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The Christmas Room

I pass it when I walk along North Road and then up past the back of Alexandra Hall. It’s one of a row of small, thin three-storey terraced houses that follow the bend up the hill to the golf course, I think. They look like student houses, there are empty bottles in the windows and curtains hang awry. I see this particular house from the bottom of the hill. It is lit up. A whole array of lights have been hung in the window of the ground floor front room. They look like a net of blue and green and white decorative lights. They’ve been on since the beginning of November, flashing comfortingly in the still thick dark. I am glad for them. Grateful even. Yesterday I peered into the room, beyond the curtain of lights. There was a lit Christmas tree in the corner, and I believe I saw parcels too. And there were fluorescent snowflake shapes also stuck to the window. The room glowed with festiveness. A boon. I get it. I understand it. And a part of me longs to put up our lights too, though they are modest enough, just for the fillip. But I will wait. Ever the one to hold back of pleasure – saving it, Flora-style as we always say.

I forgot to call her. Yesterday was an itchy, troubled, scratchy sort of day. First the nurse and all that I associate with encountering traditional medicine. She talked of my ‘history’ affecting how I would heal. I went about my finger. I felt a little silly. She was kind, gentle but even so. It may always be a little swollen and red, she said. Fair enough, perfection is no longer doable. Then I found myself telling her about the loss of fluid, a stone, I said. Then I regretted it. How, what has changed? she asked. Then I told of her the lymph drainage and immediately wished I hadn’t. It’s like oil and water – the traditional and the alternative don’t mix. And I am so firmly in the latter camp. I felt skinned. Skinless. Then there was the stuff about the new camera and all my fears and paranoia that I bring to the job. All me. Not them. I wept. He understood. You’re only human, he said. So kind. Then I discovered that the tape I’d made of our seminar is too quiet. Ugh. I fail and trip up daily. Ah, me.

I remembered I hadn’t called her at lunchtime and did so. But not for long. It was the wrong time. So I passed on my apologies and said I would speak to her next Friday. She sounded buoyant. I went, she said. I went to the dinner. It took a little while to remember. Of, course, and she’d been so nervous, hadn’t wanted to go but her daughter had arranged a car. I had a nice time, she said. I’m so pleased. So proud of her. It is enough. Such small victories to some are huge.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.