I wasn’t sure what to do. It was three am and I’d just come down the little hill towards the station and was cutting through a narrow street of small terraced houses. I saw him in standing in front of one of the front doors, he appeared to be trying to put something through the door. It was almost freezing, (they’d predicted 2 degrees but said that the wind chill would make it feel like 0 degrees) and he was just in a shirt. He had a take-away food carton in his hand. As I got closer I could see that he was actually trying to get a key into the lock. Should I offer to help? I thought, but then wavered. He was clearly drunk, his body swayed as he endeavoured to focus on inserting the key. There was something comical about the intensity of his concentration and his inability to perform such a simple task. Was he even at the correct house? Was he trying to break in, even? If I helped him I might be seen as an accessory. Rubbish, I know but I just didn’t want to get involved. He was silent then but who knows how he would’ve reacted. But, nevertheless, I didn’t like leaving him like that, in the cold. When I turned to check on him he was on his knees still trying to insert the key.

I enjoyed seeing her. I got there early to secure a table. It was busy full of interesting faces. I began a drawing but my subject became aware of me and stopped, my confidence is so brittle these days. I like it in there. It is bustly, the food is cheap and though there’s nothing there I’d eat I still like to be around it’s smells and to see others eating it with relish. Another world, another life. I like the way that it is high up, above the street. She appears so content with herself, her world, life. So young, a few adolescent spots still mark her face. An open face, fresh and typically Scandinavian. We talked of farming, Christmas, baking, alcohol and traditions. I don’t like change, she said and worries what will happen to her family Christmas yuletide rituals when she eventually moves out to be with her boyfriend. We spoke some Norwegian though the wordier explanations were in English. I am trying and I do make myself understood, though I find her accent a little tricky. I’m used to the Oslo way. She ordered a hot chocolate with cream and ate it from the top with a long spoon. She and her family drink coke instead of wine at Christmas. I love it, she says. I’m touched by her willingness to meet me. What does she get out of it? She offered to get some more children’s books for me to read from the library at home. But I’ve asked too much of her already. It’s fine, I said, I can buy them myself from the internet.

The sky is clearing. Time has passed fast this morning. Coffee, sewing, yoga, lunch then packing. Breathe. And the first advent candle. The advent calendar is installed and the first door opened. I shall miss them both next week but to get away…..

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.