Snow (5)

It was beautiful when it came. It makes the world still. The soft purity of the flakes, dropping so gracefully to earth. Then one turns on the news and all is chaos. We push against such calmness. We must still do what we intend to do. Pushing, clamouring to keep on rushing ahead. We cannot let it stop. Just stop. It is too frightening. Too alarming.

She’s been snowed in as expected and another manager was in her place at the till. I like this one too. A different kettle of fish. Rather brusque, matter-of-fact. A good-time-girl, well not really, more like a hockey/football player good-time-girl. One of the girls, one of the lads/girls. She is down-to-earth, salt-of-the-earth. I like her. She goes to the Costa del Sol with her mates but her skin is too fair for the sun. Her hair, cut short, is downy and fine. Today she, like most of the other staff who were in at that ungodly hour, was wearing the now obligatory Christmas jumper. It had a snowman on the front with a real scarf that you could actually tie. Another member of staff had on a pixie top, or a Santa’s elf, I suppose, and even one of the higher management had one on. I noticed a new girl. She was sorting out the advent calendars. She too had one on, a green one with an array of baubles appliqued onto it. She looked shy, separate. A refugee perhaps, she looked Somalian. The one on the till said that she’d had to borrow her father’s gloves. Do you think she lives with her father? I asked him in the car. Yes, I do, he said. It changes the picture and I start stories in my head. Is she a carer? Has her mother died? Or does she live with both her parents. She must be what, forty or maybe late thirties? Perhaps she can’t afford a mortgage, her own home on these wages. She has a air of comfort, of ease, of almost self-satisfaction about her. I’ve met many like her, it isn’t real. The bluff is a way of managing.

Ruth Rendell was on the radio yesterday. On In the Psychiatrist’s Chair. I feel and inordinate amount of anxiety about being late, she said. Yes. I understand that. I feel an inordinate amount of anxiety about everything. I started the piece, felt better for a time before the doubts started to come in. Was it good enough, was it erudite enough, was it deep enough? You can only do what you can do, he says. You can only know what you can know. You’re not a poetry scholar. I know. I know. I lay in bed last night trying out rewrites. A mistake. It played into my dreams. Summoning up weird scenes of actors in Nazi costumes on floats driving in a cavalcade. A madness. I must learn to switch it off. Let it be. I have time. And it always gets better, well mostly, when I return to it.

So comes the quiet time. Work dries up and it is time to hibernate. Well, we shall when we have made that one journey, well two. I want to see her. I want to be there when it is just new. To see, smell and touch its newness. Can it be so?

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.