In which the editor is ashamed
The Hat was originally going to be ready for me to pick up on Saturday the 28th of October. On the 27th, the milliner phoned me to say that the fabric she had ordered from which to lovingly fashion it had not yet arrived and that she was so tired of waiting for it that she was going to drive to Wales the next day and collect it in person. Although she was planning to have finished The Hat by mid-week, we agreed that I would pick it up on the Saturday just gone instead.
On Friday afternoon, reasoning that I don't handle town very well on a Saturday when the world and his wife are thronging the pavements, I visited the shop. If I had had the sense I was born with, I would have phoned first to check whether The Hat was ready. I didn't, and it wasn't, and I have no-one but myself to blame for the wasted journey. The milliner was hugely apologetic, but the fault really was all mine. We agreed that I should call in again the next day.
So, on Saturday morning, I caught the bus back into town. I sat on a serendipitously-placed bench opposite the milliner's shop and waited for it to open. And then waited a bit longer. Eventually, a friend of the milliner arrived and explained that the poor girl wouldn't be opening the shop that day because she had a nasty kidney infection and had had to go to the doctor. So I caught the bus home, and was rather torn between being worried about the milliner's health and concerned that I might have to stand in front of her maj bare-headed. (Although Pop did offer to lend me something he described as " a very fetching flat black cap", which was ... comforting.)
So, anyway, I relayed this story to my mother yesterday, and she said:
"Well, if you didn't get The Hat in time for your trip to London, you wouldn't have to pay for it, would you?"
Er, yes, Mother. Actually I would.
(i) This is a bespoke hat in an unusual head size. It's highly unlikely that, if it sat in the shop, anyone else would want to buy it. And, on the off chance that someone did want to buy it, it would probably come down to her nose.
(ii) The milliner has provided me with an outstanding level of customer service. It is not her fault that she is ill, and I see no reason why she should be financially penalised for circumstances outside her control.
(iii) The milliner has been courageous enough to set up as a sole proprietor selling her skill in a craft which has all but died out in this country. If I want businesses like hers to continue to exist, then I must honour the agreement we made. My refusal to pay could mean the difference between her business surviving and her going bankrupt. I am not prepared to have that on my conscience when she has not deliberately let me down.
I am really shocked by my mother's suggestion. I am shocked that she herself would consider refusing to pay to be a reasonable course of action. This is all far too reminiscent of the (ahem) "good old days" when the gentry continued to order champagne and plovers' eggs from the local grocer long after they knew they had no funds to pay for them, and never for one moment gave a thought to how the grocer was supposed to survive financially.
Now, as it happens, I have spoken to the milliner today and - bless her - she has said that she will deliver The Hat to me personally if necessary, and that she is determined, come what may, that I shall have it before I leave for London next Wednesday. We will keep in touch and sort it out nearer the time. So there is no question of me being put in the position that - if I were my mother - I might refuse to pay.
But the question remains: am I too soft for my own good? Is my mother's view completely unreasonable? Or is there an obvious third path which I am currently too blinded with rage and shame to see?