Good works

Off to a coffee morning with a friend who frets beautifully about her carbon footprint. This is something I can’t really get the hang of at all – I just cannot be arsed about where my baby sweetcorns come from, and whether they flew, came on a bicycle or simply showed a lot of firm pale yellow thigh and hitched a lift to Mr Sainsbury’s lovely shop. Mention of footprints just reminds me that all my boots need reheeling and, having shelled out £28 for True Love’s shoes to be redone, I have vowed never to go to a repairers again. Plus the fact that Child One has to have new orthotic insoles soon at £350 a go ….to pay I shall have to lose the lawyer’s latest bill down the back of the sofa, then she will sue, then I will be in Big Trouble … now you see why I hurl the sweetcorn into the trolley without a backward glance.

But my friend being my dear tender-hearted friend, the coffee morning is not just a case of drowning my sorrows with a nice strong cup of Earl Grey. No, there is a Cause. In fact, I even overhear two mummies asking each other, ‘What is the Cause today?’ I recognise them vaguely from a Fair Trade coffee morning last week, and realise with horror that I am now on a Lady Bountiful merry-go-round. Today we are patronising Fine Cell Work, a charity which teaches needlework to prisoners and then sells their products. I was talked through it all beforehand, and I had a rather nice picture in my head of a menopausal lady prisoner, who’d been overcome by strange impulses in Waitrose, done a bit of light shoplifting and been banged up by a judge she’d once turned down at a college ball. It could happen to anyone.

But as we toured the amazing display of cushion covers, patchwork cot blankets and hand-embroidered bags, it became increasingly clear that a lot of the work had been done by men. Not many women would painstakingly embroider a cushion with a petit-point design of a smoking gun, I think. And, somehow, once the idea of a big male prisoner had elbowed out my distressed gentlewoman, I started to like the cushions rather less. By the time it had occured to me that I might end up sitting on a cushion stitched by a paedophile, I was really not very keen on the whole shebang at all, rehabilitation or rehabilitation.

When I talked about it all later with another chum, she was incandescent that criminals should sit about embroidering of an evening at all, instead of breaking rocks in the hot sun or sewing oakum bags, whatever they are. And what about paedophiles, she said? ‘Well, you could get the cushions dry cleaned,’ I suggested. ‘It would take more than dry cleaning. These coffee morning ladies are too ….cushioned!’ she sniffed.

She could be right. But, as Child One limps home in pain with her dodgy feet, and I make an appointment with the podiatrist, stuffing that lawyer’s bill under the sofa, I know I shall shortly be contemplating a spell in debtors’ prison myself. Embroidered cushion cover, anyone?

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