We often see her on the promenade. She sits on the bench by the flag of Australia, staring out to sea. The other day she was sitting on the ‘Perygyl’. A diminutive soul, her feet barely touch the ground. She is neat, dapper. Her hat is a black, sparkly spandex. She tells us her name. I’m Welsh, she says, but I married a Breton. Her surname sounds like ‘pipette’. Her tiny face, turning to us like a flower to the sun, bursts with a smile, with life. I’m older than you, she says to him, I’m 93. She is delighted at this, giggling to herself. She tells us she lives in a home. Just up the road. There are only three of us left, she says. I don’t want to be a burden to my family. They feed us well, too much sometimes. I like to walk, she says. I walk all the time. She walks well, leaning only slightly on her stick. Amazing. I am amazed by her. What does she think of when she stares out to sea?
The mornings are still so dark. January and the return of the students. The other morning there was a car outside Alexandra Hall. Parked up, its headlights cutting through the black. They shone, stark on a bench. A girl, made up, goth-like, in heavy black make-up, is sitting, arms crossed in a sulk. She stares at me, rude and young.
Our tree has gone. Packed up in its box. Back in storage. Till next year. Someone had put up a small nativity scene in the Indian restaurant. It was sweet. A ceramic Mary, Joseph and a little crib. They stood, a little precariously on a gold cloth. The single sheep, cow and dog were outsize, wrong, but poignant nevertheless. The owner tells us he still has to buy his kids Christmas presents and that he is invited to Christmas parties by his neighbours. They come to us for Eid, he says. It’s neighbourly, he says. They had a party of 70 for New Year. I don’t know what’s happening, he says, laughing.
It’s done. It took it out of me. Pendulums, she called them. Fitting all that longing into too tight boxes. I did my best. My best is good enough.
You and he, Mair said, you and he, that’s what counts. Make the most of each other, while you can, she says, still beaming. Yes. We will. I will. I will