Christmas Tree


Do you remember I told you about it last time? she asks. You know, I said it had a kind of umbrella-like thing underneath.

And then I realised, yes, it was like the one I saw in the window of the charity shop at the top of town, near the clock.

We bought it last year, she is saying, after Christmas like, cos’ they’re cheaper then, you know. We kept the receipt, just in case. Yes, so it has snow blowing up over it, she says. Yes, it is quite pretty, but it can be a bit noisy. It’s fine, she says, if you try not to listen to the noise. No, she says, we don’t have it on all the time.

I love to see the Christmas trees in people’s windows. Koselig the Norwegians call it. A sparkling of lights against the gloom. The town’s Christmas decorations were lit as we drove home last night. What a fillip it gave me. Is it universal that feeling? Something like joy floods my innards. I am lifted. In one of the flat across the Quad is a fibre-optic tree. It slowly changes colour, red to blue, gold to green. A subtle, soft and gentle transforming. I stood and watched it for a while in the dark.

Do you have a tree? she asked.

It felt odd to see her. We make up names, characters for people we see out and about. Small town games. Familiar faces that are not really known, just guessed. My Little Pony we call her. She speed-walks. Each day we see her, a new set of fluffy ear muffs, pink trainers and pink sweat top. Moving at a somewhat languorous pace. She’s hardly breaking sweat, he says.

We’d seen her about quarter of an hour before. Not training this time, just walking along the Prom. Walking at the same pace, he said. It’s no different. Speed-walking, my arse. And then there she was coming up the stairs. I was waiting to go in. She won’t be long, Jess said popping her head out of her door. Don’t you want to come in, Wendy? Wendy. My Little Pony is called Wendy. I’d smiled at her and she’d flickered one back, her face stiff. Five minutes later she was out and bouncing down the stairs. Bye Wend, Jess had called, have a nice Christmas. It felt odd to see her so close. I felt I’d been unkind to her, making up a name, a narrative. She doesn’t know, he says. No, I say, but somehow it doesn’t feel right. Odd. It had felt odd.

An hour and a half. An hour and half it took for Windows to update my laptop. I know I’m impatient but it seemed an age. I wanted to write, to write something before I called her. Time lost. I read a little, sewed, thought, stared out of the window. Waited.

I am edgy because there are so many ideas and yet, I don’t know which to follow. Not really. Sandi Tostvig’s partner insists that the first cup of tea in the morning must be drunk before anymore ideas are discussed. It is good to be full of ideas. At least that is what we are lead to believe. And yet they are like shoots, they need nourishment to survive to flourish. Which way? I am dreaming of journeys again. Which one? I write every day, something. What of my art? It is there in my head all the time but there is no direction, no path, no place for it at present. Sometimes I am fine with that. Experiment. Experimentation is good. But then it needs air, to be seen, doesn’t it?

I sent some poems to a literary journal. My first ones. I’ve heard nothing. Are they bad, then? Does it matter. Is it wrong to want to give them air?

Charlotte Bronte sent some of her poems to Robert Southey. He replied exhorting her to know her place. She replies, ‘you do not forbid me to write……you warn me against of the folly of neglecting real duties…. of writing for the love of fame.’ Mendelssohn told his sister that the housekeeping must be done before she could finish composing her ‘Songs without Words’. Later Queen Victoria congratulates him on them and he has to confess that they are his sister’s.

Creation is always tinged with a little foolishness. We are sticking our necks out. Look at me, we say. Make, write for yourself, he tells me. And I do. The processes, when I am deep within them, are wonderful. They are my escape, my stillness, my calm. But what then, what does one do with the result, always so smaller than imagined.

The buds are pushing through in the municipal beds along South Marine. Yes, she says, we have daffodils. They’re about six inches above ground now. Though there’s a mist at present. It’s wrapping us in, do you know what I mean? You feel, you feel, trapped. I know, I say, I know.