Christmas Jumpers

Speaking Soul (17)

Do you have to wear them? I asked her. Yeh, she said, company policy. Do they give them to you? he asked. Oh, no, she said, we have to buy them ourselves. What? he said. Yeh, she said, though it’s OK for me as I work part-time with Special Needs. And she undid the poppers of her padded jacket. DA-DA! she said. At the other till Jude was wearing a black angora one emblazoned with a sparkly Christmas Pudding. Mark was in a red and white one, Merry Christmas repeated in lines across its midriff. It’s these hats that are the main problem, she continued, pulling out an acrylic Santa’s hat from a shelf underneath the conveyor belt. They’re so hot. I was reprimanded for taking mine off the other day. I still say they should pay for the jumpers, he said. That’s retail for you, she said. Thirty-three pounds and fifty-four pence, please. Ta.


No rain as yet. The sky is quiet, its silence being broken by a generator whirring down below. I love being this high up. The same height as the birds. Standing in our living room I can see them fly, close up. A jackdaw sits on the guttering, taking a sip of water, now and again from its trough. Shall we walk today?


I’d like to read. To give myself permission to read. I have much to do. And yet, it seems a passive way of working. Allow it. Things will be learnt.

I’m to read about Charlotte Bronte. CB. Well, her letters mostly. I’ve begun it. Begun them. The first to Ellen Nussey. Her dear friend, not intellectual equal apparently, but friendships are more than that, are they not? She writes with such vivacity, almost flirtatious. They are warm letters, full of love, of appreciation. I am fascinated by letters. I miss them. I miss writing them. I miss receiving them. I want to make them. To produce facsimiles of them. To investigate, understand them. Such an intimate thing. A physical manifestation of thought, of love, of consideration. They wrote so many, the Victorians. There were three, four, maybe even five deliveries a day. Imagine that. Fast, faster then a text, an email. Your words scripted, formed by your hand. They say that children are losing the ability to write by hand. Imagine that. I remember my first ink pen, an Osmiroid. It left an ink stain on my third finger, squashing the skin, leaving a dent. I loved how the ink flowed. The varying lines of pressure. Blue, black. Sometimes, I’d mix the two. Later a friend introduced me to sepia. He’d make it himself from squid ink.

What are they doing down there? I saw a man yesterday with a wheel barrow. There was a pipe thing and a spade. Whirr, whirr. An insistent noise. Funny, when I was writing earlier it didn’t disturb me. I didn’t hear it.

I bought two picture frames. I wanted to hide the stains. Not ours. They’ve come through the paint, he said. They’re not ours. The pictures look fine there. A hotchpotch. I don’t mind. They please me. My pictures please me. A delight for the eye. A feast.

The Shilam has its Nativity Scene out.

We have a competition in Goa, he tells me, smiling. The best one gets a prize. This one isn’t right yet. We couldn’t find a proper one in Aberystwyth. It’s coming from the internet. This is not finished.

They’ve created a little stage, a white sheet forming an arch. In one corner there is a ceramic stable with Joseph and Mary and Jesus in a crib. In the other stands a plastic effigy of Santa Claus. Next to him is a figure of an angel that glows green, then blue and then pink. At the back of the little stage-let is a wall of pebbles upon which stands a plastic Polar Bear.


By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.