An ex-love sends a message via FB and it takes me back, what almost forty years ago. To that top-floor flat in West Kensington (just down the road from the ‘Scrubs’). My first home away from my family, shared with him. There was Esme the feral cat, the Irish ex-merchant seaman landlord who’d come up for ‘chats’ about the sea, and the little ‘balcony’ the cat and I would clamber through the window to perch in looking down onto the scrappy square below, the kitchen cabinets I painted red and the pervading reek of dirty litter tray. I loved it though, as I loved him, passionately, painfully.

A stunning morning and it was almost up when I walked. The washing was still out on a line in the back garden of one of the houses along South Marine Terrace. It had been propped up by a wooden prop and it swaying precariously but safely in the breeze. It made me happy somehow. Seeing washing drying often does. It’s the regularity of it, the domesticity.

The chinese woman in the flat around the corner, with her one son and husband (no doubt an academic at the University), tends a lovely little patio garden. Tomatoes, onions, potatoes and herbs grow marvellously from plastic washing up bowls all arranged in neat lines in the sun. Everything she buys is leant against the house wall, in the sun, vegetables (often very exotic, I thought I saw a mooli the other day), toys, children’s books, no doubt to ward off any contamination. The paving stones are often replete with chalked drawings by her son of smiling faces and spaceships. She takes such care. It warms my heart.

The hairdressers along Northgate Terrace looks like it has folded. All the window signage has been removed and a hoover is on the floor, plugged in in the middle of being used. I am sad. She tried so hard.

The Pelican Bakery seems to be holding up. It looks so welcoming as I walk past at 4.30 am. I see the blonde, ponytailed woman in there marking off orders, apron on, pencil in hand. And the smell. Long may it continue. The bread he bought from M&S still smells of yeast, what a joy.

Enough. I have work to do. Her letter was a joy. I want to get into the habit of writing more letters. Mrs Gs are a delight to share, rich with incident and detail. And our lives reflected back and shared are the better for it. Email and texts are nothing to them.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.