Coffee with the milliner

Today I am going to see my friend, Ms Wengraf, and give her some wings. It’s a long story so put the kettle on and pull up your chair. Some time BC (Before Cancer) Mr Mason and I went to an antique shop in Lincolnshire and spied a pair of vintage wings in a cabinet. They were not really a pair except there were two but they clearly came from different birds. There is something fascinating and yet a little gruesome about them. Although beautiful, they appear to have been ripped from some poor bird in order to adorn a woman. So why buy them? I hear you cry. They had been taken from the bird some time ago. We are not sure of their exact vintage but suspect they are from the 1950s at the very latest. This means I am not encouraging people to go ripping wings off birds in an effort to plug a new and exciting demand so I feel it is OK. I still won’t buy or wear fur, despite there being a huge array of fur and astrakhan coats available for very small prices.

So, the wings. I bought them for my friend, Ms Wengraf, who is a milliner extraordinaire. She also supports herself by working all the hours God sends in a cafe and a bookshop, delighting all the customers with her wit, charm and ready smile. Cancer got in the way of me delivering them to her or her collecting them from me. She did come to visit me but my brain was so scrambled and she was so polite that I forgot to give them to her. So, today is the day. I have an appointment at St Mary’s with Holly, my fabulous psychologist and then I make my way to Scooter’s where Ms Wengraf is dispensing coffee and cake with a magical, sparkling aura around her. At first, she greets me and asks me what I want to drink. It is a double take situation. She looks again and realises it is me and at once she flies (not literally) around the counter and we share an enormous hug. I have a coffee and a slice of cake. Not carrot. There is something wrong with carrot cake and I don’t like it. It’s wrong. I tell Ms Wengraf this and and she tells me that she has had a divine courgette cake but it doesn’t convince me. I know beetroot is used to sweeten cake but it’s still plain wrong. I settle for a chocolate and amaretti cake. Not too much almond flavour which makes it perfect for me. We chat in between customers and I give her the wings. We are repelled and entranced in equal measure. Ms Wengraf thinks she will be able to use them but is not sure how at present. Ms Mason has asked her to make a bridal something to wear on The Big Day and I have asked for a headband with ears on it. Yes, I know. Way too old for such things but I like them and, post cancer, why not? At least I have a head to wear them on, unlike some of my sisters. Anyway, heads need measuring before headgear can be made. I leave with another hug and marvelling at the fortitude of Ms Wengraf who has worked immensely hard to get where she is and is still working like a Trojan.

Arriving home, I turn on the tv and catch part of the Olympic ice free short dance competition. The German pair are dancing the second half of their story which apparently involves them waking up on a park bench. The woman then continues to try to get away from the male skater, according to the commentator. Huh?  Not perhaps the romantic story I was anticipating but maybe skating has got more gritty and down to earth in recent years. On the way home I am drawn invisibly into Patisserie Valerie where I am forced to buy 2 cakes, one each for Mr Mason and I. Yes, I know I had cake with Ms Wengraf but call the police if you think it’s criminal. Some days 2 cakes are essential.

Trying times – geddit?

Last week I went to two meetings at two different venues, both of which I used to work in back in the day, as the young people say. First it was a half day on a new study I am on the steering group of, held in the building which used to house Quit and then on Thursday another half day at the NICE offices which still is the base of the British Council in London. When I worked for the British Council, back at the tail end of the 1970’s, there was a bar in the basement and a restaurant with waitress service. No-one thought anything of people going to drink in the basement at lunchtime. The bar was busy and popular and it was common to go down there with a group of friends and have a drink. How times change!

The other thing reminiscent of the late 1970’s is my hair. Having grown somewhat, as hair does, it now looks like a perm which is growing out. If I have it cut, as you would with a perm to cut out the curly bit, it will only grow back in the same way, unlike cutting a perm out. I think I am going to have to see it through and see where it takes me. I decide another colour will help so I change myself quite dramatically before going to meet 2 friends for coffee and cake on Saturday. One of them is my partner in crime, Ms Marsden, and the other is Jet, one of my blog friends who I have never met before. We rendezvous at Patisserie Valerie in Chiswick. Such sumptuous cakes! We find a table right at the back and spend a lovely couple of hours tossing ideas and stories about, chatting easily like old friends.

This week is all change. I am on jury duty and, after a lot of waiting around,  I am put on a trial. This is the third time I have been a juror while some people I know have never been one so I don’t know whether to feel privileged or put upon. While I can say nothing about the trial I am sitting on, there seem to be plenty of strange fellow jurors I could tell you about. I feel there will be trouble with a 60-something Liverpudlian man who is keen to tell me what the essential elements of the case are and where the defence barrister has gone wrong. I suspect conversations with him will be interesting. I have not yet confessed I am a magistrate after a woman announce loudly “ANYONE can be a magistrate” which has elements of truth to it but is not strictly true. I certainly know people who I think shouldn’t be allowed within a mile of any criminal court decision-making but luckily who is appointed as a magistrate is not up to me. Luckily for the defendant, we are a varied group of individuals of mixed race and age and hopefully will have varied opinions as to what has happened. Our deliberations will be interesting and whilst I can’t report what they are, I will be able to give character sketches of the individuals. Watch this space!