He talked at me the whole time she was in the studio. Was he nervous? Possibly. Or just passionate about his work? Hobby turned work. Vernacular furniture his business card said. Welsh vernacular furniture. I was seduced. Seduced by his enthusiasm. I kept picturing the chairs, a dark rich patina, smoothed by use. She, shyer, more hesitant, red-lipsticked. I’m not chasing the money, he said. We have enough. Enough.
I walked home afterwards. He had the car. It was having two tyres changed. A lovely walk down Penglais Hill. Fast walking. Then cut through below the National Library and down the steps passed the Nurses’ Home. Steep, steep hill then down into St David’s Road. I saw chaffinches and gold finches bobbing and darting through the hedges.
A host of birds sing to me at night. My night. Not your night. In bed by 7.30 sometimes 8. It is still light and they sing. Chiff chaff. The sound echoes across the empty land beneath my window. Land that is a building site but surrounded by trees. It is left to its own devices. Up for sale, he tells me. Meanwhile, the birds have it. I fall asleep to their song, happily.
He was there at his window when I got home. Have you had lunch? I asked. In the middle of it, he said, lighting up a cigarette, lamb stew followed by rhubarb pie. The smell, sweet and heavy, filled our hallway. I opened a window wide.
More Diski and her thoughts on smoking. Mum smoked all through her pregnancies. Didn’t do you any harm, she’d say. My sister took up smoking briefly when she died, menthol ones just like her. It gives you something to do. Always, Diski wrote. Most of my lovers have been smokers, and yet, now, I cannot bear the smell. Suffocating the air. I grow less tolerant. Is it just age?
Do you remember the wasps? she asked me. We were talking about the last time we were all together before he died. I do. They were all over your face, she said. I don’t know how you could stand it. I remember. I remember making myself still. I remember the peace of it, the peace in between the fear. And my sister blowing them away.
I want to write about it. I think about it. How to say it. How to tell the story of it, as I walk. It will come. Now, I must go, again. Out into the milky grey.