Crazy Chloe by Alex Askaroff #Humour #ShortStory

I’ve already introduced Alex Askaroff. But here’s a reminder. When I was researching for the background of The Heart Stone https://bit.ly/3kOpZYO, and needed to know the technical details for the manufacturing of sewing machines, I knew there was only one person to contact. The man who knows all is Alex. As the emails flew back and forth ( and I wondered how long it would be before he became fed up with my constant and often boring – I’m sure – questions), I realised that there seemed to be nothing he didn’t know. But I also knew he is a story teller – a multi genre writer: https://amzn.to/3pM7vLX . So I asked him to tell a story about one of his days…

Over to you, Alex…

After a lifetime in the sewing trade you would think that I had seen it all. No. Today, Crazy Chloe was going to show me how to abuse a sewing machine in a completely new way.

In the October sunshine I rolled down the hill from Friston Forest. The sun hung low in the bright sky as sheep enjoyed nibbling on the last lush grass that had sprung up in the dewy autumn fields. I was on my way to Honeycrag Close in Polegate and my second customer of the morning. I was a bit wary because I knew Crazy Chloe all too well. She had a reputation in Polegate that actually scared the villagers. She once screamed and threw a bag of dog poo at a dog walker when she saw them leave it hanging on a tree branch. She chased the manager of Barclays Bank up the High Street, shouting about her overdraft. Boy, that woman was tough and knew the value of a penny!

I pulled up outside her pretty bungalow. Her garden was plastered with tiny garden ornaments from her local discount store and looked great. I took a deep breath, no turning back now! Shortly after I rang the doorbell I could see her tiny frame and massive wild curly hair moving towards the door. Last chance to run I thought. “Chloe, how lovely to see you. How are you?”

“Oh, don’t ask. I’m only alive because I can’t afford the coffin! Come in darlin’, I’ve got work for you. Don’t mind the mess. The cleaner broke last year and he doesn’t get out of bed till lunchtime now!”

Chloe showed me into her messy life. We made our way around countless obstacles to a table piled high with junk mail. It was post that she could not bear to throw away. Chloe shoveled a hole with her hands, creating a space on the table. I heaved up her old New Home into the space. “Seized solid!” Chloe announced. “Bloody thing, it’s ‘ardly been a year since the last time I paid you.” I quickly interrupted her with a little correction. “Actually it was three years ago Chloe, and last time you paid me it was with half a pot of honey and two marrows. Not exactly a king’s ransom.”

“Ah, but there were lovely marrows weren’t they? Not that I grew them mind,” she threw in with a wicked smile. “Now down to business. My baby has seized up solid. Won’t make a bloomin’ stitch. She was running slow, so I oiled her like you told me to, but then it got even worse, then stopped altogether!” 

Sewing machine seizures fall into several categories: lack of oil, thread jamming, bearings tightening, gears stuck, shafts out of line and so on. The worst, so I thought until today, is a main top bearing seizure. The top bearings are the largest on a sewing machine and when they go it can be hard work. I could try for a month and they would still never run properly. “Any chance of a nice cuppa, Chloe?

“Only if you have one sugar! Last time you caused a sugar shortage in Polegate! I’m surprised you’re not type four diabetic!

“I don’t think there’s no such thing,” I laughed back.

“Well there should be!” She added, muttering something else under her breath as she went. I sat in front of the old machine and tried to turn it. It was locked. I mean LOCKED. There was no movement at all, not even the slightest wiggle. I let out a deep sigh and surveyed my cluttered prison. I knew Chloe would not let me out of the house until her machine was purring like a pedigree kitten. As I looked across the table I saw a half empty bottle of fabric glue. A sudden feeling of dread came over me. I called Chloe.

“Um, Chloe, what oil did you use on your sewing machine?”

“It’s right there on the table you pillock. Lost your eyes hav’ ya’!”

“Chloe. That’s glue!”

“Don’t be such an idiot,” she said grabbing the bottle. She held it up at an angle to the light and tried to read the label. Then she toddled off to find her glasses. I could hear her swearing like a drunk sailor in the other room. She sheepishly returned. “Do you think that is the problem?”

I’m pretty sure it is, Chloe. The reason it slowed in the first place is that you had the motor switched to half speed. I suspect you then glued the moving parts together to make sure it never works again!”

“NOOOOOOO.” She howled. “NOT MY BAAABY. You have to save her,” she wailed in desperation. “Look I’ll give you two sugars, no, three. I’ll give you the whole bag. I’ve got loads!”

“Let me see what I can do Chloe. Now if you can get me four sheets of kitchen roll. Not one piece cut into four like last time, I’ll get to work.” I had seen she had not managed to get the top and bottom off so she could only have ‘glued’ the side needlebar assembly. Chloe shuffled off as quickly as a witch on bonfire night and I got down to work.

An hour later the New Home was stitching like new. I had taken the needlebar out and scraped every last bit of glue away. Then I had carefully reset the whole machine, including the half speed setting. I left with a large muddy pumpkin, a jar of blackberry jam, half a pot of oil, sorry, fabric glue, and yes, you guessed it, some sugar poured into a plastic Chinese take-away container (I knew I’d never get a whole bag). No mention of money was made or forthcoming. I did not have the guts to ask for any. Visions of the Polegate bank manager running for his life always stopped me from trying.

Chloe waved me away with the words. “I ‘ope I don’t see ya’ again luv’. Enjoy the pumpkin. I nicked it from the allotments the other night! Same as your marrows last time.” She howled with laughter and slammed the door.

I put my stolen goods on the passenger seat and pulled out of Honeycrag Close. Sweet Lord I love this job. No money, countless crazy customers, and the most life affirming, soul fulfilling way to grow old. I knew that as sure as the sun rises it would not be long before Crazy Chloe did something else stupid to her baby and I would be back!

Links to Alex Askaroff:

Website: https://sewalot.com/

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3pM7vLX

YouTube: https://bit.ly/3pQkInk

Thank you, Alex. A lovely story that made me chuckle. I‘m sure the readers will have laughed as well at Chloe’s antics.

Judith Barrow Author MA BA (Hons) Dip Dramahttps://judithbarrowblog.com/
https://twitter.com/judithbarrow77

https://www.facebook.com/judith.barrow.3
https://www.honno.co.uk/authors/b/judith-barrow/
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Judith-Barrow/e/B0043RZJV6

Meet Alex Askaroff: The Sewing Machine Man (and Expert at all Things to do with Sewing Machines) #MondayBlogs

Today I want to introduce Alex Askaroff. When I was researching for the background of The Heart Stone https://bit.ly/3kOpZYO, and needed to know the technical details for the manufacturing of sewing machines, I knew there was only one person to contact. The man who knows all is Alex. As the emails flew back and forth ( and I wondered how long it would be before he became fed up with my constant and often boring – I’m sure – questions), I realised that there seemed to be nothing he didn’t know. Eventually – and being a naturally nosy woman – I asked him how he knew so much. And would he write a post about it. So, I was thrilled when he said okay. And here it is!

Over to you, Alex...

I was born in the latter half of the 1950’s in the busy bomb-blitzed seaside town of Eastbourne, on the South Coast of England. Rubble still lay in places from the 11,000 or so buildings damaged by Nazi planes. At the port of Newhaven, along the road, the old fort still had the empty shells and cartridges scattered around its gun emplacements.

My father was a proud Russian, born in Moscow on the first official day of the Russian revolution, in 1917, not a good start. His life seemed to be dramatic from then on. He was smuggled out of the country as a child to his mother in Paris. Some 30 years later (and two lifetimes of experiences by his tales) he settled in the quaint seaside resort of Eastbourne. After WW2 he had heard the call for men and brought his young Austrian partner to Britain to make his fortune. A spell in the 1950’s London smog led him to the clean seaside air of Eastbourne. Here he brought up six strapping lads who were the plague of the neighbourhood.

I had grown up with a passion for Britain and it became clear why! While I had a half-Russian father and a half-Austrian mother, I also had deep British roots running right back to Anglo Saxon England. My mum’s family was a real surprise. As it turned out I was as local as could be with my roots leading back to Victorian Eastbourne, the very place my dad was drawn to in the 1950’s!

My great grandfather was Stanley Carr Boulter, barrister and founder of the Law Debenture, he married Helen D’Oyly Carte of the London Savoy Theatre and Savoy Hotel Empire. My great grandfather, four times along, was the British Dramatist James Robinson Planché, the most prolific playwright of the Victorian era and great friends with Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle. His dad was a personal friend of King George III. The best bit for me was discovering Matilda Planche, my great, great granny who later became the prolific author Mrs Henry Mackarness. Over 40 of her books are still in print!

So how did I get into manufacturing? Well the truth is I never got out of it! Mum was a skilled Viennese seamstress and broke! She had a wonderful design ability, inventing such things as the pushchair Raincape and other products like the Top‘n’Tail, a changing-mat that a baby could not roll off. These items were first used around Britain, then the world, and all originally made by mum and dad.

Family at work . Dynasty look alike. And you can see that I worked on the factory floor by my work coat

The family business became the largest manufacturer of baby goods in Europe, supplying every baby shop in the country. At the huge factory the stairwells were lined with patents of mum’s great ideas. Baby goods that were produced in their thousands every week were shipped to the four corners of the world.

For decades the names Simplantex and Premiere Baby were synonymous with the best you could buy for your baby We were supplying the rich and famous, film stars and royalty alike. Silver Cross products were lined with our goods. Harrods would place special orders for special people and even more special babies. It was a real thrill to see Princess Diana carrying our future King in one of our handmade Palm Leaf baskets, and with the rights to such toys as Beatrix Potter, no home was without our merchandise.

Dad talked me out of my dream of becoming a doctor and I undertook a four-year engineering course (which would be far more useful for his machinery problems at the factory). When I started in the family business I had the best of the best teach me everything from mass production and sewing circles to sewing machine repair.

I was the first of the six boys to officially join the family firm that I had grown up in, initially working downstairs with the cutters in the cutting room, where cloth was laid by huge automatic machines rolling up and down all day. Dad eventually retired and mum had a go at running the business but then Nik, my older brother arrived at the factory gates and everything changed. His influence quadrupled sales in a few years, he was like dad on Red Bull, flying around the world, (even on Concorde) bringing back big orders. Suddenly we had machinist stretched along the South Coast with vans collecting and delivering goods. In the factory, noise and commotion was everywhere with rows of sewing girls, cutters and packers. Lorries loaded and unloaded all day every day and we all worked like mad from dusk till dawn. It was around this time that I made an amazing observation. My life was disappearing!

Let me try to explain. Ten years or so had passed in a blur. I was suddenly in my early 30’s. I had eaten, slept and even dreamt about work. It was an all-consuming passion. A thousand deadlines on a thousand products, (we had over 2,600 items on our prices lists).  What was happening outside of my immediate circle was irrelevant. I was unable to measure time. Most weeks, or months, even years, were the same. Rush, rush, rush. When I had my revelation, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Work was silently and efficiently stealing my life!

I decided to leave the family firm, throw caution to the wind and start out on my own. I had spent a lifetime in the manufacturing business and I hoped that there were people out there looking for my expertise. One day I parked my new company BMW in the yard and walked the three miles home, never to return.

I started my own sewing machine business and never looked back. I even bought roses so that I could smell them when I got home. How funny!

I suddenly had the time to play with my kids before they went to school and help them with homework later. In 1991, I became a Master Craftsman as I practised my trade around Sussex. During my travels I came across people that had wonderful stories to tell. At last I was ready to listen. My first great story was from an old dear who personally knew Rudyard Kipling! I knew these tales had to be captured before they were lost forever. I needed to write a book!

I’ll tell you a funny thing. When I started to put pen to paper no one could have ever imagined what would happen next! Every person that I spoke to advised me that writing a book full of ‘old dears’ reminiscences was a dangerous game. Lots of time and money invested and little reward. Out of the thousands who try only a handful make it. How wrong they all were! Now that’s a lesson for every budding author, ignore yourself at your peril.

My first book sold out so fast that I had hundreds of pre-paid orders for the second edition before I could get them printed. And don’t forget this was in a time when people had to write a letter, enclose a cheque and post it with faith! If only I could have bottled the printers face when I asked for another print run!

And so my world turned. I used my expertise in manufacturing and passion for sewing machines to earn a living and in my spare moments I put pen to paper. Now with 25 books under my belt and seven No1 New releases on Amazon it seems almost normal. My Sewalot Site: https://sewalot.com/ for antique sewing machines is the No1 of its kind on the planet. It connects me with countless enthusiasts all over the world and even the odd TV appearance.

A Tiny taste of Alex’s books.

So what’s the secret? I’ll tell you just like my dad told me when I moaned about becoming a sewing machine engineer. It’s so simple, learn to love your job! Yep that’s it. You have to really work at it, but the second you crack it, you will never work another day in your life!

Links to Alex Askaroff:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2UKWHQ6

YouTube: https://bit.ly/3pQkInk

http://www.sewalot.com: https://bit.ly/3kVT7xm

https://judithbarrowblog.com/
https://twitter.com/judithbarrow77
https://www.facebook.com/judith.barrow.3
https://www.honno.co.uk/authors/b/judith-barrow/
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Judith-Barrow/e/B0043RZJV6