I’m not a natural on the phone. Telephones make me self-conscious, awkward. I like to see people’s faces. To know what I’m dealing with.

I’ve never seen her, never met her. We’ve talked on the phone, once a week, for over three years now. Her voice is soft, sometimes timid. She suffers from anxiety. A kind of general state of unease, of fear. We talk about the weather, her daughter, her neighbour’s dog, living up in the hills, her garden, her daughter’s job and career. She asks me questions but I hedge, I bat them back. Samaritans training is ingrained. This isn’t about me. I want her to talk. Sometimes she has cried. Not that often. Once when one of her neighbour’s dogs died. And almost when she talked about a neighbouring farmer shouting and swearing at her and her friend.

I wonder what she looks like. She talks about being old but her daughter is still only in her twenties. We talk about what she likes to do. Crosswords in Take a Break magazine, watching soaps, Emmerdale and Pobol y Cwm and reading. She reads a lot. Yesterday we laughed about her falling asleep in front of the TV. She keeps the TV on sometimes for company. Though not in the daytime. And the radio.

She’d had a accident. It made her scared to go out for a time. She does now. Her voice is stronger, she laughs and there is warmth. I tentatively suggested on her answer machine that she might prefer me to call twice a month or perhaps only once, now that she is stronger. She listens to her messages but she didn’t respond to this one. Does she want them, these weekly chats? Is it important to her? I cannot say.

There is a comfort in hearing her voice. I sit on the floor and look out of the window as we talk. Sometimes I bombard her with too many questions. I need to take it slower. I give her that time. I give of myself. A small thing. She always knows its me. I ring at the same time each week so that she will know. Be ready. It is all about connections. Strangers connecting. There is an intimacy in it.

I cherish her.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.