The Miniaturists

Another one was spotted on the skirting board. That’s five sightings in all. Does this mean we’re infested? Any ants this morning? he asked as he sat down to breakfast. None, so far, I said. They make me itch. I know its all in my head, but isn’t most things?

They promised dry and its raining. I didn’t mind. It isn’t cold and the rain distracts me. It gives me something to focus on. But alas, no Perygyl and I ended up going home the back way so I missed the bakery smells too. Did I tell you that I usually go back the Great Darkgate Street way so that I can catch a whiff of baking bread from Slaters’ and then The Pelican? Slaters’ must’ve had air conditioning installed because their door is rarely open in the mornings. So not much joy there, but The Pelican more than makes up for it. A lovely salty, yeasty aroma oozes from there, warm and buttery. It’s cosy, it’s comforting, a blanket against the bleakness of the early mornings before dawn.

They were still out, even in the rain. Two of them sat on the wall by the Bar, a boy and girl. The lad was in an army greatcoat and he held a walking stick between his knees. I kicked the bar all the same. Coming home, towards the station, two male students were ahead of me. They were talking loudly, all restraint and self-consciousness, gone. One, wearing baggy khaki shorts, walked into a parked car. Sorry, sorry, he said, holding his hands up and backing away with large, over-exaggerated backwards steps, before continuing his rant. It’s not right, mate, he said to his friend, it’s not fucking right, its the Establishment…..

It was a repeat, I’d heard it before. I even think I mentioned it was coming up a few days ago. Did I? That radio programme about doll’s houses with Lauren Childs. Do you remember? We’re miniaturists, one of the makers said and went on to describe the tiny ceramic objects he fashions. We make under ten pounds an hour, he said. I pay my plumber fifty quid an hour and the garage who mend my car charge over ninety. It’s a mugs game, I expected him to say but he didn’t. He loves his work. He accepts that it won’t bring riches. But is it enough? I love that kind of focus, and the desire for to-scale perfection. I second that. I second that.

I spent my walk fretting about money. I had to say no to two bookings when I can scarce do so. Well ring them back, he says, say you can do it. It is too late and besides I wanted to stand firm. This is to be my leave, can I not ask for a complete day off? I’d we’d stayed to do the shift we’d be off two or even three hours later. And the journey is part of it. The adventure. The getting away. Seventy-two pounds is what I’ve lost. Can I make it somewhere else? Show me what I can do? Let me find my easeful abundance. It is there, if and when everything comes right. And it will come right, said the man with no teeth and the Siamese cat, it will come right.

She is still grieving. She poo poos her mournfulness. I miss the old dog, she says, not saying its name. Is it too painful? She was company that old dog. Good company. I hear the tears waiting in her voice. She is forcing a smile. And how are you? she asks.

I think of the elderly lady. I won’t look at the bruises. I can imagine. That is enough. I hope she feels safe, that her family have enfolded her. I want to ask why, and how? But I know nothing, my understanding is limited. It is beyond me to fathom. Ask not. I take your hand. Sleep well.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.