An Autumn morning. I walked through a heavy, damp mist which fuzzed the beam from my small torch. I smelt woodsmoke and wet leaves. There were few people about. I heard voices in the distance but couldn’t make out their direction, and the click of someone’s heels. A security man in a red t-shirt stood outside the 24 hour SPAR smoking, I thought about nodding my head in greeting but didn’t. This semi-lockdown makes one close in, strangers are now a potential threat. Nothing seems real and the usual niceties are forgotten.

Initially I only half listened to her, allowing myself instead to become fixated on straightening some pictures. I felt bad about that. And stopped fiddling and listened. There is a quavering in her voice. She is trying to be brave. She spoke of Christmas how she won’t be able to spend it with her son and his family as is her custom. It’s only two days, after all, she said. I shall just make it like any other. I probably won’t even put my little tree up. I fantasised about driving over with him to see her on Christmas Day. A surprise, bringing presents and a cake. But it would unsettle her and him and indeed, me. But the thought was there, my love. What a dear woman you are, so full of unshed tears.

I wrote. I began. I made a start and for a while was engrossed. That was nice. I was brave. And only he knows how much.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.