I saw his fire first, an orange flame on the beach, licking and curling in the slight breeze. I waited for that gorgeous smell of charred wood and smoke and then I saw him. He was curled up in a foetal position against the chill of the morning air and dressed in what looked like a khaki shirt and cargo trousers. He was young, possibly in his twenties or early thirties. He lay close to the wall along South Marine Terrace. Was he asleep? Did I disturb him by walking past. If I’d been him I’d have found a more secret place, but perhaps he wanted to be near people, perhaps it felt safer to be close to homes, to civilisation. Was he a traveller, or a homeless person? He lay close to a bag. Was he just passing through?
I also saw him. We’ve seen him for years walking up and down the Prom with his walking stick, his tall, thin frame and frizz of wild grey hair marking him out as odd, eccentric, not quite right. He knows him. Not well. He has psychiatric problems, he said, poor man. He knows his name. I saw him yesterday morning outside the ‘troublesome’ flats along Mill Street. He was sitting on a low wall. Was he smoking? He didn’t have any shoes on. He was sitting there in his stocking feet. His hair was still a frizz but it was cut shorter in a kind of bob. I said good morning. What else can you say when you pass someone at 4.00 am? He didn’t reply but just stared at me. Fair enough, I thought. The discomfort and obligation to say something was mine not his.
A blackbird seemed to follow me a little along Llanbadarn Road. First it bobbed onto the little wall skirting Cwrt Cenydd and then it bounced down beneath it. And as I continued to walk it didn’t fly away but appeared to bounce along beside me. They stare at you with one eye. Robins follow me regularly but blackbirds don’t, until today.
Wales is open. The harbour was a mass of mobile homes and campervans and the bins along the Prom disgorged fish and chip cartons, bottles and crisp packets. And empty bottles stood abandoned by the sand’s edge. There were more people about too. Three wandered barefoot along the wet sand and a couple sauntered the Prom ahead of me. It is changing. The town is metamorphosing into holiday mode full of strangers.
The book case is still unclaimed though someone has put an empty beer can on one of its shelves. What will they do with their enormous onions?
I think about the change that is coming, possibly of home and work. What will it bring? I try to remain open but I wobble between excitement and fear. Just take it slowly. And breathe. She says she’ll call to catch up. Will it be a slow drawing away?