The Repair Café
Womans Weekly Fiction Special|August 2020
They specialised in making things good as new, but could they mend two broken hearts?
Lucie Kay

I found it,’ I said, wiping a light film of dust off my treasured clock with my sleeve. ‘I’d love to see it working again.’

‘That’s perfect!’ Hazel said. ‘I can’t wait to hear my vinyl records again, once this beauty is mended,’ she added, carefully picking up her lurid 1980s portable record player and placing it in a cardboard box.

‘Will we have to fix things for other people?’ I asked, half-hoping Hazel might change her mind. ‘I’m not great at DIY.’

‘You’ll be fine, Sarah – you’re way more practical than me and, anyway, I’ve made some cupcakes to take so we have some brownie points to start with.’

‘I suppose I could bring my banana loaf,’ I said, slightly encouraged by the prospect of food.

‘Already organised,’ she said, nodding at two Tupperware boxes on the kitchen table.

‘You know when I said we should get out more, I was thinking more of the cinema or the theatre,’ I laughed.

‘You can’t talk at the cinema or theatre. This way we’ll get to meet people.’

Hazel and I had first me each other years ago at university. When we realised we’d be working in London at the same time, we decided to rent together. Both of us were recovering from messy relationship break-ups and were trying to forget about our respective exes.

We’d been excited about all that London had to offer, but meeting new people had been harder than we thought. The idea of the Repair Café had been seized on by Hazel the moment that the flier had landed on the doormat and she’d finally persuaded me to go along with her.

The church hall was just round the corner and we arrived 10 minutes after leaving our flat, Hazel carrying her record player and me with my clock and the cakes. It was a hive of activity; people of all ages queued politely around trestle tables with their loved objects.

Every table was covered in items – clothing, furniture, electrical appliances, bicycle parts, crockery, toys… and, in each area, an adviser was on hand with a group of volunteers to give advice and help. It looked like a low-rent version of the Antiques Roadshow!

‘Welcome to the Repair Café,’ a lady with pink hair said cheerily, pointing at a poster on the wall. We looked up at the Repair Shop rules:

Please remember we are all volunteers.

Please be personally responsible for your own health and safety.

To cut down on any unnecessary waiting times during busy periods, a maximum of ONE broken item per person will be examined.

Please join the back of the queue if there is a second item for repair.

‘Let’s take our cakes over first,’ said Hazel.‘ I could do with a cup of tea.’

The couple standing behind the refreshments table were the total opposite of each other. She was in her early twenties, wearing a tie-dye t-shirt and jeans, smiley and friendly; he was a tidy man in his early forties, clean cut, bespectacled and unsmiling.

‘We’re not very good at repairing things, so we thought that we’d bring some supplies to contribute instead,’ I said, handing them our offerings.

‘Thank you,’ said the man, peering over the top of his glasses like a teacher, ‘but it doesn’t get you out of mending things! You’ve got to give it a go!’

'How exactly does it all work?’ asked Hazel, suddenly looking uncomfortable.

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