…A (To)matter of Taste….

I’m going to say it……no, I’m going to shout it….images-3.jpgI’m fed up with supermarkets! So there!
I miss shopping at the local grocer’s/ butchers/ baker’s/ fishmonger’s…… I miss the characters, the friendliness, the skills, the ‘honesty and freshness’ of the produce ……. and besides…. I overspend at the supermarket.
In the ‘littler’ shops you had to know exactly what you wanted (you had written out your ‘line’ beforehand) and there would generally be a queue made up of ‘real people’ you could talk to….face to face, ‘not mouth to smartphone’. Everyone had their own shopping bags (remember the ‘string bag’ ?
images-1.jpg – it could expand enough to take  ‘1st.(stone) tatties, 1 (good size!) cabbage, 1lb(pound) streaky bacon, 1 bottle HP Sauce, 2lb ‘cookers’ and a packet Bird’s Custard Powder……nae- tother- a- ba’ – (another spoonerism of my dad’s) – no prizes for guessing what was on the menu that night! The weight of the bag dictated that shopping was over – time to go home…..er… on the bus, by the way.
Milk and cream were left by the milkman and regular shopping vans (fishmonger, baker, ice cream, greengrocer) brought other necessary/unnecessary supplies.
I loved going out and stepping up into the ‘Co. Baker’s Van’ to get our usual, plain or pan, bread (sometimes the plain loaf was still warm!), perhaps a ‘shillingsworth’ of mixed tea bread and – if there were enough ‘Co.checks’ – a Florence Cake or a Tipsy Cake……or maybe aimages.jpg wee ‘croom ceekie’ (yes, yes, you’ve guessed it – another spoonerism!) To be allowed to choose from the ‘small cakes’ board was a special treat indeed…..a Fern Cake, an Eiffel Tower, a Double Macaroon, a Chocolate Cup, a Paradise Slice, a Pineapple Tart, a Cream (sympathetic – synthetic) Sponge, a Flies’ Cemetery Currant Slice, a French Cake…..can’t believe I almost forgot a Meringue……..oh…now stop! …. enough of the ‘sweet talk’….. I am off for a  tea break……….. my mouth is watering………..now where is that baker’s van when you need it………(114969 – our Co. number…..bet you still remember yours –  or perhaps you haven’t the faintest idea what I’m on about.)…….
I’m back. I’ve had the tea…. but not the cake. I’ve had to make do with a tomato sandwich, made with a tomato ‘ripened on the vine’ ( where else?) and two small slices of bread which , quite frankly, I sniffed before buttering – I do not trust the freshness or life span of a ‘wrapped’ loaf…… and as for the filling…… well, I’m just going to say it…. no, I’m going to shout it…download-1.jpgI WANT A CLYDESIDE TOMATO!! I mourn the demise of that distinct aroma and flavour…..there are no others can compare, in my opinion. I tolerate their replacements – the tough skins, the hard cores, the downright disappointing lack of taste – which of course you can buy any time of year (where have all four seasons gone?…. and the special bounty each season brought)…..
I looked forward to the summer, to the sunshine and to images-14.jpg‘salad season’; to that heady smell of fresh greens, of spring onions, cucumber and juicy fresh tomatoes, bought during frequent outings to ‘The Valley of the Glasshouses’ and strawberry fields, where images-11.jpgfamilies could pick their own ‘punnet’ of fruit, feasting as they went. Sun-kissed and fruit stained we would stop at the little Post Office in Crossford to purchase generous slices of the succulent ham cooked in wine by the Postmistress herself. With a capacious dish of buttered ‘Ayrshires'(also not the same now!)images-17.jpg and a helping of ‘Salad Cream, what a banquet lay in store for us. Did we have room for afters? You bet we did.
A ‘wavy looney-toon’, signalled the arrival of ‘The Van’ whose contents were essential for the completion of the gistening, freshly hulled, scrumdididdlyumtious strawberries.
One of us would be sent out, with a bowl, to buy two shillingsworth of ice cream (with chocolate sauce!) As I remember, two or three rival vans visited the street but they were all vetted before being awarded custom. (One test was to do with the size and quality of the’scoops’…..) There was often a queue at the most popular van. A newcomer to the area decided not to rely on hearsay, but to do her own research. Proffering her receptacle to the man in the van she was overheard to say:download-3.jpg
‘I want some ice cream, please, but I need to see the size of your balls first’…..hm….
I love the Clydeside…… people in these parts go ‘up the Clydeside,’ never ‘up to the Clydeside’ – but it has changed over the years. The orchards, strawberry fields and glasshouses have mainly gone, and the nurseries and little coffee shops are now big business. They’ve become Super Nurseries, Super Markets where you can buy pretty much anything (except a pukka, seasonal Clydeside tomato and a mouthwatering, freshly picked strawberry!)download-4.jpg
There is a lot of cracking home baking, though, so eating out is somewhat ‘de rigeur’…… just be prepared for queueing –  and don’t forget your card! (ching, ching!)


                                                                       True story……..
It was 1965 and we had just relocated from Lanarkshire to Dumbarton. We were in the top flat of a three storey block with part use of a common ‘drying green’. I already had the essential clothes rope but had to purchase my own stretchers in order to facilitate the appearance of  a professionally ‘hung oot washing’so I hied me off to the local ironmongers to source a bargain. I approached the assistant confidently.
‘Do you make stretchers?’ ( The wooden ones were the ‘rage’ at that time).
‘Stretchers?….. just let me go and check,’ and she disappears under an archway of mops and buckets to the back shop, returning with a smile and a  positive reply. ‘We don’t have them in stock but you can place an order.’
‘Oh good…. then I’d like to order three.’
‘Three?….just let me go and check with the manager.’ She returns after a little while with a deep frown and a question…..’Excuse me…. but are you by any chance a nurse?’
‘No, I’m not….. I’m sorry….has something happened?…… what can I do to help?’ (ready was I to leap over the counter and head for a ‘situation’ in the managerial recess)…….
‘Oh no, no, there’s nothing wrong…. em….. it’s just…..the manager and I were kind of wondering if you took a First Aid class…… or something……’
I knew it. He’d hit his thumb trying out hammers…. or he’d knocked himself out on one of his suspended aluminium buckets…… ‘Are you sure I can’t help you out?’ I persisted.
‘Just let me go and confirm that he can meet your order….. three, isn’t it?”
‘Yes, thank you.’
This time she returns with ‘Mr.Big’ himself: a small bespeckled man in a buff coloured overall and a side parting. ‘Good day, Madam. I must apologise for the to-ing and fro-ing but your order is fairly unusual….. I was prepared to source one stretcher for you but three….. Might I suggest that you try St Andrew’s Ambulance Brigade or the Cottage Hospital – they might be able to point you in the right direction……..’
 With a loud ‘clunk’ the penny drops. Ten more minutes it takes for me to clarify my request.
‘Aha! You need clothes poles!’
‘No, no I have those. I need….’ and because I can’t think of an alternative expression, I begin to mime how my stretcher operates…….the assistant is highly amused.
‘Clothes pins!’ he declares triumphantly. 
‘No! I’ve got those…. ‘cept we (from Motherwell-sur-mer) call them clothes pegs……..
‘Yes, yes, yes…… but our clothes pins are your stretchers!!……. and that’s something I can manage!… Miss Handel, take the lady’s order.’ 
Details given, I headed to RS McColls – local stationer’s, to see if they have, perchance, a Motherwell/Dumbarton Phrasebook which I could study to help me ‘blend in’ to my new world. Passing the local butcher’s, I popped in to get some cold meat.
‘Yes, Madam, what can I do you for?’
‘I’d like to see your tongue, please.’……………….. now, he did have a sense of humour so I knew we’d ‘meat’ again……….. x 

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