It’s Saturday morning, there’s bright sunshine outside but cold and damp.
I get ready and draw up a list of things I need to buy for the following week…..bread, milk (although these 2 items I sometimes get the milkman to deliver), fruit, veg, general groceries, etc.
Then I also need some paint for the front door, creosote for the wooden fence in the back garden and some nails.
I walk down to the first shop I need to visit…..Terry’s grocers. Terry is a friendly old gentleman….he used to be in the Royal Air Force but since he left, he set up a grocery store. He still has his trademark RAF whiskers, which he dutifully keeps in shape with moustache wax. Always neatly dressed in clean white shirt, blue tie with an english knot, black pants and a cream colored apron over.
He stands behind a tall glass-topped counter, in which he keeps the expensive items, like tobacco, cigarettes, cigars, smoking pipes and other paraphernalia. Behind him is another massive compartmentalized wooden shelf that is broken up into small sections, some with drawers that can be pulled out to reveal their contents….in these drawers he keeps things like small 12v light bulbs for bicycles, matchboxes, pins, needles, cotton reels, nails, screws, and all kinds of hardware that is normally used in homes.
Customers walk into his store and ask him for whatever they need….he will get it for them, wrap it in brown paper (plastic or clingfilm doesn’t exist yet!) and hand it t them.
Nobody serves themselves….it’s not the done thing. I walk in and give him my list. Quickly he produces the bread, tins of meatballs, baked beans, tinned mushrooms, tinned baby potatoes, etc and places them on the counter. I ask him for two ounces of 1.5″ nails, which he takes out of one of those drawers and wraps up in paper separately.
I give him my hessian shopping bag and he places all my goods in it carefully, and tells me the “total damage is 5 shillings and thruppence, my good man”! I hand over the money, pocket the change he gives me and bid him goodbye.
A couple of streets away are the 2 other stores I need to visit, the butcher and greengrocer.
The butcher’s shop is run by Edna and Andrew; Edna is a tiny woman in her 60s and Andrew still a sprightly man about the same age, who hails from Scotland. He always greets his customers in his traditional Scottish accent “Guid mornin’…Foo ur ye aye daein’?” (good morning, how are you doing?!).
I ask for some lamb chops, which he cuts up for me, wraps in some waxed paper and hands over. All paid up, I take my leave, with Andrew shouting after me “Nice tae meit ye, Jak! Cheerio the nou!” (nice to meet you…see you soon).
At the greengrocer, I meet Sally and Malcolm, who have been running this shop for over 3 generations, taking over from Malcolm’s parents. Their shop is in immaculate order….with all the vegetables in racks on one side and the fruits on the other.
I buy some traditional vegetables….potatoes, onions, sprouts, cabbage, tomatoes….I remember eating at an Indian restaurant some months ago and the wonderful taste of garlic in the dishes…I ask Malcolm if he has any garlic, and he says no, there is no demand “for any of that foreign stuff” he says!
I finish off my shopping with some apples, and pears. The whole lot is wrapped in newspaper and placed into my bags.
Then I trudge back home with my loaded shopping bags. This is beginning to become a chore and I’m seriously thinking of getting myself a push-bike (bicycle). The paint and other hardware will have to wait for another time.
That is a typical weekend day for me in England back in the 60s…!