And now…the moment you have all been waiting for, an end to your anticipation, I bring you the sorry saga of the Marzipan Factory (Part One, anyway)…
We’d noticed the David London Marzipan Factory before, nestled, as it was, in what used to be Borth’s Station building – but, being students just about to take our Finals, thought nothing of it, except to comment on the sheer weirdness of a confectionery-making factory in so remote a part of the Peninsula.
That autumn, degrees in hand and overdrafts reaching International Debt standard, we started looking for work. Reluctantly, it is true – but the dole, which we had applied for, took a month to sort out and we had ourselves, a dog, an uninvited cellar full of rodents and a worm-ridden cat to look after.
Would the cat do the decent thing and cull the rats and mice? Would it hell! It also resisted the worming tablets with a determined savagery that left three tea-towels in shreds and my boyfriend’s left forearm a mess of bloody runnels.
So, we popped into the factory and applied to work there. N was given the hugely responsible job of making the marzipan – which meant more pay and a day spent outside the main room stuffing ingredients into what looked like (and possibly was) a decommissioned washing machine. Pressing, I must assume, the ‘Wash’ button converted the sugar and almonds (and, on one famous occasion, a comb!) and Lord knows what else into marzipan.
I, meanwhile, was stuck in a huge echoing room, with divers other females, painting beaks on marzipan chickens – for eight hours a day. I kid you not! Most of my companions were of a certain age, if you get my drift, and as bawdy a collection of crones as you could wish to meet.
They were one great collective Hot Flush and suffered from the most peculiar physical symptoms as a result of this Mass Menopause. Their sex lives were as colourful, and incomprehensible, as their medical sagas – and I confess that some of their more outlandish ailments found their way into ‘Long-Leggety Beasties’ (courtesy of the Dinner Ladies, who owe a great deal to Gwladys and company). To a woman, they were under the doctor (God help him!) and their conversation was peppered with what, ‘My Den…’ had done, or tried to do, in bed the previous night.
The Grandmother of this Ghastly Crew, one Myfanwy Davies, was a fount of Old Wives’ Tale type wisdom, and had it on good authority that, ‘You hangs your legs over the bedpost, see, so they little spermilacious things don’t escape, look you…’ was THE way to ensure pregnancy.
I learnt a great deal from them – though I am still not entirely sure (despite having now both given birth and passed That Age!) what a lacy placenta actually looks like! Sounds very pretty, doesn’t it? Though I have to say I very much took to Mo’s description of the womb as ‘The Baby Carriage’ – even though her long monologue on it dropping down through the birth passage nearly caused me to throw up all over my latest batch of chicks.
Oh my God! Those chicks! They haunt me still! Egregious little bastards, liver disease yellow in colour and small enough for the application of paintbrush to beak to be a right bugger. Tray after tray of them flowed my way – and the tedium was such that I was, on occasion, jolly tempted to vary the body part and paint little willies on them or minute breasts or gaping cloaca! A woman ahead of my time, I was: Planning Chick with a Dick in shades of marzipan way back in the seventies.
The experience was heinous in the extreme. I loathed marzipan to start with – and the interminable days spent interfering with it did nothing to improve matters.
I could have coped with rounded, faintly endearing little critters like those shown above. At least they have a kind of cheeping for mummy bird and food cuteness. Unlike the flat, sinister little sods I dealt with day in day out.
That was bad enough. But, it was when I was promoted to the Petit Fours that the manure really hit the mincer…
To be continued…