Grandad's Watton

Bread and Milk

For many things she did not have to go to the shops at all, for not only were groceries delivered but at least twice a week, Horace Sharman, Bob Spencer or Jack Adcock, Horace Siggins or Arthur Farrall would arrive with their butchers carts or vans. With fish and greengrocery came Stafford (12 bloaters a shilling) Wyer, or Jack Cousins, and. although you might not often need bits if ironmongery. Joe Swann was always about with Charlie Gelding's van containing everything from six inch nails to paraffin, and Tom Milford visited town and villages with his mobile shop. Bread was not forgotten. Harry Ward with Graver's cart, Don Moore and Midnight Moore were making and baking loaves in the early hours and delivering them by the afternoon, and their products were in demand, in spite of the fact that until well into this century many housewives made their own bread, and very good it was too. I remember the Friday night ritual when my mother stuck large quantities of dough and yeast or whatever it was into a low sided earthenware container and covered it with a white cloth before leaving it in front of the fire to rise. I presume it did it fact rise because during the next day loaves of fresh lovely crusty bread were being taken from the cooking stove oven. The only tiny snag to all this was that bread baking was a weekly happening and. lovely as it was on Saturday and Sunday it was becoming just a little firm by the following Thursday or Friday, but we did not often make reference to this because to say "Mother this old bread is hard" would be likely to bring forth the kindly reminder that "it's harder where there is none".

Our grans and mums had an ability to put valuable lessons into very few words, and I remember that any inclination to make undue fuss over some minor misadventure could lead to the wise advice to 'save our tears for greater sorrows'.

Milk was another commodity which was not carried home from the shops because every morning the streets seemed to be half full of floats and vans delivering milk. Margaret Shipp. Mr Brand. Frank Faulkner. Hubert Newton, and. most spectacular of all. George 'Windy' Drake. Windy had. not a van or a pony drawn float, but a large, noisy. smoky motor bike fitted with a sidecar consisting of a flat board and a wheel. To the board Windy secured a milk churn, a smaller can and two or three long handled ladles, and. mounted on this clattering com- bination he careered round the town with all the aplomb of a Roman charioteer.

There was one shopkeeper who did not make any deliveries, and if you wanted his goods you had to go and fetch them, but this was more of an experience than a shopping expedition. Bob West ("You can go North, South, or East, but you can't beat West") reigned supreme in the world of fish fryers, and his shop at the junction of Market Place and Dereham Road (now Harris Bros.) was a local institution. Bob, ex Sheringham fisherman could be seen each day pushing his little trolley to the station to collect from the afternoon train a box of prime quality ice-packed plaice and cod which had been despatched from Lowestoft that morning and which had been swimming in the sea the day before. Bob filleted every piece of fish himself. He peeled and checked every potato, and he made sure that you knew about it. "Here you are", he'd say as he wrapped up a 'tupenny and one'. "You won't find no eyes nor spots on these chips . . . chips you can eat in the dark ... if you find a bad chip bring it back". The monologue went on. but it did help to pass the time of waiting which was considerable, but any reference to this fact would prompt Bob, with a sly grin, to glance at a small plaque which invited us to "Meekly wait and murmur not, be damn glad you get them hot". The plaque was one of a pair. The other made a request . . . "Please don't swear. We don't care a ------ but others might object".

We were talking earlier about school days, of the time when Madge Playle and teachers like her tried to guide our first steps on to the highway of life. A few years ago I again met Madge, now of course enjoying retirement, and I wondered then if it can sometimes take a lifetime to really grasp the import of some of the things we first heard at school. 'What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare' I was taught to recite, but, although I knew the words I did not absorb the wisdom. I didn't want to stand and stare. There was so much to do, places to go, things to see, but now, as with my con­temporaries I stand in the springtime of senility I find that I like standing and staring. There is so much to stare at. Every time I see a hedgerow, or a cathedral, I see something new, and if sometimes I stand, perhaps doing too little, I remind myself of the doggerel lines which warn against doing too much. You may know them —

'If you put your nose to the grindstone rough
And keep it down there long enough
You will soon forget that there are such things
As a brook that babbles or a bird that sings;
And then your whole world will compose
Of you — and the stone — and your poor old nose'.

Fare yer well, together.

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