Who is Pattie Wood?

It came into my mind just before I woke. I think it was the question rather than the name. Or was the question mine? Sleep and dreams confound me. Not in an uncomfortable way. No, I love their unreasonableness, their serendipity and flights of fancy. Last night I returned to a dream I’d been having before I went for a pee. I rarely do that, though I’ve sometimes wanted to. I’d gone to Australia. I think it was an escape, a holiday. I’d gone on a whim, not telling anyone. I was full of expectation of adventure. But the details of what I’d left behind and how I was going to manage still niggled at me. I remember snippets. My suddenly realising that I wouldn’t be able to call him and then his being there in Aus with me and telling him. He seemed unbothered. Will you email? I asked. I suppose so, he said. I remember a long road and walking down in it a half-light filled with such sensations of freedom and hope. Then being concerned that I’d lost him by wandering off and that he didn’t know where I was. I asked a woman in deshabille where the airport was. She told me it was in the direction I was going up some narrow, rickety stairs with rope banisters. It wasn’t the route I’d recognised. I kept going back and forth with time. Once I was on the plane and my sister was telling me that she always travelled in her dressing gown. Then I was in Aus staying in a University Halls of some sort. My room was a tiny cabin and it was daylight and several lecturers were in corridors marking essays, one was talking to a cat. I had a meeting with a principal who was talking to a very luxurious dark-haired woman who had a wadge of notes. They were for me but the principal wanted some change from me. I told her I’d go back to my room to check whether I had any. I recall the notes were huge and dark blue. I cannot remember what the denomination was called. It doesn’t make sense, of course it doesn’t but I recognise some of the imagery and from where it has come. I hang onto the sensations though. They were nice.

A piece of music playing on Radio 3 as I went downstairs to wake him for breakfast. A choral piece by a German choir. It’s title was ‘Bird Tempting’. Caterwauling, my mother would’ve called it.

I watched her as she walked around the wasteland. She had her stick but her legs were still a little stilted, and unsteady. For 101 years old she is remarkable. Her gender is less and less defined. The roundness has been eroded. Her elasticated-waist trousers hang from her, flapping loosely at the ankles. There is no bottom. She walks there everyday, she tells us. (It has taken several attempts to attract her attention, for she is profoundly deaf.) She asks if we sit there for long. Is she worried about us getting too much sun? Don’t let me disturb you, she says and walks away to sit for awhile on a pile of bent railings. She seems to accept the gracelessness of this open ground as we do. Making the best of what is available until it won’t be. There’s a digger there now, so it won’t be. Our garden. And hers.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.