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Torfaen Tales

Your Obsession, My Compulsion

'Would you like a cup of tea?’ enquired Muriel, holding the pot aloft. She’d set the table with matching cups, saucers and plates, and she’d made one of her amazing chocolate cakes.

‘Ooh, yes please, Muriel’, beamed Hazel. ‘Milk, no sugar.’ She took a seat at the table.

‘Nothing for me thanks, Muriel,’ said Martin, switching on the TV. ‘I had a cup of coffee earlier.’

Her husband’s dietary discipline grated on Hazel’s nerves. He never drank tea or coffee after 6pm, and the idea of consuming a piece of cake or even a teeny weeny biscuit was enough to induce an apoplectic fit. So Hazel had two cups of tea and two pieces of cake to compensate for his anti-social behaviour. She wondered what Muriel thought. Martin’s aunt was lonely, and liked nothing better than baking a cake for visitors to enjoy. She wished he’d switch off the football and join them at the table.

When Muriel went into the kitchen she tackled him.

‘Surely you could have a glass of water, sit at the table and join in the conversation?’

Martin pulled a face. ‘I’ve had my daily quota. And Man United are one up.’

Hazel could tell she was fighting a losing battle. ‘Can you at least turn the TV down? I can hardly hear what Muriel’s saying.’

Grudgingly, Martin lowered the volume.

Muriel returned with a plate of biscuits. ‘Do try one of these, dear. I made them this afternoon. Have you been watching Strictly Come Dancing? Who do you think will win?’

As they left Martin glanced at his watch and sighed. Hazel knew he was annoyed that they’d stayed so long. He liked to be in bed by ten in order to get his eight hours of sleep before bounding out of bed at six for his five mile run. Martin was fitter and leaner than most men his age. Hazel was glad that he took his health seriously, but she wished he’d lighten up a bit. When their daughter came home from Uni she teased him mercilessly, calling him the Bionic Man. However no amount of pleading or jibes seemed to hit the mark. Martin was a man on a mission.

Hazel wished she could stick to a diet. She ate the nutritious, low fat meals that Martin insisted on, but when he wasn’t around her willpower dissolved. On Martin’s gym night she treated herself to a packet of biscuits and usually ended up eating the lot before EastEnders had finished. She then hid the wrapper in her handbag and popped it in a bin in the street on the way to work. And any sort of social occasion, even the little ones like visiting Martin’s aunt, presented Hazel with a snacking opportunity. She wasn’t obese, but had been carrying around twenty or so excess pounds as long as she could remember. Hazel wished she had Martin’s discipline, although perhaps to a slightly lesser extent. There had to be a happy medium somewhere.

Hazel made sure the doors were locked and went upstairs to their bedroom. She also had to be up at six. She didn’t need to leave for work until half past eight, but on Wednesdays she liked to give the kitchen a thorough clean from top to bottom. On Thursday mornings she cleaned the bathroom, and on Fridays she dusted and hoovered. Hazel liked a clean, tidy house, and now that the kids were grown and gone it was more easily achieved. And if she did the housework before going to work she had time in the evenings to indulge in her passion – dressmaking. She dreamed of one day ditching the nine to five and spending all her days designing and stitching. One day when Natalie was done with University and settled in a well-paid job.

Hazel was working on a wedding dress and three bridesmaids’ outfits. The bride-to-be, Katherine, had been round on Monday night for a fitting.

‘I don’t know how you do it all, Hazel,’ Katherine had marvelled. ‘You work all day, you sew all night, and your home is immaculate.’

Hazel smiled, recalling Katherine’s praise as she turned off the bedside lamp. Organisation was her strong point, she knew. The ability to work to a deadline. She supposed it was her particular form of discipline. What she lacked when it came to food she had in abundance when it came to time management. Perhaps if the glorious day ever came when she could hand in her notice at work she wouldn’t need to push herself so hard and seek comfort in sweet treats.

by Karenne Griffin

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This exhibition is a history of home computer games consoles throughout the ages

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