The hotel was as I remembered it. All I had requested when booking was that we had a room with a cathedral view in this city where I had spent my formative years. I was not disappointed. The West front of the cathedral filled the window of our room, the creaking floorboards gave away the age of the hotel and the smells from the kitchen promised an exquisite meal to come.
We didn't use the lift. I have a fear of enclosed spaces and prefer to use stairs. The stairs were old with many landings, each holding a piece of antique furniture. One landing held a particularly nice windsor chair, its seat gleaming with polish. On our way down we admired it and speculated how lovely it would look in our house.
Dinner surpassed expectations and we ended it with a drink at the bar before turning in early. We wanted a full day tomorrow to explore my childhood haunts. This time the chair was occupied. She was neatly dressed and sat crocheting, her work and a ball of brown wool on her knee as she worked. She didn't look up as we passed and I noticed she was humming a familiar tune - although I couldn't remember what it was.
The next evening she was there again. Her work was growing and the ball of wool was getting smaller. I almost spoke but as she was humming I thought it rude to interrupt.
It was one of the best holidays of our lives - seeing my old school, the cathedral with its nooks and crannies and the excellent hotel. She was there again on our last night and the wool ball was now very small. She was still humming and although I murmured
she didn't look up.
When we paid the bill I mentioned her at reception but they could throw no light on who she was, suggesting it might be one of the other guests taking advantage of the lovely chair and the shaft of late evening sun which fell on it at about that time of day.
My mother died a few years later. My sister and I were cleaning out the drawers in a sideboard and came across a piece of brown crochetwork and a tail end of brown wool.
I picked it up.
"Know anything about this?"
My sister is considerably older than me and she knew all about it. My mother's mother had been doing it the night before she died. She had complained that she was running out of wool and asked my mother to get her another ball.
My sister reminisced about old times:
"She was a lovely woman. Her favourite song was 'Barbara Allen' and she used to hum it all the time as she worked.