the cultural hotchpotch who live here. We keep our distance, but there is respect and warmth, I hope.

I asked for guidance. Do I let it all go? How would that feel? To let go, to no longer seek. Would the world come and find me or would it let me be? And how would that be if it did? I have enough to do still, enough to learn. I want to master the sewing, Norwegian, complete my book, to become a better writer. But they are all personal goals, inward things, they are not things I can offer the world, for the world does not want and shall not have them. Does it matter? Is it important? If I died tomorrow would anybody care what I had done, what I had achieved? He is the only one who bears witness. He matters. And he is content. There is nothing you have to do, he says. Earn enough to pay your part of the rent, and then do what you like. That’s all. No fanfare, no name in lights, just a quiet continuum. Can I bear that? Can I let it all go? I don’t know. I don’t know yet. I still have those prickings of ideas. Will they be content to be worked through and go into a drawer? I don’t know. I asked for guidance for a better understanding, a greater knowing, will it come?

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.