THIS ISLAND LIFETHERE was a time, before everyone was deliberately funnelled into the traffic maelstrom also known as Newport, when the Island had a number of thriving shopping centres.
For example, locals usually found all they required in the varied emporia of Sandown and Shanklin and I can clearly recall my Aunt Hilda looking forward to her weekly bus trip from Whitwell to Ventnor in the 50s to top up with supplies.
Ryde was my nearest town as a kid and in those blessed pre-Tesco times it was brimming with family-owned shops, which catered for your every need.
Not only that, competition was healthy — there were more than half-a-dozen butchers, for a start.
This ensured a consistent level of value and quality, because the price-conscious housewives (for it was they who did most of the shopping in those days) would simply walk down the road and take their business elsewhere.
When I mentioned some months ago that my mother had an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the shops in Ryde from that time, Marilyn Barnard e-mailed to say trying to remember these places was driving her mad and she would appreciate some help.
So I sat mater down with a pen and paper and left her to it. An hour later she had jotted down names even I had forgotten.
Let’s take the butchers first. There were Baxters, Keys, Priors, Dewhursts, Bishops, Tancocks, Harry Ross and LCM.
I haven’t included Barnett’s in the list because it enjoyed a revered status which lifted it above the ranks of mere purveyors of meat.
Some people indulge in a parlour game which consists of naming fantasy guests, alive or dead, with whom they would like to share a dinner table. I prefer to think of the fantasy food I would eat in such circumstances and it would certainly include a Barnett’s steak pie and some pork sausages from Saunders, which used to be located in Cross Street.
Anyone fancying a cake or a fresh loaf in those days could choose from Harry Jolliffe’s shop, Island Bakeries, Shaplands, Bonds Bakery or Beti’s.
Apples or a few pounds of spuds could be acquired from Pete Arnold at the top of the High Street (just round the corner from Bob Battersby’s bike shop), Reas, Ellis Brothers or Gilhams.
There were grocers everywhere, including Maypole, World Stores, Liptons, International Stores, Richways and, of course, Woolworths.
Wet fish was on offer from Bob Tims or Nash’s, who also attempted to corner the piscatorial market by operating a fish and chip shop which was in direct opposition to the Victory Fish Bar, situated near the corner of John Street.
Residents of Ryde needing to be shod or clothed would pop into Bevins, Godwins, Woodnutts, Holmes, Olivers, Tom Lewis, Russell and Bromley, Stead and Simpson, Packs, Fowlers, Jones and Freeman, Hardy and Willis.
Tonsorial requirements were catered for by Vic Nye, Tom Pullen (who also owned an adjacent toy shop), Maison Hackshaw, Peter Anthony, Jacks and Louis Zink.
Here are a few more random businesses to stir the memory of old Ryde folk — Jack Cobbett’s wallpaper and DIY store, Ryde Model Shop, Minghella’s cafe, Scotch Wool Shop, Mainstones, Lightbowns, Beavis, Angela Read’s wool shop, Langfords Hardware, Turner’s leather goods and handbags, Hartnells, Rolf’s art shop and Castle furniture.
Then there was Youngs radio and television shop, Gibbs and Gurnell, Pollard and Ramage, Renwicks and, of course, the mighty Hills Stores, where kids like me stared at the ceiling transfixed as pouches of cash whizzed from counter to cash desk and back again via an intricate network of pulleys and wires.
Just when I thought I had thoroughly ransacked my mother’s 89-year-old brain, the phone went later that evening.
"I think I forgot the wool shop Mrs Vanner and Maxine owned, then there was Vi Caple’s sweet shop at the top of the town near that nice Mr Ryder, who was a tailor — oh, and Topps newsagents was just across the road …"
The 'invalid’ e-mail that brought a surprise
WHEN Alec Toms wandered down our garden path, he had that rueful and resigned expression common to those of a certain age who have just collided head-on with new technology.Alec (or the Happy Hooker as he was known during his cricketing days, thanks to a propensity for clouting my short deliveries to the square-leg boundary with depressing regularity) had been attempting to renew his house insurance.
He had decided to do so via the new-fangled interweb — and all went well to begin with.
He unearthed some acceptable quotes and then attempted to consummate his relationship with three of the companies.
He had to give of himself, of course, and this meant inserting his e-mail address in the space provided.
One after another, the three firms informed him the e-mail address he had been using quite happily for a number of years was 'invalid’.
"That was annoying enough," he told me, "but the following day I received an unsolicited e-mail from one of the companies, sent by using the address they had told me was invalid!"
And the name of the company? Why, Confused.com, of course.