A Requiem for Mrs Fudge (i-iv)

mocha-fudge_5091

Mrs Fudge, a woman who made and gave out sweets to children on Daniel Hill before Kelvin was built, was real and dates back to the early 1900s. The name is a fabrication as person who told me this story – passed down from his own Grandfather – had never been told her name. She made nougat and sugar lollies as well as fudge. No one really knows what happened to her, just that she stopped making sweets for the kids and disappeared. I severely doubt that anyone is still alive that remembers her other than as a story and, as such, she has passed into local legend. Given the joyful effect she had on the local children, remembrance of some sort seems appropriate. I’m not sure this is quite what she deserves, though.

1)

“I knew her husband.

My Stan worked

at the same cutlers.

They were always

dreaming of being

their own Mesters

but when he left,

Stan resigned himself

to the yard.

 

It was ‘What kind

of mother . . .’

and all those questions,

that made her do it.

He got no good answers

and she made him leave.

He’s in Wales now,

last I heard.

 

She made ends meet

at the confectioners

factory three days

a week in packing.

At weekends, she took

in washing, hands

made raw by carbolic

and splintered dolly.

 

We didn’t know much

else about her, really.”

 

2

 

At half past three on

Mondays and Thursdays

The children would leave

by the school gates

and swarm down

Daniel Hill

stopping at number

seventy-one, where

a plump and creamy

woman sat on her freshly

Vim-ed step, gingham

pinafore spilling over

her cushioned lap.

 

The room behind her,

hidden by dark curtains

and lace, burst with the fat

scent of sugar and butter

hot condensed milk

and soothing vanilla spice

in a sickly, irresistible miasma.

 

Chops slapped

in expectation,

as they held out their hands

and she passed small bags

of sweetmeats

to kisses and hugs

and hullaballoo.

 

3

 

She wondered if today

would be the day

she let the sun stream in.

She poked her head

around the curtain

but rain burnished

and blatted the window.

 

So, she sniffed, disappointed,

then turned to stoke the fire,

freeing a cloud of anthracite,

that made her sneeze.

She sighed and moved

the filigree box with

the small wax mask

from the mantel

to her bedside table,

next to the plaster

footprints and the pressed

wild flowers.

 

4.

By the time they had reached

number seventy-one

Ernest Woodhead

had already seen

the carriage, drawn

by four horses in black

feather head-dresses.

 

He saw she wasn’t waiting for them.

Her door shut, the neighbour’s

curtains closed against

the sadness as a mark of respect.

 

Ernest saw and ran

behind the carriage,

gesturing to the others

to join him in

the confectionery cortege.

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