Illuminations: An Anthology of Welsh Short Prose

By Meic Stephens | Go to book overview

While Shaving

Gwilym R. Jones

At a quarter of a minute past eight o'clock this morning I half-opened the window of my bathroom in order to let in some fresh air that had not been in someone else's mouth. I stood there with hands at my sides and drew in a long, deep breath through my nostrils and then exhaled it from my lips after counting ten. I did this a dozen times, thanking the Giver of all breath for being allowed to see what the old people of long ago used to call in their prayers 'this new morning' on His fair earth.

That's just how a self-centred believer would see things, you might be saying, and the charge is true: in drawing those breaths I should have remembered that millions of my fellow-humans were cursing the same 'new morning', having been unable to take as much as a single draught into their lungs or drag themselves from their beds to a bathroom, let alone go through the ritual of physical exercise. I ought to have borne in mind that the ball of matter we call the earth-mother doesn't always spin to the advantage of countless numbers of my fellow-wayfarers.

But I had pushed these disagreeable thoughts to some obscure cell in my mind and set about the mechanical task of shaving. My grandfather from Llŷn would always 'cut his beard', and he cut it any old how with an old-fashioned razor which had a blunt blade. I myself use a smaller razor, although that too is quickly going out of fashion. And while carrying out this rather mundane task, there sometimes come into a man's head a lot of quite strange thoughts.

My father had a habit of saying, whenever he caught my brother or me staring at our own faces in the mirror, that we would 'be sure to see the old devil himself' if we kept on looking into that shining. glass. While staring at my face in the bathroom mirror this morning, I saw no one worse than myself, though I peered hard and long, and yet the image I saw gave me quite a nasty fright.

The mirror draws a cruelly honest picture, but as I looked at my face in it I had the impression that someone completely unknown to me appeared there. I saw a surly, indifferent face and a pair of lukewarm eyes gaping from under the hood of the lids. And I remember them smooth-skinned as an August apple! Around the eyes and forehead I could make out new creases, some of which were

-138-

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Illuminations: An Anthology of Welsh Short Prose
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • The Village School 1
  • Fear of the Sea 7
  • A Windy Night 9
  • The Late Lemuel Parry, Esq., J.P., O.B.E. 12
  • On Drowning a Cat 18
  • The House Across the Way 21
  • Weobley and St. Emilion 25
  • The Man in the Street 28
  • Old Dent 31
  • On Collecting Roads 34
  • 'their Land They Shall Lose' 42
  • The Red Flag 46
  • Strolling Players 50
  • One Sunday Afternoon 57
  • Salem 61
  • A Trip to the Circus 63
  • Thoughts on Coronation Day, 1953 68
  • From the Pulpit 72
  • How to Choose and Treat a Wife 77
  • To the Mountain 83
  • The Imperative Upon Me 88
  • Disenchantment 92
  • The Hiring Fair 94
  • The Man at Chapel House 97
  • Question and Answer 102
  • The Little Llandeilo Boots 105
  • My Last Day in Prison 108
  • A Discovery 118
  • A Land of Romance 121
  • Hi-Ho! 129
  • Ancestors 133
  • While Shaving 138
  • Of Time and Distance 141
  • A Methodist Deacon's Advice 146
  • Of Violets and Bells 148
  • Remembering Mrs Newbould 151
  • Good Morning, Lloyd 156
  • In Modesty and Trembling 162
  • Christmasn in the Valley 166
  • On Stammering 169
  • Butlins 172
  • A Millionaire 176
  • A Scene from Military Life 178
  • An Exile 180
  • The Fox Under Glass 183
  • A Doctor's Medicine 186
  • The Little Huts 189
  • Three Heads 191
  • On Memory 198
  • Uncle John's Boots 202
  • The Fur Coat 207
  • An Holy Kiss 214
  • Notes on Authors and Texts 217
  • Acknowledgements 238
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