He could smell the wool, almost taste it. Even from several feet away.
Alison put her arm around him.
“Don’t fret my love. I know that it’s hard for you, but you did the right thing. No-one could have expected you to carry on by yourself. It wasn’t possible.”
Less than twelve months ago, Gavin Hughes had been a fourth generation mill owner. His forefathers had passed down the tradition through the years, instilling the love of the fibres, bestowing upon him the skills and secrets learnt over scores of years, until it all ended. With one son running a successful construction business in Australia, and the other studying a PhD in Genomics at Cambridge, there was no-one to take on the heritage. No-one to be the fifth generation. No-one.
Alison would tell him that it was not his fault that neither child had seen a future in wool, that other factors left the business untenable, but Gavin had a strong belief in “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. He knew that he hadn’t done enough to encourage Mathew, whose love of anything mechanical was ideal for keeping the Victorian machinery working. But the boy was more interested in fast cars and local girls, and too many heated exchanges had burned that bridge. Owen was too bright to be tied to the Teifi Valley. That was clear from an early age.
The local wool museum had offered apprentices, but Gavin’s stickling for tight timekeeping and short temper resulted in a high turnover in staff (unlike the sales) and the supply of willing volunteers ran dry.
As did the Teifi, several times a year. Perhaps those loony-leftie tree huggers had a point about global warming thought Gavin. A watermill cannot run without a water, and if there wasn’t a drought, there was a flood, overfilling the mill pond and spilling past the head race. Feast or famine. Drought or flood. Not biblical proportions, but enough to wonder if someone up there had it in for you.
As a child, Gavin had been fascinated by how shaggy fleeces had been turned into soft blankets of many colours. The willowing, turning the washed fleece into fine wisps like the hair of the angels. The fierce looking carding machines, aggressively drawing the wisps through an intricate route around their enormous drums. The click-clack-thwack as the shuttle shot across the loom, only to be returned with equal ferocity, then back again.
But now there was only silence. The fleeces were gone, the machines had been sold as scrap and the shell of the mill awaited the property developers. They said the conversion would be sympathetic to the history of the area. Gareth didn’t care. He had betrayed his ancestors and deserted his trade. He would live a comfortable but troubled retirement in Beaumaris, and never return to the Teifi.
Ref: Writing101, Day 9 Prompt: A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene.