Viennese Whirls & Smoke

They have these running gags in The Archers, if gags is the right word. They are something silly and frivolous that is passed from character to character. They are obvious but they make me smile. This week it was Viennese whirls. Debbie was going to tea at Peggy’s with Jennifer, Lillian etc. and Peggy asked Jennifer to pick up some Viennese Whirls saying that she thought that they were Debbie’s favourite. I find them rather dry myself, said Peggy, but I want to get them for Debbie. Debbie tells Jennifer that she was only being kind the last time Peggy offered them to her and actually she couldn’t stand them. So Jennifer says that she will say she forgot them. Meanwhile, Peggy has asked Lillian to buy some. Get two packets, she said, just in case. You can see where it is going. Well, Debbie finally owns up over tea that she can’t bear them. They are so dry. Well, it must’ve been Lillian who liked them, said Peggy. And before Lillian could reply she’d handed her back the two packets. You take them, she said. Then ten minutes later we hear Jazzer saying how Lillian had given him two packets of biscuits out of the blue. Must be my lucky day, he said, though they are a bit dry. I wanted to cheer him up, so I related the same scenario in the car on the way to Manchester. It barely raised a smile. Poor love. And then on Monday. There they were a packet of Viennese Whirls on top of the fridge.

I’d decided to go for a shorter walk this morning as my foot was sore yesterday. Just to kick the bar and then round and then down Pier Street and home. I walked along North Road as usual, delighted that my foot, as yet, wasn’t too uncomfortable. I turned right along the Prom and went to kick the bar. Then turning round I was met with a surreal sight. Great waves of white smoke were drifting across the Prom by the bandstand and out to sea. Flickering blue lights could be seen through the smoky fog. What had happened? Was it a large beach bonfire gone awry? Dottings of students in pairs, mostly, sat on walls and benches observing at a distance. I walked nearer. There were six, maybe seven or even eight fire engines. Firemen were dragging hoses that had been plugged into fire hydrants on Terrace Road. Where was it coming from? I looked up. It was the hotel on the corner. Ty something it is called and owned by the man who owns The Four Seasons. I couldn’t see much for the smoke. The Prom had been taped off. Blankets had been laid on the ground. Blue lights from several police cars flashed. I turned down into Terrace Road feeling a little shaky. I heard steps behind me. What are you doing? A voice said. I stopped and turned round. It was a female police officer with what sounded like a Scandinavian accent. I’m going to the Spar and then going home. Is that OK? I asked. Yes, she said. Outside the Spar a couple of lads stood watching though seemingly unconcerned. I brought the tale to his bedside for when he woke thinking it might spark him. It’s his hometown after all. But he was groggy, lost in his misery. It passed though. It did pass. Where is the BBC when you need them? he said later.

I dip in and out of books at work. For now it is Richard Sennet’s The Craftsman. I love the detail of his fixations. He moves in close. ‘Craft routines relieve the stress by providing a steady rhythm of work’. I like that. And later he refers to it as the ‘calm industry’. What a beauty. You are doing one already, she said over lunch. You are doing a PhD already. I know. And in another life I would. A the RCA, in the embroidery department. But shouldn’t I break the pattern, this hopeless longing for approval? I’m doing it already. So should I just leave it be?

It was a joy to see her. So steady, so grounded. The calmness of her. Though I know that she isn’t, not really. It was good to cry. I grieve over my temporary loss of him. All will be well. It will return, our joy our contentment. Sometimes life has to be shaken up. It is necessary. Breathe and accept.

A bientot, my love.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.