Glistening and Gingerly

Words move around inside my head as walk. Sometimes they become like a mantra, particularly when I wish to remember them, to keep hold of them.

I dreaded going out this morning, and the fear of it dogged my first waking hour, dragging my feet. It was the thought of ice. They’d promised a temperature of -5. I went prepared, lots of layers and my big, impossibly expensive Norwegian-bought coat. At least if I slipped, I thought, I’d have something padded to land my bum on. There was ice on the footbridge leading from our flat to what we call ‘the courtyard’ but after that, just a smattering along St David’s Road. It glistened. The ice or frost, if you like, was glistening. It shimmered under the glare of my torch. Don’t walk there, avoid that path, that patch of ground. So I walked gingerly. Glistening and gingerly. I don’t like hesitating. It makes me feel frailer. I like to stride, to feel the source of power, of stamina in my legs. They are getting stronger. It’s all that walking to work. The Prom, however, was fine. And there were three people sleeping rough in the shelter. Bless them, I thought. It must be so cold. So wretched. I will bring them some flapjacks tomorrow.

The smell of fried chicken was overwhelming as I walked past Pier Pressure. The doors of the club were still open and a few burly men in high vis jackets hovered around the entrance. Railings had been stacked to one side. Of course, I thought, it was a Wednesday night, party night. The fried chicken smell was quickly subsumed by that of the starlings’ guano from under the pier. Such a stink. Salty, briny, cold, damp, my nose wrinkles up against it. I could hear their chattering. They will wake soon and start their sky dancing. Later, walking down Great Darkgate Street a man in an mohair coat and trilby crossed my path. It felt unnerving. He just crossed in front of me. I heard myself say, Sorry. As if I’d been in his way. He made no comment and headed for the railway station.

The sky was perfectly clear. All the stars were visible. The flat roof beneath us twinkles with ice, a replica, a carbon copy of the firmament above.

We talked of Amsterdam. She and her colleague are to go their for what they call their ‘Christmas do’. They are fun-loving girls, open, curious, bright. I like being in their company. And she is gentle with me. I could see it before me in all its exquisite nook-and-cranny gloriousness as we talked. I should have told her to read ‘Tulip Fever’ as a taste of what is to come. It has hardly changed. All that luxuriousness. How I love that city. What a time I had there. What a life I have led. I am profoundly grateful. Even in this dark, dark time I feel the blessings of my existence.

He slept last night. He looks less hollow. And my flapjacks please him. He takes a morsel. And I am pleased. It is something, eh?

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.