They were standing in a shop doorway, about halfway down Great Darkgate Street, out of the wind. Two sets of lovers. Both men shielding their girls from the cold, pushing them against the window glass. The men were shouting, joshing each other, the girls, hidden by the masculine bulk were silent. A strange kind of love-making. Mates and lovers, separate entities for many. To one you tell all, to the other there is a shared warmth, a temporary satiation of lust and intimacy? I’m not sure. I remember being their age and how the idea of men promised such comfort. But in such a situation, being talked over like that, I would’ve soon got irritated. It doesn’t feel right to be merely an appendage, a squeeze. But perhaps my amor propre has always been a little skewed. Men’s men. I’ve never attracted them. Too gobby. She isn’t gobby, is she? my brother-in-law had said to him down the phone when he told them of me. I can be. I don’t like to be ignored, though I am more tolerant than I used to be. I didn’t like coming here years ago, I felt sidelined, cancelled out. Insecurity, I suppose. Not now. Not with him. I know, as he knows, what this is.

I walked this morning. They’d promised sleet but it was dry. I wore my big warm coat and was thankful for it.

I heard the sound of running water. A tap let on? I was down by the harbour walking past the boatsheds. The sound continued and I saw what looked like a stream of water come out from under the wooden door. I thought it was water. I thought it was just wet and strode my way across it. It was ice. Ah! and then I was down, flat on my back. It’s the shock more than anything else. I’m left shaky and disorientated. The coat cushioned me. A bit battered but I’m OK. I give myself pep talks. Up you get, nothing broken, in that cheerful, parental voice that is doing all it can to distract the child from crying. That’s it. Up you get. I walked on the Perygyl to steady myself. All is well.

They didn’t come. We’d prepared ourselves for the worst. He may come today. The snow was as high as his van yesterday, apparently. It feels like the worse is over. At least it isn’t -5. Another night of coats on beds and boiled kettle baths. We survive.

I snatch bits of Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman at work, though the weather has brought that to a standstill, Sunday’s being cancelled too. He writes nicely, accessibly. I’m up to the section about Ruskin. Sennett writes about the Victorians anxiety about excessive consumerism and how Ruskin encouraged us to have less but to treasure and ‘know’ the objects we do have. I love that. I try to do it myself. I mend, keep things going. I know my things, truly. I notice them, stroke them, not because I laud my possession of them, most after all are worth little, but because I marvel at their form, their texture and the memories they invoke.

I dreamt of her last night. He was saving her. Was she drowning? I came later. I held her, felt her bones. She was skin and bone. Is she still hurting? And then another dream about meeting my dear friend in a restaurant in Italy. It was to be a day trip. So extravagant, so wild. She’d thought I’d so no but I said yes. I got to the restaurant and then couldn’t remember what we’d arranged. Was I at the right place? Then she was there, and all was calm. She too was skin and bone when I hugged her. Solving dreams. Dreams of sun, of warmth.

Resilience. Solving problems. Being kind. Keeping going. It’s just the cold. It bites into my fingers and they split and sting. It’s OK. It’s been OK. We have survived it. Maybe it will be fixed today, maybe Monday. It doesn’t matter, I can be sanguine.

Work now. Coffee first. I want a quiet day. A working day. Amen to that.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.