Illuminations: An Anthology of Welsh Short Prose

By Meic Stephens | Go to book overview

The Fur Coat

Gareth Alban Davies

'There were six or seven fur coats in Bethesda,' my father once remarked, while referring to more prosperous years in the Chapel's history, back in the 'thirties. But perhaps I'm mistaken as I try to recall the voice that made that statement. It would have been more in keeping with my mother's viewpoint, for she was more sensitive than he to the gradations in society and the lines drawn between one class and another. But there was no doubt about the facts: they were confirmed by my own childhood memory. Indeed, those coats were part of life's wonder.

Seated in our pew, with the waves of organ-music swelling the eddies of heat that swirled down the aisle, I was well placed to see the coats as they came into Chapel. On winter nights they would be pulled tight around the body, but of a Spring evening they billowed free, a fit adornment for their owners rather than a necessary garment. I wasn't well enough acquainted with the world of nature to be able to say where these various pelts had come from, but it would be an irreverence to suggest that they had once belonged to cat or rabbit, since it was so obvious to the eye that they had adorned the backs of exotic creatures in the far corners of the earth — the rare Siberian fox, or Persian lamb, or the musquash about which I knew nothing save the fragrance of its name.

But who were the owners of these luxurious furs? A Marxist analysis would lead inexorably to the conclusion that they were the wives and daughters of the exploiting classes, and in the Valleys during the 'thirties there was no doubt as to who they were — the owners and managers of the coalmines. It must be admitted that several of these were to be found among Bethesda's members, and that one or two had been elected to office in the Chapel. Let it not be forgotten, either, that a fur coat adorned the back and shoulders of the wife of the Ocean Coal Company's 1 general manager. ('Ocean, thou mighty monster,' was the mischievous suggestion for the solo in one of the musical competitions at the Treorci Eisteddfod of 1928!). And to that fine, dark coat there was, moreover, a sheen very different from those others seen here and there in the congregation: sable has a sedate, unshowy quality which suits a woman who is well aware that she's wealthy, and that everybody else knows it too. There

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Illuminations: An Anthology of Welsh Short Prose
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • The Village School 1
  • Fear of the Sea 7
  • A Windy Night 9
  • The Late Lemuel Parry, Esq., J.P., O.B.E. 12
  • On Drowning a Cat 18
  • The House Across the Way 21
  • Weobley and St. Emilion 25
  • The Man in the Street 28
  • Old Dent 31
  • On Collecting Roads 34
  • 'their Land They Shall Lose' 42
  • The Red Flag 46
  • Strolling Players 50
  • One Sunday Afternoon 57
  • Salem 61
  • A Trip to the Circus 63
  • Thoughts on Coronation Day, 1953 68
  • From the Pulpit 72
  • How to Choose and Treat a Wife 77
  • To the Mountain 83
  • The Imperative Upon Me 88
  • Disenchantment 92
  • The Hiring Fair 94
  • The Man at Chapel House 97
  • Question and Answer 102
  • The Little Llandeilo Boots 105
  • My Last Day in Prison 108
  • A Discovery 118
  • A Land of Romance 121
  • Hi-Ho! 129
  • Ancestors 133
  • While Shaving 138
  • Of Time and Distance 141
  • A Methodist Deacon's Advice 146
  • Of Violets and Bells 148
  • Remembering Mrs Newbould 151
  • Good Morning, Lloyd 156
  • In Modesty and Trembling 162
  • Christmasn in the Valley 166
  • On Stammering 169
  • Butlins 172
  • A Millionaire 176
  • A Scene from Military Life 178
  • An Exile 180
  • The Fox Under Glass 183
  • A Doctor's Medicine 186
  • The Little Huts 189
  • Three Heads 191
  • On Memory 198
  • Uncle John's Boots 202
  • The Fur Coat 207
  • An Holy Kiss 214
  • Notes on Authors and Texts 217
  • Acknowledgements 238
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