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Torfaen Tales

Spring Fever

Think of spring, and most of you will think of lambs, sunshine and daffodils. But to my wife the lengthening of days meant spring cleaning. More daylight hours to get the chores done.

She was house proud all year long, but went into overdrive once the clocks went forward in March. Every drawer and cupboard had to be turned out, and anything that could not justify its presence was either donated to charity or consigned to the bin. The kitchen cupboards were scrubbed inside and out. Anything coming remotely near its sell-by date was sent packing. I wouldn’t have thought there was any point in putting a sell-by date on products so lacking in natural ingredients as tomato ketchup, but it is there printed in black and white, and in our house it went in the rubbish once that date was reached.

Room by room the curtains were taken down, laundered and ironed. She got me involved in that exercise as she didn’t like climbing the stepladder. Therefore she set me to work cleaning the tops of the kitchen cupboards and anything else beyond her reach.

Yes, I used to dread the spring.

Her cleaning frenzy meant she had little time or energy left for the preparation of meals. She claimed she had little appetite in any case, and was content to nibble mouse-like on crackers and cheese.

But I like a good meal, so I would take myself off to the café in town. The Hungry Dragon is near the Post Office and provides plain, no-nonsense fare in hearty portions. None of your nouvelle cuisine nonsense. It’s owned and run by Nora, a sturdy woman who’s a good advertisement for three square meals a day and doesn’t tolerate people who want to pollute the air of her café with cigarette smoke.

Yes, I could while away a good hour and a half in the Hungry Dragon if I dawdled over my food.

“We only see you in the Spring,” commented Nora one day as she doled out a sizeable portion of her excellent bread and butter pudding and poured cream over it.

“My wife doesn’t have time to cook while she’s spring cleaning,” I explained.

Nora nodded and raised her eyebrows knowingly as she poured me a cup of tea.

Yes, those substantial dinners set me up for whatever running around I had to do in the afternoon. And through the long mornings of washing glassware or taking trailer loads to the tip I would dream of steak and kidney pie and jam roly poly.

“You polished that off quickly,” said Nora’s waitress one dinner time.

“No tea last night,” I confessed. “Muriel and I were busy polishing the silver.”

“Well I never,” she said, tossing her fluffy blonde hair. “I didn’t know people still had silver.”

“Oh, we have. Bloomin’ treasure troves of the stuff. Tea pots, milk jugs, trays, you name it. Never gets used, all we do is polish it once a year.”

“Makes me glad all I’ve got is Woolworths’ finest,” she said, loading her tray with my empty plates.

“I wish that was all we had,” I replied. “Think I’d better get some of that flapjack in case tea’s off again tonight.”

The waitress stopped by my table most dinnertimes for a chat after we’d broken the ice. Her name was Bronwen, and she was a widow.

“I’ll let you into a secret,” she said. “I make the cakes and puddings. Nora’s great with casseroles and pies, but she’s not much good at the sweet things in life.”

Before long it was all too clear to me that Bronwen herself was one of the sweet things in life. Indeed she was the only sweet thing in my life.

So to cut a long story short, I left Muriel to get on with her spring cleaning. Now every day Bronwen cooks me three wonderful meals, and Nora has employed a new waitress. Next spring Bronwen and I are going to Tenby for a fortnight. Never mind the spring cleaning!

By Karenne Griffin

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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