Monday 14 September 2015

Shops and Donkeys

There was a handful of shops. Aran Morris was the greengrocer. Of his produce, spinach seemed to be what we could afford and I hated the stuff. At the age of nine months I spat a mouthful of spinach in my father’s face as he tried in vain to feed me. “Ach-y-fi,” was the inevitable response. I was never offered spinach again.

Mrs. Galloway ran the little toy-shop, but in those days after the war the shelves were often empty, not that my parents had money for toys. There were mysterious gaps on the shelves, gaps that came and went. I tried to imagine the toys that weren’t there. Where had they gone? What adventures did they have away from the safety of the shop? Did toy soldiers fight unknown battles? What maidens did they rescue? What giants did they face? What became of them? Did toy ships sail on unknown oceans to undiscovered lands? What adventures befell their sailors? What sirens, sea monsters, islands of content? Back home I made toy cars out of empty matchboxes and raced them across the lino. Matchbox ships sailed over endless linoleum seas.

Mr. Bowen the chemist was the source of various ghastly bottles of linctus I was supposed to drink. Trefor the Butcher was always good for a quarter pound of meat for mincing. Old Louie the shepherd would walk in from Brynowen. Sgt Davis was the policeman, whose appearance would strike terror into my heart, just in case I had unwittingly committed some unmentionable crime. Perhaps someone had told him about the ice-cream.

Year round this worthy crew and many more would gather at Bel-Air. There Aran’s fruit and veg. was a magnificent catalyst for timeless conversations of great confidentiality. It was a world that was certain of the past and mystified by the present.

In the Summer the donkeys would appear on the beach, led by Emlyn the donkey man. At first they would frisk and gambol, rejoicing in the sun and sea. But after a while their eyes would become sad. In the distance they could see the green slopes of Cader Idris.

Monday 7 September 2015

Ice Cream

My mother stared in amazement. It was tea time. At her first call I had not appeared, at the second I had busily scuttled through the door with a neat paper bag in my hand. When she inspected the bag it contained three neatly wrapped bricks of ice cream. They had clearly come from the shop, and being correctly wrapped had obviously not been purloined. Tea was consumed in an atmosphere of some expectation, and in those days before refrigeration the ice-cream was swiftly eaten too.
Then I was taken firmly by the hand, led across the road and round the corner to the village shop. At barely three I was not old enough to cross the road on my own, and certainly was not entrusted with anything as radical as pocket money. The shop keeper was first given an apology, and then an explanation was demanded.  Genial as ever he related that I had toddled through the door and confidently asked “Please can I have some three ice-creams?”
So assertive was this precocious request that the shop keeper could only assume that I had been sent out in advance and that mother would shortly be along to pay. As it was I had politely concluded proceedings by saying “Thank you very much” and marching out the door, nonchalantly clutching the bag of ice cream.