Bluebell arrived – on its own

By Brian Greening

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

 

Bluebell arrived – on its own

A delivery boy’s bicycle.

IT WAS visiting a supermarket the other day to purchase my weekly groceries, which comprised a small wholemeal loaf and a packet of pate, when I saw something that started my latest rant.

I was just beaten to the check-out by a lady who had a trolley piled so high I expected to look up and see a Union Jack flag fluttering on the top.

I had ample time to view the contents and, on closer inspection, I could see she had, among other things, around a dozen large containers of milk and an equal number of loaves of bread.

It was while telling this story to my two friends I was accused again of living in a 1950s’ time warp.

I had to remind them that when we all wore short trousers, milk would be delivered to the door.

In Fairlee Road it was invariably Bill Brown, who worked for Mr Cleal at South Fairlee Farm. He would arrive in his horse-drawn trap pulled by his faithful horse, Bluebell.

If he was delayed talking to Mrs Perriton, who lived in a house next to the shop opposite Seaclose, this intelligent horse would move without being told and, unaccompanied, would cover the 80 yards to our house opposite the petrol station.

Eventually Bill would arrive and bring his heavy churn to the back door and ladle milk in half-pint measures into our jugs or basins.

It was the same with the bread, which was delivered by a man employed by Mr Russell, who had a shop and bake house at the corner of the High Street and East Street.

He would arrive at the back door carrying a large wicker basket in which was a selection of fresh baked, wonderfully smelling loaves with a lardy or Coventry cake to encourage more spending.

That is until the fateful day arrived, around 1951, when Cooper and Wrights bakery at Binstead started to supply bread that was already sliced and wrapped in thick, greaseproof paper with red lettering.

Oh the novelty of it and for a brief period poor Mr Russell’s sales dropped off.

That was until it was found this new thin bread did not make as good toast as that we used to produce by holding a thick slice on a long fork in front of the fire.

Toast produced in this manner always had that smoky ingredient you can never produce today in a toaster. Smothered in butter and beef dripping, there was nothing that came close to its taste.

Another man who delivered to your door was Mr Neat, who would bring paraffin and assorted hardware items, such as brushes and brooms, Sunlight washing soap and wire wool for cleaning the saucepans.

The paraffin was essential in many houses to put into the lamps which provided lighting. At our home, it was not until 1953 that local builder Ned Williams took out all our gas lamps and installed electricity.

That put an end to going to bed carrying a lighted candle in one of those enamel holders. One thing a youngster of today will never learn to do is to fit those delicate gas mantles, yet another task I inherited.

One thing Mr Neat never supplied was the "donkey stone" housewives used to whiten their front door steps.

Money could be saved by going to Pan chalk pit and bringing back for mother a few lumps of chalk that would never be missed.

Not being a tea drinker, I am unsure whether you can still purchase Brooke Bond tea in packets, not in boxes of one hundred tiny tea bags you have to dunk up and down and then leave in an unsightly mess on the edge of the saucer.

Teapots were the things of the past and that particular brand of tea came with a stamp included in the packaging.

My job was to remove it and stick it on a card. Once you had collected 50 of these stamps, you were able to cash in the card for something like 25 pence.

Invariably we had a tally man coming to the door selling goods such as towels, tea towels and blankets, etc.

I recall ours was a man from Dupont’s and my mother would pay for the goods at a rate of something like ten pence a week. If one week she was short of money, we hid behind the settee until the man had departed.

It seemed everybody came to your house with goods and the man I felt most sorry for was the coalman. He would carry coal in one hundredweight sacks from the road, in our side gate and around to the back of the house, where he would empty his sacks into our "coal hole".

You could even have your groceries delivered and school pal Tony Perkins would arrive on one of those bicycles with a carrier in the front to hold the cardboard boxes.

Tony worked for Mr Dore, whose shop was on Coppins Bridge.

So there we have it. Groceries, coal, milk, bread, soap and I almost forgot the weekly joint of meat. In those days, butchers were in an abundance.

Today, I only count Downers, in Lower St James’s Street and Hamilton’s in Scarrots Lane as butchers. That should start another argument.

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