Who is it?

A young man is shouting at his girlfriend. They are walking along North Road. It is 3.30 am. She hugs herself as he shouts, lagging behind, head down. Who is it? he is shouting. Who is it?

Just beyond the Bandstand I pass a couple. The man wears an England football shirt. He is making big expressive gestures as he talks. I can do all those things better, he is saying. I don’t mean to be rude, but I can.

Further down the Prom, sitting on the steps just down from Pier Pressure, another man is shouting. … a cunt! he shouts. I don’t catch the name. A few yards away a diminutive girl breaks from a conversation she is having with two friends to exclaim in reply, yeh, fuck him man, before returning her attention to her mates.

Yesterday I’d watched as a group of foreign students had encircled a parked University Security van with traffic cones. It had clearly been a case of high spirits. They worked fast, giggling as they did it. I’m off, said one of the girls. And they all scarpered. It was a harmless enough prank. And they were so utterly delighted with themselves.


This is why I get up at this ungodly hour, not to observe all the shenanigans that the students get up to in their cups, but for this dark silence. It isn’t easy, its a truthful hour, a stark time with no hiding place. I often very nearly fall asleep, particularly when I have a hot water bottle on my lap and my little fire on. It is too cosy. Sometimes there are lights on around the complex (is that the only word I can come up with to describe where I live?). I imagine them to be nursing staff, particularly the girl who lives across the Quad from us. I can see her window, more often than not lit, from my studio one, Is she just back from work? What does she do with her time? I sometimes muse about retraining as a nurse. Could I do it? Not the training,, that would be OK, but the all day on your feet sort of stuff, being told what to do and remaining detached. Could I do all that? I know that I would be efficient but as to stamina, I jut don’t know. Until one knows what it is like to do something, be someone else, one can only imagine, encourage romantic ideas about how much easier it would be. But it wouldn’t. It would just bring an different set of problems. I think it is the feeling that I would have done something worthwhile, a day’s work. I remember that sensation when teaching. I was so exhausted by it, particularly by the end of the week. But this is my situation, this inner wrangling, this search for authenticity.

I crave meaning, said the man on the radio. I only caught the end of the programme. It sounded like he had a stroke of some kind and was talking about his life post-paralysis. He was a violinist and was re-learning how to play. I crave meaning. So often I catch phrases from the radio that resonate with me. I crave meaning. It’s true. I want to find work to lose myself in, to surprise myself with. To be busy with. But I need to find out what that work is. I began writing yesterday. It is hard. It is not just writing about my practice but of myself too. What am I about? What am I doing it? Where is it going? And on and on.

Ho hum. I must get back to it. Something is coming through, I’m not sure what. I need to be brave, to admit, to recognise what is gone, and what can never be while being open to what is possible. Go to it. Go. Go, Ada, go.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.