I had one of those deeply unpleasant experiences today that essentially defines why I'm such a fucking loser.
I have a leather chair, 1930's - smart, boxy armchair - very deco, really like it. One of the dogs managed to dig the horsehair out of the seat and worked her way through to the springs. So - I cleaned it up and put a new canvas base on it, removed all the stuffing and measured up for a new cushion. I have some good heavy duty cotton canvas to make an inner cushion cover base and I bought an old wool plaid blanket in Oxfam (actually from the English Heritage shop) for the cover - I washed it hot so it felted, otherwise the dogs would pull the threads. All I needed was some foam. There is a shop in Hastings that sells it, they have a big sign on the door - 'upholstery foam sold here - cut to size'. They are one of the 3 main haberdashers in Hastings, I think there is a lot of home sewing in this town.
I went over at lunch time with the measurements - 50cm x 50cm x 20cm. There was a woman sitting behind a counter and a couple of old women in hats and coats lingering about, looking suspicious and very shifty. The woman behind the counter screwed her eyes and pretended to be writing something - she made me wait just a beat too long, clearly trying to fathom what I was doing there. I explained I needed a single piece of foam, 'Oh yes - we can do that - what size' - I went through the measurements - alas, they don't do centimetres - only inches, so it needed to be re-calculated manually (I'm 48, I was taught metric at school FFS, she's probably the same age as me - where has she been!!). Once she clearly had a sale, it all started going wrong
"actually, we don't carry stock - it will need to be specially made, and brought over from the factory - it will be at least a week, and it's a special size, it will have to be 3 layers stuck together (what the fuck - I see this stuff in skips all the time??) - and it will expensive, but never mind - it has to be right for you".
At this point she decided it was too much to deal with - she had to get 'Graham' who was hidden 'upstairs' to call the suppliers and place the order - she scuttled off, then returned and asked me to wait. At this point one of the shifty old women walked through
"I'm afraid you don't seem to have what I'm looking for"
she said loudly, and swanned out (This is now turning very Mike Leigh). Graham then appeared with a piece of paper - a bespectacled man in his '50s - looked me up and down with an unnecessary leer on his face
"you're in lunck - they can do it"
I also bought a reel of black cotton and a zip - the bill was written out - £54.70. You have to be fucking joking.
I left the shop with a big hole in my current account, only a vague promise of the foam 'in a week or so' and a feeling I'd been robbed. Dealing with people is hard enough on a day to day basis - I should have just walked out. The cushion foam cost more than the chair - and I still need to spend a day making the cover.