What have you come for?

I did it. I wrenched it out of me. And it was fine. It usually is. All that worry exhausts me. You look so pretty, he said afterwards, now the strain has gone. We were sitting in the Arts Centre, me with a cup of coffee and he with some water. Come back at 10.45 he’d said. Go and have a cup of tea. Time goes so fast. I wanted to sit with him, bask in the relief of it. I did it. Well, he did it really. He set it all up. It was all ready when I arrived. We did it last night, he said. It took half and hour to set up. The camera, the monitor and a chair draped in black. Perfect. Three-quarters cordoned off with a screen. It was perfect, except that is for the cold. My hands barely worked. The sewing was crap but I loved watching my hands move on the screen. He did it. But I did it too. If organising it, conceiving it and doing it counts. We stood in his office watching him begin to edit it on his Mac. I wish I had your technical skill, I said. I taught myself, he said modestly. It’s about not being fearful, I suppose. It crashed. Even that didn’t throw him. He was sanguine. I know what you want now. So we left him too it.

I did it but I’m not sure how to judge it. Will it do? As an experiment in what is possible, certainly. Shall I enter it for the Open? I want to offer all three options. Again, that will be an experiment too. Can they see the possibilities? Are they Open at the Open? I’ve nothing to lose, except the £25 entry fee. It is all part of taking myself onwards. I’m making this mine, this funny new practice of mine.

I only managed to write one word in the fifteen minutes. Itself. That is all I managed and the even then the f was a bit dodgy. But it isn’t about the sewing. It isn’t about the craft. It is about the doing of it. And that, at least to me, looked beautiful. Disembodied hands. Articulating. Creating. Writing. Forming. Reading.

A frosty morning. It glittered on the road and paths. Do you have snow? I asked her as she gently placed my apples on the counter. No, though they are promising sleet showers at Devil’s Bridge on Monday. She tells me her cottage is cold. We’ve only got storage heaters. We just use blankets, she says and laughs. I hate being cold, he said this morning. I know. I know my love. The flat is artic at times. Bryan, our draught excluder-cum-dachshund, doesn’t. Draught exclude, that is. Come on Bry, he says as we stand in the hallway putting on shoes, buck up. Now the sun shines. A beautiful day, despite the cold. She said she is going to take her little daughter to the pantomime. Cinderella. Her son and her husband will stay at home. A boy’s night in, she says, with a curry. They sound such a nice family. I cleave to her, and her, and her.

Despite the cold there were several people about this morning. Girls mostly. Students probably. Last minute exam nerves? We saw lots of them yesterday in the canteen. Foreign students doing their last minute cramming. One, a Chinese girl, mouthed the sentences as she read. Shorty John does that when he reads, he said later at supper. That’s OK, I reply, sometimes that’s the way some people learn. Yeh, he said, but he’s nearly eighty.

I saw one man at 3.30 am this morning smoking outside the King’s Hall. He had on a woolly hat, trainers, tracksuit bottoms and a navy towelling dressing gown.

They’re featuring an abridged version of Colin Thurbron’s (is that how you spell his name?) travel book about Siberia. What stunning writing. It stops me still. This morning he was writing about how the fifty years of atheism in Russia has virtually been forgotten. Faith is rife. It delights and warms them. We had icons in our home, one of his interviewees, now a priest, tells him. That’s how I know about our religion. It was never forgotten. Never lost.

I dreamt of her last night. I’d met her at a station. A big, cavernous affair. We talked, walked, looked at food halls (one had wine made from tuna fish, what is that about?). I asked about her daughters, her book (though my questions about the book prompted questions from her, did she know that I hadn’t read it yet?). She was dismissive of her achievements, made getting a Leverhulme grant sound like a nothing. Then she asked me.

What I don’t understand is, what you have come for?


By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.