A few days later, I was just organising the rail of clothes that I was setting aside for the show when the shop doorbell rang and in stepped a teenage girl who could have been no more than about sixteen. She possessed a plumpness not uncommon in that age group and a sullenness of expression so often worn by those working their way through a mid-teen crisis. As she approached, all four foot eight of her, long straggly hair (which may have once been blonde, but was now a luminous pink), and a fairly noticeable limp from the skiing accident, the awful reality dawned. This was Felicity, Zoe's neighbour's daughter, the girl she wanted me to have in the show.
Are you the Mrs Eva, she tentatively asked.
I am Eva I replied, not Mrs Eva. I am Miss Pettigrew, though I prefer to be addressed as Eva.
There was still a thread of hope, maybe my instincts with regards to her identity were wrong.
How can I help you?
I'm Felicity, Zoe told me mum you wanted me like... In your show.
My heart sank.
Did she indeed. Well, the thing is Felicity I have a really long list of girls that want to model. I've been inundated. So, my plan is to take down names and numbers and then ring up those I think will best show off my collection. The Ganja only has a small changing room so there is absolutely no way it will accommodate more than eight models maximum. If you leave your number I can call you when I've made my final decision.
As the words I uttered reached their designated target, I knew that one thing you can never do is fool a teenager with so obvious a lie.
You don't want me in it, I just knew this would 'appen. Christ, I'm so embarrassed, I feel such a bloody gimp. I told mum, I said to her. I'm like, not even five foot effing tall for starters, I've still got a bleedin' limp from that friggin bloody accident and I'm a total lardarse. No one's going to want to watch a minger like me trolling down the catwalk. I said to her, I said to me mum, don't go listening to that Zoe, she's just trying to get back in wiv you since her like, klepto creep of a boyfriend got is 'ands on your knickers.
This was certainly an outburst for which I was not prepared. I did what I could to try and appease the riled and red-faced teenager in front of me.
Now Felicity, not one of those things you say about yourself are true. If you carry that attitude through life then that will be how others will indeed see you. You may not be very tall, but who is to say that you have even finished growing yet. Also, petite is very attractive in a woman. You are not a lardarse, you have just developed womanly curves and whatever a minger is, I'm sure you are no such thing.
Felicity didn't look either appeased or convinced, so I was obliged to continue, as she was simply standing there still staring at me with an expression I couldn't quite read.
The only reason I have hesitated regarding having you in the show is to do with your age. I had envisaged all the models as being at least in their mid-twenties and over, that's all. However, on reflection, perhaps it would be a good idea to have a couple of younger models. Bridge all the age gaps, show that Tres a la Mode offers fashion for all.
Now I come to think of it, I continued, realising that I was about to open my mouth and words I would instantly regret were about to pour forth, words, which if I had really been given time to consider, I would not have uttered.
Come to think of it Felicity, with a few lessons in posture and deportment, the right outfits and some heels, you would make a jolly good model. There will be rehearsals of course and everyone is going to need to learn how to carry themselves on the catwalk, whatever their age.
Felicity's face lit up, instantly making her more attractive.
You mean I can be in it. Like, that's so cool. Wait till I tell me friends, they will be like, so, jealous!
With that sentiment, Felicity wrote down her telephone number, exited the shop and left me to muse my folly.
Zoe was now in the firing line. I gave her a call.
What the hell Zoe! How could you put me in that position! Tell me one thing that made you think that that young lady was model material!
Well, you know, she's got that long blonde hair for a start.
You mean that bright pink hair that had once been blonde and also looks as if she fell head first into a vat of chip fat.
Well, Eva, with the right hair products that's no major problem is it? You know she goes to the 'Stars in Their Eyes School of Dance' at the Methodist chapel, don't you? If she can dance, she can walk, maybe you should even incorporate some dance in the show.
No, Zoe, I didn't know she could dance and I seriously doubt that she is attending 'Stars in Their Eyes' at the Chapel while she still has a limp. What's more, when you described her as little, I didn't realise you meant hardly more than four foot ten.
Well Eva, does height really matter? Apparently, Kylie Minogue is only about four foot ten and that's never held her back, has it?
Why is everyone so obsessed with this Kylie woman, I thought.
She's not only short Zoe, she's also decidedly plump.
Oh no, Eva, I wouldn't call her plum at all! She's got a lovely figure, all the right curves in all the right places, I'd say.
Could we really be discussing the same person I wondered, talk about something in your eyes, maybe Zoe had cataracts in hers?
The thing is, Zoe went on, digging herself into an even deeper pit. Poor Felicity has had such a difficult time of it recently, and maybe she has put on a few pounds since I last saw her, what with all the sitting around waiting for her leg to mend. Probably been trying to cheer herself up by dipping into the cookie jar rather too often. I told you she was depressed. I haven't seen her leave the house in weeks. Well, not until last week when that tree in my back garden fell on their shed during the storm. She and Doreen were both out there then and Doreen was yelling at me over the flattened fence. It's not my fault, I told them, it's what's called an act of God, you can't possibly hold me responsible. She did though, said it was obviously a sick and unstable Betula Pendula. She's been attending some gardening course run by the National Trust, can't see what good it has done her though. I had to correct her, it's a Silver Birch actually, and it's supposed to look like that. It wasn't sick, those kinds of trees have flaky bark. Anyway, I'm pretty sure my relations with the neighbours are now well and truly irreparable damaged. How did Felicity take the rejection?
She didn't take it at all Zoe, because as you say, poor Felicity, how could I possibly tell a child of that age that they are not tall enough or quite attractive enough to be in a fashion show. I couldn't, could I! As you know only too well. You put me in an impossible position Zoe, selfishly placing your own needs far above mine and abusing our friendship.
Oh, Eva, you're a real star. All will be well again in Turbot Close, I can't thank you enough.
You're not listening to me are you, Zoe. I'm not at all happy about this.
How about I buy you a cocktail at Cosmos after work?
Over a cocktail at Cosmos after work, we met up with Flo and Jackie
So, how's it all going? Enquired Flo.
I filled Flo and Jackie in on how plans were progressing and continued to berate Zoe for her unwelcome input in the form of Felicity.
It will be fine, insisted Zoe. Just stick her in some five-inch heels and give her a make-over.
She's got a limp Zoe, I was obliged to remind her. A limp from breaking a leg in a skiing accident. How likely is it that that same leg could suffer a second breakage if your Felicity is tottering down the runway in a pair of stilettos! Very likely, Zoe, I said, answering my own question.
Anyway, we don't want any unplanned drama on the night.
Flo, sensing that I was becoming rather agitated, decided to change the subject.
I've already got some great raffle prizes, Eva. The fish market has promised a crab which I can pick up on the day of the show, the off license has donated a four-pack of Cornish Knockers and Furry Friends have given me a rubber dog toy and a diamanté cat collar. Harvey's old friend, Sid, has offered three boxes of free range eggs and my neighbour's going to give me some jars of her brilliant caramelised onion chutney.
Well, that's great, I lied. I was, in fact, thinking, what an odd collection of unglamorous prizes. With this display of produce on display, the whole event would end up looking more like the farmers market than a fashion show
Still, Flo was certainly trying, and so I praised her ingenuity and then subtly tried to veer her imagination in a different direction.
Also, Flo, what might be a good idea, would be if we were to get some cosmetics, you know, products associated with fashion and grooming. Perfumes, face creams, body lotions, that sort of thing. Gifts that one might find in one's goodie bag if one had been invited to a show at the Paris fashion week. I'm pretty sure those goodie bags don't contain a couple of eggs, some jar of conserve and a crab. Not that anyone wouldn't be lucky to receive such gifts, we're just talking appropriation here.
Flo looked momentarily worried and then inspired.
Oh absolutely. I do see where you're coming from, Eva. I could approach the shop that does all those handmade soaps and body lotions out of seaweed, you know, Ocean Potions. Also, my neighbour three doors up, she makes amazing jewellery from unusual objects that have been washed up on the beach. It's all really original.
That I didn't doubt.
We then moved on to the subject of Jackie's pregnancy and asked her how she was feeling.
Very tired, was the answer, exhausted most of the time. It's a good job I decided not to be in the show, she mused. It would have all been too much for me. Apart from that, it's all good. How's it going finding the male models Eva?
Well, Jackie, we have one man so far, my brother, and his girlfriend Cynthia has agreed to be a model. So that's one male model, two women and a child. I emphasised the word 'child' while giving Zoe a very pointed stare.
Jackie thought that Sebs would be great in it. He's super handsome, I used to have a real crush on him, she confessed. Actually, thinking about it Eva, some of my friends have remarked on how good looking my brother Joey is. I can't see it myself, but then to me, he has always been nothing than an irritation, in the way younger brothers so often are.
Jackie was right, her brother Joey was an irritation. However, he was also a good looking one. A sort of poor woman's Hugh Grant, well, that's how his mother once described him to me anyway. It was unfortunate he managed to carelessly break so many young women's hearts. He was such an obvious philanderer I couldn't understand why they always imagined that somehow they would be the final one to tame and domesticate him. Anyway, Joey would be very unlikely to turn down such an opportunity to wield his dubious charms.
Let me know if he would be in the show Jackie, I asked, and then I can ring him when it's time to fit out the men.
So, calculated Zoe, you need about five more women and two men.
Zoe was correct, and in truth, I really needed to fill those vacancies and get on with the fittings as soon as possible.
I know Jackie has already had to turn me down because of her delicate condition (I decided to play along with her distortion of the truth). So, Zoe, how about you adding to the numbers.
Zoe feigned an act of modesty and insisted that she was in no way attractive enough. Flo, Jackie, and I, begged to differ and went on to waste the next five minutes pointing out all her most lovely features, of which I knew she was already well aware.
I then changed tact, as the whole conversation was becoming tedious.
You owe me big time Zoe, just be in the bloody show and I shall say no more about Felicities age, acne, or height deficiency.
Zoe promptly agreed and then another thought occurred to me.
Are you still with that vicar chap Zoe?
It turned out that she was, so I went on to pitch my next idea.
Do you think your vicar would be in the show? He's tall and rather suavely handsome. All he is really going to need to do is bring models on and off the stage, and in my experience vicars are usually frustrated actors who end up becoming vicars so that they can always be the centre of attention.
Zoe agreed that Dave was quite gregarious by nature and promised to ask him that very evening.
So, only four girls needed and one man.
Chapter 6. Matt
Word spread that I was scouting for models and within days the final four presented themselves.
I had just opened the door to my shop when in strode two stunning young women, both oozing the sort of self-confidence necessary to strut their stuff in front of a crowd.
Kate and Abbey were their names. Both twenty-eight, friends since secondary school (they later told me), and now worked together behind the bar in Penswithian's main nightclub, Barnacles.
Kate and Abbey were obviously fairly outgoing young women, which was just what I needed, and in some way, they reminded me of my sister Tiffany's twin girls.
Visually, Kate had the most stunning natural red hair, pale complexion and striking large green eyes. She must have been about five foot nine and had a slender boyish figure.
Abbey was almost as tall, but not quite. Her dark deep chestnut hair was a huge mop of tiny ringlets for which I was instantly envious (my hair being overly fine with a tendency to lie flat on the head). Abbey was Jamaican and had come over here with her family at eighteen. She too was slender but her figure was much curvier.
They were both perfect.
By the afternoon, a rather reticent woman in her mid-thirties approached me whilst I was re-dressing the mannequin. Cathy was her name. She had, only recently, moved down from Essex with her four-year-old son after the breakup of a bad marriage. Cathy was probably about five-six, a classic size fourteen with a flowing mane of long bleached hair and plump vivid red lips, which, unfortunately, stole the show from her delicate even features. Cathy was conventionally pretty, although I suspect she might have been prettier still if she hadn't pumped so much collagen into her pout. Apparently, she wanted to get out, meet more people and make new friends. Having brought my Gordon up largely on my own, prior to meeting Spats, I understood her predicament, especially as she was new to the area.
The final entrant arrived just before closing time.
Sacha was a woman in her early thirties.
I later discovered that she had moved down from London, a year ago, leaving her career as a professional stage dancer behind, in order to artistically collaborate in performance art with Oberon, a man she had met at our local art club.
She was of medium height and had the strong toned body of the dancer she professed to be. Appearance wise, she looked like a well-groomed woman who knew how to bring out the best of her fairly plain features with a skilful application of make-up.
Sacha, I noted, possessed the kind of arrogant aura and sense of superiority that often comes from being brought up in a fairly wealthy background and I had the feeling that she rated her own looks far higher on the charts than others might. I wasn't at all sure about Sacha, but let the fact that I was now desperate to complete my list of models sway my judgement.
So, Sacha became number eight.
A few days later a tall broad-shouldered guy with dark blonde hair and a ruggedly handsome face, bounded into the shop.
I felt oddly flustered as he strode meaningfully towards me, a friendly and rather winning smile on his face. He didn't really look all that much like him, I thought, but the image of Kurt Russell in Backdraft suddenly sprang to mind.
Are you Miss Eva Pettigrew? He inquired, standing there in an orange high-viz jacket, rather grubby tight fitted jeans (probably because he had such long muscular legs), and a large tool belt straddling his hips.
Finding myself suddenly speechless, I simply nodded to indicate that that was, indeed, my true identity.
Well, that's great, I'm Matt. Kate and Abbey told me to come and see you.
They said you need another man.
I must have looked slightly dazed and confused at this point.
The fashion show! Another man to be in your fashion show, Matt emphasised to help jolt my memory.
Oh, yes, I know, of course, I hastily replied, as I tried to pull myself together. To be in my fashion show. Yes, I do, I mean... I am, Matt.
Well, if you want me I'm all yours, he said, lurching forward to shake my hand. Kate and Abbs told me about it, I'm a bouncer down at the Barnacles nightclub. Bouncer by night, scaffolder by day. I'm sure my mates will rib me something rotten, but hey, I'm up for it, sounds like a great gig to me. I'm not a bad dancer either, you know, break-dancing and stuff. I can do some of those moves like in that film Magic Mike, the one about a male stripper.
I couldn't help thinking at this point that I really ought to turn off the heating in the shop, it was unfathomably hot and I was beginning to feel rather flustered and uncomfortable.
Yes, I had seen that film Magic Mike and certainly rated the dancing in it quite excellent.
So Eva, do you mind if I call you Eva? Am I in, or am I out, I'd love you to have me, it would be a real buzz.
Yes, I did want to have him.
You're most definitely in Matt, I assured him, please do call me Eva, and I have no doubt that you will be a real asset.
Matt lingered a while, chatting away about one thing or another (I can't really remember what.
I decided to close up the shop early and briefly dropped in on my mother for a gin and tonic.
Well, I'm all set, I told her, I've got all the models and the four men.
Oh, are they really good looking?
Well, a couple of them are, but they're a mixed bag really, and I'm not sure how that came about.
Is it that hard to find four hunky guys in Penswithian Eva?
Oh, you mean the men. No, they're all great, especially one!
Oh Eva, do tell! She insisted.
So I described Matt with all his attributes and we found ourselves snickering like a couple of schoolgirls.
Scaffolding gear is quite sexy really isn't it, Eva? Maybe all the men could dress as scaffolders. You know, those high-viz jackets and all those tools hanging around their belts, really does look quite, I don't know, manly. If you think about it, it isn't going to be easy to get your hands on some fireman's clothes, is it?
She was right. I had been wondering how on earth I would persuade the fire department to lend me four outfits. Her idea was pure genius.
Matt's mates would probably be only too happy to lend their jackets and tools, and I suddenly had a vision of exactly what I intended to do with the men.
Mum, you're a star, picture this!
At the back of the stage, we erect scaffolding and our four guys will each be moving around on the various levels. You know, pretending to tighten the bolts and generally mucking around. That solves the situation of what cameo to put the men in and also, what to have as a backdrop.
Go on, implored mother, I'm imagining it all Eva and it's looking good. Don't forget the hard-hats either, they should be wearing hard-hats.
Absolutely! I agreed. I'm with you on that. Well, then the girls come out one by one passed the scaffolders and a variety of scenes play out as they strut on and off stage. We have the men coming down from the scaffolding every now and then and escorting the models as they head up the runway, they could even be in the background doing some kind of simple dance routine. Maybe Matt might look good jumping down off the scaffolding and going into some of the break-dancing moves he was telling me about.
I was loving this whole new idea.
There was no time to waste. The men and the models needed to be geared up and ready for the first rehearsal as soon as possible.
Margery, as in Margery the pompous Ganja theatre administrator, had at least offered me two discounted rehearsal evenings.
As it was necessary, according to health and safety, to have the in-house technician present on these two occasions, I would simply have to pay fifteen pounds to him on each of the evenings, to cover his fee.
It was time to go home, listen to some music and decide what tracks would work best for stomping down a catwalk. I already knew that I would be using a T-Rex number, probably 'Get it on'. Now I needed to find something the men could really dance to and find a slow moody number for the end of the show.
As I had forked out quite a lot of cash for the karaoke machine I bought for my Elvis night, along with over two hundred karaoke tracks that came with it, I would have that set up downstairs after the show and everyone could then make their own entertainment. Although I had felt compelled to promise Zoe and her merry band of ukulele players just one set at the beginning of the party. I just hoped this wouldn't send everyone rushing for the exit. The price of friendship can sometimes seem quite high.
Tomorrow all relevant calls would be made and I would be able to get everyone together for the first rehearsal. With this thought in mind, I began to feel, for the first time, a real sense of anxiety.
That night I slept fitfully with bizarre dreams in which models fell off stage into the audience and scaffolding came crashing down around people's heads. Matt appeared in one dream, but I don't fully recall that one.
A decent nights sleep would allude me from now on. There was so much to do and worry about.