by Cath Barton
Flord, Ping and Wend had exactly one hundred years’ service at the factory between them. This had seemed a good omen when the commission had come in. To design and make a special tea service to give to Marge on the occasion of her retirement from Nestin’s Necessities and Niceties.
Now, you have to appreciate that Marge was not just another employee at Nestin’s. No, Marge was what people like to call an Institution. She’d been there longer than anyone could remember and had various funny little habits. In particular she had this one special mug she always drank out of. It had a picture of Blackpool Tower on it. If she found anyone else drinking out of it she went ballistic. Went on and on about how she couldn’t work properly if she didn’t have this ruddy mug. So when it got broken it was a bad day at Nestin’s. Flord told his Mum the atmosphere had been elastic. I think he meant electric, but then words are not Flord’s strong point.
Anyway, something had to be done. They even had a special management meeting to discuss it. Imagine! Marge was that important. And it was the management – old Mr Nestin and his daughters – who decided on the commission. They said it had come from outside, but I happen to know that they dreamt it up themselves. (I have my sources.) A whole tea-set, it was to be, Blackpool Tower on every cup and – here’s the best bit – a teapot to be shaped like the Tower itself!
Flord, Ping and Wend – the design team – sharpened their pencils and got drawing, working out how to make this teapot. Ruling lines, cutting out templates, making paper models. Now, having the hundred years’ service between them I’ve told you about, they should have known what they were doing. Course they should. That’s what everyone said, after.
Any road, the day came. Occasion for a bit of a party. Sarnies, sausage rolls, Eccles cakes (Marge’s favourite) and, of course, tea. I should have said, the Nestin family were strictly tea-total. There was this huge box all wrapped up in shiny paper, and Flord, Ping and Wend all flushed with success. Marge claiming not to know what was going on, but there wasn’t anything she didn’t know.
Eh, up! – Mr Nestin’s third daughter Jeano was banging a spoon and calling for silence. Mr Nestin made a nice speech and then the moment came. F, P and W had drawn lots and it had fallen to Ping to hand over the box.
Course, you know what happened. He stumbled. Personally, I think it was daft, expecting a man of his girth to even pick up a box that size. But, no, no, no – he didn’t drop it. It was Marge who did it. Miss Perfect. Plunged forward to grab the box and it slipped out of her hands. Onto the carpet, mind, but there was something up with the design of that teapot. When Marge opened the box there was no tower. Just a heap of pottery pieces alongside the cups and saucers. People visibly cowered, but all Marge said was, “Never mind, the cups are lovely”. She looked so crestfallen I almost felt sorry for her. Almost.
Cath Barton lives in Abergavenny, Wales. Her writing is published here and there. And her photographs too.