The Seagull

Love book cover

I’ve never seen it on the stage, though I do remember visiting the Almeida Theatre during its run sometime in the early 1980s. And a fellow Theatre Design student at Wimbledon did a design for it. It was beautiful, as everything she did was. I heard it on the radio last week. Helena Bonham-Carter and Alex Jennings starred. It was bleaker than I’d expected. Trigorin was clearly Chekhov himself, or at least his mouthpiece, with his thoughts and battles with writing. Never being able to just be, always making notes. What you remember is the periphery, what is happening when you are writing. No one is happy in their skin, their lot. Yes, bleak.

I capture fleeting quotes, write them down and then forget where they came from. ‘The kindliness of her was beyond analysis’, was one. And ‘The kindliness that was the whole of her’, another.

Another note reads Mum’s sparrow. Yes, we’d talked of it the other day. I try out my pre-Enlightenment hocus pocus on him and he listens, not judging, keeping an open mind. I like that about him. I treasure that about him. She came to me as a sparrow the night she died. I know it. It flew it and perched on the ceiling fan, remaining for several minutes before exiting from the window. It wasn’t nervous or scared but very calm, just watching. It repeated the same procedure the following evening. The owners of the house said they’d never know it before. Never, they said. I didn’t share my theory. The magic, the mystery was mine. Only he knows.

A man sleeps on a Prom bench. It is 3.45 am. His arms are folded across his chest and his legs are stretched out before him, crossed at the ankle. An opened pizza box is beside him, the pizza a three-quarter whole. He is snoring. By the castle I cross paths with a man carrying a large rucksack on his back. A traveller, he wears heavy, winter gear. Morning, I say. Morning, he replies in a clear, articulate voice. Later, at bottom of Great Darkgate Street, a young man passes me. You a’right? he asks, beaming. Yes, I say and beam back. There was part of a trailer on the beach. Two wheels still fixed to an axle. Had the tide brought it in? The wheels were a little skewed. The seafront B&B has its NO VACANCIES sign up. I’m glad. I wish them a busy summer. Yr Hafod still has rooms free.

Listening to the end of Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms, I was caught by its understated simplicity. His wife and child had just died.

‘After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.’

It is enough. It is enough.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.