Posted by: Valerie | October 25, 2010

Taking up a challenge


Yesterday I posted a comment on Facebook that it had been a totally uninteresting, damp and dreary Sunday. Nothing to commend it.  But then I was challenged by two friends to make a blog post from all that dreariness. Not wanting to back down from a challenge, I accepted.
Here goes: “Hannah, time to get up!” Joe woke me up around eight as usual. I have never quite worked out why he calls me Hannah but I don’t mind it at all. I am not by choice an early riser – something to do with being a late reader – and I stumbled out of bed to find that it was barely light, so gloomy was the outlook from the bedroom window. Resisting the temptation to climb back into my snuggly warm bed for another half hour, I fumbled my way into my emerald green, completely synthetic, zippered dressing-gown – the one the cat likes to sleep on because it’s velour (excellent for stomping).
My eyes were clearing by the time I made it into the kitchen to feed the cats, ours and the ginger visitor that I feed out of kindness even though he eats about three times what our own Charlie eats. Charlie resents this. With winter approaching, Ginger gets hungrier and hungrier. I have always meant to call him Oliver (More, please!) but somehow plain old Ginger stuck. You may remember from posts earlier in the year that Ginger is the cat who bit me but I have forgiven him.  However not wanting to spend another five hours in the Emergency Room and have the whole township worried about me getting rabies, I do not touch him at all. He’s probably full of fleas anyway. Fleas I do not need. I once had a cat called Skimbleshanks who was always infested with fleas no matter what I did. I could never work out why, until one night I discovered him cavorting with hedgehogs – this was in London – and the Tiggywinkle family is notorious for hosting the nasty little buggers. I’m afraid the situation was so bad that Skimble had to be put down. Awwwww!
My goodness, I have written all this and not even arrived at my first cup of coffee. Joe makes the first coffee of the day and it was waiting for me when I joined him in the living-room. It is possible that he didn’t even notice my arrival as he was immersed in a football (soccer) game on the telly. That is how weekends go around here so I usually grab the paper and do the crossword and Sudoku. I give the game a passing glance now and then and I’m always called upon to watch the goal replays. Although I have no interest in watching sports (except tennis), I find that there is something soothing to me about the sound of a roaring football crowd, odd as it seems. I think that goes back a very long way to my childhood and spending time with my grandparents. As the eldest of five kids, I never got a lot of positive attention at home so always loved staying with them. Papa always the watched the football and did the Pools. I really loved my Papa and it was only after he died that I learned that he was a raging alcoholic and binge drinker of the “Lost Weekend” type. I suppose I was prevented from the seeing the bad stuff.
I remember when I was quite young going to see him at his grocery shop in Dundee It was a really old-fashioned shop such as one sees in heritage villages or museums. This one was in a busy part of town however. It seems in memory to have been quite big, but then I was quite small. First thing I can bring to mind was the smell – cinnamon and other spices. Around the side wall under the window and under the counter were large containers (rather like in our bulk stores) with biscuits and flour, prunes and raisins and so much more. Of particular interest to me and my wee brother was the broken biscuit box as usually we were allowed to have one or two. The counter in the shop was of some dark wood – maybe mahogany – and stacked on it were big jars of sweeties and bars of chocolate. Behind the counter were many shelves containing such items as Tate and Lyle’s golden syrup, tins of Fowler’s black treacle and other everyday necessities like Bird’s custard. I was always intrigued by the drawers full of loose sugar, dark brown sugar, light brown sugar with tasty lumps we loved to suck, golden demerara for your Nescafe and all sorts of different white sugars. An aside: Scotland had at that time – maybe still does – the highest consumption of sugar in the world. We did invent the deep friend Mars Bar you know!
I can well remember Papa in his brown grocer’s coat slicing up the ham on his enormous slicing machine for a customer or making pats of butter from a big block on a marble slab. He “cut” the butter from the block with two wooden paddle thingies with ridges and then slapped it back and forth until it made a tidy lump which was then wrapped in grocer’s paper and the whole tied with string in a bow.

Papa and baby me

I think the shop was quite successful as he had a wonderful personality and could have a good “blether” with anyone, be they mill worker or grand lady from the big hoose. Needless to say he had a delivery boy with a message bike who scooted around with the orders. In those days some folk would just phone up and ask for what they wanted to be delivered and they would pay once a week. I remember my Mum doing that.
Enough about my grandfather though, except to say that he was a better grocer than he was a publican. The incident when he, Bob Bonsor, spent too much time drinking with the customers in his pub and then going off with them, leaving the pub wide open, led to him spending a night in Dundee jail. I believe he was also familiar with the interior of Perth jail. Hence he lost his licence and ended up as a grocer.

Back to Sunday – but that’s enough. You don’t need to know about what I ate for breakfast or the fact that I washed the floors in both bathrooms on my hands and knees, that I changed the sheets and made fresh tomato soup with cream which sent  Joe’s blood sugar through the roof.

I think I’ve met the challenge.

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Responses

  1. Fabulous, challenge met IMO! My mum will enjoy this too, she talks about shops like that.

    • Thanks, Sarah. You are always the first to read my blog – before I even notify people, mostly! Tell your Mum that I say hello.

  2. Brilliant–and for those of us of a similar age and background I could see and smell the grocers shop. I can remember enduring suger rationing stamps for years (maybe 1953) after the war and sweets were not readily available. It sounds as though you may havee avoided that stricture?
    I think you passed the challenge with flying colors.

    • Thank U, she said, curtseying deeply.

    • Yes, I certainly remember rationing. I’m a couple of years older than you. I remember when sweets came off the ration and going to the corner shop with sixpence to buy 4 oz of orange drops. It was a huge thrill!

  3. Valerie:
    You nailed it once more!
    Beautiful reflections so eloquently delivered.
    After church on Sunday mornings, in “la belle ville de Montreal”, we visited the local corner candy store and filled a small paper bag with fabulous treats for a nickel. Walking Home was then so much sweeter 🙂
    Thank you for stirring the spirit…Lori.

    • Thanks, Lori. I can just picture you buying your candy after church.

  4. I’ve been lusting after a deep fried Mars Bar since I heard of them a few years ago. Finally found one at the Brits Fish and Chip shop in Charlottetown, PEI. They are AMAZING and if it wasn’t for the fact they are almost certainly lethal in even modest quantities I’d be a regular. (The 4000km commute might also be a limiting factor… but wow!)

    Scottish cuisine at its finest.

  5. A rather well done Seinfeld blog entry, Hannah. I loved the walk down memory lane, so utterly different from the lane I was living on, both across the channel and over here.

    • The differences are what makes us interested in each other, are they not? How old were you when you crossed the pond? I had already lived in the UK for 35 years before I got here.

      • I crossed when I was three but spent nearly every summer back at my grandparents place in La Fleche near Le Mans or with my Aunt & Uncle in Paris. I didn’t explore my Breton roots until adulthood. Touring France with my Dad after Mom died was a special series of journeys which I wrote about. They were posted in Boxtalk, before your time.


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