I am sitting with my friend Liz talking about books and community and buttons and all, and we have reflected on The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter which was the only book of Ms Potter’s my family had when I was young – and which features buttons – or at least buttonholes.
It is a story of a tailor who was not doing so well, and got a commission from the mayor to make a special waistcoat for him. He sent out his cat (as is the way with Beatrix – don’t try this at home, results cannot be guaranteed) to buy the thread he needed, and when the cat was out, the tailor released some mice that the cat had trapped. When the cat came back, he (the cat) was so miffed that the mice had gone that he hid the thread needed to complete the work. The poor old tailor then fell ill. He went to bed (presumably in a hallucinatory daze), and when he woke, was astonished to find that the waistcoat had been completed, all except for the final buttonhole, which had a note pinned to it, saying “No more Twist” in tiny writing (twist apparently being mouse for thread). The mice in gratitude for their freedom had assisted the tailor. The cat also came good, digging out the hidden thread to finish the final buttonhole.
Obviously there is a message here for community building – sentimental though the story may be. The small gestures we make to assist or care for those around us make a difference. Looking the Potter story up on Wikipedia, it seems that it was based on something that really happened – not mice needless to say, but the staff of a local tailor completed some important work for him when he was ill, except for the final buttonhole, for which there was no more twist. He apparently used to say that the fairies had come – perhaps that is our role sometimes, to create a little magic, to be secret fairies.