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Torfaen Tales


For many months I had gazed longingly at a roll of curtain voile in the window of Elite Fabrics, envisaging how wonderful it would look in the windows of my house. A sheer white voile spotted all over with tiny flocked tufts. Unusual. Stylish. And expensive. Dream on, I thought. Maybe I could afford enough for just one window. But that would look silly.

Then one fine Monday morning I noticed a large red banner in the window of Elite Fabrics. Closing Down Sale, it said. Everything Must Go. Perhaps this was my chance? I checked hastily, and the roll of flocked voile was still there.

I glanced at my watch. I was due to start work in fifteen minutes. Plenty of time to make my purchase.

When I entered the shop I noticed a different woman behind the counter. Older.

‘Where’s Mrs Chadwick today?’ I asked.

‘She has some business to attend to. She’ll be back this afternoon. Can I help you?’

‘I’m interested in that roll of white voile in the window. How much is it now?’

‘This one?’ she said, straining to reach it. She was barely five feet tall.


She turned the roll this way and that, shaking her head. ‘Doesn’t say. I could let you have it for 50p a metre.’

50p a metre! It was my lucky day! Previously it had been £7.95. I did a quick calculation. Seven windows, a metre and a half for each. At that price I could afford to put two curtains in each window for a fuller, more luxurious appearance. That made a total of twenty-one metres.

‘Do you know how much is left on the roll?’

She examined the roll again, shaking her head slowly. ‘Doesn’t say. Audrey’s let things get a bit out of control. She used to be so organised but it’s all getting a bit much for her. She’s decided to retire, that’s why the shop is closing. No-one else in the family wants to run the business. I’m her aunt, you see, and I’ve been retired nearly twenty years.’

I nodded and caught sight of the clock on the wall. I had to be at work in ten minutes.

‘I’ll be sorry to see the shop close. There’s nowhere else in town that sells furnishing fabrics. Now, I need twenty-one metres.’

‘I’ll measure it out for you, dear. What are you making?’

‘Uh, net curtains,’ I replied. Well what else would you make with curtain voile?

‘It will look lovely. Very elegant. Oh dear, was that three metres or four? I’d better start again.’

She lost count once more round about the ten metre mark. She was swamped hopelessly in a sea of slippery white voile.

‘I’ll help you,’ I offered.

‘Thank you, dear. Now if you could just hold the end …’

Two minutes to nine, and we hadn’t even started.

‘I tell you what, I’ll take the whole roll. Take a chance that there’s enough on it. Otherwise I’m going to be late for work.’

But we still had to roll up what she’d already pulled loose. I took one end of the cardboard roll and she took the other, and we somehow managed to turn it between us to get the fabric back in some kind of order.

‘How will you know how much to charge me?’ I asked. It was now nine o’clock. My boss would not be happy.

The woman shook her head once more, pondering the question.

I opened my purse. ‘I tell you what. I’ll pay you for twenty-one metres, and measure it myself at home tonight. If it’s any more or less I’ll pop back tomorrow. Here’s ten pounds fifty.’

‘Thank you, dear,’ she said, looking as though she needed a sit down and a nice cup of tea. I wished I had time to get her one from Daisy’s Café but I was already two minutes late.

I dashed out of the shop and ran down the street with the roll of voile over my shoulder. Would passers-by think I’d stolen the fabric? There hadn’t been time to wait for a receipt.

I hurried into Zandra’s Fashions where I worked. Zandra, otherwise known as Margaret Watkins, stood stony-faced behind the counter.

‘I’m sorry, Margaret. I stopped off in Elite Fabrics as they’ve got a closing down sale on and it took forever for Mrs Chadwick’s aunt to try and measure out the curtain fabric I wanted. I ended up buying the whole roll in order to save time. I’ll stay on at lunchtime to make up for my lateness.’

Margaret pursed her lips. ‘You can make a start by unpacking the order that’s just arrived.’

No change there then. Margaret usually left it to me to unpack the stock, iron anything creased and arrange it on the rails. She preferred to sit at the till and read OK! Magazine.

As I worked I sighed blissfully, imagining what my new voile curtains would look like. I had about twenty pence left to get me through to Friday but that was of little consequence considering the bargain I’d had. Quite how I’d pay if there was more than twenty-one metres on my roll of fabric was something I’d worry about later.

By Karenne Griffin

Last Modified on: 05-11-2015

Forthcoming Events

Generation Games Exhibition

27/04/2018 - 28/10/2018
This exhibition is a history of home computer games consoles throughout the ages

Claire Allain - Jewellery Showcase

06/10/2018 - 17/11/2018
Having recently returned to the UK after living in New Zealand for ten years, Claire has been experimenting with new techniques. She has been working with a variety of techniques and marrying metals together to create wearable sculptures or as she likes to call them wearable "Sketches", like little mini contemporary paintings

Eighteen - The Lost Generation - Exhibition

06/10/2018 - 17/11/2018
Almost half a million men enlisted in the first two months of The Great War, however recruitment soon fell dramatically and conscription was introduced in January 1916.Most single men from the ages of 18 to 41 were liable to be called up for service and by the end of war over five million British men had served.

Katharina Klug - Craft Showcase

06/10/2018 - 17/11/2018
Katharina create timeless vessels for contemporary interiors. Each piece is individually made from porcelain on the potter's wheel. Naïve, spontaneous pencil strokes, graphic simple patterns that create movement and direction.
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