She would’ve been eighty today. I think about her most days, how can I not she is part of my work, my psyche, my history and my future? It has always been so even for all those years in which we were estranged. It’s six years since she died and I tend to think and dream of her as a younger woman, younger than when I last saw her. She is happier in my dreamscapes than I believe she ever was in reality. So much potential. A singular person, I think. I was in awe of her. May she continue to rest in peace.

Our neighbour downstairs also celebrates her birthday today, though she is a hundred. Old enough to be my mother’s mother. A hundred years old and she still walks into town every morning. She is very deaf and I think her eyesight is not so sharp but she is bright and self-contained. Her son lives with her, not an uncommon arrangement in Wales. But they live separate existences mostly, he being up late watching TV and playing poker on his computer (so he tells me) and she with her church, only coming together for lunch. All her family are here staying in the Nanteos mansion. I saw him at his window having a cigarette as I set off for my walk. The big day today, I said. Yes, he said. They are expecting over thirty people from far and wide for lunch. Does she want the fuss, I asked him over breakfast, do you think? He didn’t answer. I suspect she will just take it in her stride, I said.

To live so long. Is it just serendipity? I made a point of┬ásearching for the whiff of pine needles as I walked past the large town Christmas tree this morning. A gorgeous smell, so evocative. ┬áNo smells of baking bread and no kids. The town was a ghostly one. I like it this way. Soon they will return. A deep breath. I’ve made a start but more mountains to shift today. A friend writes saying that she began her second chemo yesterday and that her hair has gone. I hold her in my thoughts. She is so brave. I send her love.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.