Behind the Gas Works
I was off to the Chippy with my ‘wicker basket’ complete with China pudding basin for Fish and Chips and Mushy Peas “Keep them covered up till you get back” Mother ordered, handing me a white cloth. We lived next to the Shops, first the Ladies Wear and Wool Shop, Next The Hairdressers, then the Newsagents who also sold sweets and tobacco and bottles of pop then on the corner ‘James Duckworth Provision Merchants who’s Shops covered the whole of Lancashire. In that Shop there was well hung sides of Bacon and Hams. Cheeses and Eggs all local produce without preservatives, Teas and Camp Coffee large bottles of ‘Dandelion and Burdock ...Sarsaparilla and Vimto’ [a Penny back on the Bottle] .Jars and tins of all description and huge tins of delicious Peaches, a Teatime favourite, with Carnation Milk, and Ham sandwiches with Coleman’s Mustard. That shop whetted ones appetite
The whole of the next Terrace was comprised of Shops. ‘Bread and Cake Shop’ also sold substantial Meat and Potato Pies. ‘The Pork Butchers’ selling delicious hand made Pork Pies filled to the brim with Pork from local Farms and Bacon too, and people came from ‘far and wide ‘to buy his fat juicy Sausages and as for his shiny ‘Black Puddings’ Oh! My!.
Ragged little urchins with there shoes in tatters, and cheeky grins, and bright shiny eyes would run in the Shop shouting “Eh! Mr, Is Pigs arse Pork? and run out as fast as they could “If I catch those little bleeders I’ll kill them” the Butcher would say.. Next the ‘Green Grocers’ fresh fruit and veg from.. ‘Reg the Veg’ .Adjacent was the Butcher who sold Beef. Lamb Sausages, and Chickens. He was a huge man built like an Argentine Bull with a crapulous countenance... The next Shop was the Chippy, and next, at the corner a large very popular Public House. In those days it was common for women to frequent the Pub alone or with friends and drink beer with the best of them. They were not thought of as ‘loose women’, and after closing time would merrily walk or stagger home singing “Nellie Dean” No one called the Police or flung water at them or anything a else, an occasional “Shut that racket” was heard. There was always a queue at the Chippy I did not mind that as adult’s conversation fascinated me. Ladies were quite happy to gossip to their friends about all sorts of indiscretions in rather loud voices, so I could not help over hearing even though I had been told not to eavesdrop.
Later I would insist on Aunty Jean explaining to me, any word I did not understand She some times raised her eyes to the sky and she had remarked to her Husband Peter on one occasion;” I never know what that child is going to ask me next” She will not take ‘no ‘for an answer. He replied “She wants to know the a….……the ins and outs of everything.” “You mind your language when she’s here” said Aunty. Entering the Chip Shop I stood in the queue and could hear all conversation and the ladies looked down at me smiling and saying “ Hello lovey, come for you dinner?
I did not reply and but just smiled
“Well what can you expect with a Mother like that? She’s any bodies for a doughnut, look at all the American Soldiers she went out with for chewing gum and Nylons. “I‘d love some nylons” said one. “What you! You’re too old for that caper.” “What do you mean? I’m only forty”. was the indignant reply. “ Yes! But nobody loves a fairy when they’re forty” was the reply laughing .“What’s has she done now?”.
“Well I saw them behind the Gas Works, her and that Foreman .She works in his department. I saw them as large as life standing very close together canoodling” “ Is that all” “ Well I wasn’t going to stay for an encore. His wife will kill him if she finds out”. Oh! I thought I will have to remember, ‘Della and John, Gas works’ and…..Canoeing?
Turning to a lady with her hair in curlers a Blonde lady enquired “Have you recovered from your operation love”? Well it still hurts when I bend down. I’ve had it all taken away you know! Yes! I told Stani can’t be doing with all that malarkey in the bedroom!” Malarkey in the bedroom?? Oh! I must remember that. And ‘All taken away?...
I wouldn’t mind but he’s bald as a coot and no teeth! And when he’s done he rolls over and snores”. They all laughed and the blonde lady said “I’ve got no complaints in that department and I think you’re mean, if my old man lost his hair and teeth I would still love him” “Mind he doesn’t look elsewhere” she said. “He would not dare”. ……. “You want to give him Suet Duff before he goes to bed that will knock the stuffing out of him!” said Mrs. Higgins.
The Queue slowly moved round and Harry the shop owner said “Come on now ladies. What can I do you for? Seeing me “Come and stand here lovey, near the counter and give me your basket, I’ll do you some Fresh Cod” the ladies got served and I watched Harry dip the Cod in batter and into the hot fat it went sizzling away. All the time I was trying to remember as much of the conversation as I could, as after dinner I was going to Aunty Jeans for an English lesson….. “Salt and vinegar love? “Yes Please” There you are sweetheart” and handing me the basket, off I went home
Later I was allowed to go to Aunties my mother’s best friend, for my English lesson, to learn to speak correct English and not to copy those cheeky boys who said rude words. I skipped down the back alley which connected all the houses, knocked on Aunties back door which was only locked at night. “Hello Ella, kissing me. Are you ready for you lesson? It’s reading and writing to day. Sit down next to me” Uncle Peter was reading his paper and said “What about a kiss for me” NO”! I said. Mum said I have not to kiss any men till I’m twenty one. “Quite right” said Auntie
“Stop teasing her” said Aunty. I took her arm saying “I want to know what this means” “Mather Dripping said she has had it all taken away” “Have you been eavesdropping, and young lady”?, Now that’s very rude. Her name is, Mrs. Dawson not ‘Mather Dripping
What does it mean” I demanded “She has been in Hospital and she had a pain in her tummy so the Doctor made her better” “Yes, I said but she can’t be doing with all that ‘malarkey’ in the bedroom”? Uncle Peter was laughing behind his Newspaper with his tummy going up and down looked over his paper saying, to Auntie “Get out of that then” She threw a cushion at him saying “Haven’t you got somewhere to go” No darling not yet I’m doing my Football Pools. “Aunty what does it mean” said I.
She can’t clean the bedroom because her tummy still hurts but her daughter is helping her . And I said she can’t bend down. “Good job too with that husband of hers said Uncle”
‘Let’s get on with your lesson now “ said Auntie” “Aunty I got to tell you this” Why was Della behind the Gas Works with John Kershaw? And they were canoeing! “Look Ella sometimes gossip is not true” “It is true Mrs. Higgins saw them” “Well she would wouldn’t she” Ella you can not canoe behind the Gas Works, Canoeing means you are on a small boat in the River or the Sea “She means canoodling” offered Uncle “ I know what she means and we don’t need any comments from you” “But where was Mrs. Kershaw “I wanted to know. “At home making his tea, .he couldn’t be that hungry probably had his oats” said Uncle “You just wait”! Said Aunty “Oh darling” It was Friday and like all other Catholics always ate fish on Friday - Copysaid Uncle are you going to surprise me” She ignored that remark “Maybe they stood there as it was cold they it was warmer there” she explained,” And it was getting warmer every minute” said Uncle. “I like Della” I said “We all like Della” said Uncle “You’re in trouble now, I want you to go” said Auntie “Okay love .see you later, alligator”. She ignored him. “No more questions start writing” was the order. So I diligently did as I was told
Later when Peter had been admonished, He said to Jean “You are going to make that child neurotic constantly correcting her . .She’s five for God’s sake there’s plenty of time for here to learn correct speech and I don’t agree with you telling her that she is going to marry a Prince, there isn't any Princes in these parts” “It’s only a figure of speech” Auntie replied “Whoever she marries will be a Prince to her. And the earlier you teach a Child the better”
Auntie was pregnant at the time and I was allowed to feel the baby kicking . I asked how it got there and apparently Uncle put it there, and before I questioned her further, said, “and you get older I will tell you all about it as you will not understand just now
Although I not marry a Prince, but I treated my husband like one, but alas this was not enough in the end