sheila farrell artist

Small observations in words and images

Dead Bird

I found a dead bird once.

I put it in a box.

A Gentle Shade of Jade Green

“We’ll not walk through the trees today.”

We always walk through the trees – along the twisting path, by the oak tree, along the edge, over the sand, under the pylon, through the trees, down to the water, along the river and back round the other side – the ritual of walking the same route and noticing the changes day upon day. I have seen kingfishers and fish (I think they are perch) and bluebells that come and go so quickly, a buzzard soaring and calling by my head, dragonflies with wings like birds, woodpeckers, the sound of the first cuckoo, the wild honeysuckle, rabbits playing on the grass, (she caught a rabbit once and ate it whole), the little patches of heather, jays, squirrels. She chases the squirrels, she tries to run up the trees to catch them but they are too quick for her.

The shade of the trees would be welcome today: the sun is blistering on the heath. But the cattle have staked their claim, finding their relief in the cool shelter before us. It is a small herd of English Longhorns introduced to graze the common. They are magnificent creatures who will watch you as you pass and who can find food in the roughest grazing. Their horns are a grand sight, great long appendages that bend at odd angles as though the gods who made them couldn’t be bothered to screw them in properly – ‘ah, one horn up and one horn down, that’ll do, away you go now and eat grass.’ Most of the time they’ll do nothing but graze and stare, but I have seen them running, stampeding across the heath. You wouldn’t want to be on the end of one of those horns. And she is still young, she barks at them if we get too close and she can set them off. It wouldn’t be wise to walk among the trees today.

“We’ll not walk through the trees today.”

We will find a different path and so it is that we take the one less travelled by – the small sandy path that cuts through the heath at an angle to the trees. The sun is hot. The sand is hot. The air is still. We take our time. She goes backwards and forwards in amongst the heather following her nose through the undergrowth looking for anything that takes her fancy. I follow the path. And there just in front of me – I have never seen one – not in the wild – there weren’t any where I grew up – there just in front of me – a snake crossing the path – never seen one – what a thing. I look around, she hasn’t seen it. She stays in the heather. What a thing, it must be five feet long. If the snake and I were to lie down together now in the sand we’d be as long as each other. What a thing, it moves silently and smoothly raising its body up and into the heather – what a creature – a beautiful gentle shade of jade green – what a thing. I peer into the undergrowth to watch her but just as magically as she has appeared so she has vanished. I search for her with my eyes for one more look but she has hidden herself so well that I must be content with that fleeting glimpse. But she has left her mark. Her trails lie in the sand where she has luxuriated in the hot summer sun until so rudely interrupted by our noise. What a thing, a jade green snake.

Don’t look

It’ll be alright, if I don’t look.

Brenda

Coral pink

“Keep still for us Brenda.”

Her voice is not unkind – tired, it is tired, desperate, pleading. It has already been a long day and it is only two o’clock. She is holding Brenda’s arm. She is standing with her back to me. She is in her twenties, dressed in dark green which accentuates the redness of her hair. Please, please keep still Brenda, please.

The frail little man dressed all in grey and sitting with his back to me is silent. He doubles over in soundless spasm.

We are all so vulnerable, she and Brenda and the little grey man and me.

“Keep still for us Brenda.”

She taps Brenda’s wrist and looks at the door. Then she moves away and fiddles with a machine that beeps and flashes. It doesn’t seem to be plugged into anything … or anyone. She looks at it blankly and then resumes her position beside Brenda.

“What are you doing Brenda? Come on now, we need you to keep still.”

She turns round and catches my eye. We smile. She turns away again. Please keep still Brenda, please.

The little grey man has been helped out of his chair and into the next room.

She needs Brenda to be lying on her back and she needs Brenda to be still. Brenda has slithered down the trolley.

“What are you doing Brenda? Come on now, we need you to keep still.”

She lowers the back of the trolley so that Brenda can lie more comfortably. Brenda, an elderly lady, is all in pink – dark pink loose fitting trousers and a light pink hospital gown that opens at the back revealing her bare mottled skin – so vulnerable. I look down at my book. Brenda is uncomfortable even though she is sedated. She keeps fidgeting her legs up and down and constantly shuffling her body around on the trolley. The young nurse has let go of Brenda’s arm. And now Brenda takes hold of the side rail and with great effort she turns herself over and brings her legs up that so she can lie curled up on her side. She is still.

The door opens and Brenda is wheeled away, her toenails are perfectly painted in coral pink.

Chimney

Chimney

Questions

Tick

“Have you had …?”

“No.”

“Have you ever …?”

“No.”

“Are you …?”

“No.”

“Do you …?”

“No.”

You have already filled in the form and ticked all the boxes and now you are sitting in the corner of a small room as she explains in an accent from your past that she just needs to check. And suddenly you begin to doubt yourself.

“Have you had …?”

I don’t think so.

“No.”

“Have you ever …?”

Have I? I’m not sure. Maybe I have. There was that time …. No, no, no, I haven’t. I’m sure I haven’t.

“No.”

“Are you …?”

Not so as you’d notice.

“No.”

“Do you … smoke?”

Well I did steal a packet of 20 from my mother when I was 10 (the age of criminal responsibility) and chain smoked them with a friend. 10 cigarettes when I was 10. Does that count?

“No.”

“Thank you, that’s fine. There’s a bit of a wait but we’ll get you ready anyway. Have you …?”

“No”

The man in the launderette

A very long time ago at the end of a day I am the last person left in the launderette.

As I sit waiting for my washing to finish the man who works in the launderette is tidying up. He is a man of a certain age, softly plump, black hair, no grey, I think it is dyed, a bit greasy, grey olive skin, big hands. He doesn’t speak. Nor do I, head in a book trying to pretend that I am not there. He is methodically and vigorously cleaning out the detergent dispensers on each of the washing machines. He uses a grey washing up brush and each time he thrusts the brush into the dispenser he puckers his lips in and out in a curious fashion. Once he is satisfied that all traces of washing powder have been removed he picks up a wooden broom to sweep the floor. It seems rather too small and worn to be of much use but in the same methodical and vigorous manner he proceeds to sweep up the fluff from the floor. It is funny isn’t it that whenever you find fluff lying about it is almost always grey. He sweeps every part of the launderette until at last he comes to the spot where I am sitting.

He stops and leans on the broom handle. For a long time he says nothing. Both of us look at the washing going round in the machine. And then he says, still looking at the washing, “Nostradamus says it’s all going to end in the year 1999.”