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.


Impossible Exchanges: Woman at the Supermarket

Fear Of The Lord

It was just another ordinary Wednesday. I had popped into our local supermarket on my way to work to buy lunch. I was just about to leave the lobby area when I heard a haunting voice warning about “the storms”.

The anxiety in the voice was clear and I would normally have feigned deafness and quickened my step towards the safety of my car. This time I glanced to my right. The voice was that of woman, about my age, huddled over what I assumed to be a baby, telling it of her fears.

“The storms are coming. They will be bad. We all need to take cover”.

The baby, on closer inspection, turned out to be a holdall, and as our eyes met, I knew instantly that the forecast snow was the least of her problems. This is definitely the point where I should have produced an awkward smile and headed for sanctuary.

I was on my way to work.

I had deadlines.

My parents warned my about talking to strangers.

She was talking to herself.

She was shouting at passers-by.

What if she had a knife?

I had pressing deadlines.

I wouldn’t normally do this.

I walked towards her.

I sat down on the bench, next to the holdall.

“Oh I don’t think it will be that bad. The media like to whip up a story when there’s no real news.”

She didn’t mean the snow. She knew about the snow. That would pass. Her storms were beyond measurement by Beaufort. She asked me my name.

I lied. “Jennifer”.

Her name was Jennifer too and she was 47. My age. She said, that despite appearances, she wasn’t homeless and thanked me for not patronising her with the offer of a cup of tea or coffee. Besides, both were evil in her eyes. Poison. She came to the store daily to pass on her warnings. Messages from a higher place. People normally ignored her, but she could see that I believed her. Believed.

There was a pause as we took each other in. We aware of only each other and our reflections in the perfect plate-glass which surrounds the lobby and shielded us from the biting wind.

“I don’t know if I believe. What are the storms?”

Ignoring me, Jennifer outlined her life so far. She came from a caring family and had left school with a good education. She worked in insurance for over twenty years, then set up as an independent financial advisor. She lived alone in the centre of the town, in a lovely apartment overlooking the park. She avoided her neighbours. They were self-centred, media obsessed retail junkies and worthless.

“They must have some good qualities”.

Giving me a piercing stare, Jennifer reminded me that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.

“Yet it was the basis of your career for so long. It provided for you and I expect it helped you buy your apartment?”

Jennifer said that this contradiction fuelled her inner storm. She did not live a life of excess, enjoyed the simple things, but could not let go of her comforts bought by dubious means.

“But you were providing a service to people. Products that they wanted for their own security”.

To satisfy their greed, to provide false hope, to protect them from their own stupid actions when they should be more responsible. Consequences are lessons to be learned. Many forms of insurance are just self-denial. They allow fools to continue unchecked. The weak and the meek couldn’t or wouldn’t buy this illusion, and the fools prosper.

She paused. Financial products make money from money, not from honest hard work. No materials. No finished product. There was no craft in what she had done. The storms were coming and I had to prepare myself.

“Where are the storms?”

Inside you.

“Storms of the mind? Of the soul?”

Precisely. I had to choose. To continue my apathetic existence, surrounded by and feeding greed and ignorance. Or to fight against it. I had to choose. Just as she had chosen.

“But have you? You still have your apartment. How does that fit with the storms?”

She said nothing.

I looked to the floor, thinking about my own house, career, car, possessions, savings. My world, in financial and material terms. I had not come by them through craft. Arguably I had used skills, but those skills had built increasingly efficient systems to put hundreds, perhaps thousands, out of work. My path had been similar to Jennifer’s.

I looked up. She had gone.

All that was left was my own reflection in that perfect, spotless, plate-glass.


Endless Impossibilities…

The most recent post from the blogging101 course has probably been the most inspirational one for me. I have enjoyed the various exercises, but I felt that my blog was lacking direction. I knew that I had things to say but I wasn’t sure exactly what and why. What would I write? And why would people continue to follow and read?

The idea of building in a regular feature, filled me with dread. How could I keep that up? What common theme? But the suggestion of looking at what had brought the most positive responses gave me a “eureka” moment.


I was so excited in the car hat I started talking to myself, and selling myself the idea.


This might only be based upon limited feedback (I don’t have many followers), but it created that spark which had eluded me for the past week or so. The inspiration came from an earlier post : Dear Sweet Impossible You.

My theme is “Impossible Conversations” (this is a working title and may change). The basis is a series of conversations that have not taken place and, for various reasons, just cannot. They might be:

  • A discussion with a person who I only met briefly, but who I found inspiring and/or interesting in some manner;
  • A conversation with an inanimate object;
  • A tribute and response to and from someone who has touched my life without our paths ever crossing;
  • How I imagine a chat with an animal would be if we could have such an exchange;
  • What I might learn from a tree or building who had seen their surroundings change.
  • A meeting with someone special who has left my life.

There are endless possibilities, and I find the idea of blending a real encounter or experience with fiction to create an impossible exchange that could have been.

I’ve started work on that first conversation…


More later,