We both saw it. It was driving adjacent to us on the M4. A van with a logo sign-painted along its side that read ‘Traditional Mole-Catching’. What is that? I asked. Does it involve bashing down the hillocks of earth that they churn up? Or do they send a Jack Russell or some other type of small dog to ferret them out? Or do they smoke them out? And if that is traditional what is non-traditional? They do make a chaos of lawns and fields but they are the most delicate of creatures. I remember finding one on the stairs of my father’s first cottage in Stainforth. The stairs were carpeted, slightly dank and dark. The mole was half-way up, how it got there God only knows. A tiny being, shiny black, soft, blind and utterly helpless. I think I wrapped it up in something and took it outside. It was barely bigger than my palm. Moles are just doing what they do, like any other animal. Is it right, is it kind, or even appropriate for us to slaughter them purely for the inconvenience they cause us?

I am less muddle-headed this morning. Though I am sad. It makes me sad, he said this morning. We’d talked about communication the night before and how I feel things have changed. It is partly his deafness, age and the new drugs he is trialing. Things have to be repeated frequently, and where in the past we just understood each other, now we have to search for meaning, often getting frustrated or irritated. It is not peaceful. He says he will give a hearing aid another go.

Whenever I see someone walking towards me, or ahead of me, in the dark hours when I stroll, I go into a kind of red alert. I read all the signs, taking note of gait, what they are wearing, how they hold themselves, build, height and age. I notice everything, even their smell. This man was coming down the little hill from the Buarth. I stayed in the middle of the road. The streetlight behind him kept his face in shadow. He was a big man, his arms were held out, up away from his body. His shoulders were rounded. He bounded down the hill, almost rolling. His hair was cropped short and the back of his neck was several rolls of flesh. He felt safe, there was something malleable, jaunty in his rolling walk. Morning, I called out. He looked up and smiled. You alright? he asked.

He’s just gone. A friend is taking him. It’s hard to let him go. I watch and wave from the window. He looks vulnerable, has done for such an age. Will they do it? Will it be smooth, without complications? Let him come home safe. It might be better if I died, he said during supper. Why? I asked, holding my breath. It’d be simpler, for you. Simpler, yes, I answered, but I’d be without this, without you.

Morning comes  – that blue. Black opening to blue.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.