Bobble Hat

She was ahead of me while I walked home. It was 3.45 and still pitch, though down by the harbour the sky had looked blue. No moon this morning. And the chill has passed. No ice and just a few traces of snow in those sunless streets. She was ahead of me and I thought it was her hair. A great top knot on top of her head. I could only see the back of her. A black shape, wide of hip and small of foot. A dressed Botero beauty, perhaps. I caught up with her by the station, she had a phone pressed up against her ear. And it wasn’t a hat. What I thought was a top knot were two pink pom poms. She was wearing a bobble hat.

It is often like that when I walk in the early mornings. Things are not quite as they seem. It could be the dimness of the light, or that my perception of them is skewed. I am certainly hyper alert. Walking down Mill Road I heard a sharp click, I spun round, a door was either being opened or shut. My skin develops extra senses in the night, it hears as well as feels. (Listening to David Blunkett hosting an old edition of Down Your Way on Radio 4 extra, I noticed how often he’d refer to sounds, the noise of the steel-making machinery, the music from the old shows at the Lyceum Theatre. Is it his blindness that makes his other senses so acute? He came across as a kind man, a sympathetic man, especially when he spoke to an ex-usherette from the theatre. His speech changed, verbs were dropped from sentences. But it wasn’t a pose, this was no Tony Blair losing his H’s, no it was a way of making her feel more at ease. Lovely.)

She replied. I was touched. She didn’t have to. It was nice to make that connection. It gave me a glow.

She called back. I’d tried her but got the answering machine. She called back. She’s come on such a long way from the first phone call when she had to ring off after a panic attack. She sounded better, stronger. I do like her. I love her in my way. It’s a warmth that flows from me. A deep compassion, just like I felt for the begging woman in Nerja, and the woman in the red fleece at the home on Thursday. It takes me over, it floods me and I want to reach out and touch. I can’t touch her, will probably never meet her. This is enough. This phone call every Friday. Are you OK? I think of you. It is enough.

Still no boiler. We will wait. Maybe on Monday. I keep him warm. I keep it all flowing. I long for a proper bath, to shave my legs and luxuriate. It will come. But meanwhile I am grateful this has been a gift. I know this. Nothing is safe, nothing is as we think. All is illusion. So temporary, so impermanent. All we have is our actions. How we behave to ourselves and to others. Keep steady. Keep warm. Keep kind.

Morning opens up.

Coffee and then work.

And The Archers.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.