Mr Pugh

I love his stories remembrances. I know most of them. Others, unfamiliar to me, come out of the blue, unexpected. Little things trigger them. We were sitting in the car after having been to the supermarket. Have I told you we go early? It opens at 6 am. We like to get there spot on if we can. We have the place to ourselves then, that is except for the shelf stackers. They are everywhere. One of them was singing to I wish it was Christmas everyday by Wizard this morning, as I whizzed past. You’ll soon get bored of that, I thought, and almost said something. Still it’s nice that he was singing. Anyway we were sitting in the car, in the dark, at the railway level crossing, waiting for a train to come. Mr Pugh used to work those, he said. He had a little signal box right there, he said pointing to the side of the road. Of course, they weren’t automatic then, he worked them by hand. He then proceeded to tell me about Mr Pugh’s sons. It always amazes me that he remembers names so well. Is it because he has never really left here? This town, his town. Anyway, Mr Pugh, it seems had two sons. One went to teach in St Faiths on Trumpington Street in Cambridge. He acquired a really posh accent, he said. And the other was into music. He used to dress up as a bishop. When he was a boy? I asked, momentarily jolted by such eccentricity. Yes, he said, missing the irony. I saw his name under a letter in the paper. Something to do with women’s voices. In the Cambrian News? I asked. No, The Guardian. He’s written a book about women in music. It must’ve been him.

The rain was relentless this morning, as was the wind. I’d borrowed his coat again. And wore my own set of waterproofs underneath it. You just have to inure yourself to it. Too windy for an umbrella. Just bear it. Listen to the spit spat on rain on my hood. Pull the sleeves down over my hands to stop my gloves getting sodden. Push hard into the wind. There was no one about, save a car with its lights on, waiting, the red of its brake lights reflecting bright in the puddles, waiting in the turning circle by the bar. A white shiny car. Young men. Up to no good? Possibly. I kick the bar anyway, lifting the too long coat up over my knees. No one about save a cat. A black shadow down an alley. And a lit basement window. The torso of a young man through the un-curtained window, the sleeves of his checked shirt rolled up, he is obviously talking to someone. Do I see legs stretched out? There is a skateboard, upright and leaning against a chair. I feel cocooned as I walk. Warm inside. Toasty. Just like the old Ready Brek adverts where the children’s tummies shone red. I used to love Ready Brek, the ultimate comfort food, made with milk, hot and with the sugar melting, that layer of watery sweetness on top. I remember the smell of the opened packet, a mixture of oats, powdered milk and salt. A dry smell.

I wanted to stay in bed this morning. I mostly do these mornings. A herculean effort to rise, out into the cold. Winter is a challenge. So be it. It’s just weather, he says. That’s all. So be it.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.