Oh my god, it was like…

It was mild this morning. And there were loads of kids about. Well, not kids, students, young people, teenagers. I heard them before I saw them. A cluster of them on a Prom bench. Laughing, talking too loud, they were clearly high. High about being young, with their friends and alive. Oh my god, one of the girls kept saying, Oh, my god, it was like….and I was like…. I couldn’t catch the rest. Her voice  lifted and dropped in volume and pitch. Another of the girls was laughing uproariously. The birds were out too. There’d been an owl. A screech owl as I walked along Llanbadarn Road. No twit-a-twooing, a definite screech, well, more like high-pitched wailing. Was it overhead? It seemed to follow me along North Road. Then there was a phut, phut, and click, click of a robin. Was it a robin? It wasn’t a blue tit, or a blackbird. I heard one of those on my way home. A chirruping, lyrical sound just as I walked past the Pelican Bakery breathing in that luscious scent of warm yeast and salt. A brief respite from the cold. I dread it. The flat is too big and gaping to feel warm. And I am careful of the bills. So we shiver, taking comfort from hot water bottles and bed. But I lack really warm clothes. I want and need some big jumpers that cover my bum. His jumpers are nice but he only gets medium. I want to be enveloped. I’ve always liked that. Hiding myself in warmth.

They had the lights on ceremony in town on Saturday. We missed it. We were in Cwmbran. Neither of us had ever been before. It wasn’t what I expected. An ex-mining town. A little dilapidated but with a huge shopping precinct. And free parking. An incentive no doubt, as he said, to spend the money they don’t have. I watched a couple across from us in Starbucks. She had on a Christmas jumper dress. It clung to her tights. They looked warily at me. It’s because you look so different, he said. Your hair is short and you dress differently. No blending in. Lots of young couples with babies in prams. A noisy café, but warm and friendly. And surprisingly lovely coffee. A much needed fillip. A good day. Full of pleasure. He ate a mince pie, a slice of bara brith and a scone waiting. Waiting patiently for me, taking up a table for four and reading his paper. No one seemed to mind. Lots of elderly people coming in for their lunch. I found him chatting to one when I’d finished my interview. Hang on a minute, he said, returning his attention to an elderly lady in a fur hat. She’d been telling me about her arthritis, he told me afterwards.

And now I must write it. I began yesterday but felt nervous, uptight, self-conscious. Begin again today. Relax, say what you think. All is well. It will tell the story. That’s the important thing. But then again is it important? It’s just work. Let it be, let it flow, let it come out. I booked to do one of her workshops. On a whim. I wanted to return. See what it is like to embellish, to decorate. Another skill, you never know. I want to be amongst those women, too. Warmth. The room shone, it glitter. A balm, as he said, against the dark.

A short dream. I dreamt she had my work on show in her gallery on the hill. Nothing moved. It was lit up, it was beautiful, a beautiful show but no one came and nothing sold. Stasis?

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.