Advent Calendar (2)

I bought an inexpensive one. A small one. One that wasn’t too cutesy or commercial. I wanted a traditional one. One that I’d look forward to opening. I’ve hung it on the door of my studio. I couldn’t find the door this morning. The door for number 1. He found it in the end. I thought it said 11. Small pleasures. Small delights. A throwback to childhood, of course. I was a child who liked looking forward and holding back, reserving delights for later. I saved things. I cossetted things. The pleasure was then under my control. I could ease into it, come to it in short bursts. It wouldn’t overwhelm me. Is this a bad thing? I am still the same. Do we ever change? I like advent. It suits me. The waiting. The slow, measured waiting. He thinks I am impatient. I’m not really. Not for pleasure. I am impatient when I am kept waiting. I like to fill my time, no waste. No waste. No time wasters please. Yes, so advent is ideal. It is coming, all that excess, all that delight, but not yet. Not quite yet. He found it but let me open it. I remember that sensation. The pushing open of the little paper door. There is a drawing of some German Christmas biscuits inside. In her homeland they make biscuits for Christmas, just like the Germans. Ginger biscuits, almond biscuits, vanilla biscuits. The shapes all mean something. And they have wonderful long names. I loved the smells around the house. Tired after working all day and then to stand at the oven, my legs ached. Too tired to enjoy eating them, still warm from the rack. Putting them in cake tins lined with greaseproof paper. For later. The smell of ginger when you open the tin the next day. Baking when it was dark outside. A cup of tea on the go. Waiting for the oven timer. Are they ready? Just test it. Soft now, they will harden once out. A question of timing. Waiting by the oven door. Thinking of Gretel. Of Hansel. That perfect house. It wasn’t what it seemed.

Yesterday it looked as if it were alight. A tree in flames. It was Christmas lights. They’d been wrapped around its trunk. Tiny little yellow-white lights, afire in the darkness. It caught my breath. I was disappointed that it was not lit this morning. But there was the moon. Silvery against the sea. It lit my way. No need for my torch. A beautiful morning. Cold, crisp and sharply clean. A police car was humped onto the kerb at the beginning of North Road and still there as I made my way home an hour later. It’s lights were on, two officers were sitting inside. Were they waiting for someone? Pinch, punch.

His lights are often on when I walk. He lives on the hill. High up. He used to be an architect. Now he has Alzheimer’s. It’s common knowledge, probably, though he told me himself when he came to the studio to do an interview. I love your house, I told him. A modern design. A series of long boxes with windows down to the ground. Yes, he said, it is rather special. He designed it himself. His lights are still on. Yellow rectangles against the black.

I tried to still my mind as I walked. It starts immediately. What about this, what about that? Rushing about trying to trigger panic, fear, doubt. Chitter, chatter I call it. Stop your chitter, chatter. Hush. I try to take my conscious lower down, to my solar plexus, my gut. There. There where it is warm. Just sensation, just feeling, no words. Just for a moment. I am just a being walking, sensing the cold, hearing the bird song, that taxi driving past, the sudden gust that flaps at a piece of silvery cellophane caught in the long grass making it glint.

I dreamt I had a child. A little Asian boy. We were both doing our best to care for him. At one point he looked at me with such love. I’ve missed you, he said. Then an Asian chef was writing something for me. A review or a recipe, I am not sure. It was a gift. A gift of his time. I read it as he watched. It was something I could use. A gem.

The house has been cleaned. Dusted and washed. Now to work. Little things to tie up and organise. And prepare for tomorrow. The sun is throwing a warm orange on the roofs across the way. The sky is a clear azure. It is enough.

I am excited about the course. She has a gentle voice. But I must wait. Wait for the right time. 2018. She promised much. We shall see.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.