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Feather's Miscellany: Dolly Smith

John Waddington-Feather tells of Dolly Smith, a woman who made the very best of her abundant assets.

Dolly Smith was a lady of many parts, which were very attractive to the opposite sex. Her profession early on in life was the oldest in the world, and with a coterie of like-minded, young professionals she patronised the Flying Horse public house in the middle of Keighworth each night. She lived nearby in an apartment overlooking the busy street outside which led to the market; so did a roaring trade on market days purveying her wares till middle-age when she-married for the second time and started a new, respectable life.

Dolly had had a hard life, yet she was always cheerful. She came off a gypsy family who’d decided to settle near Keighworth with their little colony of caravans. The menfolk collected scrap-metal round the area and the womenfolk sold the wooden pegs they’d made, hawking them from door to door. One of them, who called herself Madame Rosina, also told fortunes from her caravan parked at the bottom of Garlic Lane, gazing soulfully into a crystal ball and studying clients’ palms. She did very well over the years and built up a loyal list of clientele, mainly older women looking for a better future.

As a girl, Dolly had been put into service at Utworth in one of the great houses there, sharing a garret with another maid and working long, hard hours skivvying at the beck and call of her mistress. This seemed to be her lot in life, but as she grew up she realised there was an easier way of making a living, and rented her own apartment near the market.

She began frequenting the Flying Horse and soon built up a steady flow of clients seeking to relieve the tedium of daily life. The others of her ilk who frequented the pub became known collectively as “The Flying Horse Fairies”; fairies, indeed, with a touch of magic about each one.

When she was still in her teens she married a wrong ‘un, a guy who was in and out of prison and soon deserted her. She’d a son by him who grew up knowing nothing of his father or how his mother earned her living till much later. By that time he’d left home and set up his own respectable business as a carpenter.

When she was past her best, she ‘retired’ from her old game and settled down to live a respectable life. She’d always been religious and attended the church round the corner from her apartment. Now, she became a pillar of it and of the Mothers Union. She was also on the flower rota, and at Harvest Festival you could always tell which were Dolly’s flower arrangements - by the cigarette ash round them!

She married again late on in life, a scrap-metal dealer and helped him build up his business, for she’d a shrewd business head and could quickly weigh up people as well as the price of metal. And no shady metal deals were ever done in Dolly’s scrap-yard. Her integrity and shrewdness in business made her a very wealthy woman till she was able to buy the very house in Utworth where she’d begun life as a skivvy.

And if there’s a moral to this little tale, it’s that no matter how we start life, it’s how much we put into it that counts and makes it worth living for others as well as ourselves.

John Waddington-Feather ©

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