Trundle Train

Ellen Bell: Photography by Simon Cook 01736 360041

She refers to it as serendipity. Isn’t seren the Welsh for star? Serendipity. We’d been talking about the Brontes and there it was a reading of a new Charlotte Bronte biography on the radio. Read by Hattie Monaghan. She played Eleanor in a recent TV adaptation of Sense and Sensibility and I saw her a couple of years ago on stage in London as Nora in The Doll’s House. She has gravitas as an actress. Is earnest, solemn even. I like her voice. The bit I heard the Brontes were endeavouring to publish a collection of their poems. They had to cover the costs. Two copies were sold. Worse than nothing, Charlotte wrote in her journal. Worse than nothing. She’d written to the poet Southey the year before. He’d encouraged her to quash all ambition to publish, to know her place, accept her status in life as a woman. Nevertheless, she had taken heart, he had not said her poems were bad.

Tenacity. You’ve got tenacity, said ‘The Beast’ as he leaned out of his window smoking a cigarette, going out in this. I must have my walk, I said.

The rain didn’t come till later. I had a dry morning walk. Though it was windy. Abigail is coming. The sign for The Angel pub creaked and whined as it swung back and forth. Down at the harbour the through road is lined either side with boats on bricks. Makeshift stilts, they look so unsure. Some of the boats are in a right state. Peeling paint, rust and sagging rigging. A sorry state. I’m glad they are out of the water. It’s like the lobster pots. All are safely gathered in. Anticipating winter. Battening down the hatches.

I saw two cats in the dark. One crossed Llanbadarn Road the other was on the promenade. They are not scared of the dark. Like me.

Sometimes I see coins on the pavement. Usually they are five pence pieces, sometimes a pound. Today I collected pebbles. Twelve of them. Off the prom. The sea had hurled them there. I create of a line of them on the window sill, like Kettle’s Yard. The outside brought in. I washed them. Do they still smell of the sea? Like shells?

They came in to talk about peace poppies. White ones. There had been a fracas last year. Everyone kept calling them pacifist poppies. No, she said, in her soft German brogue, they are peace poppies. They are to commemorate everyone who has been killed in conflict not just the fallen soldiers and armed forces. Everyone. We want to encourage the end of wars through negotiation, through diplomacy, she said. We spoke with the Legion and found we had much in common. I’m glad.

No hands and no feet. I remember the Grimm’s fairy tale. The Silver Hands. She has her hands cut off so that the Devil can’t take her. She is given false hands fashioned from silver. This woman had become ill, her extremities growing sceptic. So brave. So strong. Really. What lives I encounter through the radio. She is waiting for a transplant. A double-hand transplant. Can you imagine? I am humbled. Our hands and feet – they carry us through, help us to make sense of the world. I wish her a speedy recovery. Though what she has learnt through her trial must be immeasurable. In the story the girl’s hands grow back. I wish her well.

Walking home I hear the train. The trundle train I call it. A slow train. A rolling, meandering train. Chugger, chugger. No whistle. In the summer there is a whistle. A whistle from the steam train. At three o’clock in the afternoon. A nice sound. A gentle sound. A summery sound.

Outside my studio window the rain is lashing the panes. Spitting hard. There is a Paul Simon song about raindrops on a window pane. Melancholic. Gorgeous. There but for the grace of you go I, it ends.

Take care, he said, it would break my heart. Mine too, my love. Mine too.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.