The Red Hat


We often see her, but not at that time. 3.30 am and she is walking down Terrace Road, her red hat perched on top of her head, handbag held against her chest. She wears her keys on a string around her neck. I am making my way home after my morning walk. I smile at her. Good morning, I breathe, quietly. She doesn’t respond, her mouth set grim. Will she be alright? Her winter coat is thick against the unseasonable warmth, her socks gather around her ankles. Old woman, young girl. There is no difference.

The sound of a gun shot. I heard it through the darkness of the Castle Park. Three teenagers huddled over lit cigarettes. I wouldn’t go down there, they say, that sounded like a gun shot. It’ll be alright, I say. It’s Aberystwyth¬† not New York I want to say, but don’t. There is smoke and a few lads scattering. Then nothing. All is as usual. Safe.

4.15 am. There’s fucking clouds in the sky.¬†A man’s voice shouting. We won’t be able to see the stars. He is remonstrating with his friends who want to sit in the Castle. Why are we going to the Castle? he wails. I want tea, says another. They are just dark shapes. I see no faces. Usually voices are hushed, conspiratorial in the dark. I walk through the fug of it. Detached.

Voices, snatched conversations. Snippets. A snap shot of another life.

You know what? A tall blonde girl links arms with a diminutive man as they walk the Promenade. It is not yet 4.00 am. You know what I like? she continues. I like that we are mates now, innit? The man is silent. He takes a bite out a huge French stick. (I thought he was sniffing flowers.)

A couple sit in silence outside The Glengower Hotel, they are both in pyjamas.

The baker is standing outside the Pelican Bakery, one foot propped-up against the wall. He smokes while reading his mobile phone. Morning, I say. Morning.

The smell of bread had wafted right up to the Castle.

Selma and When the Wind Blows. I love watching our films. They move me. They enter my dreams. Full of compassion, humanity. A winding-down, entering others’ narratives. It is good to be such a sponge. A sponge to the struggle of others, stepping-out, albeit briefly from one’s own blessedness. To walk in another’s shoes. That image of them walking across the bridge. Such courage, potent in their vulnerability. Dignity. The dignity of quiet, peaceful certainty. Amen.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.