Wednesday, 13 July 2011
Spin, Spin, Spin
Marianne, having moved finally into her own home courtesy of a financial prize had decided to furnish it. She was very fond of the Old Welsh Style that she had read about in Fashionable Homes and was looking for something Welsh - or at least something that made her think of the Welsh style. She had not told her brother Leonard who could be sarcastic at what he called her 'daft pretensions' for she was sure he might call this one of her daft pretensions. It is neither daft nor pretentious to believe in a specifically Welsh style, she told herself. That she was from Surrey and had never been to Wales was a fact she chose to dismiss as being inconvenient. She had always meant to go to Wales at some time, she had just not had the time.
This was why she paused at an antique shop in the high street to gaze upon two rather attractive spinning wheels. As a former marketing executive she had never had a need to actually spin her own yarn, let alone weave it and she did not know how. Still, she told herself, they are very Welsh. She pictured two old Welsh women in their national costume with their tall hats and white aprons. Shawls, she thought, I am sure they would have shawls too. So she went into the shop and asked how much the spinning wheels were. The old man in the shop had a face as wrinkled as an old apple and just as rosy. For a moment, Marianne wondered if he was prone to drink, but it was nothing to do with her.
"Thinking of taking up spinning are you?" the old man replied.
He had a voice like the crackling of old twigs being walked on and his laughter was just as crackly but cheerful and wholesome. Marianne answered that she had thought of it, but wanted the spinning wheels to decorate her house with.
"Decorate? Well I suppose they are rather handsome," the old man replied.
It seemed to Marianne for a moment as if he were going to say something more, some kind of secret information about the wheels, but instead he simply told her the price. Marianne was sure that the price was remarkably cheap, but she said nothing. The wheels were his to sell after all. She paid him and asked for the wheels to be delivered, giving him her address.
The following day, while she was at home, painting the bedroom, she heard a knock at the door. She went down the stairs and opened the door to find the two spinning wheels in her covered porch alone. She stepped past them and peered into the lane, but there was nobody there. She thought it strange and made a mental note to talk to the man in the shop when she next went into the town. She took the spinning wheels into the house and placed them beside each other in the front room.
That night, she was woken from a rather absurd dream by the sound of whirring and clattering. She was a little afraid at first, but then became angry. She put her robe on and took a Welsh brass poker from the fireside in her room. Quietly she went down the stairs and halfway down she distinctly heard a voice singing.
"I'll spin when I wish, til the sun shines back
For a wheel's to spin and spin I shall
Or race them both to Ravensburg and back
My name's beyond the Mountain's hall.
Unknown am I, for mortals forget
A wheel's to spin to make fine thread
Nobody knows my true name yet,
Not apple green, nor apple red."
Now Marianne was not easily scared and at this point her anger changed to curiosity. She tiptoed down to the hall and peered into the living room. There was a curious little man who could almost have been the brother of the man in the antique shop, so wrinkled was his face and so rosy. He wore a red coat and red breeches to match, but his shirt was green as the holly leaf as were his shoes and hat. He sat at one of the spinning wheels and spun a thread that was as gold as a field of ripe wheat and as fine as a hair. The other spinning wheel was going also as if in sympathy and he pressed the treadle with his foot in time to his song.
Marianne entered the room with the poker at her side, ready to hit the little man should it be necessary.
"What are you doing in my house?" she demanded suddenly, hoping to make the little man jump with shock.
He did no such thing. Instead he sang again and winked at her.
"I'm spinning young lady. Where there's a wheel there's a way!" he answered cheerily.
"I am trying to sleep and you broke into my house and are just sitting there spinning without so much as a please and thank you! Either you leave or I shall call the police," Marianne answered crossly.
The little man's cheeriness had seemed to her more impertinent than he had a right to. Hearing her threat, the little man laughed and whispered a word. Marianne blinked once and fell asleep.
She was surprised to wake up in her bed as if she had dreamed the whole thing, but having woken she took the poker and went back downstairs again. The wheels were still, the little man was gone and she for a moment did believe that she had been dreaming, but for the twenty skeins of fine golden thread draped over the bobbins of both wheels. Marianne went back into town that day, but the antique shop seemed to have vanished. She went into the cafe and tried to think over a cafetiere of coffee and a slice of cake.
She could not return the wheels and ask for a refund because the shop wasn't there. Yet she was not sure that she wanted to keep them either. She could not throw them away, for the little man might be angry with her and there was no telling what he might do. She left the cafe still unsure what to do and went home. She took up the skeins of golden thread and wished someone would help her to know what to do. The thread felt fine and she was struck by the beauty of it. She did not know what to do with it. She could not weave it for she did not know how. She turned around to phone the police, although she did not know what to tell them.
There in the hallway she found a small woman in a dark green suit. On her head was a rather extravagant hat that looked as if it was trying to be glorious but instead it looked a little odd. Marianne started with shock and stepped back.
"I believe you have the spinning wheels," the small woman said firmly.
"How did you get in here?" Marianne asked, trying to keep calm.
"I asked first," the woman said pointedly.
"You can have them and then just go please. Those wheels have brought me nothing but trouble. There was a little man spinning and singing last night," Marianne said desperately aware that she was out of her depth more than she liked to be.
Well and truly in my discomfort zone, she thought.
"Yes he is usually trouble. Excuse me miss, if you'd stand aside a moment," the woman asked her.
Marianne stood aside and the woman drew herself up to her full height - what there was of it and glowered at the two spinning wheels.
"Now then, come along and no dawdling," she said.
The spinning wheels seemed to shuffle sheepishly and stirred. The golden thread fell to the floor and the spinning wheels trotted across to the woman who turned to Marianne,
"You may keep the thread, I suggest you take it to Faulkner's in the high street, they will pay you well for it I'm sure," she said.
She took the wheels by their bobbin reels and vanished. Marianne promptly fainted. She did take the thread to Faulkner's the jewellers and goldsmiths on the high street. The thread was in fact spun gold of the finest quality. Faulkner's were highly impressed but Marianne assured them that she had not made it. They paid her a large sum for it and she decided that perhaps the Welsh Style was not quite what she was looking for. She used the money from the sale of the thread to go on a cruise in the hope she might meet someone.