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.